Crimea

Crimean Self-Determination or Russian Annexation?

1813-crimea-map-dots1

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) are both introduced with articles on the right to self-determination. The principle of self-determination as jus cogens or an indisputable norm in international law nevertheless remains ambiguous, particularly relating to the legality behind the principle within the context of contemporary international life. The development of the principle was initially intended on overcoming the human rights impact colonialism had on those subjected to its authority in addition to the impact of decolonisation and post-colonialism had to international stability, economic relations and security as clearly stated in General Assembly Resolution 1514.[1] What is the relationship or distinction between State and Government and does the state itself possess the qualifications as embodied by the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States if indeed such qualifications epitomise a universal model of statehood and autonomy? This intricacy is further debilitated when entrenched with ideological discourse as a tool to construct hegemonic regimes rather than adhering to the constitutive conditions within international public law. This complexity is undoubtedly exposed with the annexation of Crimea [territory of the Ukraine] by Russian authorities, undermining the regulations of the United Nations Charter[2] and of jus ad bellum or the criteria that determines the legality of warfare and the use of force, along with the prohibitions and the application of self-determination contained by the authority of international law. From the ousting of Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine, to the referendum in Crimea that seemingly found the majority of the population in favour of becoming subjects of Russia, to the eventual deployment of Russian military personnel and annexation of the region with the intent of protecting its subjects from pro-Ukrainian extremists, is there a breach of Russia’ international obligations or is there credibility that can be considered legally tenable? It is the intention of this blog post on this gorgeous albeit cold Sunday afternoon to focus on the situation in Crimea by ascertaining Russia’ legal obligations regarding territorial integrity along with use of force, utilising a comparative approach on Kosovo and the Former Yugoslavia to ascertain the meaning of self-determination in international public law.

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On Sleepwalking, and unintended consequences of War

Reflections on a reading of Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers, How Europe Went to War in 1914 (Allen Lane, 2012, Penguin Books, 2013, © Christopher Clark, 2012)

Dragutin Dimitrijevic ApisThis is a drama whose ending we know, only too well. It is to Christopher Clark’s credit to make us realise, at long last, how it started. In awe, we observe the events of those haunting years, from the Balkan “crisis” of 1912, to the July 1914 Austrian ultimatum to Serbia, following the assassination of Frank-Ferdinand, heir to the throne, as if watching, in slow motion, the silent collapse of a tall building, as we did in September 2001.

“The Sleepwalkers” read, at times, like the scenario of an implacable nightmare, or a devilish horror movie. Surely, we think, “they” must have realised, “didn’t they know what was coming?” We see Poincaré, ensconced in his inept germanophobia, on the deck of his warship, on his way to meeting with the tzar in Saint-Petersburg, we follow the sickly assassin on his progress to Sarajevo, nurtured by the sinister Black Hand, we listen to the pontifications of Lord Grey, the British Foreign Secretary… With horror, and perhaps not without a reflection on the crimes of our own time, we see the Italian Air Force bombing Libya. Few of those events do not have some eerie counterparts in our time, in these first decades of the twentieth century. Of course, it is not that history risks repeating itself: only human folly, like Capital, knows how to reproduce itself, whatever the circumstances.

1914 Austria-Hungary is surely not 2014 Russia, nor today’s Ukraine yesterday’s Serbia.

Clark’s equally masterly “Iron Kingdom” makes a more comfortable reading for a convinced European: perhaps because its conclusion, the reintegration of Prussia into a modern, peaceful and reunited Germany, is more palatable to our mind, than the inexorable prospect of Armageddon in  “The Sleepwalkers”. For the Sleepwalkers are among us, and in the restless comfort of this fragile peace, we wonder if we are not them. Clark stresses the importance of understanding the thought process of the then decision makers, rather than the ritual attribution of responsibilities. His account makes, for us, in 2014, painful reading: confusion, mistrust, fear, unaccountable media (already…), propensity to posturing, lies, false promises, it is already all there. For the “Entente”, the improbable and shaky alliance of the French Republic, its historical arch-rival Great Britain, and imperial Russia, should we read today’s Union? Surely not, I hear you say.

