Putin’s Version of Post-Cold War history

Putin’s Version of Post-Cold War History


Howard Adelman


Putin’s current version of post-Cold War history consists of the following trajectory, one fully immersed in a culture of conspiracy, :


1. The end of the Cold War in 1991 was the result of internal initiatives within Russia to dissolve the Soviet Union and not the result of the Soviet Union dissolving in response to Western economic and political pressures; when the West takes the credit and claims to have won the Cold War, it is an insult to Russians because it defines Russia as a loser.


2. NATO as a security alliance has ignored the detente arrived at through negotiations and has continued to treat Russia as an enemy by moving NATO assets increasingly closer to Russia, first into former states associated with the USSR and then into the three Baltic republics that were part of the Soviet Union, namely Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.


3. The effort to forge a political association agreement between Ukraine and the EU, with its own security as well as economic clauses, was the last straw in ignoring Russia’s legitimate and traditional sphere of interest and in pushing Russia into a corner.


4. The ouster of Ukraine’s legitimately elected pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych because he was unprepared to accept the EU’s association agreement and turned to Russia for financial aid, was a move fostered by Western political manoeuvres and financing of dissidents and even the rebellion and was the final straw, especially when an entirely Western-oriented government drawn largely from the protest leadership took control of the Ukraine. This step crossed the red line that Russia had signalled to the West, and did so in a manner that was both insensitive and irresponsible indicating that the West no longer wanted an international partnership with Russia.


5. Russia moved swiftly to annex the Crimea which it effectively controlled militarily, which had a majority Russian population, and with which Russia had deep historic, strategic and emotional ties, an annexation which reversed a historic mistake when the Ukrainian, Nikita Khrushchev, transferred the Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 without consulting its population, and an annexation which will never be reversed no matter what actions are taken by the West.


6. The period of Russian passivity in the face of over two decades of Western aggressive political, economic and military moves to hem Russia in is now over; although Russia has no intention of invading Ukraine, annexing it or dismembering it, significant numbers of Russian troops and military assets have been deployed near, but deliberately not next to, eastern Ukraine’s eastern, the country’s industrial heartland with large Russian speaking minorities, in the clear and unequivocal message that if the interests of the Russian population is under threat, Russia reserves the right to come to their protection.


7. The west can expect other initiatives in eastern Europe – such as in Moldova, in Georgia and in the Balkans – now that Russia is determined to act strictly from its own strategic interests where it has the clout to change the situation; the partnership with the West has been dissolved by the West.


8. The initial sanctions and contemplated stronger and broader sanctions that will be forthcoming not only will not deter Russia – which in its history has endured far worse – but, on the contrary, will be met with countermoves that will seriously undermine the efforts of the West to be the world’s hegemon.


9. The West can no longer count on a Russian partnership in Iran, Syria or North Korea, though Russia will continue to work in the interests of peace, but no longer as a junior partner and fellow traveller to Western interests.


10. The West can expect a very serious response not only in eastern Ukraine but in other areas of the world, particularly in other areas of eastern Europe, if NATO takes initiatives to embrace Ukraine within the NATO fold.

The dilemma for the West is that in order to defend the eastern Ukraine from a Russian annexation under the pretext of “fraternal assistance” to ethnic Russians under assault, many see economic sanctions as insufficient. Ukrainian troops with foreign observers would have to be deployed along the eastern border, a deployment which would be seen as a provocative action and could expect an aggressive response. On the other hand, if Ukraine does not become a member of NATO and if troops, primarily Ukrainian, are not deployed along the eastern border, then Ukraine would be unable to defend itself against another annexation which would become a fait accompli.  The West does not believe Putin when he says he will not invade because it is a pledge that is conditional on how he regards the treatment of the Russian minority, especially if thugs are used to stir up the mob. Putin no longer believes that NATO is a defence organization but now reads any move as the dynamic initiatives of NATO’s expansion. If Putin is at base a bitter autocrat with dreams of restored Russian glory, if he truly harbours deep resentments about Russia’s alleged humiliations by the West, then there is a real risk he will move into Ukraine in full knowledge that Obama has taken a military response off the table and that the EU never put it on the table to begin with.

Obama knows all this. So he insists that he will restrict Western actions to the sanctions expressway while keeping the gates open for diplomacy. He knows that Russian forces are now massing near though not yet along Ukraine’s eastern borders, so he expanded the sanctions regime the third time in succession to twenty more top Russian officials, including Putin’s right hand man, Sergei Ivanov, and Bank Rossiya, a St. Petersburg-based bank used to launder the billions of roubles for the super-rich oligarchs of Russia who strongly support Putin, including Yuri Kovalchuck, Vladimir Yakunin and the Rotenberg brothers. It is not clear why Obama has left Roman Abromovich off the list. Obama has also threatened to take a fourth step and impose sanctions on key sectors of the Russian economy – defence, energy, mining and financial services — if Russia, but only if Russia takes any further aggressive steps with respect to the Ukraine in full knowledge  that such sanctions will disrupt the global economy.

Will carrying the big economic stick be sufficient to get Putin to re-engage with the diplomatic route and savour his victory over Crimea given his reconstruction of post-Cold War history, or will the escalation continue unimpeded as we are thrust back to July of 1914? Will the West have to prepare to ship arms and equipment and trainers to the Ukraine and even Delta forces to support a long term underground war by Ukraine against Russia that must of necessity spread to Russia itself if the autocrat is to be stopped? The reduced number of provocateurs in Donetsk might be a dodge or, alternatively, a signal that Russia prefers to take the diplomatic road.


My Trivial and Specious Blog on Sanctions

My Trivial and Specious Blog on Sanctions


Howard Adelman

I first reprint Dr. David Goldberg’s response to my blog and then respond to his criticisms.

Dear Howard

I am sorry to have to say this, but I find your analysis below a far cry from your usual incisive jugular-directed intellectual dissection of complex events. It would not be entirely unfair to you to describe it as trivial and specious. 

Let us start with the 1st paragraph. You make a great song and dance about Crimea being removed from Ukraine without the consent of the citizens of Kiev, but what about the citizens of the Crimea itself? What Cesar gives, Caligula can take away. The Ukranian Kruschev took it from Russia and gave it to the Ukraine. Were the Crimeans consulted? Were they given the benefit of a ballot box —– stuffed or otherwise? Yet I hear not a peep from you, and others of your persuasion,  about the illegitimacy of this process that is only now being redressed.  It is obvious on the basis of demographics alone and past voting records that the proposition  would pass by a large majority. The decision of the Tatars and the Ukranian Opposition in Crimea to boycott the polls was anti-democratic and a puerile attempt to paint the vote as illegitimate. Just as the Bangkok Opposition is doing to bring down the multi-times elected Shinowatra Government. In the better democracies, NOT VOTING is an offence punishable by law (eg Australia). OK,so a few dissidents “disappeared”. Did you check this out for yourself? Do you know these individuals and their families personally? Do you know precisely who “disappeared” them?  Regular Russian Army personnel or local street gangs? Playing arm-chair detective is all very well, but evidence has to be tested and corroborated. And the question? I cannot see how it differs substantially from that used in any past or future Quebec Referendum, or the proposition upon which my fellow-Scots will vote next year. Please explain this to a naive simpleton like myself: If I vote YES to Crimea joining Russia, is it not axiomatic that I am simultaneously voting NO to Crimea staying as part of Ukraine.  Finally, cutting off communications may not have been a bad thing. At least the violence that plagued Kiev for months was prevented and the loss of life and limb effectively minimized. 

Now, as for the West’s response: I think it would have been much better to have done nothing and kept their mouth’s shut. It would have had precisely the same effect as their “micro-nano-Sanctions”, and they would not have made asses of themselves. What effect did Sanctions have on Mugabe and his Zimbabwe supporters? Or Milosevic? Or anyone else? I recall the EU that had banned Mugabe from all travel and even threatened his arrest and transfer to The Hague welcomed him at various conferences with open arms. Cowardice, Hypocrisy and Antisemitism: the three cornerstones of Western Diplomacy. You failed to see the irony in your own text, and the fantasy in your own predictions, when you seemed to suggest that the failure to include Putin and Lavrov in the Honours List was intended to force them to the negotiating table, of which you thought there was an excellent chance. Sure there is. In fact, it is a foregone conclusion, just as Iran came to the same table while their centrifuges keep whirling. Meantime, massive build-ups of Russian troops on Ukraine’s Eastern border continue unabated while Putin and Lavrov are laughing all the way to their banks.

There is only one way to stop Putin’s depredations: to send NATO troops immediately to the Eastern Ukraine as I believe the Ukrainian leaders have suggested, if not requested. And there is only one forlorn hope for having the Crimea returned to the Ukraine in violation of the “democratic rights” of its citizens, if that is what you pretend to call them.  That is to convene a meeting of the General Assembly of UNO  to debate cancelling Russia’s membership. The West should make it clear, one way or the other, that if it fails, they will withdraw from the organization en mass.  

Best regards




In response to the criticism about the illegitimacy of the process of annexing the Crimea to Russia, my point was to note the illegitimacy and to query why a the same result could not have been obtained by a significant majority vote legitimately conducted instead of under force of arms, a skewed ballot and the use of non-Crimean voters.

The only place where it is antidemocratic to boycott an election is where voting is compulsory. Of the almost two dozen polities with such legislation, only half enforce it. Neither Crimea nor Ukraine is one of them so the point is irrelevant. Boycotts of elections are used when a process is perceived as fraudulent and the voter does not want to lend legitimacy to an illegitimate process. The fact that election boycotts are rarely efficacious does not make them an illegitimate tactic when groups feel oppressed by a majority. And since when does compulsory voting make a polity a better democracy. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has compulsory voting. Is it a democracy let alone a better one?

