Tag Archives: Crimea

The Czar vs. the Sultan

Putin and Erdogan see themselves as heirs to proud empires. But fighter jets and tough talk can’t mask imperial decline.

BY JULIA IOFFE

Before Crimea was Russian, or Ukrainian, or even Soviet, it was Turkish. Well, Ottoman. And Russia had already annexed Crimea once before 2014, long before — in 1783. This was after a six-year war with the Turks, in which the Russians essentially wiped out the Ottoman navy. The conflict ended with the Treaty of Kainardrji, signed in 1774, which has come to be seen by historians as the first partition of the Ottoman Empire, the beginning of its long, slow decline. In losing Crimea to Russia, the Ottoman Empire, for the first time ever, lost Muslim subjects to a Christian power. (The Crimean Tatars, who have been especially opposed to Moscow’s newest takeover of the peninsula, are the vestigial limb left behind by the Ottomans, bucking again at its new Russian owner — which has, in turn,cracked down on them.) That war and the treaty that ended it, Bernard Lewis wrote some 200 years later, was “the turning point in the relations between Europe and the Middle East.”

Read more » Foreign Policy
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Leaving the West Behind – Germany Looks East

By Hans Kundnani

Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 was a strategic shock for Germany. Suddenly, Russian aggression threatened the European security order that Germany had taken for granted since the end of the Cold War. Berlin had spent two decades trying to strengthen political and economic ties with Moscow, but Russia’s actions in Ukraine suggested that the Kremlin was no longer interested in a partnership with Europe. Despite Germany’s dependence on Russian gas and Russia’s importance to German exporters, German Chancellor Angela Merkel ultimately agreed to impose sanctions on Russia and helped persuade other EU member states to do likewise.

Nevertheless, the Ukraine crisis has reopened old questions about Germany’s relationship to the rest of the West. In April, when the German public-service broadcaster ARD asked Germans what role their country should play in the crisis, just 45 percent wanted Germany to side with its partners and allies in the EU and NATO; 49 percent wanted Germany to mediate between Russia and the West. These results led the weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel, in an editorial published last May, to warn Germany against turning away from the West.

Germany’s response to the Ukraine crisis can be understood against the backdrop of a long-term weakening of the so-called Westbindung, the country’s postwar integration into the West. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the enlargement of the EU freed the country from its reliance on the United States for protection against a powerful Soviet Union. At the same time, Germany’s export-dependent economy has become increasingly reliant on demand from emerging markets such as China. Although Germany remains committed to European integration, these factors have made it possible to imagine a post-Western German foreign policy. Such a shift comes with high stakes. Given Germany’s increased power within the EU, the country’s relationship to the rest of the world will, to a large extent, determine that of Europe.

THE GERMAN PARADOX

Germany has produced 
the most radical challenge to the West from within.

Germany has always had a complex relationship with the West. On the one hand, many of the political and philosophical ideas that became central to the West originated in Germany with Enlightenment thinkers such as Immanuel Kant. On the other hand, German intellectual history has included darker strains that have threatened Western norms—such as the current of nationalism that emerged in the early nineteenth century. Beginning in the latter half of the nineteenth century, German nationalists increasingly sought to define Germany’s identity in opposition to the liberal, rationalistic principles of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment. This version of German nationalism culminated in Nazism, which the German historian Heinrich August Winkler has called “the climax of the German rejection of the Western world.” Germany, therefore, was a paradox: it was part of the West yet produced the most radical challenge to it from within.

Read more » Foreign Affairs
Learn more » http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/142492/hans-kundnani%E2%80%A8/leaving-the-west-behind

Donetsk activists proclaim region’s independence from Ukraine

In the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, a group of activists have declared their region independent from Kiev. This comes after protesters stormed a local government building last night. Mass demonstrations against the country’s new leadership started peacefully on Sunday, but the situation quickly escalated.

Read more » http://rt.com/news/donetsk-republic-protestukraine-841/

Afghanistan Backs Russia’s Crimean Invasion, Fails Irony 101

By Adam Weinstein

Afghan President Hamid Karzai threw U.S. observers for a loop over the weekend, announcing that his country would join Syria and Venezuela in supporting Russia’s Crimea invasion annexation:

Citing “the free will of the Crimean people,” the office of President Hamid Karzai said, “we respect the decision the people of Crimea took through a recent referendum that considers Crimea as part of the Russian Federation.”…

Aimal Faizi, the spokesman for Mr. Karzai, said that the Russian annexation of Crimea was a “legitimate move” and that the palace statement represented Afghanistan’s official recognition of the new borders.

“Afghanistan always respects the free will of the nations on deciding their future,” he wrote in an email. He did not elaborate.

Continue reading Afghanistan Backs Russia’s Crimean Invasion, Fails Irony 101

Crimea’s Tatars: fearing a return to Stalin-era terror

By Lindsey Hilsum on International Affairs

The soldiers came at midnight when the children were sleeping. Sabrie, who was ten, struggled to stay awake as her mother grabbed her little sister and two brothers.

There was no time to change, to pack, to bring anything – they had fifteen minutes to get to the station. There they stayed, hungry and afraid, until the train came to remove them from their home in Crimea to a distant land. They would not return for half a century.

I met Sabrie in the town of Bakhchiserai yesterday. Aged 80 now, she speaks of what happened as if it were last week, not 70 years ago. Her green eyes widen and she gesticulates with gnarled hands, reliving her story as if telling it for the first time.

