What did we do to encourage Russia’s grabbing of Crimea?

When John Kerry refers to international law in his condemnation of Russia for the Crimea secession it’s of course more hilarious than anything that George Orwell could have conjured up. For a country that consistently defies international law when confronted with it by others it’s not just hypocrisy to its nth degree, but politics devoid of all logic. One just has to imagine US being in Russia’s position. Had bombing of Kiev then been a surprise? Hardly.

When Putin says that a spring tightened too hard eventually will snap back, it’s not a far fetched metaphor. He has lived through the largest secession operation in modern history: the dismemberment of the Soviet Union. To top it all he had to watch Boris Yeltsin invite “economic experts” from western countries (among the “experts” a notorious Swede) who manage to engineer the worst social catastrophe in memory, pulverizing half of the Russian industrial capacity and in a decade driving 10 million people to a premature death, mostly men in productive age. (The total Russian death toll in WW2 was just twice as high.)

The guilty advisors creating this virtual genocide have not been held responsible for anything, and Yeltsin was sober enough to demand immunity when he retired as president. (The Swedish hero in that process is today cited as an expert on Ukraine.) The man who put an end to the death epidemic was Vladimir Putin. Just as the millions of dead are unknown to us, Putin’s role in ending the catastrophe is just as concealed. That’s a tribute to our well-educated journalists trained not to disclose the wrong things. In that self censorship lays also an explanation to our surprise that Putin, with all his shortcomings, is reelected time and again.

And it didn’t stop there as we know. The leftovers from the Russian scramble were readily taken care of by western powers under the usual pretext: “democracy and human rights” (if that includes overthrowing of democratically elected governments is of no interest; that just follows a very common procedure). In blunt violation of unambiguous (but vocal) promises to Gorbachev, NATO immediately started to expand eastwards. All in all it was a demonstration of power with no other reasonable aim than to subdue and contain Russia as much as possible.

Western powers have certainly tightened the spring, and now it has snapped back. Provocations are no excuse for a misdemeanor, nor are they an excuse for the actions of the provocateurs. And since the leaders of the western powers are responsible for the provocations, we are responsible for letting our leaders get away with that. The price we pay is an increasing risk of a dangerous war.

(For an enlightening inquiry of the capitalist death crisis in Russia 1990-2000, see for instance David Stuckler & Sanjay Basu The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills (Basic Books 2013)).

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