Professor Vladislav B. Sotirović, Ph.D. is a Senior Lecturer of: “Middle East Studies” at the Mykolas Romeris University, Vilnius, Lithuania; “Mediterranean Studies;” “Ethnicity, Multiculturalism and Globalisation;” “Balkan Nationalism and Ethnic Conflicts” and “Europeanisation: Process and Results.”
Prof. Dr. Sotirović is a distinguished expert on the History of the Early Byzantine Empire, 330–846”, Comparative History of Central and South-Eastern Europe and Ottoman History, History of Lithuania and Ukraine. He is well known abroad for his influential books and popular lectures about Lithuania, the Russian Federation, the Balkans, and Baltic Nations, and Multiculturalism.
Professor Sotirović has studied at the Central European Summer University, Budapest, Hungary (2002); earned his Ph. D. in Vilnius University, Faculty of Philology, Slavic Philology Department, in Vilnius, Lithuania. Has pursued graduated studies at the School of Human Rights Research, Tilburg University and Institute for Human Rights, of the Catholic University of Leuven (2001), the Netherlands and Leuven, Belgium; the Center for European Integration Studies, Bonn, Germany (2001); European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano, South Tyrol (Alto Adige), Italy, and in many other Summer Universities and postgraduate programs. The following is an extensive interview that Prof. Sotirović has provided to Foreign Policy News Journal, in Washington, DC.
Peter Tase: What is the historical background of the current Ukrainian conflict from the point of view of the Ukrainian statehood?
Vladislav B. Sotirović: The German occupation forces were those who have been the first to create and recognize a short-lived state’s independence of Ukraine in January 1918 during the time of their-own inspired and supported anti-Russian Bolshevik Revolution of 1917−1921. As reoccupied by the Bolshevik Red Army, the eastern and southern parts of the present-day territory of (a Greater) Ukraine joined in 1922 the USSR as a separate Soviet Socialist Republic (without Crimea). Therefore, a Jew V. I. Lenin has to be considered as the real historical father of the Ukrainian statehood but also and as of the contemporary nationhood. Ukraine was the most fertile agricultural Soviet republic but particularly catastrophically affected by (Georgian) Stalin’s economic policy in the 1930s which neglected agricultural production in favor of the speed industrialization of the country. The result was a great famine (Holodomor) with around seven million people dead but the majority of them were of ethnic Russian origin. A territory of present-day Ukraine was devastated during WWII by the Nazi German occupation forces from 1941 to 1944 who installed in Ukraine a puppet and criminal regime of S. Bandera (1900−1959) under which a genocide on Poles, Jews, and Russians was committed. For instance, the Ukrainian militia (12.000) directly participated in the 1942 holocaust of some 200.000 Volhynian Jews together with 140.000 German policemen. The Ukrainian mass killers learned their job from the Germans and applied their knowledge as well as on the Poles.
After the war, J. V. Stalin, supported by the Ukrainian party-cadre N. Khrushchev, deported about 300.000 Ukrainians from their homeland as they have been accused of collaboration with the Nazi regime during the war and the participation in genocide done by S. Bandera’s government. However, after the war the Ukrainians have been and directly rewarded by Moscow for the collaboration with the Germans and participation in S. Bandera’s organized genocide as the lands of Transcarpathia, littoral Moldova (Bessarabia), Polish Galicia, and part of Romania’s Bukovina in 1945 followed by Crimea in 1954 became annexed by the Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine. These territories, which never have been part of any kind of Ukraine and overwhelmingly not populated by the ethnolinguistic Ukrainians, were included in Soviet Ukraine primarily due to the political activity by the strongest Ukrainian cadre in the USSR – N. Khrushchev, a person who inherited Stalin’s throne in Moscow in 1953. On this place, a parallel with Croatia is an absolute: for the Croat committed genocide on the Serbs, Jews, and Roma by A. Pavelić’s regime (a Croat version of S. Bandera) during the WWII on the territory of the Independent State of Croatia a post-war (the Socialist Republic of) Croatia was awarded by a Croat-Slovenian dictator of Yugoslavia J. B. Tito with the lands of Istria, Adriatic islands and Dubrovnik – all of them never have been in any kind of the state of Croatia before the WWII.