Then, there is the Other, as yet hardly visible. Yet, by 1910, the US industrial production has already overtaken the combined outputs of the United Kingdom and Germany. The “Great War” would kill over fifteen millions human beings, devastate Belgium, Northern France, part of Austria, Italy and the Balkans. It will trigger murderous revolutions in Russia and Germany, and tragically end three, once powerful, dynasties: the Habsburg, the Hohenzollern and the Romanov. The UK and France would end up in debt for decades. Their colonial empires would be, by then, doomed to annihilation.

Image: Dragutin Dimitrijevic Apis (Драгутин Димитријевић Апис), leader of the Black Hand and prominent member of the Serbian General Staff

A letter from 2084

Toward the end of his life an old historian writes to his grand daughter: about his memories of the early decades of the twenty first century, and his readings.

Thursday 24 July, 2084

Berlin, Euro-Asian Confederation

To: Julie Paulus

University of Navajo City

Central and South-American Federation

Friedrich PaulusMy dear Julie,

As you can see I am getting into this new technology, and love the soft sound of the typewriter as I write. First of all I want to thank you for your best wishes. In truth things are pretty good for us, and the news of the success of the Asian mission to Jupiter has really cheered us up.

The city is wearing her summer dress, and the museums are full, crowds of your fellow citizens, often in beautifully decorated local costumes, were yesterday looking in amazement at the old Bundestag, which is for me, in still historical times, the Reichstag.

Indeed I sometimes feel I am living in the past.

I have been reading, I should say re-reading, two books. One was written about seventy years ago by an Australian historian who researched the events preceding the first (some say second) European civil war of 1914-1918, also called the first “World-War”. “The Sleepwalkers” – that’s the title – explains how “great powers”’s greed and inept political judgement, led to the disaster. At that time the crisis centred around the Balkan region, and was largely provoked by the ambitions of politicians who did not understand the consequences of their actions.

The second book, you know already, I think, as it has been part of the textbooks for secondary history teaching the world over, for nearly half a century. Written in 2035 by the North American diplomat who was instrumental in the early peace negotiations, “They were invincible” is a harrowing account of the crisis in the then Ukraine and West-Russia that ultimately precipitated World-War 3. The book describes the idiocy of the then European Union’s leadership, and the incredible arrogance of what was US diplomacy, coupled with the deviousness of some of their opponents. Concomitant with the tragedies of the Middle-East, the spiral of events that led to the inevitability of the war, is frighteningly similar to the events of 1913-14, as if world politicians had learnt nothing from two world wars.

As you know my studies took me elsewhere, to the formation of the four great alliances that now shape our peaceful world. It took the destruction of the US surface fleet, and of several great cities in 2017, for mankind to realise it was heading for self-destruction, a fact long predicted by writers and historians through the preceding century. Now, the Euro-Asian Confederation, that comprises what used to be the European Union, the Russian Federation, central Asian countries, Afghanistan, China and the countries of the Indochinese peninsula; the Pacific Union, that comprises Japan, Australasia and the North American federation (what used to be Canada and part of the United States of America); the Afro-West Asian Federal Republic, the largest union geographically stretching from South Africa to Iran and India; and of course your country, the central and South-American Union, from Oregon to Antartica, have, at long last, secured peace through total disarmament. I remember the birth of the new United Nations, and the role played by scientists, historians, and people of goodwill, from all the world, following the disaster.

I will tell you more when I am ready to publish my thoughts!

Let me know when we can expect your visit (I appreciate that the crossing takes several days, but then no-one of my generation would regret the loss of the environmental disaster called “air travel” as we knew it). I know also you have been busy with this wonderful project of cleaning the oceans from the last remnants of plastic rubbish, and I am impressed by the science behind it.

