RUSSIA'S PROPOSED UKRAINIAN MODUS VIVENDI: A COMMENT
"Two weeks ago, Vladimir Putin completed the annexation of Crimea, the first land grab on the European landmass since 1945. Since then, the west has wondered what the Russian president’s next move might be. Many fear that the seizure of Crimea is merely the first step towards his ultimate goal, the dismemberment of Ukraine. Having alienated Kiev, he may believe such an outcome is necessary in order to block this huge country on Russia’s western border from moving wholesale into the EU or Nato. In a move laden with menace, Mr Putin has massed 40,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian border. This has created alarm that the Kremlin is planning to seize the eastern and southern regions of the country, which have large Russian-speaking populations. However, Mr Putin has now chosen this moment to launch a new initiative on Ukraine. Russia is not reducing its troop deployment by much. But in what it proclaims to be a potential diplomatic solution to the crisis, the Kremlin has proposed to the US that Ukraine should become a federalised state. Russia’s plan is that Kiev should implement a constitutional reform transferring a wide range of powers to the country’s regions. Ukraine is a highly centralised state that would certainly benefit from some devolution of control from the centre. This could promote effective and accountable government in a state riddled with corruption since independence from the Soviet Union. The interim administration in Kiev, dominated by western and central Ukrainians, needs to be more sensitive to the demands of Russian speakers. But the west should be under no illusion about what the Kremlin means by “federalisation”. Mr Putin wants Ukraine’s Russian-speaking regions to acquire so much autonomy from Kiev that they end up establishing bilateral ties with Moscow. As Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said at the weekend, Moscow proposes that Ukraine’s regions will have “wide powers” to establish “economic and cultural ties with neighbouring countries”..'"Leader, "Putin’s cynical plan to split Ukraine". The Financial Times. 31 March 2014, www.ft.com. As the Financial Times leader cogently and correctly points out: the Putin-Lavrov plan to resolve the Crimean-Ukraine crisis is brilliant in both its cynicism and audacity. Having already carved out a good sized portion of Ukraine for itself, Moskva proposes to 'resolve' the crisis engendered by its own actions by pressuring the government in Kyiv and its Western backers to make plans for a balkanization of the entire country. As of course a prelude to further encroachments and future carve-ups of the remainder of the remainder of the country. If one wishes to view the matter from a historical perspective, a perspective which by the bye, Grazhdanin Putin claims shows an unmitigated history of Western invasions and attacks on Matushka Russia, one merely needs to look at the policies of Tsarist Russia under Tsarina Elizabeth I and Catherine II vis-à-vis Poland-Lithuania (the so-called Rzeczpospolita). In which in equal parts cynical and brilliant, both rulers used the Old Polish Republic's liberal and decentralized domestic policies to divide et impera by endeavoring to permanently weakening the Polish State as a prelude to absorbing most of it. Something which St. Petersburg accomplished with the partitions of 1772, 1773 and 1795 1. It is quite transparent that Moskva envisages a similar process at work in present-day Ukraine. As the former Ukrainian Premier, now finally released from prison, Yulia Tymoshenko has aptly commented:
"Russia has put forward a very clear and obvious ultimatum after the annexation of Crimea. Its conditions are evidence of the continuation of Russia’s aggressive policy. [Its demands] are a menu for recolonisation in the post-Soviet space. And to offer this menu in Ukraine, and, God forbid, to implement it is a path to destruction of independent, sovereign Ukraine, and of other post-Soviet states that have achieved their independence. Federalisation is basically a way to create a dozen other Crimeas in Ukraine, opening the way for Putin to annex southern and eastern regions, in the same way as was done in Crimea" 2.The Russian proposals should be regarded as the ultimate non-starter diplomatically speaking. If nothing else, it gives all who have eyes to see and ears here, what Moskva's ultimate desiderata are in Ukraine, and perhaps even further afield in Moldova and the Baltic States if the Western powers are foolish enough to allow Russia to take the process further by balkanizing Ukraine. The Putin-Lavrov proposals must be rejected and Russian policy towards Ukraine forcefully opposed. 1. On this process, see the best, modern treatment from the perspective of the premier, diplomatic historian on 18th and 19th century European history, Paul W. Schroeder. The Transformation of European Politics, 1763-1848. (1994), pp. 11-22 and passim. See also for the classical treatment: Albert Sorel. The Eastern Question in the eighteen century. (1898). 2. Interview by Neil Buckley, "Yulia Tymoshenko talks to the FT". The Financial Times. 31 March 2014, in www.ft.com.