Ukraine: Zone of turbulence
The tragic MH-17 captured the headlines.
It was a sorrow to know that so many families lost their beloved ones in the sky over my country. It was something deeply personal. In Kiev, several days in a row people were bringing flowers, candles and toys to the Dutch and other embassies in a desperate attempt to cure the grief.
Yet, the cruelty is that the situation in Ukraine hardly bothered the world political players until the Russia-inflated aggression swept away 298 innocent lives.
I sincerely regret that it cost such a high price to realize that there is a war being deployed in Ukraine within the last few months, that this war has no borders and is under no one’s control. The war where mourning ruthlessly crawls into greater number of Ukrainian families each day.
Did you know that, by now, the terrorists have shot down about ten Ukrainian military and transport aircrafts? That thousands of people are reported dead or wounded? That lot’s of young guys became disabled or require medical treatment they cannot afford? That there are civilians, including kids, among the war victims?
There is nothing new under the sun. Russia’s ‘peacekeeping’ missions in the post-Soviet region are remarkable. Separatism, ethnical and language issues, national movements are so easy to play with. Just divide and conquer. Just inflate hatred, supply weapons and grab.
The peacekeepers were very efficient in the Caucasus and Moldova. They did a great job in the whole chain of wars in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno- Karabakh, Chechnya, Gagauzia and Transnistria. Some of these regions became unrecognized states, the territories of ‘frozen conflict’. Huge losses, many thousands of deaths, personal tragedies, poverty, crimes, drug and human trafficking – the benefits of the Russia’s mediation efforts.
At some point, Ukraine also appeared appealing for repartition. There was a threat of shift in Ukraine’s foreign policies towards EU that would weaken Russia’s influence in the region. The moment for action was favorable as there was no balance of political powers due to the recent revolution in the country. So, no serious resistance was expected.
The first bite, Crimea (South of Ukraine), was an easy one. There are a big number of ethnic Russians living in that area. Moreover, from Stalin times Kremlin persistently imposed pro-Russian views in the region (from resettlement of people to heavy propaganda). Hence, quite many locals supported or at least did not mind separatism, though there is no precise statistics.
In March 2014, when the rest of Ukraine was still recovering from the recent massacre in Kiev and escape of the President, Crimea rushed for a local referendum. The procedure as such violated Ukrainian laws; in addition, there was no choice whatsoever in the bulletin offering to preserve the status quo. The process was organized under auspices of weird armed people in green uniform designated to ‘guarantee’ the outcome. The results of this ‘referendum’ were meant to testify the will of Crimean people to join Russia. Together with the peninsula.
For eastern Ukraine, similar scenario was designated. Rebels proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk People Republics. These ‘units’ were not recognized anywhere in the world except for Russia. The territory, however, appeared not so amenable for annexation and, gradually, military actions unfold.
After the new presidential elections in Ukraine, the political balance was better visible and the Ukrainian leaders became able to react. Unfortunately but expectedly in such conflicts, certain part of population choose to support separatists and ideas of the ‘Russian world’, which logically led to escalation. Also, the rebels appeared to be surprisingly well-armed and received new recruiters.
No, of course, Putin wasn’t there. According to Kremlin, the rebels could acquire the weapons, including the advanced anti-aircraft systems, elsewhere. Until recently, EU did not mind.
However, that unfortunate missile struck beyond the post-Soviet region where Russia has implicit warrant for aggression.
In a few horrible minutes, the repercussions of the war in eastern Ukraine spread over the world putting a challenge to the Europe’s best-selling policy of ignorance.
All of a sudden, it became clear that the leaders’ meaningless statements offered little protection to their citizens elsewhere. Still, there is a question whether a threat to safety will outweigh strong ties with the Russian capital.