News / Europe

Crimea Has Long Ties to Russia

Members of a pro-Russian self-defense unit stand in formation as they ready to swear an oath to the pro-Russia Crimea regional government in Simferopol, March 13, 2014.
Members of a pro-Russian self-defense unit stand in formation as they ready to swear an oath to the pro-Russia Crimea regional government in Simferopol, March 13, 2014.
Since the late 18th century, Crimea was part of Russia.

Jack Matlock, the last U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union (1987-91), said the peninsula played an important role in Russian history, especially in the military arena.

“English-speaking people maybe don’t realize that the Charge of the Light Brigade - that famous charge - happened during the Crimean War when the British were attacking Crimea. Leo Tolstoy, the great novelist, wrote some of his early stories about that - he was an artillery officer on the Russian side,” Matlock said. “The naval base at Sevastopol has been the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea fleet ever since it was established there in the late 18th century.”

During the Russian Civil War, Crimea became a base for the White Army of anti-Bolshevik forces.

In 1954, then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave the peninsula to Ukraine, at that time a Soviet republic.

But now, Crimea is under the control of Russian armed forces, who moved into the peninsula last month. Russian officials say the move was to protect ethnic Russians living there. They represent the majority of Crimea’s population. But Western officials say there is no evidence that Russians need protection.

Matlock said by taking military control over Crimea, Russia has violated Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Obama role downplayed

The former U.S. ambassador disagrees with those who say Russian President Vladimir Putin acted the way he did in Crimea because he felt President Barack Obama was weak.

“He’s [Putin] doing this in part," said Matlock, "and I think it’s very damaging to his own cause, because he sees, I think unfairly, that it has been the policy of the United States in particular, and of the West in general, to encircle Russia militarily - and he’s not going to accept that. No Russian leader would.”

Matlock said those who say President Obama is weak are sending the wrong signals.

“Many that are crying that we are looking weak are precisely those that overplayed our hand that got us involved in situations that tragically lost nearly 5,000 American lives in Iraq,” said Matlock. “It is absolutely absurd to start implying that by beating his [Obama] chest a little more, he could subdue a Russia which in Russia’s eyes is only defending their interests - very unwisely, against international law, against previous agreements - but they can say exactly the same thing about some of the things we were doing just a few years ago.”

Lawmakers in Crimea have scheduled a referendum March 16 on whether to join Russia or stay within Ukraine.

Matlock said in the event voters decide to join Russia, any move to rearrange borders would violate the 1975 Helsinki Final Act. It says, among other things, that if recognized borders are changed, it must be by mutual agreement of all parties involved - in this case Russia and Ukraine.

“I would hope that the [Russian] government would simply say we have a political obligation under Helsinki Final Act - the Soviet Union signed it and as a successor state we also have those obligations - and therefore we are not going to accept Crimea until the Ukrainian government, which is the de jure [current legal] sovereign, agrees to it.”

Matlock said that would be a brilliant political move by Putin and it would defuse tensions in a volatile region.

As for Sunday’s referendum, the United States, its European allies and the Ukrainian government say it violates the Ukrainian constitution and is illegal.

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid