Share Tweet Pocket Add to Bookmarks
You're reading: Motyl, US political science professor, says Ukraine must let go of Crimea and Donbas
on social media

For its own good, Ukraine should let go of Crimea and the parts of the Donbas where Russian-backed armed groups have seized control, another public figure has said.

In an interview with the publication Apostrophe on Jan. 8, Alexander J. Motyl, an expert in Ukrainian politics at Rutgers University in the United States, said that the reintegration of the Donbas and Crimea into Ukraine would instantly bankrupt the country, putting a stop to reforms, democracy and integration with the West.

“Ukraine has four strategic priorities – survival, strengthening of security, reform and progression to the West, and preservation of democracy. They can be realized only without the Donbas and Crimea,” Motyl said.

Exclusive article

Sign up or subscribe to view more articles.
See All Plans
Monthly plan
Get unlimited article access, anytime, anywhere.

Yearly plan
Access all the exclusive content on and the complete online archive.

Add comment

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.

We should not overstate the weight to be accorded to any "Ukrainian politics expert" at one or another American university. Although Mr. Motyl is among the most prolific writers on matters involving Ukraine, and, has Ukraine's best interest at heart, that is a far cry from according to him greater insight, knowledge, and expertise on national security policy than that of the very intelligent, learned, and hands-on "Ukrainian politics experts" that are daily facing policy decisions - and will bear accountability for them - in Ukraine itself.

There have been hundreds of "experts" commenting on all sorts of matters involving Ukraine, Russia, and points beyond, - not only of Ukrainian heritage (as Mr. Motyl is), but also in Ukraine itself; and, of course, professors, diplomats, pundits, Russian supporters, Russian nationalists, Ukrainian nationalists, Putin, Obama, Trump......the whole "bloody" lot :-). They all had different recommendations - some as well intentioned as Mr. Motyl's and others not so.

We must stop assuming that we know better than Ukraine's own national security experts know what is in Ukraine's interest. Neither Mr., Motyl nor any of the various American experts can know the sentiment and conditions on the ground nor the mentality of the Russians. They are, after all, Americans, and have not had the personal experience that Ukrainians have had. Their opinions are interesting but should not extend beyond the "salon" environment in which they are articulated.

The simple bottom line is that neither Mr, Motyl nor Mr. Pinchuk, nor any of the seemingly conciliatory well-wishers can guarantee that Russia will quietly and gratefully agree to Ukraine's renunciation of any future claim to Crimea and Donbas in exchange for allowing the rest of Ukraine to freely flourish, integrate with Europe, and remain a festering sore of well-justified ill-will on its border, and a beacon of hope for all others seeking to escape Russia's clutches. Russian promises have proven to be worthless; and history has shown again and again that only a firm and constant position of strength and resistance has won out. In fact, history will also show that Russians will take what is given and use that as a platform - and a sign of success - to continue forward to grab the rest. Western reassurances have proven to be useless as well, and all that remains for Ukraine is to continue its military build-up until any further consideration that Russia may have of taking or occupying Ukrainian territory will become too costly for them.

And Ukraine need not give up Crimea or Donbass to do that. It is doing well enough without giving away chunks of its territory to appease Russia's imperial interests. Even if Russia occupies these territories for a century, it will always remain illegally plundered territory to which Ukraine has superior claim. But once Ukraine gives it up, there is no reason why Russia should not restart the process all over again with Kharkiv or Odessa or......oblasts.

I'm inclined to agree. Give Donbass and Crimea to Russia and rather than backing off Putin will view it as stage one of his original plan to recreate Novo-Russia complete and we are likely to see him attempting further land grabs under the guise of actions by local "miners and farmers".

