Moskovskyi Komsomolets and other Russian media featured stories based on an American magazine article claiming that the US is telling Kyiv to give up on returning Crimea to Ukrainian control. Crimea is not Ukraine and Kyiv has no chance of returning the peninsula, declared Moskovskyi Komsomolets, citing Doug Bandow’s article Settle Crimea with a referendum in the National Interest bi-monthly magazine.

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Bandow’s article was spun by Russian media as representing the US position. Crimea will not be Ukraine declared RIA Novosti, Crimea has joined Russia forever, hailed NTV, Kyiv has no chance, National Interest’s experts explain why Crimea will never become Ukrainian, blared a headline from the Russian Defense Ministry television channel Zvezda. News Front, Dni.ru, Vzglyad, Versia, Gazeta.ru all faithfully followed suit.

Website nationalinterest.org

Bandow’s main claims include:

  • Putin is no friend of liberty or America, but his country poses little threat to either the United States or Europe. Moscow’s actions against Ukraine forestalled the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s eastward advance rather than presaged Russian aggression westward.
  • Although Moscow’s action was lawless, Crimea long was part of Russia.
  • For Russia, the annexation was popular politically and remains important militarily. The Washington Post’s Christian Caryl declared that “the West must continue to insist” that Crimea is Ukrainian “until Russia relents.” However, that won’t happen. The territory will not be returned, whether by Putin or a successor, absent Russia’s defeat in war. Even Putin’s critics recognize that the transfer is permanent.
  • Today Kiev has no chance of reclaiming Crimea. Perhaps Ukrainian politicians benefit from demanding the unattainable. However, if they really desire the territory’s return, they need Moscow’s cooperation.

Finally Bandow proposes an internationally supervised referendum to settle the issue of Crimea. He makes a sweeping generalization and refers to all Crimeans as Russians and declares they must be consulted in deciding their fate.

Doug Bandow is currently a senior Fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, which is part owned by the ultra-conservative Koch brothers. Bandow was forced to resign from this Institute in 2005 after it became known that he accepted payments in exchange for favorable articles for over ten years. In his writings Bandow supports great power politics, where large powerful countries decide the fates of smaller, less influential ones. He is no friend of Ukraine and has referred to it as a fake country that should be left under Russia’s influence.

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Needless to say the views of a fellow of from a libertarian institute do not represent the view of the United States and its government. The official US position on Crimea remains unchanged. The Crimea Declaration states that “the United States reaffirms as policy its refusal to recognize the Kremlin’s claims of sovereignty over territory seized by force in contravention of international law. In concert with allies, partners, and the international community, the United States rejects Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea and pledges to maintain this policy until Ukraine’s territorial integrity is restored.”

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The National Interest is associated with the realist school of Foreign Policy. In 2015, the magazine published an article by Maria Butina calling for better relations between the Russian Federation and a future US Republican administration. Butina was arrested by the FBI in 2018 and charged with conspiring to act as an unregistered Russian agent.