The Crimea referendum

 

We are a few days away from the results of the Crimea referendum. The EU and the USA need to think through what they will say and do if the Crimean people vote to join Russia and leave the Ukraine.

The current EU position seems to be that the referendum will not be legal or binding on the Ukrainian government, because the Ukrainian government did not agree to it. There are several difficulties with taking this stance.

The first is that the government itself in the Ukraine is not elected. It draws its authority, such as it is, from a  vote of the Ukrainian Parliament. Many people in the Crimea do not accept the authority of this interim Crimean administration.

The second is that if the referendum is fairly and sensibly conducted and produces a strong majority for leaving the Ukraine, the lack of support for this referendum in the Ukrainian Parliament could be  offset or compromised by the strength of the result in Crimea. The result would serve to highlight the gap between the wishes of the Ukrainian Parliament on the one hand, and the wishes of the Crimean people on the other.

The third is that the referendum itself does have the support and the organisation of the Crimean government and Parliament behind it. Whilst this is currently a subsidiary body to the Ukrainian Parliament, it does not mean it is without democratic authority. What if the UK Parliament had refused consent to a Scottish referendum, yet Mr Salmond had gone ahead and held one. Many would think his support for it as the elected First Minister made it of more than passing interest. The rest of the UK would have to respond to any strongly expressed wish of the Scottish people to leave the UK.

The fourth big problem for the west is the presence of the Russian army and navy, or their loyal helpers, in all the key places in the Crimea, promising or threatening to support the wishes of the Crimean people. The west argues this is an illegal outrage, but it is also a fait accompli which the west is unlikely to challenge militarily.  If you wish to assert the supremacy of the Ukrainian Parliament views over those of the Crimea, it would be easier to do so if the Ukrainian army still had command of the territory.

I suspect the truth is that if the Crimean people vote strongly to leave the Ukraine they will do so. There will need to be negotiations over important arrangements, and provision made for the military personnel of the Ukraine currently blockaded by Russian sympathising troops and ships to transfer to the Crimea or to leave and continue in employment in the rest of the Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government and their friends in the EU had better start thinking through how they will respond to this fast moving situation, when they have allowed most of the momentum and the power so far to rest with the Crimean government and their Russian allies.

 

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86 Comments

  1. Mike Stallard
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Have you seen the front of the Spectator with the little blue poodle of Europe cowering before the great shadow of the Russian Bear? Baroness Ashton of Upholland is certainly no Adolf Hitler! We cannot really expect an Operation Barbarossa from her.

    Do we honestly want half the Ukranian population moving over here? I know a couple of Ukranian ladies really quite well and, believe me, they are splendid people. But do we?

    We should be very carefully what we wish for. Maybe making it plain that Russia starts at the borders of their traditional land, their ancient centre of Kiev, could be a good thing?

    • Hope
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      Sounds like a typical EU referendum if they do not like the result keep going until they get the result they want. Ashton wants her EU army and this is good argument to help accelerate that line of thought.

      Yes, Cameron does want Ukranian people here and the Turkish as well. He made it clear he wants EU expansionism. Freedom of movement comes mandatory with it.

      It appears to me this mess has been fueled by EU expansionism and protectionism (supported by the US) when it knew Russia was not going to sit idly by as it did when the EU took over two of its smaller states.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted March 10, 2014 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        Indeed Cameron is in favour of uncontrolled borders (within an ever expanding EU) with all his heart and soul. Also in favour of ever more EU regulation, 3 times the price quack subsidised loopy energy and the destruction of the little remaining residual UK democracy and gender neutral insurance & pensions. He is clearly bonkers.

        That is why he will come such a poor third in the EU elections in May. One assumes Clegg with his idiotic list of things he likes about Britain including the BBC, the NHS, ECHR, even the outdated & tedious shipping forecast will come behind the equally mad greens.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted March 10, 2014 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

          A bit like John Major’s pathetic drivel.

          Fifty years on from now, Britain will still be the country of long shadows on cricket grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and pools fillers and, as George Orwell said, ‘Old maids bicycling to holy communion through the morning mist’ and, if we get our way, Shakespeare will still be read even in school.

          What are “pools fillers”?

          • bigneil
            Posted March 10, 2014 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

            The only thing I can offer as a possibility is I remember my father “filling the pools in” – referring to the football pools coupons. These were the days before Lotto etc and was -apart from the Premium Bonds -the only way for a working class person to “win big” -I hope this is what it refers to as I have no other possible explanation.

          • stred
            Posted March 11, 2014 at 7:51 am | Permalink

            The old version of low income lottery gamblers. Wasn’t it Dumbo who started the Fools Tax, which made gambling for dummies easier, as no guesswork is necessary.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted March 12, 2014 at 2:42 am | Permalink

          Yes thanks that must be it. Indeed Major’s national lottery, voluntary taxation for dopes. Often used then to subsidise the hobbies of the rich such as opera, ballet and the arts.

      • Hope
        Posted March 10, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

        Remind me what were the sanctions imposed by Cameron against the EU for the coup of governments in Greece and Italy?

        • Lifelogic
          Posted March 11, 2014 at 5:18 am | Permalink

          Indeed, probably more of UK taxpayers money to the EU.

