LONDRA – Un tweet di Christopher Meyer (@SirSocks) sulla crisi in Ucraina: “La domanda che gira nelle Cancellerie occidentali: abbiamo un cane nello scontro in Crimea?”. Meyer, ex ambasciatore del Regno Unito a Berlino e Washington, ha pubblicato una column sul Times del 4 marzo: “Non facciamo drammi nella crisi in Crimea”. Il cane e’ quello evocato dall’ex segretario di Stato americano James Baker a proposito della crisi nel Balcani negli anni Novanta: “We ain’t got no dog in this fight.” Se Putin dovesse muoversi contro gli stati Baltici, che sono i membri della Nato, la questione sarebbe interamente diversa, conclude il diplomatico britannico. Ecco, a seguire ,alcuni stralci della column. L’idea e’ che l’Occidente ‘non dovrebbe esagerare nella reazione alla difesa da parte del Cremlino di interessi storici della Russia nel’Ucraina orientale”.
“As William Hague flew to Kiev yesterday, talk of crisis grew ever more ominous. Some have begun to draw comparisons, not just with the Soviet invasions of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, but with Hitler’s invasion of the ethnically German Sudetenland in 1938. There is a growing view in some quarters that unless the West, and above all President Obama, responds firmly to Russia, it will be appeasement à la Munich all over again.
So let’s be clear whose crisis this is. It’s obviously a crisis for the peoples of Ukraine and Crimea. It is also the mother of all crises for President Putin, whose credibility, authority and international reputation are at stake. Any lustre that he or Russia might have gained from the Sochi Olympics will disappear like snow in the sun, if he is judged to have trampled on international law. Inside Russia, he will be regarded with near-universal contempt if he is deemed to have “lost” Ukraine and especially Crimea. For us in the West, however, it is as much of a crisis as we want it to be.
In foreign policy, to understand all is rarely to forgive all, but it is worth trying to see things through Moscow’s prism for a moment. It is hard to exaggerate the place of Ukraine and Crimea in the history, culture and myths of the Russian people. Most Russians consider Ukrainians to be part of their nation in the broadest sense of the word. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the cruellest cut to Russia was the loss of Ukraine. As for Crimea, it had become part of the Russian Empire more than 200 years ago under Catherine the Great. For Russians, it is the scene of two historic episodes of heroic resistance: firstly, to the forces of Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire in the Crimean War of the 19th century, and then to the German army in the Second World War. It is where generations of Russian children were sent for summer holiday camps. Add to this potent psychological brew, the geo-political importance of the great naval base at Sevastopol – and you can see why Putin sees a clear national interest in what transpires in Ukraine.
Those who know Putin say that he is moved by a driving determination to restore Russia’s status as a great power – that he considers the years of perestroika and glasnost a period of national humiliation, aided and abetted by the West and, above all, a baleful United States, incorrigibly intent on keeping Russia weak. Obama’s talk of “costs” for any invasion will be like water off a Muscovy duck’s back. But there will be costs for Obama and leading nations of NATO, such as ourselves, if we cannot deflect Putin from his path. After his failure to intervene militarily in Syria (which would have been crazy, in my view), and the debacle of his red line on Assad’s use of chemical weapons, which proved no red line at all, Obama has gained the reputation of being a weak president, who will not take a stand against aggressors.
The problem is less Obama, more that the rules of the road in international relations have become hopelessly confused. Too much foreign policy is now influenced by vivid and sometimes moving video, often involving telegenic demonstrators in combat with the riot police of an unpleasant regime. Foreign policy is not an edition of Radio 4’s Moral Maze. It should be based on a cold calculation of national interest. It is time to get back to basics: the clarity of openly defined sovereign interests and publicly acknowledged spheres of interest. It needs to be clear what is a casus belli and what is not.
As Putin knows, the US and Nato are not going to war to stop Russia turning Crimea or the eastern Ukraine into another South Ossetia – nominally independent, but under Russian control. To quote former US Secretary of State Jim Baker, speaking in the 1990s about the Balkans, “We ain’t got no dog in this fight.” Now, if Putin were to move against the Baltic states, members of Nato, that would be a wholly different matter”.