M. Gorbachev’s policy of deliberate dissolution of the USSR from the time of Reykjavik bilateral meeting with Ronald Reagan in 1988 caused a revival of the ethnic nationalism of the Ukrainians who proclaimed independence on August 24th, 1991 (confirmed on a referendum held on December 1st, 1991 only by those who did not boycott it) in the wake of anti-Gorbachev’s military putsch in Moscow (mis)using the political situation of the paralyzed central government in the country. The state’s independence of Ukraine was proclaimed and later internationally recognized within the borders of a Greater Stalin-Khrushchev’s Ukraine with at least 20% of the ethnic Russian population living in a compact area in the eastern part of the country and as well as making a qualified (2/3) majority of Crimea’s population. The coming years saw the rifts with neighboring Russia with the main political task by Kiev to commit as possible as the Ukrainization (assimilation) of ethnic Russians (similar to the policy of the Croatization of ethnic Serbs in Croatia orchestrated by the neo-Nazi government in Zagreb led by Dr. Franjo Tuđman). At the same time, the Russian majority in Crimea constantly required the peninsula’s reunification with mother Russia but getting only an autonomous status within Ukraine – a country which they never considered as their natural-historical homeland. The Russians of Ukraine were becoming more and more unsatisfied with conditions in which they have been leaving from the time when in 1998−2001 the Ukrainian taxation system collapsed what meant that the central government in Kiev was not able to pay the salaries and pensions to its own citizens. A very weak Ukrainian state became, in fact, unable to function normally (“failed state”) and as a consequence it did not have the power to prevent a series of politically motivated assassinations followed by popular protests which had been also very much inspired by the economic decline of the country.
As a matter of fact, it has to be stressed that the Ukrainian historiography on their own history of the land and the people is extremely nationalistic and in very cases not objective like many other national historiographies. It is basically politically colored with the main task to present the Ukrainians as a natural ethnolinguistic nation who have been historically fighting to create a united independent national state and unjustifiably claiming certain territories to be ethnohistorical the “Ukrainian”. As a typical example of such tendency to rewrite the history of East Europe according to the nationalistic and politically correct framework is, for instance, the book by Serhy Jekelčyk on the birth of a modern Ukrainian nation in which, among other quasi-historical facts based on the self-interpreted events, is written that the USSR in 1939−1940 annexed from Poland and Romania the “West Ukrainian land” (Serhy Jekelčyk, Ukraina: Modernios nacijos gimimas, Vilnius: Baltos lankos, 2009, 17).
However, this “Western Ukrainian Land” never was part of any kind of Ukraine before WWII as Ukraine as a state or administrative province never existed before V. I. Lenin created in 1923 a Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine within the USSR but at that time without the “Western Ukrainian Land” as it was not a part of the USSR. Moreover, the Ukrainians were either not leaving or being just a minority on this land which means that Ukraine even did not have ethnic rights over the biggest part of the “West Ukraine.” Even today around half of Ukraine’s state’s territory is not populated by the Ukrainians as a majority of the population. Moreover, in some regions, there are no Ukrainians at all. Therefore, the cardinal question is on which principle the Ukrainian borders are shaped?
