Crimea Is Definitely Ours, But Whether Trump Is Ours Is the Question

Last night, when Moscow had already fallen asleep, reports came from Washington, D.C., which was still awake, quoting White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying that President Donald Trump expects Crimea to be “returned” to Ukraine.

For some, this probably comes as a shock, as something hurtful and incomprehensible. Mind you, literally a week and a half ago, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that Crimea must be returned to Ukraine. But what about Trump’s previous statements that an attempt to take Crimea away from Russia might lead to World War III; that he’s ready to look into recognizing Crimea as Russia’s?

Here, of course, the experts fall into two camps. Some say, “We warned you that under Trump nothing would change, warned you not to confuse populist campaign rhetoric with the real deeds that follow taking office.” Others, who always vehemently argued that “Trump is ours,” have said that, as in the case with Haley, these are old cheat sheets from Obama’s time; that Trump and his team can’t take any radical steps yet without sufficient support for them and have to play by the existing rules for the time being; that it’s nothing more than adherence to rhetoric, a double bind, and so on.

The question arises: in that case, when will Trump and his team be strong enough to concede the obvious out loud, that Crimea is Russia? For a start, they probably need to accept it for themselves, simply to come to grips with it.

We could argue until we’re blue in the face about just how prudent and legal it was to annex Crimea, but there’s no going back. At issue then was the fact that we could end up with a civil war on the peninsula and lose not only the base but the Black Sea fleet itself since there was simply nowhere for it to go. Unpleasant, but not fatally so. Today, giving back Crimea would be fatal. It would be far worse than withdrawing recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, giving back the Kuril Islands, and divorcing the North Caucasus all at the same time.

Again. There’s no going back, just like the former world order is now no more. And Trump should understand this, especially since he himself has thrown down the gauntlet to the world and wants to change it.

No, Donald, you can’t change the world only for yourself and leave the previous world for the rest of us, using outdated rhetoric. Rather, you can use the rhetoric. Who is stopping you? The main thing is not what is said, but what is done.

So far, Trump, at least in words, has shown that he’s more interested in normalizing relations than we are. We’re ready for it and aren’t setting any conditions. Except for one thing: accept reality. Realize that “returning” Crimea and ending the “occupation” of Ukraine – that’s from another universe. It’s a universe in which the pro-Russian dictator Aybolit is terrorizing the civilians of Limpopo.*

The sooner Washington understands this, the better for everyone. Do you want to end the war in Ukraine? Do you want to do away with the Islamic State? Do you need our help? No problem. Let’s talk – only without detaching from reality. Do you need time to come to grips with reality? Fine, we’re not in any hurry.

*Editor’s note: The author is apparently referring to an incident last month in which Russian pranksters called a U.S. congresswoman persuading her to condemn Russia for its alleged interference in the affairs of the fictitious country of Limpopo by a fictitious “dictator,” Aybolit, who is actually a character in a Russian children’s book.

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About Jeffrey Fredrich 199 Articles
Jeffrey studied Russian language at Northwestern University and at the Russian State University for the Humanities. He spent one year in Moscow doing independent research as a Fulbright fellow from 2007 to 2008.

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