      • Timaction
        Posted March 10, 2014 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

        This crisis is was created by the expansionist wishes of the EU. Russia is looking after its own.
        What is wrong with the leaders of the legacy parties to allow this undemocratic EU monster to further its own ends to the detriment of the indigenous population here?
        When are they going to renegotiate free movement so we can still access our own public services, particularly health and education? The country is overflowing and they want more people here. Madness. There is only one solution.

    • arschloch
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      Well you can hardly blame the Spectator. Just look at what Putin is up against, a vertically challenged Frenchman, a “community organiser” from Chicago and a PR exec from a TV station in London. Mind you Mrs Merkel might not be to perturbed by the energy dependence, if you look at the amount of money Germany continues to invest in Russia. Its not as Germany and Russia have found it convenient to do business with each other from the Treaty of Rapallo onwards

  2. Mark B
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    We had something not too dissimilar nearly 100 years ago. Ireland was still part of the UK and Irish Home Rule back then was a very contentious issue. There came a point where, Sinn Fein, won a large majority in the Parliament, refused to take their seats and set up shop, as it were, in Dublin. It was clearly an act of defiance. We now see this being played out here. You could draw many other comparisons, such as Danzig and of course, Anschluss (union) with Austria.

    This whole affair strikes me of one of complete political failure and incompetence. Very narrow and self-interested parties have seen an opportunity to fulfill their need for power, wealth and vanity.

    Unless some people start seeing sense, and recognizing Russia’s need for security, this could get very nasty, as the West will soon find out that, Putin is no Yeltsin.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      Mark,

      I read an interesting piece yesterday that questioned the need for NATO after the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Since 1991, NATO has encroached relentlessly upon Russia, drawing lots of former Soviet states into its orbit. And NATO has also been used for purposes not in keeping with its original intention, to wage war all over the place where other means didn’t enable legal military intervention.

      Perhaps we need to revisit the question of alliances, and take a good long look at who precisely is responsible for triggering conflicts and disquiet across the globe. I don’t blame Russia one little bit for drawing a line in the sand. They have had to live with all kinds of threats from the west including being encircled by a curiously-name ‘missile defence shield’, countless incursions of its airspace, black ops sponsored terrorism within its borders and the like. Looking on, and seeing they might be next, China has called for the de-Americanisation of the world. And unless we do something about the hawks in Washington, we (the rest of the west) are going to have a far bigger problem than a little local difficulty in the Ukraine!

      And then the American people scratch their heads and wonder why the world hates them!

      The irony is, a dangerous, expansionist US foreign policy is not down to the American people, they get the same set of neo-cons no matter who they vote for, so our beef should not be with them. Somebody has got to stand up to the US government, but having heard Cameron speaking on the Ukraine issue in the House of Commons this afternoon, and then the response from Miliband, we shouldn’t hold our breath!

      Tad

      • Lindsay McDougall
        Posted March 10, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

        Tad,

        Does the name Ron Paul mean anything to you? I wish he was president of the USA. The incumbent reminds me of King Lear.

        Lindsay

  3. lifelogic
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    I agree fully.

  4. Andyvan
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    The US and EU instigated this violent coup in the Ukraine. They supported and encouraged extremists and they got what they wanted- regime change. Trouble is there’s a lot of people in the Ukraine that don’t like their legitimate government (incompetent and corrupt though it was) overthrown by western puppets. Those people actually prefer Putin to the EU and going by recent history who can blame them. Russia has infinitely more legal and moral right to be in the Crimea than we have ever had in Iraq or Afghanistan. Hypocrisy reaches new heights when we attempt to lecture others on invading sovereign states.

  5. formula57
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    A cogent blast of reality! Let us hope someone in the FCO reads your blog.

    If this Ukraine event ends peacefully, let us use the respite to exit NATO before Putin eyes the Baltic states.

    • Hope
      Posted March 11, 2014 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      They possibly do, but it will not change course. As we find with Hague, the minister is the one who adapts and changes to their thinking.

      Why are people from Britain allowed to go to Syria and fight. I thought this was an act of terrorism, could they not be arrested for it? Alternatively is blind eye being turned because it is helping Cameron’s view to over throw Syria? I really am at loss at the hypocrisy going on.

  6. Old Albion
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    The unspoken tragedy is that some inhabitants of Ukraine have gone through all of this, believing that joining the EU would free them from totalitarianism.

  7. Roy Grainger
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    The EU/USA must also think about what to do if (when) the Crimean population vote to re-join Russia and the Eastern provinces in Ukraine then demand their own referendum to do the same. I note John does not suggest that the UK should have a position on this, this is one benefit of being in the EU, we can loyally support the EU position safe in the knowledge their monumental inertia and incoherence will mean we have to take no action at all.

  8. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    JR: “The current EU position seems to be that the referendum will not be legal or binding on the Ukrainian government”
    The EU’s position on any referendum is that it has no validity unless its outcome is one which the EU itself desires.

    • zorro
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

      Indeed, I loved that phrase about the current EU position on referenda….not binding…..the only binding referenda vote is that in favour of the EU!

      zorro

    • Mark W
      Posted March 11, 2014 at 6:41 am | Permalink

      I’m trying to think what the EU thought of a Kosovo vote??

  9. Richard1
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    A referendum called with no more than 2 weeks allowed for the debate and with the presence in an occcuying foreign army is not valid.

