Will the Crimea turn into a new Cuba crisis?

This article is a translation of "Wordt de Krim een nieuwe Cuba-crisis?"

Everywhere these days we can hear the crisis concerning Crimea being compared to the Cold War, and there is good reason for it. After all, what we are experiencing is the continuing collapse of the Soviet Union, which contained an estimated 194 different nationalities (Ukraine alone has already 132). Once therefore the liberal principle of a nation-state has been introduced (ideally with protection for ‘minorities’), an endless series of conflicts is set in motion too, in which emotions run high—and not only theatrical emotions as in the case of Yuliya Timoshenko (pictured). 

Like China and Yugoslavia, the USSR was based on two entirely different principles concerning nationality, viz., internationalism and autonomy—peoples live together in a shared territory and even the smallest retain the right to their own language for culture, administration, education, etc. Of course that did not work out properly in every case, but what plays out today is the objective impossibility to give every people, including the tiniest, their own state, as liberalism prescribes. 

Even so, that is Western policy—divide and weaken. Now that the decline-cum-fire sale of the Soviet Union has been blocked with Putin’s rise to power, the confidence that the cutting-up operation can continue, is diminishing.

In December 2012 Hilary Clinton, then still Obama’s secretary of state, declared that there was a movement to re-Sovietise the region, although it would not be called that. It will be called a customs union, it will be called a Eurasian union, or anything like it. But, she added, let their be no misunderstanding: we know what the goal is and we will attempt to find effective means to slow it or prevent it.

That in other words is the American, and hence, NATO policy. It is duly followed also by the Netherlands. Yet from the liberal principle that every nationality must have its own state, there is in fact nothing special about the Russian majority in the Crimea wanting to join Russia; certainly if it felt threatened by the nationalist Ukrainian flood tide in which neo-Nazis set the tone. Next, the Tatar minority in the Crimea will become apprehensive, and so on and so forth.

Meanwhile tensions around Ukraine continue to be stoked up. The US have dispatched a guided missile frigate to the Black Sea, although the Sixth Fleet is not yet allowed to follow (the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush is too big to sail through the Dardanelles). These are extremely dangerous manoeuvres, which are indeed reminiscent of the Cuba crisis of 1962, when the world was closer than ever to a nuclear war.

That crisis had been caused by the decision of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to deploy intermediate range missiles on the Caribbean island. This move was meant to compensate the reduction of the USSR’s armed forces and the fact that the US also possessed such missiles in Turkey. A nuclear war was only prevented because Kennedy and Khrushchev reached an agreement to both withdraw their missiles—from Cuba, but also from Turkey.

At the time, the world was left largely in the dark as to how the crisis was unfolding—that the US too had missiles in Turkey, was not reported in the news. One of the dangers of the current crisis concerning the Crimea is once again the absolutely one-sided news management. That ‘Putin’ has been declared the ultimate bogeyman, instead is meant to make things easy to understand. Just look at his ‘cold stare’! But we don’t hear much about the fact that we assisted in clearing the way for the neo-Nazis who in today’s Ukraine rule the roost and who by their provocations in the Russian-speaking east, are also stirring up fighting there. 

Foreign secretary Frans Timmermans has travelled to Kiev again to lay a wreath for the victims who perished in the Maidan rebellion. The fact that the snipers who killed both demonstrators and policemen, had been hired by the opposition (as his Estonian colleague has revealed) remains under wraps here. Such contradictory facts do not fit the fairy tale of the democratic revolt.

Kees van der Pijl

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