On disappearances, Human Rights watch documented and reported on 15 March that with the Russian army present, so-called “self-defense” units and militias, with 11,000 personnel according to Crimean government authorities, were “abducting, attacking and harassing activists and journalists.” “Oleksiy Gritsenko, Natalya Lukyanchenko and Sergiy Suprun have not made contact with friends or family since 11pm on 13 March. Oleksiy Gritsenko’s father told Amnesty International that he believes they have been abducted by paramilitary forces in de facto control in Crimea.” “The mobile telephone signals of both Oleksiy Gritsenko and Natalya Lukyanchenko were located in the vicinity of the military conscription commission (kommissariat) in Simferapol, which is being guarded by military officers who are not wearing any identifying insignia and who deny they are holding the activists there.” “Ihor Kiriushchenko, a civic activist from Sevastopol, was abducted on Monday.  Mr Kiriushchenko has been active in helping Ukrainian soldiers in the military units occupied and blocked by Russian forces, as well as in protests.  He took part in Sunday’s demonstration in the centre of Sevastopol to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Taras Shevchenko and protest against Russian military occupation of the peninsula.” He too is still missing. Yesterday a Ukrainian soldier in Crimea was shot.

“The whereabouts of two leaders of the Ukrainian community – Andriy Shchekun and Anatoly Kovalsky – remain unknown following their abduction in Simferopol on Sunday.  Volodymyr Sadovyk, commander of a Bakhchysarai military unit, is also missing.” ” The three young women whose disappearance was reported on Sunday – Ukrainsky Tyzhden journalist Olena Maksymentko and two activists – Kateryna Butko and Oleksandra Ryazantseva – are still missing, together with press photographer Oleh Kromples and Yevhen Rakhno, whose car they were travelling in.” “Ukraine‘s Greek Catholic Church said a priest was seized by armed men from a chapel in Sevastopol on Saturday.”

A fair vote in a democracy does require all options to be on a ballot. One could vote NO to annexation with Russia and vote yes for independence, but there was no option that said you prefer the status quo since you must vote once for one of the two propositions on the ballot – annexation or independence. That is the difference between even the imperfect referenda conducted in Quebec.

You argue that, “Finally, cutting off communications may not have been a bad thing. At least the violence that plagued Kiev for months was prevented and the loss of life and limb effectively minimized.” First, since when does an open democratic media contribute to violence. By all accounts, overall, the demonstrations in Maidan were non-violent until the police were sent in. Secondly, I had reported the Estonian Minister quoting the famous doctor helping the wounded saying that the sniper fire seemed to target both sides. The Minister evidently misunderstood Oleh Musiy who subsequently corrected the Minister’s account and my repeating it by saying that only protesters were shot by snipers. 81 were killed. Thank you for the opportunity to clear up this error. Violence did not plague Kyiv for months. Violence was certainly NOT prevented and the loss of life and limb effectively minimized by the suppression of the media.

As far as the effectiveness of sanctions, the whole point of my blog was that these light sanctions were not intended to change Putin’s mind or actions but to send a signal that the West was interested in cooperating with Putin in deescalating the conflict. Nevertheless, sanctions can be effective. They were almost certainly effective re Iran’s nuclear program.  

As for the claimed ineffectiveness of sanctions on Mugabe and Milosevic, let me deal with Mugabe first. The real problem is that they have been too effective in disrupting the economy of Zimbabwe but not effective in dislodging Mugabe.  The sanctions in Zimbabwe were supposedly targeted against a few individuals. However, as bank studies have shown, the US Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Bill and the declared and undeclared sanctions that resulted have impacted on the entire economy. The Zimbabwean government itself has complained that the economy is under siege and has blamed the international community, particularly the US rather than Mugabe’s programs, for the negative downstream effects on vulnerable groups and civilians and led to cancellation of life-line projects, humanitarian assistance, and humanitarian infrastructural development support.

Sanctions can be very effective. The critical problem is how much breadth and strength to lend to them and how to target them to get the impact desired, hence the shift to targeted sanctions that include imposing travel bans and freezing foreign bank accounts more than restrictions on trade which were used in Zimbabwe in restricting access to lines of credit. According to Mugabe’s own government, “Since the imposition of declared and undeclared sanctions against Zimbabwe, the effects of these sanctions have been widespread and continuous.”

As for Milosevic, in Milica Delevic’s study, “Economic Sanctions as a Foreign Policy Tool” in the International Journal of Peace Studies, sanctions were certainly effective but the real question was whether the costs and unintended harm caused was worth it.” “Sanctions, helped to a great extent by pre-existing economic difficulties and macroeconomic mismanagement, had a devastating effect on the Yugoslav economy, thus helping make Serbian President Milosevic more cooperative, but were of no decisive importance for stopping the war in Bosnia. Moreover, poverty, which increased as a result of the sanctions, made people more receptive to authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, making democratization ever more difficult to achieve.”

I am puzzled by your next complaint. Where did I “suggest that the failure to include Putin and Lavrov in the Honours List was intended to force them to the negotiating table”?

Where did you get the evidence that “massive build-ups of Russian troops on Ukraine’s Eastern border continue unabated.” I would like to explore it.


As for the use of NATO, I am wrestling with that in my own mind and plan a future bl;og on the subject.

For additional consideration, readers might want to consult this other blog reference which a reader sent in.


Some excerpts from the Voice of Russia follow.

“Sanctions are just unprofessional and illogical. One of the persons who was so to say cracked down upon, is Elena Mizulina but she never played a particular role in the Crimean affairs or in Russia’s relations with Ukraine. She has been made into some sort of a bogyman by the western media and by the Russian liberal media because she was one of the initiators of this law against homosexual propaganda to minors. But it is strange that this person was included into a law which is supposed to punish people who somehow disturbed the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

“I think this Magnitsky list was an excellent warning for everyone in Russia that it is dangerous to keep your assets in the US or in the European Union especially if you are a rich person connected to the Russian government. So, I just consider these sanctions stupid. They are not mild, they are not too harsh, they just hit the wrong targets.”

“Russian lawmakers and the Kremlin have been extremely vocal as to the ridiculousness of US designed sanctions with all Russian MPs passing a statement saying they volunteered to be subject to the US/EU sanctions and the Kremlin saying they view them with irony and sarcasm. Many Russian lawmakers, officials and others see the sanctions list as a point of honor and even as an “Oscar” from Washington, in recognition that they have defended Mother Russia. They echoed earlier words by Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic, who said he would be honored to be on that list with people who proudly defend their homeland and he added that he would be offended if he did not top it. Personally I would love to be on that list as well, perhaps someone in Washington will take me up on it?”

Sanction America for “Funding, training, arming and supporting neo-nazi elements and then using them to carry out the illegal overthrow of a democratically elected government. Using USAID and other organizations to subvert and manipulate the population of sovereign country. Spending $5 billion of taxpayer money without the knowledge or permission of the people to subvert Ukraine. Attempt to and then organizing a puppet government that does not represent the people. Killing police and protestors. Causing unrest, terrorizing the population and stripping groups of their human right to their language or their very lives. Covering up or ignoring evidence of murder and high crimes. Ordering the overthrow of said government. Placing paid mercenaries on the sovereign territory of a country. Planning false flags attacks. Supporting nazi elements and ignoring Nuremberg Trial denial. Attempting to organize through surrogates terrorist attack against civilians in Crimea, etc., etc”


The West’s Economic Sanctions Against Russia

The West’s Economic Sanctions Against Russia




Howard Adelman



This BLOG argues that the sanctions thus far imposed are deliberate pin pricks, intended only to send a message and to invite Russia to join in a diplomatic effort to resolve the crisis without significant further economic or military escalation. The BLOG further argues that Russian responses seem also to point to an eagerness to resolve the dispute through diplomacy. Further, there is a diplomatic solution in the wings. I therefore, interpret that what has thus far taken place offers a guarded but optimistic promise.



I think there is very little question among objective observers that the referendum conducted in Crimea was bogus on a number of grounds, first by being conducted with an army of occupation present, with minority Tatars and Ukrainians largely boycotting the vote, noted anti-Russian activists having “disappeared”, the critical media silenced, cancelled air and electronic communications with Ukraine, with the ballot not including an option to stay within Ukraine, with Russian non-Ukrainian citizens in Ukraine casting a ballot, and with clear evidence of overstuffing the ballot boxes since the votes were significantly higher in some constituencies. The absence of the Russian army, the posing of an honest question and a vote in favour of Russia over Ukraine would undoubtedly have produced a good majority for the Russian option if honestly conducted provided Kyiv agreement was obtained.  

Obama on behalf of the United States and the EU have now imposed very mild targeted sanctions against Russia as a result of the Russia’s occupation of Crimea and the recent vote overwhelmingly in favour of Crimea seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia. What are those sanctions intended to achieve and what is the likelihood of success, especially given the initial narrowness of the target and the shallowness of the sanctions regime? What are the risks associated with the imposition of such sanctions?

The sanctions regime has not been imposed as a milder aspect of a military conflict as in a blockade, but as a message, in Obama’s words, “to uphold the principle Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected, and international law must be upheld,” a principle which is generally accepted as fundamental to the modern transnational order and the essential fabric of the Euro-Atlantic security alliance. But how can such sanctions work since they do not seem inherently to be able to induce Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine or to reverse the continuing integration of Crimea into Russia whether that integration is accomplished through political union or simply by making Crimea economically, legally, politically and militarily part of Russia without the final step of annexation or union?

