In a way that is not immediately clear, the annexation of Crimea might actually be a good thing for Ukrainians. That is — not simply the people who happen to live within the current borders of this Eastern European nation, but rather the ethno-linguistic group we call Ukrainians, who have suffered under oppressive or oligarchic governments for all of their modern history. It is clear to just about everyone that President Yanukovych had to go. But what next?

All of the people who would naturally be next in line for a presidential election are billionaires with foreign bank accounts. The EU agreement that Yanukovych turned down was nothing more than a chance for the EU to loot the country of its prosperity — something for which it has an excellent track record. The United States, NATO and the EU hover over the region while Russia has taken the opportunity to secure control over Crimea, which has natural naval defenses as well as a population that is majority Russian anyhow.

This is why all this criticism of Russia is way out of proportion; Crimea already essentially ran itself. It already had a 60 percent Russian population, its own flag, its own school curriculum and its own tax laws.

Russia acts in its own interests, just like the US acts in its own interests. Can the United States claim that it does not invade other countries on false pretenses? Can we claim that our government does not support terrorism abroad for the sake of murky geopolitical interests, or worse — the financial interests of our billionaires?

The point is not that the Russian government’s actions are what they pretend to be, any more than the US lives up to its own stated principles. The point is that as always, the struggle between Russia and the West catches other countries in the middle.

What makes Ukraine such an interesting case is its history of nationalism, and the revival of that nationalism after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Between 1945 and 1990, attempts at forming nationalist groups were suppressed by the USSR. Before that time, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists had violently attacked many Poles and Jews; their goal was to establish an ethnically homogenous Ukrainian state by driving out other groups.

Much of this violence was fueled by memories of the infamous “Holodomor” in 1932-33 when millions of Ukrainians died after their winter provisions were taken from them at gunpoint, leading them to starve to death. Jews were largely immune from this genocide, since Jews controlled the food supply.

What’s more is that Marxism was viewed by many in Ukraine as having been a mostly Jewish movement, which the USSR sought to fix by placing more gentiles in positions of power — which was ultimately unable to stifle anti-Semitism.

Today, there are two major nationalist parties in Ukraine, pejoratively called “Neo-Nazis” by Russian government officials. The two parties are Right Sector, and Svoboda (“Freedom”). Svoboda is a descendent of the OUN, while Right Sector was formed at the end of last year.

The comparison to Neo-Nazis is in some sense nonsensical, as members of the OUN were just as persecuted by Germany in the early 1940’s as they were by the Soviets. But with that said, standing up to Jewish hegemony will be a necessary condition for serving the interests of the Ukrainian people — for the people of Ukraine to govern themselves.

Together, diversity and proximity always result in conflict.

To say that Ukraine is malignant because of its relationship with nationalism is examining the problem backwards. It is the historic and continued hostility that other groups have shown towards the Ukrainian people within their own country which has generated that kind of contempt.

That is always how it works. This does not mean that Jews, Russians, Poles, Tatars, Hungarians, Roma or any other ethnic groups “deserve” hostility from Ukrainians, or that their actions have somehow violated any moral code more severely. It just means that there is a conflict of interests between Ukrainians and other ethnic groups.

Losing Crimea may just be a part of Ukraine’s transition into the kind of nationhood through which the West has already passed. Nationalists have been vital in bringing down the corrupt government of Yanukovych, and are as resistant to Putin’s Russia as anyone. Svoboda now has five members in the interim government.

They are not happy with the annexation of Crimea, but they also have much to gain thereof; a more unified, and more essentially Ukrainian Ukraine.

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