We need to tell the truth about Crimea
Pretending the peninsula will return to Ukraine is dangerous
Anatol Lieven is a former war correspondent and Director of the Eurasia Program at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft in Washington DC. He has just returned from five weeks in Ukraine, interviewing civilians, military personnel and government officials. What follows is an edited transcript of his remarks to Freddie Sayers.
There is a perceptible difference in Ukraine between what people are prepared to say on the record and off the record — understandably, as a result of the Russian invasion, but also very much as a result of government rhetoric and control of the media. A public mood has been created in Ukraine whereby nothing but complete victory will do.
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In the autumn, after a string of extremely impressive Ukrainian victories, the reconquest of Kharkiv and the reconquest of Kherson, the Ukrainians got the idea that they could completely defeat the Russians. But now, as we’ve seen from the latest Pentagon leaks, awareness is growing. Western military analysis now confirms that, for Ukrainians, going further and reconquering all the territory lost since 2014 will be extremely difficult. If the Russians stand on the defensive — as they now clearly intend to do — and dig their heels in and use their artillery superiority, the Ukrainians will have a very hard time.
There is also the concern that Russia would escalate very seriously were Crimea to come under threat. So even if the Ukrainians manage to recover all or most of what they’ve lost since last year, at that point they will come under serious pressure from the West to seek a ceasefire.
The argument in favour of reconquering Crimea often hinges on the belief that losing Crimea would bring down the regime of Vladimir Putin in Russia, or even the disintegration of Russia itself. It’s important to remember that, in warding off that possibility, Russia really might use nuclear weapons, so that itself is very dangerous scenario.
For many people in the Biden administration and in most Western governments, talk of reconquering Crimea is more of a posture, which they privately accept is unlikely in the real world. But some Eastern European governments like those in Poland and the Baltic states, which wield enormous influence in NATO and increasingly in the EU, are much more determined to carry on this war “to the end”. And there are certain Western figures, like Annalena Baerbock, the foreign minister of Germany, who are very hardline on Crimea.
The danger is that, even if it is privately considered as a bargaining position, the public language that both the Zelenskyy government and the Biden administration have used will make the possibility of a future compromise exceedingly difficult — and that’s even if it is a compromise they then desire. Both Washington and Kyiv have, to a considerable extent, painted themselves into a corner.
Zelenskyy, in particular, has put himself in a tricky position. If he does accept a ceasefire at some point, one that freezes certain territorial issues, he is going to face massive resistance at home. There would be protests led by radical nationalists but also by the military (which is, judging by the soldiers I spoke to, absolutely committed to complete victory) and of course by the various politicians hoping to replace Zelenskyy as President. As the head of the National Security Council put it, “if Zelenskyy were to accept a peace deal with Russia he would be committing political suicide.”
Given this internal political pressure, securing any kind of ceasefire would require a very strong stance in favour from the United States and much of Europe. Zelenskyy would have to be able to claim to his own people and his own hardliners that he was absolutely forced into a ceasefire and that were he not to accept it, Ukraine would face abandonment and a complete cut-off of Western aid. Of course, to do that would require tremendous political courage on the part of the Biden administration and unity on the part of the EU and NATO — neither of which is much in evidence at the moment.
The answer may be in a change of rhetoric. Instead of saying that nothing short of reconquering Crimea would count as a victory, Western leaders could choose to emphasise the considerable victory already achieved. In historical terms, and also in terms of what the Russian government had hoped for at the start of the war, Ukraine has already won a huge victory.
Twenty or fifteen years ago in Ukraine, if you had travelled in some of the Russian-speaking areas you would have found huge amounts of sympathy for Russia and a desire for closer relations with Russia. That has now vanished as a result of the war. The Russian speakers of Ukraine really are now united with others in hostility to Russia, even if they have somewhat different ideas about what victory should mean. Russia has managed to occupy quite a small area of south eastern Ukraine, while permanently losing 85% of Ukraine. Now, that is a transformation — singular and novel in 300 years of Ukrainian and Russian history.
What would “the conquest of Crimea” even mean ?
80% of Crimeans, like my wife and her family and friends, are staunch supporters of Russia, Putin and the SMO. 15% are the Crimean Tatars, who’ve done well with land grants and some infrastructure improvements in their villages and towns since 2014. But the Russians still think they would turn against them at a moments notice (“because that’s what the Tatars always do” – see collaboration with both the Nazis and the British/Turks/French during the Crimean War). Mistrust of the Tatars is huge, and this mistrust is not unwarranted.
