Balkanization, Ukraine and Crimea
By Bruce Walker
Why is the independence plebiscite in Crimea followed fast by union with Russia bad? We have to be careful in answering that question. "Balkanization," or the division of states into different smaller nations, more often than not is good. Indeed, the independence of Ukraine itself was the result of the "Balkanization" of the Russian Marxist Empire when a dozen new nations emerged out of the colonial possessions of the Russian Marxist Empire.
Recent history in Eastern Europe has shown that this is sometimes indispensable to peace and liberty. The Slovakian people had been joined to the Bohemian and Moravian people after the First World War into a new nation, Czechoslovakia. Nobody ever asked the Slovaks if they desired to be joined as the junior partner of a hybrid nation and the tension let Hitler use that to further his ambitions. Only after the end of the Cold War when the Czechs allowed the Slovaks to execute the "Velvet Divorce" did the problem of two peoples in one nation end.
Yugoslavia did not have a "Velvet Divorce." The five peoples trapped in a hobbled "nation" of Yugoslavia dominated by Serbs only won independence after angry demonstrations and in some instances violence. The blood of Bosnia ought to remind us that an unthinking demand for the status quo among nations has no special virtue.
Belgium is composed of Flemings and Walloons, two peoples forced into a single nation by the great powers in order to provide a human buffer to the ambitions of other great powers. As a result of this unhappy union the Belgians went over one year between general elections and the formation of a new government. Other free democracies also face possible fragmentation. Scotland next year may vote to become formally independent and Quebec, again, is indicating that it may form a separate land.
Whatever we may think about the prudence of a Scottish or Quebec or Walloon nation, no one can imagine that using military force to compel unhappy peoples to remain in a nation against their will is a good idea. Moreover, no one ought to feel threatened if in the next few years the world welcomes Scotland or Quebec or Wallonia into the company of nations.
Even comparisons of Russian aggression today with the Nazi use of German people compelled to live as minorities among other nations can lead to incorrect conclusions about what is happening today. Sudeten, Pomeranian, Alsatian, Danzig and Tyrolean Germans did have legitimate complaints and the problem was that a monster like Hitler was able to add to Nazi power and to raise his popularity at home by championing these Germans.
Austria was forbidden to join Germany, even a moderate Weimar Germany. Plebiscites in Silesia for remaining with Germany in 1919 were ignored. Forcing regions to remain under unpopular governments in order to shift the power of nations eventually backfires. No one today would suggest that Catholic Ireland be compelled to join the United Kingdom again in order to make that friendly power stronger, but this was the type of thinking which permeated Versailles and the reordering of Europe after the Great War.
The real problem in Ukraine today is not that Crimea had to always stay as part of Ukraine, whatever the people of Crimea might have wanted. The problem was how Putin forced this possible change in sovereignty took place at gunpoint. Crimea, as a largely Great Russian outpost along the Black Sea coast of Ukraine, required a general consensus among those affected. This was particularly true because of the unspeakable crimes committed by Great Russian Marxist overlords against the Ukrainian people.
Holodomor is the term used to describe the sadistic extermination of millions of Ukrainians by Stalin in a crime against humanity in many ways as bad as Hitler's Holocaust against the Jewish people. While it is some exaggeration to say that Ukrainians have the same fear of Great Russian overlordship that Jews would have today of a Greater Germany, it is only a modest exaggeration. That grim historical fact ought to mean that Russian leaders tread lightly when dealing with issues relating to what lands are Russian and what lands are Ukrainian.
What Putin has done instead is to turn a legitimate issue, the need to adjust and moderate sovereignty issues of nations in light of popular sentiment, into a pummel against Ukraine and a sly, sinister warning against the Baltic States, the Caucasian nations of the Russian Marxist Empire including those nations of the old Warsaw Pact which today are free of Russian domination. What ultimately happened to Crimea is much less significant than how changes took place. Putin, deliberately, has chosen the most dangerous and provocative path and it is the animus and ambition of Putin which is the real problem now.
Bruce Walker is the author of book Poor Lenin's Almanac: Perverse Leftists Proverbs for Modern Life and a contributing editor to Enter Stage Right.