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Ukraine-Crimea-Russia and the West

Johan Galtung, Rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University, and author of ‘50 Years - 100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives’ analyses possible scenarios for Ukraine.

ALFAZ, Spain, Mar 13 2014 (IPS) - There is much in a name. Ukraine means borderland. The position of the extreme West – like U.S. neocons – is clear: get all into NATO, encircling, containing, defeating Russia.

Some in Ukraine and Georgia share that goal. The less extreme West would focus on European Union (EU) membership, both being European countries.

Some of them, in turn, might focus on loans as there is much money to be made. Thus, Bosnia-Herzegovina had nine billion dollars debt before the EU takeover as “high authority”; now 107 billion dollars. “Austerity” around the corner.

The position of Russia as expressed by president Vladimir Putin and minister Sergei Lavrov: no way. Crimea will revert to Russia after it was given to Ukraine in 1954 by Nikita Khrushchev – himself born in Kalinovka, Ukraine in 1894, the wife an Ukrainian – possibly mainly for economic reasons as his son at Brown University, U.S. argues.

However, Ukraine is not only a borderland but also two countries between Poland and Russia. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of 1569 and the Austria-Hungarian Empire once covered most of Ukraine; so did czarist Russia and Soviet Union in their heydays.

More importantly, the dividing line of the Roman Empire from 395, confirmed by the schism between Catholic and Orthodox Christianity in 1054 is reflected in Ukraine’s extremely complex history.

The result is unmistakable: moving east the Catholic attachment yield to the Orthodox and Ukrainian to Russian. When Poland became a member of EU and even NATO the handwriting for Ukraine was on the wall; bringing to mind Polish First Marshal Pilsudski’s Odessa-Black Sea ambitions after World War I.

Odessa is in the West, Donets in the East, Ukrainian in the West, more Russian in the East. And Kiev – origin of Russia, Rus – the capital, in the middle.

No doubt there is also a Ukraine uniting the two, a land, not only a border; also united in popular revolt against corruption all over. One split in two, two united in one: both true.

But watch out: one thing is the corruption-inequality pandemic all over the world hitting Ukraine; another is centuries of history leaving lasting impacts. Imagine corruption-inequality subsiding, and the fault lines will come up, even with a vengeance.

So much for diagnosis. Prognosis: Crimea reverts to Russia; Ukraine under Washington-Brussels hegemony; civil war threatening. Anti-semitism, Islamism. But not escalating to a world war: However, balance of terror is not peace, so what is the possible therapy?

But first Georgia, also deeply divided with Russian-speaking Orthodox South Ossetia and Abkhazia within 1921 borders where Joseph Stalin – a Georgian – played a key role (Zviad Gamsakhardia, independent president in 1991, re-asserted Georgian hegemony; now more disputed).

The Soviet power centre was in Moscow, but they showered the non-Russians with gifts of various kinds, even land. The two stories are similar, with Russian troops in Abkhazia-South Ossetia and military encounters. Thus, Georgia attacked South Ossetia in 2008, evidently hoping to provoke Russia to provoke NATO but the plot was revealed.

Georgia 2003 -Ukraine 2004 had rose-orange “colour revolutions”; now U.S. uses more forceful demonstrations also helped by Resistance!, the Beograd student group fighting Milosevic, to install governments.

Europe is more sensitive to conflicts between nations, making a NATO consensus unlikely.

Europe had the Cold War experience that a neutral-nonaligned belt between West and East is useful; the roles of Finland and Sweden, Austria and Switzerland, Yugoslavia.

To Washington they were half-way traitors, “equalizing” West and East, to be won over, even coerced. But, a non-aligned borderland between today’s NATO Poland-Lithuania and Russia and NATO Turkey and Russia, could also one day be useful.

The choice for Ukraine is not between one unitary state ruled from Kiev, and two states run from, say, Odessa and Donets. There are three in-betweens.

First, there is devolution, decentralisation, already working, with regional parliaments reflecting the deep differences. But they are weak relative to Kiev, let alone relative to Washington-Moscow.

Second, federation; the Federal Republic of Ukraine, with high level of autonomy for the two parts to express their character, yet sharing foreign, security (neutral!), finance and logistics policies.

Third, confederation, the Ukrainian Community, two independent countries each other’s major partners economically and politically.

Examples of the three: United Kingdom, Belgium, the Nordics; with similarities and differences. Thus, the UK is now loosening, possibly breaking up in spite of shared language and history.

How Belgium will turn out history will show. The Nordics work well with even more differences than there is inside Ukraine and are not even contiguous.

The West and Russia compete with economic offers, but identity is probably more important. Ukraine West feels West, Ukraine East feels Russian; united historically, divided culturally. Could one be in EU and the other in the Russian federation, both enjoying the carrots offered? – in a Ukrainian Community with open borders? Too divisive.

None of the three is perfect, but the federation may be the best way out. There is unity and diversity. Ukraine, a founding member of the United Nations, is still a country, yet the different identities are fully respected. Be smart, could that federation even be both an associate member of the EU and the Russian federation?

Prediction: within five years we have both federations. Crisis over.


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  • Guest

    Bosnia with USD 107 bn debt, suuuuure…. more like USD 2.5 bn all-in

a book