Sunday, 16 March 2014

Putin's Russia Against Ukraine's Crimea: Part 1

Putin's Horse

In less than an hour, voters in Crimea will have officially concluded voting on what is essentially a question to either become a part of the Russian Federation through majority consent of the people or by bringing back the 1992 constitution governing Crimea and thus in effect joining Russia through the majority vote of the Crimean parliament.

The Russian government under President Vladimir Putin has decided to embrace this bogus imitation of a political process. Meanwhile there is little consolation to Ukraine of the fact that Russia is unlikely to immediately annex Crimea out of fear of further agitating the position of the international community. This referendum is considered illegal by the international community largely because it was carried out under the covert umbrella of the Russian military.

The invocation of the Russian military - through unofficial means initially - happened under a number of muddled and erroneous pretenses, one of which was the R2P (responsibility to protect) its own citizens. Another excuse given was that since ‘no shots were fired’, it wasn’t Russia that facilitated the break up but that Ukraine lost Crimea while it was itself under legal limbo and thus evidently unable to provide security for its own sovereignty and territorial integrity.

But those weren’t the only two arguments provided by Putin’s Kremlin either. The amount of times Moscow shifted the excuses used to justify their extremely unpopular course of action – unpopular as witnessed by Russia’s unanimous lack of support in the 15 member UN Security Council on 7 extraordinary occasions - is something reminiscent of an adolescent person who’s learning the ropes of life as opposed to the modus operandi of the largest sovereign in the world.

It’s hardly justified to repeat some of these other makeshift arguments used by Putin’s media but for the sake of thoroughness I’ll mention them briefly.

a) Russia’s intervention was a humanitarian one.
b) The opposition hired snipers to escalate the situation.
c) The February 21 agreement was not adhered to by the opposition.
d) The revolution had merit until it was hijacked by Svoboda & Right Sector.
e) RADA’s impeachment attempt of Yanukovych failed to gain the required 2/3rd's majority.
f) After Sept., EU insisted that re-engagement with Ukraine come at the expense of Kiev-Rus ties.
g) And the most ridiculous of all claims that the Russian military intervention was legal based on a signed request from the former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.

Every moment spent talking about each of the above premises as a possible justification for the occupation, support and the eventual annexation of a territory of a sovereign Ukraine, is a ‘win’ for the concept of spreading disinformation through noise. It’s a ‘win’ for the concept that people are gullible and still reliant on a single source of information in an age where getting multiple sources of news before it’s been packaged with unwanted additives is easier than ever.

Giving the above points any consideration as justification for the occupation and annexation of a sovereign state is energy wasted giving credibility to those seeking to destabilise global peace and order. Deterioration which, save for hard sanctions, I hope will not materialize even after the predetermined results of the Crimean vote for independence are announced.

I'm now going to take a slight detour for my next point, so bear with me for a second.

A few years ago during a Bipartisan Meeting on Health Reform in the U.S. (otherwise known as “Obamacare”), GOP representatives - the party against “Obamacare” - were expressing their fair grievances at the proposed bill of healthcare reform directly at the man responsible for pushing them through, President Barack Obama.

Half way during that frank and constructive 6 hours meeting, something extraordinary happened; GOP House of Repetitive Paul Ryan leveled a 6 minute critique of “Obamacare” by completely circumventing and calling into question the Congressional Budget Office figures in its entirety; a body which is a non-partisan (neutral) arm of the Government. The almost immediate response by another House of Representative member, Xavier Becerra of the 31st district of California quickly reestablished order. People tend to take pot shots and side swipes when they see an opportunity.

The reality is that everybody at some point or another, rightly or wrongly will question the referee. But at the end of the day nobody can dispute that the addition of a referee in a competitive game is as a whole a net positive. The 'game' of international diplomacy is no different. Also don’t be fooled by the use of the term 'game' as there is nothing trivial about the high stakes and often times deadly procession which is referred to as a game as a means of expression only.

Some people would have us dream about living in an imaginary world. A world where if a referee (the U.S.) made a mistake (i.e. Iraq), not only would they lose all credibility forever but they would also and indefinitely bring into disrepute the body representing the referees (the UN). Perhaps we can stretch reason to fit the narrative that two wrongs make a right at a micro scale (i.e 1 wrong penalty decision per team). But both the Russian government and media openly insist on applying this same flawed and morally bankrupt principle at a macro level.

Putin’s Russian Federation and its international mouthpiece RussiaToday will make the case that the international referees made mistakes in Kosovo, in South Sudan, East Timor, Comoros, Iraq, Libya and you name it; and therefore, they reason, that what they’re doing in Crimea is internationally legal; something which they’ve explicitly said on a number of occasions.

Even if Russian grievances about the past were right; the policy of the Russian Federation as witnessed in the past few weeks cannot, under any circumstances, be justified logically.

The Starting Point

A fair question to ask at this point is why can’t diplomacy resolve what is very much a global Crisis in Crimea?  Simply because there is no agreement between the UN Security Council and the Russian Federation as regards to what the starting point should be for the diplomatic deescalation efforts.

The west and the Security Council are of the opinion that the starting point should be the occupation of Crimea by the military arm of the Russian Federation while Mr. Putin is of the opinion that the starting point is #Maidan and perhaps more precisely the February 21st agreement.

The problem with sympathizing with Putin’s view here is that Russia itself failed to endorse the February 21st agreement. And not to be too unfair or harsh with Mr. Putin’s reasoning; but the abandonment of the February 21st is in fact a grievance I share as well. But using the sensitive phrase of “abandonment” is all that’s needed to melt away and discredit any notion that it was the opposition that didn’t hold their end of the bargain in the 24 hours following the agreement.

While Putin’s Russia insists that the starting point of the crisis precedes any Russian military occupation of Crimea, the West insists that the ground zero is in fact Crimea itself. There is a very strong argument backing the West’s assertion and it goes as follows:

Ukraine’s revolution, although something which doesn’t cast in perfectly good light either the former Government or the opposition, was an internal matter affecting mostly Ukraine and indeed to some extent Russia. But the occupation of Crimea and the likely eventual annexation is a matter affecting global peace and security. This is partly because it was the turning point and the escalation of the crisis from a civic issue to a military one. But the larger more pressing reason for having Crimea as the real starting point for the global crisis is because of the violation of the 1994 Budapest memorandum where Ukraine agreed to give up its soviet nuclear arsenal in return for guarantees from the US, Russia and the UK that their sovereignty would be respected.

Put simply, the January 21st agreement cannot be the starting point, if for nothing else, because the alleged internal violation of the constitution of one country - not armed with any weapons of mass destruction and one which at the time had not adopted any threatening posture towards any 3rd country/ies - does not pose an immediate threat to international peace and security.

When looking to resolve problems facing our world; dangerous, pressing and irreversible problems must always take precedence.

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