A Multifaceted Crisis

7 june 2014

The Multiple Effect of the Ukrainian Collision on the World Order

Vitaly Naumkin, Ph.D. in History, is a Professor and Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences. He is also head of the Department of Regional Problems at Moscow State University, President of the Center for Strategic and Political Research, and Editor-in-Chief of the Vostok-ORIENS magazine published by the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Resume: A group of U.S. neo-conservatives have been increasingly active in their efforts to rebuild the world to their design. Yet they have clearly misunderstood the vector of the transformations underway, and, which is still worse, have displayed historical ignorance.

The impact of the Ukrainian crisis on the existing world order proves to be so manifold that it is hard to predict its consequences, irrespective of its outcome. This short article touches upon only a few aspects of the problem.

THE WORLD ORDER

The current events in Ukraine are simultaneously the outcome of the world order crisis and a factor aggravating it. The collapse of the Ukrainian statehood we are witnessing cannot be considered separately from the overall crisis of the international system. The causes are many: the erosion of mechanisms used to maintain the traditional and sometimes rather artificial and flawed nation-building; the collapse of the inefficient management by extremely corrupt authoritarian rulers; spontaneous popular movements; sharp aggravation of inter-ethnic and inter-confessional collisions; the West’s unbridled political engineering of regime-change; and buoyant activity of the people and governments seeking to protect their historical identity from this dangerous intervention.

Some agencies of the U.S. administration, including the Department of State, are home to neo-conservatives who have been increasingly active in their efforts to rebuild the world to their design. Their calculation is that transnational mobilization of mass movements can be effectively used to implement their geopolitical schemes meant to distort positive changes in the world order and reanimate the Cold War institutions such as NATO. Yet they have clearly misunderstood the meaning and vector of the transformations underway, and, which is still worse, have been demonstrating historical ignorance, which almost inevitably dooms any plans to failure.

It is not accidental that William Pfaff, a renown American analyst, wonders: “Why should Slavic and Orthodox-Uniate Ukraine, its history painfully intertwined with Russia’s, be made a member of what was and still essentially is Charlemagne’s post-Roman Europe?” According to Pfaff, attempts of some Washington officials, including Victoria Nuland who is actively involved behind the scenes, to instigate a rebellion against the legally elected president and their wasting of $5 billion to support the so-called “democratic institutions” in Ukraine in order to tear it away from Russia have created an “unwanted crisis” in Russian-U.S. relations and fuelled ethnic tensions in a critically important part of the world. The disparity of this policy with the U.S. national interests is so obvious, the analyst believes, that he even assumes Obama might have been unaware of what his officials were up to.

A famous American political scientist Rajan Menon points out that NATO headquarters in Brussels overtly used the Crimean crisis as a raison d’etre for the alliance and a mechanism to cement its members’ unity and determination. Alas, Menon says, the Ukrainian crisis will not save the alliance. “How many members of Old NATO do you imagine heaved a sigh of relief in 2008 that Georgia was not part of the alliance and couldn't invoke the Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty to seek protection against Russia? I think that several did and that an equal number were relieved that Ukraine wasn't a NATO ally,” he writes. And yet another hardly disputable conclusion: “As vulnerable as Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine presently feel, the Crimean crisis makes it less likely that they will be invited into NATO, not more.” Sensible politicians are aware of the long-felt need to replace the obsolete security system of the Cold War era with a new, inclusive and transparent architecture based on the principle of equal security for all.

RUSSIAN-TURKISH RELATIONS

The impact of the Ukrainian crisis on the Russian-Turkish relations is not confined to the Crimean Tatars, although the importance of this factor is undoubted. More than 5 million of the Crimean Tatars now live in Turkey as a result of a more than 1,500-year long migration (compare this number with less than a quarter of a million of Tatars now residing in Crimea). The first wave of migration took place after Russia defeated Turkey in the war of 1783 and got Crimea, the next followed the Crimean War, that is, in the 1860s. The next two waves occurred after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and during and after World War II. An overwhelming majority of these people long identify themselves as Turks, yet with some of them historical memory persists. Some dream about restoring the Crimean Tatar autonomy, some want to spread radical Islamist views among the Tatars resident in Crimea. There are several nationalist groups in Turkey that unite a trifling amount of descendants of the immigrants from Crimea, who, as Turkish experts believe, have supporters in their historical land.

Yet today Turkey by no means wants to see the situation destabilize. On the contrary, it could take Russia’s side in its attempts to win over the Crimean Tatar minority through its integration in social and political life, involving them in government structures of the two newly emerged Russian regions, and satisfying their ethnic-national aspirations that had been ignored by Kiev.

Crimea can become a lucrative place for Turkish investments given a uniquely short transportation route. True, at this point Ankara has not recognized Russia’s reunification with Crimea, which is an obstacle, but there are plenty of ways to overcome the formal barriers emerging from the “transatlantic solidarity.” Turkey is concerned about the fate of about 5,000 of its citizens who settled down in the peninsula, mostly for business. The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), an analog of U.S. AID, has been active in Crimea until now, but its further operation is in question and will be probably reduced to zero. About fifty Turkish imams served in Crimean mosques. Besides, the cells of the transnational Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami, prohibited in Russia, and Wahhabi emissaries have been active in the peninsula.

It is undisputable that negotiating the end of the Ukrainian conflict is primarily up to the Ukrainians. Yet there is no escaping the truth that no agreement will be possible without consent between Moscow and Washington. The West seems to have realized that the Crimea chapter is closed once and for all, and Moscow really has no intent to send troops to the southeast of Ukraine and interfere with the events. Yet Washington still has to understand that having brilliantly won the Crimean game, Putin will seek to achieve two strategic goals that are of vital importance to Russia.

The first is to ensure autonomy of the southeast of Ukraine through a constitutional reform to be outlined in a nation-wide dialogue with participation of all regions (fortunately, Sergei Lavrov has abandoned “federalization” rhetoric in his speeches, which caused rejection even from friendly politicians like Lukashenko, for “decentralization”). And of course, Russia will continue to insist on the protection of ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking population, and on ensuring a decent role for the Russian language.

The second goal is Ukraine’s neutrality. Anyway, any further attempts to involve a bankrupt and ramshackle country in a military bloc would be sheer lunacy.

It is to be hoped that Ukraine will manage to implement the agreements reached in Geneva, yet a negative scenario is not to be discounted. In the event of Kiev’s failure to disarm all armed groups and prevent escalation of violence, bringing in international peacekeepers would be an urgent need – naturally, with Russia’s participation and unconditional observation of the international law, that is, with a special mandate obtained. This scenario is also in the West’s interests, as maintaining Ukraine’s integrity and stability and eliminating the hotbed of tension in Europe is common aspiration. Kiev’s persistent unwillingness to stick to the Geneva agreements, will render such an alternative inevitable.

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