The elections are over but debates about the issues raised and promises made by Candidate Trump are in full swing without any signs of subsiding.

The following is an analysis of his intention to work towards establishing a good relationship with Russia.

To avoid misunderstanding, I should start by saying that I don’t like Russia, nor do I like Ukraine. I was born in Ukraine, but during many years of my life in the Soviet Union, I had more than enough “pleasant” interactions with Russian and Ukrainian reality and people, along with the nationalism and anti-Semitism of a good portion of the population.

One of many derogatory epithets directed towards Jewish and other non-Slavic people is, “you’re no Russian,” a statement meant to diminish its target’s sense of worth as a human being.

Of course, as in any other nation, there are good and bad people people in Russia.

For the last 38 years of my life, I have had the honor of being a proud American. From this vantage point, and keeping in mind the Russian nationalistic mentality, let us take a look at our approach to the so-called Post-Soviet Russia.

As soon as the Soviet Union disintegrated, one could repeatedly hear our politicians and media personalities saying: “Now the United States is the only super power.”

This was like a red cloth for the bull for the nationalistic feelings of the Russians, including those of personalities like Mr. Putin, and contributed to Russia’s desire and actions to prove otherwise.

Many view today’s Russia as being a continuation of the Soviet Union. Often the words are used interchangeably – Russia is misspoken as the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union is misspoken as Russia.

Russian democracy is far from the level of our American democracy, and Putin is somewhere between a democratically elected President and a dictator. Nevertheless, Russia is not a continuation of the Soviet Union, and it is counterproductive to treat her this way.

It makes good sense to look at two of the latest issues of contention with Russia caused by Russian annexation of Crimea and by Russian actions in Ukraine regarding the so-called “People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.”

The Crimean Peninsula

Since when did Crimea belong to Ukraine?

Throughout its history, Crimea belonged to the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Mongols, Ottoman Turks and – since the year 1783, after the Russian military victory over the Turks – to Russia.

In 1954, Khrushchev decided to give Crimea as a “present” to Ukraine. Of course, it was automatically approved by the “House of Marionettes,” otherwise known as the Soviet Parliament or the so-called Supreme Soviet.

(For those who do not remember who Khrushchev was, or who are too young to know: Khrushchev was a “big intellectual” who thought that the best way to express his opinion at a UN session was slamming the counter in front of his seat using his shoe. Nevertheless, at the time, he was The First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union – i.e., dictator of the Soviet Union.)

Perhaps one of the reasons he gave Crimea to Ukraine was the fact that, for two periods of time, before and after World War Two, Stalin made him a ruler of Ukraine, and Khrushchev wanted to somehow show that he still remembered his Ukrainian connections. By that time, it only had symbolic meaning because Ukraine itself, along with the rest of the so-called Soviet Republics, was part of the Russian empire, which was called the Soviet Union.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea followed a Crimean referendum. There are a couple reasons to think that the results of the referendum were not falsified: First, the population of Crimea is roughly 65% ethnically Russian. Second, the Crimean people expected that they would be better off economically if Crimea was part of Russia. If the majority of the Crimean population was satisfied with their well-being under Ukraine, the result of the referendum could have been different.

The So-Called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics

There is almost no doubt about Russia’s support of the separatist rebels. After all, where did the rebels get their weapons?

One thing is clear: With all of Russia’s intrigues, the rebellion was only possible because of the population’s dissatisfaction with their lives under the Ukrainian government.

Despite its involvement, at least for now, Russia maintains a policy of not fully recognizing the above entities (but still recognizing the passports of its citizens for “humanitarian reasons”) until there is a political settlement with Ukraine.

Conclusion

The United States and our allies have a problem with many aspects of Russian policy. But the possibility of influencing Russian policy lies, not through confrontation, but through establishing as friendly of a relationship as possible.

When candidate Trump was asked how, in light of Russia’s behavior, he can talk about improving relationships with Russia, his answer was: “We do the same.” Perhaps he said this while thinking of our interventions in Grenada and Panama, our actions in Nicaragua, etc.

Every country’s politics are complicated issues that are influenced by many factors. But another thing is also clear: Good relationships and cooperation must be the goal of any responsible government.

Increasing American and Russian nuclear arsenals as an alternative to making efforts to improve the relationship not only will set a bad example for other countries but is a recipe for eventual mutual destruction and, actually, to a large extent, destruction of the whole world.

Let us hope that our new administration, with a good negotiator in charge, will be able to come up with wise policies leading to good international relationships in general, including with Russia in particular.

 


Bookmark and Share