As an aside, the taxi driver who took my wife over the Kerch Bridge to Sochi recently told her a story about the Crimean Tatars in the Great Patriotic War. They used to warn the Russians that they liked to go hide in the forest on certain nights when they had been told by the Nazis that a particular Russian village was going to be slaughtered. “So they weren’t all Nazi collaborators” was his cynical conclusion.
The remaining 5% of Crimeans today are Ukrainians like my mother-in-laws boss who has taken a Russian passport because that’s the only way she can own her business licence. They don’t celebrate Victory Day, don’t like Putin, grumble quietly, but aren’t going to demonstrations or undertaking guerilla warfare because there is peace on the peninsula, infrastructure continues to improve, pensions have gone up and the Russians who make up 99% of her customers are decent folk.
So, given this, I say again, what does “conquest” look like ? The ethnic cleansing and/or genocide of 80% of Crimeans ? People like my wife who was born in Saky, Crimea in 1976 into the Soviet Union and lived briefly under Ukraine between 1991 and 2014 ?
These are real people with real families we are talking about.
In which case, Putin can offer to have a free and fair plebicite in Crimea, under international supervision. If Mr. Johnson is right, the Crimeans would choose Russia, which I think the Ukrainians would be inclined to accept. If they were offered NATO membership on the basis of accepting the results of plebicites in Crimea, Donbass and Luhansk, then they probably would accept it.
From what I can gather, the Russians would probably lose in Donbass and Luhansk.
Putin claims that a plebiscite was already held in 2014, which is more than can be said for Kosovo. And it was won overwhelmingly.
Yes, a “plebiscite” was held, in which no one against annexation was allowed to campaign, or even express any contrary opinion.
Is that the “plebiscite” you’re talking about?
Because I know of no other.
Please see my reply above. Crimea voted 54% for being part of Ukraine in 1991 independence referendum.
A lot of water under the Kerch Bridge since 1991, friend.
The bombing of Russians and the banning of their language in the state sphere, for starters.
To say nothing of the glorification of genocidal maniacs like Stepan Bandera whilst trying to scrub Pushkin and Catherine the Great from history.
That was before the 2014 coup, the repression of all things Russian, the rise of Naz¡¡sm, the attempted genocide of Russian dissidents in the Donbas and the murders in nearby Odessa.. I suspect Crimeans might vote differently today!
Your assertion is based on what? RT news? ..or might it be the endless lies and misinformation we’ve all suffered from for years?
You certainly have a point. But how sure are you it is 80% of Crimeans? If pro-Russians in Ukraine are afraid to say what they think for fear of harassment, how many pro-Ukrainians in Crimea are afraid to say what they think for fear of assorted thugs or the secret police?
I’ve visited Crimea a number of times. It was, until the SMO, a remarkably chill place. 5% pro-Ukrainian is probably overdoing it actually.
CNN went there recently to find anyone against Russia and came up empty after looking for 3 days. They couldn’t find a single person.
Any why would any sane Crimean want to rejoin Ukraine, famous mainly for its endemic corruption, organ harvesting, child trafficking and Nazi celebrating ?
You mean you visited while Crimea was still Ukrainian, or (more likely) after Russia had already grabbed it?
You could be right, I suppose, but it sounds like you move in pro-Russian circles. How likely is it that anyone you met would tell someone who was obviously a fanatic pro-Russian (read your own last sentence, there) that he was against the occupiers who (with the support of his neighbours) could punish him severely for speaking out of turn?
Is it “fanatically pro-Russian” to state the bleeding obvious about the corrupt cesspit that is Ukraine ?
It’s like you’ve never even seen the swastika tattoos !
And it’s simple delusional cope to explain the 80%+ support for the war in Russia by blithely stating that that’s not what the people really believe. They’re scared or brainwashed or suffering from false consciousness or some other nonsense.
And I already mentioned my M-i-L’s boss, who’s currently living quite happily in Crimea yet who’s pro-Ukrainian. AFAIK, she’s not been sent to Siberia.
So much ignorance across the West about Crimea. But I don’t blame you. You read Unherd, the NY Times and watch the BBC and CNN.
