Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Ukraine & Russia: Sanctions in our time!

IT has been said that rats when they find a carcass, take watchful bites at its extremities; then prudently withdraw to see whether any ill consequences ensue before starting to chew at the main course.  It is clear that President Putin and his Russian henchmen are applying a similar foreign policy strategy in Crimea and very likely in eastern Ukraine. What may now be devoured up with impunity in Crimea may later be relished elsewhere at leisure without as to repercussions.  It is a process that was used by Putin elsewhere, and one used by other statesmen in the last century:  a frontier incident at Wal Wal in the 1930s provided the excuse for the Italian government under Mussolini to demand territorial and other concessions from Abyssinia. 

Last week, Russia deployed more troops on its eastern border with the Ukraine ready, we are told, 'to intervene in Ukraine at any time'.   Today the Crimean referendum was confirmed to be as expected in favour of its amalgamation with Russia.  At the time of the Italian-Abyssinian conflict the League of Nations (an unfortunate forerunner to the UN) pondered and investigated; Anthony Eden even promising that, if necessary, they would trace its origins back to the Flood:  the world was told that no effort would be neglected that offered hope of a peaceful settlement.  Mr. Eden then, like Mr. Hague now, threw himself into his labours and while he and the League laboured in their efforts to find a settlement, Mussolini and the Italian army proceeded with their military preparations:  on the 2nd, October 1935, a telegram was dispatched by by Hailé Selassié declaring that Italian troops had crossed the Abyssinian frontier.  Then with Mussolini, as now with Putin in Crimea, the international policy makers declared that the aggressor had breach its obligations with regard to international law. 
Now Mr. Putin, the Russian President has signed a decree recognising Crimea as a sovereign state, paving the way for it to be absorbed into Russia.  This decree says has taken into account Sunday's referendum in Crimea, in which officials said 97% of voters backed breaking away from Ukraine.  The EU and United States say the referendum is illegal and is imposing sanctions on 21 officials from Russia and Ukraine.
Crimea, which has been part of Ukraine since 1954, was apparently taken over by pro-Russian gunmen in late February.  Most of its population is ethnic Russian.  The official position of the Kremlin is to deny that the gunmen are Russian soldiers, but concedes that MPs authorised Mr Putin to use force after a formal plea for help from Mr Yanukovych, the ousted former President of the Ukraine.  
The US sanctions target 11 people, including several Russian officials and Viktor Yanukovych 'by far the most comprehensive sanctions applied to Russia since the cold war'. 
Meanwhile, an editorial in the Financial Times yesterday declared:   'Nobody should assume that these sanctions will be enough to curb the Kremlin.  It is far from clear that Mr. Putin's thirst to revenge the toppling of his ally in Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, has been sated.'
In the case of Abyssinia, the League of Nations avoided ill-consequences by leaving Hailé Selassié with a fragmented kingdom connected to the sea by a slim desert strip, and giving Mussolini the effective control of most of the country.  With this historical example in mind one must fear for the territorial integrity of the Ukraine.  Malcolm Muggeridge, commenting later on the Italian-Abyssinian conflict in his book 'The Thirties' on the idea that a 'spirited David with his accurately aimed pebble sanctions' may lay low the 'Goliath of  ruthless, overbearing force'  was to write:  'Sanctions, which had already been in operation... had prove somewhat disappointing' and that 'in the public mind' they represented 'a means of engaging in warfare innocuously, a play-way or substitute war; enough war to cover a sixpence'. 
I fear it will be the same in the Ukraine in the time of Putin, as it was in Abyssinia in the time of Mussolini;  Sanctions in our time, oh Lord!


Trevor said...

I usually agree with your sentiments and see eye to eye on most things, but here I profoundly disagree.

It seems to me you have swallowed hook, line and sinker the Western corporate media's propaganda (eg BBC, Channel 4, ITV, all the UK press) which surprises me, knowing how thoughtful and astute you are. What you have totally missed out is the fact that for decades the US and NATO (which is the US's handmaiden) has been enclosing Russia and encroaching on its satellite countries with a ring of missiles and bases. And Russia is supposed to do nothing? Imagine how America would go completely ape-shit if Russia decided to site bases and missiles near the US ~ in Cuba say (!!!), or in South America. Yet we are supposed to think Putin should not react when we do the same.

