24th March 2014
The latest phase of the Ukrainian crisis erupted with the ousting of President Yanukovich. Those that took interim power in Kiev did so unconstitutionally (see Wikipedia for details how a President of the Ukraine can be removed from power). That fact however was ignored by the West’s political leaders and the mainstream media.
The ‘narrative’ they have used to shape public opinion against Russia was that Russia was the aggressor. According to Frau Merkel, President Putin was not “playing the game” by the rules of the 21st century. Citizens of EU countries are being persuaded to believe that Russia has reverted to old Cold War tactics, applying military force to achieve territorial gains. That is, acting like an unreconstructed imperial power.
There is, in this narrative, no acknowledgement of the “soft power” tactics employed by the US and EU vis a vis Ukraine. Nor of the antagonisms likely to arise given the long history of political, economic, cultural and linguistic relations between Ukraine and Russia.
The USA and EU have funded, encouraged and mobilised political opposition in the Ukraine. Powerful promises were made: an Association Agreement with the EU; a massive Euro 11 billion loan, and finally, membership of the EU, and hence too membership of NATO.
In short, over the last 10 years, the EU deployed “soft power” tactics to extend its’ imperial political-territorial objectives. Over a longer period, the US – dominated by the neo-cons – pursued its’ military-strategic goal of isolating and surrounding Russia. Both the EU and the US have the political goal of separating Ukraine from the influence of, and economic dependency to, Russia.
That is, the EU and US both behaved as imperial powers.
Prospects for Self-Determination in Crimea
Last week, the Crimea returned to the Russian Federation after a referendum on secession from Ukraine. A resounding 93% voted in favour on a turn out of 86%.
In the West, the media and the political leaderships of the USA and leading European nations poured scorn on the result. They cried “foul” against the Russian “annexation”, and began imposing bans on leading Russian politicians as well as on Ukrainian oligarchs close to former President Yanukovich .
The organisation of the Crimea vote was hasty. But that should not detract from the facts on the ground. The Ukrainian Constitution allows the Autonomous Region of Crimea to hold referenda. Doing so, a clear majority of Crimeans favoured integration with the Russian Federation.
The US and the EU wanted to delay and prevent the referendum. If that was not possible, then at least internationalise it so as to intervene and influence voters. That intent was made evident by the sending of OCSE observers to the Crimea. However, they were refused entry by the local authorities and ordered to leave.
While the people of Crimea did not vote for independence; they voted to leave Ukraine and make their future in a federated Russia. That is self-determination.
President Putin, speaking 18th March to the deputies of both houses of the Russian Parliament before the signing ceremony of new legislation enabling the Russian Federation to fast track entry of new territories into the Federation, was scathing of the West’s hypocrisy in its dealings with Russia over the questions of Crimea, Ukraine and the West’s intolerance of others’ arguments. It merits quoting at length; it has received virtually no media coverage in the West:
“….what do we hear from our colleagues in Western Europe and North America? They say we are violating norms of international law…….. it’s a good thing that they at least remember that there exists such a thing as international law – better late than never.
Next, as it declared independence and decided to hold a referendum, the Supreme Council of Crimea referred to the United Nations Charter, which speaks of the right of nations to self-determination. Incidentally, I would like to remind you that when Ukraine seceded from the USSR it did exactly the same thing, almost word for word. Ukraine used this right, yet the residents of Crimea are denied it. Why is that?
Moreover, the Crimean authorities referred to the well-known Kosovo precedent – a precedent our Western colleagues created with their own hands in a very similar situation, when they agreed that the unilateral separation of Kosovo from Serbia, exactly what Crimea is doing now, was legitimate and did not require any permission from the country’s central authorities. Pursuant to Article 2, Chapter 1 of the United Nations Charter, the UN International Court agreed with this approach and made the following comment in its ruling of July 22, 2010, and I quote: “No general prohibition may be inferred from the practice of the Security Council with regard to declarations of independence,” and “General international law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence.” Crystal clear, as they say.
I do not like to resort to quotes, but in this case, I cannot help it. Here is a quote from another official document: the Written Statement of the United States America of April 17, 2009, submitted to the same UN International Court in connection with the hearings on Kosovo. Again, I quote: “Declarations of independence may, and often do, violate domestic legislation. However, this does not make them violations of international law.” End of quote.
They wrote this, disseminated it all over the world, had everyone agree and now they are outraged. Over what? The actions of Crimean people completely fit in with these instructions, as it were. For some reason, things that Kosovo Albanians (and we have full respect for them) were permitted to do, Russians, Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars in Crimea are not allowed. Again, one wonders why.
Our Western partners, led by the United States of America, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world, that only they can ever be right. They act as they please: here and there, they use force against sovereign states, building coalitions based on the principle, “If you are not with us, you are against us.” To make this aggression look legitimate, they force the necessary resolutions from international organisations, and if for some reason this does not work, they simply ignore the UN Security Council and the UN overall.
They are constantly trying to sweep us into a corner because we have an independent position, because we maintain it and because we call things like they are and do not engage in hypocrisy.” 1/
Putin expressed commitment to assure that the relationship guarantees rights for all Crimeans, whatever their ethnicity:
“I believe we should make all the necessary political and legislative decisions to finalise the rehabilitation of Crimean Tatars, restore them in their rights and clear their good name.
