Op-Ed: All the Wrong Moves in Crimea
The fact that the (unconstitutional) Ukrainian coup was not deemed “unconstitutional” by the West is only because the US interests were in step with a pro-western provisional government in Kiev.
The present crisis in relations between Russia and the US is an unnecessary development borne out of erroneous moves by both sides to the latest conflict. The Crimean annexation by Russia should have been regarded as a win-win-win-win by all (Crimea, Ukraine, Russia, and US respectively) had the leaders of all countries-involved been thinking out of the box.
But they have not. They have been bathing in cold-war hostility, and have seemed to enjoy the feeling and the euphoric enthusiasm that accusations, filled with hate-speech and hostile actions, are capable of generating.
Let us review the true objectives of all players involved in the Ukrainian crisis.
Crimea’s objective: Secede from Ukraine and join Russia.
Ukraine’s objective: Have a corruption-free (not easy if not impossible in Ukraine), western style democracy representing the will of the people while respecting human rights.
Russia’s objective: having Ukraine stay under its wings by having a pro-Russian government in Kiev, and Securing the viability of the Black Sea base in Sevastopol where the Russian navy maintains its sole warm water port.
US’ objective: having Ukraine leave the Russian orbit and maintain close relations with the EU with the possibility that it would join NATO at a future date.
The case of Crimea:
Ukraine’s ousting of Yanukovitch and the overthrow of his pro-Russian government, a revolt which started the avalanche, was seen in the US and in the EU as a positive development, while the Russians viewed it as precarious.
The fact that the (unconstitutional) Ukrainian coup was not deemed “unconstitutional” by the West is only because the US interests were in step with a pro-western provisional government in Kiev. At the same time, the corrupt Yanukovitch and his violations of human rights, including the massacre he ordered on anti-government protestors, served to rationalize his ouster in the name of democracy, will of the people, and justice. He was corrupt. He was a bad guy. He stirred the country of Ukraine against the will of its people. Or more correctly, he stirred Ukraine against the will of the people in west Ukraine, not against the people in the eastern part of the country or in Crimea.
But wait a minute. Yanukovitch was elected by a majority of Ukrainians. His overthrow may have been just, but it was also unconstitutional. In other words, under the circumstances, the US and the EU viewed justice, democracy and will of the people above the Ukrainian constitution. The US and the EU implied that a country’s constitution is meaningless if it violates basic human rights; if it does not represent the will of the majority; if it’s drafted by dictators with disregard to the welfare of their people. Kim Jong Un’s, Hitler’s, Stalin’s, and even Khrushchev’s actions (specifically, his 1954 gifting of Crimea to Ukraine) should have been deemed illegitimate even though they were regarded legal by dint of their own constitutions.
Consequently, by the same token, the argument calling Crimea’s secession – “an unconstitutional act” – is weightless as long as secession is justified by way of democratic reasoning like:
Does secession represent the will of the people involved?
Does secession advance the push for basic human rights?
Does secession boost the well-being of the people involved?
The answer to all of these questions is YES.
Crimeans voted overwhelmingly in favor of secession.
The latest revolution in Kiev brought to power politicians whose chief common attribute has been their hostility toward Russia. The re-energized Ukrainian authorities have just repealed a law giving regional rights to minority languages. This was one of their most prominent initiatives since assuming power. They have also signed a new bill banning Russian media in Ukraine. These moves must have been popular in the western part of the country, but in Crimea and in some Eastern regions it must have been seen as an indication of further repression (of the Russian and Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens) to come.
In other words, the latest actions by the provisional government in Kiev contributed to a reversal of human rights in regions where the majority of the population are ethnic Russians and/or Russian-speaking.
And finally, the inherent corruption embedded in the Ukrainian system of government has brought about devastating economic consequences to the country, including Crimea. There is little doubt that Crimea will be better off economically under Russia.
In conclusion: secession of Crimea serves well the Crimean population. They have freed themselves from an unwelcome Ukrainian occupation.
The US, the EU and western Ukraine are also better off following the secession of Crimea. Here is why.
Ex-president, Russia enthusiast, Victor Yanukovitch was elected legally by a majority comprising half a million votes. Crimea contributed a million votes margin to the corrupt leader’s victory. In other words, Crimea was the reason Yanukovitch won the elections. Had Crimea been out of the picture the pro-western politicians would have won by half a million votes, and former prime minister, Yulia Timoshenko would not have found herself spending time in jail.
Had the Crimean citizens been in a position to contribute their opinion and vote for the next Ukrainian president, the next (truly) democratic elections in Ukraine could have yielded a similar outcome. Those who want to see a democratic west-leaning Ukraine should be more assured of their goal following Crimea’s secession. The Russian dominated peninsula will be out of the picture during the upcoming elections. Fair elections in Ukraine, including Crimea, could have toppled the existing pro-western Ukrainian government, and Putin could have won back the whole country rather than just the relatively small peninsula.
Russia may or may not be better off following its annexation of Crimea.
Russia is better off because it secured the viability of its Black Sea fleet and removed the threat of it being surrounded by a hostile regime. At the same time, had Crimea stayed Ukrainian, chances are that another Yanukovitch-impersonator could have captured the presidency in Kiev, and the whole of Ukraine (rather than just Crimea) would have stayed on inside the Russian orbit following the next democratic elections. With Crimea out of the picture, it becomes certain that the next Ukrainian government will be pro-western.
By annexing Crimea, Russia has guaranteed the viability of its Black Sea fleet, but forfeited any chance for having a pro-Russian government in Kiev. Putin preferred a bird in the hand to two birds in the bush.
The latest developments in Crimea, its secession from Ukraine and its annexation by Russia, were a positive development. Everyone involved has won. The hostile moves by the west and the counter moves by the Russians are contrary to the happy outcome. These moves have not contributed to world peace; they could derail the potential positive outcomes in the negotiations with Iran, as well as the disarming of chemical weapons by the Assad’s regime, and they greatly obstruct the world economy.
The US, the EU and the Ukrainian government should put emotions and macho talk aside; they should let logical reasoning and fairness rule the roost from now on.