Ukraine: Who Won, Who Lost

national-interest-logoSource: The National Interest | Andranik Migranyan | March 6, 2014

There is an avalanche of information demonizing both Putin and Russia and painting them as aggressors. Aside from various statements by those who apparently still live, and live happily, in the Cold War, such as Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Fox News analysts, and neoconservatives, there are those who offer objective and balanced analysis of events in Ukraine. Among these include former U.S. National Security Council officials Tom Graham [3] and Jack Matlock, Columbia University professor Robert Legvold [4] as well as National Interest [5] publisher Dimitri Simes [5]. But there aren’t many. Unfortunately, officials sometimes also partake in that sorry attempt, compounding the efforts of experts and journalists. McCain showed himself to be a buffoon even earlier—when he believed that Pravda is still the main paper of the Russian government. This is a telling indicator of the low level of knowledge and understanding of what is happening in Russia.

Unfortunately, clueless and pernicious claims concerning Russia were also made by Secretary of State John Kerry. He demonstrated that he too lives in another dimension by discussing Russian actions (when Russian military personnel were likely moving around Crimea) as a ninteenth-century policy in the twenty-first century. He easily forgot that the U.S. has been engaging in exactly such policy all the time, both in the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries. People are obviously turning schizophrenic: they judge some actions by one set of criteria, while they totally forget their own such as American actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

Obama’s advisers also misled him, talking about an “invasion” where there was none at all. By treaty, Russia has the right to place 25,000 of its own soldiers on Ukrainian territory in Crimea. By my own count (I spoke with people from Sevastopol), Crimea now has a little over 10,000 military personnel from Russia. This means Russia can send 15,000 more perfectly legally. And it’s perfectly understandable that various military personnel were moving around the peninsula.

putin-340x255The actions of the Russian personnel even when blocking Ukrainian garrisons were also in accordance with the negotiated norms between Russia and the new Crimean authorities and with the legitimate President Viktor Yanukovich. Crimea is still the home of people who disagree with the Kiev cutthroats in power, whose first act was to ban the law on regional languages, thus putting the Russian language and Russians outside of law, in addition to threatening to destroy their autonomy and the Russian fleet. Russians in the East and Southeast of Ukraine are basically deprived of the right to protect their own interests.

As concerns Eastern Ukraine, here the situation is more serious. The East will want, at a minimum, federalization. What level of autonomy these regions will gain can only be determined after a legitimate government is formed in Kiev.

This will be a true exit from the crisis without civil war and without violence, but should there all of a sudden be mad attempts from the West or from Kiev to impose their own views and order on the pro-Russian territories with force, they will receive a very strong rebuff. In such a scenario Russia will not remain in the sidelines, because it will be exactly the scenario for which Putin asked the Federation Council to authorize military force in Ukraine—to check a threat to the lives and security of the Russian citizens and Russian-speaking population in Ukraine.

Who Won, Who Lost

We can say that the Ukrainian West and the West as a whole lost in Ukraine. After the Orange Revolution in 2005, I was the only Russian analyst who, to the bafflement of many in Russia, Ukraine and in the West, said unequivocally that while Presidents win elections with the support of the East and the South, this prevents the mobilization of those regions to their own ends. Leonid Kuchma and Leonid Kravchuk understood how dangerous it is to make quick moves while you’re dealing with such an unstable state in which there are two distinct cultures, two languages, and two separate countries in terms of history. I warned even then that it was better to have Viktor Yushchenko than Viktor Yanukovich in power, because Yushchenko was after all a predictable if radical politician. He would come with radicals from the West who, once in power, would lead to the breakup of the country. While Kiev looked like it held legitimacy, the precarious balance was preserved. We need to note that indeed the true dream of the Westerners in Ukraine should have been to keep Yanukovich in power because he was a guarantor of stability and the preservation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. The arrival in power of radicals and nationalists, especially via illegitimate means, is, of course, the collapse of the Ukrainian state.

This is what allowed Crimea to do what Crimeans themselves, as well as the protectors of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, could not have dreamed of earlier. The collapse of legitimacy in Kiev allowed Crimea to elect its own mayor of Sevastopol and its own Prime Minister in Simferopol, who are de facto pro-Russian. These regions received an opportunity to be truly independent, which is what the coming referendum will be about. This allows for the Crimean authorities to not recognize Kiev’s legitimacy, which is indeed done in accordance with the law and the Constitution. The coup perpetrators chased out the legitimately elected President Yanukovich and violated agreements guaranteed by the recognition of the Polish, German, and French ministers of foreign affairs.

In addition, the events in Crimea helped inspire Russians and Russian speakers in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Lugansk, Dnepropetrovsk, and Odessa, and of course, allowed these cities to press for a federation. The level of federalization between these cities on the one hand and Kiev on the other will be the subject of intense negotiations because the Russian and Russian speaking population dominating in these Eastern and Southern cities wants to have a decisive say in their own governance, and in what language they use, what books they read, and what media they watch.

