Friday, August 29, 2008

Crimean peninsula could be the next South Ossetia

That's the headline from an article in the U.K. Independent:

Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet, could be the next flashpoint in the new Cold War. And any violent disturbance in Crimea could provide the political seismic shock to split Ukraine itself along its existing fault lines of ethnicity, language and religion.

The Crimean peninsula is the only part of Ukraine where ethnic Russians are in a majority. Many of them are deeply resentful about being part of Ukraine and openly call for annexation by Russia. Moscow has fostered pro-annexation groups for years.

Vasyl Ovcharuk, a Ukrainian-Crimean political activist, said: "Moscow has laid the foundations for the occupation of Crimea with years of careful propaganda. It's like Hitler's excuse of helping the ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland as justification for the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938. I have no doubt that, now that the Georgian conflict is over, Russia aims to take over Crimea.The level of hatred against anything Ukrainian here is astonishing. Many people have been attacked in the street for merely speaking Ukrainian. You can talk French, German, or Chinese here without problems but if you speak Ukrainian, people often come up and start insulting you."

Word also comes that the Ukrainian president wants to renegotiate the lease (to the Russian navy) for the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, which is in the Crimea:

KIEV/TBILISI, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Ukraine said on Wednesday it wanted to discuss charging Russia more to lease a Black Sea naval base, a move that could aggravate regional tensions already inflamed by Moscow's conflict with Georgia.

As the U.S. Navy shipped in humanitarian supplies to Georgia, Russia said its navy was watching "the build-up of NATO forces in the Black Sea area" and had started taking measures to monitor their activity.

Good luck with that, Ukraine!

Meanwhile, there was a good op-ed piece in the Strib Wednesday about the great things we have done in nearby Georgia:

The United States will not sacrifice a nation's freedom for stability, President Bush has stated repeatedly, a policy applied especially in Eastern Europe and the states that emerged from the Soviet Union. Well, we may not sacrifice freedom for stability -- but because of this policy, the nation of Georgia has sacrificed several dozen soldiers, several hundred civilians, much of its military equipment, and quite possibly any hope of ever bringing South Ossetia and Abkhazia back under the sway of the central government in Tbilisi. We have staked out our position clearly -- and have let others pay for implementing it. And now we are outraged. Perhaps we should also ask just what our brave words have wrought.

William Davnie, a retired Foreign Service officer, author of the article continues:

[ . . . ] Much has been written in recent months about the famous book title "The End of History," which asserted that after the Cold War, democracy and Western values had won. There would be no more great divergence of political systems. Oh, well, it seemed a nice idea at the time. Its author, Francis Fukuyama, has since both recanted and said he was misunderstood. Russia has been a major force on the east side of Europe for at least 300 years. To think that ended in 1991 was, at best, naïve. And yet we have acted for the past 17 years, under both Democratic and Republican presidents, as if it were true.

We must accept, as Davnie says, that "history continues." The United States is not the final winner of history; Jesus isn't coming with the Heavenly Hoover; people won't become so civilized that the don't need government.

Meanwhile, the United States has conducted itself so imperiously, acting unilaterally - and then sometimes bribing countries to join us in a "multinational" effort - that we have no influence capital left in the bank. And in truth, Europe needs Russian's gas more than it needs US gasbaggery. George Bush's "democracy" and "freedom" is just plunder, privateering, and crony capitalism.

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