Yasmeen Aftab Ali
Let’s establish some facts here first. One; Crimea was part of Russia till 1954 when it was presented to Ukraine by the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Crimea has existed since as a semiautonomous state but shares a historic and cultural umbilical cord with Russia. Recall also that Ukraine itself was part of USSR till 1990 since the Middle Ages. Two; Crimea is surrounded by the Black Sea; Russia’s sole warm-water port. The importance this holds for Russia cannot be undermined. Three; Ukraine produces grain much needed by Russia. Four; the pipes running through Ukraine serve as Russia’s lifeline; carrying its natural gas to Europe! Five; ‘ethnic Russians still make up 59% of Crimea’s population of 2 million, while 12% are Tatars, according to 2001 census data’. (The Guardian UK, March 3, 2014) Six; Russia has a lease on the Sevastopol port till 2042. Ukraine gets a handsome $98 million a year for leasing of the Crimean naval base to Russia.
The temperature started soaring over Crimea a few months ago. NBC News claims, “Tensions spiked in late November when Yanukovych accepted a $15 billion loan from Russia and rejected a trade deal with the European Union. That move that infuriated the country’s opposition leadership, who had been pushing for a closer alignment with Europe.” Ups and downs have followed (ups and downs can be seen depending on from where one is viewing the situational changes) including resignation of Ukrainian prime minister with a strongly pro-Russian bent and Russia temporarily suspending funding to Ukraine. The last was the result of a coup d’etat, overthrowing Viktor Yanukovich and his government by protestors who stormed Kiev. Russian Parliament has authorized Putin to use military force in Ukraine under unavoidable circumstances. Not only in Crimea. “The upper house of the Russian parliament has voted in favor of sending troops to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, which would ensure peace and order in the region “until the socio-political situation in the country is stabilized.” (Published March 01, 2014) However, Reuters reports, “President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that he would use force in Ukraine only as a last resort, easing market fears that East-West tension over the former Soviet republic could lead to war.” (Published Mar 5, 2014)
In a video released on the occasion of International Business Conference at Ukraine in Washington – National Press Club – December 13, 2013, “US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, Nuland said: “Since the declaration of Ukrainian independence in 1991, the United States supported the Ukrainians in the development of democratic institutions and skills in promoting civil society and a good form of government – all that is necessary to achieve the objectives of Ukraine’s European. We have invested more than 5 billion dollars to help Ukraine to achieve these and other goals. ” Nuland said the United States will continue to “promote Ukraine to the future it deserves.” (Information Clearing House February 9, 2014) This is déjà vu. Remember Egypt’s ‘revolution?’
For Russia, the issue runs deeper. Ian Bremmer; specialist of US foreign policy and the Global Research Professor of the New York University tweeting on March 6th quote Kissinger, “The West must understand that, to Russia; Ukraine can never be just a foreign country.” I think he just about hit the nail on the head. Or to put in the right perspective; Kissinger did. Crimea was presented to Ukraine by Khrushchev. The purpose of this action was aimed at balancing out the fascists in Ukraine whose numbers threatened to unsettle and destabilize Ukraine. Sam Nejad, in an exceptionally well researched article writes, “When the Soviet Union was dissolved, there was a tacit agreement that NATO would not infringe close to the Russian border ….. Isn’t it curious that the western media does not mention anything about the close bonds between the peoples of that entire area, including Russia, Ukraine, and the Crimea? … That they will lose unhindered access to the open seas? That first strike missile is being placed within a few hundred kilometers of Moscow and other major cities…That is why the Russian government, not just President Putin, but the Russian parliament, has reacted so urgently and justifiably, to this latest threat to their very existence.” (Titled Ukraine: Woeful Ignorance or Willful Malevolence? Published March 2014)
The bigger picture has USA and Russia in a face off in Syria grappling for greater influence on the Middle East policies, Crimea adds to the confrontation. Unfortunately, very unfortunately, it is USA having admitted to have funded 5 billion dollars to “help Ukraine to achieve these and other goals.” No country funds another without expecting something in return. That is how this whole game of ‘strategic partnership’ is played, as also witnessed in Syria=and elsewhere.
The west wants to wean Ukraine away from Russia, knitting it closer to western nations. The west is ignoring the ties between Russia and Crimea. The west is ignoring the sentiments of population of Crimea. The west, unfortunately, is deliberately choosing to ignore history of Ukraine. History has proved, again and again and again; that imposing upon nations to achieve a certain given objective does not pay off in the long run. Egypt is a recent example. Condemnation of Russia from USA is being deemed by many as hypocrisy in light of approximately 50,000 killed in Iraq in an unprovoked invasion, the bloodshed that was caused when regime changed in Libya and the invasion of Afghanistan resulting in a war that has stretched to 13 years and continuing and now; USA’s open support to the opposition forces in Ukraine.
‘Secretary John Kerry called the Russian troop intervention in Crimea “an incredible act of aggression.” Kerry also said that the United States and its allies would consider asset freezes, visa bans and trade penalties if Russian troops continued their incursion in Crimea.’ (Washington Post March 2, 2014) What about the induction of 3 former Soviet Republic entities and 9 former Warsaw Pact states into an alliance that is definitely anti-Russia, if one may ask the Secretary Kerry? ‘The European association agreement which provoked the Ukrainian crisis also included clauses to integrate Ukraine into the EU defence structure.’ (The Guardian March 5, 2014)
OK guys; you in the western block; give the rest of us a break. Notwithstanding the layers of media hype, this is not adding up. Take away the layers and there appears; the western desire for greater global expansion. The undue intervention may blow the situation into our communal faces. Bad idea! Stop treating Crimea as the new candy floss. Let Crimean decide for Crimea. Let Ukraine be. External interferences to mold situations according to the desire of powers fall flat; historically speaking!
The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ Her mail ID is firstname.lastname@example.org and tweets at @yasmeen_9
This is a cross post from Pakistan Today on 11th March 2014