One of the big surprises I had last week on Saipan was the number of Russian tourists in the hotels I visited after three years’ absence on island. I used to snorkel on the reefs at PIC where a handful or Russians would be in the lobby. Last week, I kicked myself in the butt for not paying more attention to russkij jazyk (Russian) and the Cyrillic (alphabet).
Russia is in the news. Of course, the dickheads in Washington and Brussels immediately threatened economic reprisals when nondescript forces neutralized Ukrainian forces stationed in the Crimea. I will not rehearse Crimea’s history here but not unlike Taiwan to China, it used to be part of Russia until Khrushchev in ’54 unilaterally ceded it to Ukraine, a part of the then-USSR. A majority of Crimea’s population are native Russians, so are those in the eastern part of Ukraine bordering Russia. Obama was not born yet!
I am not for military invasion of any sovereign state by another. It is heartening to watch one of the anchors at the Russia State TV “talk from the heart” about how wrong it was to send the military in what is now dubbed by Western media as Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Putin went on TV where he explained the state of the alleged armed conflict, noting that not a shot had been made, and does not expect a shooting war to ensue where a majority of the Russian population resides. The immediate title of a news release was of Putin losing his cool.
My country’s record is not a happy one. When U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt wanted to build the Panama Canal to cut the cost of crossing from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the territory belonged to Columbia. The U.S. organized local business interests to declare their independence and Teddy got his canal.
Lest I am pigeon holed as un-American, polls in the U.S. reveal widespread sentiment against American intervention in Crimea. I cringe at the language being used by John Kerry, reminiscent of our pronouncements during the Libyan and Syrian uprisings. I vote DP or Independent but some of Obama’s Washington positions would not be mine. Perhaps Ukraine gets the steam off the stalemate in Syria.
The U.S. during the cold war with USSR had Turkey as one of its defense lines. A bit of its territory west of the Dardanelles is Europe; east is Asia. In a time of devolution of centralized powers, the Pentagon is intent on keeping the national boundaries that were left over from colonial times. Allies after WWII agreed not to mess up sovereign states delineated by former occupying powers. The Tutsi and the Hutu rivalries resulted in the Rwandan genocide when Belgium pulled out of the Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi. The Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo are three nations in Nigeria but it is kept together. Oil in Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Kenya is wreaking havoc on tribal relations.
The USSR kept a federation that spoke Russian in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, widely spoken in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. It was taught in the other former Socialist Soviet Republics.
Crimea is a walk in the park compared to the turmoil going on in Syria and Thailand. The only reason Thailand remained sovereign was its buffering function between the French and the British colonies. Central Thailand relates more to Kampuchea, while its southern peninsula culturally relate to the Malays, and the northern mountain folks to the mountainous Indochina and southwestern China.
Sovereign demarcation lines dictated by former colonial powers are suspect. The devolution of power happening in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines will result in more conflicts in the next two decades. Brunei’s royalty is a travesty of modern democratic tradition but England supports it because of its oil, in the same way that Kuwait was carved out of Iraq for the same reason. Timor Leste (literally, east-east) was promised processing and storage structures for its offshore oil and gas reserves (that’s right, other than its being a former Portuguese colony, it also has oil), which has yet to materialize. It’s Petroleum Fund pays for running its government since independence, though Starbuck buys its coffee that contributes to revenues. It is the outsiders that benefit from Timor’s natural resource.
For now, Russia is the bad guy; Putin, the cool but sensual President with the bare chest and abs, is the devil. In Shiwei in the border of China and Russia on the Argun-Amur River were fluent Chinese-speaking Aryan Russians and fluent Russian-speaking Chinese. The shooting wars on disputed territories, mostly islands in the river, near Manzhoulli in Inner Mongolia, and Heihe in Dong Bei (Manchuria) in’69 were triggered by sovereignty claims. It is now conceded that sovereign lines are Beijing-Moscow concerns, not those of the people on the ground.
It would be a crime if Crimea erupts into a shooting war, and it can happen if the armed buttheads in the U.S. and the EU dick their way. Maybe Merkel can turn femme fatale for a change and get us out of the fray. Nein.
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at email@example.com.