THE BLOG

Have They All Gone Crazy

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Sometimes, I ask myself whether it is possible to be right though it means dismissing everybody else's opinion. Or whether one must surrender to the idea that unanimity must prevail. However, in the light of what is happening at the moment in Ukraine, I feel reinforced in my initial intuition, expressed here: it is crazy, for the West, to turn the Crimean problem into an opportunity for confrontation with Russia.

Let there be no mistake. At no time did an approval of Russia's current regime occur in my writings. Same for its international strategy. And here I mean Western interests only, and more specifically of Europe. And for me to embark on a path of confrontation with Russia is not in Europe's interest. But, on the contrary, it is a matter of doing everything possible to insure that our important eastern neighbor integrates the European area of common rule of law.

I believe that in the future, historians will find rather hard to understand why we have embarked into an escalation with Russia with potentially terrifying consequences, to oppose a majority vote from a Russian-speaking province, part of Russia for centuries, attached in 1954 to another province of the Soviet Union on the whim of the Secretary General of the Communist Party at the time, Nikita Khrushchev. An inclusion never fully acknowledged by the majority of the Crimean population, who have always wanted to maintain their autonomy vis à vis the government in Kiev, as further affirmed by the first Ukrainian Constitution of 1992.

Today, the Crimea and Russia chose to use the chaos born of the arrival in Kiev of a strongly anti-Russian government to reunite. Why does it bother us? Why should the Crimean population be denied the will to choose their destiny, going against the view of the country of which they are a member, as we prepare to allow the Scots to vote on the subject, and as the Catalans do indeed intend to do likewise? Will there be protests against « the taking away of the territory of Great Britain » if the Scots choose independence? And what will happen if Moldova, Belarus, or the Russian-speaking part of Kazakhstan ask their attachment to Russia? We will interfere? On what grounds? In the name of stability of the idea of nationhood? But was it imposed upon Czechoslovakia? Yugoslavia? Iraqi Kurdistan? Gaza? Would anyone object if Quebec choose independence? What would happen if Wallonia were to ask its attachment to France?

Clearly, when a minority does not feel protected against the excesses of a majority, it has the right to regain its ownership. It is the duty of the majority to ensure this.

Then why are we doing that? What do we have to fear from it? That Russia calls the Russian-speaking part of the Baltic States part of Russia as annexation? Come on! These countries are in the European Union and in NATO! Therefore they have nothing to fear.

In fact this brings to mind old history. The west actually believes it will not make the same mistake that was made with the annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938, by Adolph Hitler, under the pretext that in this region of Czechoslovakia the majority of the inhabitants were of German race. Remorse certainly quite praiseworthy. But it is too late to rewrite history, and the situation before us today is not analogous to one in 1938, but rather one in 1919.

If there is something to remember, it is what the attempts to humiliate and isolate Germany after the First World War has led to: isolating Germany of the Weimar Republic with the tragic Treaty of Versailles has led to Hitler's rise to power.

Aside from the creation of the EBRD in 1991, and the G8 in 1992, both at the initiative of France, nothing has been done since the collapse of the Soviet Union to bring Russia closer to Europe. For Russia to enter a single constitutional and legal area. If Russia has never been candidate for membership of the European Union, one does not have to be a genius to see that if an offer had been made, or at least a proposition to join EFTA or what was left of it, it would have been accepted, to the greatest benefit of Western Europe.

Today's on-going confrontation will get us nowhere. But to give meaning to those who had long predicted that the situation here today could get to what we have seen in the immediate situation before the First World War, when a series of absurd events resulted in the outbreak of a world war.

Therefore, the Summit between the European Union and Russia should not have been canceled. Russia should not be excluded from the G-8. Sanctions should not be responded with sanctions. Derisory today. Suicidal tomorrow.

Instead, everything needs to be done to persuade the Russians that they have everything to gain by coming closer to the European Union. By offering them to build a vast single constitutional and legal area, where the Crimean issue would become derisory. And to get started, propose it to Ukraine, provided it remains what it is, a bridge between the two Europe, that of the Latin world and that of the orthodox world, for each other's greatest benefit.

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