Read more » Channel 4

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Crimean parliament votes to join Russia

Ukraine calls proposed Crimean referendum ‘a farce, a fake’

By: SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — Reuters

World leaders are decrying a proposed referendum in Crimea on joining Russia as illegal and illegitimate.

President Barack Obama warned Thursday the referendum would violate Ukranian sovereignty and international law while Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the Canadian government will not recognize the results of the referendum. And German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday the referendum was “illegal and incompatible with Ukraine’s constitution.”

Read more » The Globe And Mail
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/crimean-vice-premier-says-referendum-on-status-set-for-march-16-report/article17341409/

Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses ‘3am ultimatum’ as ‘total nonsense’

By Kashmira Gander 

Russia has rejected reports that it threatened Ukraine with military assault if it does not surrender the Crimea by 3am on Tuesday as “total nonsense”.

Amid the confusion of the worst diplomatic crisis since the Cold War, the Russian Defence Ministry told RT that the country has “become accustomed to the daily accusations by the Ukrainian media of carrying out some sort of military actions against our Ukrainian colleagues”.

Relations between East and West have plummeted as the Russian Government continued to ignore calls from Western leaders to leave the Ukrainian area.

This morning, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, justified the military incursion claiming it was necessary in order to protect his country’s citizens living there. “This is a question of defending our citizens and compatriots, ensuring human rights, especially the right to life,” he said.

Read more » independent.co.uk
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/ukraine-latest-g7-condemns-russias-movement-into-the-crimea-9164961.html

Russia, Ukraine and the West: Will there be war?

Written by Alan Woods

As Ukraine slides deeper into chaos, the sound of war drums gets ever louder. On Saturday President Vladimir Putin secured his parliament’s authority to send the Russian army, not just into Crimea but also into Ukraine itself.

This threat was issued only days after “unidentified” armed men seized control of the Crimea peninsula. These were later unsurprisingly identified as troops from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, based in Crimea. The new pro-Russian president of Crimea equally unsurprisingly immediately called on Moscow to intervene. At the same time, pro-Moscow demonstrators hoisted flags above government buildings in two eastern cities.

Western leaders shook their heads and said that Russia must not intervene. Moscow held up its hands, indignantly protesting that it would not do so. But the facts seem to indicate otherwise. For the whole of last week Russian troops were staging what were described as “routine manoeuvres” on the borders of Ukraine.

Putin secured without difficulty the unanimous approval of the Russian senate for the use of armed force on the territory of his neighbour, citing the need to protect Russian citizens. He asked that Russian forces be used “until the normalisation of the political situation in the country”: a very reasonable sounding request, a velvet glove that barely conceals the iron fist within, for he gave exactly the same reason for invading Georgia in 2008.

This threat to what was supposed to be an independent country of 46 million people on the edges of central Europe creates the biggest direct confrontation between Russia and the West since the Cold War. There has been a flurry of diplomatic activity in different capitals aimed at “calming the situation”. The government in Kiev protested. The EU protested. Obama protested.

Britain summoned the Russian ambassador to voice its “concern”. Soon after the UK’s Foreign Minister William Hague flew to Kiev, presumably to express his sympathy to the provisional government there. EU ministers were due to hold emergency talks. Czech President Milos Zeman recalled the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Washington has warned that Russia’s actions would have “consequences”. But nobody is saying what these would be. In reply Putin calmly asserted his right to deploy troops in Ukraine “to defend the interests of Russian people”. Western politicians have hundreds of arguments, but Putin has hundreds of thousands of troops, tanks and guns. And whereas the forces of NATO are rather far away, his own forces are conveniently massing right on the Ukrainian border, and some are already on the ground in Crimea as Russia has a permanent naval base there.

The tension between the two sides increases by the hour. In a televised address, Ukraine’s acting President Olexander Turchynov urged people to remain calm. (Everyone is urging exactly the same thing). He asked Ukrainians to bridge divisions in the country and said they must not fall for provocations. But in the same breath said he had put the army on full alert, which is hardly a very calming message.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who was standing next to Mr Turchynov, said he was “convinced” Russia would not intervene militarily “as this would be the beginning of war and the end of all relations.”

Fear and misery in Ukraine

The situation in Ukraine is dramatic. The euphoria of the first few days after the fall of Yanukovych has dissipated and is being replaced with an anxious and tense mood.

Continue reading Russia, Ukraine and the West: Will there be war?

Obama: ‘There will be costs for military intervention in Ukraine’

International community scrambles to  Russian moves in Crimea

President Barack Obama said the United States stands with the international community in affirming that “there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine” and defended the country’s citizens’ right to “determine their own future,” at a press conference Friday.

A senior U.S. official said Obama and European leaders would consider skipping the G8 summit in Sochi, Russia, if the country intervenes militarily in Ukraine. He also said a possible response could include avoiding deeper trade and commerce ties Moscow is seeking. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called for sanctions against “Russian individuals and entities who use force or interfere in Ukraine’s domestic affairs.”

Read more » Aljazeera
http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/2/28/obama-there-willbecostsformilitaryinterventioninukraine.html

Ukraine Leader Warns of Separatism

Ukraine crisis: Turchynov warns of ‘separatism’ risk

Ukraine’s interim President Olexander Turchynov has warned of the dangers of separatism following the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych. His comments came amid continuing opposition in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking regions to the new administration in Kiev.

Read more » BBC
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26333587