Friday, March 7, 2014

Ukraine Crisis: Is Russia Right to Defend Russian Speakers in Crimea?

The Russian military occupation of Crimea has sparked an
international crisis. US president Obama reportedly spent
90 minutes speaking with Putin.
Following the Russian military "manoeuvres" in Ukraine, many questions were asked of Russia's president, Vladamir Putin. Putin has given several answers but the one that struck us as perhaps the oddest justification for the Russian military's presence in Ukraine was that Russia had an obligation to defend Russian speakers.

Can a country, a political entity, stake claim to a language? Whilst we are trying to be diplomatic and fair, it certainly doesn't appear to be something that a country can claim to defend. We don't feel that every Russian speaker is under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation.

Though somewhat of a weak argument, the recent actions of the Russian government, who permitted Putin to occupy Crimea, could have been said to have been in the best interests of the Crimean people. The Russian Federation could be acting in the interest of the Russian ethnic majority, but not in the interest of the speakers of language. A similar reason was given when Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, which also was diplomatically avoided by the West.

The majority of people in Ukraine are ethnic Russians and
speakers of the Russian language.
If defending speakers of the Russian language is within the remit of the Russian Federation, then the task of defending speakers of the English language would fall to the US. France would have every right to re-occupy large areas of northern Africa and Qu├ębec and Mexico would have a clear claim to political dominance over Spanish speakers, at least when it comes to a "might makes right" mentality.

Though none of the aforementioned countries (or any country in the world) has a spotless record when it comes to foreign policy and military action, we can't remember any time in recent history when they've claimed to defend their mother tongues.

How do you feel about the recent events in Ukraine? Does Russia have the right to defend Russian speakers and ethnic Russians? Tell us in the comments below.