First, the economic sanctions seem more like symbolic gestures to signal a process of diplomatic isolation that has been initiated, beginning with named individuals (Vladislav Surkov, a Putin aide; Sergey Glazyev, a Putin adviser; Leonid Slutsky, a state Duma deputy; Andrei Klishas, member of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Federal Assembly of Russia, Valentina Matviyenko, head of the Federation Council, Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister, and Yelena Mizulina, a state Duma deputy). All are seen to be directly involved and responsible for “undermining the sovereignty, territorial integrity and government of Ukraine” but clearly the main ones responsible, namely Vladimir Putin himself and his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov,have not been targeted. The sanctions were expanded a bit on Monday to include Russian officials who provide material support to senior officials of the Russian government as well as  entities operating in the arms sector in Russia. But the scope of the application is very limited and the restrictions – visa restrictions and the mild economic sanctions – are merely signals that a process is underway which will be followed by further escalation. They do, however, target key architects and ideologues responsible for the Crimea policy who also seem to have been intimately involved in human rights abuses in Russia.

Efforts to begin a process of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation are not stand alone initiatives. NATO has been involved, not only through the movement of some military assets to Poland and the Baltic states, but in the verbal signal by Obama that, “As NATO allies, we have a solemn commitment to our collective defense, and we will uphold this commitment.” This is clearly a vague formulation, deliberately so, to provide room for political and diplomatic manoeuvring as well as time to consult allies this week to develop a more coordinated policy. But the signals focus on diplomatic isolation and economic initiatives and not military threats, though military threats are clearly not off the table as they seemed to be earlier. The main stress at this time, however, is on diplomatic isolation and economic sanctions.

It should be noted that Russia itself has engaged in token sabre rattling – the Russian fleet conducted live fire exercises, MIG-29s were deployed to Yerevan, Armenia, Turkish airspace was probed to rattle one of the quivering NATO members, and an ICBM test, admittedly pre-scheduled, was launched when it could have been postponed. But these gestures pale into insignificance compared to a call up of Russian troops to the Ukraine border. Both sides seem willing to wave starter pistols but seem reasonably clear that neither side wants this to escalate into a military conflict. 

But what are the goals? To prevent Russia from continuing its adventurism in eastern Ukraine? Or just to uphold a principle? Or to actually get Russia to reverse its position as seems to be signalled when Obama vowed that, “The international community will continue to stand together to oppose any violations of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and continued Russian military intervention in Ukraine will only deepen Russia’s diplomatic isolation and exact a greater toll on the Russian economy”? The signals so far seem to indicate that it is the principle that is at stake – and various diplomatic formulations can be devised for upholding the principle while effectively giving Russia de facto sovereignty over Crimea, a position that even Kissinger, the arch-realist and concessionary towards Russian interests, opposes  – as well as inhibiting Russia from taking further initiatives along this line given the promise to calibrate the measures up or down depending on whether Russia chooses to escalate or de-escalate.

Obama clearly continues to believe that diplomatic engagement still has a chance and that he understandably fears the alternative of more serious actions. Further, the solution is signalled in his words – Russia keeps its troops in Crimea and “pulls them back to their bases”, allows OSCE monitors to be deployed and then permits Russia and Ukraine to negotiate the solution through a constitutional change that will allow Crimea to legally secede and set out the conditions for such secession. That way the principle is maintained, Crimea is surrendered, but the integrity of Ukraine is otherwise maintained as well as the principle of self-determination of the Ukrainian people. Ukraine will enter the Western economic sphere and Russia will inherit Crimea.

That seems clearly to be the program. Will it work? Lavrov and Putin have both signalled back that the most important issue is the retention of US-Russian relations and not the Ukraine. Russian leaders have unequivocally warned the West that the existing order should not be sacrificed on the altar of the principle of sovereignty generally or the sovereignty of the Ukraine in particular. On Friday, Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman reinforced the message that Russia did not want a return to the Cold War and openly recognized that the West was seeking a diplomatic solution and that Russia still had hopes “that some points of agreement could be found as a result of dialogue”. Russia was still referring to the United States as a partner in maintaining the international order. But Russia has sent no signal that it is willing to recognize the new central government in Kiev which ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, but would Russia be willing to engage in negotiations to recognize the government to be elected this Spring in return for the West recognizing a legal and formal way for the Ukraine to secede and become once again part of Russia?

At the same time as Russia has been talking softly, it is waving a big stick – economic reprisals of its own and on-and-off military manoeuvres. Russia has aimed its most belligerent remarks at the EU, especially when the EU suspended talks on a new comprehensive economic and political pact with Russia. Clearly, it will be difficult for the EU to hold all its members together in a unanimous policy, especially its south-eastern members such as Greece. But the key factor seems to be the resolve of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Like Obama, Merkel and Putin have been talking. Further, they have agreed not to take actions which would increase violence. The solution on the European front would involve a positive sum economic game involving not only Ukraine but Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaidjan in a formula that would allow countries like Georgia and Ukraine to be both part of the EU economic zone as well as Putin’s new eastern European customs union thereby serving as a bridge between the two blocks. Of course, easier said than done, but it is another one of the chess pieces in this critical international crisis. At the same time, Merkel has been tough and unequivocal that Ukrainian sovereignty is not up for discussion.

Will the mild signals thus far and the threat of diplomatic isolation and massive economic consequences from both sides while the military option remains off the table (though only in reference to actual deployment of troops on the ground) be able to steer the crisis into a negotiations stream? Russia has not only signalled a willingness to enter such negotiations but had initially signalled its own interest in de-escalating the conflict by NOT annexing Crimea yesterday, but simply recognizing Crimea’s independence of Ukraine, but then made it a fait accompli today. The two options are, admittedly, only a difference in name, but even such slight differences are significant in international diplomacy and the signalling attendant thereto.The EU and the US have been working together to forge a political and diplomatic path out of the crisis which seems to explain a small part of why the initial sanctions have been so mild and shallow.

The issue is how ready are Western nations to impose much more drastic state sanctions given the boomerang effect on their own economies. The words of ultra-nationalist Russian members of the Duma, such as Vladimir Zhirinovsky, that sanctions will not have any negative effect on Russia is, of course, nonsense. The fact that the initial sanctions were so mild and, as almost as a direct consequence, the value of the Russian ruble rose making up for part of its earlier more precipitous fall, is simply one signal that the international economic market alone will significantly punish Russia if the situation escalates rather than de-escalates. The sanctions imposed thus far are simply intended to signal that the West is serious and has stepped onto the second stage of the escalator but in such a way as to allow for reversal and not to insult the key decision makers or Russia itself. But like the MAD doctrine with the nuclear standoff, the signals will only carry that message if they are also backed by the threat of much more serious steps.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 14-3 in favor of imposing much broader sanctions on Russians and Ukrainians involved in human rights violations and anyone involved in undermining Ukraine’s security and stability. Those sanctions, that would include freezing assets held in the United States as well as travel bans and denying visas to a wider cohort, were combined with the promised aid to the Ukraine directly and through the IMF. Hopefully, those signals will not be undercut by any decisions of the House of Representatives. There is a problem with freezing individual assets abroad, however. In this year alone, an estimated $50 billion has flown out of Russia already. This has significantly harmed the Russian economy. If some of such assets are frozen, then the export of capital would stop and Russia’s economy would benefit.

The US has only to hold its 50 states together through a majority, mainly be bringing the House of Representatives on side. The EU is a federation that has to hold its 34 states together in a consensus. The weakest economic link for both, but more for the US, is the need to strengthen the IMF, a move opposed by a significant number of Republicans including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida who argues that giving the money to Kyiv will only reward Russia by allowing Kyiv to pay its huge Russian debts. Therefore, such loans are not a threat but a reward offered to Russia. Nevertheless, only three Republicans on the committee actual cast votes against the IMF provisions, Senators Paul, as could be expected, joined by Senators Jim Risch of Idaho and John Barrasso of Wyoming.

Will the EU which is so dependent on Russia for gas be willing to do this, or, more importantly at this stage, signal that it is willing to take much more drastic steps if diplomacy fails and send enough signals that these threats are serious even though they will be significantly detrimental to the European economy just as it is beginning its recovery from the series of blows around the Euro crisis? More visa bans and asset freezes are on the table for the third stage of escalation (the steps Monday were the second stage for visa restrictions on Russian and Crimean officials and private citizens had already been imposed). But what about much more vigorous economic restrictions?

Germany already has an unprecedented (for it) unemployment rate of 7% and exports goods and services worth $130 billion to the Russian Federation (US exports are only $2.9 billion), let alone its dependency on Russia for 40% of its oil and gas. If, for example, more crippling sanctions, such as imposing limitations on Russian oil and natural-gas purchases, Germany would itself suffer enormously and the initiative has a significant risk of throwing Europe as well as Russia into a downward economic spiral let alone the devastating effect on the Ukraine economy. 45%  of Russian exports, 2/3rds oil and gas, goes to the EU. Ukraine sells almost $16 billion to Russia. Wider sanctions would be devastating all the way round, most devastating on Ukraine, extremely devastating on Russia and very devastating on the EU. But unless the EU holds a credible threat that it will resort to such sanctions, the possibility of Russia following a path of greater escalation increases. Russia has to know, as the Dutch foreign minister, Frans Timmermans, noted, that sanctions will be inevitable, thereby enabling Russia to “realise that sanctions will hurt everyone, but no one more than the Russians themselves.”

So broad sanctions will be avoided except as a last resort such as in response to a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine. The sanctions imposed are extremely mild and are merely a pin prick on the Great Bear. But they are intended only as a signal and are not intended as a deterrent or punishment for they are far too gentle for that. The velvet glove of diplomacy not only thus far lacks an iron glove inside but even a green padded boxing glove, green for both St. Patrick’s day and significant economic sanctions. The sanctions imposed thus far are not intended to hurt. They are just tweets to say more can and will be forthcoming – freezing bank balances, stopping credit lines, cancelling barter deals and suspending joint projects, still far short of broad sanctions – unless we join together in a process of de-escalation.

