Excellent article by Paul Roderick Gregory, about the games Russia is playing, seeking forgiveness for illegally annexing Crimea by using Catalonia as an example.
The problem is Russia is and was wrong and the whole world is calling their bluff.
OCT 16, 2017 @ 01:52 PM
Among Russia’s biggest headaches is the widespread condemnation of its annexation of Crimea in March of 2014. Vladimir Putin still smarts from the November 2016 International Criminal Court (ICC) finding that “there exists a sensible or reasonable justification for a belief that a crime [my italics] falling within the jurisdiction of the Court ‘has been or is being committed’” within the Crimean and Donbas territories of Ukraine. Upon issuance of this finding, an irate Russia withdrew from the ICC. Sanctions continue to threaten persons and companies associated with the Crimean takeover. United Nations investigators have documented evidence of arbitrary detentions, torture, abductions, and political murder in occupied Crimea.
Putin sees in the Catalonian referendum an opportunity to convince the European Union, NATO, and the UN that it is time to recognize that Crimea belongs to Russia and to let bygones be bygones. After all, business and political interests in Europe are getting restive. They contend that, after almost four years, it is time to return to “business as usual” with Russia.
The Russian narrative characterizes Catalonia as yet another unintended consequence of NATO’s 2008 recognition of Kosovo’s independence from Russian ally, Serbia. (No mention of Serbia’s ethnic cleansing of Kosovars preceding independence). Per Russia, Kosovo opened the Pandora’s Box of independence movements, of which Catalonia is but the latest example. In the growing list of self-determination movements – Kosovo, Kurdish Iraq, Scotland, Crimea, Quebec, and now Catalonia — why should Crimea and its new homeland, Russia, be the only ones singled out for sanctions? Says one insulted Russian commentator: The West “has no right to lecture Russia.” The West cannot punish those referendums whose outcome it dislikes and praise those it welcomes.
Russia claims that the March 2014 Crimean referendum was no different from the other self-determination movements, including Catalonia. According to the Russian narrative, the Crimean vote was spontaneously initiated by patriotic Crimean legislators, alarmed by the takeover of Kiev by nationalist extremists and neo-Nazis. The Crimean referendum took place without incident and without the overt influence of Russian special forces. The “official” Crimean election results, as quoted widely in the Western press, showed a 97% vote in favor of annexation with a remarkable turnout of 83%. The Russian message: The balloting procedure may not have been perfect, but the election results are overwhelming; so why all the fuss?
The Russian narrative has been drummed for almost four years into audiences in Russia and abroad. Attention spans are limited, and few bother to drill into the true story of the Crimean annexation, which has been documented as follows:
Russian special forces seized the Crimean parliament building late at night on February 27, 2014. After securing the building with machine guns, Russian troops admitted pro-Russian delegates, who voted for a referendum to join the Russian Federation. If there is doubt about this account, Russian special forces turned their takeover of the Crimean parliament into a training film, readily available on YouTube. To top things off, Vladimir Putin publicly disclosed in March of 2015 that had he “had ordered work on ‘returning Crimea’ to begin at an all-night meeting on 22 February.” So, Putin started the process of Crimea’s annexation, not the Crimean people, as Russia claims. In fact, Crimea’s new leader, as chosen by Russian special forces, is a minor crook, whose party accrued four percent of the vote in the previous election.
Contrary to the purported overwhelming vote for annexation, Putin’s own Human Rights Council posted at president-sovet.ru a report that contradicted the “official” election results. This report, which was expeditiously withdrawn from the internet, gave the Council’s own estimates of the results of the March 16 referendum as follows: “In Crimea, according to various indicators, 50-60% voted for unification with Russia with a voter turnout (yavka) of 30-50%.” Hence, the Human Rights Council points to a turnout below the 50 percent threshold usually required for major changes, such as independence. The yes vote of between 50 and 60 percent was dramatically below the official claim of 97 percent.
The Russian narrative also fails to mention that Kosovo, Catalonia, Kurdish Iraq, Scotland, and Quebec voted for their own independence, not to leave the jurisdiction of one country (Ukraine) for that of another (Russia).
On the diplomatic front, Russia has declared Catalonia an “internal matter” and earned kudos from Spain by labeling the referendum “not legal.” Russia’s sole complaint appears to be Spain’s excessive use of force against Catalonian voters. Russia has positioned itself as a paragon of neutrality – let Spain and Catalonia find an amicable solution.
Russia’s complex Catalonian game aims to gain traction for its “let bygones be bygones” campaign for Crimea. Russia also hopes to restore lagging domestic enthusiasm for the “return of Crimea to its motherland” campaign as symbolized by the Krim Nash (Krim is ours) slogan. Weakening European unity is perhaps Russia’s most cherished policy goal, and Catalonian independence from Spain strikes at the heart of European cohesion.
Putin hopes that Catalonia will end with a messy separation that throws the European experiment into chaos as he basks behind a stance of neutrality while hoping for forgiveness for the Crimean annexation.