Crimean Russians Vote

So Crimean Russians voted to leave Ukraine today. No surprise there given that 60% of Crimea is Russian. My problem rises with a number of issues/questions over this supposed “democratic” vote and the legitimacy of the results. Too many of these issues are reminiscent of what typical dictatorships do when they attempt cover their actions under the guise of democracy.

  1. Russian military occupation of Crimea. That alone invalidates the vote in my opinion, especially without neutral observers to watch over the process during such a highly propagandized time.
  2. Lack of international observers from neutral countries (say from Africa or Asia). I laugh at the notion that the observer from Serbia are even remotely thought of as neutral. Serbia in general still resents the breakup of Yugoslavia and their loss of influence over the surrounding regions, blaming the EU and NATO.
  3. The swiftness of the vote, without any effort at real debate and discussion, just fear mongering and Russian nationalist rhetoric.
  4. Silencing of non-Russian controlled or dominated news sources and outlets.
  5. The “95%” pro-Russian vote, considering Russians only make up 60% of the population. The remaining 40% non-Russians made it clear they distrusted Russians given past oppression and current harassment by Russian troops in Crimea and Ukraine’s borders. Even then, noting the opposition in Russia to what Putin is doing in Crimea makes it clear even Russians do not whole heartedly agree with what is happening. So 95% support….no. Reads like the old Soviet era propaganda crap.
  6. 83% turnout. Maybe amongst Crimean Russians but I doubt that was the case for Ukrainians and Tartars given overt Russian nationalists and Russian troops intimidating presence. Again, sounds like good ol’ Soviet era propaganda.

So the vote went the way everyone expected, and only Russia will acknowledge as legitimate. I suspect this will just lead to Russia becoming more isolated and former Soviet states eagerly looking to align with one another, the EU, the US, and NATO to bolster political, economic, and most importantly in the face of Russian militarism and pan-Slavic nationalism, military cooperation. Even China while not openly going against Russia they didn’t support Russia at the U.N. this past week in move that subtly shows their disapproval of both sides actions in Ukraine.

I suspect we’ll get the usual huff and puff from Russia over the sanctions that will be put on them in the short term but long term who knows. Depends on if Putin is stupid enough to follow is pan-Slavic nationalists of the cliff into oblivion by trying to start a war to annex Ukraine or other former Soviet states. Right now I don’t see that immediately happening, but you never know. Most Russian leaders aren’t known for diplomacy or restraint.

As an aside, I hope Putin realizes the potential disaster he may have just unleashed on Russia by following in the footsteps of Hitler in using ethnocentric policies to justify his (as the Russians used to like call it) adventurism. By claiming the invasion of Ukraine was justified to protect Russians, he has now made legitimate any ethnic groups (i.e. Chechens, Ossetians, Tartars, et al) claim in Russia that they can secede from the so called Russian Federation for the exact same reason. And possibly have other neighboring countries invade to “protect” these ethnicities as well using the same or similar justifications.

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Russia siezes Crimea

Sadly Putin continues his imperialist intentions towards Ukraine by sending troops into the Crimea region, in essence setting up a de facto puppet state for Russia there ahead of elections that were moved up by Russian nationalists. So the question is: now what?

For the world, it’s about holding Russia accountable for its violation of international law and territorial sovereignty of a foreign state. Those repercussions will likely come in some form of political and economic isolation and estrangement and possibly an increase in negative worldwide popular opinion. Certainly it will prompt some former Soviet states to consider distancing themselves from Russia and furthering ties with other nations and organizations outside of Putin’s sphere like the U.S., China, the EU and NATO. It may even revive efforts by some East European nations to revive plans for their own mutual defense organization to provide their own defensive buffer zones in case of NATO or EU abandonment.

Though Putin himself may care less about such things these repercussions could play significantly into the global political dynamic. For example, China (despite their occupation of Tibet) is a nation that has staunchly staid by its position that all national boundaries and territorial integrity should be inviolate. For Russia to so blatantly have a hand in Crimea via military force may prompt the Chinese to impose economic and political sanctions that would stifle efforts to improve Sino-Russian relations on a host of territorial, economic, and political issues.

For Ukraine, they must decide whether Crimea is worth the effort of trying to oust the Russians via political maneuvering as they would likely not be able to withstand a military conflict with Russia without EU, US, and/or NATO support. Given that Crimea was transferred to Ukrainian control in 1954 from Russia some Ukrainians might be happy to shed off the pro-Russian region. For others, even Russians living in Ukraine it will be a matter of pride to not allow Putin’s military aggression to go unanswered.

For Putin, he has effectively crushed his own efforts to improve Russia’s standing in the world by interfering in such a knee jerk reaction. As one of my Russian associates put it Putin was “interfering too soon”, by which he meant events in Crimea and Ukraine did warrant the disproportionate Russian response and Putin should have waited for a “legitimate reason to invade” (per the same Russian associate). Putin’s action may play well to the blind nationalists and imperialists in Russia but it doesn’t address the nation’s ongoing socio-economic and political problems while likely harming economic and investments meant to address Russia’s woes.

For now, the region is tense but generally calm. It’s now a matter of how each side approaches the events in Ukraine, hopefully with a mind towards not repeating the mistakes of history (i.e. Sudetenland 1938), Russia returning to pre-crisis military deployments and Ukrainian territorial integrity reinstituted.