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Ukraine crisis brings out the diplomats among Times readers

UkraineRussiaKiev (Kiev Oblast, Ukraine)Armed ForcesVladimir PutinNATOPolitics

According to much of Western punditry, Russia's military action in Ukraine's Crimea region is an unprovoked act of aggression by the increasingly autocratic Russian President Vladimir Putin, who should stop meddling in the transition underway in Kiev after months of protests and even violence.

Many of our readers see things differently.

Though Putin is taking a fair amount of criticism from readers (some of whose letters will likely be published in Tuesday's paper), some said Moscow has legitimate concerns about the future of predominantly ethnic Russian Crimea and whether Ukraine orients itself more toward Europe. A few even put some blame on the Obama administration for involving itself diplomatically in a conflict thousands of miles away.

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Where there does seem to be some consensus among readers, however, is how the U.S. and its allies should respond: It's best for us to sit this one out, at least militarily. Although a handful of readers urged Obama to put all options on the table (in other words, leave open the possibility of military action), the vast majority agreed that the best interests of Ukrainians and Russians wouldn't be served by a stronger U.S. presence in the conflict.

Here are some of their letters.

Vitali Mostovoj of Thousand Oaks says the Crimeans should decide whether to be part of Russia or Ukraine.

"The best way to resolve the crisis over Crimea is to hold an internationally monitored plebiscite in which the Crimean population can decide whether it wants to be a part of the Russian Federation or part of Ukraine. About 60% of Crimeans are ethnic Russians; only about a quarter are ethnic Ukrainians, and the rest are mostly Tartars.

"It is wrong for Putin to take Crimea by military means. However, it also was wrong for then-Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, who was of Ukrainian descent, to transfer Crimea from Russia to Ukraine in 1954.

"In recognition of its historic ties to Russia, Crimea is an autonomous parliamentary republic within Ukraine. Perhaps now is the time to let the Crimeans, and neither the government of Russia nor of Ukraine, decide for themselves as to which nation they want to be a part of and thereby resolve this crisis by peaceful means."

Costa Mesa resident Peter Maradudin is one of several readers who noticed troubling historical similarities:

"Am I alone in seeing a frightening parallel to an earlier international crisis? A country with a terrible record of oppression of its indigenous minorities hosts an Olympic Games -- and then starts to annex its neighbors.

"If I remember correctly, that didn't turn out so well. Putin might want to read some history."

Andrew Norman of Poole, Britain, believes Russia's concerns shouldn't be dismissed:

"With respect to Ukraine, no one can condone the invasion of a sovereign country. However, instead of indulging in endless outraged rhetoric, would it not be at least sensible to acknowledge the genuine concerns of Russia?

"That country's underlying concern is that Ukraine may join NATO. Russia doesn't want Western weapons in its backyard any more than the U.S. wanted Soviet missiles being placed in Cuba.

"Therefore, why not reassure Russia that Ukraine will not be admitted to NATO but that it will be left to work out its own destiny, with both Russia and the West standing as guarantors of its neutrality?"

Riverside resident Keith Griffin says NATO may indeed have a role to play:

"It is not obvious how best to respond to the Russian action in Ukraine, but perhaps there are lessons to be learned from recent history.

"I refer to President Kennedy's response during the Cuban missile crisis, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's response to Argentina's invasion of the Falkland Islands, and the first President Bush's response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

"It is in everyone'e interest to prevent large countries from invading smaller neighbors or manipulating them for political gain.

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"If requested by the new government in Kiev, NATO should make it clear to Russia that its invasion of Ukraine will be met by a military response if diplomatic and economic pressures prove to be ineffective."

Carlsbad resident James D. Regan says Obama's choice is clear:

"So thousands of Russian troops waltz into Crimea, and its citizens and the Ukrainian army do nothing about it. Obama now has his easiest decision as commander in chief: The U.S. should also do absolutely nothing."

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