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REPLAY: CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE? March 6, 2014

Posted by wmmbb in EUROPE.
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Perhaps with the exception of Madame Speaker, – maintaining her now customary, stern impartiality – yesterday, various female members of the Government, including the Foreign Minister, captured by the cameras in the House of Reps Question Time were attractively fitted out in orange.

Presumably, this expressed  symbolic solidarity with the Ukraine’s Orange Revolution.

The Charge of the Light Brigade seems to be the folly of the Nineteenth Century. Folly is always likely to be repeated;. However, it does not take too much imagination to suppose that any Russian Government will take seriously the events happening on its’ borders, and in particular, as is the case, of the Crimea where it has naval installations. This has not stopped the Pentagon from increasing the presence of American aircraft in the skies close to the area.

What has just happened on the ground is quite startling, if perhaps in retrospect not totally unexpected. Deutshe Wella is reporting the Crimean Parliament has voted to join the Russian Federation. It looks like there will be referenda put to the people of the Crimea. (I wonder whether a majority vote will be sufficient). DW reports:

Crimea’s parliament on Thursday voted unanimously in favor of becoming part of Russia, the RIA news agency reported, citing the text of the decision.

It was agreed “to enter into the Russian Federation with the rights of a subject of the Russian Federation,” said the decision.

Grigoriy Ioffe, a member of the parliament’s leadership, confirmed the vote to the AFP news agency.
“The parliament of Crimea has adopted a motion for Crimea to join Russia. It has asked the Russian president and parliament to consider this request,” he said.

Crimea’s vice prime minister, Rustam Termigalievon, also said Thursday the Ukrainian peninsula will vote on March 16 on whether or not to join the Russian Federation, according to Russian news agencies. According to Termigaliev, the vote would ask two questions.

“The first is: Are you for the inclusion of Crimea into the Russian Federation as a subject of the federation? The second: are you for the restoration of the constitution for Crimea of 1992?” Termiglaiev was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying.

Crimea, which is home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet and has a Russian-speaking majority, had belonged to Russia since the late 18th century until then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine in 1954. The move was less significant at the time, as both Russia and Ukraine were republics in the Soviet Union.

William Pfaff at Truthdig writes:

What did Washington expect to gain from a successful coup d’état in Ukraine? It gained little enough from the “Orange Revolution”.

. . .The Congressionally-funded American NGOs that promoted the Orange Revolution a decade ago, and its counterpart “Rose Revolution” in Georgia, cannot be said to have gained much from their efforts.

. . . Russia’s President Vladimir Putin insists that what happened in Kiev last week was another foreign-sponsored coup d’état. Whatever his other reasons for saying that, (and plenty of evidence exists concerning the American role in promoting the 2004-2005 Ukrainian “Revolution”), he has confirmation this time from American Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, provided in the course of her telephone conversation with American Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, saying of the revolt in Kiev “Yats is the guy…he’s the guy you know [and he will] need all the help he can get ….” “Yats” is Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the 39-year-old central banker and ex-foreign minister who ended up (surprise!) as the pro-tem prime minister of the Ukrainian government that emerged from last week’s upheaval in Kiev.

So what happens now? Russia has taken possession of the naval base it leases in Crimea, and pro-Russian militia have appeared elsewhere in Crimea, which was an Ottoman possession in the 15th to 18th centuries, the Russia Empire from the 18th to 20th centuries, and was given to Ukraine as a gift by Nikita Khrushchev in 1954 as a gift. (First Secretary Khrushchev made his career mainly in Crimea.) The peninsula is mostly Russia in population, with a Muslim Tatar minority. In eastern, Russo-phone Ukraine, militias have also appeared, together with some demands for partition of Ukraine and union of eastern Ukraine with Russia.

. . .The possibilities would appear to be war, which all sides recognize would be absurd.

The country could be partitioned, but that would be complex, unpopular and provide grounds for still more ethnic and national disputes in the future.

The country could be divided, with a federation.

However, there is another possibility. In the 1990s the 55-state member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (the OSCE) was created as a result of the Helsinki negotiations, begun in 1975, to deal with détente Europe and emerging post-cold war problems in Europe. The conference was held in Finland, and its meetings, and the Helsinki Final Act subscribed to by its members, contributed yeoman service in that difficult period.

The OSCE still exists, and its mandate is early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation. The new government in Kiev has already asked the OSCE to send observers to document Russian military activity.

However, more important is that Mr. Putin, according to the German Foreign Office, has agreed “to immediately establish a mission of inquiry as well as a contact group, possibly under the direction of the OSCE, to open a political dialogue.” According to Le Monde, Samantha Power, American ambassador to the UN, has already evoked the possibility of an OSCE intervention. The OSCE sounds like precisely the organization needed to do a great deal more to sort out the present crisis and draft and underwrite the negotiation of an impartial solution. Is President Obama willing to accept its mediation? If the answer is yes, a serious step has been taken toward a solution.

Michael Kelly in Business Insider Australia points to UKraine’s importance as a transition area for gas supplies destined to Western Europe. It looks as if the Russians have some bargaining chips at this table. In The New York Times, Charles King went with the analogy of tinderbox.

Craig Murray makes explains that the current ethnic Russian population of Crimea has a particular colonial history:

Until 1917, Russia was an Empire, avowedly so. Thereafter the Soviet Union was a non-avowed Empire. The Crimea, and the rest of the Caucasus, was not colonized by Russia until the 1820′s onward. The reason Crimea has a majority Russian population is that Stalin deported the Krim Tartars as recently as the 1930′s. That was an old fashioned, wholesale colonial atrocity, precisely similar to the British clearing parts of Kenya for white settlement.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Russian statesmen like Nesselrode appealed to the British in particular, not to oppose their expansion in the Caucasus, because as he said like the British they were white Christian Europeans engaged in a civilizing mission among savages and Muslims. It was precisely the same colonial motivation the British used. There is no moral difference, or even overt difference in justification at the time, between British colonization of India and Russian colonization of Chechnya. Because Britain happens to be an island, we think of Empires as something you get to by ship. Russia’s Empire happened to be a contiguous land mass.

The issue here goes beyond hypocrisy, of which there is plenty. Meanwhile as these matters get worked out, or not, lets applaud the “democratic revolutionaries in Federal Parliament with a brave, perhaps forlorn hope, they are the real deal capable of more that symbolic action.

Back in the realm of hypocrisy, RT is on the case:

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