Gentle Words but with a Big Stick

Tuesday 25th March

The Andrew Marr show on Sunday started with Andrew quoting American president Roosevelt who said that in negotiations one should use gentle words but have a big stick, and that it seemed that today’s Western response was to use big words and a twig.   A lovely way to describe exactly what has happened over Crimea.  And more and more Cameron and Hague are looking ridiculous by their childish rhetoric.  Even Kerry in the USA has shut up for a few days.  It is obvious that the consensus is that Russia has been warned, Crimea but no further.  For now anyway.    And sooner or later everyone will have to talk to thrash out, if nothing else the new rules of engagement.

No-one, neither Russia nor us, wants war; especially over a country that cannot seem to decide its own destiny.  And this is the real problem.  The Ukraine is, maybe fatally, split.  Almost half of its provinces are pro-Russian, while the other half hates Russia, and are looking to the West for assistance.  The pro-Russian areas have been excited by the success of the Crimea in returning to Mother Russia and many are requesting their own referenda, and whether ‘legal’ or not it will be very hard to deny them.  Meanwhile many in Kiev and the Western leaning regions want to be part of the European Union and maybe even Nato.

The crisis will rumble on, but I suspect that for the moment Putin will stop at the Crimea.  However there is still the question of the Trans-Dnieper region of Moldova which could be the next flash-point.  This tiny region, but with a population of 600,000 is legally part of Moldova which broke away as the Soviet Union collapsed, but this slice of Moldova, east of the Dnieper river and sandwiched between Moldova and a fairly Russian favouring area of Western Ukraine declared itself independent a few years ago.  They too had a referendum which voted overwhelmingly to join Russia, but with no contingent bits of land adjoining to Russia it seemed hopelessly adrift, and is a ‘non-region’ not officially recognized, but also where Moldova has no control, and ‘de facto’ Russian money helps them.  Will this be the next flashpoint?

I suspect that a few more weeks of sabre-rattling will end with a ‘peace conference’ between Russia, Ukraine (though just who will represent them I do not know) USA and the EU; where hopefully a peaceful reconciliation will result.  In the end, you cannot force people to belong to one country or another; surely self-determination must be the guiding principle.  We’ll see.