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This House Supports the Secession of Crimea from Ukraine

  • Mar 18, 2014 · 7:00 PM
  • Commonwealth Club - Boardroom

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.

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  • Barbara W.

    December 20

    • Deborah B.

      Barbara, I warn against "either/or" thinking and you come back with: "People seem to be signaling that a dictatorship would be ok with them; either that or they're dangerously ignorant." (On the plus side, at least you used "seem"). Here is the original poll: https://today.yougov.c...­ Compared to 21% of "All Americans", 28% of Trump supporters consider Trump an ally/friendly. One could despise Putin and still consider him an ally (e.g., against terrorism). What does it even mean to have a "favorable" opinion? Reading Trump supporters - most of whom have unfavorable opinions of Putin, btw - many still admire him in some ways (e.g., his pragmatic approach to the Middle East and 'straight-talking'­). Ironically, until Trump, it was the left that were apologists for Putin.

      December 29

    • Deborah B.

      For instance, check out: https://www.thenation....­
      https://www.thenation....­ To quote the latter: “...mainstream Western reporting depicts Russia as a dictatorship or a police state—or worse…what appears to amount to a deliberate campaign by the Western press to present Russia in as bad a light as possible by way of careless historical analogies and lazy caricature is dangerous…” Then there's­ bemoaning the "demonization"­ of Putin. And don't forget, Dems liked Wikileaks until it turned on them.

      December 29

  • Jeff G

    A reminder that people fighting to preserve a union are not always power-mad politicians trying to deny others' autonomy:

    July 16, 2014

  • Peter

    Full room, led by a skilled moderator. The speaker in favor argued that Ukraine's gov't had failed its people (corruption, poor economy compared to neighbors), so secession of parts is justified, and also that Russia offers aid that the West does not, and Crimean secession is much like NATO-supported Kosovo secession. The speaker against argued that Russia had used force to expand its territory, violating international post-WW2 norms, as well as a treaty not to use force on Ukraine; accepting annexation of Crimea would encourage Russia in its designs on other neighbors. Opponents questioned fairness of a rushed Crimean vote under Russian occupation, but supporters said we know vote results would be the same with more time & no Russian military presence. Some supporters said U.S. is trying to "dictate"; other supporters expected Crimea to drain Putin's resources, hence a good thing! Start vote: 6 yea, 8 nay, 6 abstain. End vote, with speakers & moderator: 13 yea, 11 nay, 2 abstain.

    April 14, 2014

  • Jeff G

    This zinger would have been useful:

    'Turning to Ukraine, McCain told Kerry that “my hero, Teddy Roosevelt, used to say, talk softly but carry a big stick. What you're doing is talking strongly and carrying a very small stick — in fact, a twig.”'

    April 9, 2014

  • Jeff G

    It was an excellent meeting, both dramatic (changed votes!) and genteel (such a crowd, but no mob scene). More thoughts at[masked]

    1 · March 19, 2014

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