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Meyer writes: "Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was ready to put his country's nuclear forces on alert when he annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula last year in case of intervention by the U.S. and its allies."

Vladimir Putin. (photo: Bloomberg)
Vladimir Putin. (photo: Bloomberg)


Russia Was Ready for Nuclear Standoff Over Crimea

By Henry Meyer, Bloomberg

16 March 15

 

ussian President Vladimir Putin said he was ready to put his country’s nuclear forces on alert when he annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula last year in case of intervention by the U.S. and its allies.

“We were ready to do that,” Putin said when asked in a documentary film about Russia’s takeover of Crimea aired Sunday on state television if the Kremlin had been prepared to place its nuclear forces on alert. The Russian leader said he warned the U.S. and Europe not to get involved, accusing them of engineering the ouster of Russian-backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. “That’s why I think no one wanted to start a world conflict.”

In the film, called “Crimea: the Road to the Motherland,” broadcast by Rossiya-1, Putin said he sent military intelligence and elite navy marines to spearhead the disarmament of 20,000 Ukrainian troops in the territory. No date was given for the Putin interview. The film was made over eight months.

Russia’s seizure of Crimea in March last year provoked the worst geopolitical confrontation with the U.S. and Europe since the Cold War. Tensions have escalated during a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine that’s killed more than 6,000 people over the past year. Despite a European-brokered cease-fire, the U.S. is considering arming Ukrainian forces.

Putin, 62, whose country has been hit by U.S. and European Union sanctions that have helped to drive the Russian economy toward recession, branded President Barack Obama’s administration as “puppet-masters.” He said the U.S. directed the months of mass protests that overthrew Yanukovych in February last year.

Putin’s Whereabouts

The release of the documentary comes as the Russian president’s longest absence from public view in more than two years leads to speculation over this health. Putin, who has not made a public appearance since talks with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on March 5, canceled several public meetings at home last week and delayed a planned summit in Kazakhstan.

An Austrian doctor traveled to Moscow to treat Putin for a back complaint, the Kurier newspaper reported Sunday without saying where it obtained the information. Officials including Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev have repeatedly denied that he was ill or undergoing treatment for back pain.

The Kremlin on Friday announced a series of engagements for Putin this week, including a meeting with his Kyrgyz counterpart Almazbek Atambayev in St. Petersburg today and South Ossetian President Leonid Tibilov in Moscow on Wednesday.

Security Chiefs

In the interview aired as part of the documentary, the Russian president said he decided to seize Crimea after a crisis all-night meeting with security chiefs from Feb. 22-23 to save the majority-ethnic Russian territory from the “nationalists” in Kiev who would have killed Yanukovych if Russia hadn’t given him refuge. He said the annexation of Crimea wasn’t planned before the overthrow of Yanukovych.

Putin said he gave an order to his presidential administration to prepare a secret poll in Crimea on possible annexation by Russia, which showed 75 percent support. On Feb. 27, armed men seized the parliament and regional government buildings in the Crimean capital, Simferopol. A March referendum branded illegal by Ukraine and the U.S. and EU approved joining Russia.

Crimea was conquered by Russian Empress Catherine the Great in the 18th century and became part of Ukraine only in 1954 -- a gift of then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

Unmarked Uniforms

Putin at first flatly denied sending troops to Crimea, saying that Russian military uniforms worn by masked, armed men dubbed the “little green men” who were active in seizing Ukrainian army bases could have been bought at any store. Last April, during a TV call-in show, he said that Russian servicemen had assisted local self-defense units.

Russia wasn’t sure how the U.S. and EU would respond and ordered its armed forces to be ready for any outcome, said Putin. “I spoke to colleagues and I told them that this is our historic territory, Russian people live there, they are in danger and we can’t abandon them. What do you want to fight for? You don’t know? We know. And we’re ready for that.”

The Russian leader said a priority now is to build a $3.7 billion bridge over the Kerch Strait to provide a physical link with Russia. Crimea is suffering from transport blockages and high inflation because of Ukrainian efforts to isolate the territory.

Asked if he would do exactly the same thing again if the clock was wound back, Putin replied: “Of course! I would never have done it unless I believed that we had to act in that way.”


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+13 # jdd 2015-03-16 09:16
Despite the nonsense in the article about Russia "annexing Crimea," it may help get through to the sane voices in the administration just how seriously Russia takes NATO's eastward expansion. Germany's Steinmeir and Helmut Schmidt have weighed in for de-fusing the situation. Now, Victoria Nuland needs to be fired and the lunatic fringe around McCain, Breedlove and Carter need to be muzzled, they are putting the future of humanity at risk.
 
 
+6 # RCW 2015-03-16 09:32
Many of us have memories of Stalin's territorial grab after WW II, but we need to put ourselves inside Russian borders as we consider the positioning of Western armaments and financial interests around that country, and listen to the rants of militant Neo-cons. We might find that more than a little scary.
 
 
+4 # jwb110 2015-03-16 19:00
If NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, stops pushing itself farther and farther east Russia will feel no need to push back.
Nikita Khrushchev (also called the Butcher of the Ukraine), the Crimea has be in the sphere of influence of Russia for a substantial amount of time. Let it be so. Sanctions and saber rattling will make matters worse. Sanctions in particular are a very bad thing. A population whose stomach is scratching its backbone an ally doesn't make. The success of the world will create more peace than all BS that is being bantered around at present. The US seems hellbent of making as many enemies as possible around the world. They might all band together and then where will we be. This isn't about military might this is about reason. A thing in short supply when you have the likes of McCain and Cotton on the soapbox.
The Wall coming down was heralded as the best thing to happen since god know when. Things were going to be different said the Reagan White House. Well guess what! They are different! The GOP nostalgia for the Cold War has got to stop. Everyone seems to have moved on but the Congress. What would a war over the Crimea solve. If it the Hawks could wedge in the Russians and restrict them in some way it will always be temporary.
I was in Russia under the old regime, in the early 80's on an artists exchange. We were followed and the phones were tapped. I am sure it is the same today. But it is also the same in America.
 

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