A LOT of self-righteous hot air has been produced by last week's events in Ukraine, an unstable country whose political life has been unduly affected by recent violence.

In turn this has led America to declare it "unacceptable" for Russia to intervene to protect the indigenous Russian population, particularly in the Crimea, which is home to Moscow's Black Sea fleet.

US Secretary of State John Kerry risked ridicule by claiming that Russia was wrong to threaten invasion on a "completely jumped-up pretext" - conveniently forgetting his own country's excuse for doing that in Iraq in 2003.

Loading article content

The new Crimean government took matters into its own hands and announced that next weekend it will hold a referendum on seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia. Under the letter of international law this may not be strictly legal, but under the spirit of international law it is probably the only way out of the current crisis.

If, as expected, the Russian parliament votes to approve the annexation then that could settle the matter - and the way will be open to resettle Ukraine as a bridge between East and West. The West would be wise to leave this avenue open as it will leave Ukraine free to pursue its own interests.

As for Crimea, secession to Russia may or may not be sensible but it represents the will of the people and without consent there can be no legitimate government. For the people of Crimea - and the watching West - that has to be the bottom line.