Trump’s statement on Crimea can lead to serious consequences, says American analyst


Crimea, International, More, Ukraine

Edited by: Christine Chraibi

BuzzFeed News recently reported – with reference to two sources in diplomatic circles – that President Donald Trump had told G7 leaders that Crimea is Russian since all who live on the peninsula speak Russian. According to the publication, Trump’s statement was voiced during a dinner with G7 leaders at the 44th G7 summit in La Malbaie, Canada June 8-9, 2019. As previously noted by Krym.Realii, the information that appeared in the media has not yet been confirmed.

However, many American political scientists draw attention to the fact that if such a statement was really expressed, it could lead to far more serious consequences than it seems at first glance. Paul A. Goble, renowned American analyst and columnist, ex-adviser on Soviet nationality issues and Baltic affairs to Secretary of State James Baker, expressed his views in an interview with Krym.Realii.

“The statement of the American president is disastrous enough as a betrayal of Ukraine, but the reason Trump reportedly invoked to justify this idea is even more disturbing. It goes further than even Putin has in justifying Russian aggression. Since 2014, Putin has justified the Anschluss by pointing to the referendum he orchestrated after Russian forces moved in. What Trump reportedly said was that Crimea is Russian because “all the people there speak Russian,” a position that mirrors the Kremlin leader’s earlier assertions about “a Russian world.” The US Department of State has already made clear that despite the reports about President Trump’s comments in Ottawa, Washington’s position of Crimea has not changed.  But Trump’s use of a Putin argument – the idea that Crimea should be Russian because people there speak Russian – is dangerous even if there is no policy change on Crimea.”

According to Paul Goble, not only do such statements support Putin’s notion that language defines ethnicity and should also define citizenship, but they also ignore global realities, and in particular, those in countries that were part of the former Soviet space.

There are many countries, for example, which speak English or French; but that does not mean they should all be part of one country. Indeed, it is often countries which speak the same language that are most at odds with each other. Within the Soviet space, there are two dangers that arise as a result of Putin’s notion and Trump’s acceptance of it. On the one hand, it ignores the reality that both many who speak Russian but are citizens of other countries identify with the latter rather than with Russia and thus should not be subject to any Anschluss in the name of their supposed commonality based on language alone.  Moscow has no rights over Russian speakers in Belarus or northern Kazakhstan or in Ukraine, but Putin thinks he does and Trump by his reported remarks gives aid and comfort to that idea.

Paul Goble

And on the other, it also ignores the possibility that the Russian Federation itself may disintegrate into numerous Russian-speaking states such as Siberia or the Urals or Ingria.  They might all speak Russian but that would not and must not be the basis for a revanchist policy against them sometime in the future by the Kremlin. Had Trump accepted the false referendum that Putin orchestrated in Crimea following the occupation, that would have been unfortunate and wrong; but his acceptance of this Putin principle is far worse and more dangerous, whatever official US policy remains.”

Paul Goble notes that Donald Trump’s statements alone will not make Putin decide on launching into new areas of aggression since the costs of doing this would be too high for the Kremlin.

The Kremlin leader will look for weak links; and he will make his calculations on the basis of cost. I personally worry now about two things: a sea attack from the Sea of Azov to gain a land bridge to occupied Crimea and a move against Moldova. It is the task of the West to make the potential costs of aggression as high as possible – and to do so quickly and dramatically rather than slowly and gradually.  One of the reasons that Putin has been able to maintain his aggression in Ukraine is that the West did not impose sanctions all at once but only slowly. That has given him a chance to adapt while blaming the West for all domestic difficulties», maintains Goble.

Paul Goble points out another disturbing trend: the proposal emanating from the ethnic Greek community in occupied Crimea, which calls for going back to the tsarist-era term for the region, calling Crimea by its historical name – Tauride.

“On the one hand, it would dramatically undercut the position of the Crimean Tatars, for whom  Crimea is their unique national homeland, as a way of denying that the Crimean Tatars have any rights to national self-determination. Crimea is the unique homeland of the Crimean Tatars. Moscow’s occupation has been directed most harshly at the Crimean Tatars who have been the most stout-hearted and consistent opponents of that occupation. This “new” idea especially threatening for them because it dismisses them as the key nationality on the Ukrainian peninsula and will be used by Moscow to try to distract attention from what is perhaps the most ethnically repressive regime in the world just now, the Russian occupation forces in Crimea.

And on the other – and far more seriously – it would open the way for more Russian aggression. Those who are ready to accept the notion of going back to “Tauride” as a name for the peninsula may not know or have forgotten that in tsarist times, the Tauride included not just Crimea but a large part of the south of what the Putin regime has referred to as Novorossiya. Thus, it is not a step toward compromise but rather a move to further aggression, hybrid and possibly otherwise.” cautions Goble.

In the end, Paul Goble expresses doubts that such an idea could actually come from the small Greek community of Crimea.

“First, it was the Russian state and not the Greeks who referred to what is now southeastern Ukraine, including Crimea, as the Tauride. What makes this idea so dangerous is that it appears superficially attractive as a way of getting out of the “Crimea” problem by renaming it.”

Edited by: Christine Chraibi

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