What’s good for you is not good for me

The situation in Ukraine is developing largely as scripted in the KGB manual (the chapter on non-nuclear takeovers of territories under 100,000km2). The next step in the flowchart is a referendum on the incorporation of Crimea into Russia. With 58% of ethnic Russian population the result of the referendum is predictable so the Russian flag will be flying over Simferopol sometime soon. Instead of mulling over the legality (or otherwise) of the Crimea referendum I will look at the similar political scenarios which have played out recently. It is particularly instructive to focus on the positions the parties of the current debacle adopted when turmoil erupted inside their sphere of political influence.

Since 1990s EU has been consistently supporting Kosovo’s aspiration for independence. The majority of the Kosovar population are Albanians, many of whom had immigrated to Kosovo when it was part of Serbia. In 1999 NATO went to war to fight off Serbians trying to retain control over the province shaken by ethnic violence. Under UN administration democratic elections were held in Kosovo which gave power to the political parties favouring breaking away from Serbia. Finally in 2008 Kosovo declared independence which was subsequently recognised by most of the countries now opposing Crimea’s bid to join Russia. So, in short, a territory with a majority foreign ethnic population wanted to go it alone politically and these ambitions were consistently and actively supported by the “free World”.

The Falkland Islands are administered by the UK but also claimed by Argentina. Both countries even went to war over the disputed archipelago in 1982 and the situation is still not resolved. To add legitimacy to their claim over the Falklands in 2013 the UK carried out a referendum to gauge the political preferences of the local population (almost entirely of British descent). Predictably, the result of the referendum was overwhelmingly for status quo, which was touted by the UK as a democratic decision which must be accepted by all parties. So, in short, we had a referendum in which the locals declared their political affiliations and the UK accepted it as binding. A very similar scenario has played out in Gibraltar where the local population voted in a referendum to stay in the UK.

After the Arabs Spring democratic presidential elections were held in Egypt in 2012. They were won by an Israel-hating Islamist Mohamed Morsi. In 2013 his rule was overturned by street riots which brought to power a pro-Western government supported by the Egyptian army. After some wavering, the West recognised the new elite as a legitimate political representation of Egypt. So, in short, a democratically elected leader was ousted by a rebellion and the new (non-democratically elected) government was recognised by the “free World”.

In Ukraine, the democratically elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, was challenged by a series of street riots organised by Ukrainian nationalists. Like in Kosovo, the separatists enjoyed the political support of the West. In the end  Yanukovych was ousted and a new (non-democratically elected) government established. Like in Egypt, this government is recognised by the West as legitimate. Then the predominantly Russian province of Crimea stated its ambitions to decide its own political fate through a democratic referendum. But this time, unlike in the case of the Falkland Islands or Gibraltar, the West does not recognise the referendum as valid. Also, unlike in Kosovo, the “free World” would not accept that an ethnic enclave has a right to decide its political future.

The rights and wrongs of the Crimean conundrum aside, the hypocrisy of the Western stance is astounding.

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2 Responses to “What’s good for you is not good for me”

  1. Richard Says:

    So the next question is how far does Russia go? Do they continue to ‘liberate’ the rest of the Ukraine? Which they could quite conceivably do- now they have tested the West and the West has been found lacking the will to do anything. Are the Baltic States in danger? Their treatment of their Russian minorities has arguably not been the best. Is Moldova another candidate for absorption into Mother Russia? What about the stans? Where do they fit?

  2. da-boss Says:

    The questions you posed are very poignant. As the Crimean drama was unfolding I stated my prediction for an orderly takeover accompanied by a show of Russian military might. I was also not expecting any bloodshed. Well, I was spot on – the Ukrainian army is now leaving Crimea and the political transfer has been completed. So what will Russia’s next step be? The countries in the Moscow’s sphere of influence have surely taken notice of the Crimea’s fate and will have to re-adjust their policy. I am not predicting another takeover for a year or two but rather a consistent political pressure from Moscow with a veiled threat thrown in now and again. If the likes of Ukraine or Latvia refuse to play ball the local Russians will take to the streets and Putin will drop a hint about “protecting” them. This is realpolitik, as opposed to the emasculated bureaucratic nonsense practiced at Brussels. Looking 5-10 years into the future many of the territories you mentioned will end up with Russia but more through political expediency than armed aggression – the bankruptcy of the West will push them into Putin’s arms…

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