Saturday, February 24, 2007

Here's the comment I've written as a guest blogger for PostGlobal's sidebar - a sort of a response to this week's questions by David Ignatius: "Russia's back with a vengeance. Is Putin justified in criticizing NATO expansion? Should Russia's neighbors worry?"

As a rather peaceful citizen of one of Russia's neighbors, I certainly hope that Putin's criticism of NATO expansion is nothing but tough talk. After all, business is going really great for Russia now (or so everyone says) - so why would Putin wish to reverse the trend?

For its neighbors, Russia is not back: it’s always been there.

In Ukraine, we've lived through the noise of the 2003 Tuzla crisis, Putin's repeated visits and misguided greetings of the 2004 election, the gas war of 2005. The tiny Crimea is bursting with geopolitical bitterness, and this diverts attention from vital tourism development efforts and forces way too many people to spend their vacation money in Turkey and Egypt. The Russian-vs-Ukrainian-language non-issue keeps metamorphosing into The Issue every time there is an election. Millions of Ukrainians work in Russia, legally and illegally - a "hands-of-gold drain" rather than brain drain, perhaps.

However, as the past two years have shown, Ukraine's priority should be to worry about its own politicians: they can do much more harm to the country than Russia seems capable of right now.

P.S. Oh, I've just noticed that they've edited out this paragraph:

Russia's famed hospitality has more or less turned into a myth, though, and even some of its own citizens are often forced to feel pretty alien. Perhaps shifting the focus from tough talk directed at outsiders to actually fighting poverty would help return the Russian people into their friendlier selves.

This is the reason I love blogging: I'm my own editor here. :)


  1. Could the author or anyoneplease explain what this means? "The tiny Crimea is bursting with geopolitical bitterness..." I'm an American married into a Ukrainian (Russian speaking) family and they took me to Yalta for a month last summer. I didn't pick up on any simmering issues while there, but I'm interested to know what's up about this. Thanks very much.

  2. Here's a brief summary from Andrey Slivka's travel piece in the NYTimes Magazine (Aug. 20, 2006):

    "Then too, Crimea is mostly a poor, troubled place even by Ukrainian standards. Beyond its south coast, and even along it, it’s an arena in which the ethnic Russians who make up the peninsula’s vast majority and the indigenous Muslim Tatars now returning after being deported en masse by Stalin, peer at each other warily. This spring has seen Tatar protests against Russian mistreatment, pro-Russian protests against NATO, and mutterings in the Russian Duma that Moscow might even reincorporate the peninsula, essentially taking it from Ukraine. (Crimea became Ukrainian in 1954, when Nikita S. Khrushchev, as a “gift,” transferred administrative control of it to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Russian, not its close cousin Ukrainian, remains Crimea’s main language.)"

    The most recent example is Moscow mayor's comments and the Ukrainian reaction to them.

  3. Thanks for the helpful reply. I enjoy this blog very much.