Tulsa Peace Fellowship

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In this article from The Guardian, the referendum in Crimea over secession is revealed for what it is, a sham that provided cover for Russia's illegal annexation of territory, contrary to all international law:

Why the Crimean referendum is illegal

Russia’s view of secession has its costs, and they are hideous. International law is clear, and Sunday’s vote should be off


Friday 14 March 2014 (published two days BEFORE the referendum was held)


[T]he real difficulty heading into this pivotal weekend for the crisis is: the Russian proposal is based on an outdated theory of secession. Once upon a time, the right to secede was analyzed in terms of nationalist, linguistic, ethnic or religious homogeneity. Woodrow Wilson, for example, proposed redrawing the boundary lines in Europe to preserve the integrity of nationalist groups – Poland for the Polish, Serbia for the Serbians, and (now) Crimea for the Crimeans. This was thought to be the best way to promote self-determination and, therefore, democracy. If this is right, then all people living in Crimea should ideally vote to decide what to do. By this logic, the self-determination principle is the central consideration, and other problems – like intimidation – are just practical problems.

Does no one remember the former Yugoslavia? Using principles of self-determination to justify imposing ethnic homogeneity has resulted in genocide and ethnic cleansing. This brand of nationalism carried to its logical conclusion is ugly, plain and simple.

Arguments about ethnicity also overlook the central question: who owns the territory that constitutes Crimea? The answer is unambiguous: the Ukraine does. If people living in Crimea want to be Russian citizens, they can move to Russia – and that’s the right recourse. By voting for annexation to Russia, these would-be Russians are actually trying to take the territory away from Ukraine to give it to Russia. Their objective – and, of course, Russia’s, too – is not just to make these people Russian citizens but to take Ukrainian land, and it cannot be justified by a referendum about the preferences of those who live in Crimea today.

It’s a matter of international law: territory cannot be annexed simply because the people who happen to be living there today want to secede. If that were the case, then under international law, any geographically cohesive group could vote on independence. That would mean the Basques should be free from Spain and France, and the Kurds would have an independent nation; the large community of Cubans living in Miami could vote to separate from the United States.

If a referendum were the right way to decide these issues, Russia ought to be holding a referendum to determine the future of Chechnya. Of course, it isn’t.

Read the full article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/14/crimean-refere... (emphasis added)

The article points out that Khrushchev’s transfer of Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 --which was done by treaty-- was perfectly legal by international law.  Putin's complaints about Khrushchev are immaterial, from the point of view of the law; Putin's dislike of the transfer of Crimea to the Ukraine does not constitute a legitimate grievance.  The problem is that this Cold War veteran can't get out of his mind the territorial expanse that used to be controlled by the Soviet Union.

Also see this worrisome analysis, from none other than Garry Kasparov, the former World Chess Champion, considered by many to be the greatest chess player of all time:


Vladimir Putin and the Lessons of 1938

He’s not Hitler. But we’ve got to stop him all the same.


March 16, 2014

excerpt only:

[W]e’re searching for the right historical analogy: Is it Budapest 1956? Prague 1968? Austria 1938?

It remains to be seen, however, if the media figures and politicians who have so quickly adopted my Anschluss rhetoric are willing and able to do what is necessary to stop repeating the past. In recent days, the United States and several European governments have bolstered their statements, which will, I hope, now be followed up with strong sanctions and other steps to ostracize and deter Putin.

Over the past nine years I have dedicated most of my life to opposing Vladimir Putin’s campaign to destroy democracy and civil liberties in Russia. My efforts have included everything from marching in the streets of Moscow to traveling to nearly every Russian province to sounding the alarm about the true nature of Putin’s regime as widely and loudly as possible. Eight years ago, my main arguments to international audiences were about the myths of Putin’s Russia. I explained over and over that no, Putin wasn’t really a democratically elected leader; our elections were a stage-managed charade. That yes, he really was a bad guy who was supporting rogue states abroad while in Russia he was persecuting dissidents, locking down the media under state control and subordinating the Russian economy to the Kremlin and his small circle of cronies. And if Putin is really so popular in Russia, I asked, why is he so afraid of fair elections and a free media? For this, many in the West dismissed me as a fringe troublemaker who might potentially usurp their narrative of how engagement with Putin’s Russia was going to bring about reform and liberalization.

Although I accurately saw Putin’s main advantage over his Soviet predecessors—open access to international markets and institutions—I never imagined he would abuse and exploit them so easily, or that Western leaders would be so cooperative in allowing him to do so. Putin’s oligarchs bank in London, party in the Alps and buy penthouses in New York and Miami, all while looting Russia under the auspices of a reborn KGB police state. It’s “rule like Stalin, live like Trump.” The West has fulfilled every cynical expectation Putin had about how easy it would be to buy his way around any nasty confrontation over human rights. Even now, with Russian troops occupying Crimea in preparation for annexation, European countries are terrified of losing any Russian oligarch money. They are afraid of using the very thing that gives them so much potential leverage over Putin—exactly as he hoped.

 byline: Garry Kasparov is chairman of the Human Rights Foundation in New York.

Read the full article here: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/03/vladmir-putin-crimea...

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