Interested in speaking for or against this Motion, or to be the Moderator? Please contact Roy Ferreira, the event host through Meetup.
Russia’s vociferous opposition to the new pro-Western protest government in Kiev, belligerent military posturing and the not-so-covert deployment of Russian troops to key installations in the Crimean peninsula already had some journalists calling the latest Ukrainian crisis the new Cold War. This week’s secessionist appeal by Crimean MPs to join Russia with strong support from Putin and the Russian parliament has fanned the flames and increased tensions even further. The referendum on secession to be held in Crimea on March 16 has been blasted by a chorus of European and US leaders as “illegitimate” and “dangerous”. Obama has warned Russia of “serious consequences” to military intervention.
To be sure, a great deal is at stake for all sides involved. As a former part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has always been considered by Moscow as part of its geopolitical sphere of influence, a bulwark against the encroachment of Western military power, cultural and economic influences. The Crimean port of Sevastopol hosts Russia’s only warm-water naval base and is of enormous strategic value. Europeans are always looking to the expanse of their economic union into lucrative new lands to the East while nervously acknowledging their dependence on Russian energy and on Ukraine as the energy conduit to Europe. The US, ever the opportunist, sees the weakening of a potential rival to it’s global dominance, and perhaps even sees an opening for its burgeoning natural-gas export business. The Ukraine, meanwhile, is being pulled apart by these opposing forces, with the faults falling predictably along geographical and racial lines: pro-Western ethnic Ukrainians who predominate in Kiev and the western regions of the country; pro-Russian ethnic Russians as significant minorities in the east or as outright majorities in areas such as the Crimea.
Opponents of Crimea’s secessionist bid point to the Ukrainian constitution which guarantees the territorial integrity of the country. Various treaties with Russia after the break of the Soviet Union affirm Crimea as being part of Ukraine. Ludicrous denials of Russian officials notwithstanding, the mere presence of its troops on Ukrainian soil is a violation of basic international law.
Supporters are quick to point out that the Crimea was “given” to Ukraine by Stalin in 1954 with no democratic input from residents, many of which still have strong ethnic and cultural ties to Russia. The US administration’s opposition to the secession referendum flies in the face of a bedrock American value: the right of people to democratically decide their future for themselves. America’s support for other secessionist movements in Kosovo and Chechnya underscores a foreign policy which is inconsistent and contradictory at best, downright hypocritical at worst. Complicating the whole issue is the fact that the Crimean peninsula has historically been the home to various ethnic non-Russians, such as the Tartars and Turks, who have been forcibly removed or decimated by Stalin and his predecessors. Such groups, while now in the minority, are decidedly anti-Russian and also wish to assert their rights.
So what do you think should be America’s policy towards Crimea? Join us March 18th at the Boardroom of the Commonwealth Club for a debate on this explosive topic. Note that non-Commonwealth members are welcome, albeit at a cost of $5 per person.