By Femi Fani-Kayode
On Sunday 16th March 2014 a referendum was held in Crimea to determine whether the people of that region will stay in Ukraine or opt to be part of the Russian Federation. This was a positive development that has now made Crimea part of Russia and thereby right the wrongs of 1954.
This was the year that Crimea people were handed over, rather like cattle, to Ukraine by an over-generous and rather excitable Soviet President Nikita Kruschev who could not possibly have conceived what the future would hold 60 years later and who could not possibly have envisaged what a threat this act would eventually constitute to the fortunes, welfare and security of the Russian state.
One of the things that needs to be clearly understood right from the outset about the unfolding crisis in the Ukraine is that as far as the majority of the people of Crimea are concerned and as far as President Vladimer Putin and the government of the Russian Federation is concerned, the new regime in the Ukraine came to power by unconstitutional means and is therefore illegitimate and illegal. Rightly or wrongly these are their views and their concerns.
They also have grave fears for the safety, security and welfare of the Russian-speaking population who actually live in Crimea and who constitute the majority. Given the history of the area and the nature of those that now hold the reigns of power in Kiev, these concerns cannot be easily dismissed or wished away even by the most cynical of commentators.
I believe that those concerns are very real and that they are perfectly legitimate. In any case the Russians are not the only ones that harbour these fears. American presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, a man whose views are highly respected and who is noted for his ability to speak nothing but the bitter truth, told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly some interesting things.
Intellihub.com, an American website magazine, wrote-
‘’Tuesday evening while speaking to Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, dropped information on the situation in the Ukraine that is rarely heard in the mainstream media. In the interview, Kucinich revealed that the United States government was guilty of funding some of the violent rebel groups who have overrun the Ukraine. When asked how he would handle the crisis if he were President, Kucinich replied by saying:
‘’What I’d do is not have USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy working with U.S. taxpayers’ money to knock off an elected government in Ukraine, which is what they did. I wouldn’t try to force the people of Ukraine into a deal with NATO against their interest or into a deal with the European Union, which is against their economic interest.”
O’Reilly replied by saying, ‘’so, it’s the USA’s fault that Putin rolled in? We made them do it?” to which Kucinich responded by saying, ‘’Bill O’Reilly, if you don’t believe in cause and effect, I don’t know what I can do for you.”
Kucinich is absolutely right. He has spoken nothing but the truth and such subterranean manouverings and covert operations by the United States government and their agents right on the doorstep of a nervous Russia was bound to result in drastic and extreme retaliatory measures from Putin. This is all the more so given the fact that history, the law and logic is clearly on Putin’s side.
I say this because claiming that Crimea is not Russian is simply absurd and it betrays nothing but ignorance. It is rather like saying that the people of the city of Ilorin and environs in Kwara state and the people of Kabba, Yagba-West, Yagba-East, Mopa-Amuro, Ijumu and Kabba-Bunu local government areas of Kogi state respectively are not Yoruba and that those areas are not part and parcel of Yorubaland simply because they are in the northern part of Nigeria.
Historically, Crimea has always been part of Russia and no less than 65 per cent of it’s population are not only ethnic Russians but they also speak nothing but the Russian language. There are also massive and substantial pockets of Russian populations in eastern Ukraine.
It is absolutely absurd for anyone to assume that the Russian Federation would sit by silently and allow the lives, the future, the fortunes and the destiny of their kinsmen from those parts to be in any way threatened.
Some have compared the situation in the Ukraine and the Crimea to the situation that exists between China and Taiwan. This is an inappropriate and erroneous comparison and those that equate the two are not sufficiently aware of the relevant facts.
The difference is that the people of Taiwan, though they are ethnic Chinese, do not want to be part of China but the people of Crimea, who are ethnic Russians, want to be part of Russia desperately. That is the difference between the two.
It is simply a matter of the right to self-determination. They have that right and it is guaranteed by international law. Remember the Falklands matter between Great Britain and Argentina which led to war? That is a better comparison to this case than that of Taiwan and China. Great Britain did exactly what Russia is doing today in the Falklands in 1982.
They secured the rights of the people in the geographical space that was in dispute and they effected their wishes and will as was reflected in a free and fair referendum. In order to achieve this they went to war. I would have expected no less from Margaret Thatcher and the British.
Quite apart from the principle of self-determination there is also the principle of the right to safety, the right to freedom from persecution and, most important of all, the right to life. The truth is that the people of Crimea have as much of a right to life as anyone else and as long as they remain in a Ukraine that is in the power and under the control of the pro-western, ultra-nationalist and essentially fascist forces, that right to life cannot be guaranteed.
The fact of the matter is that those that are presently in power in Ukraine simply hate the Russians of Crimea and we can be be rest assured that they will utterly destroy them, strip away their rights, humiliate them and subject them to the most vicious and insidious form of persecution if given half a chance. President Krushchev of the old Soviet Union made a grave error when he handed Crimea and it’s almost total Russian population over to Ukraine in 1954.
He did so only because he never envisioned a situation whereby the old Soviet Union would break up and that the people of Ukraine would fall under the sphere of influence of America and western Europe and end up being so hostile to ethnic Russians and to the Russian Federation. That situation is what Putin is faced with today and he has to rise up to the occasion and clean up the mess that was created in 1954.
He has to rectify that mistake by taking Crimea back and protecting the lives and property of the ethnic Russians that live there. He must allay their fears and protect their interests because they are his kinsmen and they have no other nation to protect them apart from Russia. That is his right and duty and I am glad to see that he appears to be doing it.
This is all the more so given the fact that, by treaty and by international law, Crimea is host to no less than 45,000 Russian soldiers and a massive Russian naval base. This naval base provides the only access that the Russian fleet has to a warm sea port anywhere in the world. Perhaps this is what informed the comments of Mr. Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, when he told a British audience in London on 14th March 2014 that ‘“ the Crimea is more important to Russia than the Falklands is to Great Britain”.
Given this, anyone that seriously believes that the Russians would sit back and allow all that to be taken away from them by a hostile government in Kiev which is under the beautiful spell of the Americans has not understood the situation very well.
Whether anyone likes it or not, Crimea, and indeed much of southern and eastern Ukraine, is an area that touches and concerns the vital and strategic national and security interests of the Russian Federation. What goes on in that area and who controls it is of great interest to the Russians and this must be so for very obvious reasons. Excuse my crude language but you cannot piss on a giant’s doorstep and expect him to be pleased with you.
Bakassi, Cameroun and France
This brings me to the issue of the question of the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsular in Nigeria and the way in which the Camerounians pissed on our doorstep and eventually managed to take it from us. This was after a ruling at the International Court of Justice in 2002 when President Olusegun Obasanjo was in power. We lost that ruling and after that Bakassi was physically and formally handed over to the Camerounians by the Yar’Adua administration in August 2008.
Our humiliating surrender and capitulation to Camerounian aggression took place after many decades of provocation and military incursions into the area by the Camerounian military and after many of our people were humiliated and slaughtered in the most brutal manner by them.
Yet this was not always so. Under the military government of General Sani Abacha things were very different and one of the few good things that he ever did as Head of State was to call the bluff of the French and the Camerounians over the Bakassi Peninsular.
Continues next week
*Fani-Kayode was Minister of Aviation under the Obasanjo administration.