Putin spoke of the long historical ties of the Crimean Peninsula to Russia and the wrongheaded policies of Nikita Khrushchev, who gifted the Black Sea Peninsula to the Ukraine in 1954.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Crimea became officially part of the Ukraine when independence was declared. In Putin’s view the annexation, which was the will of the Crimean people, only righted a historical wrong.
The annexation of Crimea occurred without any blood being shed and contrary to Western allegations, Putin stated that there was no Russian invasion. Russia, which had an agreement with the Ukraine for a maximum of 25,000 troops to support its Black Sea port, had only deployed a few extra troops to protect military installations.
How Putin sees it
For the former KGB Colonel it is difficult to accept the collapse of the Soviet Union. In his view the collapse let to a unipolar world. Western powers, with the US in the lead, ignored international laws and ruled by the gun. Putin listed the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the bombing of Libya in 2011.
The most ironic example, in Putin’s perspective, was the Western acceptance of Kosovo’s decision to secede from Serbia. Putin called this two faced when the West protests the secession of the Crimea. Of course Serbia was accused of widespread human rights abuses against ethnic Albanians, but after the secession the tables were turned with abuses against a minority of ethnic Serbs.
Putin, despite increased sanction by the US and EU, continues his plans for an expanded Mother Russia. He depicts the West as the real aggressors and believes that the globe has become more insecure.
He has increased his influence in the Middle East and took the lead on Iran nuclear weapon’s talks and the Syrian chemical weapons issue. He took advantage of what he perceived weak Western leadership and seems to have won the first round.
The Europeans are in a bind because of their heavy reliance on Russian natural gas. Any military action has been taken off the table and there is anxiety of what Putin’s next move will be.
The cease fire that existed between Russia and the Ukraine ended yesterday and eastern cities like Donetsk wonder if the next move will be the annexation of the eastern Ukraine. People with some means have moved to the more lucrative Western Ukraine, where the cost of living is higher, but wages are also doubled compared to the east.
President Barrack Obama and EU leaders are meeting this weekend to determine what else can be done to stop Putin, short of military action. While the mudslinging between the two sides continues, ordinary people are being affected.
An international observer/monitoring team was accepted by Russia, with a mission to monitor the human rights situation in both the southern and eastern Ukraine. While the agreement on the deployment exists, there is still disagreement on Crimea. The US insists that observers should be able to deploy there as well.
While the interim Ukrainian government in Kiev seeks closer ties with the EU, it is not a natural coalition. The ties between the Ukraine and Mother Russia have been established through centuries. There are cultural and historic ties that cannot be easily ignored.
We are watching history unfold.