Sarajevo and 1914 rather than Austria and Czechoslovakia in 1938 really haunt the current crisis. The West is NOT diplomatically impotent even if, militarily, its hands are tied behind its back with few military options available. Should the West escalate by offering Georgia and Ukraine associate status in NATO? Would that act as a deterrent or be seen as an abandonment of the diplomatic route? Diplomacy is accomplished not simply by what states do but by what they credibly convey they are willing to do. But the dilemma is that if the threat is to be meaningful, it must be made credible. But the more credible it becomes the more such measures inspire the other side to adopt equal and balancing counter-measures.

Tomorrow – Margaret Macmillan and How the Peace Was Lost.

Greenwald’s Law and Putin’s Takeover of Crimea

Greenwald’s Law and Putin’s Takeover of Crimea


Howard Adelman

Michael Enright began the second part of Sunday Edition on CBC radio by explicating Godwin’s Law which Mike Godwin, a lawyer, promulgated in 1990, which is now officially listed in the Oxford dictionary. The Law is otherwise known as Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies. In his interpretation, Enright claimed that when Western statesmen compared Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine and Crimea to Adolph Hitler’s invasion of the Sudetenland in 1938, this was an example of Godwin’s Law. Michael also cited one of its correlates as well as the core law. He argued that the use of a Nazi analogy stops an argument cold for what is the opponent to say once you compare an action to that of Hitler. “One result of this so-called fallacious analogy is to effectively and immediately shut down debate. If you or your argument is compared to Hitler and Nazism, there is very little incentive to continue arguing your point. There is no place to go after dropping the Hitler bomb.”

Godwin’s Law has two principles: first, that the longer an argument continues, the higher the probability that a Nazi analogy will be used, and second, its complement, that sooner or later in an argument someone or something will be compared to a Nazi action. Godwin and others formulated many subsidiary correlates over the years. The one Enright cited is considered a basic canon because Godwin formulated it himself, but Michael did not cite its correlate, that the one who uses the Nazi analogy also loses the argument as well as stopping the argument since in rational discourse it is now considered poor form to use a Hitler or Nazi analogy inappropriately.

Playing the Hitler card is certainly poor form when the analogy is exaggerated and clearly inappropriate.  But what if one is discussing genocide in Rwanda? Is a comparison to inappropriate? Is it inappropriate if one argues that the Rwandan genocide against the Tutus in 1994 was akin to Hitler’s actions towards the Jews and the Roma except that the Rwandan genocide was even more efficient even though machetes were the main instrument of murder rather than industrial processes of gas ovens. Is such an analogy an example of Godwin’s Law? This misuse of Godwin’s Law is often called Greenwald’s Law since it was formulated by the well-known and highly regarded American journalist, Glenn Greenwald, who has become famous in his own right as a spokesperson for Edward Snowden.

What we have now is a situation is which Godwin’s Law is frequently used to claim one has dealt a final blow against an argument when it is Godwin’s Law itself and not the original analogy that is being abused and used in an exaggerated way. Calling Putin’s takeover an anschluss is not an instantiation of Godwin’s Law, but Godwin’s Law is often cited to claim the analogy is inappropriate simply because of the reference to Hitler or Nazis. Anschluss means the occupation and then annexation of a territory that was formerly part or all of an independent state. The original anschluss of Nazi Germany was of Austria, then was extended to Hitler’s actions in the Sudentenland and finally all of Czechoslovakia. It is not hyperbole to use anschluss when applied to Putin’s occupation and planned annexation of the Crimea even though the majority within Crimea likely support such a move, as most Germans were presumed to have supported Hitler’s move into the Sudentenland in 1938.

However, if one calls Obama’s response to Putin’s initiatives in the takeover of Crimea appeasement analogous to that of Chamberlain in response to the takeover in Czechoslovakia in 1938, is that an example of Godwin’s law? I would argue that the argument is wrong because Obama and Kerry are engaged in confronting Putin not in appeasing him. But I would not call it an example of Godwin’s Law for the issue is not hyperbole here but the correct way to characterize an action. There is certainly a fear of appeasement and an argument could be made that Obama and Kerry in keeping the prospect of the use of military force off the table is a form of appeasement. I think such an argument is totally invalid first, because Obama needs NATO to make such a decision; it is not a unilateral action. Further, it is debatable whether an open declaration of the threat of the use of force would escalate the situation unnecessarily and not give diplomacy adequate time to ensure that eastern Ukraine is not invaded. But calling Obama’s behaviour appeasement is still NOT an example of Godwin’s Law.

The use of Godwin’s Law in either direction is inappropriate when the analogy is neither a diversion nor a distraction but a genuine attempt to use a relevant historical analogy and that attempt is not a matter of hyperbole. The use of analogy by both sides is then appropriate. Godwin’s Law, after all, does not refer to a logical fallacy, and Michael was wrong to use “fallacious” in applying it for, as Godwin noted, he aimed to counter the glib use of rhetoric not the misuse of reason.

On the other hand, playing on reductio ad absurdum fallacies, Leo Strauss did consider the use of Hitler or Nazi analogies often to be ad hominem or irrelevant to an argument and called them reductio ad Hitlerum (not Hitlerium) arguments. However, in Strauss, it is not the use of the analogy that is fallacious but the presumption that the citation of the analogy is a valid and conclusive step in a proof when the analogy may be just an example of an association fallacy. In Strauss’ famous 1953 Natural Right and History which was required reading for most students who studied philosophy of history, Strauss did argue that a view was not refuted by the fact that it happened to have been shared by Hitler.

At the same time, though citing such an analogy as part of a propositional proof is always invalid, citing such a comparison is not always inappropriate even when Hitler shared that view or conducted a similar action. The central issue is whether the citation is a gross exaggeration and whether it is used as a key element in advancing a proof of an argument. If neither is the case, then the analogy is appropriate, though oftentimes imperfectly so. Unfortunately, Michael’s use of Godwin’s Law is an example of Greenwald’s Law, the effort to shut down the use of a legitimate analogy by citing Godwin’s Law.

Prognostications – Ukraine



Howard Adelman


Predictions are a very high risk activity, especially when offered by a rank amateur and when the evidence is so mixed. There are some signs of truth that can serve as a guide. But predictions are inherently not about what is truth but about what may be and what could be and what will be. Will there be further military action outside Crimea. I can equivocate by engaging in possibilities and probabilities but if I say military activity in Eastern Ukraine is unlikely but also a distinct possibility, to some degree or other I have to get off the fence. Putin ordered tens of thousands of Russian troops participating in military exercises near Ukraine’s border to return to their bases. That suggests that there will NOT be Russian military activity in the eastern Ukraine. On the other hand, Putin has said unequivocally that he would use the threat of wider military intervention to reassert Russian influence over all or part of Ukraine and it would be legal since requested by the legally elected president, Viktor Yanukovych. The West has unequivocally signaled that military force will not be used in Ukraine. But will the West continue to be given that choice if Russia actually invades Eastern Ukraine?

As the West prepares strong economic sanctions, Russia’s agricultural oversight agency withdrew its decision to lift the ban on imports of U.S. pork. At the same time, the subsidy for lower-priced gas from Gazprom for Ukraine was dropped (prices will rise from $268.50 to $400 per thousand cubic feet) and future economic measures were promised against Ukraine. The U.S. has already released oil from its strategic reserves. Economic warfare will assuredly escalate. While Putin refuses to recognize the planned Ukrainian election as well as the results, he set in motion a referendum that will be held in Crimea on 16 March; he promised he would recognize those results. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement just yesterday which suggested the aggressive Russian efforts would be restricted to the Crimea “taking into complete account the interests of all Ukrainians and all regions in the search for an exit from the crisis and also the respect of the right of the residents of Crimea to determine their fate on their own in accordance with the norms of international law.” Vadim Karasyov, a Kyiv-based political analyst, went further and interpreted this to mean that Russia would NOT be incorporating Crimea, but would be satisfied with Ukrainian independence.  

Bottom Line

1. Crimean Separatism

Crimeans vote for independence on 16 March or  whether they want union with Russia. The original motion for a ballot when the parliament lacked a real quorum and when the vote was scheduled for 30 March was for union with Russia without surrendering being part of Ukraine by approving the following statement: “The Autonomous Republic of Crimea has state independence (my italics) and is a part of Ukraine on the basis of agreements and accords.” Last Thursday (6 March), the supreme council in Crimea passed a motion with 78 of 100 legislators (8 abstained) in favour that the referendum would be scheduled for 16 March and would be on whether to join Russia OR have greater independence while remaining de jure part of Ukraine. The two choices are:

1. “Are you in favour of Crimea becoming a constituent territory of the Russian Federation?”

2. “Are you in favour of restoring Crimea’s 1992 constitution?” [That constitution provided that Crimea is part of Ukraine – there is no provision for secession – but its relations with Ukraine are determined by a treaty mutually agreed upon between Crimea and Ukraine.] As worded, the ballot inherently rejects both the 2004 constitution, which does not presume relations are determined by mutual agreement, and the current treaty between Ukraine and Crimea. 

Since Sevastopol residents will be allowed to take part in the referendum – which means all the sailors in the whole warm water fleet of Russia as well as all the Russian soldiers now stationed in Crimea – the outcome of the vote will likely be for joining Russia even if Russia leaves open the question of whether they will accede to this request as a bargaining chip. OSCE observers will not likely be permitted to observe the voting.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said the new government will resist separatism. “We are committed to the territorial integrity and unity of my country. And the new government will do everything and use all legal means [my italics] to stabilize the situation in Crimea and to convince the entire world and all Ukrainian neighbors that Ukraine is a sovereign united country and no separatism is allowed.”

