The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Letters

March 19, 2014

The government they want

I taught two courses, Russian and Soviet history at Bucknell for 20 years and I’m amazed that no one is talking about the real issue between Russia and Ukraine.

There has been an ongoing struggle since Ukrainian independence (1990) between Ukraine and Russia over control of the Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF), which is headquartered in Sevastopol, Crimea. Putin offered Ukraine a $20 billion dollar deal not to ally itself with Western Europe.

Ukraine has been begging to get into NATO for 20 years. If Ukraine joins NATO, NATO would have unacceptable access to the BSF if not partial control over it. Russia considers the BSF its major defense against NATO.

The Ukraine was a part of Russia since “Kievan Rus,” which represented the first government of Russia established in 882. The Russian capital was Kiev until the middle ages, when it moved to Moscow. It was not until 1922 that the Ukraine gained republic status, still in the Russian empire, not called the USSR.

In 1990, Ukraine became an independent country. That brought the problem of the BSF into clearer focus. At least two agreements have been signed splitting control of the BSF, but have only resulted in more instability between the two nations. The Ukrainian government have on several occasions threatened to either break these agreements or not extend them. (They both have termination dates.)

Today, more people in the Ukraine speak Russian than Ukrainian, though only about 30 percent of the population is Russian, mostly concentrated in the Crimea. When Bucknell established at study-abroad program with the University of Odessa in Ukraine, our students were taught only in Russian.

Putin will not expand northward beyond the Crimea because he has no defense interest in territory north of the Crimea. However, Russian forces will never leave the Ukraine and there is nothing any other country can do about it. This is a point on which Nina Khrushcheva, the granddaughter Nikita Khrushchev, and I concur. Nina, a U.S. teacher now at the prestigious New School in New York, expressed this opinion on the Rachael Maddow show.

Now the people most concerned, the legislature of the Crimea has voted unanimously to be annexed by their mother country. What more evidence do we need? Do we not want the people of a region to choose the kind of government they want?

Robert Beard,

Lewisburg

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