    Its true there’s not much we can do about it. Time to be clear what we will do something about. Obama and other NATO heads of government should reaffirm the Military alliance, so a similar incursion by Russian forces into a NATO country would mean a military response. Obama needs to approve the Keystone X pipeline, approve and encourage shale gas export, and Europe needs to abandon the green religion, get shale gas moving, and probably restart nuclear where its been abandoned Due to erroneous environmental scare mongering.

    Putin has got away with this because of Europe’s dependence on Russian gas. That’s what now needs to change as quickly as possible.

    • zorro
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

      What has Putin got away with? Really, what tangible benefit on a global scale. All his actions are clearly rational, and I would do exactly the same in his position faced with an aggressively expanding empire to my West supported by a global superpower which makes a hobby of laying countries to waste!!

      zorro

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted March 11, 2014 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      “A referendum called with no more than 2 weeks allowed for the debate and with the presence in an occcuying foreign army is not valid.”

      Maybe, but do you really believe a majority of the population in Crimea DO NOT want to re-join Russia ?

      • Cary
        Posted March 11, 2014 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

        If the majority of the Crimean population wanted a referendum, there would have been political parties calling for one before the Russian army put their boots on the ground.

  10. Gary
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    The West invades countries to “spread democracy”, but when the West does not like the outcome of an election, they say it’s illegal and dont recognize it. Sometimes they say the vote must be repeated until the desired outcome is achieved. See what happened in Gaza, for example and in various countries in the EU.

    The Ukraine was a western sponsored Putsch. Just as Libya, Iraq, Syria and others were. IMO.

  11. Amanda
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    You put it well Mr Redwood; would that our Foreign Secretary Mr Hague, had such sense.

    I also see that it is, at long last, being reported on the front pages of The Telegraph that vaious ‘oligarchs’ have been given key positions as regional governors across Ukraine. (Something that Russia Today has been reporting for over a week, including the fact there has been protests in town across the Ukrain against these appointments.)

    Now, is this democracy? And, why, I wonder, would oligarchs so appointed be interested in these positions? I particularly wonder given that the EU, USA, and IMF are running around trying to find money to give to Ukraine. Why, I wonder cannot these ‘oligarchs’ pay the bills themselves?

    Mr Hague, wants to take a good hard look at his actions, and start putting the country of Great Britian first and foremost. Because, I afear that the people who will pay the post of this situation, after the Ukrainian people themselves, is us !!!

    Firstly our money will be taken and given to ‘these people’, secondly, if the EU has it’s way we will be inundated with yet more immigrants. Why is that bad, because we already have an infrastructure creeking under an impossible weight, many schools already go not have English as a primary language (heaven knows how teachers cope), and our taxes used for welfare should be going to those who contribute to the system.

    Who Crimea, or even Kiev want to govern them is no concern of ours and Mr Hague should ‘butt out’, but the fallout will inevitably mean that British people will suffer.

  12. alan jutson
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Interesting to see our Foreign Secretary comments on the Andrew Marr show yesterday.

    Whenever he was asked what he thought about any situation with regard to the Ukraine or Russia, he always seemed to refer to to what the EU were proposing, indeed he did so on so many occasions, I wondered if we had any policy at all.

    Yes by all means talk to Russia and whoever is in charge of the Ukraine (if anybody is) but let us face facts, Russia on this occasion will do as it pleases, as no one can use (even if they wanted to) the ultimate threat against them.

    The fact that so many Countries have sold their energy security to Russia is also a huge factor.

    Take note when foreign ownership of the basics of life, like water and power happens.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      “Whenever he was asked what he thought about any situation with regard to the Ukraine or Russia, he always seemed to refer to to what the EU were proposing, indeed he did so on so many occasions, I wondered if we had any policy at all.”
      Our host would have us believe that Hague’s is the voice of a Eurosceptic Conservative! I wonder what he would expect a Europhile to sound like?

      • zorro
        Posted March 10, 2014 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

        When was the last time (if ever) you heard John describe Hague as ‘the voice of a Eurosceptic Conservative….?

        zorro

      • Mark W
        Posted March 11, 2014 at 6:45 am | Permalink

        Quite.

  13. John E
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    The principle that the referendum needs the agreement of the Ukranian government is surely correct. Otherwise what is to stop countries disintegrating? Free Catalonia, free Cornwall, passport to Pimlico?

    Reply In the end it is the will of the people that matters. The UK Parliament could not keep Scotland in the Union on the votes of non Scottish MPs if the overwhelming majority of Scottish people wanted to leave. I (as a part time resident) and my neighbours in Pimlico do not want to establish an independent state or impose passports there.

    • ian wragg
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      No but Scottish MP’s can continue to vote on devolved powers which do not affect Scotland. When is this going to be corrected John.

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      This is the danger when localism goes too far and becomes an end in itself.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      Well in the film the residents of Pimlico were initially very content to re-establish it as a part of Burgundy and independent from the rest of the UK, until they not only found that there were some practical downsides but they decided that they were English and wanted to return to being part of England.

      I watched it quite recently and there’s a lovely passage:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passport_to_Pimlico

      “We’ve always been English and we’ll always be English; and it’s precisely because we are English that we’re sticking up for our right to be Burgundians!”