I heard similar opinions from a Russian friend here in London. Her relatives live in the Crimea. She is pretty much anti-Putin, but says the same as you, that an overwhelming majority of people there don’t want to be part of Ukraine. I guess Russia also poured money into the Crimea and infrastructure and pensions etc. vastly improved.
Correct. The major roads have improved markedly in addition to the shiny new airport at Simferopol.
But it’s not just big set-piece infrastructure projects. My M-i-L lives in a modest Khruchevskaya apartment and when I first started visiting, the parking around the block was all rutted with potholes and completely rotted tarmac, weeds everywhere etc.
A couple of years ago, the whole apartment complex got new block paving laid down, new flower beds, landscaping etc etc. In a very modest village outside Saky.
To say nothing of the pension, which is worth two and a half times what a Ukrainian babushka gets. My M-i-L gets 20k roubles per month pension.
Hey, those Russians don’t seem all that bad! I mean, compare all that to the Tory’s management of GB.. maybe ask the Russians to take it over?
So much more biased of course these very diverse sources to Russian state propaganda! Journalists in Russia who are too critical of course end up being shot, which might well concentrate the mind….
Oddly I missed the bit where IJ claimed to be fanatically pro Russian?
Anyone who says the following sentence has declared himself to be fanatically pro-Russian:
Any why would any sane Crimean want to rejoin Ukraine, famous mainly for its endemic corruption, organ harvesting, child trafficking and Nazi celebrating
…a plague on both houses perhaps Ras?
Putting it like that, yes, reuniting with Ukraine doesn’t seem like a great deal does it?
You are so biased it’s hilarious. Of course “corruption” is almost unknown in Russia.
The big point here is that Russia invaded Ukraine and not the other way round – and it already HAD the Crimea at that point.
You’d have made an utterly marvellous Nazi apologist, because every single point could have been made in favour of German expansion in the 1930s (Poland not a democracy, some ethnic discrimination
I suggest you read a good history of Ukraine to disabuse the simplistic notion of a ‘coup’ in 2014, which is now the fashionable go-to justification for Russian aggression. There was a stand off between President and Parliament and the government forces used huge violence against demonstrators.
Was there a ‘coup’ in 1688 when James II fled Great Britain?
Did you miss the point about Ukrainians making up just 5% of the population of Crimea?
That was ‘pro-Ukrainian’, not ‘Ukrainian. And yes I saw it, but I do not trust his numbers, or his neutrality. It is fairly common ground that quite a lot of Crimeans would rather be part of Russia than of Ukraine. But whether it would be 30%, 60%, 80% or 95% in a free and fearless poll is hard to determine from the outside. And pro-Russian bravado from the personal experience of a pro-Russian moving in pro-Russian circles does not count as evidence. Closer to home: Would you trust a member of the DUP or Sinn Fein on how many people in NI favoured Irish reunification?
And you wonder why the Crimean Tartars might not like the Russians.
You might do well to reflect on the Soviet Union’s (that really means Russia’s) ethnic cleansing of the Crimean Tartars in 1944 before you come up with a simplistic history of the Russians as victims and the Crimean Tartars as the bad guys. It’s all very well for us in the West to beat ourselves up about colonialism and bad treatment of native peoples, but Russia’s record here is at least as bad – and far more recent.
The Crimean Tatars have shown themselves time and again to align themselves with Russias enemies. First with the Turks during the Crimean War, then with the Ottomans during WW1, and of course, teaming up with the Nazis in WW2.
Why should Russia show them any favours ? The Russian Crimeans are pissed off about how feather-bedded they already are in Crimea.
Fascinating how you draw such convenient lines in history to argue from. Of course the whole area was brutally militarily conquered by Russia in the first place! The Crimean Tatars were previously co-religionists and allies of the Ottomans.
It comes to quite something that you end up justifying mass ethnic cleansing by one of the most evil and cynical tyrants in history – worse in a way than Hitler – who was at least honest fanatic and true believer. Stalin was a simple monster.
Stalin wasn’t Russian, Stalin was a Georgian.
Surely not quite as bad?
The sad fact is that the Russians are slowly obliterating the Russophone area they claim to be liberating. The Russophones have suffered far more at the hands of Putin in this war than anyone from Kyiv or Lviv.
As such, like the Germans in WW2, those loyal to Putin’s regime will have some real accounting to render. Once the Kerch bridge is blown again, the only sensible thing for any pro-Putin Russian in Crimea to do would be to leave via the ferries.
