A Cuban on the Crisis in Crimea: “Crocodiles Don’t Eat Crocodiles”

April 2, 2014 | Print Print |

Vicente Morín Aguado

Crimea crisis map. Wikipedia.org

HAVANA TIMES — “Crocodiles don’t eat crocodiles,” says the refrain of a popular Cuban song. It comes to mind now, in connection with the story I’m about to tell.

Once upon a time there was a multi-nation state in Europe called Yugoslavia. One of the nations that made up this state was Kosovo, a territory where most of the population was of Albanian origin. Albania was one of the bordering nations in the Balkans.

Violent political conflicts with pronounced ethnic dimensions emerged and brought about a civil war between the Serbs, the dominant group at the federal level, and the Kosovars, who enjoyed the support of the West and NATO’s powerful armed forces.

Kosovo held a referendum (won by the Albanese majority) and proclaimed its independence, which was immediately acknowledged by the United States, the leader of the NATO coalition. Belgrade categorically refused to accept the results of this popular vote, and this sparked off a conflict that unleashed 70 days of bombing in the multi-national Balkan state (ultimately incapable of withstanding this aggression).

Though the Serbian army was efficient and well-armed, it could do nothing against the aerial superiority of the enemy. Any movement of its troops was immediately targeted by the attacking planes, backed by satellites and advanced, space localization technologies. Yugoslavia was what is normally referred to as a “sitting duck,” a victim of the Tomahawk missiles launched by its hunters.

Many years passed until the Ukraine, a former republic of the largest multi-national state humanity has ever known, founded by Lenin in 1922, five years after the triumph of the October Revolution began to experience a heated political crisis.

The Soviet Union collapsed one winter day in 1991 in Belovezh, a forest reserve near Moscow, despite the fact that, months before, 70 % of citizens of this great state had expressed that they wished to preserve the Soviet federation. Three people were at the Forefront of that change in global geopolitics: Yeltsin, from Russia, Kravchuk, from the Ukraine and Shushkevich, from Byelorussia.

It was a rather hasty decision. It seems as though these political leaders felt an enormous historical weight on their shoulders, as they agreed to create a political organization that would unite all of the republics of the former Soviet Union. Called the Community of Independent States (CIS), it was approved days later in Alma Ata by most of the former Soviet republics, with the expected exceptions of the three Baltic nations and Georgia.

To understand current events better, we must begin to connect the dots. Though some irresponsible people may wish it, history isn’t written on a blank slate.

Today, all hell has broken loose in the Ukraine, divided between the option of steering towards highly developed Western Europe and of betting on its millennia-long history in the Slavic world, led by Russia, a country now using its wealth of natural and human resources to rush towards development.

Russia is today a democracy a la Western Europe (still young and imperfect), having put behind it the Tsarist despotism of the Romanovs, copied by Stalin and his successors in the name of “socialism.”

Following violent unrest, Ukrainians forced their pro-Russia commander in chief to flee and proclaimed a not-too-subtle proclivity towards Western Europe. The population of Crimea, Russian in its majority, immediately held a referendum (considered the maximum expression of democracy under international law) and proclaimed its independence and adhesion to Russia. Crimea was formerly the only territory considered autonomous within the Ukraine.

Without hesitation, Putin endorsed the decision of this country located on the strategic Black Sea peninsula, acknowledged by the vast majority of its inhabitants, especially its political and armed institutions.

Now, Obama is railing against the Russians who supported Crimea’s independence. Like my mother used to say, “there are no exceptions to God’s rules.”

No one doubts Moscow’s imperial interests. Years ago, Henry Kissinger and his think-tank predicted these developments in an article published by Newsweek, without of course alluding to the similar interests that moved the country where he served as Secretary of State for years.

Putin says he is getting what’s coming to him for the act of betrayal and the problems that are to come. In Kiev, they are trying to forget or at least minimize the geographic, economic, political and (most importantly) military ties these nations forged in the course of history. It is still not a legally and fully sovereign decision by Ukrainians, but I have no doubts it will soon be that.

I recall Crimea’s city of Sebastopol, “the city up high”, as its Greek colonizers called it before the Christian era. I also recall Yalta, where, in February of 1945, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin sat down to map out the post-war world and decided to create the United Nations.

We should respect history and its legacies – it is a responsible attitude towards our common fate on this planet. For the time being, I am not in the least worried about all the political cackling coming from the West. The Russian army won’t become the sitting duck the Serbs were during the war in Kosovo.

