Tuesday, March 18, 2014 marked the ending of the first episode of the Ukrainian crisis which manifested itself as an opposition to Russia with support from the international community. Crimea, an inseparable part of Ukrainian territory and a self-governing republic within the political and administrative framework of this country, was annexed by Russia through a presidential decision that is to be ratified by the supreme legislative branch of this country (a mere formality, judging by the standing ovations Vladimir Putin’s speech before the Duma received on Tuesday).
The details are almost of no consequence, yet they need to be remembered for the sake of historical accuracy. Following a veritable putsch carried out against the leaders of the this autonomous region of Ukraine, and in the overbearing presence of armed forces wearing no official insignia who had taken hold of the main public institutions, including the Ukrainian military units – the Ukrainian fleet in Sevastopol was stalled when a number of ships were sunk upon exiting the road – a decision was made to hold a referendum on Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Eyewitnesses clearly identified the armed forces as Russian troops. March 16, the day of the referendum, was characterized by Turkish minorities in the region protesting vehemently, the central authority in Kiev demanding that the law be upheld, and the international community expressing its categorical disapproval. On the day of the referendum, the U.N. Security Council’s resolution condemning Russian aggressions against Ukraine was rejected by a simple veto from Russia, as China’s reservations to Moscow’s action resulted in abstention. It could undoubtedly be said the entire international community condemns Russia, a country that has opted for international diplomatic isolation.
It goes without saying, Russia bears an undeniable weight in the global arena, stemming from its long history as an empire that even competed for world domination in the second half of the 20th century, and with the largest land surface of all, it is a country capable of wiping out the entire human race with its military nuclear arsenal. Precisely because of its long tradition and status of true world power, Russia should act responsibly, predictably, and in compliance with international norms, as opposed to the unjustifiably hazardous behavior it is showing at the moment, which violates assumed international norms. There are no frozen time points in history because its dynamic forces demand change and acclimation. The memory of unsustainable imperialist designs does not confer any historical rights and the attempt to edit them is no justification for the future, even under its own assessment. Regardless of how powerful a country may be, it cannot live in a bubble; countries are inevitably and necessarily part of a complex global network that cannot be ignored. On the contrary, history has always condemned the stubborn denial of reality by sooner or later turning these attitudes against their very promoters.
The specificity of the crisis in Crimea resides in the motives invoked by the major players. Russia argues leaders in Kiev are unreasonable discussion partners, since the Ukrainian government was formed through a coup d’etat and its general behavior towards minorities – particularly the largest one, the Russians – taken after the Nazis’ model. In Putin’s own words from his address on Tuesday, the main targets are “neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites.” Presumably, Ukraine is ungoverned, citizens are in fear for their life and the life of their families, no one feels secure in their own country, and, in the absence of legitimate governing, total anarchy has ensued. Consequently, Moscow could not help but react to the Russian minority’s demand for salvation from these aggressions by taking the necessary measures, that is, taking the country under its protective wing (the Kremlin authorities must have overlooked the similarity between the Russian minority argument and Hitler’s German minority justification for attacking Czechoslovakia and Poland in 1938-1939).
“Those who stood behind the recent events in Ukraine pursued different goals. They were preparing a coup d’etat; they planned to seize power while stopping at nothing: terror, murder, pogroms,” Putin uttered emphatically before the Duma three days ago. This rationalization is cause for concern, both in Ukraine and other political regions, particularly the neighboring ones, that the annexation of Crimea is only the beginning of the crisis, since current events in eastern territories of Ukraine, mostly inhabited by Russians, could easily be justified using the same rationale as was used in Crimea.
(To be continued)