Is Crimea A Clarion Call For Separatists Everywhere?
Posted 06:43 PM ET
Secession: Following Sunday's forced referendum and despite U.S. and European Union sanctions, it looks like Russia will succeed in separating Crimea from Ukraine. Are the borders of every country now up for grabs?
We've heard all the arguments, including that Crimea's population is 58% Russian, and that it was only in 1954, during the Soviet era under Nikita Khrushchev — himself a Ukrainian — that it became part of Ukraine.
But allowing Crimea to be pried away from Ukraine by threat of force after Russia's fraudulent referendum sends a signal to disgruntled regions of the world that, when it comes to borders, might indeed makes right.
The world is full of long-simmering separatist grudges — Kurds in Iran, Iraq and Turkey; Uighurs and Tibetans in China; Chechens in Russia; Basques in Spain; Northern Italy from the rest of Italy. And so on.
We could list hundreds of such conflicts.
Indeed, most countries have some kind of longtime, intractable separatist movement. Some are just, some are not. But inspired — if that's the right word — by Crimea being hacked off from Ukraine, such sentiment is now flaring up dangerously around the world.
Scotland is threatening to vote for independence from the U.K., a move, the British Telegraph says, that might "bring down the next (British) government."
Meanwhile, Venice and the surrounding Veneto region will vote this week on whether to become a separate country from Italy.
And in Canada, polls before an April 7 election in French-speaking Quebec show the separatist Parti Quebecois in the lead. If it wins, it will almost certainly call for a referendum to leave Canada.
Even the U.S., believe it or not, has its own separatist impulses. Heck, our country was a separatist movement — that's how we became a nation.
Yet today, some Mexican-American politicians and radical leftists in the Southwest openly talk of a "reconquista," separating from the U.S. to rejoin Mexico. Based on Crimea's model, all they need is 51% in a referendum and America as we know it will no longer exist.
And let's not forget that Alaska, our largest state, was once part of Russia, and that there are still ethnic Russians up there. Think Putin and his hypernationalist followers wouldn't like that resource-rich land back?
When Rome's Empire dissolved, so did the Pax Romana and Europe's borders. The continent sank into 500 years of darkness and war. Today, a weak and irresolute U.S. could have a similar impact on the modern world.
No, we don't think all separatist movements are unjust. But opening up willy-nilly to major changes in borders based on referendums held by hostile powers is a recipe for global disaster — civil war on a global scale.
If you don't believe it, just ask Israel. Its nationhood hangs by a thread because the "international community" encourages the claim of Arabs to Israeli land.
Borders must matter, or the rule of law ceases. Letting a sovereign nation's borders be erased solely based on a fraudulent vote, as in Crimea, is a dangerous precedent.