Crimea Vote provokes fear of Domino Effect in Eurasia: Turkish FM

(By Juan Cole)

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Sunday warned that Crimea’s referendum on seceding from Ukraine pose the threat of a “domino effect” in Eurasia.

Will Russia’s rush to referendum and the outcome affect other populations who want to secede, throughout the world? Will it destabilize the current world order?

Davutoglu likely had the Kurdish issue in mind. The some 2 million Kurds in northeast Syria have de facto seceded from Syria, and have fought off both regime troops and the guerrillas of the extremist Sunni Arab al-Qaeda affiliates. Their de facto secession has disturbed Turkey, which has a big Kurdish population of its own in the southeast, and which has fought Kurdish separatist guerrillas of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) for decades.

The Kurds in northern Iraq likewise have a semi-autonomous statelet; Turkey now has good relations with that enclave, but there have been tension in the past, and Turkey certainly doesn’t want the Iraq model of ethnic conflict and separatism to spread to Turkey.

Beyond the Kurdish issue, there is a sense in which the Sunni Arab cities of Falluja and Ramadi in Iraq have de facto seceded, under the leadership of the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The Shiite-dominated Iraqi army is probably strong enough to take those cities back for the central government, but Sunni Arab grievances against the Center are growing.

In Europe, secessionists in Scotland and Spain’s Catalonia will likely take hope from Crimea’s secession vote. The Spanish central government will be upset (it still has not recognized Kosovo). To be fair, the Catalan leader was careful to distinguish his province’s aspirations from the events in Crimea, underlining that the elements of coercion and violence visible in the latter are absent in Catalonia.

Even in Ukraine itself, some activists in the East of the country where there are substantial numbers of Russian-speakers, want the same deal Crimea got. If that process, of yet another partition, goes forward American-Russian relations will be deeply harmed.

One thing is certain: The EU rashness in making Urkaine choose between it and Russia; and the Russian boldness in arranging for Crimea to be detached from Ukraine, have spread instability not only in Ukraine but throughout the region.

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Related video:

Reuters: “Crimeans vote to quit Ukraine for Russia”

19 Responses

  1. And lest the Russians forget, there are still issues like Chechnia and, for China, Tibet.

  2. So now the West is against part of a nation breaking away even if the majority of the population want to secede?

    Did 911 not only produce endless undeclared borderless wars and the global panopticon but also destroy Western support for self-determination and the democratic process?

    • Western countries have usually being against secession, even in cases when the majority of the population wants it. This is not something new and there are very good reasons for this stance.

      This – by the way – makes the support for the secession of the Kosovo so hypocritical.

      • Germany was the first country to recognize Croatia, which began the unraveling of Yugoslavia. The US was the second. As long as it was the ‘Easter Bloc’ a split if fine.

        • Croatia was a constituent country of a federal republic. Both Kosovo and the Crimean were not. It may sound like nitpicking but I think it matters. Maybe I should have clarified this.

        • I think I understand you to mean that Croatia was an ‘independent’ country or entity before it made up part of Yugoslavia whereas the other two weren’t. I think it’s a fair distinction that I did not make. However, my criticism of the West stands on its early recognition of Croatia, which signaled approval of a break-up of Yugoslavia. No doubt the Eastern European countries needed to revolt against regimes which were pawns of the Soviets. Yugoslavia was not. It’s ‘goulash communism’ stood in contrast and offered a bridge between East and West during the second half of 20th century. It joined the non-aligned nations. I think Western triumphilism drove the recognition of Croatia to devastating results. Then again, given the break up of USSR, that may have been inevitable and I may be indulging myself in sentimentality.

      • You mean because of the massacres of Russians by Ukrainians? I must have been reading the censored news.

      • East Timor,
        South Sudan,
        Eritrea,
        Montenegro,
        Kosovo,
        Bosnia,
        Croatia,
        Slovenia,
        Slovakia,
        Lithuania,
        Latvia,
        Estonia,
        Ukraine,
        Georgia,

        The list goes on. The US has no problem with secession, as long as it benefits the US or hurts a perceived enemy or competitor.

        The US has no good argument, they just are the biggest bully in the school yard.