Yours,

Friedrich-Karl Paulus

Ghosts from the past, or a Threat to Europe and Democracy? #Ukraine

Treptower Park, BerlinThis is 2014 and Europe remembers the slaughter of the First World War. At least those of us with a brain will. No doubt the same gutter press, or its successors, that showed, then, complete irresponsibility, will have their own version of that glorious episode…

On May 9 those of us, with even fresher memories, will celebrate Victory Day: victory over the hydra of fascism, a victory won at a very high price by the people of the USSR, and the courageous resistance throughout Europe, and singularly, in Poland, Ukraine, Yugoslavia and Greece.

It is perhaps just timely, given this background, for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation to publish a White Book on Violations of Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Ukraine (November 2013 – March 2014). The White Book is a sober, well documented, record of the vicious violence, racist abuses, unlawful imprisonment, beatings, torture, pogroms, thefts, committed so far (March 2014) by the fascistic “good democrats” before and since the putsch of February 2014.

Some of the facts were, in part, known from reports mainly in the non-mainstream independent western media, the Russian news channels and local witnesses. Western mainstream media has, as ever, been conducting a smoke and mirrors disinformation campaign aimed at supporting the State Department’s claims of Russian “aggression”. I expect Mr Kerry will dismiss this as another example of “propaganda”, but do not expect a blow by blow critique of the record, since it is unassailable, each fact being dated, located with names of victims or perpetrators.

What comes out of a first reading is, first of all, a sense of revulsion that this could be happening in the middle of Europe, and that such acts, and the thugs perpetrating them, have the support of the unelected European top bureaucracy, as well as of the US government. A second thought is about how moderate the Russian response to the events has been (so far), given the long list of abuses and destruction of Russian property, and harassment of Russian journalists, that has and is taking place.

A tempting conclusion is that we are witnessing the birth of a fascist régime, in 2014, in the middle of Europe. However it will be worth for people of goodwill, here, elsewhere in Europe, and in the US, to reflect on the motivation for publishing the White Book now, as events unfold, as explained in the introduction:

The history of the twentieth century has given tragic lessons which would be irresponsible and also at times just unlawful to ignore. The White Book is a signal to those who have forgotten this or pretend to forget. Those who cynically, in pursuit of their own selfish interests and under the guise of good intentions and pseudo-democratic demagogy, are plunging a multimillion multi-ethnic Ukrainian population into extremism, lawlessness, and a deep crisis of national identity.

The onslaught of racism, xenophobia, ethnic intolerance, the glorification of the Nazis and their Banderite sycophants should be brought to a speedy end through the united efforts of the Ukrainian people and the international community. The alternative is fraught with so devastating consequences for peace, stability, and democratic development in Europe, that it is absolutely necessary to prevent further escalation of this situation.

We have to reflect on the past decades: the violence meted out to small countries and people everywhere: in South America, in Asia, in the Middle-East, in Africa. We must remember the horrors of the US-sponsored régimes of Pinochet and other puppets of corporate interests. We must admit that our horror over the violence in Ukraine, is in part due to the fact that Ukraine – like in 1990 Yugoslavia – is in Europe. But worse is being committed, has been committed, for decades, outside Europe in the name of “democracy” and “freedom”. Let us look at Iraq, Libya, Syria, at Egypt…

So, where do we go from here? The White Book was published before the murders of Odessa, where scores of local residents, protesting against the fascists, were burnt alive deliberately or beaten to death by the thugs. The violence won’t stop there. What history has taught us is that the hydra must be killed: it knows neither pity nor reason.

In the background Nato’s posturing in the Baltic and Poland. There, conservative and reactionary governments have requested “more presence”. And Nato appears to be willing to comply. There is only one problem. The Russian Federation of today is no longer what it was when Washington was running circles around Yeltsin. It is not the USSR, nor Nazi Germany in 1940… But it is there, and again, the lesson of history, is: don’t mess with Russia.

Across the globe, in the Pacific, the “Lord of the Drones”, aka the President of the US of A, is weaving his little alliances, overtly, to encircle China. One wonders what the strategy really is… There is such a thing as “folie des grandeurs”!