As another example of the Ukrainian historiographic nationalistic misleading, we can find in an academic brochure on Bukovina’s Metropolitan’s residence, published in 2007 by the National University of Chernivtsi. In the brochure is written that this university is “…one of the oldest classical universities of Ukraine” (The Architectural Complex of Bukovynian Metropolitan’s Residence, Chernivtsi: Yuriy Fedkovych National University of Chernivtsi, 2007, 31) that is true only from the present-day rough political perspective but not and from a moral-historic point of view. Namely, the university is located in the North Bukovina which in 1775 the Habsburg Monarchy had obtained. The land was from 1786 administrated within the Chernivtsi district of Galicia and one hundred years after the affiliation of Bukovina to the monarchy, the Franz-Josephs-Universität was inaugurated on October 4th, 1875 (the name day of the emperor). In the other words, the university’s origin as whole Bukovina has nothing to do with any kind of both historical Ukraine and ethnic Ukrainians as before 1940 it was outside of the administrative territory of Ukraine when the whole of North Bukovina on August 13th, became annexed by the USSR according to the Hitler-Stalin Pact (or the Ribbentrop-MolotovPact) signed on August 23rd, 1939 (ibid.). Therefore, two notorious bandits (one Nazi another Bolshevik) decided to transfer the North Bukovina to the USSR and the land became after the WWII part of a Greater (Stalin’s) Ukrainian SSR. Nevertheless, while the Ukrainian nationalists claim that “Russia” (in fact anti-Russian USSR) occupied Ukraine, the annexation of the North Bukovina and other territories from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Romania in 1940 are for them a legitimate act of historical justice. Here we have to notice that according to the same pact, the territories of the independent states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are as well as annexed by the USSR that is considered by their historians and politicians as “occupation”, what means the (illegal) act of aggression that is breaking international law and legitimate order. Nevertheless, they never accused Ukraine of doing the same in regard to occupied lands from its three western neighbors in 1940/1944.
Political assimilation of certain separate Slavonic ethnolinguistic groups in Ukraine was and is one of the standardized instruments for the creation and maintaining of the Ukrainian national identity in the 20th century. The most brutal case is of the Ruthenians (Rusyns) who are simply proclaimed as historical Ukrainians known under such name till WWII. Their land, which was in the interwar period part of Czechoslovakia, that was annexed by the USSR at the end of WWII and included into a Greater Soviet Ukraine is simply renamed from Ruthenia into the Sub-Carpathian Ukraine. However, the Ruthenians and the Ukrainians are two separate Slavonic ethnolinguistic groups as such officially recognized, for example, in Serbia’s Autonomous Province of Vojvodina where the Ruthenian (Rusyn) language is even standardized and studied together with Ruthenian philology and literature at a separate department at the University of Novi Sad. Unfortunately, the Ruthenian position in Ukraine is even worst in comparison with the Kurdish position in Turkey as the process of Ruthenian assimilation is much speedier than of the Kurdish cause.
From the current perspective of the Ukrainian crisis and in general from the point of solving the “Ukrainian Question” it has to be noticed a very historical fact that a part of present-day East Ukraine became legally incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1654 as a consequence of the decision by the local hetman of Zaporozhian territory Bohdan Khmelnytsky (c. 1595−1657) based on a popular revolt against the Polish-Lithuanian (the Roman Catholic) occupation of Ukraine which broke out in 1648. It means that the core of present-day Ukraine voluntarily joined Russia, therefore escaping from the Roman Catholic Polish-Lithuanian oppression. Subsequently, B. Khmelnytsky’s ruled territory has to be considered from a historical point of view as the motherland of all present-day Ukraine – the motherland which already in 1654 chose Russia.
Peter Tase: How do you see the Euromaidan Revolution in 2014?
Vladislav B. Sotirović: The current Ukrainian crisis and in fact civil war which stared at the very end of 2013 are grounded in for decades lasting internal interethnic antagonisms primarily on the Ukrainian-Russian relations including above all the “Crimean Question” as an apple of discord from 1954 between Ukraine and Russia. The crisis came from Lithuania’s capital Vilnius where in November 2013 an Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine had to be signed. Lithuania at that time (July 1st−December 31st, 2013) presided over the European (Union) Council and formally had full political responsibility for the breaking out of the crisis as being the host of the event on which the EU absolutely blamed only Ukraine’s President V. Yanukovych for the failure of the agreement as he simply rejected to sign it.
