Sometimes I think we live in a ‘Looking Glass World’ where things mean what you want them to mean. Or is that Wonderland? At the Treaty of Versailles America championed ‘Self Determination,’ and President, Woodrow Wilson lectured ‘Old Europe’ for not seeing things as he did – i.e. - that people had the right to choose their own government. The result was a bit of a dog’s dinner. Statesmen motivated by idealism and revenge crawled over large maps of Europe with thick fountain pens and carved out entirely new countries. Old empires were dismembered for many reasons, but a key factor was self determination.
Now, it seems self determination means what unelected elites will allow.
Yanukovych’s government was corrupt. It was also elected and so constitutional. Constitutional is a very important word. It’s bandied around by all manner of people and it means, basically, ‘Our side is Constitutional. Your side is not.’
So, our side sees Herman Van Rumpuy, the unelected President of the European Union, José Manuel Durão Barroso, the unelected President of the European Commission, and Arseniy Yatsenyuk the new unelected Prime Minister of the Ukraine - along with Baroness Ashton, the unelected Head of Foreign affairs for Europe declaring the referendum in Crimean to be unconstitutional. They are at least consistent. They don’t believe in self determination for anyone as Italy and Greece have recently witnessed.
President Obama, though - heir to the proud tradition of self determination - also damns the Crimean referendum as unconstitutional. No doubt he’d like to close down the Alamo and return Texas to Mexico. If Texas broke free from Mexico on the principle of ‘self determination,’ it seems a bit rich to deny the citizens of the Crimean the same right.
William Hague, who’d fight to the last man (as long as it wasn’t him,) champions the rights of the Falklands to stay British – you’ve guessed it - on the principle of self determination. He can’t have it both ways. I also believe the people of the Falklands should determine their own future, even though in terms of geography it perhaps makes less sense than the Crimea returning to Russia on a free vote.
Rumour has it that Khrushchev was drunk when, in an administrative move, he moved the Crimea to the Ukraine. In 1954 it probably didn’t seem very important. The Ukraine was an integral part of the Soviet Union. The Russian populations of the Crimean and Eastern Ukraine would have noticed no difference.
The jubilation following the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, created and masked new problems. Why should millions of Russians suddenly find themselves in a new, artificially created country? And that is the point. There has never been one historically recognized border for the Ukraine. It’s had several – and now it suits NATO and the EEC to say this is the correct border and all previous borders have been wrong. They have their motives.
The Russians saw which way the wind was blowing when the new Ukrainian government tried to suppress the Russian language. It was forced to backtrack but the general trajectory was clear. As early as 1995 a pro Russian separatist won the regional post of President of Crimea. The post was immediately abolished, its occupant replaced by an appointee named in Kiev. As Dylan said 'You don't need a weatherman to see which way the wind blows.' It seems our statesmen are 'weather blind.' There will be no sensible peace until boundaries more accurately reflect realities.
Rather than waste billions of American and British taxpayers money on propping up a country where corruption is a bottomless sink it makes more sense for borders to be redrawn. Kiev is the historic birthplace of the Russian nation and it lies on a natural border, the river Dnieper. The resultant Ukraine will still be bigger than many European countries.