To the editor:
Congratulations to the J-W for presenting two views of the Crimean crisis. Charles Krauthammer supports Russia’s historical right to Crimea, while criticizing President Obama for weakness in contesting it, and David Ignatius gives a well-balanced analysis of U.S. policy toward Russia in the Crimean situation.
As Sergei Khruschchev reminds us, his father awarded Crimea to then Soviet Ukraine in 1954 for an economic reason: “the building of a hydro-electric dam on the Dnieper River which would irrigate Ukraine’s southern regions, including Crimea. And I never heard from Putin that he wanted it.” (Andre de Nessnera, “Giving Crimea Back to Russia is Not an Option,” Voice of America, March, 6, 2014). Crimea has a Russian naval base. Now, after sending in Russian troops — called “local forces” — Putin cares enough for the Russian majority there to hold a referendum.
Russian action in Crimea is both punishment and a means of pressure on the new Ukrainian government to give up its power and reinstate the previous president Viktor Yanukovich. After months of protest against his rejection of Ukrainian associate membership in the European Union, and then against his rule in general, there was bloodshed before and after a failed agreement. Finally, in late February, the Ukrainian parliament voted Yanukovich out of power and he fled to Russia, leaving his palace and gardens behind him. His assets, estimated at $12 billion have been frozen by the European Union.
President Putin’s goal is to restore Yanukevich as head of all Ukraine, although 90 percent of the latter’s support is in heavily russified eastern Ukraine. There is no need for Russian troops to “protect” Russian citizens there.