Monday, December 29, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Crimea has Not Become Part of Russia, Kashin Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, December 29 – Ukraine’s blockade of Ukraine and Moscow’s reaction to it show that “Crimea has not become part of Russia” however much Vladimir Putin and his propagandists repeat that “Crimea is Ours.” It isn’t because if it were, Ukraine and Russia would both be behaving differently, according to Oleg Kashin.


            Kashin, a prominent Moscow journalist and commentator, says if it were the case that Crimea had become part of Russia, then Russian media would have to begin talking about “’a blockade’” of Russian territory and even consider the occupied peninsula as “a new Leningrad” (


            But that word is not part of “the lexicon of Russian propaganda” now, and it isn’t because however much Moscow insists that Crimea is part of Russia, the reality today is that it is not, that it remains foreign territory.  If that were not the case, neither Russia nor Ukraine would be acting as they are.


            At the present time, “two million Russians are blockaded on a cold peninsula,” Kashin says. No trains or cars can reach them from the outside, no one can count on regular electricity, and no one has any confidence that Moscow will ever build the bridge it has promised to construct to link the peninsula to Russia.


             “’Crimea is Ours’—the victorious slogan of this spring – has been sounded so often that it has become an anecdote” or even “something ominous.”  “Our – and this means a humanitarian catastrophe on the edge of which it now balances is also ours, and responsibility for it lies with the Russian Federation.”


            “If Crimea is Ukrainian, then everything is even worse,” the Russian commentator says. “For Ukraine, the peninsula is a territory temporarily occupied by Russia, a source of a territorial dispute and of big losses. The people of Ukraine in this view are unhappy Ukrainian citizens who in spite of their will are being held under the power of the Russian state.”


            Kyiv is punishing Crimea and its population with its blockade, but instead of helping the peninsula and its people, Moscow is helping Ukraine by supplying coal and ignoring the needs of a place and a population which its leaders regularly insist are part of the Russian Federation. This might be laughable if it weren’t so serious, he implies.


            “The annexation of Crimea in the course of the entire year was the occasion for the harshest criticism of Vladimir Putin from his various opponents in Russia and abroad,” Kashin says.  The Kremlin leader “has been accused of imperialism, expansionism, of dangerous geopolitical games and much else.”


            “The last days of the year demonstrate the baselessness of all these accusations,” the Russian commentator says.


            “Imperialists do not conduct themselves in this way. Put was and remains the leader of a money-centric authoritarian regime for whom the fate of two million people on the peninsula is nothing more than an occasion for virtual political games, and when these games come into contact with some reality, it turns out that Putin isn’t involved with the people or the peninsula.”


            Putin’s press secretary says what the Kremlin leader has been doing is “a consistent demonstration” of his political will, but there is nothing consistent about Putin’s actions in Ukraine. He has come up with four different explanations for why he sought the unification of Crimea with Russia, each in response to the situation of the time when he offered it.


            In reality, Kashin concludes, “Russia did not unite Crimea to itself; [instead], Russia pretended that Crimea became part of it.” That allowed for a propaganda campaign, and the immediate political goals of its author were achieved. But now Moscow has “no truck” with Crimea and its people.


            That, the Moscow commentator says, is how “Russian imperialism and expansionism look in the 21st century” and it is why Crimea is “ours” only for those who believe in propaganda.



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