As the song rightly says, “crocodiles don’t eat crocodiles.”

Vicente Morín Aguado: morfamily@correodecuba.cu


What's your opinion?

  • ronbobel777

    the serbs were engaging in genocide so NATO intervened. In the referendum there was no choice of staying with Ukaine, only independence and going with Russia. In any case Ukrainians see the prosperity in the west and want to be part of that rather than the autocratic Russian alternative. They see that the per capita income in the baltic states is three times the level in Ukraine.

    • John Goodrich

      At today’s ( April 3 Thurs) ZNet there are two very good articles that deal with the subject matters of the Crimea annexation and the bombing of Kosovo.
      The first is Boris Kagalitsky’s ” Crimea Annexes Russia ” and the second :
      Mark Swanson’s ” A Fifteen Year Murder Spree ( What the (U.S. ) government told you about the bombing of Kosovo was false..and it matters).

  • Griffin

    Vincente, you made a mistake in your chronology. You wrote that first Crimea held a referendum, in which the population voted to become part of Russia, and then Putin responded by granting his support. That is not how it happened.

    You left out the very important detail that BEFORE the referendum was held, Crimea was invaded and occupied by thousands of Russian troops. The presence of these Russian soldiers raises serious questions about the independence and validity of the Crimean referendum, carried out by the Russians.

    Russian crocodiles do eat sitting ducks.

    • ac

      Lol, no, the Russian troops ALREADY where in Crimea because of the treaty they had with Ukraine. And yes, you can claim that they can only operate outside the bases with the collaboration of the local authorities as per the same treaty, but thats arguably what happened.

      There is no question of whether the majority of the Crimeans wanted to secede and join Russia, after all people were laughing, dancing and hugging the soldiers in the aftermath of the referendum as you can see by yourself from any footage from any source.

      • Griffin

        You are mixing truth and deception. Yes, there were Russian troops in Crimea as per the treaty with Ukraine. However, these Russian troops, plus more from Russia, moved to various strategic locations in Crimea to secure the peninsula for Russia.

        There is a large ethnic Russian population in Crimea, but there are also Ukrainians and Tatars who do not want to join Russia.
        The referendum was very quickly announced and carried out, during the expanded Russian military occupation. That fact certainly does draw into question the legitimacy of the vote. The fact that there were happy Russians filmed and broadcasted on Russian TV does not prove the legality of the process. You must agree, there were also a large number of very unhappy Ukrainians and Tatars by they did not dare go out and protest at the Russian army.

        Certainly, Russia does have legitimate security interests in Crimea. The large Russian naval port has been the base for the Black Sea fleet for more than a century, going back to the Czarist era. The transfer of Crimea to Ukraine by Khrushchev was an odd act, and not exactly constitutional, but then the whole of the USSR was unconstitutional, so it was not questioned at the time.

        Surely the better way to handle the issue would have been to negotiate with Ukraine, not send in the troops and arrange a snap referendum.

        • ac

          Thats precisely what I said. They were already there, and the treaty allowed for a maximum of 25000 of which they never had more than 16000 before the referendum, so they were all the time within the parameters of the treaty.

          The only objection would be the movement of the troops outside of the bases because the treaty explicitly required collaboration from the local authorities, which they had.

          Your assessment about the ethnic composition is right, but you need to put numbers to get the whole picture. Crimea is 58% Russian, 24% Ukrainian and 10% Tatar and the rest small minorities. The coup in Kiev bring to power ultra-nationalist elements whose first steps were the removal of the laws that acknowledge the rights of those minorities. They failed to understand the need for national unity to legitimize the transition government and as result they alienated all minorities, including Russian that were majority in some regions like Crimea.

          The referendum was pretty neat all things considered and since the pro Ukrainians (20%) refused to participate, the pro-Russian faction won big time and Crimea went back to Russia. There was no indication of foul play and the international coverage unanimously agreed that people voted freely and celebrated the victory of the majority that included the Russian ethnicity in block and probably most of the other minorities that would feel threatened by Kiev as well, plus most of the old folk that still think of themselves as Soviets plus a good portion of the Ukrainians that feel is economically better for them to be part of Russia (salaries and pension are three times higher in average compared to Ukraine)

          As for the ones that didn’t protested, they did in a fashion by boycotting their participation in the referendum. They were a minority and their numbers too low to influence the outcome, so they failed.