      I’ve no idea who lives in Pimlico now or how many of them regard themselves as being English or whether those that do still have any pride in being English, but if so then they are defying everything that the three main political parties have been telling them for the past two decades and more.

      In fact I’m not even sure that London can still be seen as part of England.

  14. Stewart Knight
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Firstly, the Ukrainian Government, even the interim one, is elected.

    Secondly, and the more ridiculous facet of your ramblings: by your reasoning, if an elected representative in Birmingham managed to get the city to secede from the UK then that would be valid, or if the people of Hants were led to a referendum to leave the UK by the leader, elected leader, of Hants council, then that would be valid. What if Scotland, after they become independent, arbitrarily decides that some English border regions with a large ethnic Scot population should be Scots, backed up force of arms, would that be valid?

    The Crimea is at worst only marginally different, has a large ethnic Russian population and is currently under virtual Russian martial law, and you think this is a fair referendum? Let’s have a referendum in the West Bank to see if it should be completely Israeli, but get a few more settlers in there first.

    Having followed you since your first post on this blog……… I’m gobsmacked.

    Looks like military aggression works eh?

    Reply Your logic is false. The Russian army is not surrounding particular UK towns, nor are they wanting to join the Russian state. I am writing about the reality as it is, not applauding illegal Russian acts. The depressing things are that the west has been outwitted so comprehensively by Putin, and the EU itself has encouraged the illegal overthrow of an elected President rather than allowing democratic means to get rid of a President who would not have been my choice either.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      I agree with your reply John.

    • forthurst
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      “The Crimea is at worst only marginally different, has a large ethnic Russian population and is currently under virtual Russian martial law, and you think this is a fair referendum?”

      Are you suggesting that the putschists in Kiev should be given time to ethnically cleanse the Crimea of its Russian majority that had pre-existed the Bolshevik Empire? If not, why would the people of Crimea wish to subjugate themselves to a (questionable ed) gang installed by the US State dept, having driven out representatives of the legitimate government, at any time in the future?

    • Dennis
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Mr Stewart Knight’s logic is not false.

      You said, “The Russian army is not surrounding particular UK towns, nor are they wanting to join the Russian state.” (A very odd statement)

      His Scottish scenario is the same – the Scottish force of arms on the English border and the majority of Scots in the English border area vote in a referendum to join a Scottish state.

      What is the difference?

      Reply There is no English border town with a majority of Scots who want to join an independent Scotland, nor is there yet an independent Scotland to put its army in. If there were such a town and such an army we would have problems!

      • Mark B
        Posted March 10, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        OK. What about an Irish one. If the people of Armagh or County Tyrone, to name a few, wanted to join the Republic of Ireland and did exactly the same and the Irish Republic said, that as these people are Catholic, and of the Gaelic Nation, they should be allowed and sent in troops to occupy that land, what would the British Governments reaction be ?

        • Stewart Knight
          Posted March 10, 2014 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

          Wasting your time I now sadly think as the statements have been made and canot be unsaid…

          You are of course exactly right and the analogy is vald.

      • margaret brandreth-j
        Posted March 10, 2014 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

        Dennis , don’t be so contrary , you know exactly what John was saying. Whilst the comparison between different situations highlights both differences and similarities ,the specific unique situation is the presence of military personnel.

        Also an overthrow can not be classed as democratic. It is the will of many , but nobody knows whether it was the majority.

        • Stewart Knight
          Posted March 10, 2014 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

          It was ony the overthrow of corrupt pupet President, not the whole state. So the people overthrew the President…..probaby the ultimate exercise of democracy.

          The Ukrainians should have been given their own time to sort this out, without Russian aggression.

      • Mark W
        Posted March 11, 2014 at 6:51 am | Permalink

        There is an English town with a large Scottish population. Although it is not on the border or near it, but in Northamptonshire. Will Corby be part of the Scottish referendum?? Possibly not.

    • bigneil
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Reply to reply – – “the EU itself has encouraged the illegal overthrow of an elected President rather than allowing democratic means ” – -the EU allow “democratic means” ? – so democracy can apply to other countries -just not those in the unelected EU?

    • stred
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      In the Scottish referendum, anyone resident in Scotland will be eligible to vote, even Russian, Ukranians or English. Scots living anywhere else will not. Whether Russian servicemen and their families, who have always been there and in their bases, will be able to vote is an interesting question. Presumably, English sailors and airmen working in Scotland will be able to vote,

      Also, don’t forget that the peaceful rock catapult and gun revolution resulted in the PM resigning before the President went. Yulia Tymonshenko gave an impressive interview on Al Jaz yesterday. Whichever health farm she has been to must have been a good one. She looked unwell when released but emerged as fit as ever and making all the noises to enter the fray again, saying Crimea had been invaded and not mentioning the fascists and oligarchs. Even though Putin had been favourable to her in the past, now he was not acting like a deserving preident etc.

      Lastly, re Catherine ( the Great) and the Expansion of Russia p 185. In the 1780s the bay of Aktier in the Crimea was selected to become a naval port and fortress. ‘ Here Potemkin had the services of Rear Admiral Mackenzie, a Scotsman who with his fellows Greig and Elphinstone, had long been in service in the Russian navy; and Colonel Upton, a military expert. But ranking above either was the naval architect and engineer Sir Samuel Bentham….who now came to superintend the new works of harbour and fortress that where in 1784…it was given the name Sevastapol. There he received a visit from his brother Jeremy (the philosopher), who.. enjoyed many conversations with Potempkin’. These days we help their oligarchs out with Limited Liability Partnerships and offshore accounts while many Russians have contributed to the renovation of Knightsbridge.

