FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
A French Solution To The Crimean Crisis
The French establishment has spoken on the annexation of Crimea.
Writing in The Christian Science Monitor, Jacques Attali. former advisor to French President Francois Mitterrand and founding president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, says hey, what’s the big deal, the bitch had it coming.
(For maximum effect, you must imagine all blockquotes being read by Pepe Le Pew.)
Can I Dismiss the World’s Opinion Just Because I’m Smarter?
Sometimes, I ask myself whether it is possible to be right, though it means dismissing everybody else’s opinion. Or must one surrender to the idea that unanimity should prevail? In light of what is happening at the moment in Ukraine, I feel reinforced in my initial intuition: It is crazy for the West to turn the Crimean problem into an opportunity for confrontation with Russia.
The answer to that question would seem to be a resounding yes. Yes, if you are smart enough to have worked for Francois Mitterand and created an institution that under the guise of promoting economic liberalization, funnels billions of dollars to corrupt and oppressive regimes you are smart enough to not see the same level of danger that everyone else does.
Does Some Pissant Country That Doesn’t Speak French Rate My Attention?
Future historians will find it rather hard to understand why we have embarked on an escalation with Russia that has potentially terrifying consequences in order to oppose a majority vote from a Russian-speaking province, part of Russia for centuries, attached in 1954 to another province of the Soviet Union on the whim of the secretary general of the Communist Party at the time, Nikita Khrushchev. Moreover, this was an inclusion never fully acknowledged by the majority of the Crimean population, who have always wanted to maintain their autonomy vis-à-vis the government in Kiev, as further affirmed by the Ukrainian constitution of 1992.
It would seem not. Not only Attali, but a disturbing number of Americans believe that if something doesn’t happen to them it really doesn’t matter.
Seduction And Rape All Ends The Same Way. We Call This The Strauss Kahn Principle.
Crimea and Russia chose to use the chaos born of the arrival in Kiev of a strongly anti-Russian government to reunite. Why does it bother us? Why should the Crimean population be denied the will to choose their destiny against the view of the country of which they are a member? After all, aren’t we preparing to allow the Scots to vote on exactly the same issue in Great Britain? Don’t the Catalans intend to do likewise in Spain? Will there be protests against “the taking away of the territory of Great Britain” if the Scots choose independence?
There are a number of points that need to be addressed here.
Crimea and Russia didn’t choose to reunite. They have been separated for 60 years and, given Russian life expectancy, there is virtually no one alive in Crimea who was alive when the legal government of the USSR redrew their own internal borders. These actions are not new, nor are they unjust. States within the United States have border disputes. Once the national government settles the dispute that is the solution. What Russia chose to do was reopen an issue that had been closed for decades and used a combination of political agitation and brute force to achieve its ends. This differs in major ways from the independence movements in Scotland and Catalonia which are proceeding under national law and without the help of Russian tanks.
My Big Brain Sees Problems Your Tiny Brain Can’t
And what will happen if Moldova, Belarus, or the Russian-speaking part of Kazakhstan ask to become attached to Russia? We will interfere? On what grounds? In the name of stability of the idea of nationhood? What about Czechoslovakia splitting up into the Czech Republic and Slovakia? Didn’t we support it when provinces broke away in Yugoslavia? Iraqi Kurdistan? Gaza? Would anyone object if Quebec chose independence? What would happen if Wallonia were to asked to join France?
And what would happen if Alsace and Lorraine voted to secede from France and the Bundeswehr rolled in to enforce the vote. There are a lot of different things going on here and the logical incoherence and stupid is strong. Just on a factual basis, neither Iraqi Kurdistan nor Gaza “broke away.” That simply didn’t happen. What is notable is that in all the examples Attali gives, the only ones that visualize parts of a smaller, weaker nation being assimilated into another larger nation are those involving Russia… and France.
You Know What, France Had It Coming In 1940
All this brings to mind old history. The West actually believes it will not make the same mistake that was made with the annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938 by Adolf Hitler under the pretext that in this region of Czechoslovakia the majority of the inhabitants were of German race.
Remorse certainly is quite praiseworthy. But it is too late to rewrite history.
The situation before us today is not analogous to 1938, but rather to 1919.
If there is something to remember, it is what the attempts to humiliate and isolate Germany after the First World War led to: the Germany of the Weimar Republic and the tragic Treaty of Versailles that led to Hitler’s rise to power.
I will grant that there are an astonishing parallels between post-Versailles Europe and post-Cold War Europe.
- In both cases an imperial power was the loser in a major international struggle and as a result lost much of its influence and some of its territory.
- In both cases, the loser adopted a psychological defense mechanism which blamed everyone but itself for the outcomes — though both seem to have blaming Jews as a shared value.
- In both cases, the loser set about trying to regain what it perceived it had lost.
- In both cases, the Western powers made excuses for the aggressor and gave it the benefit of the doubt.
Unlike post-Versailles Europe and contrary to what Mr. Attali claims, the West never set out to humiliate Russia. To the contrary. Russia has been lavishly rewarded by giving it a totally undeserved space on the UN Security Council. Treaties made with the USSR, an actual world power, have been kept in place with Russia as the successor even though this status was not merited. Billions and billions of dollars in Western loans, credits, grants, and commerce have been directed toward Russia. Despite its nonexistent respect for intellectual property and hosting of all manner of cybercriminals, Russia was invited to join the WTO. It has not joined the EU because it has decided that creating its own trade organization is a better deal. The difficulties it has had with foreign trading partners have been 100% brought on by Russian chicanery and shenanigans.
The Solution: Give Them What They Want, Ne C’est Pas?
Today’s ongoing confrontation will get us nowhere at best. At worst, it will invite a repeat of history when a series of absurd events resulted in the outbreak of world war.
Therefore, the planned summit between the European Union and Russia should not have been canceled. Russia should not be excluded from the G-8. We should not be trading tit-for-tat sanctions.
Instead, everything needs to be done to persuade the Russians that they have everything to gain by coming closer to the European Union. By offering them to build a vast single constitutional and legal area, where the Crimean issue would become insignificant. And to get started, we should propose to Ukraine – provided it remains what it is – a bridge between the two Europes, for each other’s greatest benefit.
This is the kind of ridiculous thinking that permeates the foreign policy elites of the US and Europe. They work under the rather bizarre notion that everyone is playing the same win-win game they specialize in when, in fact, large parts of the world outside the United States, Western Europe, Canada, and Australia play only to win. Attali’s prescription is utterly ludicrous. Russia hasn’t been shunned. They haven’t been humiliated. They haven’t been denied anything. Quite the opposite. The problems we face today are because we followed the policy prescriptions of people like Attali in the early 1990s.
Attali is correct in noting that the treatment of Germany after Versailles begat World War II. What he’s obviously missing is that peace only came to Europe in 1945 when Germany was laid waste, put under Allied military occupation for a decade, and her leaders hanged or imprisoned. That should have been our model.