Back to the Ukraine, there is more to what happens there than the murderous antics of the Kiev puppets: what the IMF is doing, backed by US corporations and mercenaries: what we are witnessing is Neoliberalism in action, a virulent variety of it. And of course it is already at work, in Greece, and in Bosnia…

I will celebrate Victory Day on 9 May.

Offener Brief an Putin – Zu den russlandfeindlichen Äußerungen unserer Massenmedien und Politiker – NRhZ-Online – Neue Rheinische Zeitung – info@nrhz.de – Tel.: +49 (0)221 22 20 246 – Fax.: +49 (0)221 22 20 247 – ein Projekt gegen den schleichenden Verlust der Meinungs- und Informationsfreiheit – Köln, Kölner, Leverkusen, Bonn, Kölner Dom, Kölner Polizei, Rat der Stadt Köln, Kölner Stadtanzeiger, Flughafen KölnBonn, Messe, Messe Köln, Polizei Köln, Rheinland, Bundeswehr Köln, heiliger Vater Köln, Vatikan Köln, Jürgen Rüttgers Köln, Radio Köln, Express Köln, Staatsanwaltschaft Köln, Kapischke Köln, Klüngel Köln, Schramma Köln, Fritz Schramma, Fritz Schramma Köln, Stadt Köln, Kölnarena, Oppenheim, Oppenheim Köln, Privatbank, Privatbank Köln, Sal. Oppenheim, Sal. Oppenheim Köln, WDR Köln, Oppenheim-Esch, Oppenheim-Esch Köln, Oppenheim-Esch-Holding, Oppenheim-Esch-Holding Köln, KölnMesse, KölnMesse Köln, KVB Köln, Ermittlungen, Kommune Köln, Dom Köln, Erzbistum Köln, Kardinal Meisner Köln

Offener Brief an Putin – Zu den russlandfeindlichen Äußerungen unserer Massenmedien und Politiker – NRhZ-Online – Neue Rheinische Zeitung – info@nrhz.de – Tel.: +49 (0)221 22 20 246 – Fax.: +49 (0)221 22 20 247 – ein Projekt gegen den schleichenden Verlust der Meinungs- und Informationsfreiheit – Köln, Kölner, Leverkusen, Bonn, Kölner Dom, Kölner Polizei, Rat der Stadt Köln, Kölner Stadtanzeiger, Flughafen KölnBonn, Messe, Messe Köln, Polizei Köln, Rheinland, Bundeswehr Köln, heiliger Vater Köln, Vatikan Köln, Jürgen Rüttgers Köln, Radio Köln, Express Köln, Staatsanwaltschaft Köln, Kapischke Köln, Klüngel Köln, Schramma Köln, Fritz Schramma, Fritz Schramma Köln, Stadt Köln, Kölnarena, Oppenheim, Oppenheim Köln, Privatbank, Privatbank Köln, Sal. Oppenheim, Sal. Oppenheim Köln, WDR Köln, Oppenheim-Esch, Oppenheim-Esch Köln, Oppenheim-Esch-Holding, Oppenheim-Esch-Holding Köln, KölnMesse, KölnMesse Köln, KVB Köln, Ermittlungen, Kommune Köln, Dom Köln, Erzbistum Köln, Kardinal Meisner Köln.

 

Jean-Pierre Chevènement: “Without Russia something is missing in Europe”

I am posting here a personal adaptation of Jean-Pierre Chevènement‘s interview with Le Figaro of March 8, 2014. The links in the article are not by the author, but my own commentary.

Andrei Rublev [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
What outcome can you foresee for the Ukraine crisis?

In this sort of situation, one blows hot and cold in succession. A phase of de-escalation, at least verbal, appears to have been started by Vladimir Putin’s statement. He conducted an operation of ‘calculated posturing’, as the military says. What matters now is to define the axis of exit from this crisis. There is no longer any ideological or military reason for a new cold war in Europe. No-one has any interest in that. There is too much interdependence between us for not looking at the road for a durable resolution.

