In what appears to be an increasingly muddled and unclear situation following the recent events in Ukraine, the autonomous republic of Crimea held a vote yesterday in which 95 percent of the ballots were cast in favor of leaving Ukraine’s jurisdiction and joining Russia.
Crimea was passed to Ukraine in 1954 by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev and was granted autonomy in 1991 during the fall of the Soviet Union. So while the area had technically been a Ukrainian possession, strong historical and cultural ties persist in the eyes of Crimean citizens. In fact, nearly 60 percent of people living in Crimea identify themselves as Russian, according to Politifact.com.
But there seems to be more to the story. The weekend’s vote is considered by many western observers to be illegitimate – an NBC News story showed the strong Russian military presence in and around the voting halls and interviewed an anti-Russian Crimean activist who said that mysterious posters began showing up around his apartment building which brandished his picture and warned that a “traitor” was in their midst.
It seems fairly clear that Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation are taking advantage of an unstable situation in Ukraine, where a populist uprising took pro-Russian leadership out of power in favor of more Europe-oriented leaders. At the same time, no one is really disputing the fact that many, if not most Crimeans actually desire to be governed under the Russian flag.
The White House has taken a very clear stand against Russian moves in Crimea. Spokesman Jay Carney said Sunday that “the international community will not recognize the results of a poll administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention that violates international law.”
Now, the U.S. government is working European Union leaders to coordinate sanctions against Russia, which will likely be economic in nature. The possibility that Russia will retaliate is very real in what has been called the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War.
It is our view that Russia cannot be allowed to bully its way around in order to achieve a more favorable international political order. While the people of Crimea may have voted to join Russia, democracy put forth under the barrel of a gun is not democracy.
The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.