As a result of all this, Western Ukraine and the West, which, unfortunately, supported, stimulated, and helped the entire process, suffered a crushing defeat. They did not even understand that the downfall of Yanukovich will be the downfall of Ukraine’s territorial unity and with their own hands they set their house on fire, and set a time bomb on Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

The Road Out of the Crisis

No one will stop Crimea from holding a referendum, after which it will be its own independent unit, which has already stated that it will negotiate its own relations with Kiev. The new treaty will likely legitimize Crimea’s own military forces, its own foreign ministry, and its own governing institutions for which it will hold elections. They may still preserve some symbolic relations with Kiev. And Eastern Ukraine will embark upon a new road as well. It may be emotionally satisfying for western politicians to denounce these events, but Russia will continue to pursue its legitimate national interests.

Andranik Migranyan is the director of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation in New York, which works closely with the Russian presidential administration. He is also a professor at the Institute of International Relations in Moscow, a former member of the Public Chamber and a former member of the Russian Presidential Council.


  1. Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

    Will the CIA be given the same opportunity as their Russian counterpart has been given here?

    • Christopher William McAvoy says

      The CIA does the work of the anti-christ, why would a bishop of the church make this statement?

      • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

        You mean the Russian Federations counterpart of the CIA should be allowed to have its Russian Federation party line use this blog as their forum, but the CIA should not?
        And, by the way, is “Christopher William McAvoy” really writing here, or is that Mary Baker Grove Glover Patterson Eddy?

        • Christopher William McAvoy says


          President Jacobo Arbenz was to serve as a lesson to other nationalists who held the “belief in their immunity from the exercise of United States power”:

          Although the CIA had for years been spying on the Árbenz Government, had determined that Guatemalan agrarian reform endangered US economic interests, and had planned a coup d’état in 1952, the Eisenhower Administration (1953–61) had no feasible excuse to attack Guatemala. Fortuitously, the Decree 900 land expropriations from the American fruit companies proved to be a political opportunity for subversive action, especially as presented to the US President by CIA Director Dulles and his brother, John Foster Dulles, the US Secretary of State; they MISLABELED the Árbenz Government of Guatemala as PROOF of the political infiltration of the Western Hemisphere, by the international COMMUNIST conspiracy of the USSR. Each man owned capital stock in the United Fruit Company, and some have claimed that each man flouted that inherent conflict of interest with his government job; thus, the Dulles brothers’ conflation of public policy (duelling hegemonies) and private profit (corporate ownership) made feasible the coup d’état against President Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán, in June 1954.

          Let Ukraine learn the lesson when the CIA turns on them.

          • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

            C.W. McAvoy wrote this: “The CIA does the work of the anti-christ, why would a bishop of the church make this statement?” THIS bishop of the church merely asked why one agency doing the work of the anti-Christ would be provided an audience here, while another one would not. My goodness, the criminality of the CIA is a staple of series TV and popular fiction. Surely, CW McAvoy does not imagine he has revealed anything to the naive with his reportage on an event six (6) decades old? What was Vova Putin’s KGB doing in Khrushchevian 1954? And that is what “a bishop of the church” dares to say!!

      • Forest Grow says

        Because he was a United States Military Officer during the cold war. We all have the prejudices
        of our experiences.

        • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

          Yes, we do, Forest. Christopher’s is just sixty years old and festering.

          • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

            I do not see anyone doing in today’s world that which would be the work of that New Testament prediction, the “Anti-Christ.”
            Of course, I understand calling whatever or whomever one hates the AntiChrist is a perfectly normal, if puerile, thing to do. I’m sure that if cattle might glimpse someone biting down on a hamburger they would consider this the action of the Anti-Christ, while others might apply the appellation to the Affordable Care Act, or, even more heinous, the ACLU or President Obama.
            Christopher etc., McAvoy declares, “The CIA does the work of the anti-christ,” How pious, Christopher, how pious of you. You must have been horrified when George Tenet got his medal! Did you let Archbishop Demetrios, Patriarch Bartholomew, and your parish priest know of your super-discernment?

  2. Joseph Baxter says

    Points to ponder:

    — The author “works closely with the Russian presidential administration” and yet we are to read this as an objective and unbiased analysis?

    — The author asserts that “By treaty, Russia has the right to place 25,000 of its own soldiers on Ukrainian territory in Crimea.” Perhaps I missed something. Just precisely whose troops are these that we see menacing *Ukrainian* bases, raiding facilities, arresting or murdering Ukrainian military officers, blockading Ukrainian naval vessels, firing live ammunition over the heads of unarmed personnel, etc.? For the life of me I can’t tell because the lovely people doing this wear no insignia or flag on their uniforms and mask their faces.

    — Mr. Putin claims that Crimea has always been Russian and the majority of the people there are Russian-speakers and that this is the reason for annexation. Then a hasty plebiscite is called to paper over the fait accompli. Never mind that in Sevastopol a stunning 123% of the registered voters went to the polls! All one needed was a Russian (!) passport to vote. And never mind that the claimed 97% support for the Anschluss union with Russia represented an overall 83% voter turnout even though only 58% of the population are Russian-speakers. But don’t let that get in the way of Progress!

