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

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid