Vicente Morín Aguado
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: firstname.lastname@example.org