I’m ignorant of many facts, and am completely willing to be persuaded. But here’s my train of thought and source of skepticism:
- I supported the independence movements in South Sudan and Kosovo. I think that there are cases where self-determination (which could include voluntary annexation) is a reasonable option. Especially if it can be decided through the most democratic and due process possible under the circumstances.
- If I understand correctly, Crimea was historically a part of Russia, and an autocrat transferred Crimea to Ukraine a half century ago, and so the people who live there have some basis to protest being part of Ukraine today, if they do so.
- The referendum was a farce, of course. But the world was so quick to condemn Russia’s moves and a process for self-determination that it’s hard to believe a transparent, democratic referendum with due process and a real choice between staying and going would have been possible. Some people undoubtedly proposed such a process, but it would it seem like a credible pledge if you are Crimea or Russia?
- Also, is it the case that, if there were a democratic and due process, many people would predict roughly the same outcome?
- So right away this looks to me like a complicated issue that people who supported Kosovo and South Sudan ought to be conflicted about. Or anyone who lives in the US, who annexed Texas long ago.
- Lo and behold, the vast majority of articles and op-eds appear confident, indignant, and untroubled. They know who is right and who is wrong. This should always make you suspicious.
- I can’t escape the feeling that, if Crimea were part of Russia, and a democratic Ukraine just gave Crimea its independence, most of the people denouncing Russia now would be celebrating Ukraine for the same actions.
- In sum: if you are friendly to Russia you like the move, and if you are not you dislike it. It looks to me more like a simple case of us versus them rather than the tricky path to the least bad answer. At the end of the day, we trumpet international law when others break it but not when we or our allies break it.
I wonder if the tepid response by the Obama administration is testament to the fact that they, unlike the pundits, are likewise conflicted about whether this is so bad it’s worth an economic and diplomatic battle.
Let my education commence?