With all due respect to Dr. Motyl, there are many who would strongly disagree with his assessment including the people of Ukraine, the Government of Ukraine and the vast majority of politicians within Ukraine. For this there are many reasons including but not limited to the following: 1) Ukraine is a sovereign and independent nation whose territory is indivisible and that includes Crimea and Donbas. 2) The international community via the United Nations recognizes the Crimean and Donbas Regions as an integral part of Ukraine. 3) Trying to appease an aggressor State such as Russia by ceding sovereign territories will never be an antidote to Russian imperialism (re: the recognition of Hitler's occupation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland Region in 1938). In fact, appeasing a bully is totally counter productive. 4) While it should be understood that both Crimea and Donbas are heavily Russified, this does not mean that these Regions or for that matter all of Eastern and Southern Ukraine are sympathetic to Putin's Russia. In reality, the majority of the population of these Regions wish to remain as part of the Ukrainian State (Note: The Kremlin organised "Crimean Referendum" to join Russia was a complete farce). 5) If the people who resided in Crimea and Eastern Donbas were pro-Russian, why did 1.5 million refugees flee these areas for safety to Kyiv controlled Ukraine versus Russia proper? 6) The Kremlin arguments that they "supported" the separatists/terrorists in Donbas and that they occupied Crimea for historical reasons as well as to defend the rights of the ethnic Russian populations is nothing short of absolute rubbish. Since its proclamation of independence, the successive Governments of Ukraine have never discriminated against its Russian minority or any other ethnic minority including those of any religious faith. The same applies to both Crimea and Donbas. 7) Although it is true that the social, economic and political climate in both Donbas and Crimea will require time combined with substantial cost, it can be done with determination and perseverance as well as with the help of much needed assistance from the EU and the Western powers. Just as Rome was not built in a day, the same applies to the Russian occupied Regions of Ukraine. Finally, to sum matters up, a self-centered and defeatist attitude may provide an immediate band-aid but that does not cleanse the wound. The people of Ukraine have both endured been resilient for many centuries. That is why they have survived and that is why they should never give up on what belongs to them in perpetuity.

Well spoken words dawydiak. It should be noted the vast difference in how each country treats its citizens. In Russia it is illegal to speak against the government. One cannot even read the constitution on a street corner without being arrested. State sponsored murder is normal in Russia and has occurred many times. Life in Crimea is a fairy tale! and not a good one at that! People are afraid to speak out. Russia looks for ways to arrest and provide fake charges and trials. This is how Putin keeps the serfs in line and subjugated.

I see no corresponding types of control by the Ukrainian government over its citizens. There may be may corrupt officials, but citizens are free to speak their mind. Citizens can demonstrate! Overall I do not believe Ukrainians fear being arrested in the middle of the night. And overall the citizens are being cared for by their government, given the challenges the nations faces.

Lets remember when Putin was thrust into power one of his first actions was to have the FSB bomb Moscow apartments to justice the death and destruction Putin rained down upon the Chechens. Putin does not want to hear from his citizens, unless it is a controlled environment.

Many people complain about life in Crimea, but they must do do very carefully as they will be arrested, sent to prison for many years or just go missing! This is the type of life Putin has to offer to his own citizens and to any other nation he wants to invade! Not surprising most people would like a different life than what Russia will allow!!!

Motyl and other US Pigs need to mind their own business. If Ukraine gives Putin Crimea and/or Donbas, Putin will take all. Ukraine will fall to Russia forever.

Lambrecht Albert van Marion

I agree but your remark about US pigs is revolting. If the US and the E.U would mind their own business it would add to the already existing problems

I would prefer the US engage in true pro-Ukrainian support but until the current administration is gone, mostly their talk is cheap

I think Americans who want to accept Putin's invasion of Ukraine should appease Putin by returning Alaska! I am sure Putin can stated that the sale was illegal and is still Russian territory! perhaps this is the deal Trump will make with Putin? Sounds good to me, give back the lands that belonged to Russia!!!