After Putin’s “de-nazification” campaigns, and the mass murders by his armies, pro-Putin Russians would be idiots to stay. They will have to begin new lives beyond the Urals, as many kidnapped Ukrainians already must.
In the 90s, NATO and a coalition of other parties eventually stopped the killing in Bosnia, and later Kosovo. The parties were separate on roughly ethnic lines. Unfortunately, with the decline in US power, we can’t hope for any such interventions to separate the parties. The war will decide.
Indeed, Putin claims Russian cannot exist without Ukraine.
He may well be right.
The sad fact is that the Russians are slowly obliterating the Russophone area they claim to be liberating.
Seem any videos of Mariupol recently ? A beautiful Ruskie Mir phoenix rising from the ashes of the Nazi Azovstal!
With apartments so poorly constructed by Central Asian workers that every room leaks when it rains..
Russians never fail to create Potemkin Villages.
Cope and seethe, friend.
The Russians ARE the Nazis on this context. To them the word simply means someone fighting the Russians, nothing to do with the mass murder of the Jews, Romanies etc.
I think you better think it out again..
Your figures about support for Russia are blatant lies.
During Ukrainian Independence referendum in 1991, Crimea voted 54% for independence.
Donbass and Luhansk over 80%.
All this talk about all Russian speakers wanting to be part of Russia is just nonsense.
Irish speak English, but they don’t want to be part of UK.
The same goes for Australia Canada etc…
“All this talk about all Russian speakers wanting to be part of Russia is just nonsense.”
I’m married to a Crimean, friend. She despises the Ukrainian putsch government in Kiev as does practically everyone she knows.
You’re being lied to if you really believe what you wrote. Shame really.
1991 – LOL. What about the subsequent referenda the Crimeans undertook which were ignored ?
No – they’re happy firmly in Ruskie Mir which is where they’ll stay.
An anecdote isn’t data. The previous comment was not just about Crimea, which may be a different case. It is really very difficult to see how people whose cities have been shelled to smithereens are likely to express in any free way a great brotherhood of the people doing the shelling, not to.mention committing atrocities. Every time you use the Russian terminology you are adjacent to justifying this. There are a very few Far Right people in Ukraine, as of course there also are in Russia. But ‘Nazi’ in the Russian lexicon might mean someone who wants to join the EU!
Why did the Azov Battalion wear SS insigna then?
Speak for yourself. A united Ireland under British rule I say
Truly! This is going to be interesting. I heard (non-official of course) ideas that captured in Ukraine British weaponry might be sent to Northern Ireland. To return the favor, so to say.
Correction: the Irish who are indigenous English/Scots DO want to be part of the UK.. they are called Unionists!
Indigenous Irish (who speak English because our own language was banned, just like in Ukraine) throughout the island do NOT want union with GB.
FYI Zelenskyy was a Russian speaking Ukrainian until recently. So please, don’t conflate language with ethnicity.
How many Irish live in the UK?
The remark, quoting a ‘taxi driver’ and a mother-in-law’s boss, leaves me speechless. If you were not aware of the facts, reading this would lead you to conclude that it was Ukraine that invaded Russia. While thousands in Ukraine have lost and are losing their lives and the country is completely devastated, the commentator is painting a prospect of a ‘genocide’ in Crimea
Well when Hitchens spoke no one listened to him. When George F Kennan objected to treating Russia as the ‘defeated Soviets’ and Kissinger too warned that pushing Russia into a corner would backfire, no one listened to them either. This is NATO/US poking the bear by proxy, and it would have been VERY informative to discover what was on Biden Jnr’s laptop drive. What exactly did he provide to the Ukraine for ALL that money he got. Was it Daddy’s having Ukraine’s back IF they poked the Russia Bear once too often? It won’t end well, because Hitchens was right, NATO/US lied to the Russians about expansion East in return for the reunification of Germany and Russia has shown far greater tolerance of the NATO/US sponsoring of revolutions in its back yard that the US ever would do.
❝Pretending the peninsula will return to Ukraine is dangerous❞ Wars are dangerous, especially if you are defeated.
Wars are also dangerous if you win! Look at GB vs Germany over the last 60+ years! British Brexiteers also defeated the Remainers in that recent ‘war’ ..victory is costly!
