Does the Crisis in the Ukraine Indicate an End to Global Norms?

Today is Sunday, April 13, 2014

I was originally thinking I would wait until the end of this month to see what develops in the Ukraine before I wrote another blog. However, the situation this weekend has begun to change rapidly from the lull of last week. I am struck by the similarity of the current situation in Eastern Ukraine to last month’s events in Crimea. Once again we see fascist-dressed, heavily armed, paramilitary terrorists taking over public buildings in the cities, ‘protesting’ the government in Kiev and demanding independence from the Ukraine, ostensibly to create an Anschluss with Russia. This is not a spontaneous, grassroots pro-Russian movement that has arisen from the people. The coordination, the weapons, the unmarked uniforms, the strategies, etc., make it clear to me this is being coordinated by the Russians. They have amassed 35,000 to 40,000 troops along the border and mobilized tank units and fighter jet squadrons. it won’t be long now and Russia will invade Eastern Ukraine just like they did Crimea. And if the government in Kiev and the Ukrainian people don’t resist, like they really didn’t resist what happened in Crimea, there won’t be much international support for their objections to Russia’s actions, or at least, the response will be relatively luke warm.

What is mysterious to me is the lack of international response to the crisis. China has made it clear they support the sovereignty of the Ukraine, but they haven’t condemned Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Israel is the most pro-American country in the world, yet, they haven’t condemned Russia’s actions. India, the largest democracy in the world, has refused to comment on the crisis. When you look more closely at each of these countries’ relationship to Russia, you find relationships that are crucial to each. Their national interests, at this point, would not be served by condemning Russia. Yet, in each case, Russia also presents a potentially serious threat. Russia supports many of the Arab countries and groups, including Syria and Hezbollah, both more than willing to see Israel pushed into the Mediterranean Sea. India has border issues with China and it seems it would be better served by siding with the U.S. on the crisis in the Ukraine. If Russia is allowed to annex territories from a neighboring sovereign nation, it sets a precedent for China to do the same in India. China also has a long, extensive border with Russia and has had conflicts over border territories before. If Russia gets away with the Ukraine, this could be a signal that China’s border could also be vulnerable, if history is any lesson.

This concerns me. Since 1945 and the end of WWII, international norms have been in place that make it unacceptable to annex territory from another sovereign nation. These rules were put in place in response to the violations and land grabs of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. Aside from the little ‘hot wars’ of the Cold War that followed, these international norms helped maintain a standard for international peace in the latter part of the 20th century. Israel’s land grab and settlements in the West Bank have been condemned by almost everybody, but China, India and Israel itself haven’t condemned Russia. I have to ask myself, what does this mean for the 21st century? This is the first serious crisis of the new century and, if global norms regarding sovereignty and secure national borders are ignored or abandoned, we are risking a peaceful world and another world war in the relatively near future.  So, from my point of view, Russia needs to be stopped in order to protect these standards and norms of international behavior that have existed for the last seventy years.

The cult of personality around Putin, his clear desire for a new fascist imperial Russia, his rather naive sense that he can hold Europe hostage with gas and oil, in fact, his push over the last decade to recreate the Russian economy based almost exclusively on oil and gas, his forced take-over of the Russian media, which included the assassination of journalists who criticized him, and now his push into the Ukraine, all lead me to believe the weak democracy that developed after the collapse of the Soviet Union has been lost and Putin has replaced the process with a permanent ‘presidency’ in order to bring Russia forcefully back to a position of oppositional power to the U.S. and the E.U. This does not bode well for the 21st Century. Once again, reactionary fascist forces will oppose and compete with the democracies of the world seriously threatening them. Ironically, this time it will be one of the victims of the last fascist efforts to dominate the world, Russia, that itself is turning fascist. WWII for the Russians is called ‘The War of Survival’ and their war with Nazi Germany killed 22,000,000 Russians. I can’t believe their collective memory is that short, but their actions in the Ukraine and the demise of their democracy under Putin suggest they are not making the right connections to their history. The Soviets under Stalin killed millions of Ukrainians in the 1920s and 1930s in their take-over of the region and the forced collectivization of the agricultural sector in the then new Soviet Union, and the western Ukrainians have not forgotten that fact. In part, this is a reason for Kiev’s hatred for Moscow. It is just tragic that Russia has apparently forgotten its history and is now about to repeat one of the most catastrophic periods in all of Russian history, and in the process destroy global norms of behavior, which will threaten world peace.




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