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8 Fundamental Questions on Ukraine

Published: March 21, 2014 (Issue # 1802)


Events in and concerning Crimea have raised to fever pitch the cacophony in the West over Ukraine. For one observer, there are some fundamental questions that seem to apply from the very beginning of the crisis and which seem important in understanding the broader context.

1. Why did the U.S. and the West cry "unconstitutional foul" on the vote in the Crimean parliament to reunite with Russia, while endorsing and abetting the overthrow of an elected president in Kiev. This was clearly an unconstitutional act since President Viktor Yanukovych, although venal, incompetent and corrupt, was just that — a democratically elected president?

2. What is the West's moral high ground in preaching democracy, rule of law and good governance to Russia and to the rest of the world while supporting a coup? Are these ethical imperatives placed on hold in the case of a regime that the West disapproves of?

3. Why do similar double standards prevail in our approach to self-­determination? Kosovo was historically linked to Serbia, yet we invoked the secessionist right of the Albanian majority. Crimea is historically Russian — a 200-year history dating back to Catherine the Great, which was artificially rewritten in 1954 in the form of an internal transfer to Ukraine within the then-Soviet Union. Do we conclude that the rules of the self-determination game change when the irredentist impulses involve those who would unite with Russia — South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Crimea?

4. How can we possibly welcome the interim government in Kiev as a unifying force when its leaders have exploited the east-west divide in the country by sending loyal governors from the western regions of the country to Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk, thus inflaming the pro-Russia majority? Or by appointing just two eastern figures in the 19 new ministries? Or by including in the government six representatives of ultra-right forces, including the Svoboda movement, denounced in a 2012 European parliament resolution as "xenophobic, racist and anti-Semitic"?

5. Why does the West not understand that threats do not work with Putin's Russia? Reports from Moscow suggest that there is a widespread conviction — even among those opposed to Putin — that the U.S. and the European Union have gone too far in meddling in the Ukraine crisis. It is certainly true to say that among Russians, Putin has been strengthened by the standoff with the West. This is reinforced by a sense of lese-majeste on the part of the U.S.-led West toward Russia in the post-Soviet era. As one scholar put it, the two decades after the end of the Cold War have offered Russia a deal "closer to Versailles than Bretton Woods" — or certainly the Marshall Plan.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Oct. 22


English teachers can expect to receive a few useful pointers today from Evgeny Kalashnikov, the British Council regional teacher, during the EFL Seminar this afternoon hosted by the British Book Center. The topic of today’s seminar is “Grammar Practice.”


Young Petersburgers will get the chance to jumpstart their careers at “Professional Growth,” a job fair and forum featuring more than 40 major Russian and international companies vying for potential candidates for future positions. The forum not only is a chance to network but also to learn more about the modern business world and to understand what it takes to get the job you want.



Thursday, Oct. 23


AmCham’s Public Relations Committee meeting is scheduled to meet this morning at 9 a.m. in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center.


Sportsmen get their chance to stock up on all kinds of gear at the Hunting and Fishing 2014 exhibition starting today at Lenexpo. Everything from rods and reels to boats, motorcycles and equipment for underwater hunting will be on sale so that any avid outdoorsman can always be prepared.



Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBA’s ongoing “Breakfast with the Director” series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at “Sounds of the Universe,” a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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