      • stred
        Posted March 10, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        or is it Chelsea and Kensington?

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      Under the constitution of Ukraine the President is directly elected. Therefore it is not the case the present government of Ukraine is constitutional, on the contrary it is a revolutionary government.

      We had somewhat similar events in England in 1688, when James I fled the country and a Convention Parliament declared the throne to be vacant and invited William of Orange to take it, on conditions.

      You can read about that here in the Bill of Rights, the crucial parts of which are still on the statute book and still form the founding document for our present system of parliamentary democracy:

      http://www.legislation.gov.uk/aep/WillandMarSess2/1/2/contents

      “And whereas the said late King James the Second haveing Abdicated the Government and the Throne being thereby Vacant … ”

      We call that the “Glorious Revolution”, and setting aside whether or not it was glorious it was certainly a revolution.

      Equally it must surely be the case that the referendum in Crimea is also in breach of the constitution of Ukraine.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted March 10, 2014 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

        James II not I.

    • Stewart Knight
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      You said: Reply Your logic is false. The Russian army is not surrounding particular UK towns, nor are they wanting to join the Russian state. I am writing about the reality as it is, not applauding illegal Russian acts. The depressing things are that the west has been outwitted so comprehensively by Putin, and the EU itself has encouraged the illegal overthrow of an elected President rather than allowing democratic means to get rid of a President who would not have been my choice either.

      My logic is not false, and the notion that Russia is some altruistic nation looking to allay a possible ethnic cleansing of its people and avoid a humanitarian crisis in the Crimea, coming from a senior British MP, borders on offensive. Your logic is completely false, and again borders on offensive, in trying to portray the people of the Ukraine who overthrew a corrupt, profiteering and puppet leader pandering to every Russian demand, as gangsters.

      Just because the Russian army is not surrounding UK towns doesn’t make it valid for them to surround and intimidate Ukrainian towns, and is that really the level of your argument?

      The reality is that the Russians have very clumsily engineered a crisis they can manipulate for a land grab and attempt to annex foreign soil…..and lo and behold we have people here who are blaming the EU and the US, incrediby so. Instead of condemning Russian illegal aggression, we, you, are blaming the EU and US and giving far more than just tacit approval to the Russians. Putin is very clumsy and a child and he has not outwitted anyone; great swathes of the world know what he has been up to since the eary nineties. Putin is now being portrayed, incuding here, as some benevolent Uncle Joe Stalin, and look how that worked out, including the holodomor.

      The Ukrainian President was a smokescreen and this was ALWAYS going to happen…are you so naive that you thought this could be avoided? Giving succour and blaming all others first is as good as giving support to Benevolent Uncle Putin and Russia, especialy from someone in your position.

      The analogies I gave were and are valid, and stand without answer.

      Reply You are attacking views I did not express. I do not condone the use of violence or iollegal means by either side in this internal Ukrainian conflict, nor by the Russians from outside. I merely point out that with the pro Russian forces in charge in the Crimea the West is not going to act decisively.

    • zorro
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply – Agree with John too in a nutshell. The EU sponsored overthrow has been hoisted by its own petard. They overthrew a democratically elected President, and could not await the result of a reasonably soon election. The new regime has no real democratic legitimacy (yet)…..

      zorro

  15. Bert Young
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    A very well put case this morning . It is the people in the Crimea and the Ukraine who must decide their fate , we – the outsiders , are arrogant to believe that it is our views that count . I dislike the presence of Russian armour and troops in the Crimea but I agree that they do have substantial and historical interests there and they do want to make their feelings known . If the outcome of the election shows that a substantial majority vote for being a part of Russia then this evidence ought to be enough ; I have doubts that the referendum itself will be conducted in a way to satisfy the opinions of the West . At least it ought to spur the negotiations between Russia and the Ukraine and we – the West must keep out of it .

  16. Vanessa
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I am wholly sympathetic to Russia’s response. The EU has behaved so badly over this. They promised Gorbechev that they would never threaten Russia’s border and they have with Lithuania etc. and they are.

    What do you expect Russia to do? It feels threatened and Putin is not Cameron he will act to protect his country.

    It serves the EU right. Its arrogance and pretend power has been called into question and has been shown to be bluff.

    The outcome of the referendum will be very interesting. As noted above if it does not go as the EU would like I am sure they will be given more chances to “get it right”.

    • Stewart Knight
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

      Threatened by whom? Do you honestly believe the EU is about to invade after closing the borders closer to Russia? Do you honestly think this is Russias and Benevolent Uncle Putins ‘Bay of Pigs’ response?

      Ridiculous and what many are trying to imply, and I think along with John.

      • zorro
        Posted March 11, 2014 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

        See my comment re Cameron below.

        zorro

      • Vanessa
        Posted March 12, 2014 at 8:57 am | Permalink

        Stewart
        If you read EUReferendum or Autonomous Mind you will read the truth about who actually started this very dangerous situation in Ukraine and it was not Putin.
        Pity you do not read the internet blogs which are better researched and more truthful than anything you can read from a politician or the media which is controlled either by politicians (BBC & Channel 4) or big corporations (the advertisers) who want to stay IN the EU.

