News / Europe

What Prompted Putin's Annexation of Crimea?

FILE - Russia's President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federation Council in Moscow's Kremlin, March 18, 2014.
FILE - Russia's President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federation Council in Moscow's Kremlin, March 18, 2014.
While Russia’s annexation of Crimea has been described by Western nations as illegal and illegitimate, longtime Russian watchers say there is compelling history and motives behind it.

Columbia University professor Robert Legvold said for Russian President Vladimir Putin, the annexation is a question of legacy.

“From his point of view, it would be a far more substantial legacy than the Sochi Olympics, which everybody has been talking about as something that he wanted to be his legacy,” said Legvold. “But to have brought Crimea back into the historical place that it has had in the fold of Mother Russia, I think he sees this as probably the single most important thing that he will accomplish as president.”

Legvold said Putin believes by annexing Crimea, he rectifies what he sees as the historical injustice of 1954, when then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred the peninsula from Russia to Ukraine, then a Soviet republic.

Putin defends Russians

Wilson Center analyst Matthew Rojansky said by taking over Crimea, Putin has destroyed the image of Russia as being a responsible partner on the international stage.

“But there is another image that he may care much, much more about, and that is his image at home as not only defender of the Russian people, which certainly the argument about defending Russians in Crimea and eastern Ukraine would help,” said Rojansky, “but also as a defender of a greater Russia, of a vision of Russia which is more powerful and bigger and which is taken seriously, perhaps more out of fear than love.”

Putin sees Russia as strong power

Brent Scowcroft was national security adviser to two U.S. presidents, Gerald Ford (1974-77) and George H.W. Bush (1989-93). Before Crimea’s annexation, Scowcroft told VOA Putin wants Russia to be seen as a strong power.

“Putin nurses a grudge, because what he says is that at the end of the Cold War, when Russia was flat on its back, we walked all over them. And we did it because they were weak. Technically he has a point,” said Scowcroft. “We pushed the borders of NATO right into the former Soviet Union. We denounced the ABM [anti-ballistic missile] treaty and so on and so forth. We didn’t do it to weaken the Russians; we did it because we thought it was useful. But - that gnaws at him.”

The United States and its Western allies have imposed economic sanctions on Russian officials as a result of Crimea’s annexation. Russia responded by placing travel restrictions on U.S. officials.

US-Russia cooperation in the balance

Columbia University’s Legvold said the crisis over Crimea could affect U.S.-Russia cooperation in such areas as Iran and, to a lesser extent, Syria.

“In Syria, they have been a problem all along the way. They helped in an important way on chemical weapons,” said Legvold. “But the notion that somehow we can find common ground for achieving a political outcome grows more remote, because again, the Russians have no desire to seem like a cooperative partner when they are defining us - not merely as misguided in our policy - but even malevolent in our policy; that is, beginning to think of us as an adversary, not simply a difficult interlocutor.”

Legvold and others believe if tensions rise between the United States and Russia over Ukraine and other issues, it could reignite a new Cold War.

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

Multimedia Obama, Modi Resolve Nuclear Deal Issues

Leaders find resolution on issues of liability of suppliers to India in event of nuclear accident, US demands to track whereabouts of material supplied to country More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Jeff
March 27, 2014 10:40 AM
Taking by by force of arms must have been well planned in advance by the Russian Government. No military commander could have unilaterally authorized this on his own initiative. A dateline would illustrate how quickly this was action-ed. Russia acts independently of the UN and the world when it is in their best
interest. The West should have realized this by now.


by: Igor from: Russia
March 26, 2014 10:46 PM
The West, especially the USA destroyed their own image as being a responsible partners on the international stage long ago when they attacked and invaded Iraq, Afganistan, Lybia, former Yugoslavia and many other coutries despite the opposition of international community.

In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
March 27, 2014 10:51 AM
Hey Igor, Putin is using (the NATO rules), for intervening in Georgia, Crimea, and Ukraine, or wherever? The NATO rules for invading Yugoslavia (Serbia), were for "Humanitarian reasons" to save Albanian lives, and take land from the Serbs to form the independent state of Kosovo? NOW Putin and Russia are using the exact same (NATO rules), to intervene in Georgia, Crimea, and Ukraine, for "Humanitarian reasons" to save innocent Russians in those countries?
BLAME NATO? ... and the (NATO rules?)


by: Lev Havryliv from: Sydney, Australia
March 26, 2014 8:48 PM
Putin and his supporters suffer from a psychological post-imperial syndrome. That is an inability to accept that formerly Russian-controlled countries should and deserve to decide their own destiny.

Claims of protection of Russian-speakers have no basis, and are a smokescreen for the ideology of a "greater Russia" ie. an expanded Russian empire.

In Response

by: Jim Miller from: Virginia
March 27, 2014 6:47 AM
You make a wonderful point here. My wife is from Lithuania and we visit her family every two or three years during the summer months. They have no love for Russia, calling them occupiers right up front. Permit me to share an anecdote that I believe will help define what you noted in your message. We were visiting the seaside resort town of Palanga and strolling the boardwalk. Two ladies were walking in front of us and, although I don't understand the language, I recognized it to be Russian. Listening to them, my wife became gruff and muttered something quite unpleasant. I asked what was wrong and she said "Russians!" I asked what they said. She said the one lady asked the other how she liked Palanga. She replied that it was alright but there were too many Lithuanians there. Keep in mind Palanga is Lithuanian. My wife described the attitude as one of "Big Brother" that she had grown up with while they were in the Soviet Union. These folks are fiercely independent despite the fact they are only 3.75 million in number. So yes, the Russians can't accept that folks don't want to be controlled by them.


by: DaveInSacramento from: Sacramento, Ca
March 26, 2014 6:18 PM
As Russia, is the largest country on the planet with extremely limited ocean access, is it possible that Mr. Putin is interested in Ukraine for sea port access for trade and defense?

That would make sense to me, considering they have little more than St Petersburg to the North and Vladivostok to the East

In Response

by: Cranksy from: USA
March 27, 2014 12:32 PM
I have the same question. It seems to me the discussion in the article and comments are misdirected to legacy and ego.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid