I attended the same Robert English lecture on Russia and Ukraine that Boris Soukonnikov writes about (letter, Dec. 9). The lecture was quite balanced, had plenty of criticism of Russia's role and was most certainly not Russian propaganda.
Soukonnikov seems to have heard only half of it, and misunderstood much of that. His first outburst during the talk was prompted by what he characterizes as a slide depicting ethnic Russians holding swastika signs and separatist flags. He apparently failed to notice that the swastika was in a red circle with a slash.
He also states that Crimea did not wish to join Russia. While the referendum was hasty, flawed and controlled, the fact remains that Crimea is approximately 58 percent ethnic Russian, 24 percent Ukrainian and 12 percent Tatar. The latter group's boycott probably did not affect the final outcome.
I recorded the lecture, and found no claims by English that “Russia was justified in invading Ukraine.”
English pointed out many things that are seldom mentioned in American media coverage, such as NATO's tacit agreement with Mikhail Gorbachev not to expand eastward, in exchange for his blessing of German reunification. The subsequent, ill-advised NATO expansion to Russia's very borders is at the heart of nearly all the present problems. Even Henry Kissinger has pointed out that Russia's legitimate interests have been largely ignored. The cynical manipulation of Ukrainian affairs by neoconservative U.S. government officials and the real and disturbing undercurrent of neo-nazi influence in the new Ukrainian government are also given short shrift in our media.
In short, English's lecture was a needed antidote to the one-sided view we get from our government. Russia is not blameless in this mess, but neither is the West.