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Voice of Crimea

Publication Date : 19-03-2014

 

The history of Europe has entered a heady phase.

More than two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the President of Russia has had his way and Sunday’s grandstanding to “honour a nationalist” was fairly predictable in the context of recent developments in Ukraine. Crimea has voted to embrace Kremlin rule, and the outcome is overwhelming with 97 per cent of the populace voting to join Russia.

The fact that Barack Obama has trashed the outcome as unacceptable is warning enough that “Russia’s destabilising actions” could sustain the ferment and at a still more awesome level.

In geopolitical terms, the region is set to be rocked again after close to 25 years. Unlike in 1991, no ideological underpinning is involved in 2014; the  Kremlin has exploited the linguistic and ethnic division to buttress its expansionist designs.

Indeed,  Crimea exemplifies the “closure of ideology”. “Mother Russia” has won the mandate to dismember Ukraine; the conflict will almost certainly escalate to full-scale conflagration - reminiscent of the Crimean War (1854) - if  Putin sets about executing his plan of action. The prospect is too horrifying to imagine not least because international diplomacy lay rather thin on the ground these past weeks. Small wonder that Russia has been able to countenance a theoretically formidable bloc of the European Union, the US and the United Nations.

It is open to question whether Putin will heed the joint appeal of the US and EU not to use the result to annex the state.  The result is more than a “circus”, as Ukraine’s pro-west interim Prime Minister, Arseny Yatsenyuk, imagines.  Equally is he aware of the imminent crisis, one that can be contextualised with his plan - announced in parallel with the result - to train 20,000 members of a newly-created National Guard to defend Ukraine, clothed in a warning to Crimean politicians who had called the vote that  “the ground will burn under their feet”.

The West is on test after a bout of diplomatic impotence that has been manifest in recent weeks.  Collectively, it has tinkered with the issue in contrast to the assertiveness and almost Soviet-style posturing by the Russian president.

Is the West in a position to avert the annexation of Crimea?  This is the primary question that must transcend the rhetorical allusion to a latter-day Cold War, “World War Three” or another Crimean War. President Obama and the EU sounded suitably robust on Sunday, but it begs the question whether they waited for the outcome of a referendum to warn the Kremlin  that the purported voice of the people of Crimea is unacceptable and would ignite another cache of economic sanctions against Russia. The vote is as dangerous as it is destabilising.

 

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