Crimea echoes Kosovo conflict

Many voted in favour of the seces­sion with the only hope that Rus­sia will help them

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.

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