West unable to concede Russia’s point on Ukraine
MAY 5, 2014

It’s hard to understand the rationale for the Western, and Japanese, sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. Moscow says it wants a federal system of government giving more power to semi-autonomous regional units. And many in the West say they would support something similar. Even Kiev sees it as one acceptable outcome of the constitutional referendum it plans for May 25. So why the sanctions and all the heavy breathing?

The best answer we can get from Washington is that while it supports decentralization, it opposes too much power being given to the regions since this will favor Moscow in the traditionally pro-Russia east of the nation. So the Western objection is simply over the hypothetical degree of an autonomy to be decided in the future? And for that reason, we have troops being rushed into Poland, Cold War warriors are being unleashed, and sanctions imposed?

True, there are also objections to Moscow running military exercises along the east Ukraine border. But that is something the U.S. does along the North Korean border every year. The only other possible objection is over Crimea. But while many were unhappy about its separation into Russia, is anyone asking for that to be reversed?

The real complaint, it seems, is the claim that Moscow is behind the takeovers of east Ukraine government offices and towns by pro-Russian elements, and could plan a Crimea-like takeover of the area. But this too is hypothetical, and the evidence provided so far has been highly dodgy, including the usual doctored photos dragged out for these occasions. It is also highly illogical.

The last thing Moscow needs is a division of Ukraine into east and west. It would leave a backward minority in the east dependent on Russia for economic recovery, and a strongly anti-Russian majority in the west determined to point a pro-EU, pro-NATO dagger directly into Russia’s underbelly.

The ideal for Moscow is an intact Ukraine, but with the pro-Russian regions able to prevent anti-Moscow moves by Kiev. In other words, neutralization on the Finland model. Is that really so sinister and outrageous?

Ironically the origin of the current disputes was something very un-sinister. It was the naive Soviet illusion that under communism all peoples would come to love each other. Druzhba narodov — friendship of the nationalities — was the slogan. So it did not matter if they were bundled together in the various republics of the former USSR. Southern Ossetians and Abkhazians were pushed into Georgia even though they had little cultural, religious or any other connection; Christian Armenians found themselves inside Muslim Azerbaijan. And large numbers of Russian-speakers found themselves inside Moldova, Kazakhstan, the Baltic States and Ukraine.

The hoped-for Communist love-in never happened. One of the better Radio Armenia jokes doing the rounds when I was working in the former Soviet Union goes like this:

Dear Announcer, what is druzhba narodov? Comrade, it is when Armenians join together with the Russians, the Uzbeks, the Azerbaijanis, the Tajiks, the Kirgizi, the Kazakhs, the Turkmenians, the Estonians, the Latvians, the Lithuanians, and the Ukrainians, and they all go off together to beat up the Georgians.

As you can guess, Georgians were not greatly loved by neighboring Armenia. The only thing keeping them all together was strong central control from Moscow, and harsh repression of any nationalistic break-away tendencies

With the arbitrary breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 into its former republics, frictions were inevitable, and some were ugly. Russians in the Baltic states suffered severe job discrimination. Armenians went into a brutal and still continuing war with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh district inside Azerbaijan but populated by Armenians.

In 1992 Russians stranded in Moldova fought a brief war to create their own independent self-styled republic (Transnistria, now blockaded by Ukraine), as did the pro-Russians in Georgia’s Abkhazia. In 2008 the Georgian attack into South Ossetia led to a counterattack by Russia, which then recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

Crimea, which had been rather foolishly gifted to Ukraine by Russia in 1954, despite its Russian majority and strong military importance to Moscow, has now been returned to its former owner.

Within Ukraine, the situation had long remained fairly stable under the rule of Kiev; Ukrainians and Russian-speakers share fairly similar languages, religions and cultures. But as the economy faltered and the politics disintegrated, lingering historical distrust between east and west surfaced, with the results we see today. Pro-Russians blame ultra right-wing, anti-Russian nationalists in the west acting under Western influence, and to some extent they are right.

