Crimea echoes Kosovo conflict
Many voted in favour of the secession with the only hope that Russia will help themProf. Mihail Konstantinov
On 16 March, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea held a referendum to decide whether it will leave Ukraine and become part of Russia. Located on the Crimean peninsula, the autonomous republic has an area of 26,000 square kilometres and a population of 2 million people, or exactly one quarter of Bulgaria's. Given the ethnic composition of the population (60% Russians, 25% Ukrainians and 13% Tatars), the outcome of the vote was a foregone conclusion.
On 16 March, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea held a referendum to decide whether it will leave Ukraine and become part of Russia. Located on the Crimean peninsula, the autonomous republic has an area of 26,000 square kilometres and a population of 2 million people, or exactly one quarter of Bulgaria's. Given the ethnic composition of the population (60% Russians, 25% Ukrainians and 13% Tatars), the outcome of the vote was a foregone conclusion. Additional factors were the invasion of the peninsula by Russian troops and the so-called "self-defence" forces, as well as the implicit threat of repression if people did not vote "right", meaning in favour of joining Russia. The result was a landslide for secession, but it would have been essentially the same even if the referendum had been truly democratic, only by a smaller margin.
Only days ago it looked as if all of this just might be avoided. The alternative was a new Ukrainian federation that would give Crimea far more autonomy. But the moment came and went. First, the new Ukrainian government refused to even discuss the possibility, saying that Crimea is an integral part of sovereign Ukraine. Second, the Russian establishment was bent on getting even for the double failure of its Ukrainian proteges in the past decade. It is an entirely separate question of what Russia will do with its triumph. Leaving the international sanctions aside, the day after the referendum, politicians must have woken up to the realisation that the starving population of Crimea needs to be fed. Furthermore, many voted in favour of the secession with the only hope that Russia will help them, which, at least in the short term, means feeding them.
Of course, the European Union is in for a tough time as well. Even now the bloc is dealing with the consequences of associating or admitting countries that were not quite prepared for it. And if Bulgaria and Romania (and Greece early on) were not entirely ready to join the European Union, Ukraine is not even close to being prepared and it will not be for the next 10 or maybe even 50 years. But whereas Bulgaria and Romania are average-sized European countries whose democratic traditions predate World War II, Ukraine is one of the biggest European countries, both by area and population, and even talking about democracy there is really stretching the term.
But where does Kosovo fit in all of this? Actually, parallels could be drawn not only with Kosovo, but the war in Iraq (which is still going, by the way), the Arab Spring, the mindboggling NATO mission in Afghanistan, and the civil war in Syria, which has faded into the background for now. Having said that, if it had not been for the 1999 war between NATO and Yugoslavia over Kosovo there would have been no Crimean referendum to talk about.
In 1998, after provocations from both sides, an armed conflict erupted between the Yugoslavian military forces and the Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). At the very beginning of the conflict, US officials called KLA fighters "terrorists", with good reason, too. But this made the Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic misjudge the situation and take a harder stance. As a result, the two opposing sides promptly started killing each other.
In March 1999, NATO decided to intervene, attacking Yugoslavia, or what was left of the once powerful and independent country. Thousands of NATO aircrafts performed a total of 38,000 mission flights, and hundreds of cruise missiles were launched from warships, submarines and aircrafts. The war ended on 11 June and Milosevic was toppled from power shortly after and eventually tried before the International Criminal Court in Hague for his crimes against humanity.
The politically correct language western statesmen like so much would have it that there was no war over Kosovo but an armed conflict. But political correctness serves only to camouflage the truth and therefore is a form of lying. The same politically correct people talk about the Falklands War of 1982 between the United Kingdom and Argentina, even though the victim count there was far lower than it was in Kosovo and the other parts of Yugoslavia. Maybe it is because they are proud of the Falklands but ashamed of Kosovo.
Nowadays, Serbia and Kosovo are planning to join the European Union at the same time. There is even talk of not just the association but the accession (yes, you read it right) of Ukraine. They say that Kosovo and Crimea are nothing alike, that the two situations are completely different. Well, yes, as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, you cannot go in the same river twice. For one, the water is constantly changing. And yes, they are different, if only for the fact that it is not 1999 and Russia is run by Putin not Yeltsin. In truth, Putin in 2014 is far more dangerous and my hope is that the world does not find this out through tragedy.