We are not taking that road currently…

From the start there was a big misunderstanding: the EU policy aimed at association with Ukraine, while raising expectations of membership, as Olli Rehn declared, cannot be realised in a sensible timeframe. Membership may not even be desirable. One should not have placed, and must not, place Ukraine in front of a manichean choice: either Russia, or the EU. That is an unsolvable dilemma for Ukraine, given her history. The reality of Ukraine is her diversity. In the East there are russophone populations, and in the West, uniate catholic communities, some of which were once part of Austro-Hungary. It is not sensible to expect a democratic equilibrium in Ukraine, with power alternating between East and West, as we have witnessed since 1991: Kravtchuk in 1991, Timochenko, then Ianukovitch. I see not reason why Ukraine could not become a federal state. It may be what Russia is leading at: that is no reason to disqualifying the proposal, if it makes good sense. As for Crimea, no-one could challenge that it is Russian, as the majority of her population. A substantial autonomy is in the natural order. As Charles de Gaulle once said: ‘There is no worthwhile politics outside realities’.

In your last book you wrote: ‘Without Russia, something is missing in Europe’…

Russia is a great European country. Her space stretches across Europe and Asia, but her people are unquestionably European. Something essential to our culture would go missing without the Russian novelists, Tolstoï, Dostoievski, without Tchekov’s plays, Diaghilev’s ballets, Tchaikovski’s music, Sutin’s painting. Moreover, France is well placed to know how much she owes to Russia: in 1914 we were lucky to have the Russian front buying us time to hold on to the Marne, and more so in WWII. We are in Russia’s debt for her immense sacrifices in breaking the back of nazi Germany. One cannot delete history at a stroke.

Is Russia a democracy?

For twenty two years Russia has been a state based on the rule of law, no doubt imperfectly so, but which comprises all the elements (necessary to) democratic development: political pluralism, freedom of expression – at least in the written press and on the Internet – elections that the opposition can win, as for example in Yekaterinburg, fourth city in the country, last September. The 1993 Constitution, still in force, has been adhered to; in France, twenty years after 1789, we had at least ‘consumed’ seven or eight (constitutions). One has to trust (the effects of) economic development, time, the rise of a middle class: democracy will develop from the Russian people themselves. The thesis of exporting democracy is dangerous: the ideology that states that the West must export its values, norms, standards, can only feed the lingering remains of the cold war. One always has to try and understand what’s in the head of ‘the other’: Russians believe that Westerners, particularly in the US, have not given up on ‘regime change’.

They haven’t forgotten Kosovo, Iraq, Libya etc. Russia defends her geopolitical interests, but she is not the USSR. That disappeared twenty three years ago. One must accept that each country evolves at her own pace and chooses her destiny. I always refer to Jacques Berque who said that every people must find in themselves, and in their motivations, reasons to borrow concepts that at first are foreign, but that those cannot be forced upon them.

Does Europe need Russia?

Since, on the other side, there is a project of euro-asian free trade, why not try and work this out in its entirety, from Brest to Vladivostok? That was the spirit of strategic partnership agreed between the EU and Russia in 2003: to create a vast free-trade area from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Since then there has been growth of interconnected interests: western investment, German and French, in Russia, as well as energy and industrial interdependence. One has to see how this can be developed further in a free trade space that must, of course, include Ukraine.

You have denounced also the ‘ambient Russophobia’…

Russia became a great country at the end of the eighteenth century, with Catherine the Great and Alexander I, as Napoleon found out at his cost. But Russia has long inspired fear. In Germany and the Anglo-Saxon world, there was political Russophobia, geopolitical rivalry between Great Britain and the Russian Empire, as shown in the nineteenth century by the war in Crimea and the ‘Great Game‘. Between the US and the USSR it was the Cold War, from 1917 to 1990.

Germany, in 1918 and 1941, was tempted to expand to the East, by pushing away the Slavs, an old pan-germanic thesis. That temptation has now fortunately disappeared and today German policies towards Russia are infinitely wiser.

