Ukraine: responsibility and irresponsibles.

Kindly translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia

So Crimea will return into the fold of Russia. The March 18th declaration by Vladimir Putin in front of both Russian assemblies, the government and the governors, has confirmed it. The symbolic signature of the text of Union, implementing a transitory period until 2015, but in which the separation between Crimea and Ukraine is qualified as a border of Russia, confirms it. Granted that this referendum did not take place in a manner which is in conformity with International Law. There were no official observers (unofficially, several European deputies were present), but the fault is mainly on the onus of the European authorities. True, here and there practices which are contrary to law have been signalled; but we know that this is also the case in France. In substance, it is clear that the population has voted massively, and that it has decided in favour of a reunion of Crimea with Russia. Our country, which has fought so much for the principle of the right of peoples to dispose of themselves, would be honored by recognizing this fact, whatever one may think of the chain of events which led to it. But, looming behind the festivities which, in Moscow and in Russia, are surrounding this event, as well as behind the bitterness which is clearly perceptible in the United States and in the countries of the European Union, the essential is being forgotten : the Ukrainian crisis is far from over. This crisis is now concentrating onto the Eastern regions of Ukraine where, during these past days, demonstrations of the pro-Russian parts of the population have taken place and where the first victims have been deplored.

The dilemma of Russia.

In his declaration of March 18th, Vladimir Putin has said two things which seem equally important, even if they may appear contradictory. On the one hand, the Russian President has distinctly pronounced himself in favor of an independent and sovereign Ukraine. On the other, he has indicated that Russia couldn’t and wouldn’t give up interest in the fate of the Russian populations in Ukraine. If the situation continues degrading in Ukraine, the logic of protection of the populations will rapidly enter into conflict avec his first affirmation. This is why it is more necessary than ever for the present government in place in Kiev to merge into a government of national concord where all the parties would be represented, and that the conditions be put in place for the election of a Constituant Assembly which alone will have the legitimacy to reformulate the national pact. The countries of the European Union and the United States pretend to believe that, on the one hand, we have been confronted with a “revolution” on February 22nd and 23rd in Kiev, and on the other hand, that said “revolution” has not altered the constitutional continuity. This is at best a dangerous illusions, at worst the mark of a rare cynicism. Why, then, does the neo-fascist party SVOBODA, which garnered around 10% of the vote at the last election, field 6 ministers out of 19, when the Party of the Regions, which was the great victor of these same elections, doesn’t have even one ? Such a situation cannot hold. It can only convince the Russian populations of Eastern Ukraine that we are dealing with a coup d’état of which they are slated to be the next victims. This  de facto government has just, by the way, announced the constitution of a « national guard » in which would be regrouped the armed gangs and which would substitute for the Ukrainian Army, understandably reticent to intervene in such a situation. In order to oppose the armed gangs of the Ukrainian extreme-right, self-defence groups are already being constituted. The logic of confrontation is afoot and it has killed already. In due time, if we aren’t careful, we will be headed for a Yugoslavia-type evolution.

Responsibility and irresponsibility of the European countries.

The responsibility of the European countries is immense, much more so than the one of the United States, because they have an experience of this situation and it is occurring literally at their door-step. They can be complacent in their bitterness, born from their impotence, go on and on condemning Russia, brandishing threats of sanctions all as derisory the ones as the others. If they chose this path, they will chose impotence and demonstrate their incapacity to extract themselves from the ruts of ideology. If they chose this path, they condemn themselves to be the actors of a drama which is preparing itself under our very eyes: the one of a violent partition of Ukraine. If they chose this path, they will find themselves incapable to guarantee what they purport to guarantee, that is the unity, the sovereignty and the independence of Ukraine. The world will then know the value of a guarantee given by the countries of Europe. They promise you peace, but instead they bring, through their incompetence, civil war. Or else, the countries of Europe can decide to hang their rancour in the closet and take Vladimir Putin by his word: you are in favor of the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine? So be it, let’s work together to guarantee it.

If these governments get together to signify clearly to the Ukrainians that there must be a government of national concord and a Constituant Assembly, if they accept to participate in the disarmament of the militias, they can demand in return that Russia abstain from any dangerous or harmful move, and that it use its influence, which is not small, in Eastern Ukraine for the self-defence groups to also be disarmed. Russia has, up to know, wisely abstained from a riposte to the symbolic sanctions which have been taken. It must continue this way and take the engagement to respect the results of the election of the Constituant Assembly which, alone, will carry legitimacy. It must also take the engagement to renew to the government which will come out of the Constituant Assembly the advantageous economic conditions which it proposed to the Yanukovich government.

Facing the future.

We want to hope that the voice of Reason will triumph, even if this voice is decidedly weak and stammering today in Paris as well as in Washington. We want it first of all for the Ukrainians, who have the right to live in peace and stability, social as well as economic. We want it for Europe, which must less than ever be confused with the European Union, and which would be the great loser in a new logic of confrontation.

Yet, a lesson must learned, not just from the present crisis, but from the general configuration of events which reach from the decision of the United States to invade Iraq in 2003, to the Syrian question and including, of course, the Ukrainian crisis. The short parenthesis of a XXI century which was supposed to be dominated by the hyper-power of the United States of America is closing. Such was the diagnosis I made in 2008[1], and which is today ever more relevant. We are indeed confronted with a return of the nations. The temporary effacement of Russia, which could create this illusions of an all-powerful Washington, has today ended.

[1] Sapir J., Le Nouveau XXIè Siècle, le Seuil, Paris, 2008.


Jacques Sapir

Ses travaux de chercheur se sont orientés dans trois dimensions, l’étude de l’économie russe et de la transition, l’analyse des crises financières et des recherches théoriques sur les institutions économiques et les interactions entre les comportements individuels. Il a poursuivi ses recherches à partir de 2000 sur les interactions entre les régimes de change, la structuration des systèmes financiers et les instabilités macroéconomiques. Depuis 2007 il s'est impliqué dans l’analyse de la crise financière actuelle, et en particulier dans la crise de la zone Euro.

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