25 years ago, while the Soviet Union still existed, I began efforts that led me to become the first to combine United States’ GPS and Russia’s GLONASS satellites. Later I hosted many GPS and GLONASS authorities, fostered friendships among them, and promoted concepts such as “compatibility” and “interoperability” of satellite systems. See the details in the GPS World article, “How GPS and GLONASS Got Together.” The whole world now benefits from the combined GPS and GLONASS system.
As with GPS and GLONASS, we need to get together again. Just because I am passionate about technical issues does not mean that I ignore human issues. This time it is not about technology. This time it is about We the People.
For citizens of the United States, founded on this concept, it is inconceivable that we might one day wake up and learn that one of our States had been "gifted" to a neighboring country. But this is exactly what happened to the people of Crimea. Since 1784, Crimea was part of Russia and its people lived peacefully and happily as part of Russian culture and heritage. In 1954, approximately 75 % of the Crimea population were ethnic Russians. One day they woke up and learned that Nikita Khrushchev, the successor to Stalin, had “gifted” their land to Ukraine (reportedly for his own political gain).
Anyone familiar with the history of the Soviet Union knows that the people of Crimea were not able to raise objections. They were ruled under the dictatorship of Khrushchev who is known in the West for pounding his shoes on the table in the United Nations and threatening the United States. Those who claim Crimea does not belong as part of Russia give credence to the action of Khrushchev.
Should people have a ‘say’ or ‘voice’ in their future? Contrast the actions of Khrushchev in 1954 with that of Scotland and Quebec in more recent years. Crimeans had no choice about their fate, it was decided by the unilateral action of one man. Whereas, when some people in Scotland and Quebec wanted to secede, all people were allowed to vote to determine their fate.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the establishment of better relations between Russia and the Western world, East and West Germany rightfully reunified after an imposed ‘wrong’ of separation, but at no time did anyone come to the aid of the Crimean people to correct their ‘wrong’. Even worse, when the current issue surfaced, the US and Europe stood opposed to them.
It is not only my personal observation that Crimeans love their motherland of Russia. Forbes magazine contributor, Kenneth Rapoza, in his March 20, 2015 article writes that: “[…] poll after poll shows that the locals […] are all in agreement: life with Russia is better than life with Ukraine.”
The position of the West regarding Crimea has exacerbated the problem of Ukraine, and despite financial hardship in Russia, Putin's popularity has skyrocketed while the United States' standing has plummeted among the Russian people.
One can argue that President Putin and Russia could have used a better approach to help the people of Crimea achieve their goals and aspirations, but many believe that the West did not leave him a better choice. I don't agree with some of President Putin decisions, but on this issue Vladimir Vladimirovich is exactly right.
I once worked to bring together GPS and GLONASS; I wish I had the opportunity to invite Presidents Obama and Putin to my California or my Moscow facilities to see if we could put an end to this situation.
Dr. Javad Ashjaee
March 21, 2015, San Jose, California