By RENAT ABSALYAMOV
“Raise up, the great country, raise up for mortal fight …” – Vasily Lebedev-Kumach.
There is no better introduction for a column than the aforementioned bars of the Sacred War. During several years, the song written by Lebedev-Kumach, was broadcast on the radio every day and, thus, united people to “give repulse to” the occupants.
More than 72 years have passed since its first performance as the Russian Federation, the largest post-Soviet state, the one who defends, became the one who occupies. As it does today in Crimea, Ukraine.
In fact, it does not surprise those who study history. It began earlier. In 1956, at the request of Hungary’s leaders, Soviet tanks penetrated Budapest.
The Prague Spring. The Soviet war in Afghanistan. The First and Second Chechen Wars. The Russo-Georgian War. The Soviet Union – and the Russian Federation later – was not afraid to use armed forces when it needed.
However, until the last moment, nobody really anticipated that Russian President Vladimir Putin would ask the Federation Council for permission to use force and, therefore, would open a Russian Spring season in Ukraine.
Now, two weeks after the impulsive decision of the Russian president, it is generally known that on March 5, Putin declared that he is not going to send military forces. Nevertheless, unrecognized groups of armed men continue to hold important facilities in Crimea.
The Ukrainian Crisis is not as simple as it seemed in the beginning.
Having started with public demonstrations on Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kyiv, Ukraine, it escalated into a violent conflict between people, and the government.
“The dictatorship has fallen.” “Ukraine’s president flees Kiev as opposition takes control.” “Ukraine’s Iron Lady hails revolution, ‘this is a country of free people’.” Newspaper headline writers were ready to celebrate on Feb. 23 without knowing that four days later it would be a whole new game. The group of people in unmarked military uniforms would seize the Crimean Parliament building and put a Russian flag on top of it.
The revolution, a designation Russian authority is trying so diligently to avoid, and the further events in Crimea, tend to ask rather than answer questions.
Who were those who threw down the Ukrainian president? Who sniped at the protesters and special police in Berkut? Whose country do the soldiers represent? Will Crimea become part of the Russian Federation, and how does it impact the world?
“Obviously, Russians should not be in Ukraine,” says Juris Dreifelds, an associate professor in the Political Science Department of Brock University in St. Catharines.
“Taking over parts of Ukraine is against the constitutional laws of Ukraine and indeed the laws of the world: United Nations (UN) and etc. This is totally unacceptable.”
It is hard not to agree with Dreifelds. Sending armed troops and military equipment, Russia indeed broke international laws.
The UN charter, of which Russia is a member, provides only a few cases for using military forces: a sanction from the organization and a case of self-defence – and none, I would emphasize, none of them was met by Russia.
What is more, the threat towards Russians Putin referred to seems to be highly unlikely or even non-existent.
Oleg Lebedev, a first-year Ukrainian student in the Computer Programmer Analyst program at Niagara College, says there is no aggression towards Russians living in Crimea.
“Ukrainian residents ask Russians [soldiers] from whom they are going to protect,” says Lebedev, adding that he has a friend living there.
“My friend does yet have a Russian passport. However, he felt quite safe on the peninsula.”
The conflict between Russia’s government and Ukraine’s, also known as the Crimean Crisis, goes against not only international law, but also the will of 73 per cent of Russian citizens who, like Dreifelds and Lebedev, believe that Russia does not need to interfere in the interior affairs of Ukraine.
“I strongly disagree with the Vladimir Putin’s actions,” says one of them, Anastasia Khrustaleva, 19, a Russian student in the English Language Studies program here.
“Ukraine is a sovereign country, and it is their own business. It has nothing to with Russia.”
“I agree with Nastya,” says Andrey Rudakov, 27, a Russian student here, adding,
“I am against any hostilities in Ukraine. However, it is hard to judge the situation if you are not in there.”
On the other hand, if you think for a minute, what is the difference between Russia in 2014 and the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion sponsored by the United States? What is the difference between Russia’s president and the leaders of the United States, Great Britain, Denmark, Australia, Poland and Spain that without any well-grounded reasons invaded Iraq in 2003?
Exactly as Russia did, they ignored the world community’s opinion and illegally interfered in the interior affairs of the country.
“There are double standards in the world,” agrees Dreifelds, adding, “We need to accept that.”
What we are witnessing now is not a local conflict, but a geopolitical battle between the Russian Federation and western countries.
Even in 1904, in his article The Geographical Pivot of History, Halford John Mackinder emphasized the importance of the eastern Europe.
According to him, “Who rules eastern Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; who rules the World-Island commands the World.”
I would not fully trust Mackinder’s words about the world domination.
However, I would not recommend underrating the role of the position of Ukraine, because hostilities launched in it will be easily spread to the neighbouring countries.
“It is a big power conflict,” says Dreifelds. “It is too dangerous at this point. If Ukrainians go to the war, it will bring lots of countries into the conflict whether they like it or not. So, that is why it is dangerous.”
What is more dangerous, Putin might not understand that in gaining Crimea, he is going to open not the treasury, but Pandora’s box.
Nobody can predict how many nations within various countries, including Russia, would like to constitute themselves and, thus, change the world borders.
“It might encourage revanschistskie nastroeniya [a revanchist mood] in the world,” says Dreifelds.
In an attempt to create an empire, Putin might lose the united country.
I graduated from the Law Department of Saint-Petersburg University.