For the first time in my life, I would like nothing more than for Seamus Milne and Owen Jones to be right.
A fortnight ago, Russia invaded Ukraine. This may be that Vladimir Putin is a revanchist autocrat. Or it may be the fault of the United States. It could well be that, as long as Putin remains in office, the European Union will have to deal with an aggressive and expansionist neighbour. Or it could be that Putin’s Russia is no worse than Barack Obama’s America. And, honestly, I would like nothing better than for Jones and Milne to be right: because it seems to me that one of the best things about being born in 1990 is that you do not have to worry very much about nuclear catastrophe.
The problem is, I cannot quite convince myself. It might be that you can successfully apply the Milne thesis to Russia’s incursion into the Crimea, but it is something of a stretch to extend it to South Ossetia and Chechnya. There is a glimmer of truth to the Jones argument: the nations of the west have intervened in countless countries during the past two decades. But the similarities between Russia and the west are outweighed by one important difference, and it is this: Mitt Romney is not under house arrest, Tea party activists do not go missing in the night, and the Scottish referendum will not be rigged.
It is easy to list things about the US or the UK that we do not like, but it is more important to remember that in 2016, after Scotland votes to remain part of the union, the Scottish people will have the opportunity to re-elect a separatist government; if you think that the Crimeans will have a similar opportunity under Putin, I have a bridge to sell you in Volgograd.
The trouble, though, is what happens once we accept that what we are seeing in Crimea is not something we can simply blame on America, or wish away as the whims of a powerful nation? Perhaps, if Jones and Milne are not right, we might simply pretend that they are: perhaps Crimea is a price we are willing to pay for some peace of mind.
The consequences of western reaction – or lack thereof – will not remain in Ukraine, however. Douglas Alexander has spelt out out the consequences in stark terms:
Russia emboldened … a central Europe fearful of future political destabilisation and military insecurity; and a United States increasingly concerned about Europe’s willingness to act, even diplomatically and economically, in the face of such threats.
Russia is a resource giant led by a man who regards the loss of prestige experienced after 1991 as a global catastrophe. Whether it is over Crimea or the Baltics or simply whether or not the lights come on, sooner or later, Europe will have to find a solution to its Russian problem. When it comes, that solution is unlikely to involve blaming the US.
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