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Crisis in Ukraine: Ukraine and Russia Beyond Crimean Secession

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My third interview on Ukraine with David C. Speedie, director of the program on U.S. Global Engagement at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, first published on March 24, 2014. My previous two interviews can be found here and here.

DAVID SPEEDIE: I'm David Speedie, director of the program on U.S. Global Engagement at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. I'm delighted to welcome back to our Ethics in Security Bulletin series Professor Nicolai Petro. Professor Petro is with the University of Rhode Island but, serendipitously for us, he is currently on a Fulbright Fellowship in Odessa in southern Ukraine. We call upon him once again to give us his impressions of the ongoing situation in Ukraine.

Nicolai, welcome back to our series.

NICOLAI PETRO: Hi, David.

DAVID SPEEDIE: Let's begin, as always, with just a general overview. It has been, I guess, a couple of weeks since we spoke. So much seems to be happening on a daily basis, if not an hourly or minute-by-minute basis. So give us just your general sense of things from your vantage point.

NICOLAI PETRO: Well, the issue in the mind of locals, as well as everyone else internationally, is the secession of Crimea, its declaration of independence and then its annexation by Russia. That proceeded very quickly.


In this area where I happen to live, in southern Ukraine, a region largely populated by Russian speakers, I'd say, as I said before, the people are not thrilled with this development. But, in addition to a certain resignation, they also tend to take the matter philosophically.

I've heard a number of times people say, "Well, Crimea was unusual and different from other regions of Ukraine, and there were obviously historical ties."

On the other hand, there are people who are equally adamant that this is an attack on Ukraine's territorial integrity and must be rebuffed. But the options that the government has for responding effectively in Ukraine are apparently very limited.

DAVID SPEEDIE: Let me just make sure I understood something. You say that Russian speakers in the south of the mainland of Ukraine are disturbed at the events in Crimea?

NICOLAI PETRO: Yes, in the sense that no one likes to have had the situation resolved in this manner. Crimea was always a problematic addition for Ukraine, and Ukrainian nationalists, in particular, seem to feel so.

I recall reading one particular columnist in western Ukraine actually refer to it as a potential fifth column that would be dragging Ukraine down from its desire to join the EU and join NATO. But that doesn't mean that they wanted to give it up.

So there's a sense in which they don't approve of how this was done, but there is a certain understanding of the historical logic of what happened.

DAVID SPEEDIE: And of course, the history, as most of our audience will know, is that the transfer of Crimea, which had been for 300 years or so part of Russia, since the days of Catherine the Great and the winning of Crimea from the Ottoman Empire, this was essentially an artificial transfer in 1954 by Khrushchev, in the sense that it was an internal transfer within the then Soviet Union. I think that tends to be forgotten in all this conversation.

NICOLAI PETRO: I was reading a little bit more carefully through some of the legal documents, and I was struck by something that doesn't seem to have been noted, although I do agree that the legal arguments are essentially moot at this point.

But there is one aspect to this that hasn't been very carefully noted, at least in the Western press, and that is that when Crimea was transferred to the Ukrainian SSR, Sevastopol was not. So Sevastopol itself was always part of Russia.

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Nicolai N. Petro is professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island. He has served as special assistant for policy in the U.S. State Department and as civic affairs advisor to the mayor of the Russian city of Novgorod the Great. His books include: The Rebirth of Russian Democracy (Harvard,1995), Russian Foreign Policy (Longman, 1997), and (more...)
 

