Saturday, March 15, 2014

Window on Eurasia: A War with Ukraine would be ‘Beginning of the End of Russia,’ Cemilev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 15—Mustafa Cemilev, the spiritual leader of the Crimean Tatars, yesterday told Alexander Vershbow, the deputy secretary general of NATO, that if Moscow launches a war against Ukraine, that event will mark “the beginning of the end of the Russian Federation.”

            “The situation in Crimea,” he said, “is an adventure of the Russia state. It will not bring anything good to the Crimean Tatars or Ukraine, and it will not bring anything good to Russia either.” Instead, it will “lead to the disintegration” of Russia, something especially “dangerous” because of Moscow’s nuclear weapons (

                Cemilev said that he had earlier told Russian President Vladimir Putin during a telephone conversation that  “it is absurd to define the future of Crimea by a referendum in these circumstances,” to which Putin responded “that all procedures are not always observed” and weren’t in the case of the disintegration of the USSR in 1991.

            At the same time, Cemilev reiterated his longstanding position that “the Crimean Tatars are citizens of Ukraine.” And he added that “the violation of the territorial integrity of [that] country threatens not only Crimea and Ukraine but most of all Russia with dramatic consequences.”

            Cemilev’s words reflect his understanding, not unfortunately widely shared in many places, that the disintegration of the Soviet Union occurred not as a result of Mikhail Gorbachev’s moves toward liberalization but rather when the last Soviet president, having liberalized, turned to the right and tried to impose tighter control.

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