Top 5 Myths About U.S. Meddling in Ukraine
Published: May 17, 2014 (Issue # 1810)
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov left many people scratching their heads when, during a Moscow news conference last month, he insisted that Russia is not meddling in Ukraine in any way. Meanwhile, Russian leaders and the state-controlled media have repeatedly criticized the U.S. for meddling in Ukraine and destabilizing the country.
Here are the top five Russian myths about U.S. meddling in Ukraine and why they hold no water:
1. The U.S. has no legitimate national interests in Ukraine.
First, the U.S. was a co-signer, along with Russia and Britain, of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial integrity in exchange for its giving up nuclear weapons. This alone provides Washington a legal, if not moral, imperative to support Kiev after its territorial integrity was violated during the Russian invasion of Crimea.
Russian troops had the legal right to be located at the Sevastopol naval base it rented from Ukraine, but they had no right to leave the base, tear off their insignias and assist the pro-Russian “local self-defense groups” across the entire Crimean peninsula when they seized government and military installations and installed a Kremlin-loyal prime minister.
Any referendum held in what was essentially a territory occupied by foreign troops is considered illegal and illegitimate by all international norms. This would be like U.S. troops leaving their base in Guantanamo Bay, seizing an adjacent Cuban province of 2 million people, taking over Cuban government buildings, installing a pro-U.S. leader there, and holding a referendum allowing the U.S. to annex the Cuban province. Any attempt to justify this annexation as “returning Cuban territory to the U.S. that was rightfully gained in the Spanish-American war in 1898” would be dismissed as an absurd throwback to 19th-century colonialism.
Second, Ukraine is the sixth-largest European country by population and borders four NATO allies. The U.S. has a legitimate security obligation to help its NATO allies maintain stability in its own backyard. Any military conflict in Ukraine would have direct security implications for these four neighboring countries — and other NATO allies as well. The Baltic states, which were forcibly annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, and Poland, which has a long history of being a vassal of Moscow, have a particularly compelling interest in obtaining U.S. security guarantees if Russia further violates the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Romania, another NATO ally, will also look for U.S. support if the Ukrainian conflict spreads to the self-proclaimed Transdnestr republic.
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