Friday, 7 March 2014

Thoughts on Ukraine

Did you watch the first episode BBC’s 37 Days?

The story of how the assassination of a member of the Austrian royal family in Serbia led, 37 days later, to the outbreak of the First World War with its unthinkable loss of life and impact on the World the affected the rest of the 20th Century.

Or, perhaps, many of you recall the events of the late 1930’s, when Germany began to ‘annexe’ areas of other countries on its ever extending borders.

All this may seem like history now but there are parallels with what is happening in Ukraine and Crimea.

Most of us may think why worry about a country we know little about or have any real interest in yet the political rhetoric being ramped up should be worrying for all of us.

The word ‘annexation’ has been used extensively to describe Russia’s military moves into Crimea, and the word ‘appeasement’ was used by one British reporter in a press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron. All echoes of the late 1930’s.
Thankfully nowadays we know a lot more of what is happening and what politicians and diplomats are saying so we can have a greater insight into the issues and, hopefully, have greater influence on the outcomes and it is vitally essential that we do that.

In my view Russia needs to pull back.

They do have some legitimate concern, access to the Black Sea ports in Crimea has always been important to Russia, there is a sizeable ‘minority’ of Russians living in Ukraine and Ukraine is important Russia’s economy. Yet the apparent aggression of dealing with those concerns is excessive and wins Russia no friends when a more diplomatic solution would be considerably more beneficial, particularly economically, for Russia.

The ‘West’ needs to shut up! 

Unfortunately the rhetoric from the White House and EU leaders is hollow and making them look stupid. Claiming that Russia’s actions are against International Law, to quote President Obama “the steps Russia has taken are a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty, their territorial integrity — that they're a violation of international law”. Erm what about Iraq Mr President? If International law can be judged by precedents then the U.S. and Allies have paved the way for Russia’s actions.

The argument that the proposed referendum on Crimea moving toward Russia is unconstitutional is also hollow. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the current Government in Kiev, the fact remains that, it is, an unconstitutional one. The current Government is one imposed on the people of Ukraine and until there are fresh elections to legitimise that Government Russia will always have half an excuse to ‘protect its interests’.

What I would like to see is sensible diplomacy. Both Russia and the West must step back from their current positions. Both must work together to push forward elections in Ukraine and the creation of a Government elected by the people of Ukraine. Personally I would like to see the UN oversee those elections with suitably neutral officials!

Only once there is an elected Government in place then the talking about the future of Crimea and the future of the people of Ukraine can begin.

On Twitter: @TonyButcher

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