Brexit is great, it is the Europhiles that we Brexiteers failed to clear out of Government that is the UK’s problem. The EU is a slow motion car crash, and we are well out of it. The fact that they have waged a trade war against the UK and our remainers in power have not once considered retaliation speaks volumes. The UK has its own slow motion car crash thanks to QE/Low interest rates and Net Zero, we don’t need to be bailing out the EU as well.
The last 5 minutes was frankly laughable. “Ukraine has already won because everyone I spoke to hates Russia now”.
Err, perhaps that’s because people even speaking Russian are harassed on the streets and any evidence of equivocation about the war is enough to get you thrown in jail. Hell, even going to the wrong church gets an 80 year old babushka shoved, screamed and spat at.
Shame Lieven never spoke to any actual Crimeans. Huge gap in his thinking that I wish Freddie had probed.
Anna Arutunyan at the Spectator gives the real reason why many privately express misgivings about “reconquering” Crimea. It’s nothing to do with unleashing Putins nukes; it’s because people more thoughtful than Lieven know that the local population knows the Kiev regime hates them :
The question I wish Freddie had asked :
“Ukraine has a Ministry for Integration that’s tasked with dealing with these issues – but so far it doesn’t seem to have a strategy. In one of its latest projects, it announced preparing personnel who would work to de-occupy Crimea – but not a word about the people who already live there. ‘Everyone is obsessed with victory, but no one knows what this victory is,’ said the NGO worker. ‘So we’re asking, let’s say you restore the 1991 borders, what are you going to do with these people?’ “
I fear most of Russians (i.e. “Real Russians” who like Putin), will want to leave. In 1920, everyone who could, got on a ship for Istanbul when the line broke in Crimea. Over 100,000 were evacuated. A wise decision, considering what later happened with Stalin.
So, I don’t see why far more Russians in Crimea cannot simply get back to Russia via the ferry trip. It’s a short hop. You can see Russia from Kerch.
After all, every “Real Russian” knows that, if they had taken Kyiv and all of the East bank, they would have acted far more brutally than the Ukrainians will. They won’t expect anything better.
Like any “thief in law,” they’ll just shrug their shoulders, and accept whatever punishment is meted out.
..now you’re just being silly!
Reading it would lead you to conclude that it was Ukraine that invaded Russia. While thousands in Ukraine have lost and are losing their lives and the country is completely devastated, the commentator is painting a prospect of a ‘genocide’ in Crimea ….
What about Stalin’s cleansing in Crimea and elswhere ?
..you need to come up to date.
First Stalin was a Soviet Leader NOT a Russian Leader, he was also an ethnic Georgian, not Russian. The history of this war goes back to 2014 (and beyond) Putin’s ‘Special Operation’ was not a new war, but an attempt to bring to an end the US/NATO backed Coup Government of Ukraine of 2014. Luhansk & The Donbas have been targeted by the Azov Battalion since. Though we only heard about it in the western MSM when a Dutch airliner was brought down. The Azov Battalion were undoubtedly Nazis, they sported SS insignia for a start. If it still exists, it probably still is Nazi.
There is far more to this than the most Western pundits admit, AND, Russia will not let Crimea go even IF it were Ukrainian, the Russian Navy’s presence there is not up for negotiation. Possibly one reason Russia went for Kiev, as Kiev seemed to think it was.
We should have sponsored talks, not a war. Russia will not be defeated, IF it even starts to look that way, then Russia will escalate, and tactical nukes may not be out of the question, then what will the US do?
This is Balkans 2, a battle over Soviet drawn borders in a post Soviet world. Ukraine isn’t unique in that. The second Nagorno-Karabakh War is another, AND that is also slowly bubbling away and likely to result in another bout of fighting. The bad news there is that Turkey has a great interest in that area and who knows what may happen if they, another NATO member gets involved there.
From aspiring democracy, Russia has turned into a full-fledged dictatorship with a level of repressions never seen since the late 30s of the past century. In my hometown, a teenager walking out with a blanc sheet is immediately taken into custody. The mobile phones are randomly controlled.
..you mean like the CIA do via the social media platforms? OMG that’s terrible..
I’ve been deplatforned myself 3 times by the land of the free and the 1st amendment! Get real..
I would argue that Russia is the best place to live for someone who has happily married ino a family of staunch supporters of Putin. By calling the full-scale invasion a SMO (I am not sure the readers know that it stands for the Special Mil. Operation) a box is ticked off.
