Thousands poured into all major arteries leading up to Moscow’s famous Red Square, and amid thunderous clapping and foot-stomping while waving the flag of Mother Russia, Vladimir rose to the microphone to deliver a bombastic rebuke to what he called “western arrogance and its encroachment upon Russia’s vital interests.” He was flanked by some of the most important personalities in the land, including Kirill (Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyayev) the great Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Prime Minister Dmitry Medviedev and Sergey Aksyanov, the triumphant Crimean Premier.
To those who are still nostalgic of a time long gone, it looked like a Bolshevik May parade on Red Square; only noticeably absent this time were the strategic bombers from the military industrial complex and the fictional Café Pouchkine eloquently cited in the late Gilbert Bécaud’s anti-Marxist classic titled Nathalie.
The Bear embodied in his persona, Vladimir at the zenith of his political career gazed at his jubilant and politically charged crowd with an air of utmost authority reminiscent to that of the other Vladimir—Ilyich Lenin—the father of the October 17th Russian revolution.
Earlier in the day, in a highly emotional speech inside the Kremlin’s white-and-gold St. George hall, Putin outlined his rationale behind the Crimea’s reunification with Russia. And he added this: “In people’s hearts and minds, Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia.” As the fancy guests and the entire nation gleefully watched, with a stroke of his pen, he officially folded Crimea into the map of Russia, describing the move as “correcting past injustice.” The golden chandeliers soon sparkled and beamed a superpower projection to the marbled floor where the entire Russian oligarchy—nouveaux riches and bureaucrats from the old nomenklatura— convened to rubberstamp the action at play.
Under a shower of praises, the Russian president dismissed Western criticisms of Sunday’s Crimean referendum in which residents from this vital peninsula overwhelmingly voted in favor of breaking away from Ukraine and joining Russia. He accused the European Union and NATO officials of being “unprofessional and irresponsible,” and by criticizing Russia’s action, “they are simply trying to rewrite their own book.” He then reminded them of Kosovo in 2008 when the NATO countries coordinated and financed a referendum that led to the declaration of independence of the Serbian province against the will of Serbia; and they all hastened to recognize the newly independent state of the Balkan.
The dreaded game
In this great game of superpower rivalries, Putin has won and won big—at least in this latest round of showmanship and military muscle-flexing. Arrogance and pragmatism do not go hand in hand in geostrategic crusades—a fundamental reasoning clumsily overlooked by western ideologues who preach about western civilization as the sole bearer of justice in the world. However, when the Russian leadership questioned them on the destruction of Libya, the dismemberment of Iraq, their crusades in Sub Saharan Africa, US constant undermining of popular democracies in Latin America and in the Caribbean and their blatant violation with regards to international law, the enforcers’ cry sounded more like the whimper of hounds trapped in a cage.
While Russia’s action over the Crimea is also at odds with accordance to international law and a gross violation of the Budapest memorandum of 1994 which guaranteed security for Ukraine’s territorial integrity in exchange for giving up its old Soviet’s nuclear arsenal, one must say that Putin engineered his move with popular backing, and beyond the borders of Ukraine’s proper, millions stand ready to follow the example of Crimea. This fact speaks loud and clear for him.
With all intellectual probity, Russia’s swift and unopposed reclaim of Crimea is a coup that strikes deep into the hearts of western planners—something they could not envision just few weeks ago as they were financing and coordinating the Miadan protesters who ultimately overthrew a democratically elected president who, on February 21st, signed a mutual agreement with leaders of the opposition to share power in an interim arrangement and to hold presidential election by the end of this year.
Regardless of the corrupt nature of Yanukovich, he should have been allowed to serve out his term as president, thereby guaranteeing the strengthening of Ukraine’s governmental institutions. Moreover, Yanukovich, unpopular and corrupt to the bones, stood no chance at winning anyway. By staging a putsch to remove him, however, they have also allowed him to hold the moral high ground because nation building can only take place through democratic governance and the rule of law. Imagine a coup d’état taking place at the White House because Tea Party members despise Obama?
