Staunton, March 1 – A bill being pushed in the Russian Duma to allow Russia to “absorb and form new subjects,” one that promotes the idea that local referenda can trump international agreements, could backfire on the country and even lead to its destruction, according to a Moscow commentator.
Writing on the Kasparov.ru site yesterday, Irek Murtazin says that it is clear those behind the measure want to create a legal fiction that would allow them to make an end run around international law and to absorb parts of neighboring states without the agreement of the governments of those states (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5310CD26DBD2A).
But those backing the measure forget that two can play that game. What will happen, Murtazin says, “if tomorrow a similar law is adopted by China, Japan, or Mongolia, by Ukraine or Belarus? And then across all of Russia, ‘a part of another state’ begins to conduct referenda about unification?”
“If Tyva, for example, wants to combine with Mongolia? A couple of districts of Orenburg with Kazakhstan? Taganrog and Novorossiisk to join to Ukraine? And Smolensk and Pskov with Belarus?” If any of those things happen, what will the Russian backers of this new measure say? That is “contradicts international law” given what they have done.
Clearly this measure is being pushed because of a desire in Moscow to spark a civil war in Ukraine over Crimea. But if Ukraine might be the first victim, “Russia would suffer most of all,” Murtazin says. Doesn’t anyone in the regime understand that? Or do they assume that the world will allow Russia to act in ways it would not allow anyone else?
But even if those things don’t happen, even if the West continues to defer to Moscow and permit it to do what it would not allow anyone else, Russia will still suffer from this law and its application. It will find it harder to export its oil and gas, and it may very well face serious refugee flows.
Russians should be thinking about all these risks before adopting such a dangerous piece of legislation, Murtazin says. One can only add that so should the leaders of the West who need to recognize not only how dangerous this law would be in the short term but how it would reinforce Moscow’s view of international acceptance of Russian exceptionalism.
Boris Vishnevsky, a Yabloko deputy in St. Petersburg’s legislative assembly, puts the challenge to the West Putin has laid down in even more stark terms. He says that what is happening in Crimea recalls Hitler’s move into the Sudetenland, where initially German forces were welcomed with flowers (echo.msk.ru/blog/boris_vis/1269148-echo/).
That leaves open, of course, another and potentially more important question, he suggests. Will there be a new Munich?