the national interest

The Nation’s Stephen F. Cohen Denies Existence of Ukraine

Ukrainian troops ride tanks on the way toward Slovyanks on April 14, 2014 in Ukraine. Tension has been rising in Ukraine, with pro-Russian activists occupying buildings in more eastern towns and a Russian fighter jet making passes over a U.S. warship in the Black Sea.
Sophisticated photoshop by Putin-haters who have concocted imaginary country in Greater Russia. Photo: Ilia Pitalev Kommersant Photo via Getty Images

The Nation’s Stephen F. Cohen has written his latest column explaining why everybody is wrong about Russia, except Russia, which is oh so right. The highlight is where Cohen explains a series of “fallacies” for which the West has fallen:


Fallacy No. 2: There exists a nation called “Ukraine” and a “Ukrainian people” who yearn to escape centuries of Russian influence and to join the West.

Fact: As every informed person knows, Ukraine is a country long divided by ethnic, linguistic, religious, cultural, economic and political differences—particularly its western and eastern regions, but not only. When the current crisis began in 2013, Ukraine had one state, but it was not a single people or a united nation. Some of these divisions were made worse after 1991 by corrupt elite, but most of them had developed over centuries.

There are two points here. First, is there, in fact, a nation called “Ukraine”? Yes, there is. You can look it up. It’s right there on the U.N. member state list, between Uganda and United Arab Emirates.

And that really ought to settle the question. Countries have recognized borders, and you can’t just send goons into some other country’s territory and take it for yourself because you don’t like their government. It is true that the people inhabiting Ukraine are divided linguistically, religiously, culturally, economically, and politically. That is also true of many, many other countries in the world. That does not obviate the fact that there is such a thing as “Ukrainian people.”

And second, even if it were not the case — even if Ukraine were nothing more than a polyglot collection of individuals who had absolutely nothing in common with each other — this would not give Russia any justification for hacking off chunks of the country through the use or threat of force.

Stephen F. Cohen Denies Existence of Ukraine