    • zorro
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

      Cameron has directly threatened the Russian regime with his ‘Let’s extend the EU to the Urals’ threat….What would we do if the Soviets had said let’s extend Communism to the UK?…….Exactly.

      zorro

  17. NickW
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Before our Government decides to argue against the right of the Crimean people to determine their own fate by referendum, they should consider carefully where such agreement is going to take them.

    We do not want the Spanish to be given ammunition over the right of Gibraltarians for self determination, nor do we want the Argentines to be given ammunition to over rule the rights of Falklanders over their rights for self determination either.

    As for Scotland; the Nationalists have done their very best to cowe the Unionist cause into silence, but that referendum is also one whose results we are going to be forced to accept too.

    I understand that the Russians and the Crimean Government have offered to open their referendum up to outside observers. That is an offer which should be accepted.

    Perhaps we should get outside observers in to see fair play in the Scottish referendum?

    Reply Indeed, the UK has supported referenda for the Falklands and Scotland.

    • NickW
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      Sorry; please substitute “argument” for “agreement” in the last line of the first paragraph.

      • Thomas E
        Posted March 11, 2014 at 8:09 am | Permalink

        NickW, as a OSCE participating state we have already agreed to allow observers from the united nations to observe any referendum or election in the UK. We also allow european observers in as part of our membership of the EU.

  18. acorn
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    I can imagine at some time in the future, that this planet will consist of thousands of ethnolinguistic settlements, each with around a million people in it. There will probably be civil war in a significant number of them at any moment. Probably a dispute, for instance, between left handed persons and people who put their right sock on first.

    The Ukraine is a classic example. The south east is ethnic Russophone and the north west is ethnic Ukrainianophone. You could go further and say Ukraine: one nation, two languages, three cultures and god knows how many religions? You could even describe what is happening now in Ukraine as an exemplar for the demise of the EU from its current nascent imperial superstate form.

    I expect the result of a Ukraine referendum will yield the same as the 2004 and the 2010 elections; do you want to be Russian or not Russian.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      A colleague who was an Australian of Croatian descent once recited to me a rather similar bit of doggerel about Yugoslavia.

      “Yugoslavia has seven frontiers, six republics, five nationalities, four languages, three religons, two alphabets and one boss!

      A Yugoslav joke from the 1970s”

  19. lojolondon
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    The EU is playing this game for a bit of fun and to annoy their neighbour, but Russia absolutely cannot afford to lose.

    The Crimea is full of Russians who will be delighted to rejoin Russia, and Putin has so far absolutely run rings around the whole cabal of corrupt, dishonest, failures that ‘represent’ us in the EU.

    This is what happens when you allow professional socialist politicians to play in the big time, the EU is going to lose out here big time, no matter what they try.

    And shame on the MSM for supporting the weakling EU / US version of events.

  20. forthurst
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    “The west argues this is an illegal outrage, but it is also a fait accompli which the west is unlikely to challenge militarily.”

    The ‘west’? Has the expansion of the ‘west’ to engulf the whole of Europe as far as the Urals, with the corresponding expansion of NATO, the encirclement of Russia, China, Iran by nuclear missiles and military bases, carte blanche to fabricate casus belli for illegal invasions which could easily escalate into general conflicts, the eavesdropping on every last electronic tweet, the largescale re-engineering of the population of the UK and elsewhere, ever been part of any Party prospectus that I have ever been invited to vote for?

    What the ‘west’ gets up to has absolutely no elective legitimacy and rather suggests that the ‘west’ is as much run by a criminal gang as Kiev.

    • stred
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      Was EUral Dave aware that the Urals are over twice as far east of Moscow as the distance west to the river Dnieper, which runs through Kiev. Catherine the Great pushed the border as far west again into Poland and western Ukraine. Perhaps he should have been called Dave the Great ……. .

  21. Peter Davies
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Agreed – EU Subversion and meddling which lead to democratically elected governments which they don’t like getting overthrown sounds like their activities really has come home to roost.

    Whatever the whats and ifs and fairness of any outcome/legality of any referendum in the Crimea it looks like Putin has played a blinder and is not going anywhere. This will be a re joined up part of Russia, Putin putting some of his jigsaw back together – I just hope it doesn’t lead to anything more serious down the line.

  22. Peter Stroud
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    The EU and, for that matter the USA and the UK should keep their respective noses out of Crimean /Russian politics. If the majority of Crimeans are happy with, once more, sheltering under the Russian umbrella, who are we to disagree?

  23. oldtimer
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    At least they (the residents of the Crimea) will get the chance to vote in a referendum. The result be be in little or no doubt – with or without the substantial and intimidating presence of heavy Russian propaganda backed up by Russian forces and cheap gas.

    I too would lke the chance to vote in a referendum but this time on the future of the UK viv a vis the EU. The chances of that seem to me to be low. If it does happen, it too will be subject to the intimidating presence of heavy handed EU propaganda funded by EU (ie taxpayers) cash and economic threats.

    It is what the EU does and, as the Ukraine experience reveals, with little apparent comprehension of the unintended consequences of its actions. This episode also reveals the fundamental flaw of the EU – one shoe does not fit all sizes. We see it with the euro and the EZ, we see it in the very different economic interests of the various EU members. In both instances the German interest prevails.

