The Crisis in the Ukraine – some thoughts from a different point of view

The Dutch news yesterday evening headlined with the attempted kidnapping and threatening of Robert Serry, the Dutch UN special emmisary that Ban-Ki Moon assigned to Crimea as his ‘firefighter’. A group of armed men attempted to force him to accompany them to an undisclosed location. Later that evening it was confirmed that the kidnapping was unsuccessful and he was on a plane back to The Netherlands – and safety. This bizarre turn of events demonstrates just how seriously out of control the situation in the Ukraine has become.

In order to gain a, in as far as that is possible, objective overview of the situation and all its volatile and numerous facets I have tried to listen to and read about this subject. Not only through the eyes of the traditional Western media, but through other media outlets as well. Often the most objective and candid reports are made by amateurs – the men and women of the Ukraine who are posting footage from the streets. Certain things are simply not touched upon by the traditional media available to us in Holland. There are things that add nuance to this complicated story, and underpin my absolute belief that The Netherlands should stay well away from dabbling in this particular conflict. Various videos have been posted on, amongst others, LiveLeaks, that paint an altogether different picture of the Ukrainian protest leaders, than we have been fed in the West. They show these ‘protest leaders’ up to be gun toting thuggish far-right extremists who will not hesitate to turn to extreme violence to get what they want. Surely, this cannot be something the West will support? Snipers shooting down civilians at Maidan is just one example of the atrocities committed by the new coalition.

This is not as simple as Vladimir Putin flexing his muscles and being compared to a certain Austrian megalomaniac laying claim to his Sudetenland. The Ukraine is a divided country, not only by the great river Dnieper, but also into Ukrainian speaking and Russian speaking people. The ethnic Russians comprise only about 17% of the population but a far greater amount of people in eastern Ukraine are native Russian speakers, dividing the country clean in half along this linguistic and cultural border. Western and Eastern Ukraine have a different language, history, cultural identity and customs and it’s no news that they don’t always agree.

So what has changed?

It’s been almost 25 years since the 9th of November 1989, the day that the Berlin Wall came down, my mother’s birthday and the day my grandfather died. I remember this day so clearly for all of those reasons. To me as a young child it is a day that is etched in my memory. Something that I have in common with the former citizens of the USSR because that was the day that Russia’s humiliation began in earnest. In their eyes Gorbatsjov is no peacemaker, but a traitor who sold their soul to the devil. Yeltsin was a drunken clown. They have felt like an emperor fallen from grace, desperately trying to protect his dignity. Whatever they might dislike about Vladimir Putin – he has given them back some of their self-respect. He has made Russia matter again.

This is about pride. The most dangerous of the seven sins. The solution seems far away and the revolution will not be televised!

In all seriousness though, is it really so illogical that Putin should want to protect the Russians and Russian interests in the Ukraine? Is it really so disproportionate to what is happening? Who are we to guffaw loudly at Russia for invading a sovereign country when the West (yes ‘Merica I’m lookin’ at you!) has done worse in the last ten years, or so (Irak, Afghanistan)?

I don’t ask you to pick a side, I sure as hell am not, I ask merely that you realise that you need to ask questions. Don’t blindly assume a Cold War-esque US versus THEM position. Here’s hoping that The Netherlands stops trying to be ‘het braaftse jongetje van de klas’ (the teacher’s pet) and realizes it needs to keep out of this one.

For those of you that understand Dutch, I urge you to take 11 minutes and ten seconds of your time to watch this video of Maarten van Rossum’s take on the situation. Normally I find him a little dry, but he hits the nail on the head here.

However, all this being said we wouldn’t be DutchReview if we didn’t try to end this article on a humorous note. If this really is WWIII, we may as well have a good old chuckle whilst we still can! Here are some of my favourite 9gag memes on the subject:

Crimea River MYkraine sochiukrainefineprint Ukraine Nemo







Anna Lambregts
Contemporary politics, modern history, human rights, fashion, art and music are some of the subjects that can really get Anna Lambregts ranting. Being half Dutch and half Scottish and having grown up in the international community she hopes to inspire readers to broaden their horizons and raise awareness about issues she is passionate about.


  1. Dear Anna,
    You really have no idea what you are talking about. Russia is invading a souvereign country. Full stop. There are many Russians living in the former USSR countries. Does it mean Putin has any right to invade them all in the name of protecting the ethnic Russians? Open your eyes. None of these countries ever chose out of free will to be annexed to the great Soviet Union. They were forced, occupied and agressed. The sad truth is that Russia will never give up on trying to prove their superiority over and over again.

    • All of my facts are checked and backed up by sources so what I think you’re trying to say is that we have a difference of opinion about the interpretation of these facts ;). The truth is that the legitimate president Yanucovich (who was democractically elected in elections deemed fair by the EU) asked the Russian Federation for protection amidst the growing anti-Russian sentiments in the Ukraine. My conclusion is that no, I do not find it beyond reason that Putin has intervened.