Moving to Russia means no noisy debates at the Parliament (opposition jailed /silenced), no disruptions due to teachers’ or doctors’ walkouts (banned), children safely rehearsing patriotic songs while asssembling Kalashnikoffs. Soon they will learn Chinese as the draft law proposes to ban English as a first foreign language at schools. And importantly, they can aspire to loose their life ‘defending’ the montherland.
..mm vs GB that sounds not so bad. They get to eat and keep warm: that’d be a major improvement wouldn’t it, ie mean for the bottom 50% in GB?
Hmm. We got a referendum then the rulers who gave it to us and promised they’d respect it spent their time trying to overturn it, hamstringing the negotiations to produce it, and completely wreck as much of it as they can.
To top it all off they locked us all up in a form of country-wide house arrest over a peculiar flu. Mind you they did think it was a bio-weapon escaped from a Wuhan lab I’m sure.
Meanwhile they conveniently refuse to address all the predicted consequences of their stupidity and insist that the current excess deaths are nowt to do with lockdowns or the mRNA vaccines while planning to starve millions of us with Net Zero insanity and no one should be held responsible for the lies that Hancock’s Half Hour of Whats App exposed to us all.
Your initial comments were interesting but over time they have been exposed as a mixture of plausable lies and half-truths. Your supposed credentials (I know Crimea etc.) are little more than an attempt to divert attention from multiple brutal invasions by Putin’s Russia.
We’ve had a bellyful of that kind of simplistic rhetoric without you adding to it..
Pot, kettle, black…..!
The coming Ukrainian offensive will almost certainly determine the position from which a subsequent ceasefire and negotiation takes place. We’ll not see how this might end until that offensive has run its course.
The question the Interview fails to cover though is – can Ukraine afford to leave Putin in charge of the Crimea and still have it’s sea lanes to Odessa secure? It’s possible if it’s security was backed by NATO, but without that they have little choice but to secure a better geographical position from which to negotiate. Whether that is all of Crimea perhaps a question.
Somewhere a 38th parallel equivalent seems highly likely. The question is where.
Indeed, if Russia keeps Crimea some sort of Western security guarantee for Ukraine is essential. It should not be too difficult for NATO to build up sufficient naval strength in the Black Sea to put the Russians back in their box. That might need funding the Romanian navy – building new ships in Romania – as the Montreux Convention limits warship movements. Or selling them some serious naval ships. Assuming we can’t rely on Turkey (and I’m not sure we can). There’s already a major NATO airbase at Constanta in Romania.
The Russian navy is now so poor that they don’t really need Sebastopol anyway …
so why are we so obsessed with Russia? Why do the US military industrial complex keep demanding more to ward of the Russian threat? Peter Hitchens was telling us all this decades ago, and no one listened. The US doctrines of sphere’s of influence may well result in a nuclear weapon being used in this conflict. We should be pushing to end it and negotiate.
you are absolutely right
Of you check back on who reneged on promises you’ll find Russia is not the culprit..
Zewlensky fears peace because peace would bring to light the atrocities inflicted on ethnic Russians by the Ukrainian army,
Western journalists talk about Ukraine as if it was a cohesive nation but although 77.9% would identify themselves as Ukrainian, 17.3% would identify themselves as Russian – the rest are of many different nationalities from around that area, (ref: Wikopedia)..
Not much to add to the discussion since it confirms my naive priors, but the observation that 85% of Ukraine is permanently lost to Russian dreams of empire will stick with me.
Freddie Sayers is such a good interviewer.
Who told you about Russian dreams? Always evaluate information in light of its source is my advice.. then you’ll know what to discard. Lies, distortions, rhetoric and misinformation are everywhere.
The prospect of a full victory is the only way to motivate the troops. As a soldier, how could you othewise give a purpose to facing an imminent death in battle, day after day. Obviously, a Commander-in-Chief cannot afford any other rhetoric.
It goes without saying that, no matter their public stance and rhetoric, Ukraine (and Zelensky) would be ready to negotiate a special status for Crimea, basically bringing it back to its pre-war situation. It is equally clear that, in territorial terms, the invader wants MUCH more than that.
If getting back to the pre-war borders would mean a political suicide it would be the one for Putin, not for Zelensky.
