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Why not a divided Ukraine?



Published: Fri, March 14, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

By dr. HOWARD METTEE

Special to The Vindicator

As we sit helplessly by watching 25 years of peaceful collaboration with our former Cold War adversaries, the nasty Russians, move to further isolation and open Russian bashing, it might help to attempt a different perspective. As things stand today, not so innocent, but poor, Ukraine is being torn by competing forces finding their origins in both Moscow and Washington. Both capitals have proxy dogs in this fight. While one has been slowly encroaching on the other by NATO expansion (15 to 28 countries in the past 20 years, after assurances from the NATO this would not happen) the other has been trying to prevent this surge from occurring, as these new countries lie along or close to the Russian border. There is no realistic claim to wanting to return to the old days of the USSR, only a question who your immediate neighbors are, and are these NATO puppies the newest proxies for regime change in Moscow?

Cold War victor

After winning the Cold War we might be tempted to expand our influence over the vanquished say by using humanitarian NGOs as fronts for extending democracy and capitalism not just in this region of the world, but everywhere, since we are the exceptional super-power, no one can challenge us militarily, the we know the winner takes all. Why wouldn’t they want to be like us, and we will help them see their own self-interest. We’ve tried regime change in Chile, Libya, Iraq, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Georgia, Syria, Egypt, and we know how these things often work out. We throw the “freedom fighters” a rope and then say you’re on your own, or we end up supporting dictators reviled by their own populations.

The Canadian model tells us that two rather different cultures, languages and heritages (English and French) can sometimes form a successful confederation (ca. 1840). The Iraqi model shows us that two different Muslim cultures (Shia and Sunni) can have a very rough time integrating (ca. 2005). Elections were supposed to relieve some of this pressure. The middle east model depicts a long standing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that continues after 60 years of intransigence, and that punctuated peace talks can’t resolve, as both parties have historical roots in the region going back over a thousand years.

What to do with Ukraine? Force it together when there are two very visible and vocal sub-populations who prefer “affiliation” with either Moscow or Washington’s proxies? Allow it to separate and the pieces go their own ways? If western Ukrainians prefer a NATO alliance, and eastern Ukrainians prefer a Moscow orientation, the Dnieper River neatly forms a border and there could be two Ukraines. So what? This actually happened when Pakistan was split (Bangaldesh formed, and we discovered cheap T-shirts), and when Czechoslovakia became the Czech Republic and Slovenia. True, it doesn’t make the economies of either East or West Ukraine any more “successful” than Ukraine itself, but then, what is the price of the civil war to which it is now headed as the proxies are aided and abetted by their corners?

‘Partition’

You won’t hear the word “partition” talked about for Ukraine while the parties are still vying to win the country to their side, and it will be justified on the grounds that each part will be poorer than a unified Ukraine (if that’s possible). But then, what is the price of another civil war in both human terms and economic terms? We have current examples of Libya, Syria, Egypt, Iraq on the one hand, or Pakistan, Czechoslovakia and the current Balkans on the other. How about this time, we let the Ukrainian people speak, and if they choose to divide as suspected, why not let them? If they decide not to split, then all parties will have to cooperate more than they already have an inclination to do, and respect the rights of their fellow countrymen and women with whom they disagree. Both Moscow and Washington might lose some face, but then, sometimes that’s the sign of a good negotiation.

Dr. Howard Mettee is a chemistry professor at Youngstown State University who has traveled many times to Russia in the past 25 years, once as a Fulbright Scholar. He visited Odessa in January, and still has many Rotary and faculty friends in St. Petersburg with whom he is working today.


Comments

1formerdemliberal(182 comments)posted 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Dr. Mettee: "What to do with Ukraine? Force it together when there are two very visible and vocal sub-populations who prefer “affiliation” with either Moscow or Washington’s proxies?"

"The current crisis in Ukraine is allegedly the ethno-linguistic conflict between Russians and Ukrainians, especially in Crimea. The truth is simple. The majority of Ukrainians are bilingual. Nevertheless, the notion that there is a strong division between Russian and Ukrainian speakers has been blown out of proportion by the media and is feeding into the Russian propaganda. No matter what language a citizen of Ukraine considers his mother tongue, he is still Ukrainian. And all Ukrainians across the world are united against dictatorship and foreign aggression. Ukraine is united." ("The Ethnicities Of Ukraine Are United" (http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/...).

Crimean ports ship significant amounts of Russian natural gas to Europe. Controlling Crimea is a valuable asset for the Russian economy. Suggestions that Russian troops and Russian military maneuvers surrounding Crimea protect pro-Russian citizens from Ukrainians contradict overall cultural acceptance of bilingual usage of the Russian language for business activities while speaking Ukrainian at home since Ukraine's separation from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Dr. Mettee suggests allowing the Crimean voters to decide their government allegiance. Anyone believe that a Crimean vote concerning Ukrainian separation will not be influenced by Russian officials, troops and battleships surrounding the area? If the vote favors Russian separatism, will Crimean/ Ukrainians give up their fight for freedom? If the vote favors Ukrainian unity, will Russian forces intervene "for the good of those with Russian heritage"? Either voting outcome will not discourage future bloodshed, contrary to Dr. Mettee's naive belief.

Russian-influenced takeover of Crimea is about economic control of a vital port that provides critical energy to Europe and financial support to the Putin regime, not protection of pro-Russian citizens Issues that bilingual Ukrainians are facing are autonomy and freedom from outside domination. Dr. Mettee's belief that western countries should butt out of Crimea will not divert a civil war by pro-freedom and Russian interests.

After reading Dr. Mettee's solution to the Crimean crisis, I couldn't help but think about the 1938 Munich Agreement that annexed the industrial portion of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany in exchange for "Peace in our time". One year later, Hitler conquered Poland and Czechoslovakia. And let's not forget the 1945 Warsaw pact that basically gave the Soviet Union control of Eastern Europe for over 40 years.

As Edmund Burke wrote," Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." History has shown that giving a bully what he wants encourages, rather than discourages future aggression.

Suggest removal:

2zigzagie(1 comment)posted 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Ok,

"when Czechoslovakia became the Czech Republic and Slovenia."

Yeah it wasn't Slovenia. You're thinking of Slovakia. But hey who cares right? Am I right or am I right?

Suggest removal:


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