The government in Kyiv will be unsuccessful, but Western states will not recognize the independence of Crimea or its joining Russia. I suspect that the West will eventually de facto but not de jure accede to this move, especially given the precedent of Kosovo. However, Crimean secession will not be the cause of significant escalation in the crisis. But there will be an escalation. Crimea’s Deputy Prime Minister, Rustam Temirgaliev (incidentally a Tatar at odds with most other Crimean Tatars), has already said that the decision on secession had already been made and the vote is merely intended to endorse that decision. After that endorsement, Ukrainian troops in Crimea would be regarded as military occupiers and would be invited to take out Russian citizenship and join the Russian army or lay down their arms and be repatriated to Ukraine.

If they do not lay down their arms, will the bases be attacked? Will the Ukrainian fleet that is now under blockade, if they resist surrender, be attacked? Any such ultimatum will, I suspect, induce a much greater response in the West and the threat of much greater responses is intended to deter Putin from taking further aggressive action in Crimea as well as other parts of Ukraine. In any case, Russia has no need to attack the bases or the Ukrainian fleet; they are no threat to any eventual outcome if left bottled up. Moreover, they symbolize the impotence of Kyiv vis a vis decisions in Crimea. The real danger comes from the 10,000+ militia working alongside Russian troops and the ones most likely responsible for kidnappings and intimidation of foreigners, including journalists.

2. Eastern Ukraine

Unless NATO challenges Putin and threatens military action in eastern Ukraine, expect bullying thuggery in Luhansk, and Donetsk (the Donbas), the mining and industrial rust belt of Ukraine. Two weeks ago there was a possibility that those areas would try to follow the example of Crimea by voting for independence while insisting they are still part of Ukraine and that Putin would deploy troops to prevent “hooliganism” and ensure order and protection for the Russian minority but again deny that they are Russian troops. However, this is now far less likely given NATO’s military response, the escalating economic sanctions and the unanimity in the West opposing Russia’s moves.

3. Ukraine

Putin will not accept Ukraine’s efforts to become part of Europe and will go all out to ensure that Ukraine remains within Russia’s “sphere of influence”. As a result of his moves on the Crimea, however, Putin will lose Ukraine except for Crimea. Depending on how he plays his hand and how the West responds, this will also include any future influence in the Donbas.

4. Moldova

Moldova, south and west of Ukraine with Romania on the east, may be the next area of crisis rather than eastern Ukraine, both to distract from the Ukraine controversies and because of its internal dynamic. Like Ukraine, Moldova has also come under pressure to drop its negotiated association agreement with the EU that has not yet been put on the implementation track. Further, the Russians have troops as “peacekeepers” – their status is disputed – in the eastern province of Trans-Dniester (Trans Dnestr or Transnistria) that borders Ukraine on the east with the Dniester River on the West. The majority of the population is Russian and Ukrainian. Like the Donbas, the area is the industrial heartland of Moldova. The area since 1792 was once part of the Russian Empire. Like Odessa, just to the east, the Ukrainians there speak Russian. Further, though Trans-Dniester is part of Moldova, like Crimea it has an autonomous legal status as the Pridnestrovian MoldavianRepublic – Pridnestrovie. 

Set up in the aftermath of the disintegration of the USSR and in response to 1989 decisions by Moldova to make Moldovan the only official language and adopt the Latin alphabet, a full scale war was fought between this region and Moldova in 1992. The war ended with Russian intervention and, without changing the legal status, Pridnestrovie became a satrap of Russia. Though not recognized anywhere as an independent republic except by South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Pridnestrovie has its own constitution, flag, national anthem, president, parliament, military, police and even its own currency. Most residents have Moldavian citizenship (300,000) but another 250,000 have either or both Ukrainian and Russian citizenship. In the 2004 census of a population of 555,347 people, 177,785 (32.1%) were Moldovans, 168,678 (30.35%) were Russians and 160,069 (28.8%) Ukrainians with 8.7% Bulgarians, Gagauzians, Roma, Jews, Poles, etc.  

In a 2006 referendum by the Pridnestrovie government, 97.2% of the population favoured independence from Moldova and free association with Russia. The EU has not recognized the referendum results. Pridnestrovie, like Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, are really outposts of the Russian Federation as will be Crimea if it is not incorporated right into Russia.

Pridnestrovie is not the only Moldovan territory that could mimic Crimea. In the Gagauzian strip of Moldova south-west of Pridnestrovie with the Ukraine border to its east, the province is more akin to the provinces of eastern Ukraine. However, since 1994, it has had its own special legal status within Moldova. A 2 February referendum there voted 98% in favour of closer ties with Russia than the EU and voted for secession if Moldova joins the EU. 

5. Economics and Sanctions 

U.S.the EU froze the assets of 18 people held responsible for misappropriating state funds in Ukraine, echoing similar action in Switzerland and Austria as well as Canada. The Russian parliament began drafting legislation that would allow the authorities to confiscate assets belonging to U.S. and European companies, but nothing likely will come of it. Nevertheless, economic warfare on a number of fronts between the West and Russia will continue to escalate.

6. Cyber Warfare

Expect extensive efforts by Russia to sabotage Ukrainian communications, efforts that are already underway. Crimea has already been cut off from access to Ukrainian broadcasts. 

7. Military

If Russia actually resorts to using military means to retain Ukraine as part of Russia, which I now think is highly unlikely, Ukraine will resist militarily and NATO will have to decide whether it acquiesces to an anschluss in Ukraine, then the more likely Putin will resort to military means to retain Ukraine. The West has not taken up the half of a two-pronged strategy based on a threat and possible use of the military lest this risk leading to war between Russia and the West. If escalation in the use of the military by both sides is avoided, then the West will have won the major battle for Ukraine excluding Crimea without a fight.

8. Protests in Russia

There will be extensive protests within Russia against the West aided and supported by the state as well as protests against Putin’s policies, but the latter will be ruthlessly squelched.

9. The Caucasus

Expect Muslim separatists and extremists to try to take advantage of the period of turmoil forthcoming.

10. The Middle East

Cooperation between the West and Russia on Syria will disappear, but the dismantling of the chemical weapons will continue. There will be virtually no effect on the Iran negotiations except that Russia will lose any position of influence.

11. Viktor Yanukovych

He will not return to Ukraine to stand trial but he will be able to retain little of his acquired booty and will be barely but marginally tolerated by Russia. Putin has little use for losers who let him down while stealing on a grand scale.

12. The Budapest Memorandum of 1994

It will either be used to back down from the brink (unlikely) or become a dead letter, the more probable outcome.

Anti-Semitism in the Ukraine

Anti-Semitism in the Ukraine


Howard Adelman


My mother was born in Toronto before World War I but her parents migrated from Galicia to Canada at the end of the nineteenth century in flight from a spate of pogroms. They experienced anti-Semitism in the Ukraine directly. They were from that part of Galicia that is now incorporated into western Ukraine. My father, whose family were “Polacks”, said you could always tell a Galicianer from the Ukraine because they ate their latkes with sour cream rather than sugar. My mother’s mother was from Bukovina and my grandfather from Lviv.  

For the last decade, world Jewry has been pre-occupied with the so-called new-anti-Semitism in which claims are made that the singling out of Israel for the boycott campaign is rooted in attempts to delegitimize Israel and deny Jews the right to self-determination. In the Ukraine and Russia we are back on familiar ground with the old anti-Semitism less than two months after observing International Holocaust Remembrance Day on the 69th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet forces. Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith, while far from ignoring anti-Jewish slights in the USA, has been vitriolic in suggesting that Europe remains a cesspool of hatred threatening the Jewish people. Does what is happening in Ukraine prove his and Putin’s point? We cannot wait to find out until the symposium planned this fall at UofT by Irv Abella and Rob Pritchard that will focus on the old as well as the new anti-Semitism.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia invaded Crimea with so-called “local defence units” on the pretext that he was protecting Russians and Jews from a rising tide of fascist anti-Semitic nationalists even though Jewish supporters of Crimea re-joining Russia in the Crimea deny the existence of any significant anti-Semitism. Anatoly Gendin was born in Russia, lives in the Ukraine and supports the annexation of Crimea to Russia. He is also the leader of Crimea’s Progressive Jewish Community. But he has said: “I don’t feel any anti-Semitism in Crimea.”

Yet Moscow’s propaganda machine claimed that Ukraine was being swept by a wave of anti-Semitism and xenophobia. Putin depicted the revolutionaries in Ukraine as reactionary “anti-Semitic forces…on a rampage”.  This line is fully in accord with Abe Foxman’s belief that Europe, especially Hungary, Greece, Italy and Bulgaria, are enduring a significant degree of anti-Semitism because of the coming together of nationalist anti-government forces. Despite the official line that thousands of Russian troops who have occupied the Crimean peninsula over the last two weeks are actually “local self-defence units,” the message is that Russia is there to defend the minority groups in Crimea and other parts of Ukraine. In fact, incidents of anti-Semitism, such as the knife attack on a 26 year-old haredi Jewish teacher, Hillel Wertheimer, returning from synagogue after Shabat in Kyiv on 11 January, the attack a week later on 33-year old Yeshiva student, Dov-Ber Glickman, again after he left synagogue, and the firebombing of a Chabad centre southeast of Kyiv in Zaporizhiye in February, have been three attacks too many but, on the other hand, such anti-Semitic incidents have been few and far between.

However, as The Algemeiner reported yesterday, Putin sometimes can be AC/DC in reference to anti-Semitism for his enemies can be Zionist agents in the new version of anti-Semitism or anti-Semitic ones using the older version. “Back in 2004, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused his regional rival Viktor Yushchenko, who was then the pro-western president of Ukraine, of having campaigned on the basis of ‘anti-Russian, Zionist’ slogans”. He subsequently clarified that to say he meant to accuse Viktor Yuschenko of being backed by anti-Semites.