Over the last 6 years, the Russian public has been relentlessly brainwached with a delirious ‘denazification’ discourse. I wonder whether the readers here are aware of the fact that, for years every Russian news programme started with a virulent attack on Ukraine. Russia can pride itself in not giving a damn to the cost of living, death rates or indeed any earthly subject. All these years, Ukraine has been the only beam in the Russian public eye. Awefully shameful to admit for a Russian like myself.
That is why the ‘full victory’ is the only message that makes sense – in face of an enemy who does not understand any other language. As for the ceasefire, it will be determined by the force tenure raher than by the Biden’s administration public stance.
Does your (adopted?) name give us a hint as yo the kind of Russian you are? ..and are you, in fact the Tsar?
This is a war over Soviet drawn borders in a post soviet world, just as the Balkans was when Yugoslavia broke up, just as the Caucus wars have been, AND may still be. We should not be involved at all, but US/NATO’s expansion via the Colour Revolutions was thought to be clever. Just think IF a Russian politician had turned up in the Capitol on January 6th – what would the US have done? Well Victoria Nuland to name but one US politician turned up in Maidan Square and supported the Coup. The reporting on this war by the West is filled with massive amounts of propaganda. Russia won’t be beaten, it can’t afford to be, AND that is a very dangerous position if we threaten to defeat it.
Nice to have a semblance of balance and realism amid the endless stupid rhetoric and misinformation..
A crushing defeat of Russia (if such a thing were possible) would, in all probability end up like the crushing defeat of Germany in WW1, ie WW2! So, if this is WW3 lite then a Russian resurgence in a few years will surely result in WW3 heavy.
I’m surprised the discussion didn’t mention China.. it seems probable that a crushing defeat of Russia would expose China to the same. It is therefore in China’s interest to make sure such a Russian defeat does not occur.. China’s chances of defeating the US are doubled if the US has to fight on two major fronts.. If Russia is crushed China will stand alone, unless India puts aside its long standing animosity towards China – I’m not sure BRICS+ will work that way? But who knows?
It’s all pie in the sky anyway as the current stalemate in Ukraine is the most likely scenario, with or without a peace deal. Dug in defensively Russia is invincible and Ukraine will indeed be bled white.. it’s almost bled white as it is.If Ukraine alone mounts a serious counter offensive I’ll be amazed. Will warmongering NATO move in en masse and do it with what’s left of Ukraine’s army. I sincerely hope not or it’ll be nuke time!
1. How can Ukraine have a future if Russia continues to occupy Crimea? Crimea allows Russia to threaten Odessa, Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov and the Dnieper and the Ukrainian economy. It is essential to Ukraine’s future security that it be regained. 2. Ukraine’s security needs to be underwritten by membership of NATO 3. Ukraine’s economy and society needs to be rebuilt by a massive Marshall plan level of economic support 4. Ukraine needs to be helped to become a thriving democratic liberal society. 5 And that in turn might be an example to Russia that it should turn from the path of autocracy to become a pluralistic, democratic, liberal society – that is the path that will lead to peace and prosperity for its people. Russia is a great civilisation and should be our friend and ally. 6. The way to achieve this is to supply Ukraine with all the equipment and resources it needs to achieve a military victory and return to the 2014 borders. 7. If we do not provide that support now we face decades of insecurity and poverty in both Ukraine and Russia. A small investment now will pay huge dividends. 8. And a Russian defeat will be a useful lesson to china about the costs of aggression.
Interesting ‘about face’ – the ‘interest of Russia’ in the Ukraine and Crimea mirror exactly what you propose for Ukraine. The difference being that the Ukraine is backed by NATO/US BOTH of whom lied to Russia post Soviet breakup about NO Eastward expansion of NATO IF the Russians allowed the reunification of Germany. Ironically Russia has obeyed all the treaties it signed until the US started to break them. The US claiming that they had to do so because China wasn’t a signatory. The UK should step outside of NATO and declare our Neutrality, We should replace Sweden as a Neutral state and let them take our place in NATO. The US is not our friend, and the ‘special relationship’ isn’t all that special from where I view it.
This is all up to the fortunes of war.
The Russian army lost most of its new “mobiks” in pointless attacks on Vuhledar and Bakhmut. Their morale is likely below zero. Putin knows that any major new mobilization will threaten his regime. That the Russians can stand a major Ukrainian offensive is thus very debateble.
No one knows whether the impending Ukrainian offensive will succeed or not. That’s sort of why people fight wars–to find out.
