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The Modern Russian Anschluss

March 5, 2014

This is a turbulent time in the Crimea.  I can’t pretend to understand the depth of political issues there- I have heard and seen considerable data to suggest the Crimeans would rather be Russians than Ukrainians, however true the statement- and I am no diplomat with any experience in Eastern European relations; however, the action Vladimir Putin undertook by providing armed forces to what is effectively rebellion demands certain basic points are said.  Certain parties on WordPress seem to ignore or downplay the obvious affronts perpetrated by Putin’s actions here in favor of arguing how it could be a permissible action in time, or focusing on details which should be addressed only after the main point is made to the world so an adequate response is given.  I would counter the omissions and disinformation here, if they are such things and simply not poor analysis of the situation.

1.  There is no legal defense for this coup of Crimean local government.  Ukraine is the sovereign nation here, and it has been usurped.  If Putin is being honest and those are not his military forces in uniform, his own agents didn’t cause or contribute to protests there, and there isn’t some sort of seditious Russian presence in the Crimea comparable to the S. S. of the Third Reich (which is a stretch for me to believe), then he willingly and knowingly provided arms and uniforms to elements of a neighboring, unannounced secession.  In this case, Putin did so without clarifying this when the bloodless uprising began, and lacking any recognizable warning to the Ukraine, the United Nations, or the Russian people who may face the political backlash for any such action.  If ethnic Russians are really that hard-pressed for help and Putin gave it, he had no reason not to lobby for their interests in legal, public ways first.

This is, naturally, provided all those uniformed troops just across the border from the Russian military engaged in wargames are not Russian troops proper without insignia to give Putin’s forces the plausible deniability.  This would make it problematic for any other foreign powers to engage them in attempts to help Kiev: convenient for Russia because (we’ll pretend) they are not technically involved, and convenient for the uniformed forces in Crimea because they have disregarded civil liberties in their takeover.  It is hard to charge people for crimes if no one can be sure who they were when citizens were unfairly searched or beaten for disagreeing with this change in political leadership.

2.  Putin’s attitude is consistent with previous Russian military actions to bordering states committed during imperial Russia and the Soviet era- when buffer states were prizes for the contemporaneous autocrat in power.  He has been widely regarded as a leader without regard for the lives of his people, let alone those of other nations.  (I remind the reader of hostage crises, sunken submarines, and a curious string of Russian terrorist bombings during Putin’s first presidential campaign.)  He is a documented thief with what manifests as a particular form of kleptomania, which is not only criminal, it is also outrageous a person of such authority would be so petty and impulsive.  It is fairly obvious Putin has no regard for the democratic rights of Russia, either, so if the Crimea is annexed there is little hope of the ethnic Russians being any better off with Moscow than Kiev anyway.  In short, the president of Russia is a despicable human being and should not have any bearing in the future of Crimea.  The Duma, the U. N., Kiev, and the local Crimeans should cooperatively contribute to the future there, not anyone obeying the wishes of the mafia czar.

Note I do not presume other large, “democratic” governments are remarkably better in this- the United States, for instance.  I live here.  I know we have no moral superiority in this regard.

3.  The latest tumult comes with historical examples of dire implications.  By invasion and/or by willful assistance to a rebellion, Putin’s Russia annexed South Ossetia and stands to take legal control of a second bordering province in less than five years (whether or not Russian military forces were themselves responsible, in the Crimea).  These assumptions of power could apparently occur without any effective response from those states injured by these actions or from the international community.  Countries are rarely so blatant about actions like this in geopolitics, and one noteworthy example of when one was involves the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938.  Anschulss there was allowed because Neville Chamberlain and others thought Adolf Hitler would be satisfied with just that little bit more of land.  History proves this was not true.

Personally, this means of expanding the Russian state is also just crude.  At least the U. S. has a policy of invading out of some pretext we establish first.  Putin’s ways of broadening his control lack any sort of historical finesse.  No preemptive liberation is as believable unless there are at least some indications of political repression being made known to the world before the invasion.  Putin could at least try to polish his technique.

The world cannot sit idly by when nations like the Russian Federation are led by men like Putin, and decide to rebuild empires for vanity or ambition.  The international community should have stopped the United States from invading Iraq for the same reason; it should have stepped in when South Ossetia was taken; and it should do something now in the Ukraine, at least to ensure the Crimean majority is really at the heart of this matter.  If it is, and there really was no other way to break free of a repressive Kiev, its leaders should still be punished for the civil liberties they infringed unnecessarily.  If Russia is involved, the Eastern European bully must be taught to respect its neighbors.  Maybe if this is done, even the U. S. may start paying attention and behave itself a little better.  If Russia and America started playing nice with the world, that would that not be an improvement?

From → commentary, politics

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