In the land of the false analogy

Update, August 28, 2014: Those who have persisted in seeing the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization as the sole aggressor in Ukraine surely now have some explaining to do as it now appears that Russian troops have invaded. Russian President Vladimir Putin is “not even making a good-faith effort to come up with explanations that anyone in the United States or Europe could believe,” Stephen Long, an international security expert at the University of Richmond in Virginia, told McClatchy News. “No matter what Russia calls it, it’s been obvious for a long time that Russia is actively involved.”[1]

It seems like it’s all over but the shouting. Russia has completed its annexation of Crimea, with President Vladimir Putin claiming he has no interest in annexing the remaining southern and eastern portions of Ukraine,[2] a move Julia Ioffe of the New Republic has deployed maps to argue is inevitable, owing to the lack of any transportation and supply links to Crimea that do not run through the remaining portion of Ukraine.[3] Surrendering in all but name, Ukraine is withdrawing its military and Putin has ordered that a bridge be built between Crimea and Russia.[4]

In Moscow, Putin was defiant in the face of western criticism. The Russian president summoned the federal assembly, which includes both houses of parliament and all key political leaders, for an extraordinary session in the Kremlin’s St George Hall.

Putin referenced the recognition of Kosovo by the west as an independent country following its secession from Serbia, and said it was ludicrous to claim that the move did not set a precedent.

“How would our colleagues claim its uniqueness? It turns out because during the Kosovo conflict there were many human casualties. What, is that supposed to be a valid legal argument?” he asked.

“We are being told that we are breaking the norms of international law. Well at least it’s good that they’ve remembered that international law exists. Better late than never.”[5]

It sounds clever, even that Putin may have hoist the West by its own petard with a Kosovo analogy. “Russia has offered a variety of arguments to justify what is nothing more than a land-grab,” U.S. Vice President Joe Biden responds. This claim is also false: this so-called land grab was preceded by an election, in which approximately 97 percent of voters supported accession to Russia on an 83 percent turnout, but of course the White House does not recognize that election.[6]

A stronger reply would be that Kosovo seceded from Serbia in order to become an independent country, where Crimea has seceded from Ukraine in order to accede to Russia, expanding an empire that already worries its neighbors. And we would be right to worry for the Tatars:

The Tatars, a Turkic ethnic group, were victimised by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in World War Two and deported en masse to Soviet Central Asia in 1944 on suspicion of collaborating with Nazi Germany.

Tens of thousands of them returned to their homeland after Ukraine gained independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991.[7]

It is far from reassuring that Putin invokes ethnicity in justifying the annexation:

“In the hearts and minds of people, Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia,” the president said, adding that ethnic Russians had found themselves isolated from the motherland when the Soviet Union collapsed, both in Crimea and elsewhere.

“Millions of Russians went to sleep in one country and woke up living abroad, as a national minority in former republics of the union. The Russian people became one of the biggest, if not the biggest, split-up nation in the world.”[8]

Putin thus justifies annexing territory to reunite a nationality. Great Britain might take notice: ethnic Britons are scattered around the world, left behind as the Empire gave way to a Commonwealth of independent countries. But a more serious fear is that it was the battle with Adolf Hitler and allegations that Tatars supported the Nazis that motivated Stalin to deport the Tatars in 1944; today, the Tatars want Crimea to remain in Ukraine, and Russians, ethnic Russians, and the deposed Ukrainian president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, have repeatedly labeled the new government in Ukraine “fascist.”[9] Tatars might well fear that Stalin’s rationale for ethnic cleansing might again be put to use.