          The rest of your assessment is naive. Why would Russia put itself in a position to beg for whatever the new Kiev government would take to keep what they consider rightfully theirs? They saw the opportunity and they seized it, thats all. The west is in no position to object to it because whatever moral high ground they could muster is lost in a sea of hypocrisy for their actions the last 20 years or so, Europe is too dependent of Russian gas to muster any serious sanctions without throwing the world to a deep recession and the US is in campaign mode and is not going to start WW3 over Ukraine.

          Not to mention that pesky permanent security council position they hold with the right to veto anything they don’t like. Or they warm ties with the rest of the world, in particular the rest of the members of the BRICS block.

  • informed Consent

    I was unaware that the Russian speaking population was being murdered in the Crimea. In truth this was a land grab pure and simple. A diminutive Putin feels slighted by the west and the knowledge that Russia is now just a regional power sits badly with him.

    • emagicmtman

      But where would America be without “land grab pure and simple” (e.g. Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Colorado) thanks to the Mexican-American War of 1846-47)? Although “god is not on the side of the big batallions, he is on the side of those who shoot best.”…Voltaire No doubt those regions of the Ukraine with Russian majorities will also reunite with the Motherland. Should be interesting to see what happens to the remaining, truncated, version of the Ukraine. Although the billions of $$$ by the U.S. and the E.U. now being offered should ameliorate conditions for a while, they come not without conditions. As usual, it will be the workers, not the oligarchs, who will be the principal victims of the austerity measures diktated by the World Bank and others. Perhaps Putin should bide his time, as the Ukraine falls further under the heel of the west, then offer an alternative; OTOH, does Putin’s oligarch dominated Russia offer a better alternative? Hardly. Russian birth-rate is in freefall, as is its life expectancy, which is going down, down, down (fueled by chronic and growing alcoholism, and drug abuse, and rampant smoking, etc.

      • Informed Consent

        Interestingly enough I agree with everything you said. …Life’s a bitch!

      • rodrigvm

        IMF and World bank money always come with austerity measures, let’s see the Ukrainian working class respond to this and their western “allies.” It’s called debt peonage in 21st century.

  • Griffin

    Independence and adhesion to Russia are mutually exclusive conditions. The Russian troops are in Crimea to deny the former and enforce the latter.

    • Vitor Leur

      There were also 20 thousands Ukrainian troops in Crimea. Almost all of them switched allegiance to Russia and decided to join Russian forces. The majority of Crimeans are ethnic Russians and of cause they were trying to join Russia since 1991. Even opposition in Russia, who hates Putin, does not deny that most in Crimea voted to reunification with Russia.

  • Monzon Cubano

    I met a guy from Lithuania who fought the Nazis during WWII and… escaped to the west when it was evident that the Russian were coming!!! His town perceived the Russians as worse enemies. Russia has historically bad reputation in Europa, they should be fixing it but they seem to be missing opportunities.

    As homework for Vicente, are the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) Argentinian or British? I am convinced that Vicente’s answer is Argentinian, even though everybody there voted to be British. His answer is Argentinian because Havana Times is conceived and directed by the Cuban Communist Party

    Not “an open minded writing” it has a hidden agenda.

    • emagicmtman

      …”because Havana Times is conceived and directed by the Cuban Communist Party…not ‘an open-minded writing’ it has a hidden agenda.”
      Pray tell what planet have you been on, Monzon Cubano?! If you’ve been a regular reader of the HT, you know it is everything BUT directed by the CCP, and it is really doubtful that it was “conceived” by it, either (though without DNA testing, parentage is always doubtful)! Probably 95% of the diaries, opinions, etc. are critical of the Revolution (although generally constructive, rather than negative). Are you one of the Miami dynosaurs?

    • rodrigvm

      What? I wish it was true but this is a little haven so that right wing Cubans and their supporters can feel “liberal” they are not.

  • http://www.sosbeevfbi.com geral sosbee

    Russia leads the world in resistance to USA (fbi,cia) global & murderous aggression.

    Those who have reported fbi/cia atrocities are being silenced. See how WWIII may have started a long time ago by USA:
    http://www.sosbeevfbi.com/part4-worldinabo.html

    See my recent reports that confirm that the fbi uses a form of Pavlov’s “Classical Conditioning” technique against me in efforts to discourage me from posting.

    http://neworleans.indymedia.org/news/2014/04/19568.php

    http://austin.indymedia.org/article/2014/04/28/fbi-uses-form-classical-conditioning-targets

    http://www.sosbeevfbi.com/studiesonmindcon.html

    http://www.sosbeevfbi.com/affidavit2007.html