By a vote of 78-0 (with 8 abstentions) the Crimean parliament approved a referendum, to be held on March 16, that would ask the region’s voters whether or not they want to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia, more specifically, the Russian Federation. Oleksander Turchinov, Ukraine’s interim president, wants to dismiss the duly elected Crimean legislators and called the referendum “a farce and a crime perpetrated by Russia” The European Union also condemned the plan and offered 15 billion euros in economic aid, followed by a US offer of $1 billion in loan guarantees to offset the probable loss of Russian gas subsidies. In addition, president Obama made the following statement Thursday “Russia’s actions are in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which has led us to take several steps in response in coordination with our European partners” What exactly these steps will be -with the exception of the transfer of American fighter planes to Europe- is still being debated. Considering that Russia is the largest supplier of natural gas to the member countries and that Chancellor Merkel will most likely veto any sanctions, it remains possible that the “steps” will consist of statements and gestures devoid of any substance.
Crimea is vital to Russia. Her navy and submarine pens are based there and provides the only year-round ice free port and sole access to the Mediterranean Sea; it should be obvious to students of geopolitics that any Russian government would react swiftly to any perceived threat to the peninsula. Crimea has been part of Russia since 1783, longer than Texas has been part of the United States, and only became part of Ukraine in 1954, when Nikita Khruschev, perhaps after one glass of vodka too many, “gave” Crimea away to Ukraine, as a “gift”, to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Ukraine’s union with Tsarist Russia (1654). There is some speculation among the cable news talking heads and some members of Congress that Putin intends to re-absorb Ukraine into Russia but so far, there is no indication of such intentions. He does not have to; Russia controls the flow of natural gas through Ukraine’s pipe lines -which incidentally also feed most of Western Europe; her subsidies prop up a large chunk of Ukraine’s economy, Russia’s military far outnumber Ukraine’s and she sits right next door. Putin only has to nudge a little to have his way without setting another foot in Ukraine proper.
The statements of “violations of Ukraine’s territorial integrity”, as morally upright as they sound, turn as hollow as the clink of a counterfeit coin when we recall the statements made during the Kosovo war. Presently, the Crimean referendum, set to take place March 16 will most likely result in a vote to leave Ukraine and rejoin a country with which most Crimeans share historical, cultural, emotional and linguistic bonds. In contrast, in 1999, from March 24 to June 10, NATO forces conducted an aerial bombing campaign designed to amputate the Kosovo region from what was left of Yugoslavia. That Kosovo had always been an integral part of Serbia and that most Serbians regard Kosovo as the cradle of their culture, mattered little to the would be nation builders. The cost of the campaign? Between 489 to 528 Yugoslav civilians were killed, plus 3 journalists when the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was bombed accidentally on May 7 and one F117 Nighthawk stealth fighter shot down on March 27 by a Yugoslav missile. The wreck of the plane most likely ended up in Moscow to be examined and studied at leisure.
Why is the possible secession of Crimea via a referendum regarded as a “crime” while Kosovo’s amputation from Serbia is viewed as a “humanitarian intervention”? Good question. Only the arrogant progressive nation builders can supply the answer. In the meantime, it is wise to remember that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.
PS As a footnote to the Kosovo war. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), including the son of the president of Kosovo, have been tied to the trafficking of human organs. The number of victims range from 50 to 300, mostly ethnic Serbs from Kosovo. Nice company we keep.