Six Questions About Russia, Crimea, And Ukraine

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Justin McDonnell via The Diplomat,

The Diplomat‘s Justin McDonnell spoke with Larisa Smirnova, an expert on Sino-Russian relations and professor at Xiamen University, about the crisis in Ukraine, Russian foreign policy, and more.


The people of Crimea have overwhelmingly voted to leave Ukraine for Russia. Threats have been made to sanction Russia, claiming the referendum is in fact illegitimate.  Given Europe’s economic dependence on Russia’s energy supplies, will sanctions actually come together and how might that circumvent the situation? Or will it have the opposite effect?  And how might Russia respond in turn?

It does not seem that the sanctions are going to be drastic. Nor that they are going to circumvent the situation.

I have a feeling that more and more people in Russia approve of President Putin’s action. The Russian people have had a long-term hidden feeling of shame for the collapse of the Soviet Union that they perceive as humiliating and denigrating them vis-à-vis the West. They believe that the move in Crimea helps to restore Russia’s glory. Military and diplomatic glory is what has constituted the confidence of the Russians for centuries.

Therefore, Russia is likely to ignore any sanctions and/or consider that the price is justified.

For the good and for the bad, regardless of whether this perception is grounded in reality, but this is how many Russians might now feel.

Russia cites the threat of Ukrainian banderavski in Kiev helping Russia’s enemies and the need to protect ethnic Russians. From this standpoint, Putin’s geopolitical ambitions are unlikely to end in Crimea, as nearly all of eastern Ukraine is Russian-speaking.  What is the likelihood of Russian efforts to seize further territory and the outbreak of a Ukrainian civil war? Where does the situation go from here and what will happen to former ousted president, Victor Yanukovych?

Well, first of all, throughout the crisis I have personally called for the compromise between Russia and Ukraine. My concern is exactly extremist nationalism, which I dislike: in Russia, in Ukraine, or in any other country. Things that happened around Crimea might actually favor nationalists of all kinds. Moreover, I have strong anti-war convictions, and am consistently against achieving one’s goals by force or ruse.

So said, I really don’t think that Russia has ambitions to spread its Crimean move to Eastern Ukraine.

Crimea is slightly different in a way that there was indeed a perception in Russia and in Crimea that its transfer to Ukraine by Khruschev was unfair in the first place. In 1954, when Crimea was transferred from Russia to Ukraine, no one thought that the USSR would collapse, so it all seemed to be a mere administrative rearrangement issue: it made geographic sense because Ukraine bordered Crimea while Russia did not.

It did create some grievances among the Russians. I remember hearing, when I was little, that the transfer was instrumented by Nikita Khrushchev because he was a Ukrainian.

Even the Ukrainians possibly thought that keeping Crimea after 1991 was a matter of luck: that they kind of won in a lottery…

In 1991, Boris Yeltsin was very much in a rush to disintegrate the Soviet Union, which would give him access to power over the head of Gorbachev, so he just neglected the Crimean issue.

But again, I think that agreements, even stupid ones, are agreements, and Russia could have as well promoted investment in Crimea’s tourism industry while keeping it as part of Ukraine!

Some people admire President Putin for his quick moves. People read history, watch movies, read books, play computer games after all – and that is how many heroes behave in history, movies, books, and games, right?

But I do also think that there should be some containment for “heroic,” computer game-style nature. International law, the United Nations, and even nuclear weapons are tools that we invented, and more or less successfully used for war prevention.

Those who call for wars are acting irresponsibly.

Yanukovych? I think he is out of the game. Based on his biography, he seems to be a strange guy, arguably with criminal record and fake diplomas. I don’t think many people in Ukraine regret him. I hope that the new government in Ukraine, whoever they are, will act more responsibly and more in the interests of the common Ukrainian people.

There is an argument that Russia annexing Crimea will actually favor the West because these pro-Russian voters would no longer be part of the Ukrainian electoral process.  Do you believe Ukrainians would more likely move further West toward potential EU membership, mirroring the former Soviet bloc state,  Poland?

Ukraine’s European integration will depend much on the conditions that Europe is ready to offer to the Ukrainians.

It is true that the European integration seems to be viewed by many Ukrainians as a panacea to Ukraine’s economic and social problems.

So said, the Ukrainians, like the Russians, are a very proud people. In a way, we are the same people; when I meet a Ukrainian I have no cultural or language barrier at all.

The Ukrainians, like the Russians, have a hidden feeling of failure after the collapse of USSR. They also feel that they were not treated as equal by the EU, and they will strongly protect their pride and their interests.

