The Secessionst Dilemma: Has Crimea Gone Rogue?

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An article about Crimea's secession from the Ukraine.

Submitted: April 06, 2014

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Submitted: April 06, 2014

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The recent referendum in Crimea, an area in the Ukraine predominantly made up of ethnic Russians, has been decided overwhelmingly in favor of Crimea's secession from the Ukraine. According to the election results, upwards of 97% of voters approved the measure. If this is true, there seems little doubt that the tiny peninsular region wishes to be absorbed into the Russian Federation. And since the vast majority of Crimeans are ethnically Russian, their 'right' to request annexation is fully supported in the motherland.

The question on my mind, and perhaps on the minds of others, is this: At what point, exactly, does it becomes appropriate to vote for secession? When eighty percent of a nation's population demands it? Ninety percent? A two-thirds majority? A simple majority? What about those who do not wish to secede? How is their fate to be decided and by whom? If secession occurs, should they be made to swear allegiance to the new government? And if they do not wish to, what then?

Obviously, many questions have arisen since the ostensibly autonomous Crimean government announced it was abandoning its allegiance to the Ukraine and seeking accession to the Russian Federation. In addition to the economic ramifications that Crimea's secession would have on the greater Ukrainian economy (which are likely to be substantial), the social and legal questions raised are also significant. For not only does such a move challenge the nature of Ukrainian sovereignty, it calls into question the very notion of statehood itself.

The concept of state sovereignty represents the idea that a nation's right to handle its own affairs is absolute. Thus, in all matters affecting that nation, in whole or in part, it should be given complete deference by other nations with respect how it handles those matters. Clearly, this idea of sovereignty does not extend to cases where there are violations of international law (e.g., genocidal campaigns or the commission of other crimes against humanity), as such adversely affects the rights and interests of other nations. Aside from that, however, sovereignty should be respected.

Russia argues that that the heavy ethnic population in Crimea, which is Russian, gives it the right to support secession from the Ukraine. Legally, however, any vote for secession by the autonomous (not separate) Crimean authorities can be vetoed by the Ukrainian government. This power is expressly authorized by their constitution. Hence, under the principle of state sovereignty it is the prerogative of the Ukrainian government to accept or reject any such decision by Crimea. Yet instead, Russia has effectively made this decision by threat of force.

Recent history has witnessed countless examples of governments that were ultimately forced to bend to the will of their populace in the face of rapid and often unprecedented social change. This has served to demonstrate the supreme political axiom that the state is neither infallible nor is it ever beyond the control of the citizenry it serves. In my opinion, the Russian annexation of Crimea is incompatible with the right of a sovereign state like the Ukraine to determine the political future of its own people. By continuing to interfere with this right, Russia is throwing the integrity of this entire process into jeopardy, not to mention the doorway it opens for similar actions in the future.

The world has spent much of the last century trying to undo the mistakes of the previous fifty. Practically every political crises on record has stemmed from one nation meddling in the affairs of another -- a maneuver that is almost always calculated to further the interests of the meddlers, not those being meddled with. The time where larger nations should be allowed to arbitrarily disrupt and usurp the legitimate authority of smaller governments, short of seeking to avert an actual humanitarian crises, has passed. By all accounts, championing the plight of Crimea's ethnic Russians, seems to be a thinly veiled pretext for Russia to not only reclaim portions of its former satellite states, but to also put itself into strategic position for similar actions in the future.

The Ukrainian legal system already has mechanisms in place to deal with political crises like the one in Crimea. The meddling influence of Russian politics, coupled with the presence of Russian troops, only serves to undermine that process, along with Ukrainian sovereignty. This is but another example of how political crises can rarely be solved by subterfuge and threat or use of force. The employment of these methods almost always makes things worse, not better. Such lack of diplomacy, objectivity and reason can only invite further chaos.

In the mid-19th century, a nation went to war with itself over social and economic issues so polarizing that they split country right down the middle politically and geographically. The end result was a four year war -- the bloodiest in the nation's history. It took years to rebuild in the aftermath. Yet today, the republic for which the United States stands is stronger than it ever was during that time. Although it seems the die is already cast in the Crimean peninsula, there is hopefully still time to leave Ukrainian sovereignty intact and allow rule of law to prevail

 


© Copyright 2019 Colin David. All rights reserved.

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