With the deployment of Russian forces into Crimea and eastern Ukraine, the US-NATO propaganda machine has kicked into high gear. Putin has been portrayed as a tyrannical aggressor, while the Obama administration and its European allies have attempted to stake out the moral high ground, declaring that peace, respect for sovereignty and international law should be the guiding principles. Naturally, such rhetoric warrants closer analysis.
The deployment of a small contingent of Russian forces into the autonomous region of Crimea is an important development in the continuing conflict in Ukraine. Because of the majority Russian population of Crimea, the seizure of power by vehemently anti-Russian Nazis and their Western-friendly neoliberal collaborators has sent a chill throughout Crimea and eastern Ukraine more broadly, leading to massive protests in a number of major cities in the region, and calls for support and protection from Moscow. This should come as no surprise considering the political, economic, cultural, and military ties between Crimea and the Russian Federation.
Russia maintains a naval base and other support facilities in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, home to the Russian Navy’s Black Sea fleet. Additionally, the region’s industry is heavily dependent both on Russian energy and the Russian market for its economic survival. Moreover, Crimea was in fact part of Russia proper until it was ceded to Ukraine by the Soviet Union in 1954 under then Premier Khruschev. However, despite becoming nominally part of Ukraine, Crimea (and most of the East and South of Ukraine) maintained close ties with “Mother Russia,” continuing to identify with Russia linguistically and politically, and governing itself with autonomous status within greater Ukraine.
In addition, it should be noted that the majority of Crimea and eastern Ukraine identify with Russia and the Moscow patriarchate of the Eastern Orthodox Church, unlike the west of Ukraine which, like its Polish neighbor, is traditionally aligned with the Western Church. This point should not be understated considering the fact that it is precisely these cultural ties that bind Ukrainian Crimea to Russia, and create the sense of community and shared experience that lead to the appeals for Russian protection against the putsch government in Kiev and its Nazi paramilitaries.