For example, after the Orange Revolution, the Ukrainian government unilaterally cancelled visas for the European nationals. Obviously, they expected that the EU would lift their visa requirements for the Ukrainians. But the EU didn’t, even when the government in Kiev was “pro-European.”

Eventually, the Ukrainians got disappointed in the West. Yuschenko lost the election miserably, and Yanukovych, considered pro-Russian, won.

The Russians went through the exact same process and they got to support Putin, who is considered a strong-Russian known for standing up to the West.

By the way, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk has already said that the signature of the economic part of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU has been postponed so that it will not lead to negative consequences for the industrial regions in the east of the country.

Ultimately, how does Ukraine begin to reconcile the cultural-linguistic divide within the country?  

The differences are very much exaggerated. There are some issues, like when I went to Lviv in 2005 some people were reluctant to talk in Russian to me (I really don’t care, if I stayed for a few more days I would have started to pick up Ukrainian).

And they have a Dzhohar Dudaev street in Lviv (Dudaev was a separatist Chechen leader). This is so ostensibly meant to annoy the Russians so I also think we should not care.

The Ukrainians and the Russians are really the same people. I have Ukrainian friends and we do not consider ourselves as “foreigners.” A couple of weeks ago I took part in a TV show on Ukraine with a Ukrainian diplomat and a Ukrainian journalist. We talked in Russian and shared much of our analysis of the situation, actually (the show dealt with the current Ukrainian crisis).

You can have differences with your brothers or sisters, even fight with them, take over their property or bring them to court on property issues, do all kinds of annoying things to each other, but you can still understand each other better than anyone else.

Therefore, I am still very confident in the ties between the Ukrainians and the Russians…

I like what Mr. Yatsenyuk has said: “We do not see relations with the EU and Russia on an either-or principle. Despite the catastrophic worsening of relations with Russia, which was not committed through our fault, and despite Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine, I will do everything possible to not only maintain peace, but also build a genuine partnership and good neighborly relations with Russia.”

China seems to be facing a diplomatic dilemma on the Ukrainian crisis, as it is refraining from taking any position at all, having abstained from the UN referendum vote. While it has a strong partnership with Russia that often counteracts the West in foreign policy decision-making, China is opposed to any form of intervention. How should China handle its relationship with Moscow? Will the crisis strain relations or help bolster it?    

I think China will, as it does, keep neutrality. China is like an old wise man who can be a very good friend to anyone who can appreciate him.

China understands that the Russians and the Ukrainians are brother peoples. It has advised the Russians and the Ukrainians to talk, and it will recognize whatever compromise these two brothers achieve.

Actually, China probably disapproves in its heart that Russia has bullied Ukraine recently but after all, it is a value in Chinese culture not to interfere in other people’s family, so it will encourage the two countries to figure out their relations on their own.

Moreover, both Russia and Ukraine are China’s “strategic partners” in terms of diplomacy, so it will not be willing to spoil its relations with either of them for the sake of the other.

President Obama put the relationship on “pause” last year, hoping to restore ties between Washington and Moscow.  That hasn’t seemed to work.  From Syria, to Snowden, and to Ukraine, the two countries seem unable to find any common ground and bilateral relations are again quite dismal. First, why does the U.S.-Russia relationship matter today? And what should each country be doing to mend ties and restore moderation?

I am not really an expert on Russia–U.S. relations. I can only talk as a person who has experience living in the U.S.

I think that there is some degree of misunderstanding between the two countries now.

Actually, the Russians have never been anti-American. There was anti-German propaganda in the USSR for decades after World War II, but never actually a strong anti-American propaganda. But now Germany has a very good relationship with Russia!

So, it is a shame that Angela Merkel can handle President Putin but Barack Obama cannot! I think that he probably just lacks expertise on Russia, in his career he never actually had to deal with Russia, and he might have some fears of Russia that are not grounded.

There are many good American experts on Russia who are tough but often fair — everyone defends their own interests after all. They are of an older generation: Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski. They have had good relations with the Russians, including personal relations, despite all the differences in positions. Their comments are often translated and published by the Russian media and heard by experts and policy makers. Their example proves that the Russians are actually not monsters!

As someone put it already, the U.S. should perhaps invest more in growing a young generation of strong Russia experts, like they now invest in growing a generation of China experts.


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Cacete de Ouro's picture

#7: why are Ukrainian girls so hot?