Kiev’s short-lived attempt to restrict use of the Russian language in this bi-lingual society was extremely foolish.

Moscow is also to blame; its repressive politics have repelled many in the Ukraine, the better-educated especially, who now see closer ties with the West as the only escape from current problems. A federation that allows both sides reasonable autonomy under a central government is clearly the best answer.

As for the Crimea problem, we can learn much from the former Yugoslavia. Here the communistic ideal of mixing the peoples together in a bid to overcome deep wartime hatreds has also proved optimistic.

The only answer has been separation of the peoples — in Croatia, with the expulsion of the Serb minority, and in Bosnia with the Serbs setting up their own semi-independent republic. As constituent republics in former Yugoslavia they have been able to go their own independent way. But in Kosovo, which like Crimea did not have republic status, independence from Serbia could only be claimed after the Serb minority was either expelled or forced into a tiny enclave. Curiously, the West which condemned the bloodless separation of Crimea from Ukraine, supported the separation of Kosovo from Serbia.

Ask Western officials why the difference and they will say because the Kosovo separation was done over time. Yes, time for the brutal bombing of Serbia and for the savage ethnic cleansing of remaining Serbs, Jews, and Romas. It is time for a lot more clear thinking in the West over the Ukraine problem.

Japan needs it even more. By its knee-jerk support for the West over Ukraine, Tokyo not only guarantees Moscow’s refusal to offer any compromise in the dispute over ownership of the south Kuril Islands (the so-called Northern Territories). It is also supporting Western moves that guarantee Russia will move closer to China. Tokyo loses out in both directions, simply to support Western moves of doubtful common sense and dubious legality. Strategic thinking was never a Tokyo forte, but this time it has really blundered.








皮肉なことだが、この目下の紛争の起こりは、いたって邪悪からは遠いものだった。── つまり、共産主義の下では、全ての民族は互いに愛し合うはずだという、ソビエトの初心な幻想だった。ドゥルージヴァ・ナローダフ── 諸民族の友愛── がスローガンだった。したがって、いろんな民族が、前ソビエト連邦のさまざまな共和国に組み込まれていることは問題ではなかった。南オセチア人とアブカジア人は、互いに文化や宗教その他何の親近性がなかったが、グルジア国に組み入れられた。; キリスト教のアルメニア人はイスラムのアゼルバイジャンに入った。そしてロシア語を母語とする多くの人々が、モルドヴァ、カザフスタン、バルチック諸国そしてウクライナへ組み入れられた。

 拝啓 アナウンサー殿





ウクライナ内部では、キエフの統治の下で、状況はおおむね安定していた; 長い間ウクライナ人とロシア語系住民はかなり似通った言語、宗教、文化を共有している。ところが経済が崩壊し、政治が破綻したときに、東部と西部にずっと残っていた歴史的不信感が表面化した、その結果はいまわれわれが目にしているとおりだ。新ロシア派は西側の影響力の下で活動するウクライナ西部の過激な右翼反ロシア・ナショナリストを非難している。そしてある程度はその非難は正しい。


モスクワも責任がある; その抑圧的な政策は、ウクライナで多くの人々を、とくに教育程度の高い人々の反発を招き、今では彼らは目下の問題から逃れる唯一の道は欧米とのより緊密な連携しかないと考える方向に追いやった。最もよい選択は、中央政府の下で、双方に適度な自治を与える連邦形式なのだが。

クリミア問題については、以前のユーゴスラビアの例が多くのことを教えてくれる。ここでわかることは、内戦時の根深い憎しみを克服しようとして、諸民族を混ぜ合わせ融和を図る共産主義的理想は楽観的過ぎるということだ。唯一の解決策は、民族を分離することだった── クロアチアではセルビア人少数民族を排除して、またボスニアではセルビア人が半独立的共和国を設立して。前ユーゴスラビア内の加盟共和国として、それぞれが自分たちの独自のやり方で進めることができている。