Ukraine: a dangerous line to cross
For the sake of world peace and security, why would anybody want to antagonize Russia? This is the largest country on earth, stretching over 11 time zones. It commands one of the largest nuclear stockpiles backed by a million-man conventional force, extremely rich in natural resources and its science has been quite beneficial to the advancement of mankind.
Even when historical Russia was presumably weak, they could not achieve what they are now attempting to accomplish. They could not do it in the Battle of Balaclava in October of 1854 during the Crimean War when Russian General Menshikov effectively denied the Anglo-French-Turkish campaign access to the port and fortress of Sevastopol, Russia’s then and still is the principal naval base on the Black Sea.
During the Second World War, the Nazis did not capture Sevastopol until after months of relentless pounding. The Russians fought bitterly, contesting every inch of territory just like they did in Stalingrad in 1943. One would argue that Russia emerged as a superpower in the aftermath of World War II precisely because of its losses during the Nazis occupation. Russia lost 20 million souls to the savagery of war. No country suffered this much under the hideous actions of the Nazis.
Although the imposition of Marxist regimes in Eastern Europe was an outrageous act, many contemporary historians concede that it was done under the premise of solidifying the then Soviet Union strategic deterrence. To the Soviet leadership then, stationing conventional forces through client states at the heart of Europe was the best way to ensure Russia’s security. Understandably, the policy of pushing NATO forces to Russia’s border is a dreaded reminder of the Nazis occupation. No wonder Vladimir is so popular these days. Aware of his new high in public opinion, Vladimir says he is ready to negotiate the future of Ukraine, putting forward onto the table a new constitution for Ukraine, a pledge of neutrality and a move toward federalism that would guarantee greater autonomy for the east and south regions with strong historical ties to Russia.
It is disheartening that the Obama Administration along with its NATO partners are now offering open-ended military support and security guarantees to right-wing regimes on Russia’s borders, such as Ukraine and Lithuania. In doing so, they are setting into motion a confrontation that could easily end in disaster. Such a confrontation poses immense dangers and has no support in the working class in Europe or the United States.
To shed some additional light on this new paradigm shift, they are now openly dealing with the putschists like Andriy Parubiy,co-founder of the far-right Svoboda party, who is now Ukrainian Secretary of National Security, and current Deputy Secretary of National Security Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of the Right Sector Party. Just as recently as December of 2012, the European Union placed the fascist Svoboda party in its list of terrorist organizations and Dimitro Yarosh was facing an international arrest warrant for his collaboration with the Chechen Islamist terrorists in the Caucasus Mountains. On top of this, the putsch regime in Kiev is littered with Russophobes and other dubious figures in the European far-right movement. “These forces do not speak for the ‘Ukrainian people,’ as Obama claims, but for [The United States], which has spent over $5 billion to set up pro-US opposition groups in Ukraine since the dissolution of the USSR, according to US State Department official Victoria Nuland,” asserted Alex Latier, writer for the World Socialist website.
In fact, these people make no secret of their violent hostility to Russia or their veneration of the Ukrainian fascists who helped Nazi SS units massacre Ukrainian Jews during World War II.
One would think the western planners are not suicidal. After all, they are bourgeois themselves, and wars that could engulf them should be avoided at all costs. One would thing, common sense will prevail. One would only think. Meanwhile, the rest of the world waits, at the mercy of those who can literally turn a cold war into a catastrophic hot one. Vladimir wins tonight, and he is riding high, making the most of his sweeping victory. Who knows who the winner will be tomorrow? If we could live to see another tomorrow.
Note: Dr. Ardain Isma is essayist and novelist. He is the editor-in-chief of CSMS Magazine. He teaches Cross-Cultural Studies at University of North Florida (UNF). He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also see: Ukraine: On the brink