The Vineyard's picture

They are hot.  Maybe the best looking chicks on the planet.  Good question.  Bitches.

niccolo and donkey's picture

Stop spamming ZH with links to your shitblog.

MeMadMax's picture

"Those who call for wars are acting irresponsibly."


Don't tell that to Ochooma... You might end up in a FEMA camp...



Rakshas's picture

......... man I tried to help brother MR Kitty out...... sent him a link to the best invention ever ...... biodegradable litter boxes no washing or scooping just pitch the shitty blog into the box and viola problem solved no need to dump crap here...... oh well.... what I can doo??

mc225's picture

pretty funny, but too much 'i.. i.. i'

PacOps's picture

Their DNA and "quick moves".

VD's picture

i'm afraid Larisa Smirnova is mildly retarded....

Independent's picture

LOL good one Ralphy I'm starting to like you, those girls look good.  Remind me to get the yellow pages when I am in Kiev and cold call up all the Larisa Smirnovas for dates.

Harbanger's picture

Return to truth bitchez, your daughters are not whores, you are, they only need a father.

Buck Johnson's picture

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.  Jesus Christ those women where drop dead gorgeous no wonder American women hate them so much.  You see what I hate about American women they think that you have to settle for what she gives you aka hip huggers and belly shirts with a gut. 

UselessEater's picture

Are American men any more attractive than American women?

Independent's picture

Nice post Ralphy, my two cents on the whole thing is that American chicks are just too feministic, they forget they are supposed to be women, that and the transfats lol in the food.

Ifigenia's picture

They are hot because they eat cookies, Vitoria`s cookies.

CrazyCooter's picture


I prefer Asian ladies myself, but since you asked ... here ya go!



stant's picture

2nd battle of kursk. fought with fiat$ ,tanks, and bullshit

NoDebt's picture

"I am not really an expert on Russia–U.S. relations."

Me neither.  So give it a rest.  You're not in the club.  Your questions are pointless, as is your conjecture.  I could have written this article and it would have sucked no worse.  I want the last 2 minutes of my life back.

Another pointless piece of work from "The Diplomat".  I would take a Simon Black article over this drivel.

NoPantsSpongeBob's picture

She had me at China's heart, brotherly love, blah-blah-blah. And world peace.

edotabin's picture

What did you expect from a person with such a bullshit job?

yrbmegr's picture

We shall see what Putin thinks about the Crimean Tatars having a referendum of their own.  Then, perhaps we could see what Putin thinks of a referendum in Chechnya.  One could engage in a fascinating exercise to list all the ethnic minorities in Russia who might want to take their territory out of Russia through a Crimea-style referendum.  What is a Slavic emperor to do?

niccolo and donkey's picture

Chechnya had a referendum in which they voted to stay in the Russian Federation.

Balanced Integer's picture

Because referendums held at the business end of a Russian assault rifle has any possibility of turning out poorly for Russia. Just ask the pro-Ukraine Ukrainians who live in formerly Ukrainian Crimea.

But yrbmegr made a perfectly valid point, which you failed to address in toto. "We shall see what Putin thinks about the Crimean Tatars having a referendum of their own." And, "One could engage in a fascinating exercise to list all the ethnic minorities in Russia who might want to take their territory out of Russia through a Crimea-style referendum."

The Tatars were especially abused by the old Soviet regime, and they have not forgotten that Russia almost always had the whip hand. I think it would be giggle-licious if the Tatars decided to organize a referendum on succession. Of course, then we come back to all those assault rifles in the hands of Russians and pro-Russian neo-fascists in their stylish unmarked Russian made uniforms and balaclavas. They did a pretty neat job of suppressing the Ukrainian and Tatar component of the Crimean referendum, fo' shizzle.

Perhaps those millions of Chinese immigrants out in Russia's Far West district might like a say in creating a country of their own, perhaps to be readily absorbed by China proper? You protect their ethnic Chinese brethren

Ifigenia's picture

why dont you ask the iraquis or afghans about their elections under US boots?

Balanced Integer's picture

Perhaps I typed something about those elections you reference being valid? Let me go back and check.

Nope. Have any other straw men you'd like to erect tonight?

Ifigenia's picture

well, perhaps is just my repugnance for the double standard. Dont forget the next time when you critise the others wrongdoings, dont omitted your own wrongdoing. Omission is just as bad as action. 

For example, you omitted how the Kiev Junta came to power.

Independent's picture

Chechens I talked to on comments sections on youtube are all excited about Crimean vacations and happy they stayed in the Russian Federation.  They are looking forward to on the beach parties in Crimea and Sochi.

