Crimean Support Justifies Putin’s Actions in Crimean Peninsula

When Russia expressed its intent to annex the southeastern Ukrainian region of Crimea in March, the western world was up in arms.

Starting in late February 2014, pro-Russian protesters rioted and held demonstrations in several cities in Crimea, starting in late February. Russia then assisted unmarked organized forces, recognized by experts to be the Russian special forces, that entered Crimea. The demographics of the region are quite diverse, with over half of the population being ethnically Russian, and the minorities being the Tatars, a Turkic ethnic group that has lived in Crimea for several hundred years as well as the ethnic Ukrainians.

The political unrest has significantly affected the Ukrainian government. The former Ukranian prime minister, Mykola Azarov, has resigned and the former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, has been ousted from his homeland in response to the uprisings and riots that had sprung up in the capital of Kiev.

Meanwhile, the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, stated that the invasion of Crimea by Russia was justified and was no business of the United Nations to interfere with.

In response to the Russian government, or the Kremlin, backing up the pro-Russian protesters, the United States and the European Union have both condemned the Putin-led Kremlin for their efforts in annexing parts of Ukraine. Indeed, western media has frequently portrayed Putin as a land-hungry totalitarian and ex-KGB (Soviet intelligence agency) agent who cracks down on the rights of the people under his government. Putin’s actions in Crimea are often compared to Hitler’s takeover of his neighboring countries such as Czechoslovakia and Austria before the start of the second World War. However, Putin shows little worry over the furor from these western powers, and one must understand from his viewpoint why he should not be afraid to take over the Crimean peninsula.

Last September, Putin announced in a conference that the Russians and Ukrainians had a “shared mentality, shared history and a shared culture. In this sense [they] are one people.” As of April 2013, 70 percent of all Ukrainians viewed Russia favorably. In addition, the vote of the Crimeans to join Russia in March was over 90 percent. These numbers show that an overwhelming majority of Crimeans want their country to be reunified with the Russian mainland.

Back at home, Putin is also experiencing a resurgence in his own popularity, with almost 80 percent of Russians in favor of his policies. The mostly peaceful attempt to annex Crimea with few deaths on each side has convinced many Russians that Putin is a strong, macho and undaunted leader who is doing what is best for both his homeland and Crimea. His confident, cool and calculated response to the backlash from the European Union and the United States shows Russians that he knows what he is doing and has everything under control.

Despite the fact that 100 out of 193 world nations support sanctions against Russia and only 11 nations oppose them after Putin’s decision to annex Crimea, Putin shows no worries about the possibly massive repercussions from the western world, especially the United States.

Though he acknowledged the deteriorating relations between Russia and the United States, Putin simply stated in a televised phone-in, “I want to emphasize once again: Russia is interested in growing relations with the United States and will do everything to ensure that this confidence is restored.”

However, the Russians’ attitude towards the West has always been one of cynicism and distrust, viewing the West as meddlesome oppressors who don’t understand their matters. This was seen during the creation of the eastern European Soviet bloc during the Cold War, which the Allied powers saw as offensive action. According to Ben Judah’s article in the Politico magazine, Russia sees the present European Union as an establishment full of corrupt politicians, businessmen, lawyers and bankers that only care about money. Putin believes that Europe won’t act aggressively unless such action would be profitable for the West. He also believes that America depends strongly on Russia for international trade, shipping, and sanction enforcement.

“Russia thinks the West is no longer a crusading alliance,” Judah wrote. “Russia thinks the West is now all about the money.”

Some people think that the United States is still stuck with its Cold War mentality towards Russia. The media in the United States often considers Putin’s presidency as a return to the regime of the USSR’s pro-socialist and anti-dissenter government. In some ways, they are correct. However, Russia ultimately sees its actions and goals in the Crimean crisis as ones that are the most ideal, and ones that will benefit the people in Crimea and Russia the most.