Obama is Assisting Putin in Legitimising Russian Aschluss of Crimea, Illarionov Says

April 1, 2014
Photo: Reuters

Staunton, April 1 – By his actions of omission and commission, US President Barack Obama is allowing his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to strengthen and even legitimize Moscow’s occupation of Crimea, a bow to this violation of international law with far-reaching consequences, according to Andrey Illarionov.

Illarionov lays out his case in four articles. In the first, posted on March 7, the Russian analyst pointed out that despite some strong criticism, “Obama not only did nothing on his own” to oppose Putin’s action but urged the Ukrainian authorities to do nothing in Crimea.

In the second, on March 17, Obama continued his “mantras about the impermissibility of the actions of Putin” and spoke about “red lines” that the Russian leader must not pass. But Putin crossed all of these lines and committed all of the actions that Obama said would provoke a reaction. But Obama did nothing.

And then in the third, on March 22, Illarionov wrote, “Obama repeated all of his previous mantras and allowed Putin to complete the legitimization of the annexation of Crimea”.

Now, in a post yesterday, the Russian analyst says, “the fourth stage” of what he terms “infectious Munichitis, a diplomatic illness characterized by seriously inadequate understanding of the surrounding world … a cynical betrayal of small countries who trusted their territorial integrity to the guarantees of ‘the great powers’”.

In support of his argument, Illarionov cites the remarks of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and of US Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris on March 30. He says that these declarations permit five key conclusions.

First of all, their words show that “Crimea de facto already belongs to Russia, and this is already not being challenged by the United States.” “Neither in the commentaries of Lavrov nor in those of Kerry (sic!) is there a word about Crimea. In other words,” Illarionov says, “the de facto annexation of Crimea by Russia has already been recognized by the US administration.”

“Of course,” he continues, “from time to time this or that American official can (will) repeat the words of ‘our unchanged position’ that ‘the annexation of Crimea is illegal and illegitimate.’” But those words change nothing “on the ground,” and the lack of public comments means that it is not the focus of the Lavrov-Kerry talks.

That is certainly the Russian view. As Sergey Kislyak, Moscow’s ambassador in Washington put it, “Crimea is part of the Russian Federation.” Moreover, “diplomatic observers in Washington” now have reached “a consensus” that Crimea as part of the Russian Federation is “already ‘a fait accompli.’”

A second element of this fourth phase of “Munichitis” is the conviction by Washington that “the concentration and dislocation of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border is an issue, the resolution of which belongs exclusively to Putin and to no one else,” Illarionov continues.

Lavrov of course said nothing about them, but Kerry by saying that “in the end, obviously the troops are in Russia on Russian soil. The question is not one of right or legality” in effect “de facto acknowledged the legitimacy of the concentration of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border and the continuation of their dislocation there.”

A third element, Illarionov continues, is that “Transdniestria (already has been or soon will be) unblocked” and that this will permit the “mass penetration of Russian agents from [its] territory into Ukraine.” The unblocking of that breakaway republic in Moldova is “being guaranteed by consultations under the aegis of the US, the EU and the OSCE.”

A fourth element of this stage, the Russian analyst says – and he describes it as “the main thing that has been achieved” by the Russian side is “the legalization and institutionalization of the interference of other states (‘the great powers’) in the internal affairs of Ukraine” and in that country’s constitutional system – specifically its “federalization.”

Lavrov insisted on this, but what is striking is that Kerry appears to have agreed. The US secretary of state said “Both sides made suggestions on ways to deescalate the security and political situation in and around Ukraine. We also agreed to work with the Ukrainian Government and the people to implement the steps that they are taking to assure the following priorities: the rights of national minorities; language rights; demobilization and disarmament of irregular forces and provocateurs; an inclusive constitutional reform process, and free and fair elections monitored by the international community. We agreed to consider the ideas and the suggestions that we developed tonight and to continue our discussions soon.”

“In other words,” Illarionov says, the diplomatic “resolution” of Ukraine is to be conducted by the US and Russia and Ukraine is to be reduced to an object rather than a subject of the talks. That is what Moscow has always wanted; that is what Washington has now conceded despite its promises.

And finally, a fifth element of this stage is “the acceptance by Kerry (by Obama and by the US administration) of the imperialist position of Putin about the existence of ‘interests of Russia in neighboring countries.’” Kerry was explicit: “I think it’s important to take that into account because Russia obviously has long ties and serious interests” there.

Illarionov concludes his article by outlining seven steps that would be necessary to pull the world back from this latest infection of “Munichitis.” First, talks between Russia and the US “about Ukraine without Ukraine” must stop. Second, Russian forces must be withdrawn from the Ukrainian border. Third, all Russian actions about the annexation of Crimea must be annulled.

Fourth, there should be an evacuation of all residents of Crimea who wish to live in Russia. Fifth, Russian forces in Crimea, including at the Sevastopol naval base, must be withdrawn. Sixth, Ukrainian citizens should be encouraged to think about constitutional reforms. And seventh, Ukraine must be included in a new system of collective security for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

Tragically, none of these seems likely especially given the latest Lavrov-Kerry exchanges, as Illarionov implicitly acknowledges. And consequently “Munichitis” as he defines it seems certain to continue and even spread.

One terrible example of an outbreak of it in another country is highlighted today by an editorial in Nezavisimaya Gazeta. It says that Georgians now feel betrayed by US President Barack Obama’s declaration that he has no plans for their country to become a NATO member anytime soon despite all the work they have done.