August's picture

>>> it would be giggle-licious if the Tatars decided to organize a referendum on succession.

Typos are cool, but the above is fairly ignorant.  Nothing personal.

Independent's picture

If they do seceede what land will they take cause most of them dont have any deeds to any property, rather they are squatters.  I think given a few years you will see them move to Turkey where they are from or to Ukraine but they wont stay there long since the place is going down the shit hole real fast.

So if they seceede that means giving up their Kazakh/Ukraine citizenship and the Russians can very nicely deport them to Turkey since they no longer have visa fee privelages.

buzzardsluck's picture


"There are many good American experts on Russia who are tough but often fair — everyone defends their own interests after all. They are of an older generation: Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski."


All great people...


Why in the fuck does anything from the diplomat get posted here?

yrbmegr's picture

Yeah, the diplomat stuff is pretty light.

socalbeach's picture

Maybe ZH is getting or has been paid to post articles from The Diplomat, not that there's anything wrong with that.  They have to make a living just like anyone else. 

The advantage to some ZH readers is we get to see what arguments are being used to demonize Putin and to justify sanctions against Russia, since I know many of us here don't read or listen to the MSM.

I would still like to see some articles by others like Paul Craig Roberts however, to provide an offset to this low-grade propaganda. Also, one "Diplomat" article per week is more than sufficient.

Ifigenia's picture

To help ZH get a balance propaganda, here come an article from the Russian empire:

"Ukrainian court bans Russian TV broadcast

The majority of Ukrainian providers have stopped broadcasting four main Russian TV channels in a move the Russian Foreign Ministry calls a violation of international obligations and an attack on media freedom.

“It certainly can be considered only in terms of the an attack on democratic freedoms, and a violation of international obligations by Ukraine,” the ministry's commissioner on human rights Konstantin Dolgov told RIA Novosti.

Dolgov says that Kiev's court decision to ban Russian TV content violates “every right to watch television and have access to media in Russian.”

The commissioner said that although authorities in Kiev came to power in an “anti-constitutional coup” they had promised and “declared commitment to basic human rights and freedoms, democratic principles.”

“Of course, this decision in no way fits with such a declaration,” said Dolgov, questioning Kiev's commitment to other fundamental rights and freedoms as well.

On Tuesday, Kiev District Administrative Court ruled to suspend the broadcasting of four Russian channels in Ukraine for the duration of the legal proceedings. The lawsuit is expected to be considered later this week.

The Ukrainian media watchdog claims that Russian information content is “threatening Ukraine’s national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity, promoting war, violence, cruelty, spreading interethnic and racial hostility, encouraging religious strife, encroaching on human rights and freedoms.”

As of now, 443 out of 703 Ukrainian content providers licensed by the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine have abided by the unofficial “recommendation” of the media watchdog and halted the transmission of Russian Channel 1, NTV-World, RTR-Planeta and Russia-24. " in RT

The russians are luckier, in the old days, the TV Stations of Yugoslavia, Serbia, Iraq, Lybia, Syria, were just bomb to silence.

Balanced Integer's picture

I reckon that if La Raza in Mexico was broadcasting content that was "threatening America's national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity, promoting war, violence, cruelty, spreading interethnic and racial hostility, encouraging religious strife, encroaching on human rights and freedoms," our court system would be justified in ordering such transmissions interrupted until such time as the legal proceedings were finished.

Things are tense enough in eastern Ukraine without Russia broadcasting its propaganda into Kharkov, Donsk, and other locals in the region. Ukraine has no obligation to allow it into its borders, and for Russia to invoke human rights is fucking laughable on its face.

Ifigenia's picture

But you forget to tell Vitoria Nulland to stop distributing cookies in Kiev. And now who is the legal government in Ukraine? the neonazis-jews Junta in Kiev? Who elected them? Vitoria Nulland?

But you are still in time to tell CNN, BBC, etc. to stop propaganding lies around the World.

Ifigenia's picture
Another help for ZH to have a more balance propaganda shits: "Ukraine aid bill clears Senate hurdle after Republicans drop resistance to IMF loans

Despite passing out of committee more than a week ago, aid package had been delayed due to unrelated squabble over IMF clauses

in Washington, Tuesday 25 March 2014 10.40 GMT

A stalled US aid package for Ukraine finally began to emerge from Congress on Monday night after the Senate temporarily put partisan bickering aside to vote overwhelmingly in favour of $1bn worth of economic assistance measures.

