NATO expansion fuels Russian nationalism
IN January 1954 the seemingly whimsical Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who was born on Russia's border with Ukraine and married to a Ukrainian, transferred Russia's Crimean region located along the Russian-Ukrainian border to the then Ukrainian Soviet Republic. This was ostensibly to mark the occasion of 300th anniversary of its unification with Russia. Having been Party Secretary in Ukraine for a long time, Khrushchev felt that the Crimean region would benefit economically from the hydro-electric potential of the Dnieper river by becoming part of the Ukrainian Socialist Republic. Khrushchev obviously did not foresee the collapse of the "indestructible" Soviet Union, which had only two major Southern ports — Sevastopol and Odessa — for continuous access to the sea. When the Soviet Union did fall apart, the Supreme Council of the Russian Republic decided in 1992 that the Crimean region would be renamed as the autonomous Republic of Crimea. Both Sevastopol and Odessa became part of Ukraine.
People attend a pro-Ukrainian rally in Simferopol on March 11, 2014. The poster reads: "Crimea is Ukraine". Reuters
Not content with the breakup of the Soviet Union, the US and its NATO allies decided that Russian power had to be contained. The expectation was that Russia's far-flung Muslim-dominated Caucasian Republics would wear out the Russians with armed struggle, and that its western, southern and Baltic neighbours would be gradually weaned and integrated with the European Union and NATO. The ultimate aim was clearly to "contain" a resource-rich and militarily capable Russia. This plan was seemingly proceeding successfully during the rule of the occasionally sober Boris Yeltsin, who oddly chose to treat a Chechen leader like a Head of State. The Muslim separatist armed rebellion was liberally funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, its leaders like Shamil Basayev and Zelmikhan Yandarbiyev were regarded "Kosher" in western capitals and operated periodically from bases as far away as Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.