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Post In Ukraine, It's Time for a Grand Bargain
Created by John Eipper on 07/27/21 4:09 AM

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In Ukraine, It's Time for a Grand Bargain (Cameron Sawyer, Russia, 07/27/21 4:09 am)

Eugenio Battaglia wrote, "The real problem of the Donetsk-Luhansk area is the local population. Being ethnic Russians, the people do do not want to remain under the yoke of Ukraine and are asking for Russian nationality."

This is not supported by opinion research. Polls consistently show that the residents of the occupied parts of Donbas prefer to stay with Ukraine. See:


Interestingly, contrary to what Eugenio claims, rather few residents of Donbas consider themselves to be "ethnically Russian," although that must be objectively true of a majority of people there--only 12.2% in the rebel-controlled areas and 7% in the rest of Donbas.

We like to see the world in terms of starkly defined ethnic groups, all with clear identity and often hating other starkly defined ethnic groups, but this does not describe Eastern Ukraine at all, where the ethnic identities as to between Russians and Ukrainians are somewhere between fuzzy and non-existent, and where there isn't really any hatred of anyone towards either Ukrainians as a people or Russians as a people. Very few people in the Donbas speak Ukrainian, and language does not separate ethnic groups, and even a Russian-sounding or Ukrainian-sounding surname doesn't tell you much because most families are mixed. This is not the Middle East here.

If you lived on the border between Ukraine and Russia and got to choose which country to belong to, there would be a lot of reasons to choose Russia, which is much wealthier on a per capita basis ($28,000 per capita vs $13,000, more than double, and about the same difference proportionately as between the US and Russia), and has much better level of law and order, and which is in general more developed. But nevertheless the residents of Donbas mostly prefer to stay in Ukraine, with or without a special status--my guess is that this is simply because no one wants this stupid war and all this chaos and conflict; no one is willing to fight a war to get rid of some "Ukrainian yoke," even if they get to be a citizen of a much wealthier country afterwards. People just want peace and order and a chance to work and feed their families.

This tragic conflict needs to be ended. When are we going to sit down at the bargaining table? One thing Eugenio is right about--the root cause of this whole situation is the "Empire's" insatiable appetite for moving its "buffer" right up to the Russian border. I've written about how the partially American-funded coup in Ukraine was perceived in Russia and how profoundly we misunderstand the situation.

It's time for us to agree that we will stop meddling in Ukraine if Russia will agree to completely withdraw from Donbas and respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine. I suppose the Russians would agree to a neutral Ukraine with no foreign military alliances or foreign military bases, neither Russian nor Western. Why wouldn't they? Ukraine was actually never in a military alliance with Russia since independence; even Yanukovich declared the country neutral. Why wouldn't such a status suit everyone? You can call it Finlandization, if you like. Neutrality worked out really well for Finland, and I guess it could work well for Ukraine as well.

We will have to recognize Crimea, which Russia will never give back (and it's not inherently unjust that Crimea is part of Russia, however deplorable were Russia's methods of taking the territory), but I'm sure as part of some grand bargain we can figure out some acceptable way to do that. A deal like this is so much in everyone's interests, especially that of the Ukrainians, who have born the brunt of all this trouble, that it will be worth plenty of compromise on all sides.

Of course, whoever cared about the Ukrainians? Not the US, who were quite happy to sell the Ukrainians out to years of chaos and bloodshed and economic turmoil, just for a chance to tweak Russia's nose. Why aren't Ukrainians more offended by this? But in the end, this is not in our interest, either, actually. It's time to wake up, and find a basis for peace.

JE comments:  Some weeks ago Aldona and I met a young cashier at the Adrian Lowe's.  She didn't look or talk like a local, so we asked:  she is from Donetsk.  She is a staunch defender of Ukraine--although she also acknowledged (to my surprise) that her brother is fighting in the pro-Russia militia.  Talk about complex identities and divided families.

Crimea's annexation by Russia is a fait accompli, but is there any way the West can accept this without losing face?  How would any US politician justify "surrendering" Crimea in exchange for...what?  Who wants to be labeled a Chamberlain?  Not to mention the precedent this sets for revanchist adventures everywhere.

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  • Crimea: Complex Identities (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 07/28/21 3:25 AM)
    I highly appreciate the post of Cameron Sawyer, 27 July.

    I have also read the attached survey from "Most People in Separatist-held Areas of Donbas Prefer Reintegration with Ukraine." Frankly, the surveys by the British Gwendolyn Sasse in this area leave me doubtful, as they contrast with other surveys (apparently less biased towards Ukraine?).

    Cameron is, however, absolutely correct when he wrote: "People just want peace and order and a chance to work and feed their families." Under bombardment many people may, even if temporarily, forget their ethnicity. I was witness to exactly this; of course, I was always a Bastian Contrario.

    Cameron's position on Crimea was unexpected but realistic, instructive, and wise.

    However, with reference to Crimea, it is also important to remember the the "loose cannon" Erdogan. The Turkish leader is walking a tightrope not to antagonize Putin, but his dream of a new Ottoman Empire includes Novorossjia (Southern Ukraine and Crimea).

    At present Erdogan is showing a great friendship with Ukraine but at the same time, he is stirring up the old Tatar problem. According to a census of 2001, a Tatar minority of 17.2% lives in Crimea, most of them returned to the peninsula in the years following the death of Stalin.

    For instance, see the various works of professor Sazi Ozcelik and other Turkish scholars and politicians. These studies try to minimize the previous ethnic groups influencing Crimea, such as the Greeks, Romans, Genoese, and Venetians. Instead great importance is given to the Muslim Turkish/Tatar immigration (was it not a military invasion?). The world pandemic of the 1300s, a present of the Gani Beck siege of Genoese Feodosia (Caffa), seems forgotten.

    It is stressed that the Russification of the area began only after 1783, with the alleged expulsion of 1,800,000 Tatars to Anatolia. Of these there are now 4,000,000 descendants. An international Tatar conferences was held On 4-5 April 2015 in Ankara. Great publicity is given to Stalin's deportation of the Tatars (also Italians, but that is another story) from Crimea on 18 May 1944, while the strong Nazi divisions as Wolgatatarische Legion, Turkistanische Legion, and Kaukasich-Mohammedan Legion have also been forgotten. By the way, such legions were rather ferocious.

    JE comments:  Bastian, I invite your thoughts on this question:  why in your view is Erdogan a loose cannon, but not Putin?  I see them as birds of a very same feather--cannons rolling around on deck?  I predict historians one day will talk about Erdo-Putinism (even catchier:  Puto-Erdoganism) as a catch-all for the pseudo-democratic strongman of the early 21st century.

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