The irony, of course, is that although there have been incidents in both Russia and the Ukraine, neither country has witnessed any clearly state-backed anti-Semitism. What takes place appears to be infrequent with no distinctive pattern in spite of Stephen Cohen’s allegations that Ukrainian nationalists are born-again Hitler youth, a sentiment echoed by Michael Lerner of Tikkun. At the beginning of March there was an incident at the Ner Tamid Synagogue in Simferopol, Crimea’s capital, not far from Lenin Square. A large swastika and the words “Kill the Zhids” was painted on the front door. A security camera caught a man carrying a back pack from which he took the spray can. That man has not been identified. Was he a Ukrainian nationalist or was he a Russian planted provocateur or at least someone out to provide evidence to justify Putin’s claims?

Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, a chief rabbi of Ukraine, accused Russia of staging anti-Semitic “provocations” in Crimea to justify its invasion. Anatoly Gendin, the Jewish Russian supporter in the Crimea of annexation, cited it as the only anti-Semitic incident in Crimea and it took place when Russian troops were taking control. Rabbi Misha Kapustin,  ordained by Leo Baeck College in London and the rabbi of the synagogue in the Crimea where the anti-Semitic graffiti was painted on the door, has echoed Gendin’s sentiments and said that, “I didn’t feel any anti-Semitism previously in Crimea,” but since he now openly wears a lapel pin with the Ukrainian and Israeli flags, he has been attacked on the internet as a disloyal Jew.  As Boris Berlin, a Jewish computer engineer living in Crimea, says, it is only since the Russian occupation and the vote calling for a referendum on annexation that you hear anti-Semitic remarks. “It’s a circus, not democracy.” Compare the 82% of the Ukrainian parliament that voted for the ouster of  Viktor Yanukovych, when he reneged on his agreement with the opposition on ending the violent clashes in Maidan, to the vote in Crimea where there were only 36 of 100 members of the Crimean legislature present when the vote supporting annexation and the decision to hold a referendum was passed “unanimously” as revealed by Norwegiam journalists. (Siste nytt: Grisebonde ble handlingslammet kl.11:46) Nicolay Sumulidi, a member of the Crimean Parliament, is recorded as having supported the vote, but he was not even present. Neither was Irina Klyuyeva who was also recorded as voting for the motions.

Norwegian investigative reporters filled in the details after 30 masked gunmen in military fatigues at the beginning of March seized and trashed the office of the independent Center for Investigative Journalism in Simferopol. Yesterday, three journalists, Epsen Kruse, Kristian Elster and Bengt Kristiansen, from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) were attacked in Crimea by 15-20 masked and armed militiamen whom the Norwegian journalists said were Russian soldiers in disguise. Their computers and storage devices were confiscated. They were accused of being spies but were released. Reporters Without Borders said that two days earlier, two Ukrainian journalists went missing and are believed to have been kidnapped. Olena Maksymenko of Ukrainsky Tizhden was one. She disappeared with Kateryna Butko and Aleksandra Ryazantseva, two Auto-Maidan activists. They were last seen tied and bound kneeling near a military tent. Freelance photographer, Oles Kromplyas, and his driver, Yevhen Rakhno, are also missing. Censorship has been imposed on Crimea for “moral principles” and “legal imperatives” and Ukrainian TV is no longer allowed to transmit in Crimea.

Since we are unlikely to learn any time soon who painted the swastika, we can at least investigate the credentials of Svoboda (Freedom) Party led by Oleh Tyahnibok, and Pravyi Sektor (Right Sector) led by Dmitro Yarosh, Ukraine’s main two nationalist parties. The latter consists of rabid militant ultra-nationalists determined to rid Ukraine of foreign threats to its Ukrainian character, whether those threats come from the east, the west or internally from groups who do not respect the right of the Ukrainian people to their own land. But Yarosh has stated: “Many Jews have fought and died for the cause of Ukrainian nationalism. I see those men as heroes of Ukraine. So what kind of anti-Semite does that make me?” On the other hand he is an open admirer of Stepan Bandera who led the fight for Ukrainian independence during World War II in collaboration with the Nazis, his militias going far beyond fighting the Russians when they engaged in anti-Jewish pogroms.

Oleh Tyahnibok is also an admirer of Bandera and he himself in 2007 as a member of parliament accused “yids” of working in collaboration with the Russian mafia who together were responsible for Ukraine’s problems. The admiration for Bandera goes to the heart of Ukrainian patriotism. In 2010, President Viktor Yushchenko had awarded Bandera the posthumous title of Hero of Ukraine for “defending national ideas and battling for an independent Ukrainian state,” an award withdrawn when Viktor Yanukovych assumed the presidency.

However, in spite of this smudge of anti-Semitism on the nationalist right and the taint of it in the centre, Ukraine’s bid to free itself from Russian domination has not been driven by anti-Semitic ideology. Many Ukrainian Jewish leaders have pointed this out unequivocally. “I categorically refute the statements appearing in a number of foreign media outlets of facts of massive anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Ukraine that do not correspond to reality!” Vadim Rabinovich, representing the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress, went on to claim that, “The whipping up of the situation around this issue is of a provocative nature and does not contribute to a calm life for the Jewish community of Ukraine.”

On 7 March, prominent Ukrainian Jews wrote an open letter to Vladimir Putin calling on the President to withdraw his Russian military forces from Crimea and accusing him of using false claims of ultra-nationalism and anti-Semitism to legitimise intervention in Ukraine. “Historically, Ukrainian Jews are mostly Russian-speaking…Our opinion on what is happening carries no less weight than the opinion of those who advise and inform you.” The signatories included those of scholars, scientists, businessmen, artists and musicians. The letter was unequivocal in rejecting Putin’s line that the protest movement that removed president Viktor Yanukovich was made up of “anti-Semitic forces on the rampage,” asked without qualification for removal of Russian troops from Crimea and suggested that anti-Semitism was a greater threat in Russia than in Ukraine.

They claimed that Ukraine was a multi-ethnic society with quite a few national minority representatives in the Cabinet of Ministers – the Minister of Internal Affairs is Armenian, the Vice-Prime Minister is a Jew, two ministers are Russian. Vladimir Groisman, another Jew and a popular mayor of the city of Vinnytsaa, was appointed first deputy prime minister in charge of regional development in the new Ukrainian government. The newly-appointed governors of Ukraine’s region are also not exclusively Ukrainian. Billionaire oligarch Ihor Kolomoiskyi, a Ukranian Jew, was named as the governor of the Dniepropetrovsk region in south-central Ukraine as a counterweight to Ukraine’s richest oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov, who is the media mogul in eastern Ukraine, the owner of the largest TV station that has allowed his media outlets to serve as a mouthpiece for Russia’s propaganda.

That does not mean Jewish leaders in Ukraine deny the existence of any anti-Semitism in Ukraine, especially among the marginal nationalist parties, but even then they insisted that neither Svoboda nor Pravyi Sektor, who were united with other protesters in the anti-Yanukovich protest movement, dared show anti-Semitism or other xenophobic behaviour. They claimed that both civil society and the new Ukrainian government had both under control, a sentiment echoed by  Oleksandr Feldman, a member of the Ukraine parliament and president of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee. The signatories of the open letter then poked Putin the eye – “which is more than can be said for the Russian neo-Nazis, who are encouraged by your security services.” The problem was not indigenous nationalism but exogenous intervention by Russia into Ukraine’s domestic affairs by a leader who believes that the independence of Ukraine was a national tragedy for Russia.

In the Crimea, Vitali Khramov, a Russian citizen, was an outspoken anti-Semite who labelled Jews “corpse-fuckers” since, he claimed, screwing a dead body was a ritual necrophilic requirement as important as a bar mitzvah for young Jewish men. The international financial system was led by Rockefeller, a Jew, and his fellow Jewish banking cabal that was determined to drive Russia into the ground. The U.S. was a Zionist war-monger financed by Jewish money. For years, Khramov led Sobol that advocated that Russia annex the Crimea. Though deported in 2012, his separatist paramilitaries serve as the main forces for harassing Ukrainians opposed to the Russian anschluss. So when Putin and Moscow claim to John Kerry that he is blind to Ukrainian anti-Semitism and the forces of radical extremism that have seized control in the Ukraine while ignoring the “rampant Russophobia and anti-Semitism” among the group that took power, we have an example not simply of the kettle calling the pot black but of a lie, repeated and repeated like a dripping faucet so that the lie, as Mao Zedong claimed, becomes an accepted truth, or, at the very least, a legitimate claimant upon truth.

The reality is that Moscow’s reference to attacks on synagogues could only be corroborated by the four attacks mentioned above. one of which took place in Crimea when Russian forces were taking control of the area. Anatoly Gendin, mentioned above as a supporter of reunion of the Crimea with Russia and head of the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Crimea, but he claimed that Jews were being blamed for the huge increase in inflation in Crimea. Rabbi Misha Kapustin felt that he had been forced to close the synagogue where the anti-Semitic graffiti had been sprayed for the safety of his congregation. A visiting Jewish delegation led by Oleksandr Feldman claimed that the ten thousand Jews of Crimea were divided based on age, with the older Jews wanting Russia to annex Crimea so their pensions would be three times as high while the younger group preferred to work and raise their children in a Ukraine allied with the west.    

Putin invaded Crimea under the pretext of a massive lie about anti-Semitism. He may gain Crimea but the gain will be at the cost of a permanent loss of Ukraine from his fantasy of building an eastern version of the EU under Russian control and revealing to the whole world what a liar and bully he is.

On 2 April, the Ukrainian Jewish Committee will host its fourth annual interfaith national forum with participants from 50 countries to discuss anti-Semitism. 

Putin’s Propaganda

Putin’s Propaganda


Howard Adelman

To test Vladimir Putin’s claims about the Ukraine to back up his rationale for his occupation of the Crimea, and to refute his rationale that I provided yesterday, I list those claims under propaganda and then depict the actuality as observed by those who were there. Many of these sources are Jewish, some who stand in strong opposition to former President Viktor Yanukovych and to Putin, usually from Kyiv, and some who strongly back Putin’s position, usually from Odessa. Putin is not the only one who spouts his line. There are plenty of Ukrainians, Jewish Ukrainians among them.

