Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Crimean Question

Last week, Europe was on the edge after decades with a Russian 'invasion' of the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine in the Black Sea. The move is a dramatic escalation of already strained ties between Moscow and Washington and leaves Europe hanging in the air, wanting to take strong action against Russia but handcuffed by its dependency on Russia fossil fuels. Now, the semi-autonomous Crimean Parliament plans to hold a referendum on joining the Russian Federation.

All these are clear signs that NATO's expansion into the former Soviet bloc is not going to go unchecked. To be sure, Russia is no Soviet Union: its economy today is almost entirely dependent on fossil fuel exports, its democracy is effectively dead and its media gagged. The chaos and fear within is what Putin should be wary of the most. And yet, Russia has managed to trump the West, daring it to take action. In its moves, it has found a surprising ally in China. All this seems like a scary return to the Cold War.

However, it must be understood that Crimea is rightfully a part of Ukraine. It was actually a part of Russia until Khrushchev transferred it to Ukraine, all under the Soviet Union, and hence, has deep Russian cultural roots. But Crimea's autonomy is by virtue of the Ukrainian constitution and it cannot be allowed to secede against it. The United States should not turn Crimea into another Kosovo and should recall its own actions when its Southern states attempted to secede, sparking off the American Civil War.

The truth is that, after the end of colonization and the universal adoption of the Nation state, secession is simply not an option anymore. Countries are no longer open to any loss of territory, people do wish to see a truncated country. Perhaps a notable exception is South Sudan, but that was a result acceptable to both sides. In the case of Ukraine and Crimea, the secession would be entirely antithetic to the Ukrainian constitution and would be simply playing into the hands of the larger pseudo-Cold War. For the sake of peace and the integrity of the nation state system, Russia must be stopped from allowing Crimea to secede. 

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