Editorial

Crimean-Russian crisis: 'Same knife stick sheep stick goat'

Wednesday, March 26, 2014    

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WE are not aware of Jamaica taking a definitive position on the crisis in Crimea, Ukraine, where Russia seems to have taken full control, notwithstanding the recent referendum in which the Crimean populace voted to be part of Russia.

However, we would urge caution about mindlessly joining the Western alliance in any belligerent action against Russia, without at the very least making the point that the United States, in particular, set the rather dangerous precedent when it invaded Iraq to unseat Saddam Hussein.

The US, with the support of some of its allies, ignored the United Nations and, we make bold to say, the tenets of international law, in declaring war on Iraq on the pretext that it was going after weapons of mass destruction, none of which were ever found. Russia, no doubt, is emboldened by that precedent in the Crimean situation. In other words, 'same knife that stick sheep stick goat'.

We do not condone the sending of Russian troops to Crimea, in the same way that we condemned the US attack on Iraq. But no one should be in shock over the Russian action, given that the Ukraine is in Russia's backyard, causing some level of military vulnerability. It was clear for some time that there was growing Russian unease at what appeared to be Western encroachment into Eastern Europe and the Baltics, in the context of former East European countries moving away from Russian sphere of influence since the end of the Cold War.

We are in agreement with those who say that Moscow was going along with the established rules of the game, supporting a democratically elected government with which it was never quite comfortable, until the obvious exuberance of the Western allies in welcoming the ousting of pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. After that, Russia no longer had any incentive, or pretence, to maintain the status quo.

There is a plausible view that Russian President Vladimir Putin showed remarkable restraint in not going for more than Crimea to shore up security in his backyard. It is hard to imagine the US sitting by and twiddling its thumbs if it felt threatened by any development in the Caribbean. The Cuban Missile Crisis comes to mind. Still, it is not too late for a shower of rain.

The best way to avoid countries taking unilateral action against each other is for everyone to remain consistently true to the tenets of international law. Countries cannot abide by the law today and tomorrow abandon it when it is not convenient. The US, in particular, has a great burden in this regard.

Jamaica's Foreign Minister A J Nicholson has shown a keen understanding of international issues and has so far guided Jamaica on a reasoned path in the global minefield. We hope that his cerebral approach will take us safely through this Crimean crisis.

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