Lev Gudkov, Russian sociologist  and Director of the independent LevadaCenter: “In propaganda it is very important to consider the effect of squeezing out alternative versions of events, all alternative information. As a result, even people who don’t believe or who doubt the official information are not in a position to work with other points of view. And this is the foundation of propaganda.”


Russia is concerned with defending the rights of the residents in Crimea.


Black Sea TV, an independent Crimean TV station, was cut off from broadcasting on Monday. It still reached cable and satellite viewers (one-third of its normal audience) until the station’s electricity was cut off.


Russian channels and the government channel in the Crimea claimed that ultra-nationalists are coming to force everyone to speak Ukrainian.


The Russian Language Act withdrawing Russia as an official language was itself withdrawn after it passed. In any case, whatever the faults of the Act, it never envisioned forcing anyone to speak Ukrainian.


In addition to protecting Ukraine’s Russian minority, Russia is involved in the Ukraine to combat anti-Semitism espoused by elements of Ukraine’s far-right nationalist movement. Ukraine in general is being overrun by gangs of anti-Russian fascist thugs. Inna Olar, a Jewish 55-year-old information-technology manager who lives in Odessa, the Black Sea port in the south of Ukraine, claimed that the nationalists are Nazis and anti-Semites with symbols derived from those used by the SS and they revere Stepan Bandera who regarded Jews as agents of Soviet imperialism.


According to Arseniy Finberg, a 31-year-old director of a tourist company and father of two who participated in the demonstrations in Maidan, there was no need for Russia to step in on their behalf. Hundreds of Jews stood on Maidan; allegations that anti-Semitism tainted the protests are largely exaggerated. The handful of attacks on Jews in the square—including someone who had a drink poured on her when she tried to stop young nationalists from putting up anti-Semitic posters—were unusual. He suggested that they were the work of those looking to discredit the Maidan movement. Further, two IDF trained soldiers of Ukrainian origin organized the patrol to prevent hooliganism. (For the full stories, see Tablet Magazine.)

Further, virtually all the thuggery has been sponsored by Russia. In Crimea, gunmen seized part of a Ukrainian missile facility in CapeFiolent, near Sevastopol, according to Ukrainian officials. Further, a senior United Nations envoy was forced to cut short his mission and decided to leave the country after being “threatened” by a gang of armed men shouting “Crimea is Russian! Putin! Putin!” After pro-Western Ukrainians had reinstalled the national flag on the roof of the regional government building in Donetsk, a dozen people were hurt when pro-Russian protesters took back the building by force and re-installed the Russian flag.


Putin blamed Ukraine’s opposition for the ongoing crisis, calling it a Western-backed “unconstitutional coup” and “armed seizure of power.” Innar Olar echoed this view and opposes the new government. “It came to power in a coup.” Putin refuses to recognize even the early elections scheduled for 25 May 25 to be held “under the auspices of terror”.


The authorities in Kyiv were elected and, in turn, by a democratic vote in Parliament open to the media, selected the new Prime Minister and President.


A woman who lives in Donetsk called the Maidan protesters terrorists. “All of Ukraine thinks that. No one came for himself. They came to earn money.” On a trolley recently, she overheard a group of miners saying they had been offered 10,000 hryvnia—about $1,000—to join the protests. “All the people there were paid.


Alexander Roitburd, a famous Ukrainian artist of Jewish origin who participated in Maidan, portrayed the conflict as one between the rule of law and Western values versus being forever trapped in a post-Soviet space.


The events in Kyiv were fomented by Western sources eager to economically exploit the Ukraine and include the Ukraine within the Western hegemony of power.


Roitburd insisted that Maidan was a spontaneous civil movement that succeeded in attracting the support of the country’s richest men and was a revolution of everyone from the lowest people to the oligarchs, who secretly helped.


Western media as working for spy services to foment revolution.


CBC and CNN had crews in Kyiv and reported no evidence of media playing a role in stirring up the people.


Hundreds of thousands of Russian-speaking refugees have fled a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

Russian media widely reported that more than 650,000 Ukrainians crossed out of southeastern Ukraine into Russia since the beginning of the year.  


The latter was illustrated by an undated photo but revealed to have actually have been taken at the Shehyni border crossing between Ukraine and Poland. Further, the UN’s High Commissioner on Refugees says it has seen no evidence of unusual migration on the border. There is no evidence of any refugee flow outside of Crimea though many Tatars have relocated to Istanbul and Kyiv while others remain back to guard their property.


The current Crimean authorities were elected legitimately.


The new pro-Russian Crimean leader, Sergei Aksyonov, was installed last Thursday in a closed session of the regional parliament not open to the press to verify, at the very least, that there was even a quorum present, with the parliamentary session itself was occupied by armed men and the parliamentary building surrounded by Russian troops. Before being “elected”, Aksyonov led a party with only three of the one hundred seats.


The armed men in Crimea surrounding the army bases in Crimea, according to Putin, are not Russian troops but pro-Russian local self-defence groups.


If you believe the above, then you could believe the moon is made of cheese 

The reality is that current Russian initiatives as instigated by Putin are driven by a Russian messianism and phobia of the West. (See http://epaper.nationalpost.com/epaper/viewer.aspx

Putin’s Defence

Putin’s Defence


Howard Adelman

Astri Suhrke, a Senior Researcher at the Christian Michelsen Institute in Bergen, Norway, and a long time collaborator of mine, wrote in response to my blogs on Putin as follows:

“Am enjoying your blogs, even when strongly disagreeing. For instance, you write, ‘if America is unwilling to contemplate some form of military action when its vital interests are challenged in Europe…..,’ with reference to the Russian invasion of Crimea. As I see it, the Russian reaction is precisely that, a reaction to prevent a change to the status quo in Crimea, which Russian has long had the right to use for its Black Sea naval fleet – only warm water port and access to the Mediterranean etc. Change in Kiev  – welcomed and encouraged by EU and NATO – made it quite possible that Russia might lose that access. So Russia reacted. (Also recall that until 1954. Crimea was part of Russia (within the USSR)). So Russia reacted. How can a defense of the status quo ‘challenge vital American interests’? And if any wider American  interests are affected, it will be primarily in the Middle East rather than  Europe.
“Comparing this with the Anschluss, and affixing  the label of appeasement  on Obama (as you did in your earlier blog), seems not only unfair, but counterproductive  to efforts to defuse the situation  and prevent a really serious conflict. Just noted that Poland has asked for consultations in NATO under para 4 of the Washington Treaty. Seems opportunistically belligerent.


Here is how I replied though I corrected my typos.

I can’t be;\believe it! Do you really swallow Putin’s lie – a blatant lie – that the Russian action is just a reaction “to prevent a change to the status quo in Crimea”? Where is there any evidence Russia’s military position in Crimea was under threat??? It would be akin to the U.S. attacking Cuba on the pretext that its base in Guantanamo was under threat. Where is there any evidence even that there was any threat to the majority ethnic Russian population in Crimea?  Even the stupid language law withdrawing permission for Russian to be taught as an official language was NOT a real threat when the stress is on “official” and when, though it was passed, it was withdrawn before the President of Ukraine vetoed it. The defence of the status quo was something that did not need a defence let alone an aggressive invasion and occupation.

As far as America’s vital interests, surely it is in America’s vital interest to see that country’s cannot invade other countries and occupy and de facto take over territory, just as it is in the interest of other country’s when America attacked and occupied other countries. Both kinds of attacks have to be challenged. I did not say America had to respond by deploying military troops, but did suggest that America and the EU might consider responding with military guarantees before Putin attempts to invade Eastern Ukraine.

Finally, I never called Obama an appeaser. Can you point out where I did?. I am a strong supporter of Obama, though not always uncritical. But I do believe the reset here worked in spite of the fact that I supported that reset. Neither I nor Obama can always be right.

Nice to hear from you.

All the best.


Astri came back strongly:

“Yes, I accept that Russia had reason to believe that its position in Crimea would be threatened. They made a pre-emptive move to secure their position. They have so far occupied key buildings and sites.

Yes, I agree that it is certainly in the interest of the US and other countries not to sanction invasions. That the US twice in the past decade or so has invaded other countries, and formally occupied one, does make me pause, however, before leaping to the defense of the US on that particular ground.

And, yes, in your first blog on Putin and Crimea, you said that ‘Obama will have no choice except to be the Neville Chamberlain who surrendered the Sudetenland of C… to Hitler.’ That’s pretty close to calling him ‘an appeaser” – no?

Wish you were here so we could talk this out over a walk and a meal!



I wrote back as follows:



I wrote ‘Obama will have no choice except to be the Neville Chamberlain who surrendered the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, but he will not sign an agreement acceding to the seizure of The Crimea.’ That is not a charge of appeasement. That is, as stated throughout the blog, an acceptance of realism. But that realism will not be signing onto the deal and waving a piece of paper saying ‘Peace in our time.’ Obama is expected and will fight back to ensure nothing more. Further, to my surprise, at least rhetorically, he seems to be pushing for full withdrawal. I am totally sceptical about that, but maybe? In any case, both the last half of the sentence and the rest of the blog is clear that I am not accusing Obama of being an appeaser. You say I affixed a label of appeaser. I did not use the term, did not affix the label, though I did suggest there was an element of realism in Chamberlain and Obama’s actions. But realism is not appeasement. Though Great Britain was in no position to fight Germany in 1938, and nor was Russia, Chamberlain’s appeasement was legally signing away the Sudetenland as Germany’s entitlement.”

Quite aside from never labelling Obama an appeaser, let me take Astri’s main argument seriously, namely that she accepts Putin’s argument that Russia’s interests in the Crimea were under threat and the response was “a reaction to prevent a change to the status quo in Crimea.” To do that I will have to elaborate on the analysis underlying her claim.

