Sometimes one reads an article online which makes one sit back and wonder whether one is living in a parallel universe to the author. Some of the articles and comments on the subject of 'climate change' are a good example, but politics and, at the moment, the events in Ukraine and Crimea are fuel for many such. Today's prize must, I think, go to the Iranian Ministry of (Mis)Information which has announced that the US 'shot down' the missing Malaysian airliner in order to disrupt Iran's relations with China, Malaysia and Korea ...
The one that really caught my attention this week, however, was an article on a blog which asserts that the EU's 'interference' and 'breech of faith' in 'forcing' the Ukrainian government to sign up to full membership of the EU 'forced' Mr Putin to act to 'protect' Russia. The fact that this was written by someone who lives and works in the UK, and is an otherwise intelligent person (as I judge from the erudite articles he posts) I found a little disturbing. Though I know he is very anti-EU, this was stretching things in my mind. It didn't take me a lot of searching the find numerous articles from sources outside the EU (and therefore 'tainted' in the minds of the anti-Europe lobbies) that present a more balanced picture. It goes back a few years, and the Ukrainian 'dream' of joining the EU begins during the Presidency of Mrs Timoshenko, though it could predate her. It was the Ukrainians who, no doubt looking west over their border and seeing how standards of living in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Roumania and the Baltic States has risen far more rapidly than to their East, who wanted to join up and share this improvement.
Not unnaturally, the EU Heads of State (not the Commission), were cautious. Suggestions that they could also join NATO were dismissed, but not, it seems in the more rabid minds of some parts of the British and Russian Press. A 'Trade Agreement' was proposed by Brussels, but the Ukrainian government wanted more and that triggered unease in Russia. Timoshenko was swept from power in what is now said to have been the most massively 'rigged' election in a 'democratic' country and a pro-Russian (He is in fact an ethnic Russian whose family were 'transplanted' during the Stalin years) declared President. The negotiations with the EU promptly stalled and that rubbed salt in the wounds, made far worse when Mrs Timoshenko was dragged into court on what now seem to be very flimsy charges and jailed. Not unnaturally, the ethnic majority of Ukrainians made their feelings known in no uncertain terms, which provoked a Moscow directed response of suppression.
Listening to Ukrainians on our television, and reading their letters in the local press, one gets a different picture to that painted by some UK bloggers whose hatred of the EU seems to blind them to the realities of Moscow's very clear intention of retaining control of Ukraine no matter what. As Josephus pointed out in a previous post here, the Russians wish, for a variety of reasons, to retain a 'buffer' of satellite states between them and the west. There may well be historic reasons for this, but it does ignore the desires and wishes of the majority ethnic populations in all these countries. Stalin's relocation of entire populations are remembered with a great deal of anger, and in some areas that is further fuelling the problems. That is the situation in Crimea (which was never originally part of Ukraine) where the Crimean Tartar population was moved or suppressed and replaced by Russians (the Tartars still form 16% of the population), and it is mirrored in the eastern regions of Ukraine where Russian families were forcibly relocated to displace Ukrainians.
Many reports suggest that the 'citizens militias' that seized control of government buildings in Crimea and set up their own 'autonomous' government were Russian troops out of uniform and acting under orders from Moscow. As evidence it is said they behaved in a disciplines and co-ordinated manner, knew exactly who and what to target and blockaded the Ukrainian troops and ships with a precision that speaks of very careful planning. The Ukrainian Navy is, in fact, trapped in its harbour because a Russian naval vessel has been deliberately sunk across the entrance. The order to do that can only have come from Moscow.
But all of this seems to be ignored by the anti-EU press and bloggers in the UK. To them the 'enemy' is Brussels, the EU commission and everything to do with the EU. I can only wonder what they may be seeing in this that I am not. To me what is very clear is that Mr Putin is determined to expand the 'Russian Federation' back to the borders of the former USSR, to keep the former Soviet Republics firmly in Moscow's control and to restore control of the governments of the former Warsaw Pact countries to politicians 'friendly' to Moscow. He is ruthless enough to stop at nothing as the west should have learned from Chechnya, Georgia and now the Crimea.
One thing I have learned since I moved to live in Europe is that much of what is blamed on the EU in the UK, is in fact arising in Whitehall. It is Whitehall that deliberately (or perhaps incompetently) misinterprets, gold plates, abuses or extends every EU Directive. It is Whitehall that uses every Directive to extend their power and interference - and then blames the EU. Yes, there are some problems with the differences between European Legal systems and the English and Scottish systems, but these are constantly compounded in Whitehall - not in Brussels. It would be nice, just once, to see some balance in this debate, and a little truth in Whitehall, but I fear that will never be possible.
Maybe we need a Mr. Gorbachev. Some 'Glasnost' in the bureaucracies on both sides of the channel would be nice, but perhaps more importantly, some factual and unbiased reporting in the UK media would help as well. I suppose I can dream ...
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