However, his decision was primarily based on the logic of realpolitik as he preferred a much more favorable economic-financial offer by Moscow (including and de facto legalization of stealing of Russia’s gas to Europe that was transported via Ukraine) for the purpose to try to resolve the inner economic, social and political crisis which was threatening stability of the Ukrainian society and state from 1991. The official Kiev recognizes that for Ukraine (up to 2014) Russia was:
“…the largest trade partner and a huge market. In addition, many Ukrainians have family and friendly relations with the Russian people. In this connection, it should be noted that Europeans are actually interested in stable partnership between the two countries. Ukraine remains the major transit country for Russian natural gas transported to Europe, and it is very important for Kyiv to make sure that Europeans regard it as a reliable and predictable partner” (Ukraine. A Country of Opportunities, Kyiv: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, 2010, 6).
It was obvious that such Yanukovych’s turn toward the Russian Federation would mean and closest political ties between Kiev and Moscow in the future – a cardinal reason for the EU and USA to directly fuel a new color revolution in Ukraine for the purpose to overthrow Yanukovych and to install instead of him their own puppet regime which will drive the country to the direction of both the EU and the NATO. The Ukrainian 2013/2014 colored revolution was committed according to the model of the first CIA’s sponsored East European color revolution that was organized in Serbia (Belgrade) at the beginning of October 2000 (the “2000 October 5th Revolution”). The protest of the “people” in Kiev in 2014 finally was ended by a classic street-style coup d’étatlike in Belgrade 14 years ago and installation of as well as a classic (pro-USA/EU/NATO’s) marionette regime. As it is known from an introductory course on democracy, any kind of coup d’état (putsch) is illegal and unconstitutional. As in the 2000 Belgrade Coup case, the 2014 Kiev Putsch case was formally justified as a “popular revolt” against the dictator who became ousted in February 2014. In fact, however, unlawfully removed legally and legitimately elected head of state by the USA/EU’s sponsored and supported ultranationalistic and even a neo-Nazi colored political upheaval of the “Euromaidan” protesters in Kiev and some other bigger western Ukrainian cities (like in Lvov) directly provoked a new popular colored revolution in the Russian speaking provinces of the East Ukraine and Crimea with a final consequence of a territorial secession of self-proclaimed Luhansk, Kharkov, and Donetsk People’s Republics and Crimea (according to Kosovo pattern from 2008).
In regard to the 2014 Kyiv Coup, according to Paul Craig Roberts, Washington used its funded NGOs ($5 billion according to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland at the National Press Club in December 2013) to begin street protests when the elected Ukrainian Government turned down the offer to join the European Union. Similarly to the Ukrainian coup in 2014, the Guatemala coup in 1954, when the democratically elected Government of Jacobo Arbenz became overthrown, was also carried out by the CIA. Nonetheless, following R. Reagan’s logic used in the US-led military invasion of Grenada in 1983, the Russian President could send a regular army of the Russian Federation to occupy Ukraine for the security reasons of Russia’s citizens who were studying at the universities in Kiev, Odessa or Lvov. Similar R. Reagan’s argument (to protect the US’ students in Grenada) was (mis)used, among others, and by Adolf Hitler in April 1941 to invade and occupy the Kingdom of Yugoslavia as, according to the German intelligence service, the German minority in Yugoslavia (the Volksdeutschers) were oppressed and terrorized by the new (pro-British) Government of General Dušan Simović after the coup in Belgrade committed on March 27th, 1941. Nonetheless, a new anti-Russian government in Kiev launched a brutal linguistic and cultural policy of Ukrainization directly endangering the rights of ethnolinguistic Russians, who represent a clear majority of the population of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of East Ukraine, the Crimean Peninsula respectively but as well as and of other non-Ukrainian population who supported a pro-Russia’s course of the country.
Peter Tase: Who are the Ukrainians or what you can say on a Ukrainian identity as a very important part of the current Ukrainian conflict issue?
