Saturday, 19 April 2014

On Ukraine and the stability of Europe

Delayed again with one thing or another  so eventually is this weeks shortish post after all.
I guess few of us have escape the continuing tensions around The Ukraine from the start of this year and to be honest I have been tempted to weigh in with it but somebody might only have suggested I'd just copied it from Farage's little black book of thought provoking remarks.
Anyway pleated battledress with ribbons on, here we go.
The question around the Crimea and the reminder of the Ukraine are different, different in that the original borders of the Ukraine were fixed pretty much under Stalin's own ideas with little active Western import and it was only the decision of Soviet President Khrushchev in 1954 to 'gift' Crimea from Russian to the Ukraine  with next to no support from the inhabitants that any change occured.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that for a number of years under Putin, Russia has taken the view that post USSR break up, it regarded some areas as being it's own backyard wanting to create a buffer between it and the West through a trading and diplomatic bloc, having no qualms about using every gram of diplomatic and economic pressure to ensure such areas including the Ukraine didn't succumb to the West's influences.
It was the attempt to coerce the Ukraine against considering joining the European Union that was the final straw leading to protests that saw the previous Ukraine president removed among much bloodshed in February.
One might argue as Farage did that encouraging this with no plan to deal with the likely Russian response was less than responsible - and I share a lot of that - but what was effectively the encouragement of locals  with some fairly obvious Russian back up of the taking of Crimea was wrong.
Wrong because any kind of change always leaves outstanding issues such as the rights of those who saw themselves as Ukrainian and their futures which are best negotiated in advance and allowing the proper fixing of borders.
Not of itself wrong had a discussion taken place prior to a referendum of the people of the Crimea as for most of it's history it wasn't a part of Ukraine. 
The Eastern Ukraine situation is different because parts were fixed post WW2 between the USSR and Poland as to what parts of the then Republic of Ukraine, a part of the USSR were with some obvious mismatches around ethnicity and nation state boundaries.
Unpicking these settlements, settlements that have their own perceived injustices admittedly, invariably lead to movement elsewhere by other groups creating considerable  geo-political tensions that cannot easily be stabilized.
The Baltic States fear similar actions by the Russian speaking minorities with tacit support from Russia and similar threats to intervene if they are threatened.
Thursday's summit meeting in Geneva between Russia, Ukraine and Western representatives such as the United States produced against the odds a workable way through the tensions but already the Pro Russian forces in several Eastern Ukraine cities refuse to accept it, refusing to leave the buildings they occupy, refusing to lay down their (military style) arms unless the current Ukraine Government itself leaves the parliament building, effectively stepping down.
Granted the manner of their taking power wasn't democratic but the problem with them doing so is simple: it would leave a huge power vacuum and in the meantime someone needs to run the State.
There appears to scant interest in the West for appoint a body to do that on top of the considerable war weariness that's evident on the streets of London, Toronto, or New York from events elsewhere for the past 11 or so years.
Short of Russia's Putin accepting some formal responsibility for what has taken place and making it plain the Pro-Russian protesters would not receive any support from him, it is hard to see this being resolved without more tension and probably more bloodshed.
I fear Russia has allowed a Genie out of the bottle which it cannot put back that will haunt Europe for years to come.
Welcome back to the Cold War.

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