It is saddening to discover that Russia’s narrative on the Ukrainian crisis is much more credible than that of Washington, as articulated by UN Ambassador Samantha Power, Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama. Russia’s story fits the known facts. Ours does not.
If we turn our gaze away from the lurid power politics fantasies in the mass media and look instead at the economic reality of Ukraine, we see a totally different, and far more credible, scenario than what Ambassador Power sets forth on behalf of the Obama White House.
Russia neither wants nor needs to overpower Ukraine. Russia’s interests are in fostering an independent and prosperous Ukraine with an economy capable, inter alia, of repaying its $16 billion debt to Russia. And of course, decidedly not a member of NATO.
There is no vast Russian army massing on Ukraine’s eastern border. Ukrainian officials regularly inspect the Russian side of the border. They have a treaty that provides for inspection on both sides. The Ukrainians haven’t complained to Russia of any abnormal massing of forces. Nor did Russian troops invade Crimea. There were about 15,000 Russian troops in the region under the existing Russo-Ukrainian treaty, and several thousand more were sent in when tensions began to rise. The numbers stayed well within the 25,000 specified in the treaty.
Nor did the Crimea referendum take place at gunpoint as officials in Brussels and Washington began saying shortly after the vote. International observers who were actually present saw nothing but a well supervised referendum. Certainly the vote was held at short notice. That was necessary to forestall any attempt of the people in Kiev to frustrate the vote. The Crimeans voted, wisely, to bail out of the Ukrainian crisis and rejoin Russia.
At present Russia is making no demands on the Ukrainians except to get their act together. Moscow does favour a constitutional assembly to make Ukraine a federal state comparable to the Russian Federation and the United States of America, but is offering the idea as a suggestion, not a threat. A federal state would give the various regions essential rights on matters like language, religion, education and local governance.
This is the narrative that fits the facts we can see on the ground. Washington’s story, like that of London and Brussels, doesn’t fit these facts. If Pinocchio were the spokesman for America and the European Union, by now he’d have grown a nose like a pool cue.
Hypocrisy is not diplomacy. Empty threats are not diplomacy. President Obama has a better chance of leaping , like Superman, over the Washington monument in a single bound than of “isolating” Russia.
Cynics characterize hypocrisy as the vaseline of political intercourse. That is undoubtedly true of domestic politics, but statesmanship in the global arena is another matter. It requires an ability to see the world as it really is, a talent visibly missing in the Obama White House and, even more so, in the administrative rabbit warren of the European Union.