  1. [1]Stephen Long, quoted in Matthew Schofield, “Russia appears to invade Ukraine, opening 2nd front,” McClatchy, August 28, 2014, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/08/28/238054_russia-appears-to-invade-ukraine.html?rh=1
  2. [2]Shaun Walker and Ian Traynor, “Putin confirms Crimea annexation as Ukraine soldier becomes first casualty,” Guardian, March 18, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/18/putin-confirms-annexation-crimea-ukrainian-soldier-casualty
  3. [3]Julia Ioffe, “The Maps That Show the Inevitability of a Russian Land-Grab in Eastern Ukraine,” New Republic, March 16, 2014, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117040/after-crimea-putin-going-take-eastern-ukraine
  4. [4]David M. Herszenhorn and Andrew E. Kramer, “Ukraine Plans to Withdraw Troops From Russia-Occupied Crimea,” New York Times, March 19, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/20/world/europe/crimea.html
  5. [5]Shaun Walker and Ian Traynor, “Putin confirms Crimea annexation as Ukraine soldier becomes first casualty,” Guardian, March 18, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/18/putin-confirms-annexation-crimea-ukrainian-soldier-casualty
  6. [6]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Ukraine crisis: EU ponders Russia sanctions over Crimea vote,” March 17, 2014, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26607466; Luke Harding and Shaun Walker, “Crimea applies to be part of Russian Federation after vote to leave Ukraine,” Guardian, March 17, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/17/ukraine-crimea-russia-referendum-complain-result; Office of the Press Secretary, “Background Briefing by Senior Administration Officials on Ukraine,” White House, March 17, 2014, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/03/17/background-briefing-senior-administration-officials-ukraine; Dan Peleschuck, “Crimea celebrates ‘victory’ after vote to join Russia,” Global Post, March 17, 2014, http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/140316/crimea-celebrates-victory-after-vote-join-russia
  7. [7]Guardian, “Armed men seize Crimea parliament and hoist Russian flag,” February 27, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/27/armed-men-seize-crimea-parliament-reports
  8. [8]Shaun Walker and Ian Traynor, “Putin confirms Crimea annexation as Ukraine soldier becomes first casualty,” Guardian, March 18, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/18/putin-confirms-annexation-crimea-ukrainian-soldier-casualty
  9. [9]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Ukraine crisis: ‘Russians’ blockade Crimea airports,” February 28, 2014, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26379722; British Broadcasting Corporation, “Ukraine crisis: EU ponders Russia sanctions over Crimea vote,” March 17, 2014, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26607466; Guardian, “Armed men seize Crimea parliament and hoist Russian flag,” February 27, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/27/armed-men-seize-crimea-parliament-reports; Luke Harding and Shaun Walker, “Crimea applies to be part of Russian Federation after vote to leave Ukraine,” Guardian, March 17, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/17/ukraine-crimea-russia-referendum-complain-result; Andrew Higgins and Andrew E. Kramer, “Ukraine’s Leader Flees Palace as Protesters Widen Control,” New York Times, February 22, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/23/world/europe/ukraine.html; Julia Ioffe, “Putin’s War in Crimea Could Soon Spread to Eastern Ukraine,” New Republic, March 1, 2014, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116810/putin-declares-war-ukraine-and-us-or-nato-wont-do-much; Julia Ioffe, “The Maps That Show the Inevitability of a Russian Land-Grab in Eastern Ukraine,” New Republic, March 16, 2014, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117040/after-crimea-putin-going-take-eastern-ukraine; Dan Peleschuck, “Crimea celebrates ‘victory’ after vote to join Russia,” Global Post, March 17, 2014, http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/140316/crimea-celebrates-victory-after-vote-join-russia; Michael D. Shear and Andrew Higgins, “Obama Warns Russia Not to Intervene in Crimea,” New York Times, February 28, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/01/world/europe/ukraine.html; Alison Smale and David M. Herszenhorn, “Kremlin Deploys Military in Ukraine, Prompting Protest by U.S.,” New York Times, March 1, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/02/world/europe/ukraine.html; Timothy Snyder, “Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine,” New York Review of Books, February 19, 2014, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/mar/20/fascism-russia-and-ukraine/; Stephen Zunes, “Straight Talk on the U.S. and Ukraine,” Foreign Policy In Focus, March 13, 2014, http://fpif.org/straight-talk-u-s-ukraine/

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