Vladislav B. Sotirović: Ukraine is an East European territory that was originally forming a western part of the Russian Empire from the mid-17th century. That is a present-day independent state and the separate ethnolinguistic nation as a typical example of Benedict Anderson’s theory-model of the “imagined community” – a self-constructed idea of the artificial ethnic and linguistic-cultural identity. Before 2014 Ukraine was a home of some 46 million inhabitants of whom, according to the official data, there was around 77 percent of those who declared themselves as Ukrainians. Nevertheless, many Russians do not consider the Ukrainians or Belarus as “foreign” but rather as the regional branches of the Russian nationality. It is a matter of fact that, differently to the Russian case, the national identity of Belarus or the Ukrainians was never firmly fixed as it was always in the constant process of changing and evolving. The process of self-constructing identity of the Ukrainians after 1991 is basically oriented vis-à-vis Ukraine’s two most powerful neighbors: Poland and Russia. In the other words, the self-constructing Ukrainian identity (like the Montenegrin or Belarus) is able so far just to claim that the Ukrainians are not both the Poles or the Russians but what they really are is of a great debate. Therefore, the existence of an independent state of Ukraine, nominally as a national state of the Ukrainians, is of very doubt indeed from both perspectives: historical and ethnolinguistic.
The Slavonic term Ukraine, for instance, in the Serbo-Croat case Krajina, means in the English language a Borderland – a provincial territory situated on the border between at least two political entities: in this particular historical case, between the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as the Republic of Both Nations (1569−1795) and the Russian Empire (a German historical term for Ukraine would be a mark – a term for the state’s borderland which existed from the time of the Frankish Kingdom/Empire of Carl the Great).
The term is mostly used from the time of the treaty (truce) of Andrussovo in 1667 between these two states. In the other words, Ukraine and the Ukrainians as a natural objective-historical-cultural identity never existed as it was considered only as a geographic-political territory between two other natural-historical entities (Poland and Russia). All (quasi)historiographical mentioning of this land and the people as Ukraine/Ukrainians referring to the period before the mid-17th century are quite scientifically incorrect but in the majority of cases politically inspired and colored with the purpose to present them as something crucially different from the historical process of ethnogenesis of the Russians (see, for instance: Alfredas Bumblauskas, Genutė Kirkienė, Feliksas Šabuldo (sudarytojai), Ukraina: Lietuvos epocha, 1320−1569, Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidybos centras, 2010).
It was a Roman Catholic Vatican that was behind the process of creation of the “imagined community” of the “Ukrainian” national identity for the very political purpose to separate the people from this borderland territory from the Orthodox Russian Empire. Absolutely the same was done by Vatican’s client Austria-Hungary in regard to the national identity of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian population when this province was administered by Vienna-Budapest from 1878 to 1918 as it was the Austria-Hungarian government who created a totally artificial and very new ethnolinguistic identity – the “Bosnians”, just not to be the (Orthodox) Serbs (who were at that time a strong majority of the provincial population).
A creation of ethnolinguistically artificial Ukrainian national identity and later on a separate nationality was a part of a wider confessional-political project by the Vatican in the Roman Catholic historical struggle against the eastern Orthodox Christianity (the eastern “schism”) and its Churches within the framework of Pope’s traditional proselytizing policy of reconversion of the “infidels”. One of the most successful instruments of a soft-way reconversion used by the Vatican was to compel a part of the Orthodox population to sign with the Roman Catholic Church the Union Act recognizing at such a way a supreme power by the Pope and dogmatic filioque (“and from the Son” – the Holy Spirit proceeds and from the Father and from the Son). Therefore, the ex-Orthodox believers who now became the Uniate Brothers or the Greek Orthodox believers became in a great number later on a pure Roman Catholics but as well as changed their original (from the Orthodox time) ethnolinguistic identity. It is, for instance, very clear in the case of the Orthodox Serbs in the Zhumberak area of Croatia – from the Orthodox Serbs to the Greek Orthodox, later the Roman Catholics and finally today the Croats. Something similar occurred and in the case of Ukraine. On October 9th, 1596 it was announced by Vatican a Brest Union with a part of the Orthodox population within the borders of the Roman Catholic Lithuanian-Polish Commonwealth (today Ukraine). The crucial issue in this matter is that today Ukraine’s Uniates and the Roman Catholics are most anti-Russian and of the Ukrainian national feelings. Basically, both the Ukrainian and the Belarus present-day ethnolinguistic and national identities are historically founded on the anti-Orthodox policy of the Vatican within the territory of ex-Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that was, in essence, an anti-Russian one.
