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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

“The Island of Crimea”

Ukraine declared as another ring of hostility around Moskvorep
4 March, 2014 - 11:50

In October 2009 I published a short text simply titled “Is a War between Russia and Ukraine Possible?” I will quote some of its lines with editorial permission.

Quote: “The ideological activities of the current agitprop somewhat resemble preparations for the Anschluss – annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany. On a closer examination, the propaganda boils down to one thesis: there is no Ukraine as a state and there are no Ukrainians as a nation. Historically, it is explainable. ‘Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire.’ Zbigniew Brzezinski said this back in 1994 and then, 10 years later, during the Orange Revolution, he identified the consequences of her likely defeat for Russia: ‘With Ukraine transformed into a satellite like Belarus, the Kremlin would again be an imperial capital. That, indeed, would be a tragic setback for those in Russia who have recognized – as Boris Yeltsin did more than a decade ago in a speech delivered in Kyiv – that to be a hated imperial power is not a blessing but a historic curse.’

“In other words, a war against Ukraine would be the best way for the Russian authorities to do away with the remnants of democracy in Russia. From the viewpoint of the Russian national development, this would approximately mean what the Anschluss meant for the Germans – refusal to be a nation state. For that was a very important historical turn, a revision of Bismarck’s legacy.

“The ‘Iron Chancellor’ pursued his policies on the basis of a little German, not a great German, concept of building a nation state – around Prussia, not around Austria-Hungary, keeping the latter’s sovereignty and statehood intact, consolidating ethnic Germans on German lands around the emperor of Germans, the German Kaiser, not the emperor of Germany.

“Actually, the present-day German nation, which survived the Third Reich, still exists within the same borders, while the optimal setup of the German nation state is federation. What I mean is that ‘a horse guardsman’s age is short’ – a greater Germany proved to be historically bankrupt.

“Parallels with the Anschluss are so far confined to rhetoric. But if we recall what kind of a regime was in the Hitler-occupied Austria, we can rather draw a parallel with Belarus whose current leader clearly surpasses Russian politicians in terms of authoritarianism. So we have again to admit that Brzezinski was right – not only an independent, but also a democratic Ukraine is a challenge to the new imperial project, even with due account of all the particularities and weaknesses of Ukrainian democracy.

“There is another essential difference from Nazi Germany which was a strong unitary state. Russia has destroyed federalism but failed to establish true Unitarianism. Moreover, a situation may arise, when control over South Ossetia may prove to be more reliable than that over the North Caucasus republics. Note that I do not compare South Ossetia with Chechnya. Ostap Bender was a model of philanthropy, when he said: ‘Hit no more on the head. It is his weakest place.’

“But these all rational arguments, while history is full of examples when wars were triggered by the weakness, not the strength, of a state. Destabilization of Ukraine may rouse a desire to temporarily forget (but not to overcome) instability in the Caucasus, uncertainty in the economy, the blind alley of ‘tandem democracy,’ and personal confusion.

“Russian spin masters have flopped in Ukraine, for they proved to be unable to get elections won without the administrative resource. The economic resources of pressure on Ukraine proved insufficient – gas wars produced no results. There is no political resource, for the Russian leadership has not even tried to form a pro-Russian party in Ukraine. It is therefore not ruled out that the Kremlin will mull over using the military resource during or on the eve of the nearest Ukrainian elections:” Unquote.

It was all confined to conjectures four years ago. But I am sure these conjectures were part of a certain plan which was updated from time to time. What is more and more often coming to mind today is Operation Springtime described in Vasily Aksyonov’s novel The Island of Crimea. God forbid the forecasts of another classic will come true. I mean the book Moscow 2042 by the still living Vladimir Voynovich (ironically, his last name is also connected with the Crimea and Sevastopol). In this novel, Ukraine is declared as one more ring of hostility around Moskvorep (“Moscow Order of Lenin and Red Banner Communist Republic”).

Unfortunately, the latter has succeeded. According to the Levada Center, the attitude of Russians to Ukraine is worsening month by month. Hostility is, albeit slowly, on the rise. At the same time, there is a growth in the number of Russian citizens who think that the Soviet sociopolitical setup is the most suitable for their country.

Very much depends on the way the aggression may be presented. The phrase “war against Ukraine” will be undoubtedly rejected. But military actions in the name of regaining the Crimea, accompanied by Aleksandr Gorodnitsky’s song Sevastopol Will Remain Russian (it does not matter that it is about the Red Army’s retreat in 1942), is sure to stir up enthusiasm in many – how many is an open question because nobody will so far venture to conduct a poll about a Ukraine-Russia conflict.

Words remain the most important thing so far. And we must admit that Yanukovych pronounced very well chosen words. He is calling for inaction, not for action. He urges law-enforcers to touch nobody. In other words, he is not attacking but is trying to bring about an internal decay of government in Ukraine. As for asylum in Russia, this may be an embassy, a military base, or a ship.

By Dmitry SHUSHARIN, historian, political journalist, Moscow, special to The Day