Casus Ucrainae


This is a moment of truth for Eastern Europe.

Society in general and elites are divided over Crimea and over Russia’s new, expansive course.

It is a little conflict within a conflict: colleagues quarrel in the office; friends and family members sulk; some Russian intellectuals sign letters of support for Putin, others strongly disapprove; Belarusians clash with Ukrainian family members, or with relatives in Russia.

What was the whole reason again? That “Russians” must be saved.

And how come it’s legitimate? Because 97 percent of Crimeans asked for it.

The 3 percent of Crimeans who said No in the “referendum” have been oppressing the 97 percent said to have said Yes? As well as the “Martians” – the nickname of the balaclava-wearing, gun-toting, friends of Russia who fell from the sky in February.

And, of course, what about Kosovo?

Putin says the genocidal, years-long, ethnic conflict in former Yugoslavia is the same as Crimea. It’s not. But even if it was, he never recognised Kosovo, so how can he recognise the Kosovisation of Crimea? Propaganda should also make sense.

Same as the argumentation for the EU’s fault in provoking Russia. The West has excluded Russia from European integration, threatened its sovereign democracy, forced it to launch the Eurasian Union, blah, blah…

Obama has called Russia a “regional superpower.” Putin speaks of a “Russian Crimea.” Both are oxymorons. Both are half-true.

Whatever you want to call Russia, it doesn’t have the money for a war or for a normal life for its people.

Maybe that’s one reason for the blitzkrieg: if the West imposes real sanctions, Putin can blame Obama for the dire state of his economy.

Meanwhile, Crimea is a disaster, legally, economically, socially, geopolitically, to say nothing in terms of security.

Crimean people are waiting to see which planet they live on when the dust settles.

A planet where people are getting Russian passports registered in Russia’s Far East. Where there are no salaries. No pensions (Kiev stopped paying, Moscow has not begun). No visitors (tourists used to come from Ukraine). No news (Russia is also protecting Crimeans from independent media). And, tomorrow (?), no electricity or running water (Ukraine controls all the infrastructure).

Mainland Ukrainians are shocked.

But they have another problem: There is no one to trust.

Their political high-flyers are more popular in the West than at home. They have done – quite literally – nothing about Crimea. What are the chances the post-May president-parliament-government-circus will be truly reformed and free from corruption?

Over in Minsk, as Putin’s geopolitical earthquake shakes the cutlery on the table, Lukashenko sits morbidly silent.

Just you dare say “EU” and Martians will also come to save Bela/Russians from Van Rompuy, who wants to make everyone gay, including Lenin.

Crimea is an expensive mess. But an important one.

Ordinary Russians who already felt the US sanctions (some people suddenly couldn’t use their credit and debit cards in ATMs), or who encountered hostile questions while on vacation in Europe, are surprised: What do I have to do with it?! I didn’t annex anything. Get me a drink.

Sorry. But it’s time to realise that you are responsible for your President.

Whatever the psychology of autocracy – fear, pride, sado, maso – Belarusian people are also responsible for their fate and what is done in their name.

If the Ukrainian revolution has taught anything it has taught us this.

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