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This article is very strange as most  of the ... by Mark Sashine on Tuesday, Mar 25, 2014 at 3:00:41 PM
RIGHT___CIA-NED,Soros fundedNGO,s organized this c... by urb musak on Tuesday, Mar 25, 2014 at 4:12:56 PM
Obama at Nuclear Summit: A Call to Respect NPT, N... by Pal Palsimon on Wednesday, Mar 26, 2014 at 1:04:15 AM
My post above may be difficult to relate to this ... by Pal Palsimon on Thursday, Mar 27, 2014 at 4:11:48 AM
Strange to you. No, Russia has no legitimate clai... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Mar 26, 2014 at 7:39:15 AM
Does the U.S. and it's allies have legitimate clai... by Pal Palsimon on Thursday, Mar 27, 2014 at 4:30:34 AM
If Crimea remained independent that might possibl... by BFalcon on Thursday, Mar 27, 2014 at 10:00:22 AM
A legitimate claim on a country is only valid if ... by Pal Palsimon on Thursday, Mar 27, 2014 at 1:21:13 PM
Not really. First, Crimea is no country. It was a... by BFalcon on Friday, Mar 28, 2014 at 1:13:48 AM
  Texas has often threatened to secede fro... by Pal Palsimon on Friday, Mar 28, 2014 at 2:38:53 AM
I believe that Bernie Sanders does not mind helpi... by BFalcon on Friday, Mar 28, 2014 at 3:39:00 AM
Hmmm...and I thought it was on of his most 'balan... by Jim Miles on Tuesday, Mar 25, 2014 at 5:35:17 PM
It is not important for me to know the legal argu... by Pal Palsimon on Tuesday, Mar 25, 2014 at 6:42:28 PM
Sorry but your argument is quite wrong. "It is no... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Mar 26, 2014 at 7:38:31 AM
Are you trying to say it is important to justify ... by Pal Palsimon on Thursday, Mar 27, 2014 at 3:35:22 AM
P. S.  And I did not make any argument for a... by Pal Palsimon on Thursday, Mar 27, 2014 at 3:49:03 AM
It always concerns me when somebody does not consi... by BFalcon on Thursday, Mar 27, 2014 at 9:57:52 AM
They say all is legal in love and war.  Anywa... by Pal Palsimon on Thursday, Mar 27, 2014 at 1:13:27 PM
It would be interesting to have your perspectives.... by Pal Palsimon on Thursday, Mar 27, 2014 at 1:33:55 PM
I see you are a doctor not able to go back to Bos... by Pal Palsimon on Thursday, Mar 27, 2014 at 8:50:28 PM
Well, not quite. I am able to go to Bosnia and vi... by BFalcon on Friday, Mar 28, 2014 at 1:24:36 AM
There will be no peace and justice anywhere in thi... by Pal Palsimon on Friday, Mar 28, 2014 at 2:46:22 AM
To clear your confusion you should first define "... by BFalcon on Friday, Mar 28, 2014 at 3:43:35 AM
BTW I worked 7 years for the Veterans Administrati... by Pal Palsimon on Friday, Mar 28, 2014 at 2:55:36 PM
Maybe yours was, I just treat patients for salary.... by BFalcon on Friday, Mar 28, 2014 at 10:41:01 PM
Yet you say peace and justice requires a majority ... by Pal Palsimon on Saturday, Mar 29, 2014 at 12:12:22 AM
The majority where? In any county, in any city, i... by BFalcon on Saturday, Mar 29, 2014 at 1:21:57 AM
The overthrow of the Ukraine's legitimate governme... by Pal Palsimon on Saturday, Mar 29, 2014 at 2:48:54 AM
No, I was in the US doing research. I tried to ex... by BFalcon on Friday, Mar 28, 2014 at 1:19:35 AM
So, you advised Americans to intervene. You are th... by Pal Palsimon on Friday, Mar 28, 2014 at 2:48:52 AM
You are quite misinformed. There was no revolutio... by BFalcon on Friday, Mar 28, 2014 at 3:50:47 AM
Oligarchy and invasions are happening all over the... by Pal Palsimon on Friday, Mar 28, 2014 at 2:59:42 PM
This is my country now too since I am a citizen. ... by BFalcon on Friday, Mar 28, 2014 at 10:34:36 PM
Do you know that rich, wealthy capitalists do not ... by Pal Palsimon on Friday, Mar 28, 2014 at 3:08:55 AM
Latin American "yokes" are a domestic production.... by BFalcon on Friday, Mar 28, 2014 at 3:53:00 AM
No. You say that because you do not like Socialist... by Pal Palsimon on Friday, Mar 28, 2014 at 3:03:47 PM
We agree. I said that the intervention should be ... by BFalcon on Friday, Mar 28, 2014 at 10:37:02 PM
Peace and justice is not yet obtained in this coun... by Pal Palsimon on Friday, Mar 28, 2014 at 3:04:39 PM
No, just that they are not "more safe"? ... by BFalcon on Thursday, Mar 27, 2014 at 9:56:06 AM
Is it better to befriend the enemy you know than f... by Pal Palsimon on Thursday, Mar 27, 2014 at 1:18:30 PM
I don't want you playing in my back yard. Go back ... by Pal Palsimon on Friday, Mar 28, 2014 at 3:05:56 PM
Why don't you want Pal to play in your back yard?... by BFalcon on Friday, Mar 28, 2014 at 10:40:05 PM
You say "Most Americans do not feel the yoke."You ... by Pal Palsimon on Saturday, Mar 29, 2014 at 12:22:34 AM
I am sure that you know that the majority in the C... by BFalcon on Saturday, Mar 29, 2014 at 1:18:49 AM
I am not naive so  I will agree that majoriti... by Pal Palsimon on Saturday, Mar 29, 2014 at 2:39:53 AM
looks like we have our own blog here, huh? ... by Pal Palsimon on Saturday, Mar 29, 2014 at 2:42:19 AM
If you are an NSA troll, let me tell you this. Rep... by Pal Palsimon on Saturday, Mar 29, 2014 at 5:23:38 AM
No NSA troll would discuss with you, they prefer ... by BFalcon on Saturday, Mar 29, 2014 at 7:21:38 AM
Nothing like a chat between friends. ... by BFalcon on Saturday, Mar 29, 2014 at 7:28:35 AM
Agree with most, thanks. But this: "The overthrow... by BFalcon on Saturday, Mar 29, 2014 at 7:31:18 AM
I know so many facts about our means of installing... by Pal Palsimon on Saturday, Mar 29, 2014 at 2:58:30 PM
Dave Winship said the best comment of the day on ... by Pal Palsimon on Saturday, Mar 29, 2014 at 3:10:12 PM