    • Americans haven’t always been against secession. “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation…”

  3. The destabilizing factor is the failure of the US government to seek the interests of the people of the US (to protect its essential interests or seek the benefit of other peoples), not the resulting secession movement in the Ukraine.

    The US Civil War secession provides insight here. Although the issues of national defense and regional economic dependencies are distinct, there is strong similarity in the failure of leadership on both sides to recognize the interests of the opposition, and to devise a viable transition plan for the intractable issue between regions (slavery then; cultural preferences and historical injustice in the Ukraine). In both cases the threat of war was the result of a failure of democracy.

    In the US, leaders of the North failed to see or care about the need for a viable transition plan to abolition, and allowed the opposition to fear an ultimatum, which they considered impossible. The problem with a transition plan was that it was unprecedented: it required a federal agency of unprecedented size and powers, to monitor and tax slave employers and products to subsidize wages and a transitional socialization process for freed slaves.

    The problem with leadership was that the founding generation was dwindling and the spirit of regional reconciliation declined with the waning threat of invasion. So democratic institutions became populated by regional demagogues who could not conceive or support the major reconciliation process necessary. In Ukraine, apparently democratic institutions again failed to conceive or support a process for regional reconciliation, because they were dominated by regional demagogues. But in the US case there was no clear precedent, and in the Ukraine case we have the US precedent.

    The US administration did seek to strengthen democracy in the Ukraine to promote reconciliation, but instead sought to exacerbate the problems. It did not work to resolve the causes of the failure of democracy, and did not apply historical experience. It did not seek to protect essential interests of the US, nor to advance the interests of the people there as a whole, and therefore did not seek legitimate goals of the people of the US.

    So the secession movement in Ukraine is a symptom, not the cause of regional destabilization. The failure of the US to seek the benefit of other peoples is the cause. The failure of democracy wherever the US has claimed to promote it, is due to the continuing failure of democracy in the US.

    • Correction: “The US administration did seek” should be “The US administration did not seek”.

  4. In few years, there will be referendum in Scotland to break away from UK & become an independent country.

    In the next election in Canada, Qubeck will try again to break away from Canada to become an independent country.

    What community of nations will do? On whom USA will impose sanctions & Travel restrictions?

    When Regan invaded Grenada in the Caribbean to safe guard American students, that was OK. When South Sudan became independent, the community of nations (USA & EU) had no objections. The breakup of Czechoslovakia was admired by the so-called Community of nations.

    Invading Iraq on falls & cooked-up intelligence reports was OK too.

    Israel can break any international laws; world community keeps its mouth shut. No sanctions, no word against Israel.

    Always, Pick & Choose.

  5. Vietnam War was fought to stop Domino effect.

    Will Crimea start a Domino effect? I doubt it.

    USA recognized Israel even before it became a country!

    Now its Putin’s turn. He recognized Crimea as a nation.

  6. Give me a break, Ahmet. Please cut me some slack. Invoking the old “domino theory” in foreign policy again? After the Vietnam War? Have you been talking to neocon and liberal hawks here? They are using a similar political ploy trying to breathe life into the ghost of the Cold War. It’s back to the future in international affairs I guess. Michael J. Fox will hopefully star as the president in this sequel. Now if Hollywood producers could just find a DeLorean in mint condition for him to tool around inside the beltway bubble. Make the terrorists Kurds. It would do big box office as a political satire on current events. Ahmet, I think what you really need a good therapist as an adviser on your foreign policy team.

    • Sorry to break it to you, but the whole world is not about the US. Turkey has its own territorial concerns and desires as regional hegemon.

  7. And let’s not forget the dispute between Japan and Russia over the South Kuril District of the Sakhalin Oblast. Japan wants those islands back.

  8. For me, the people to blame for succession movements isn’t outside players and events like Russia and Crimea, but an illustration of how badly elites are failing inside the countries.

    After all, there wouldn’t be a successionist movement had the national government addressed the underlying concerns of what basically becomes the plurality in one geographic location.

    If you treat a whole region like a pariah is it any shock these neglected people turn to look elsewhere for their futures?

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