  24. Antisthenes
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    I may be missing something here but it seems to me all people have a right to decide how they are governed and by whom. Is that not a core principle of democracy. We allow the people of Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands that right and defend it with force if necessary. So if the Crimea vote to join Russia surely that is their right and it should be defended and Russia can only say that they are acting exactly like the UK. I think if more peoples of the world were given referendum on this principle then there would no doubt be many more separate countries but they would at least be more peaceful places.

  25. mike rolph
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Qui Bono? Not the Ukranian people who have just switched one set of oligarchs for another, had their benefits slashed, and their security services handed to violent neo nazis. Not the Russians who recently extended the lease on military bases to 2050, had offered a tripartite agreement with the EU for closer integration, and who now have to deal with a border controlled by virulent anti russians.
    So whats in it for the US /EU? apart from oil and gas reserves, vast tracts of the most fertile land, unpolluted water, a few million more debt slaves, and the chance to poke your old enemy in the eye. Might it be that the IMF will come in and help out with vast amounts of imaginary money conjured out of thin air in exchange for all the tangible assets and the enslavement of the people, enriching western bankers.
    It truly sickens me to listen to Hague and Co, but then I grew up in a very different Great Britian, how you tolerate them John I have no idea.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      Cui bono, please Sir.

      • Mike Rolph
        Posted March 11, 2014 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        My apologies, can we put it down to incipient alzheimer’s and the failure of the NSA/GCHQ (can’t even remember who watches who now) spellcheckerm

    • forthurst
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      “the Ukranian people who have just switched one set of oligarchs for another”

      They are exactly the same ‘oligarchs’ who pillaged Ukraine after the collapse of the Bolshevik Empire; the only difference is that they have been given with political power by the Kiev putchists, power to people who, being exceedingly like their ‘Russian’ counterparts, may have been helped by the unexpected early demise of an adversary.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      For the EU it’s not just about the Ukraine; its ambitions in that direction stretch well beyond the Ukraine, all around the Black Sea and to the western shores of Caspian Sea, and if you take it that last July when Cameron was in Kazakhstan he was speaking on behalf of the EU rather than just on his own behalf then later it would be across the Caspian and butting up against China.

      Merkel was in Dublin last Friday for a pre-election congress of the European People’s Party, and this is what she said:

      http://euobserver.com/foreign/123396

      “Ukrainian people have the same right for freedom and democracy as we have in the EU.”

      Adding:

      “And the same goes for the people in Moldova, Georgia, Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan.”

      She was referring to the other countries in the EU’s “Eastern Partnership” policy on former Soviet Europe.

    • Cliff. Wokingham
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      I agree Mike…..I too grew up in a very different England/UK.
      I remember seeing Mr Hague as a Young Conservative with a full head of hair, addressing the party conference. At that time, I thought I was listening to a very talented individual with sound Conservative beliefs; how wrong was I.

      I think he makes himself look a fool on the world stage and he reminds me of the character in the film, High Plains Drifter, who becomes the hated helper of Clint Eastwood’s character, who is the very tough gun fighter. I don’t know what has happened to all the real Conservatives that we used to have in the party but, I suspect many of them, being career politicians, don’t want to be seen to rock the boat given that they rely on the party leader to get further up the career pole. I wonder if all these “Blue Labour” Cameron backers would go back to real Conservatism if we ever elected a real Conservative as our leader; I suspect we’ll find out sometime next year when we are thrown out of government altogether.

      • Gary
        Posted March 11, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

        Obviously “someone” got to Hague. Just like they get to all the rest of them. The politicians, with very few exceptions who are kept out of influential office, start out as independent thinking people with the same concerns as you and I and once in power they end up as swivel-eyed ideologues, who won’t whisper a criticism of the financial system, and foreign plunder by war. It is almost as if they have a bond applied their heads if they mention the unmentionable. Not least, the revolving door between politics and the boardroom and fat salaries are dangled as an incentive to shut up to the truth.

        Don’t worry, the internet is shining sunlight into these dark holes and exposing the hypocrisy. People are getting more and more fed up.

  26. Atlas
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Sigh,

    The experience of the Sudetenland hangs heavily over my perspective on events. Same arguments – same outcome? I hope not.

  27. rick hamilton
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    It is easy to say ‘let the Crimean people decide’ but why was there apparently no overwhelming demand by them to rejoin Russia until Putin decided to invade? I am all in favour of democratic decisions but ‘retrospective democracy’ has no appeal. Didn’t Hitler call a referendum on his annexation of Austria after the event?

    When the British Empire was dissolved we created the Commonwealth which unites about 50 countries with shared values. Where is the ‘Commonwealth of Independent States’ set up by post-Soviet Russians? Just because there are ethnic Russians living in other countries is no excuse for invading them. On that basis the UK should invade Australia, NZ, Canada etc to ‘protect’ ethnic English speakers.

    This is a plain, crude power and territory grab however you dress it up or however sympathetic you may feel towards Russian sensibilities.

  28. Max Dunbar
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    What, exactly, is this referendum going to prove? It may seem to mean something to democratically minded people in the West but as far as Russia is concerned it is a window dressing charade for world public opinion. Why is Putin even bothering with a referendum? He wont budge an inch on this issue in any case.
    What is of interest is where the Russian army moves next.

