Monday, 17 March 2014

Correcting Krushchev's Fracaso in Crimea

Crimea a gift that became a curse to Russia Sky News

Fracaso in Spanish roughly translates into failure or depending on the context a flop or backfire. The late Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's "gift" was meant as a sign of neighborly relations when he transferred over Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 exactly 60 years ago. Crimea then as now is a strategically important peninsula in terms of naval bases, direct access to markets and trade. One of Russia's main oil/petroleum pipeline runs under Crimea through Ukraine to Europe. Generally countries with strategic territories or waterways do not altruistically cede their territories to their neighbors without realizing the benefits first. Khrushchev did not foresee the current geopolitical wrestling between Russia and Ukraine over Crimea. Nor would he live long enough to see the collapse of Soviet Union. His Crimean fracaso has been a low key war of identity between Ukraine and Russia since 1990. Ukraine is adamant that Crimea is part of its territory although history shows Crimea has only been officially been Ukrainian for sixty years. Crimea's referendum has already inspired other large and small separatist movements across Europe. The Republic of Veneto (which existed for over a 1000 yrs before Italian unification in 1880s) as its known in the history books "Venetian Republic," or just Venice and Veneto region has decided to host a five day referendum on breaking away from Italy. Separatism is also fueled by economic frustrations and financial fears. Venice and Veneto region are one of the wealthiest regions in Italy who have long felt that they do not need to continue financially providing for their less well off neighboring regions or recession hit Rome and Southern Italy. Nevertheless, Crimea's referendum may being a cautious lesson for other economically depressed European countries' separatist movements to take their declaration for secession slow.

Western hypocrisy on who gets to secede and when

Its worth noting that when Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2007 and was gradually recognized by the world, Western countries did not jump up in arms. When South Sudan gained independence it was agreed by Western supporters that the South Sudanese had legitimate rights and grievances that validates its referendum vote. Tibet has been trying to end Chinese repression against Tibetans for nearly seventy years. Free Tibet activists and Western governments have emphasized the need to protect and promote the Tibetan people's cultural rights and indigenous heritage. Iraqi Kurdistan received a no fly zone in the aftermath of the Halabja Massacre and its autonomous government was recognized by United States as a representative of the Kurdish people even before 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Today Iraqi Kurdistan is one of the safer regions in Iraq. Its autonomy has inspired neighboring Kurds in Turkey to fight a thirty year old insurgency just to gain autonomy. Turkish Kurds have not been given similar treatment or recognition by the West. Czechoslovakia broke up peacefully in 1993 and both Czech Republic and Slovakia are recognized as peaceful, legitimate nations today. However when Palestine has legitimate reasons and long denied rights that the whole world has agreed to and supports the Palestinians' rights to their own homeland to address a sixty year old wrong against them by Israel, the United states demands that the Palestinians constantly remember Israel's right to exist, its security and its Jewish characters as prerequisites to any negotiations. When Chechnya airs its grievances and history of violence against the Chechens by Russians from the Russian Empire to Soviet Union and Russia, the US regards Chechnya as Russia's business.

Harvest of Despair: Man made famine in Ukraine 1932-33

Often ignored in the fracaso is the rights of indigenous people, Crimean Tatars to decide the future and status of their homeland. Crimean Tatars were against the referendum and many wanted to remain part of Ukraine. The Crimean Tatars relations with Russia extend back centuries but have been unequal accumulating in Josef Stalin's deportation of the entire Crimean Tatar population from their homeland to Siberia and Far East Russia. After Stalin's death, Crimeans were forbidden or denied the right to return home under a strict Soviet resettlement policy that favored Russian settlers to come into Crimea and Ukraine and new territories acquired by the Soviet Union after World War II. The Russian resettlement policy and promotion of the Russian language at the expanse of local languages in Ukraine and other Eastern European countries is one remaining grievance against Russia. The other is the 1932-1933 Ukrainian famine aka the Holodomar in Ukrainian regarded as Ukraine's Holocaust in which millions of Ukrainians died from starvation. Stalin is considered as the main instigator of the famine. Stalin deported and murdered millions of people across the Soviet oblasts and territories he deemed as a threat to his power. He purposely played ethnic groups and territories against one another to avoid facing fracasos or alternative government or forces to Soviet power. These combined historic and relived grievances has fueled Ukrainian nationalism and given right wing/Neo Nazi groups Pravy Sektor and Svoboda Party ammunition (no pun intended) throughout the crisis in Ukraine. Nationalism has long been rising in Ukraine even before the Soviet Union's collapse. Its just that the  overthrow and strong backing from Western nations has given Ukraine an extra boost.

Crimea Referendum 

With all the negative press about Russia and finger pointing at Putin for somehow coercing some 90% of people in Crimea to vote yes in the referendum, Crimea is now on its way to rejoining Russia. As expected, the government in Kiev is not happy. In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-Russian protesters have suggested the region should also be given some form of autonomy. When the new world maps are created, Russia's border will now extend to Ukraine's southern coast on the Black Sea. The only other Russian territory in continental Europe is in the small exclave of Kalingrad. Kalingrad is mashed between Lithuania and Poland. Again Kalingrad is an important seaport city that allows Russia's exports and imports into the country and access to the European and world markets. The world or to be more accurate the United States and European Union has tried to coerce the United Nations to declaring the Crimea Referendum illegal. Russia canceled the vote with its single veto as member of Security Council. Washington has slapped some Russian officials with sanctions. If Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is slapped with sanctions, he would be in a bind since foreign ministers need to regularly travel to meet with their counterparts to strength economic, political and soft power relations around the world. He is a diplomat by trade. If diplomatic immunity extends to sanctions we shall see.    

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