AN ALTERNATIVE VIEW ON EVENTS IN CRIMEA
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.
19 Mar 14. Not surprisingly Russia’s annexing of Crimea has driven a wedge through east-west diplomacy. The crisis has provided a range of conflicting views calling for sanctions on one hand and from others who mistakenly believe the right approach for the west would be to involve in some kind of direct military intervention and support.
I found some of the comments that were being sounded off in the House of Commons yesterday on the issue of Ukraine and Russia’s decision to annex the Crimea regions quite disturbing as they showed little understanding of what is at the heart of this dispute. Indeed, to an extent some of the more blatant remarks heard in the House of Commons yesterday calling for rather more intense action than just sanctions shows a complete lack of understanding of Russian history.
I suppose that as an island race it can be said that we in Britain have long feared the threat of invasion by sea. Russian history though is very different from that of our own being dominated not by the threat from sea but in this case, by land and predominantly from those that live to its west. We over here have long seen Russia as a threat to peace and stability in the west. They on the other hand have sometimes of necessity seen us and our allies as proffering an equally potentially dangerous threat to them. Evidence of failed understanding and pre-conceived notions by both sides are both easy to see and hard to discount. Our distrust of their system of government and those that lead it is hardly surprising particularly given fifty years of ‘’cold war’ history and politics. Russia’s consistent failure to support diplomatic efforts put forward by the west as a means of resolving international disputes through the UN Security Council is there for all to see.
But we are at fault in our understanding and approach too. For a start we fail to take Russian history on board and we have put too little effort into our understanding of it save perhaps for the attempt to comprehend the events that led to what occurred in 1918. We have also failed to understand the complex nature of Russian ethnicity.
With the US seeking to go one big step further than the European Union in the type of sanctions that will of inevitability now be placed on Russia it seems to me that we have entered a three way split on how the ‘west’ intends to deal with Russia’s hardly unsurprising decision to annex Crimea from Ukraine. For all the threats and sabre rattling voices of various EU foreign ministers and others who continue to express concern, shock and angst be in no doubt that western politicians know their limitations in this complex dispute and also that their hands are completely tied. Effectively they know that they are powerless against the determination of Russia to turn back the clock of history and re-write what it believes was an historic wrong.
EU Foreign ministers can raise their fists, they can threaten and shout, they can huddle together in a few small rooms in Brussels but apart from cutting off Russia’s access to the west and hurting themselves even more in the process there is very little else that they can do. Anyone that seeks to pretend or push forward a notion that this ‘crisis’ is about to turn from what might in all other circumstances have been a civil war into one involving the military of NATO forces is living in cloud cuckoo-land. The west is powerless and my guess is that futile gestures and threats now being made in Washington DC, Brussels and London over the threat to world peace that Russia has posed will very soon dissipate.
Attempts at further diplomatic effort to persuade Russia of the error of its ways are in this instance futile too. To question the legality of what Russia did by handing Crimea over to Ukraine in the first place would be better than questioning why Russia has now decided to annex Cri