Recognize Russia's Legitimate Interests or Ukraine is Doomed (de Volkskrant, The Netherlands)
"If the new government is trying to accelerate its steering
of Ukraine as a whole into the Western camp, it will lead to a split of the
country. Muddling through on the edge of both European and Russian worlds is
the only thing that can prevent this. ... For Russia, the Crimea is militarily
too important to give up. The facts on the ground are crucial, and NATO will
not begin a second Crimean War. ... Even tyrannical regimes, as the de facto
sole representatives of the interests of their people, have legitimate rights in
terms of the international discourse."
Pro-Russian protesters clash with members of the Crimean Tatar minority in front of a local government building in Simferopol, Crimea, Feb. 9. After WWII, Stalin instituted mass deportations and executions of Crimean Tatars for their alleged collaboration with the Nazis.
Russia's participation, there is no conceivable sustainable solution for Ukraine.
If America and Europe have gotten that message, they aren't admitting it publicly.
Putin may be a total no-gooder, but crooked regimes
can also have valid arguments within the global balance of power. In their
time that was true even of Hitler and Stalin, with whom comparisons are already
core of the problem is that a substantial portion of the population,
concentrated in Ukraine's east and south, is Russian (speaking) and Russia-minded.
That essential ethnic component means that comparisons with Hungary in 1956 don't
apply. One might rightly deplore that Ukrainian Russians prefer Putin over Barroso, but especially for a democracy, that's a fact
which cannot be ignored.
Difference with Qaddafi
Viktor Yanukovych may have emerged as an unprecedented kleptocrat,
but he was legitimately elected. That's the difference between him and, for
instance, Qaddafi. Now Yanukovych has suddenly been
pushed aside, which happens to ignore a compromise agreement signed by European
foreign ministers. They are silent now.
in the West might be morally contented with the current revolution, but that
hasn't changed the demographic constellation in the country. Whatever his
geopolitical conceptions, Yanukovych represented a
large portion of the electorate, a fact that has now become clear in places
like Kharkov and Crimea. If
in the hubris of the current euphoria Kiev ignores this, it will lead to a
reaction that further escalates the conflict.
newly-adopted language law [forbidding Russian as an official second language]
adds fuel to the fire. This is partly because ultra-nationalists from the
western half of country, not all of them neo-Nazi, because of their role in the
street, are strongly influencing the state. Putin may have planned for and
orchestrated what is happening in Crimea, but that plan only works if it appeals
to certain fears that do exist there.
relevant than comparisons with Hungary in
1956 are therefore those with Czechoslovakia
in 1938. The Germans in the Sudetenland were at the time discriminated against
as part of an understandable reaction to their privileged position during the Habsburg period. Considering
the language law, that danger is not inconceivable for Crimea's Russian
means that if the new government is trying to accelerate its steering of Ukraine
as a whole into the Western camp, it will lead to a split of the country. Muddling
through on the edge of both European and Russian worlds is the only thing that can
prevent this. That calls for a compromise that requires including in the
government of pro-Moscow Russians from the eastern half of the country.
due to the invasion, Kiev can forget the Crimea. Georgia lost Abkhazia and
South Ossetia for the same reason. For Russia, the Crimea is militarily too
important to give up. The facts on the ground are crucial, and NATO will not begin
a second Crimean War.
in this case, particularly in regard to the West, Moscow possesses two strong
moral trump cards. First, the Crimea was always traditionally Russian and is
inhabited by a Russian majority. Second, Crimea is a semi-autonomous republic,
the population of which wants to separate from Kiev forever.
doesn't differ greatly from the separation - also on the basis of
self-determination, of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo from Serbia a decade
ago. The difference is: Back then, Russia stood firm on the inviolability of
the constitutional status quo while the West did not. Now it's the reverse. Thus
we have a matter of pot and kettle, and Putin will not fail to rub that into
the noses of the West at various U.N. bodies.
there is the geopolitical component. The West wants to exclude this from the
discussion because today, a democratic Ukraine expands its sphere of influence.
In practice, however, in a world full of powerful dictatorships, things aren't that
simple. Even tyrannical regimes, as the de facto sole representatives of the
interests of their people, have legitimate rights in terms of the international
democracy and geopolitical self-interest in some regions are not in line with one
another, even the West regularly abandons its flowery democratic principles. Recall
recently America's silence at the suppression of the uprising in Bahrain by its
Saudi allies, and the way it looked away in the case of Egypt.
*Thomas von der Dunk is a cultural historian and columnist for Volkskrant