The problem in the Ukraine is a classic case of many different peoples being lumped together by the efforts of a more powerful neighbour. The original Ukraine was only about a tenth the size it was immediately prior to this crisis. Under Russian influence it absorbed large sections of other countries that had been annexed by Germany and then won back by Russia as the Second World War progressed.
When Russia gave the Crimea to the Ukraine in 1945 it was on the understanding that it would continue to be a major naval base as access for Russian vessels to reach the Mediterranean Sea. The people in Crimea are almost totally Russian and not Ukrainian. Indeed ethnic Russians as far as I am aware are in the majority everywhere to the east of the Dnepr River, which constitutes about 40% of the modern Ukraine.
Western Ukraine perspective
Many of the peoples who populate the land west of the Dnepr River are Polish and Romanian stock and Russian is generally a second language to them. In looking towards the rest of Europe they are only gravitating back to their roots amongst the same religious and ethnic ancestors. The election of Viktor Yanukovich in 2010 was on a campaign that included closer links with the EU. According to the new interim government he was driven from power because he changed the constitution to give himself almost full dictatorial powers and together with his cohorts he and they had stolen £70B of Ukrainian financial assets into offshore accounts. His successor, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, speaking before the Ukrainian parliament, said “the state treasury has been robbed and is empty.”
Then at the eleventh hour of an agreement with the EU as promised during his campaigning he turned his back on the EU and did a deal with Moscow. If I was Ukrainian I would also have been out on the streets demanding his downfall.
The Russian perspective
Of course Russia doesn’t want to lose access to the resources of the Ukraine and wishes to defend ethnic Russians who don’t see the EU as their natural allies. Russia also needs the strategic assets of the Crimea. From their point of view they were defending their own people when they put troops in and actively encouraged the Crimean peninsular to have a referendum. The situation now is that the interim government of Ukraine having voted against having Russian as the country’s first language, that other parts of eastern Ukraine may also seek Russian support for similar referendums.
Russia states that the interim government in west Ukraine is illegal as it has deposed a legitimate democratically elected president and driven other officials from the country. That government does not have the mandate of the people and therefore does not have the authority to do deals with the EU or the West.
The EU perspective
The EU has been watching the Ukraine for decades as it steadily weaned its way out of the grip of the former Soviet Union. The Ukraine is a huge country with a lot of resources desirable to the EU and only a relatively small population. So the EU has been actively courting the Ukrainians to do deals and possibly become part of an extended Europe. In effect it has been baiting them and can be considered much of the cause of the west Ukrainians making this recent move, when Yanukovich reneged on the deal being offered by the EU. Now the EU has recognised the new interim government and is offering enormous sums of money to help them establish themselves. At the same time the EU is condemning Russia for giving Crimea a referendum on sovereignty.
The UK perspective
The British government recognises the new interim government, even though it is un-elected and as such does not have the mandate to sign up to the EU. Also strangely enough the British government is claiming that a referendum by the Crimean people is illegal, David Cameron has called it a “sham referendum“. Why?
Now when the Argentinians invaded the Falkland Islands, Britain was quick to send a task force 7000 miles to drive out the invaders and return control of those islands back to the British. The argument by the British government was that since the mid 1800’s, the Falkland Islands had been populated by British nationals and who wished to remain as such.
Our government was defending that right and setting a precedent that it would defend British nationals wherever they were, providing they wanted to remain under British rule. Supposedly then this wasn’t about resources, it was about doing the right thing by the people.
The American perspective
I have to wonder what the Americans hope to gain by getting involved in this European crisis. Is it that just like the British they have to keep getting involved in military conflict wherever it is in World. Maybe it is a Democratic/Socialist thing in support of the socialist EU. Maybe it is an opportunity for NATO in Europe to justify its existence.
What Russia has done in the Crimea is no different from what the British did in the Falklands, furthermore they actually put it to a vote. The EU, Britain, and the USA now have started putting sanctions on Russian citizens. Are we mad? That is the most stupid stunt since the start of the Second World War. Do we think Putin & Co will not do tit-for-tat retaliation? What happens when it escalates to the point that Russia turns off the gas to Europe. Do we then go to war?
When this all started and Russia reacted by sending troops to the Crimea, my thoughts were that if the new interim government wishes to survive, it should quickly negotiate with Russia to allow the peaceful annexation of the area. They might have done a deal and gained something from it in return. If they try to court the West to get involved they would quite likely end up with a war on their new territory, then they will lose all.
Isn’t it sad that leaders of countries always use the opportunity of going to war to show how tough they are, and to impress the electorate to allow them continued periods in office. The EU of course will do as it always does, use a crisis as an opportunity for further political and monetary integration. I wonder what UKIP’s position is on this!