Worldwide Discussion: The People Join In

The people of the Crimean Peninsula have spoken, in an election that the world must assume was largely untainted by coercion or ballot-box stuffing or other corruptions. The result was never in doubt in any event, as more than 60% of the residents of Crimea are Russian speakers and are deeply embedded in the Russian culture. That majority wants to be part of Russia. It never favored being separated from Russia in the first place.

So the people of the Crimean Peninsula have spoken, voting overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and become an independent republic, the government of which, all the voters knew, will immediately request membership in the Russian Federation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made an astonishing statement of agreement with them on Tuesday when, if an NBC News report  by Albina Kovalyova is correct, he said that Crimea was “stolen” from Russia when it was handed to Ukraine in the first place, half a century ago.

The NBC News report said that Putin, addressing a joint session of the Russian parliament, “described the 1954 allocation of Crimea to Ukraine by then Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev as a mistake and said that the wishes of the local people had been ignored.”

The NBC report goes on to quote Putin as saying that Russia was going through a difficult period at that time, and that “the people of Crimea were not asked about anything. It was hard to imagine then that Russia and Ukraine would be different countries. But it happened. The U.S.S.R. collapsed.”

The result of this was that “When Crimea became part of a different state, Russia felt it was stolen,” NBC quoted Putin as saying. “A million people went to bed in one country and woke up in another,” the report said he added.

The network said that Putin told the Russian parliament that Russia thought Ukraine would be a friendly neighbor, but that the situation “developed differently.”

On Tuesday Putin apparently went even further, describing Kiev, which is the capital of Ukraine, as “the mother of all Russian cities,” again according to yet another report from NBC News.

President Putin says he would think that Americans would understand and support the vote for independence by the people of Crimea, just as Americans support the whole idea of freedom of choice and independence, having declared its own independence from England many years ago.

Mr. Putin also said that he hoped that Germany and the rest of Europe would understand the desire of Russia to embrace Crimea again as a part of the Russian Federation, just as East and West Germany joined together once again a few years ago to form one nation — a move that, Putin said, Russia supported. He did not point out that this was even though Russia then “lost” East Germany as a satellite region under Russian control.

These words, reportedly from Putin as quoted by NBC News, are being placed here in order to put the entire Crimea/Ukraine situation in a new and larger context, allowing, perhaps, for a deeper understanding of why Russia is taking the position it is now taking regarding Crimea and Ukraine.

This does not make the Russian position “right” (nor does it make it “wrong”) — it simply makes it, perhaps, more understandable to people in the West.

All of which brings us to a remarkable idea placed in the Comments Section beneath the last headline story on this webpage, which also focused on the situation in Crimea, and invited readers to offer their suggestions on how to deal with the apparent impasse between Russia, Ukraine, the U.S., and Europe.

A reader named Cate Grieves wrote…

“If I was the President of the world, I would get all the Presidents together. They then sit around a large ROUND table. They would then have to stick a large white piece of paper to the front of their clothes. On this piece of paper would be their name — in LARGE black ink in capital letters. Then each person hands the person on their left, their name badge. They then put it on.

“Then, each person has to believe they are the person whose name they have. They then explain to the group, to the best of their ability, why they believe they are right. They are only allowed to speak for the name they have on.

“After they have all spoken, they move the names along again, one more person to the left.When they have all had a turn at each name badge, they can then discuss an outcome. The other rules for this event are: that no-one is allowed to interupt or criticise what anyone has said. They are all allowed to speak for as long as they want. They do not get to speak with their own name badge.”

Now there’s a fascinating idea. It would be an exercise in wearing the other shoe, and it could offer a remarkable format for creating a solution to more than a few problems around the world. (And in people’s homes!)

It would probably never happen, because “role playing” would probably be considered too “New Agey” or too much like a “psychological game” for world leaders (or couples in a marriage, for that matter) to actually engage in it. But it is an idea that could change the world.

In any event, now having heard more from Vladimir Putin on this whole subject, your own additional comments and observations are invited below. What does our contemporary spirituality invite us to say and do about all of this?

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