Promoted at Johnson’s Russia List (JRL) on August 31, the recent commentaries from Doug Bandow and Andreas Umland, serve as examples of a continued Western based arrogance, ignorance and hypocrisy regarding Crimea. Please no two faced lectures on civility. As discussed below, it’s not good manners to be so absurdly pious.
As of this writing, no rebuttal to Umland and/or Bandow has been posted at JRL, thereby making this follow-up all the more appropriate. A constructively active pro-Russian advocacy isn’t well served by not addressing the kind of comments stated by Bandow and Umland. Phony, crony, baloney, wonky, tonk establishment snootiness aside, the JRL court appointed Russia friendly regulars aren’t the only viably available option.
The views of Bandow and Umland very much relate to Michael McFaul’s claim that Vladimir Putin is off base when the latter mentions Kosovo relative to Crimea. In his mis-informative filled Washington Post op-ed of July 26, McFaul (who is frequently propped at JRL) flippantly says that Kosovo is unrelated to Crimea. Note that McFaul’s stated academic specialty includes the study known as comparative politics. With that in mind, it’s especially ridiculous for him to out rightly dismiss Putin’s Kosovo reference to Crimea. (McFaul’s comments are discussed in my Strategic Culture Foundation articles of this past July 29 and 12.)
Kosovo and Crimea have populations which (in majority terms) don’t want to be with the given nation that they were a part of. In US foreign policy establishment terms, it’s geopolitically inconvenient to note that since Kosovo was forcefully taken away from Serbia, that disputed territory doesn’t show itself to be less violent, less corrupt and socioeconomically better off than Crimea, since its reunification with Russia – a reunification which was greatly triggered by the coup like circumstances in Kiev, when Ukraine’s democratically elected president was overthrown.
Towards the end of my August 7, 2014 Global Research article, the anti-Russian aspects associated with Yanukovych’s overthrow are noted. By and large, Crimea has a clear pro-Russian majority. The folks heavily embroiled in overthrowing Yanukovych, showed little if any concern for the Crimean consensus, who were disrespectfully expected to go along with the change in Kiev.
These thoughts pertain to the reason Turkey gave for intervening in northern Cyprus and its recognition and support of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus“. On that score, Turkey said that the political instability (at the time) in Greece had prompted Ankara’s move in northern Cyprus. This action was initiated decades ago and hasn’t been met with any notable condemnation and sanctions, along the lines of what happened relative to Crimea and the rest of Russia. (Now that Turkey has been at increased odds with the West, don’t be surprised to see some high profile Western establishment negativity with Turkey’s ongoing northern Cyprus stance.)
In his National Interest piece which JRL picked up, Bandow calls for another referendum in Crimea – a thought that has been previously stated by some others (including Michael O’Hanlon) – who like Bandow overlook the gross inconsistency for that advocacy. Kosovo hasn’t had a referendum, with the Turkish action in northern Cyprus to boot as well. In other words, Russia is once again being hypocritically held to a higher standard.
The result of the 2014 Crimean referendum jive with the post-referendum independent polling (some it Western) on the pro-Russian mood in Crimea. Voter participation in that election is roughly put at 83%. Of those choosing to not vote in that process, it can be reasonably surmised that most of them (not all) are against Crimea’s reunification with Russia. About 3% voted against Crimea rejoining Russia. These two variables reveal that the pro-reunification with Russia sentiment in Crimea is a well over 2/3 majority, in the 80% range. Around 97% voted for reunification.
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Upon further review, Andreas Umland’s JRL posted commentary on Crimea falls short of convincing. Among other things, Umland questions the result of the 2014 Crimean referendum and the subsequent polling of Crimean public opinion. His sources disputing the referendum claim that the voter turnout and degree of Crimean support for joining Russia is considerably less than what’s formally recorded. In this overview, Umland conveniently (for him) omits some otherwise key points.
Crimea sought OSCE monitoring of the referendum. The OSCE refused to monitor on the basis that Crimea is Ukrainian territory and (in conjunction to that position), the Kiev regime (which replaced Ukraine’s democratically elected president), didn’t approve of the referendum. It’s reasonable to assert that the Kiev regime didn’t want to consent to the obvious – having to do with the majority pro-Russian consensus in Crimea. Meantime, there were non-establishment Western observers, who observed that election and declared it as being within norms.
Umland contends that the independent polling done in agreement with the referendum result is questionable because the pro-Russian perspective has become top heavy in Crimea. Israel severely muting the mainstream Palestinian perspective in Gaza and the West Bank wouldn’t significantly change the general mood among the Palestinians in these territories. Did Soviet heavy handedness in Galicia and Volhynia eliminate the OUN/UPA sentiment in these parts of western Ukraine?
Crimea isn’t so closed off and repressive. Hence, a considerable anti-Russian movement in Crimea would be evident if it in fact exists, which isn’t the case. Kiev regime controlled Ukraine remains an unattractive choice for Crimea’s pro-Russian majority. A fairly recent article in the not so Russia friendly Atlantic Council, acknowledges the situation with Ukrainian nationalist violence in Kiev regime controlled Ukraine. Its problems notwithstanding, Russia is socioeconomically better off than Ukraine.
People can change their view. Viktor Yanukovych won the Ukrainian presidency. Thereafter, he became less popular. Likewise, Crimea’s enhanced mood towards Russia makes perfect sense following Yanukovych’s overthrow. The neocons are prone to saying that the Serbs lost the right to have Kosovo. That belief arguably applies more to Ukraine relative to Crimea.
Given his anti-Russian slant over the years, it’s not surprising to see Umland’s cherry picked overview of Crimean history. Contrary to what he suggests, the Tatars didn’t inhabit Crimea before the Rus era Slavs – who’re the ancestors of modern day Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians. A portion of Crimea was a part of Rus. The Tatars arrived in Crimea later on.
Crimea’s unfortunate past doesn’t just involve the Soviet collective deportation of the Crimean Tatars during WW II. Earlier, the Crimean Tatar Khanate involved itself in a slave trade against Slavs and others. Catherine the Great’s takeover of Crimea was partly in response to that behavior. It’s within reason to believe that the Russian Empire is the successor to the pre-Mongol subjugated Rus entity. (Following the end of the Mongol subjugation, the northern part of Rus, in contemporary Russia, became the strongest and most independent of Rus territories. Prior to the Mongol occupation, there were signs that the northern part of Rus was on the verge of becoming the most influential component of Rus.)
Putin has acknowledged and condemned the collective WW II era Soviet punishment of the Crimean Tatars. Since becoming a part of post-Soviet Russia, Crimea has three official languages (Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar). Compare Crimea’s virtually bloodless situation to other parts of the former Ukrainian SSR, whether in Kiev regime controlled Ukraine, or the rebel held Donbass.
Much unlike Putin’s stated desire for multiethnic tolerance, the Crimean Tatar activist Mustafa Dzhemilev is on record for advocating the ethnic cleansing of Russians from Crimea. Dzhemilev’s banned status in Crimea is in line with a tit for that process that sees numerous Russian nationals (among them being the late Ukrainian born singer Iosif Kobzon) banned from entry into Kiev regime controlled Ukraine. While expressing pro-Russian views, these banned Russians (at least most of them) haven’t advocated ethnic cleansing.
Michael Averko is a New York based independent foreign policy analyst and media critic.