Crisis in Crimea

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All of us who care about peace in Europe have been shocked by the events in Crimea over the past two weeks. On Sunday a referendum will be held in Crimea in which there is no option for those who wish to keep Crimea’s status as part of Ukraine unchanged. People may only vote to join Russia, or to vote for de-facto independence, by bringing back a defunct 1992 constitution.

Russia supports the referendum. But the G7, the EU, other Security Council members and the wider international community are clear that the referendum in Crimea on 16 March will be illegal. As the OSCE Chair and Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter said on March 11, any referendum regarding Ukraine’s territorial integrity or Crimea’s autonomy or sovereignty has to be based on the Ukrainian constitution and has to be in line with international law.

The conduct of the referendum will also be entirely illegitimate. Can a referendum be free and fair when it is organized at two weeks’ notice; when there are unidentifiable, armed militias on the streets; when journalists are harassed and their equipment confiscated; when international representatives are blocked from entering Crimea; and when, despite Russian denials, there is clear evidence that Russian troops have left their bases and have been taking over infrastructure across Crimea, in clear violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and numerous bilateral and multilateral agreements?

To be fair, to be sustainable and to ultimately resolve rather than create more problems, a referendum has to be the end point of an open and inclusive process of discussion and negotiation. It can only be contemplated when it is clear that all sides are prepared, peacefully, to accept the result. This is one reason why, in the UK, we are able to have a referendum on the independence of Scotland this year.

After two world wars devastated Europe in the 20th  century, a web of international institutions have been put in place, and reinforced after 1991, to help us avoid repeating the bitter confrontations of the past and to settle disputes peacefully. Organisations like the OSCE and the Council of Europe, of which Russia is an integral member, exist to help states address questions of self-determination and defend the rights of minorities.

We continue to urge Russia to use these institutions, to engage seriously in diplomacy with the Ukrainian government and to find a peaceful resolution. It is not too late. A vital first step will be for President Putin to refrain from recognizing the outcome of the vote on Sunday.

One Response

  1. George M. Breckenridge says:

    Russia decisively moved to protect her interests in the Crimea as the
    U.S., or any other nation would have done under exactly the same situation. Russia’s interests are primarily threefold: a) to protect her Russian ethnic majority – which is over 58% of the Crimean population. b) to protect the strategic viability of her Black Sea Fleet which is critical to Russia’s self-defense, especially at her southern flank, and c) to protect the terminus of the Caspian oil pipeline in Crimea – which is the primary reason the major oil corporations, that effectively drive U.S. / European foreign policy, want to control. But, the long term concern that Russia has and is deeply aware of also is the unrelenting attempt by the West to effectively isolate Russia in order to loosen her grip over critical resources the West wants total control over. Total control over Russia’s Caspian oil pipeline is the first, and perhaps the most important phase in this unrelenting quest to isolate Russia. The West’s insatiable greed to control the world and all it’s resources (Iraq x 2, Libya, Afghanistan, etc.)- driven by a pathological capitalist ideology is the driving force behind much of what is wrong with the world as we conveniently demonize other nations and their leadership who are not aligned with U.S. / European’s self-serving policies. But, the quest for world domination and it’s resources is not sustainable for the same forces that drive the West’s rush to colonize and exploit the world are the same forces that will eventually destroy them. For, embedded deep within Mother Nature herself are forces far more powerful that provide the necessary checks and balances that obviously we do not have the moral sense to recognize, let alone the moral discipline to exercise.

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