Lessons of the Ukraine/Crimea:

Will Insanity Recur?

By Shlomo  Maital    

            Crimean war

Crimean War

My friend Bilahari Kausikan, Ambassador at Large in Singapore’s Foreign Ministry and until recently First Permanent Secretary, has wise words regarding the Ukraine/Crimea crisis, published in the Straits Times.  He visited Kiev in December, recalls hearing a speech by an EU politician in Independence Square – and thought, “this could end up like Hungary in 1956”, when the West encouraged Hungarian revolt, then folded its arms and did nothing to help when Russian tanks invaded.

    “Russia cannot allow Ukraine to become part of the Western system without losing an essential part of itself and abandoning Putin’s goal of a revived Russia as a great power,” Kausikan observes.   Some 17% of Ukraine’s population, or 8 million people, is ethnically Russian. This is the largest Russian diaspora in the world.  They live in the Crimea, and East and southeast Ukraine.  Russian gas pipelines run through Ukraine, and Sevastopol is Russia’s only warm water port.

     “It was inevitable that Russia would move decisively,” Kausikan notes.  (He once served as Singapore’s Ambassador to Moscow).   And as usual,  Russia’s intervention  “caught the West flatfooted”.   The U.S. is weary of wars. And “the EU has neither the stomach nor the capability to wage war on Russia”. 

    Kausikan believes that the West gave false encouragement to the Ukrainian, without the capacity to deter Russian intervention or respond effectively. 

     Once again, my own view is that President Obama, and the incompetent EU foreign Minister Katharine Ashton have proved worse than incompetent.   “The West mistook their hopes for reality,” Kausikan writes.  Because the West has no stomach for military intervention, they thought Russia felt the same.  Stupid.

       “Do not listen to the sweet words of foreigners,”  Kausikan counsels Singapore.  And, he might have added,  Israel, as well.   Small countries have no room for error.  And the great powers that ‘support’ them are increasingly unwilling to stick out their necks for their friends. 

  “It is the Ukrainian people who paid and who will continue to pay the heaviest price,” Kausikan writes.  “We (Singapore) must never lose the ability to look after ourselves, because if we cannot look after ourselves, nobody will look after us.”   True of every single small nation, sandwiched between a paper-tiger marshmallow former great nation, America, a bankrupt internally-conflicted EU, and an aggressive Russia led by a megalomaniac dictator who is, according to Merkel, “detached from reality”.   

    Watch your backs, small nations.  Nobody else will. 

    And, an historical footnote:  The Crimean War, between the French British & Ottoman empires and the Russian Empire, lasted from Oct. 1853 to Feb. 1856.  Russia lost.  But there were 300,000 to 375,000 dead, including 100,000 who died of disease.       The cause of the war?  Rights of Christians in the Holy Land.  France promoted the Catholics. Russia, the Orthodox.   I’m not kidding.  That was the cause of a bloody war.  So maybe, in the 21st C., we are a tiny bit more civilized.