Analysts: Putin Might Not Be All Wrong About Ukraine

Tuesday, 04 Mar 2014 06:53 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Vladimir Putin believes Russia's troop movements in Ukraine's Crimea region are sanctioned by a 1997 treaty that Moscow signed with Kiev, CIA director John Brennan told a senior lawmaker Monday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The newspaper cited U.S. officials it didn't name as the source of the information. The officials declined to identify the lawmaker, the Times said.

The treaty — which expires in 2042— requires that Russia coordinate military movements with Ukraine. Russia announced that Ukraine's ousted — illegally in its view— President Viktor Yanukovych requested Moscow to send troops across the border, the BBC reported.

The Russian connection to the Crimea peninsula dates to the 1700s when Russia captured the territories from the Muslim Ottoman Empire. When Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, Russia ceded the peninsula to the Ukrainian Soviet republic, according to the BBC. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was half Ukrainian.

The ethnic majority in the region is now Russian. Toward the end of World War II, Stalin deported hundreds of thousands of Sunni Muslim Tatars from Crimea claiming they had collaborated with the Nazis.

Now, Russia points to a far-right element in the Ukrainian protest movement as having hijacked the campaign against Yanukovych. These forces have four posts in the new temporary government according to the BBC.

"The far right in Ukraine has now achieved the level of representation and influence that is unparalleled in Europe," said University of Ottawa political scientist Ivan Katchanovski, according to The Daily Beast.

Meanwhile, veteran Russia watcher Stephen F. Cohen of Princeton and New York Universities writes in The Nation that while Moscow pursues many "repugnant" policies, coverage by the U.S. mainstream media basically denies Russia any legitimate interests "at home or abroad – even on its own borders, as in Ukraine."

According to Cohen, the claim repeatedly made in the U.S. media that most Ukrainians long for integration into Europe is inaccurate. In fact, he wrote, the country is divided.

"There is not one Ukraine or one 'Ukrainian people' but at least two, generally situated in its Western and Eastern regions."

Cohen said the media was also mistaken to discount Putin's December 2013 offer to work with the West to save Ukraine's economy.

Appearing on CNN on March 2, Cohen said Putin was not a thug, not out to recreate the Soviet Union, and "not even anti-American."

Putin is behaving to protect what he sees as Russia's vital interests, Cohen said.

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