But if the Russians do break, it’s doubtful they could hold Crimea. The Whites certainly couldn’t in 1920, even with a fairly competent commander, Wrangel.
And it’s beginning to look a lot like 1920 again…
..you too need to come up to date!
Looks like the Ukrainians are already across the Dnipro, and some Russian officials are wisely pulling out of Melitopol. We’ll soon find out whether Putin will hang on to Crimea.
Russia’s actions since 2014 haven’t been part of some “master plan” by Putin. It’s was instead a typical Russian “Bunt”: a mindless uprising by mindless Russians when they become upset about something. They go on a rampage for a certain period, but in the end the Bunt always collapses.
Then things just get back to normal, or even worse, and everyone forgets about it till the next Bunt. It’s an endless cycle.
But Putin may well have changed the dynamic of his whole nation.
He’s inflicted so much damage on Russia, that (to misquote the title of a popular Russian movie some years back), this time, it will be “Russkiy Mir Kaput.”
Concur ML. And to add – the deal the EU and specific states did with Azerbaijan yesterday to double their Gas imports further undermines his position and further demonstrates his folly. This’ll add pressure on his side for an urgent resolution. Gas supplies one of his few levers and weakening all the time. Not only has he strengthened NATO and European unity, he’s helped with sensible geo-political diversification of Gas supplies
The downside is that this only strengthens the Azeris against the Armenians.
The latter never really had any choice but to rely on Russia. The war has only meant that Russia can do nothing against very egregious Azeri provocactions.
Fun fact: after the Armenians just barely held on to Mt Ararat after WW1, Lenin gave it away to Ataturk, because he was so “progressive.”
But as everyone now knows, Ataturk wasn’t “progressive” or a socialist.
He was a Turk.
To say Ataturk wasn’t a progressive is akin to saying Genkgis Khan wasn’t a conqueror! Do you know anything about Turkey? ..or the Turks? You speak about them as if they are all the same.. Turkey is a hugely diversified country..
With Turkey a NATO member, it might be incumbent upon the West to start looking at exactly what is unfolding in the Caucus and what role Turkey might take in it.
Check out who supplies Azerbaijan with gas to replace the gas they sell the EU. 😉
Can Crimea be taken? Many of the experts predict that the counteroffensive will simply cut off the land bridge to Crimea. This requires “only” a successful drive south from Zaporizhia of about 50 miles to the Sea of Azov. Ukraine will blow the Kerch bridge again. The water supply to Crimea will be cut off. Then Ukraine can simply starve out the Russian army in Crimea. Perhaps with this prospect staring the Russians in the face there can be a political compromise that leads to a free and fair, internationally supervised plebiscite in Crimea a couple of years down the road.
Then expect an even bigger barrage on the Ukraine’s infrastructure and similar consequence in the Ukraine. This is NATO by Proxy v Russia. NATO daren’t NOT use a proxy AND Russia daren’t be beaten by them. It really isn’t a war to keep us entertained, it contains the seeds of a major escalation and catastrophe, we should be accepting the Real Politik that major powers have spheres of influence and the US trying to push theirs up to Russia’s border isn’t a smart move.
Mr. Johnston’s comments about the suppression of the Russian language in Ukraine seem to me to be largely nonsense. Zelensky’s own first language is Russian!
I speak Russian and I follow a lot of the pro-Ukrainian media that is broadcast from within Ukraine. About half of it seems to be broadcast in the Russian language.
Early in the war, when asked about this, Zelensky said “One man has done more than any other in history to undermine the Russian language in the larger world. His name is Putin.”
Zelensky says a lot of things, not all of them are true. This is a tour- de-force performance as an Actor. It may be the pinnacle of his career.
I am about as anti-Putin as it is possible to be, but it doesn’t change the historical fact that Crimea is Russian. In 1959 Kruschev visited Ukraine to help mark some ancient Ukrainian battle and passed the administration of Crimea into Ukrainian hands. Since everything in the USSR was run from Moscow this was a purely symbolic action. All of Russia, including Crimea, knew that Crimea was still and always part of Russia. It’s their summer holiday resort, the Brighton and Blackpool of Russia. Everyone involved actually knows this. If Ukraine insists on continuing the war until Crimea is returned all Western support, absent perhaps Poland and the US, will evaporate. At some point this reality will have to be acknowledged.
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