  29. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Quite. Crimean transfer to Russia is a done deal. Just because the US and the EU wish to behave stupidly is no reason for us to do so. Sanity is something that you can enjoy by yourself.

    Ron Paul, former US presidential candidate, recently appeared on RT and suggested that the US accusing Russia of aggression in invading Crimea was very much a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

    For those of you who love sanctions, a few numbers for you. Russian trade with Germany is £110 billion pa, with the UK £60 billion pa and with the US £27 billion pa. So who is going to get hurt most by US led sanctions? Certainly not the US.

  30. Neil Craig
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    I don’t approve of this – it is breach of international law.

    I don’t particularly blame Putin – his breach is nothing compared to the decades of far worse breaches (not to mention ge3nocide & worse) carried out by NATO against Yugoslavia and if NATO had wanted peace and the rule of law they should have tried it years ago. There are now no circumstances under which they have reason to complain.

    I have been saying this for years and get no pleasure from being proven right.

    However, whatever the well deserved results to NATO such activities leave the world a more dangerous place for all its inhabitants. We should encourage legality in such things. The world is potentially a very dangerous place if there is no way to solve disputes except by force.

    One avenue to agreement between Ukraine & Russia would be through the $15 bn “loan” Putin offered them before NATP funded the coup. Ukraine already has $3 bn of this. Perhaps Russia would be willing to buy Crimea for this and Ukraine to sell it. Or hold it as surety until the unlikely event of Ukraine paying back – medieval Scotland obtained Orkney and Shetland as surety for payment of a dowry by the Danish king for the Scots king marrying his daughter. A couple of generations later the Danes did try to pay off but the Scots declined. We knew a good deal when we saw one.

  31. Rods
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    I totally disagree with you analogy with Scotland, a much closer reality would be the UK and the French sharing by treaty the Faslane Naval base, France then invading Scotland, installing Alex Salmond and the SNP as the legitimate government and then after the invasion calling an immediate referendum on Scotland ceding from the UK with the SNP monitoring that the voting was free and fair. I assume from today’s and your previous blogs that you would be very happy with such events and consider this all reasonable and legal and legitimate and when the vote went the SNP’s way it was a transparent, free and fair referendum, with you personally be against any sanctions against the invader.

    Russia will not risk a free and fair referendum as many ethnic Russians are against joining Russia and would prefer a more autonomous region.

    The only point I think we do agree on is that Crimea in now lost to the Ukraine and how much further Russia goes by either invading the east or all of the country I think will partly depend upon how firm the west’s response to this aggression is, so they have to do a calculation on economic loss v territory gain rather than just territory gain. Putin is an opportunist and this has been his opportunity to grab Crimea. This came close to happening in 2009 when they started issuing Russian passport to ethnic Russians, which was his modus operandi for going to war against Georgia and seizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Ukraine government at the time were talking about not renewing the Russian Navy’s lease.

    What would be a travesty in my view, where what the Ukrainian people really want is their own independent country, would be for them to lose this. They achieved this briefly from 1917 to 1919 before being taken over by the Bolsheviks, I hope history is not about to repeat itself.

    I think a much more credible solution from the west’s point of view would be for a such a referendum on Crimea to not be held until after the 25th of May elections have been held in the Ukraine so there is a fully elected new President and Rada, rather than the interim one and then a vote held in the Crimea on their future held under the eyes of an international monitoring team. It won’t happen as Russia will not risk losing this vote.

    Electioneering has already started in Ukraine, with my mother-in-law (like all the female pensioners) in their village receiving a carnation and towel on Saturday where it was International Women’s day from a woman who is standing to be their Deputy (MP) for the area.

    Finally, in my view somebody has to be very mean to never give to charity. We all do it knowing it will make us a little poorer in the hope that it will make the world and peoples lives a little better. I view sanctions the same, we know it is going to make us slightly poorer in the hope it will make the world and people’s lives a little better.

    Reply I would not regard the action of France that you outline as acceptable or legal nor is it comparable to Russia’s action in the Crimea. The UK would of course oppose any French invasion as we rightly did in the Napoleonic wars. The first main difference is Scotland was not part of France for much of the twentieth century whereas the Crimea was part of the USSR. I have not supported or praised Mr Putin’s actions, merely pointed out that now he has a powerful position in the Crimea I do not see the west causing a World War to shift the pro Russian forces out. I trust you aagree with me and with the leaders of the west that military intervention is not a good idea in the circumstances.

  32. Posted March 11, 2014 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    No one has mentioned Kosovo.

    If NATO and the EU supported their right to hold a referendum against the wishes of Serbia, why should it be any different for the Crimea and Russia?

    Most outsiders probably don’t have any preference for whatever the Crimea, and other regions of the Ukraine, may decide. But even if they do, what right have they to push that preference to the point of war?

    The UK doesn’t have a dog in this fight. Let’s keep out of it.

  33. Robert Taggart
    Posted March 11, 2014 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Why does the West not ask openly the ‘elephantine question in the room’ ?…

    How about Cessation Referendums in Chechnya, Dagestan, Tartarstan… ?

    We in the West should state openly our support for the self-determination of these Russkie subjugated peoples.

    If nothing else this will upset the Russkies – better still – it may ‘set the cats amongst the bears’ !

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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