Crisis in Crimea by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

The people in Crimea has chosen the path of reverting back to Russia and cutting the artificial union of being part of Ukraine since 1954. I accept the result of this referendum as no one has suggested that unfair means were adopted during the voting process. Even Western media has shown in their news reports that people in Crimea supported joining Russia. West calls it illegitimate because Ukrainian constitution was not followed. Russia on the other hand does not accept that the interim government in Ukraine is legitimate and considers it the right of Crimea to decide their own future. They also say that since majority of Crimean are Russian speakers it is important for Russia to protect their rights. Legal experts can engage in a debate of the legalities but people on the street, around the world, feel that Russia has the right to protect her national interests. Russia in last 15 years has been very clear that expansion of NATO to her near borders will create a weapons race and develop instability in the region. Global economy is still in a recessionary mode any economic sanctions will further retard the recovery with severe repercussion for poorer countries.


West has lost moral authority to dictate to other nations that they should follow rule of law and accept resolutions of multilateral organizations. West has been violating the sovereignty of other nations whenever it was in their interest. It attacked Iraq without a mandate from UN Security Council. Similarly in Syria, West has openly supported arming the rebels that produced civil war in a sovereign nation. West has always justified its action in the name of human rights and freedom of expression. But at the same time did not hesitate to support the military coupe in Egypt which overthrew a democratically elected government or form alliances with autocratic rulers in Middle East, Africa and South America.


In the short term the issue is how to reduce the rising tensions between Russia, EU and USA. One possible outcome could be the formula adopted by China in Hong Kong. Through this formula Hong Kong retained its own unique status of being an autonomous region with its own democratic institutions but accepted the suzerainty and sovereignty of China as a motherland. Other models are US sovereignty over Puerto Rico in which security is offered to her but full citizenship rights are not offered to them. To reduce tension Russia should offer guarantees that it will not extend her influence into Eastern Ukraine. To reciprocate, EU should guarantee that NATO expansion to East will be halted; recognize the security concerns of Russia and guarantee that Ukraine will not be made a member of the military alliance.


In the long term, it is important that an international consensus is developed to address following important questions:

  1. Can other nations be allowed to intervene, by offering weapons to opposition or funding street protests, in the internal affairs of a nation in the name of human rights?
  2. Can UN remain a club of veto wielding permanent members at the cost of interests of other members?
  3. Should UN be converted into a multilateral humanitarian organization while regional organizations are developed for security and conflict resolutions?


World peace cannot be achieved until all nations respect the territorial boundaries and sovereign jurisdiction of each other. If an autocratic or dictatorial government is engaging in human rights violations that can escalate into a regional crisis then non-interventionist civic activism should be adopted as a recourse. Social boycott of a nation can have tremendous effect on the running of a government. We have two good examples to learn from which are Burma and South Africa. Burmese military junta was engaged in human rights violation and the world reacted strongly by condemning these actions without interfering. This worldwide campaign to highlight the abuses produced diplomatic isolation of the country and the government finally caved to this pressure. Similarly in South Africa when it engaged in apartheid practices the world responded by imposing a cultural, economic and sports boycott of the nation. It was this social pressure that ultimately resulted in the emergence of an equitable and normal society in that country.


Since its inception in 1945, UN has been unable to prevent wars and resolve conflicts among nations peacefully. Under UN watch wars have happened on Korean peninsula, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Georgia and Kosovo. One main reason for this ineffectiveness of the world body is the existence of two tiers of membership. Five permanent members of UN Security Council, US, UK, France, China and Russia, have the right to exercise veto to stop any resolution being adopted. This gives these powers extraordinary sway in deciding the world agenda at the cost of over 187 other nation states. This two tier system of membership needs to be reformed as it is no longer sustainable. UN Security council does not provide adequate voice to Muslim majority countries, South America and Africa. If immediate action is not taken I am afraid members will start leaving this organization.


One option could be to convert UN into a multilateral humanitarian crisis management organization and take way its political and security mandate. UN has some good institutions that perform commendable work like UNICEF, WHO, UNHCR, UNHRC just to name few. Regional peace and security can be established through emergence of regional associations like OIC, EU, AU, ASEAN, SCO, SAARC etc. These local groupings have better understandings of the interest of each other as well as have a direct stake in maintaining greater regional cooperation. The reformed UN focusing on humanitarian causes can offer a platform for these regional blocks to come together in a General Assembly and share their experiences.


In the 21st century, people of the world are more inter-connected through advanced communication technologies as well as social media. It is unfortunate that governments have become more divisive while people have united in supporting each other for a better world. We need to develop new models of cooperation and collaboration to bridge this gap between the performance of the governments in international affairs and expectations of people. If government fails to achieve it then the pressure will keep rising on politicians to either act on the popular will or step aside. Status quo is no longer acceptable to people of the world.

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