The Lithuanian historiography writing on the Church Union of Brest in 1596 clearly confirms that:
“… the Catholic Church more and more strongly penetrated the zone of the Orthodox Church, giving a new impetus to the idea, which had been cherished since the time of Jogaila and Vytautas and formulated in the principles of the Union of Florence in 1439, but never put into effect – the subordination of the GDL Orthodox Church to the Pope’s rule” (Zigmantas Kiaupa et al, The History of Lithuania Before 1795, Vilnius: Lithuanian Institute of History, 2000, 288).
In the other words, the rulers of the Roman Catholic Grand Duchy of Lithuania (the GDL) from the very time of Lithuania’s baptizing in 1387−1413 by Vatican had a plan to Catholicize all Orthodox believers of the GDL among whom overwhelming majority were the Slavs. As a consequence, the relations with Moscow became very hostile as Russia accepted a role of the protector of the Orthodox believers and faith, and therefore the Church Union of Brest was seen as a criminal act by Rome and its client the Republic of Two Nations (Poland-Lithuania).
Today, it is absolutely clear that the most pro-western and anti-Russian part of Ukraine is exactly the West Ukraine – the lands that was historically under the rule by the Roman Catholic ex-Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the former Habsburg Monarchy. It is obvious, for instance, from the presidential voting results in 2010 as the pro-western regions voted for J. Tymoshenko while the pro-Russian regions do it for V. Yanukovych. It is a reflection of the post-Soviet Ukrainian identity dilemma between “Europe” and “Eurasia” – a dilemma that is of common nature for all Central and East European nations who historically played a role of a buffer zone between the German Mittel Europa project and the Russian project of a pan-Slavonic unity and reciprocity.
In general, the western territories of the present-day Ukraine are mainly populated by the Roman Catholics, the East Orthodox and the Uniates. This part of Ukraine is mostly nationalistic and pro-western oriented. East Ukraine is in essence Russophone and subsequently tends to look to closer relations with Russia.
Peter Tase: Russia’s President V. Putin called a Crimean separation from Ukraine in 2014 a legitimate act founded on the example of Kosovo separation from Serbia in 2008. Can you comment on it?
Vladislav B. Sotirović: The revolt and colored revolution by the Russian speaking population in East Ukraine in 2014 finally resulted in the separation of Crimea from Ukraine based on the Declaration of Independence of the Crimea as a legal document followed by the people’s referendum on joining Russia based on the formal self-determination rights according to the model and practice of, for instance, the Baltic states in 1990 when they declared independence from the USSR.
It is clear from the official declaration by the Supreme Council of Crimea on peninsula’s independence that this legal and legitimate act is founded on international law and the people’s right to self-determination, but moreover, as well as based on the so-called “Kosovo precedent” – a western created “precedent” in 2008 which came as a boomerang to Ukraine six years later. Basically, “Kosovo precedent” is a clear representative example of a flagrant violation of the international law and order including above all the UN Charter and the UN 1244 Resolution on Kosovo. This “precedent” is firstly created in 1999 by a brutal NATO military aggression on the independent and sovereign state of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) without any mandate of the SC UN that was followed in February 2008 by unilateral proclamation of Kosovo independence by Kosovo parliament and its recognition by a part of the world. In such a way, the West created the “precedence” which by definition has to be a unique case of the time in international relations and global politics what theoretically means that it cannot serve as a foundation or example for any similar case all over the world. However, this international and legal “precedent” was in 2010 internationally and legally empowered by the opinion by the UN International Court of Justice that a proclamation of Kosovo independence does not violate international law on self-determination (independence) what is true but at the same time, it violates the UN Charter on the territorial integrity of the states and their domestic law what is also true. Nevertheless, the court’s opinion is, formally, just of the advisory nature but in practice, it has serious implications and consequences. The first coming one was exactly the Crimean case in 2014 that was clearly stated either by the local Crimean authorities or by Russia’s government.