In France there is an ideological Russophobia. It was defined in 1839 by the Marquis de Custine in his famous formula: ‘Siberia starts at the Vistula’. That Russophobia is deeply detrimental to the interest of our country, and to that of a peaceful Europe. In ‘Le monde’, for example, the historian Françoise Thom, wrote of a ‘civilisation choice’ about Ukraine: are we going back to Samuel Huntington‘s ‘clash of civilisations’ (1994)? If Bernard-Henri Lévy and a few others could resuscitate Joseph Stalin it would give them their ‘raison d’ être’!

How do you see Vladimir Putin?

After the economic collapse of Russia in the decade that followed the end of the USSR, when Russian GDP was halved, Putin improved that situation considerably (with average annual economic growth of 7% between 2000 and 2010). He has adopted policies that are socially appreciated. Paradoxically he has contributed to the rise of a middle class that is not particularly supportive to him. He has restored Russia’s international role. Russian public opinion appreciates him. In the main the French media project at best a reductive vision of the Russian reality. Certain things of course may shock us: gay propaganda towards minors is legally suppressed. This may be interpreted in many different ways. But we forget that thirty years ago, in France, interference with minors was more heavily sanctioned for homosexuals. That cannot be the sole benchmark to judge a country. Death penalty is not abolished in Russia, but there is a moratorium, and no executions. One cannot say the same of all countries, including some of our closest allies. A majority of the Russian people supports Vladimir Putin, and the opposition is divided. M. Navalny, leader of the opposition, received 28% of votes in Moscow.

Vladimir Putin likes to present himself as the inheritor of the European christian roots…

Are we in a confrontation between Eastern and Western christianities? In a poll, seventy four percent of Russians below the age of 30, were ignorant of the ‘filioque‘, the theological quarrel that led in 1054 to the schism between the Byzantine Church and the catholic Church of Rome. It was a question of knowing if the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father, or from the Father and the Son. What surprises me is that 26% of young Russians still know what that was about! Russian society is more religious than ours: a simple walk though the basilicae of the Golden Ring shows the many worshippers, of all generations, praying fervently in front of the icons.

The truth is that Russia has an identity problem, now she has been pushed back to her sixteenth century borders, and that she sees NATO extended far beyond West Germany’s boundaries, contrary to the 1990 agreement. Russians remember that NATO wanted to include Georgia and Ukraine in 2006 – which France and Germany opposed. They consider that Russia’s status as great power would be threatened by NATO’s extension to these two countries. They probably exaggerate the threat, but they don’t enter easily into the western leaders’s reasoning. We have seen many of the same leaders, a few weeks back, posturing on Maidan square, making unreasonable speeches, and displaying themselves in the company of unsavoury characters. Was that sensible? The agreement concluded with Ianukovitch, countersigned by the three foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland, was then emptied of substance. And one speaks of interference!

You speak in your book of the inevitability of a ‘variable geometry’ Europe, as the sole solution to managing a Union of twenty eight plus countries…

Why not linking the Euro – as a single or common currency – and the Rouble: Europe represents more than half Russian foreign trade. We have a strong interdependence for energy and economic growth: few French citizens know that more than a million cars built in Russia, or a third of the total production, are made by French automakers. Few people are aware of the scope of investments in the Yamal peninsula to exploit natural gas. Those are considerable investments, in which Total, among others, has a stake. Russia’s is a resurgent economy close to us, with Moscow a mere three hours from Paris. French businesses in Russia do not wish for this crisis to worsen.

And the American alliance?

We must maintain our alliance with the US, but an alliance does not equate with subordination. The 21st century cannot be reduced to a confrontation between China and the US. It is desirable that Europe organises herself to exist by herself. One must think of a ‘variable geometry’ Europe associating different countries, each choosing how it converges its policies toward a common European interest.

 For the past eight months Europe and the US have been negotiating a commercial agreement dubbed ‘Transatlantic Treaty‘, which aims at improving the conditions of free trade between the two Atlantic shores: do we have anything to gain from that agreement?

