- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 17, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

I wish to compliment Joshua Kucera on his effort to give an objective picture of the situation in Crimea in the context of Ukrainian-Russian relations (“Status of Crimea hangs over Russia, Ukraine,” World, Feb. 9). However, a few points have to be clarified.

The fact that Crimea is part of Ukraine is no bigger a “historical quirk” than that California is part of the United States or Sakhalin is part of Russia. It also should be remembered that long before the establishment of the Russian naval base in Sevastopol, the peninsula was densely populated by various ethnic groups. In the 1940s, Josef Stalin deported hundreds of thousands of the Crimean Tatars and also Greeks, Germans and Bulgarians from Crimea to Central Asia. Their place was subsequently taken by Russian settlers.

Further, I disagree with the statement that “the Ukrainian government has done its part to raise tensions, as well, by imposing new language laws.” With 90 percent of the Ukrainian book market and about 60 percent of the print media still in Russian, and with just seven Ukrainian schools functioning on the Crimean peninsula, it is bizarre to hear claims that the Ukrainian government is suppressing the Russian language. The “new language laws” just restore the Ukrainians’ right to speak their mother tongue after centuries of Russification.

Mr. Kucera is right that Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is more a political and economic tool than a significant military force. Nevertheless, it poses a grave problem for Ukraine’s security because of its potential for active involvement in military conflicts contrary to Ukraine’s national interest.

Proponents of the prolonged stay of the fleet in Sevastopol claim that it helps the city’s budget. However, experts have calculated that if all the territories presently occupied by the fleet were open to economic development, city revenues would increase manyfold.

We expect that the Russian Federation will honor its international legal obligations and vacate its base in Sevastopol by 2017. Consequently, the city will enter a new era of revived economic activity, fulfilling its potential as a dynamic civilian port and tourist destination. An important factor of political and military instability finally will be removed from Crimea.

OLEH SHAMSHUR

Ambassador of Ukraine

Washington

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