    — Also, if the good people of Crimea (encouraged no doubt by the presence of vaguely Russian assault troops and armor milling about) have the unequivocal right to put together a hasty referendum to secede from Ukraine and become part of Russia, does the same apply a few hundred miles away in Chechnya? The Chechens’ islamic tendency to murder and bloody mayhem aside, do they not also have the right to secede from Russia?

    • Isa Almisry says

      “The author “works closely with the Russian presidential administration” and yet we are to read this as an objective and unbiased analysis?”
      Where did he make that demand?: “Russia will continue to pursue its legitimate national interests.”-that seems pretty straight forward. And he was right on the Orange Revolution.
      One can be objective, and still have a side.

      “Perhaps I missed something.”
      No doubt about it.
      If the soldiers without insignia are not Russian Federation troops, no “invasion” occurred and no question can be asked of Moscow on them. If they are Russian Federation troops, and they are under 25,000, no “invasion” occurred and no question can be asked of Moscow.
      In either case, I leave you to your confusion.

      As to 123%, it was an error in reporting committed by the Russian Information source. They have since corrected it
      “But don’t let that get in the way of Progress!”

      As for ” only 58% of the population are Russian-speakers,” no, only 58% are Russians: the Russian speakers number 77% of the population. Only 10.1% claim Ukrainian as their native language, and only 11.4% Crimean Tartar. That is similar to the country as a whole-only 17% of Ukrainians are ethnic Russians, but almost three times that number speak Russian at home.

      “The Chechens’ islamic tendency to murder and bloody mayhem aside, do they not also have the right to secede from Russia?”
      Your side supported that in Bosnia and Kosovo, why not in Cheniya?

      • You conveniently left out the part where the US never colonized the areas we meddled in among your criticisms. I suppose when you can’t win the argument et al; you, like me, choose the winning bits.

        Russia could have taken a higher road. This was opportunistic, strategically wise, illegal for sure.

        Maybe Texas will join Mexico by a state referendum.

  3. Here’s a link that sees it from both sides:

  4. I wonder if Ontario would vote to join the US? I suppose President Palin would sign them on…

    I find the thing humorous. What the US could have done is recalled all travelers and frozen assets of all Russians to destroy Putin politically. But since we have Obama; big nothing.

    The thing I find most humorous is George and Obama are on the same page. All the saber rattling desired by right is really silly stuff. I heard Ben Sasse say Obama damaged the military readiness with cuts and that is why we can’t put troops in Ukraine. Where do these right wingers come from? Troops in Ukraine-wow…that is dumber than my foreign policy experience is that I can see Russia from Alaska.

    Wacko statements like Sasse’s are why George will be fighting until 2020 and beyond.

    Personally, Russia could have taken a higher road than they did and they deserve to be scolded. If Putin steps anywhere else; recall all US citizens; then 30 day freeze all Russian’s money. See how popular he is then…

    • Isa Almisry says

      Yeah, the fall of the money supply in Weimar Germany advanced world peace greatly.

      • Isa Almisry says

        Yeah, the fall of the money supply in Weimar Germany advanced world peace greatly.

        As to your question on Ontario, I wonder if the invitation extended in the first US Constitution to Canada to join still stands-I know the US followed up the invitation with two invasions trying to enforce it.

    • I dare say Russians could put up with a lot before turning decisively on Putin, Dan. And just what would be the advantage to the US of a destabilized, nuclear armed Russia? And why do neo-cons stubbornly refuse to learn the lessons that flow from destabilizing sovereign nations? Ukraine is just another in a long list that have turned out not so great, to say the least, not least in some cases for US soldiers and taxpayers. And what is the legality of freezing foreigners’ assets anyway – does an act of Congress make it morally right? And then why is the US allied to Turkey, who invaded…really invaded, not like in Crimea, and subsequently illegally occupied a large portion of Cyprus in 1974, an occupation which is still not recognised by the UN? Yet instead of maintaining sanctions the US co-operates with the repressive Turkish regime – which is much more repressive than Putin’s Russia btw – through NATO and bilateral joint military exercises. What about Kosovo? Or Iraq? American foreign policy makers can only use the latest phase of manifest destiny, giving it the form of a mission to spread democracy throughout the world, so many times to cloak foreign interventionism in the service of American realpolitik before others start to cry out “hypocrisy”! This is why the US government’s statements on Crimea are regarded as so much self-serving and pompous rhetoric by so many even in the West, not to mention the East, where the US has largely squandered any good will it may have had following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Neo-cons, making the world a more dangerous place for everyone!

      • George Michalopulos says

        I think the whole neocon program is to destabilize any and all regimes, that way America continues to be a safe-haven for the elite’s capital. Many of these elites btw own massive amounts of real estate in the US, thereby helping prop up our housing industry.

        If young men from mostly Red States have to die in the process that’s a small price to pay in the eyes of the bi-coastal Blue State oligarchs.

        Spot on about Turkey and your other points.

        • You must indeed be right, George – follow the money!
          Anyone who truly loves the ideals the US was founded upon must bitterly lament its present usurpation by the oligarchs. Still awaiting Dan’s response, too.

  5. Fr. Philip (Speranza) says

    If Ontario voted to join the U.S., Alberta would cheerfully bid them bon voyage!