My fundamental criticism is that the Euro/Dollar exchange rate can vary in a 1 to 2 ratio. The Euro was at 82 cents in 2000, and $1.60 in 2006. So (in these conditions),what does the suppression of our custom duty (3 to 4%) and norms harmonisation mean?

Today the Euro is worth $1.40, a very high level for the French economy, which is not in (trade balance) surplus with the US like Germany’s. Behind that treaty is a US will to group all the countries of the Atlantic shores, as those of the Pacific, to isolate China.

There is then the will of some large multinational corporations to implant themselves in low-cost areas: Mexico, and even the US, for financial reasons.I cannot see what our country can gain from that.

What is your view of the sanctions decided last Thursday by the EU?

The European sanctions (against Russia) are a double-edged sword. They target all Russian nationals, contrary to the US measures targetted at the leadership, except Vladimir Putin… The only virtue I see is that they are easily reversed…

A Plea for a Federation of European States/2

HangingAt the time of religious and murderous sectarian upheavals, in sixteenth century France, Michel de Montaigne retired to his estate in the Aquitaine to write his Essays. His reflections would take him on a personal journey of introspection, rather than an exploration of the historical reasons for the events of his time. In many ways we can be grateful for his decision: Montaigne legated to us a monument of European literature, and there were others, perhaps better placed, to chronicle the turmoil of his time.

Listening to some inept “bavardage” from French fashionably conservative commentators, on one of France main TV news channels, who were describing Russian concerns with the apparent take-over by fascists in the capital of the Ukraine, as “anachronism“, I wondered who was in fact living in the real world: them, evidently convinced of the justification of their statement (“fascism? Where? What?”), or myself, and no doubt thousands of other Europeans trying to make sense of the tragedy in Kiev and its consequences for the people of the Ukraine, and the whole of Europe.

I was also reminded of Robert Gates’ scathing observations on the posturing of the British and French governments during the bombings of Libya. Germany, who refused to participate in the bombings, saved the day nonetheless and procured the missing ordnance!

“The blunt reality,” Mr. Gates said, “is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress – and in the American body politic writ large – to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.”

The British and French media conveniently chose to forget those remarks, as, today, the mainstream, inclusive of Le Monde and the liberal press (Guardian etc.), and the same governments, hide behind the John Kerry’s creed about those “brave democrats in the Ukraine”, at no risk to themselves. Should the present crisis degenerate into a bloody conflict in Central Europe who will be paying the price?

That there are, of course, good reasons for Russian anxiety – meaning both for the government of the Russian Federation, and the large Russian minorities, and majority in the Crimean autonomous region, is beyond doubts. Those reasons, far from being anachronisms, are rooted in the painful memory of recent history, the realities of the last decades, the role of successive US administrations in fostering violent régime changes in countries deemed to be of strategic interest, from Chile in the 70’s to Afghanistan and Syria, and the betrayal of promises made to Russia and her reformist government at the time of the implosion of the USSR.

On the events that led to the ousting of the elected administration of the Ukraine, the tug of war between factions in favour of and against EU influence, and the nefarious consequences of IMF/ECB – driven austerity policies as experienced in many European countries, was a decisive confrontation. Some of us, in “old Europe”, are troubled as to why the “opposition” now in power in Kiev appears to consist solely of right-wing groups and a party whose claimed European aspirations are weirdly mixed with a nostalgia for an ignoble fascist past.

For sure, this is a complex situation, and that very complexity, may drive some of us toward retiring and writing fiction, if not “essays”, rather than trying to unravel the complexity. This would be a mistake. Many times in history, Europe, that is the community of people, and since the sixteenth century, states, had to pull back from the brink of annihilation. This was the case after the Thirty Years’ War that destroyed half the population of the German speaking lands. It was the case after WWII, when the USSR’s heroic sacrifices and US power rescued Europe from nazi madness.

Charles de Gaulle called for the formation of a “Europe of nations, from the Atlantic to the Urals”. His vision had the merit to recognise Russia as a European nation.