1. Crimea was for several centuries part of Russia.

2. When the Ukraine and Russia were both part of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev ‘arbitrarily’ gave the Crimea to The Ukraine in 1954.
3. Throughout the twentieth century, Russia based its warm water fleet (the Black Sea Fleet) at Sevastopol .

4. When the USSR broke up in 1991, Russia found itself in the humiliating position of having to negotiate a lease for its main naval port; the lease ran for 25 years from 1992-2017.

5. In 2008, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko of the Ukraine announced that under no circumstances would she renew the lease in 1917.

6. Yulia Tymoshenko had just been released from jail and there was a real danger she would win the elections which were now to be brought forward to this Spring.

7. Chaos as well as succession by an opponent of the lease would also threaten the stability necessary for the naval base’s security.

8. The cancellation of the lease would threaten Russia’s complete maritime defence capability or its ability to be an influential player in the Middle East.

9. Further, cancellation of the lease would be devastating for the tens of thousands of Russian civilian employees living in The Crimea who work directly or indirectly to maintain Russia’s maritime military capability.

10. Viktor Yanukovych’s extension of the lease in 2010 for a further 25 years reduced the threat.

11. However, on the Ukrainian political horizon a possible direct threat to Russia’s interests emerged because elected “radicals” could threaten to cancel the lease extension.

12. That fear was greatly exacerbated by the events in Kyiv.

13. That threat was realized in full when President Yanukovych was illegally deposed by Parliament and forced to flee the Ukraine.

14. Hence, Putin sought and received on Saturday, 1 March 2014 authorization and permission by the Duma to use the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of the Ukraine, not to annex any territory, but until the situation stabilized.

15. Obama’s “warning” then only reinforced Putin’s fears and determination to take pre-emptive action.

I hope I have stated the argument for the defence of Putin as clearly and as fully as the space allowed. Putin in his first public press conference since the Crimean crisis began, reinforced this argument when he lied and claimed Russian forces had NOT intervened in Ukraine and further stated that,  Russia “reserves the right to use all means at our disposal to protect” What is wrong with this defence of Russia’s position? 

1. Whatever the past, Russia has agreed in a plethora of international legal documents that the Crimea is NOT part of Russia but is part of the Ukraine.

2. If the Ukraine cancelled the lease and not just threatened to do so, Russia had multiple non-military punishments that could cripple Ukraine and fairly easily get the Ukraine to back off.

3. The United States was part of the agreement guaranteeing Russia’s use of Sevastopol.

4. There is no way that Ukraine could enforce such a cancellation.

5. Theoretical future threats to a country’s defence interests do not justify an illegal military invasion.

Behind all the hot air and rhetoric, there is a deeper problem, the failure of the United States and Russia to actually work together in resolving crises in Russia’s backyard. Putin argues that he helped get American chestnuts out of the fire in getting Syria to give up its chemical weapons. He claims he has helped the U.S. over Iran. What has he gotten in return for his cooperation when Russia’s own vital interests are at stake? American diplomatic conspiracies, which Russia had the tapes to prove, to remove the legally elected president of the Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, in an effective coup. In fact, America had set up the crisis earlier by supporting sucking Ukraine into the EU economic and political orbit without taking into account Russia’s vital economic, political and military interests in Ukraine. Instead of allowing and encouraging Ukraine to play the EU and Russia off against one another, instead of pushing the EU Association Agreement, the focus should have been on working together to stablilize Ukraine in recognition of Russia’s genuine fears of instability there given Ukraine’s inherent proneness to chaos as a multi-ethnic state.

I hope I have been fair to what I interpret as Astri’s argument.

I will offer a full reply tomorrow in my analysis of Russian propaganda.

Putin and The Crimea

Putin’s High Risk Poker


Howard Adelman


David Remnick in the 3 March 2014 issue of The New Yorker, of which he is the editor, offers a wonderful portrait of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin in his essay “Patriot Games”. After a preliminary and succinct introduction to Putin, Remnick begins the second section of his essay as follows: “Great powers seldom retreat forever. But to people who suffer their fall, the sense of diminishment is acute.” For Putin, the fall of the empire of the Soviet Union was humiliating. “Power, a sense of greatness, was slipping away.”

Remnick understands Russia. He is fluent in Russian and wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire a few years after the USSR fell apart. Since that time, Putin has spent his energies trying to reverse course, symbolically, spiritually and in terms of both geography and international influence. His $50 billion  Olympic Winter Games extravaganza took place beside the subtropical Sochi, not by accident next door to Abkhazia and South Ossetia that Putin managed to detach from Georgia in the all-too-brief Russian-Georgia war of 2008. Putin is in the process of repeating the exercise with the Crimea.

As Remnick writes: “Sochi was a theatrical event before it was a sporting event.” Sochi “wasn’t about ‘slope-style’ snow boarding; it was about the televised revival of a demoralized country.” Troops on the ground in the Crimea are part of the effort to make the symbolism real. Putin, the autocrat, frenetic macho muzhik, will not be deterred by a ninety minute conversation with Barack Obama who has found Putin’s moves into the Crimea objectionable. After the occupation, “Obama warned Russia not to violate Ukraine’s sovereign territory.” Had Obama already conceded that The Crimea was no longer part of Ukraine?

The Sochi games, in spite of and perhaps because of their enormous costs, were a triumph for Russia. The secession – perhaps blessed by a successful referendum for the autonomous region of The Crimea, if Putin thinks he needs that cover – is a forgone conclusion. Of the 2 1/4 million people (almost a third of a million in Sevastapol itself) in The Crimea, two-thirds are Russian and only one-quarter are Ukrainians. In a poll at the beginning of the twenty-first century, not one Russian in the Crimea accepted Crimea’s status as an autonomous entity within Ukraine while 15% wanted the Crimea to be made an autonomous republic within Russia. Almost all the schools in the Crimea until very recently taught in the Russian language and attempts to increase the number of schools in which the language of education is Ukrainian has been resisted. The Russian flag already flies over government buildings in The Crimea. The Crimea is as I write under the military and economic protection of Russia 

Obama is fighting a rearguard defence to try to ensure that the capture of eastern Ukraine, and perhaps even all of Ukraine, will not to follow. The fact that the military occupation of Crimea without even a fig leaf of a provocation was in blatant breach of international law and the 1997 agreement over the military and huge naval base for the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol is irrelevant to Putin. Putin crushed the domestic opposition within Russia two years ago, swept aside the psychedelic Pussy Riot protesters like a bothersome fly, and will ignore Western pressure.

Boycotting the G-8 summit in Russia in 3 months will follow. Russian oligarchs who partner with Putin in carving up The Crimea for economic exploitation may have their bank accounts and assets frozen in the West.  But what else can the West realistically do since it is clearly unwilling to go to war over The Crimea. The West will even pressure the new government of the Ukraine to be cautious lest it to be eaten up once again by the Russian bear.  The US will not accompany that caution by provocatively deploying its Mediterranean fleet into the Black Sea as the hawkish Charles Krauthammer has advised.

Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov of the Ukraine may have announced that the country’s armed forces have been put on the alert, but he will not mobilize. Assuming that he could even rely on his largely Russian trained and equipped army, the Ukraine will not want to give Russia a pretext to invade eastern or even all of Ukraine. What can NATO do to defend the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine? Well it can do something. Ukraine could immediately vote to join NATO and be just as immediately accepted. A Marshall plan could be developed for the bankrupt Ukraine. The cost of the Russian success with The Crimea could be the final and permanent loss of the Ukraine to the renewed Russian imperial ambitions.

Putin will not take such a loss easily. Expect many efforts by the KGB to engage in many attempts at economic and political destabilization. He will not simply wait passively to see if Western economic and diplomatic intervention is successful.

However, the costs to the West will also be enormous – $35 billion dollars in life support over the next two years. (Putin’s counter offer of $15 billion was just a down payment.) Further, there are no guarantees of success even with Viktor Yanukovych taking refuge in Russia. The opposition that just came to power in the Ukraine is bitterly and deeply divided, of which the split between Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushshenko is only the surface. Ukraine’s underlying situation is even worse. Its population was 52.5 million when the USSSR fell apart. Although there was a brief burst in the early nineties when a million and half repatriated to the newly independent Ukraine, the population was down to 48.5 million at the last census in 2001 and 45.6 million in 2012, 80,000 less than in 2011. Death rates, among the highest in Europe with very high rates of acute and chronic suicide (smoking), exceed birth rates of only 1.4 per female; emigration was greater than immigration until 2005. Locally-born kleptocrats robbed the Ukraine blind when the Ukraine finally got on the bandwagon of economic growth.

Ukraine is riven with ideological, religious and ethnic divisions. The 77.8% Ukrainians population is divided between Greek Orthodox and Ukrainian Orthodox (50-60%) enjoying full communion with The Vatican with a small Roman Catholic population. The 17.3% Russian population, much less now with The Crimea detached, is concentrated in the Eastern Ukraine and no where outside of Crimea constitutes a majority. With the de facto excision of The Crimea from the Ukraine, its Tartar problem has been delivered back to Russia. However, there are significant concentrations of Romanians, Moldovans, Bulgarians and Hungarians (160,000 of the latter in Transcarpathia) in Western Ukraine. If Ukraine can get its political act together and if it can sign the deal negotiated with the EU, Ukraine could follow the Polish path to prosperity, as well as gain a heightened sense of morale and national purpose, unfortunately without The Crimea.

So the West will bail the Ukraine out and help integrate it into the EU. The West will provide help in stabilizing its democracy. Obama will have no choice except to be the Neville Chamberlain who surrendered the Sudentenland of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, but he will not sign an agreement acceding to the seizure of The Crimea.