Undoubtedly, “Kosovo precedent” not only shaken but even destroyed the very foundations of international law based primarily on the UN Charter and resolutions. As a direct consequence, it had a direct “boomerang effect” with regard to the case of Crimean secession from Ukraine and following annexation by Russia. We have to remember that Crimea broke away relations with Ukraine calling for the same formal reasons used by the Albanians in the case of the 2008 “Kosovo precedent” and other legal arguments. Nevertheless, the western countries recognized Kosovo independence from Serbia but not Crimean, Donetsk and Luhansk separation from Ukraine regardless the fact that all of these cases are formally and officially based on the same legal and moral arguments. Moreover, differently to “Kosovo precedent”, separation cases in Ukraine are based on the results of the plebiscites.
The western policy of double standards is very visible from the following written statement on Kosovo independence by the US of April 17th, 2009 that was submitted to the UN International Court of Justice: “Declarations of independence may, and often do, violate domestic legislation. However, this does not make them violations of international law.” Nonetheless, a similar statements by the same US administration on the independence cases of the Republic of Serbian Krayina, Republic of Srpska, Republic of Transnistria, Republic of Abkhazia, Republic of South Ossetia or three separatist republics in the East Ukraine and Crimea we did not hear. Obviously, the UN International Court of Justice accepted the US statement and issued on July 22nd, 2010 its own two that “No general prohibition may be inferred from the practice of the Security Council with regard to declarations of independence,” and “General international law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence.” According to the above statements, however, it is clear that Moscow was absolutely truthful in the case of Crimea’s secession but with one important distinction: Russia did not bomb Kiev previously!
As a matter of fact, the West did not offer to Belgrade the possibility of federalization of Serbia with Kosovo as one federal unit as only the independence of Kosovo was advocated as the optimal solution. However, Moscow is advocating exactly the federalization as the best solution for the Ukrainian crisis with the East Ukrainian Russian-speaking regions as a single federal territory. Crimea, following the logic of both historical and ethnic rights, has to stay in Russia as the peninsula has nothing to do with Ukraine. Even Turkey or Greece have more rights to Crimea than Ukraine. The scenario of federalized Ukraine would surely positively influence the process of stopping the already ongoing new Cold War in this case between the West (the NATO and the EU) and the bloc of the countries around Russia, China and Iran. However, if the western mentors of the Euromaidan government in Kiev will reject such Russia’s proposal it is most probably that Ukraine will be left to commit suicide as the western policy of double standards, promoted by the US and the EU in the 2008 Kosovo Case will continue to have the boomerang effect in the rest of the East Ukraine following the Odessa region as well.
Peter Tase: What is the way out, according to your opinion, of the current Ukrainian crisis?
Vladislav B. Sotirović: Current Ukrainian crisis can be solved according to the 1667 Andrussovo Treaty signed on February 9th between Poland-Lithuania and Russia. According to the treaty a present-day territory of Ukraine was simply divided between two states: the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (the Republic of Both Nations) and the Russian Empire with Dnieper river as a demarcation line. In the other words, Russia received from Poland-Lithuania territories eastward from the Dnieper but with Kiev and whole Zaporozhie region (from both sides of the river). Therefore, Dnieper became a border between “Europe” and Russia with divided Ukraine into two borderlands. The Slavonic word Ukraine means in English a borderland. It is clear even from the name of the country what is going to be its ultimate destiny. Before or later, no matter. The case of the Republic of Serbian Krayina (Ukraine) proved it clearly in the 1990s – the Borderland can be only a periphery of some more natural state. It does not matter on which side of the border.
