Monday, March 10, 2014

The future of Ukraine and Crimea

Many years ago a radical Britisn politician pointed out that Crimea is an anagram of "A Crime."

Notwithstanding the cover of the current Private Eye, which refers to the Olympics and has Vladimir Putin with a speech bubble saying "I think Russia will win the shooting," a military conflict over Ukraine is in nobody's interest least of all those of the peoples of the Ukraine, who should be left to settle their own destiny freely at the ballot box without intervention by West or East.

Military intervention by the West should not happen and is not going to happen, but we have had a wake-up call about appearing weak and must exert maximum diplomatic pressure in support of genuine self-determination for the peoples of Ukraine.

The best solution for Russia would have been for Ukraine to be a bridge between East and West but Putin's own actions are making that increasingly impossible. It will be nobody's fault more than that of Vladimir Putin if the people of Ukraine become unfriendly to Russia and it will not happen because the West wanted it or caused it.

Just for once, let's resist the temptation to beat ourselves up over this. The handling of the Syria crisis was not Britain's finest hour, but it did not cause the change in regime in Ukraine and nor did it cause Russia, a country with former KGB officer as President, to start acting like a countgry with a former KGB officer as President.

Neither is the present crisis in the Ukraine the responsibilty of the EU in any way, shape or form. It is not the EU's fault if their attempt to negotiate a trade agreement with Ukraine caused both the former Ukranian regime and Russia to lose their marbles.

If the people of Crimea really wish to be part of Russia - which is possible but I wouldn't bet a brass farthing on it - then the terms of any debate and referendum should be set and implemented without outside coercion - e.g. not under Russian guns. Foreigners should participate only as observers and that includes citizens of the Russian Federation.

The acting Prime Minister of Ukraine and other figures in Kiev made an extremely strong argument when they pointed out that in exchange for Ukraine's giving up Nuclear Weapons, Russia, the USA and Britain guaranteed Ukraine's territorial integrity under the Budapest Memorandum in 1994.

Under that agreement all three powers affirmed their commitment to respect the independence, sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine.

Russia, the US and Britain also agreed to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons would ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defence or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

In the memorandum, they also agreed to seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance to Ukraine if Kiev should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used.

As Kiev points out, to break that agreement now would set a truly disastrous precedent for nuclear non-proliferation - how could Iran or North Korea be expected to take seriously similar guarantees if they are proved worthless to Ukraine?

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