A majority of Republicans dropped their previous resistance to the bill, which includes controversial reforms to the International Monetary Fund added at the request of the White House, and it cleared a key procedural hurdle by 78 votes to 17.

Despite passing out of the Senate Foreign Relations committee more than a week ago, the aid package had been delayed during recent tensions in Crimea due to an unrelated squabble over whether the IMF clauses would be expensive or weaken US influence.

But the wider Ukraine package, which also includes further sanctions against Russia, still faces an uphill struggle in the House of Representatives where its version of the bill does not contain the IMF reforms demanded by Democrats.

Republican senator John McCain warned that further delays would fuel a Russian perception that the US was not serious about helping Ukraine resist further territorial aggression.

“Pass this legislation as soon as possible and fight about less important issues later on,” urged McCain. “If we get hung up for another week because of our failure to act it sends exactly the wrong signals.”

“I believe [Putin] is watching carefully for the reaction of the West and how we are going to assist the Ukraine,” he added.

Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid went further, accusing Republican opponents of putting the interests of their wealthy political donors ahead of US support for Ukraine.

In a complex twist seen as symbolic of current congressional dysfunction, Reid claims GOP strategists had offered to drop their opposition to the IMF clause in exchange for entirely unrelated concessions over a Internal Revenue Service probe of political donors."

Tu quoque, McCain?

Now, who sell USA interests? R or D? or both? and the 99sheeps are still thinking the teadrinkers are the worsts.

Independent's picture

The USA and Euros have big designs for Ukraine, its a huge country with some of the richest farmland in the world and it has lots of Rivers running through it.

By the time they are done all arable land will be owned by big conglomerates, water rights also, the Ukrainians don't even know whats going to hit them the poor folk.

besnook's picture

it is a psuedo intellect rag meant for the psuedo intellect crowd who still sees the usa as the last empire of the world in an exceptional way. some can take it seriously at their peril and some can take as light comedy of the fart jokes genre.

johny2's picture

"There are many good American experts on Russia who are tough but often fair — everyone defends their own interests after all. They are of an older generation: Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski."


 two of the three above would gladly exterminate russia as long as they think they and their offspring would survive. it is that kind of fair.

NOZZLE's picture

Snap ukraine in half and get it done with. 

ebworthen's picture

Vlad should roll the tanks and tell the NATO Brussels vampires where to stick it.

To the Western edge of Ukraine and no less.

Ifigenia's picture

and Europe would ask our friend America to close their military bases and bring home their nuclear weapons. What`s a win-win for all. Even America could save some dollars for rainy days or rebuild Detroit.

Drifter's picture

Thanks (not) for the reminder why academics are useless as technical analysts, both spew out worthless bullshit (they must get paid by the word).

earleflorida's picture

'China's neutrality is like Turkey's in WWII...  or was the Bosphorus just a Crimean tideless Maginot Line.

Look!  The Saudi's are in China, as they are in Pakistan, Japan and India!  What new? Really-- the Pivot hasn't stopped, nor has Gasprov delivery system. China will ink the largest energy swap with Russia in early May/2014. They don't want no freedom-quirky-ideas giving reincarnation`iszation new lfe in Tibet or Xinjiang, not to mention the unmentionable(?) Pak/India Kashmir (Durandish?Line-n-th-sand?).

Ref:  'The Crimea Offensive of 1944'                *(Note: did you mean-- Yes)

'Turkey's Neutrality?'    They haven't changed much since Erdogan has been exposed by his moar evil twin in Amerika... Mr. Gulen from the Pocono's---



Gadfly's picture

Question: "What is the likelihood of Russian efforts to seize further territory..."  WTF?  They haven't "seized" any fucking territory.  The people of Crimea joined Russia by an overwhelming popular vote.  It's called DEMOCRACY!  We've been preaching it for over two hundred years now.  Get Real!  Great example of how the MSM and other language fraudsters use words to try to bend and shape reality.  Give me a fucking break.

Balanced Integer's picture

I have conflicted emotions when read comments like this from you and other ZHers, contrasted against the disdain you and other members showed of the West's hijinks vis-a-vie the revolt that overthrew the government in Kiev in the first place.

I am conflicted because, and you realize, of course, that Russia was just as much involved in agitating the pro-Russian Crimeans to succeed in the first place. After all, all those pro-Russia militia types didn't get their uniforms, weapons, and balaclavas from Craiglist.

It seems that when it comes to Zero Hedge, what is good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander. Especially when the goose is Vladimir Putin.