We have great respect for people of all the ethnic groups living in Crimea. This is their common home, their motherland, and it would be right – I know the local population supports this – for Crimea to have three equal national languages: Russian, Ukrainian and Tatar.” 2/
Prospects for Self-Determination in Europe
A long held aim of the EU (and its predecessor, the EEC) has been the subjugation and control of the sovereign nation states of Europe. The EEC’s original 6 member states have grown periodically and today the EU has 27.
The ideological justification for this undemocratic power grab ( citizens of these countries were rarely allowed to vote in referenda whether they wanted to join) originated in the claim that a militarily defeated, but untrustworthy, Germany must be bound to France.
That apologia later transformed into another: that “nation states” were an anachronism in a late 20th century characterised by globalisation. Nation states, so the argument, are ineffective at pursuing public policies that require international solutions. The EU, a supranational state, must become the United States of Europe.
Thus, territorial expansion has been paralleled by the systematic deployment, and ever-expanding functional scope, of the “acquis communitaire”; that is, the European Commission’s monopoly power for proposing all EU legislation (directives and regulations), and also for ensuring its deployment, application and compliance. “Ever closer integration” (the words from the EEC’s founding treaty) would mean the accomplishment of political union by stealth: it would be the final phase, feasible only once the EU had arrogated to itself all executive powers over economic, fiscal, commercial, diplomatic, legal, and jurisprudential matters.
It must be admitted that the EU was already well down the road to meeting these goals until the financial crisis hit in 2008, followed and compounded by the Eurozone crisis of 2011/12. These crises were the catalysts for enduring economic recessions in the Eurozone countries; recessions which were characterised in particular by rapidly worsening structural unemployment, coupled with extremely serious sovereign debt problems in the “Club Med” countries and Ireland.
The EU, ECB and IMF handled the risks of sovereign debt default in Greece, Ireland, Italy and Cyprus through the uncompromising application of coercion and political blackmail. Where that was insufficient, they in effect engineered “coups” in Greece and Italy and installed caretaker governments subservient to Brussels.
These authoritarian initiatives have backfired. Sentiment in favour of the EU amongst the populace of the “Club Med” countries – riding high before the sovereign debt crises – has collapsed. The anti-democratic and coercive interventions of Brussels and the ECB have catalysed increasing political volatility within the countries concerned.
One manifestation of this is that the mainstream parties have been forced onto the defensive by new minority parties adopting anti-EU policy positions. Another is that at the grassroots level, public opinion has moved beyond any accommodation with the “old guard” mainstream parties. They are all perceived as compromised; pawns under the tutelage of Brussels.
Enter the independence movements (eg. Basques, Bayern, Brittany, Catalunya, Lombardia, Sardinia, Scotland, Veneto).
Prospects for Self Determination: the Region of Veneto, Italy
Last week, an independence referendum was held online in the Region of Veneto, Italy. Although it had no formal constitutional legitimacy, it was officially backed by the regional government. The result was a formidable majority of 73% (2.36 million voters) in favour of independence.
The Veneto, like other northern provinces of Italy, has been a large and consistent net contributor to national budgets down the years. In contrast to Rome’s profligate spending, the Veneto has managed its’ own finances prudentially. None of the Region’s local councils have any budget deficits. Over the decades a groundswell of opposition has built to cronyism, corruption and wealth transfers by the national government.
This has been a catalyst for sentiment favouring regional independence culminating in last week’s resounding “yes” vote. Commenting on the referendum result, Governor of the Veneto Luca Zaia stated that “It is a great signal…..for independence which is ubiquitous across all social classes in Veneto.” 4/
The intention now is for the Region to leverage the result to introduce legislation that enables the goal of independence to be pursued constitutionally.
The Veneto Region is not alone in actively seeking self-determination. Others include Lombardy and Sardinia.
Giaccomo Sanna, President of the Sardinian Action Party, acknowledges the Veneto vote as a component in an important political trend : “The Veneto’s referendum success confirms the highly current political nature of this topic of independence and self government in Europe and in Italy.”
In our view, these two recent referenda are precursors to a challenging new political environment in Europe.
The Crimea result is an authentic expression of self-determination. The circumstances of its occurrence were forced by events; events that were partly the result of irresponsible adventurism by the US and EU, and partly immediate threats to Russia’s security interests . That Crimea’s self determination is expressed not as sovereign independence but rather membership of the Russian Federation is consistent with international law and with its historic ties.
The Veneto’s vote for independence is a powerful example of how local self organisation around a clear political aim can overcome the dominance of mainstream media and political parties in setting the political agenda. Beyond that, it is a striking proof that, within a Europe swamped by unprecedented public debts, excessive money printing, and an anti-democratic authoritarian EU elite, there is a fast emerging movement demanding a return to small government and sound finances. Independence from the EU and from corrupt national politics is the means to those ends.
1/ “President Vladimir Putin delivers his speech at the Kremlin” 2014 03 18; bbc.co.uk