As has been said often in recent days, Russia has a legitimate interest in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
After all, lots of people in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine are native Russian speakers, or ethnically Russian, and as all ethnic minorities know, linguistic origin and ethnic origin are perfectly legitimate ways of deciding national loyalty. That the campaign by this ethnic majority for Crimean transfer to Russia coincided exactly with the arrival of unmarked troops in Crimea is clearly the spontaneous expression of national spirit.
Further, the Crimean autonomous assembly has voted for a referendum, to be held in two weeks, about whether to join Russia? How is that different to a referendum in Scotland? Who are we to object?
That the parliament building was occupied by armed forces, and shortly afterwards voted to depose the Prime Minister and select in his place a man who had achieved four per cent of the vote at the last elections at the head of his Pro-Russian party, simply shows how democratic processes are being respected.
Further while international observers are temporarily prevented from entering the autonomous region by entirely autonomous defence forces, what could lead us to suspect that the referendum might not be an entirely freely expressed and clear electoral process?
What’s more isn’t the Ukrainian government illegitimate? After all, President Yanukovich, for all his murderous and corrupt faults, was elected, was he not? That he signed an agreement to form a National Unity Government, then immediately fled the country for parts unknown, making the formation of such a government rather problematic clearly represents an unconstitutional seizure of power by his opponents, who had been entirely dishonest in signing the agreement with him the day before, even if subsequently his own supporters abandoned him and voted for his replacement. Still, no matter. Yanukovich is clearly the legitimate President of Ukraine, wherever he may be.
What’s more, we must be careful not to overemphasise the significance of the consequences of this situation. After all, there can be no global security risks if a former nuclear power, whose territorial integrity is protected by internationally binding treaties, then discovers that those treaties are not binding on the signatories. No-one will see that as suggesting there is great value on securing nuclear weapons, little value on international commitments.
Besides, who are we to judge Russia’s response? We have intervened ourselves, after all, and we have all seen the UNSC resolution on Ukrainian Chemical Weapons usage, their genocide of the Marsh Ukrainians and Ukrainian Kurds and Bosnian Ukrainians, and we have all witnessed the Ukrainian military sweeping towards the Crimean capital threatening a rain of fire on those who resist.
Those atrocities provide an urgent and important rationale for military intervention, entirely different in quality to any previous military interventions, which were entirely illegitimate, as they were never debated at all by international bodies, not represented any sort of responsibility to protect or response to aggression.
Further, there are clear legitimate reasons for super-powers to intervene in the domestic affairs of smaller, weaker neighbours when their economic interests are threatened, as members of the Cuban and Venezuelan Solidarity campaigns will attest. It is important we reflect maturely on such interventions, and not allow emotions to run ahead of the facts.
What’s more, the Ukrainian government has unpleasant elements. Why should we protect the national integrity of such a government? In comparison, the Libyan, Syrian, Iraqi and Taliban governments had few such elements, which is why their national integrity was so vital to the international order. Those who saw unfolding human rights disasters, genocide, a history of military aggression or chemical weapons usage in such states should compare them to the awful record of the Ukrainian government in provoking their neighbour by seeking to associate themselves with a possible future economic agreement with the EU.
When we consider these factors, it becomes vital to take a mature, thoughtful view on which policy choices being made today represents a threat to both Ukrainian and Crimea citizens and to the wider region.
We surely need some cool, calm reflection on this point.