And for the US to preach about "international law" is hypocrisy on steroids. Does no one remember Iraq, Afghanistan, Lybya, their attempt to bomb Syria back to the stone age? How anyone can listen to Obama and Hague and keep a straight face is beyond me.

I'm sending a link which I think gives a much more complete and fairer picture of what is happening in Crimea. Let me know what you think. And I have to say, finding you and Little Willie Hague on the same side comes as a shock! Hague is a warmonger of the first water, and I would automatically expect anything he says to be a pack of lies.

Editor said...


Thanks for that! Can we publish this or some other reply in response to my piece? I think this whole thing needs debating more fully on the left. I may be wrong but I don't think Obama is a hawkish president in the sense that Bush was; I think he was glad to dodge involvement in Syria (the red-line promise didn't have to full-filled), and I think he wants to abandon the Middle East and concentrate on drones in Pakistan etc. This doesn't please me, but I think we should distinguish between Bush & Obama.

Trevor said...

You say:
'I don't think Obama is a hawkish president in the sense that Bush was.'

I goggled in disbelief when I read this. Obama not hawkish? When he increased the number of drone strikes killing innocent civilians in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen far above what Bush did? When he chairs a "kill" meeting every Tuesday in the White House to decide who next the drones should target ~ without giving any of those people the chance of a trial, a defence, nothing. As if the President of the US can just go round the world assassinating anybody he feels like? You've got to be kidding me.

Really I am truly astounded at what seems either naivety on your part or wilful blindness. Obama could solve a major Middle East problem tomorrow by giving justice to the Palesinians and not subsidising the nuclear state of Israel by giving it three billion dollars a year to spend on arms.

Editor said...

Dear Trevor,

You seem to have mistook my meaning in my email; I did say that I'm worried about the drone strikes that Obama is up to. But, I was talking of the prospects of a full frontal war when I refered to his lack of 'hawkish' military instincts and his difference from Bush. Bush was into direct engagement in the Middle East, and Obama is more deviously into spying and drone strikes on specific targets. This is not to suggest that Obama is a 'good guy', only to argue that he is different in his strategy and tactics to Bush. I wanted to draw attention to the socalled 'Asian pivot' of Obama which represents a strategic shift from the Middle East to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Perhaps it may be best the represent Obama as employing more of the charateristics of the fox; while Bush showed the insticts of the lion. Let me be clear here I'm not suggesting that Obama is better than Bush, or that the fox is a more decent creature to the lion, but only different in its habits. I'm not being judgemental here, I'm only trying to look at the methodology and statescraft of the different US administerations. The broad brush or cookbook approach to politics is to be avoided, as I'm sure you will agree.

I'm not sure that the problem of Palestine and the Middle East can be resolved as easy as you suggest. When Lord Passfield (formerly the Fabian, Sidney Webb) was landed with the job of solving and smoothing the repatriation of the Jews in the 1930s, with all the all the well-meaning desire to be scrupulously impartial, he ended up being burnt in effigy together with his wife amid the shouts of angry Zionists.

I don't see how we differ much over Obama and his drones, but I suspect that we may disagree over the Ukraine.

Trevor said...

[I no Putin lover] but, how would the US react if Russia decided to site missiles on America's borders? I think we all know the answer to that.

I didn't say solving the Israel/Palestinian conflict would be "easy". Of course it wouldn't. But the US pretends to be encouraging "peace talks" between them when it is openly pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian. And why doesn't the US raise the question of "international law" in this situation as well as the Ukraine? Because it knows damn well that Israel has broken scores of international laws over the past 60 years, stealing Palestinian land, and so it keeps quiet about the violations. That's what I meant by saying the US could start tomorrow, if it wished, in resolving the Middle East conflict ~ but it doesn't want to. It's perfectly happy to conduct endless pointless "peace talks" that don't go anywhere while Israel carries on stealing someone else's land and committing one international crime after another. The two-faced hypocrisy of Obama, Cameron and Wee Willie Hague is breath-taking.

Anonymous said...

And why is the USA so keen on backing Israel? Is it:-

A) Long standing support for a perceived underdog?

B) long standing guilt for the Holocaust?

c) The strength of the Jewish/Zionist lobby in the USA?

D) Fear of being called "anti-Semitic"?