      • In the meantime the legitimate president Yanucovich took billions of euros in his pocket and fled the country, while his friend Putin as a Superman is coming to save the country. Indeed, no reason for doubt here.

    • Crimea is a special case, quite the inverse to what you’ve just said.

      Crimea was attached to Russia for centuries, before being shifted to Ukraine by Khrushchev* – without consent, consultation or even prior warning of any kind. There have been massive campaigns by its residents to rejoin Russia ever since – including two referendums (not including the 2014 plebiscite) in which the public overwhelmingly voted to become part of Russia again. Further to this, you’ll struggle to find a single opinion poll (of the many conducted in the past 20 years) which suggests anything other than a majority of the country wanted the region to be Russian territory again.

      *It was attached to the Ukraine because at that point the US was trying to have Ukraine’s UN seat revoked, on the basis it was essentially another seat for Russia, and had no army of its own. With the absorption of Crimea, it gained its own military base, and the illusion of autonomy. Says something about the independence of Ukraine, doesn’t it?

  2. Go Anna, You beat me to it , I was hoping to write something about ‘Merica’s big mouth with it’s shaky trackrecord. hahaha. Maybe I’ll post something today. Thanks for bringing underrepresented voices to the forefront!

  3. I wouldn’t dispute the facts of the case you presented; however, some of your conclusions are bent on faulty comparisons.

    I don’t doubt that many Russians may feel, deeply betrayed, but I also don’t believe it really is Putin’s primary motive for intervening. Ukraine is a vital piece of land and a traditional nation within their sphere of influence. This is financial and political. It’s not cultural rehabilitation for a humiliated empire. The Soviet Union wrought much of the Russophobia that breathes today. While Western Europe basked in the glory of victory after World War II (loans from the US among other places), Eastern Europe was plunged into Stalin’s House of Wackiness. While the west enjoyed a return to normalcy, the east wasn’t given much reprieve from the Nazis. Sorry to say it, but it is insane that eastern Europe was just carved up (along with the fate of millions) just to appease a tyrant.

    As for using the US behavior to rationalize the Russian behavior, you’re ignoring the context that separates them both politically and culturally. You’re oversimplifying two events by focusing exclusively on the argument that “X” did it, so why can’t “Y?”

    Well, X and why are different. Afghanistan was a breeding ground for violent extremism. That ideology had been exported (not just the US on 9/11) all around the world. It also provided shelter for human rights violations that would make even the devil blush. The US invaded primarily as a response to 9/11, but that country invited conflict. Ukraine, on the other hand, isn’t even a remotely close situation. They’re not exporting violent extremism and Yanukovich is wanted by several international courts for monetary crimes. Putin didn’t intervene as a means to protect his people, he intervened because he hoped to achieve a more favorable situation for his regime.

    As for Iraq, I won’t dispute. It’s a sad stain on the American nation that we let our president bring us in there. But again, let’s not confuse one mad dictator (not freely elected by the way) who was guilty of mass murder, genocide, using chemical weapons on his own people, and a generally being a bad dude with a small group of far right extremists. Should Saddam Hussein have been removed? Hmm… it’s a moral choice. Interventionist morality vs. mind your own affairs. History has taught us that both paths are equally fraught with perilous outcomes (both WWs, Rwanda, Sudan, etc.). But Ukraine didn’t have this situation either. It’s easy to see the bad in the far right groups (for sure), but the world wasn’t crying out against their atrocities. Hussein was a disgusting tyrant; Ukraine’s far right, however, not quite the same.

    What disturbs me about Ukraine – and now Syria – is that Europe just looks disinterested in helping other nations. Just as I mentioned before, history has taught us that inaction can sometimes yield the same result as action. Where would Europe be now if the world didn’t loan money and resources to rebuild those countries. What if their fate was decided for them but not by them? Both Syria and Ukraine have become destabilized because the rebellions that led to the collapse of the previous regime were left to rot without genuine help and guidance. This goes beyond fanciful UN condemnations and statements; it’s about collectively understanding that instability on the fringes of your nation (no matter who they are) is bad business.

    Oddly, you blame the far right for this. Now, a civilian plane is lost, an entire generation of Ukrainian children are scarred for life, and the conclusion is that Putin’s actions are understandable in the right context? Interesting to say the least.

    Factually, you raise great points. Russia is a beautiful nation and their history speaks to it. They deserve to be heard and included in world issues. Ukraine, however, is not a heroic or justifiable action. It’s a disgusting display of power. If you don’t think so, take a visit to Moldova or Georgia. Perhaps if your country had been constantly conquered and traded like a commodity you’d feel different.


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