Bringing occupied Donbas back into Ukraine is possible provided the Ukrainian government approaches it from a position of compassion and strength. The majority of those who left the area are young, educated and consider themselves Ukrainian which leaves in occupied Donbas predominantly the old pensioners who have no where to go and a small cadre of riff raft that make up the pro Russian separatists i.e. the dead end gang. The elderly pensioners can be won over by using a positive approach to those areas/villages on the Ukrainian side of the line. Repairing houses, schools, markets and the general infrastructure that has been destroyed will send a message to those on the other side of the line. Opening up a direct routes in an out of the occupied areas for Red Cross and NGO supplies as well as Ukrainian government supplies. Making it easier for the pensioners to cross into Ukraine held areas to get their pension money and to buy what that can't get in the occupied areas.
The writing is on the wall for the who have to live there that Russia isn't going to do anything but supply weapons and troops. The so called leadership is incompetent and has nothing to offer them in the way of a better future, it's all Soviet nostalgia.
The government of Ukraine needs to be proactive and approach the new US administration with a positive plan that reunites occupied Donbas with Ukraine sans Minsk II. Merkel and Hollande along with Obama are history and so is Minsk II. Putin wants the sanctions off and he wants back into the "civilized" world and he will have an opportunity to make amends by leaving the occupied Donbas in exchange for the sanctions that apply to occupied Donbas and for a better relationship with the US. For all the anti-Trump people he is purposefully unpredictable and always negotiates from a position of strength. He will approach talks with Putin in a friendly manner yet from a position of strength and he won't make deals for deals sake.
Crimea is a much tougher nut to crack and will need to be dealt with separate from Donbas.
Ultimately it behooves Ukraine to strengthen their country by weeding out the graft and corruption that is sucking the economic life out of the country. A strong economic Ukraine can't be defeated by Putin.

agreed but if Russia is not removed from the area before reconstruction, they will only bomb and destroy again. Ultimately, the US needs the resolve to honor the 1994 Treaty of Disarmament, and then use this strength for a peaceful, nonyielding position.

Ukraine should declare Crimea and eastern Donbas to be Russian-occupied territories and cut off all contact, trade and support.

Ceding any territory to Russia will only embolden Putin and his imperial cheer squad.

Alexander J. Motyl doesn't retain the highest level of professorship so why is anyone listening to him?

because few people understand this and if not commented, the majority of the people will believe it. Once that happens, re-educating them is next to impossible

Mr. Motyl is always thought provoking. But he is way off here. One can never appease an aggressor nation like Putin's Russia, it is always viewed as a weakness and will only invite more invasions. Mr. Motyl seems to be suggesting something that PM Chamberlain would have spoke of! In Chamberlains view just give Hitler some land and he will be happy! We all know the result of his actions! No it is clear today's Hitler is Putin and he will advance his goals of destroying Europe and the West while occupying more nations. His view of Russian borders, they have no limits! People ignored Hitlers's words as well, then they ignored his actions. I see not difference here, Putin is a criminal leader and care truly cares not for his people. Just as Stalin viewed Russians as nothing more than disposal bodies for his glory, so Putin sees Russians as serfs to build his Empire on their backs. Putin seeks to bring back Tsar rule and no one should be surprised by this!

Motyl is 100% spot on. Long live the real Ukraine.

I'm sure Mr. Motyl's intentions are benign (even if naive), but the same can not be said for Pinchuk who should know better and who took much out of Ukraine but gave back very little except proposals that can only be described as capitulation or collaboration.

Any discussion of ceding parts of Ukraine along with their Ukrainian citizens - regardless of how troublesome defending or liberating them may be - can only come out of Putin's playbook. If Russians are prepared to die to preserve their occupation of the land they ravaged, should Ukrainians not be prepared to do the same to liberate their territories and brothers from the invaders?

More in this section

Add a picture
Choose file
Add a quote

Are you sure you want to delete your comment?


Are you sure you want to delete all user's comments?


Are you sure you want to unapprove user's comment?


Are you sure you want to move to spam user's comment?


Are you sure you want to move to trash user's comment?

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: