17 March 2014

Grant Williams: Crimea River

"'Public clashes between Ukrainians and Russians in the main square in Sevastopol. Ukrainians protesting at Russian interference; Crimean Russians demanding the return of Sevastopol to Russia, and that parliament recognise Russian as the state language. Ukrainian deputies barred from the government building; a Russian "information centre" opening in Sevastopol. Calls from the Ukrainian ministry of defence for an end to the agreement dividing the Black Sea fleet between the Russian and Ukrainian navies. The move is labelled a political provocation by Russian deputies.

The presidium of the Crimean parliament announces a referendum on Crimean independence, and the Russian deputy says that Russia is ready to supervise it. A leader of the Russian Society of Crimea threatens armed mutiny and the establishment of a Russian administration in Sevastopol. A Russian navy chief accuses Ukraine of converting some of his Black Sea fleet, and conducting armed assault on his personnel. He threatens to place the fleet on alert. The conflict escalates into terrorism, arson attacks
and murder.'

Sound familiar? All this happened in 1993, and it has been happening, in some form or other, since at least the 14th century.

Instead of blustering into their microphones in a frenzy of self-righteous indignation, the leaders of the US and EU would do well to spend a few minutes swotting up on the history of this volatile region. They would learn that Crimea has a long history of conflict between its Ukrainian, Russian and Tartar communities, and has been ping-ponging back and forth between Ottoman, Russian and Ukrainian jurisdiction for years..."
So begins an article in the UK Guardian this week, written by a British novelist of Ukrainian origin, Marina Lewycka Ukraine and the west: hot air and hypocrisy; and amidst all the furore surrounding the events in Ukraine these past couple of weeks, it's important to gain a little perspective in order to understand the history surrounding the country's fractious relationship with Russia and its recent dalliance with European suitors.

The key to the stand-off over Ukraine is the Crimean Peninsula — no stranger to conflict over the years and home to the infamous "Valley of Death" into which rode the 600 whom Tennyson commemorated in his epic poem recounting the ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade. The order that sent those gallant young men to their inevitable doom is symptomatic of the kinds of catastrophic misjudgements that get made when emotions are running high...

Read the entire piece, with its wonderful title, by Grant Williams in downloadable pdf format here.

I am certainly no expert on the politics of the Ukraine, past or present. I remember the Orange Revolution, and that there is significant corruption in those regions of the world is nothing new. We have admirable amounts of it here as well, as we tend to forget. And it is mildly galling that there are never any consequences for financial miscreants and neo-cons, who lie us into financial crises, and wars under the false pretexts of patriotic fervor. 

The humanitarian cloak of freedom is a popular colour when worn for adventures abroad, but it seems often to be sorely lacking at home these days.  And the hardest voices for humanitarian wars are often the hardest voices on their own, especially the weak, the infirm, the elderly.  And those hard voices, those tough guys, are rarely in the fight themselves.

But one thing I am sure of is that Orwell, and General Smedley Butler for that matter, had it right.
"War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it."

George Orwell
With a few exceptions of a more defensive nature perhaps,  I think that this is about right. And I would hope we are all aware that the 'defense' excuse is often the contrived refuge of some very worldly men and their private interests involving money and power.

Does that sound skeptical, even cynical? Well then, perhaps I am becoming so with experience.

Have a pleasant evening.


Ukraine: Who Is Playing For What - GolemXIV