8 Fundamental Questions on Ukraine
Published: March 21, 2014 (Issue # 1802)
Events in and concerning Crimea have raised to fever pitch the cacophony in the West over Ukraine. For one observer, there are some fundamental questions that seem to apply from the very beginning of the crisis and which seem important in understanding the broader context.
1. Why did the U.S. and the West cry "unconstitutional foul" on the vote in the Crimean parliament to reunite with Russia, while endorsing and abetting the overthrow of an elected president in Kiev. This was clearly an unconstitutional act since President Viktor Yanukovych, although venal, incompetent and corrupt, was just that — a democratically elected president?
2. What is the West's moral high ground in preaching democracy, rule of law and good governance to Russia and to the rest of the world while supporting a coup? Are these ethical imperatives placed on hold in the case of a regime that the West disapproves of?
3. Why do similar double standards prevail in our approach to self-determination? Kosovo was historically linked to Serbia, yet we invoked the secessionist right of the Albanian majority. Crimea is historically Russian — a 200-year history dating back to Catherine the Great, which was artificially rewritten in 1954 in the form of an internal transfer to Ukraine within the then-Soviet Union. Do we conclude that the rules of the self-determination game change when the irredentist impulses involve those who would unite with Russia — South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Crimea?
4. How can we possibly welcome the interim government in Kiev as a unifying force when its leaders have exploited the east-west divide in the country by sending loyal governors from the western regions of the country to Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk, thus inflaming the pro-Russia majority? Or by appointing just two eastern figures in the 19 new ministries? Or by including in the government six representatives of ultra-right forces, including the Svoboda movement, denounced in a 2012 European parliament resolution as "xenophobic, racist and anti-Semitic"?
5. Why does the West not understand that threats do not work with Putin's Russia? Reports from Moscow suggest that there is a widespread conviction — even among those opposed to Putin — that the U.S. and the European Union have gone too far in meddling in the Ukraine crisis. It is certainly true to say that among Russians, Putin has been strengthened by the standoff with the West. This is reinforced by a sense of lese-majeste on the part of the U.S.-led West toward Russia in the post-Soviet era. As one scholar put it, the two decades after the end of the Cold War have offered Russia a deal "closer to Versailles than Bretton Woods" — or certainly the Marshall Plan.
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