We cannot forget and a humanitarian intervention aspect of the final solution of the “Ukrainian Question”. In general, “intervention” is considered as forcible action committed by some state(s) against another one(s) but without the consent of the attacked side. Therefore, “humanitarian intervention” is a military intervention carried out by some state(s) for the sake to protect human rights (usually as a group minority rights). Speaking from the very morality point of view, humanitarian intervention is grounded, or at least (mis)used as a formal pretext, on the notion of being “humanitarian” what means to be concerned about the interest of and benefits to mankind particularly if the suffering of someone has to be reduced. The concept of humanitarian intervention is (mis)used especially after the Cold War as in the cases of Iraq (in 1991 to create “safe havens” for the Kurds by establishing a no-fly zone policed by three NATO pact countries: the USA, UK, and France), Somalia (in 1992 to create a protected environment), Haiti (in 1994 to restore order by the civil authority), Rwanda (in 1994 to create “safe zone” for the Hutu refugees), Kosovo (in 1999 to protect the Albanians from Serbia’s military and police forces), East Timor (in 1999 to prevent possible ethnic cleansing by Indonesia’s security forces) and Sierra Leone (in 2000 to protect the UK citizens at the time of the local civil war).
Peter Tase: How the concept of “humanitarian intervention” can affect the Ukrainian crisis?
Vladislav B. Sotirović: Very controversial wars of humanitarian intervention in above mentioned cases, in which participated only the western powers, were formally justified on humanitarian grounds. However, in the majority of these cases the intervention had in essence very political and geopolitical real background as it clearly shows the cases of Kosovo and Sierra Leone. In Kosovo case, the intervention was committed just in a context of fears about the possibility of ethnic cleansing but not on the real ground. Following NATO airstrikes campaign for 78 days was conducted without the SC UN authorization but finally, it forced Serbia to withdraw its complete military and police forces from the province. As a consequence, the province was occupied by the NATO troops with creation of huge US military base and finally separated from Serbia by proclamation and recognition of independence which was in fact a real and ultimate geopolitical goal of the formally humanitarian intervention in 1999. In Sierra Leone, after a prolonged civil war, the UK government decided to send the British military forces to the country, formally to protect the UK citizens, but in fact ultimately to support the elected government against the rebel forces that have been accused of carrying out atrocities against the civilians.
Here, we came probably to the crux of the matter of current Ukrainian crisis and most probably the “Ukrainian Question” in general. It is well known that Russia’s president V. Putin is extremely counter-fascinated with the NATO 1999 Kosovo humanitarian intervention as it is seen as great humiliation of Russia and Russian national proudness. It is also well known that the Euromaidan regime in Kiev committed terrible war crimes in Donbass region which can be classified as ethnic cleansing and even form of genocide as thousands of Donbass region inhabitants are brutally killed (among them around 200 kids) and approximately one million of them became refuges in Russia. For Moscow, it is very easy formally to “prove” acts of war crimes of Kiev Euromaidan junta in Donbass region as it was, similarly, very easy for Washington formally to “prove” Serbia’s war crimes in Kosovo before NATO intervention in 1999. As a result, Moscow can launch Russia’s military humanitarian intervention in the East Ukraine with a consequence of its final separation from Kiev. A “Kosovo precedent” is still on agenda and it can be legitimized even by a very historical fact that a part of the present-day East Ukraine became legally incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1654 as a consequence of the decision by the local hetman of Zaporozhian territory Bohdan Khmelnytsky (c. 1595−1657) based on a popular revolt against the Polish-Lithuanian (the Roman Catholic) occupation of Ukraine which broke out in 1648.
By Peter Tase
Originally published on 2016-10-31
Source: Foreign Policy News
Mykolas Romeris University
Faculty of Politics and Management
Institute of Political Sciences