Those who have spent a moderate amount of time looking at the situation in Ukraine over the past 18 months fully understand the profoundly important point made by ACEWA about the near absence of serious debate in America. Because of that absence, ACEWA members have come together to promote discussion and addressing of extremely concerning issues which in their view suffer from unwise neglect and/or ignorance.
The organization’s members’ goal is beginning an open, civilized, informed debate in America on relations between the United States, Europe and Russia, of which: “There may be no precedent for such an absence of American democratic discourse at such a fateful moment.”
After visiting Mr. vanden Heuvel’s blog at ambassadorsperspectives.wordpress.com and reading a number of articles by former United States ambassadors to nations around the world, one post stood out as particularly relevant today. It was written by former Ambassador John Price on March 25, 2014 – days after Crimea became part of Russia – an event that ACEWA recognizes as, among other important East-West issues, one of the main topics for the much-needed open, civilized, informed debate in America.
John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005)
Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s March 25, 2014 blog post
On Friday March 21 President Vladimir Putin signed the annexation treaty making Ukraine’s autonomous Crimea region a part of Russia. The port city of Sevastopol on the Black Sea, home to Russia’s naval fleet in the region, was included.
Russia flexing its muscle in Crimea was reminiscent of the World War II Stalin era. It was in 1944 that the minority Muslim Tatar’s were deported from Crimea, and shipped off to the Urals. Stalin had accused them of collaborating with the Nazis. Thousands of Tatars died along the way. Ironically male Tatars were serving in the Soviet army at the time. Upon their return home they found their families gone.
As the Cold War was ending in 1989 the exiled Tatars were allowed to return to their ancestral homes in Crimea. Many of the 250,000 Tatars living in the region still remember vividly being expelled from Crimea by the Soviets. They see Putin as Stalin’s protégé, and fear for the future. A number of Tatar’s have joined the ranks of the Islamist rebels fighting in Syria, attempting to oust President Bashar al-Assad, who Putin supports.
In Crimea ethnic Russians represent 60 percent of the population. Last weekend they were celebrating the annexation in the capital, Simferopol. The Tatars were not so jubilant, since they were required to make a decision–either to accept Russian passports or risk losing their property.
(Originally written on March 25, 2014)
The Tatar jihadists in Syria are joined by Chechen and North Caucasian Islamists affiliated with Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar. These extremists have extensive combat experience, and could return to undertake attacks against the Russians in Crimea. Peace in the region may be short lived.
Islamists issuing a “fatwa”—a declaration of war against the Russians–could bring thousands of Islamist extremists to the region from around the world. The Europeans should be concerned since the terrorists could reach their soil. The saber-rattling and economic sanctions will not stop Russia’s integration of Crimea, which has a historical relationship.
The Caucasus Emirate, including the break-away republic of Chechnya, is a confederation of twelve regional provinces that are predominantly Muslim. Their goal is to expel Russian presence from the North Caucasus, and create an independent Islamic State ruled under Sharia.
Caucasus Emirate Islamists could create instability throughout the region in support of the Tatars in Crimea. They have been responsible for terrorist attacks and bombings in Russia, including an apartment building in 1999, a theater in 2002, a school in 2004, a high-speed train in 2009, the Moscow Metro in 2010, the Moscow’s airport in 2011, in Dagestan in 2012, and a number of suicide attacks in southern Russia in 2013. The Tsarnaev brothers, who undertook the Boston Marathon bombings in April 2013, are both ethnic Chechens having trained there.
(Originally written on March 25, 2014)
Mr. Putin supports Syria’s ruler Bashar al-Assad, and has now indicated that he may not coöperate with the international community to help destroy Syria’s chemical weapons cache. Syria is in its third year of a chaotic civil war in which tribal, ethnic, religious, and Islamist factions are fighting for control. There are over 11,000 Islamists in Syria coming from nearby Arab countries, Europe, and Iran which is also an ally of al-Assad. Regime change will bring about a vacuous situation, which could allow Islamists to take control.
We need Mr. Putin’s cooperation if there is the slightest chance of finding a solution in Syria. Ousting al-Assad will not bring peace or democracy to this fractious country. His minority Alawite tribal members live in fear of annihilation. The U.S.-NATO incursion into Libya emboldened al-Qaeda linked Islamists who captured and killed Col. Muammar Gaddafi, and in his hometown of Sirte slaughtered many of the Warfalla tribal members.
Since then democratic institutions have failed to take hold in Libya. Instability in the country has seen attacks on government officials, foreign diplomats, and international aid workers. In 2012 Islamists attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
Islamists in Libya now control three major shipping ports in eastern Libya. They also control large swaths of the country, including the oil-producing sites in the southern desert. Oil exports to Europe have all but ceased, since the government has not been able to stop the Islamists from taking control.
(Originally written on March 25, 2014)
Libya has the largest oil reserves in Africa, and the 5th largest in the world. Europeans import 85 percent of Libya’s oil and depend on the source. Since Gaddafi had threatened to cut off supplies on several occasions the European countries needed to consider alternative sources from Russia or Iran. The military incursion to remove Gaddafi offered the opportunity that the flow of oil would continue to Europe. Now the sanctions against Russia has the European leaders wringing their hands, since Russia as a major trading partner controls the natural gas, and possible access to oil sources.
The imposed sanctions could backfire, if Mr. Putin halts cooperation on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons and Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov recently stated, “We wouldn’t like to take advantage of these negotiations as an element of gambling with a higher ante,” adding that Crimea’s reunification with Russia far outweighs the developments surrounding the Iranian nuclear program.
Russia’s takeover of Crimea is a “fait accompli”. As such we need to continue to focus on controlling Syria’s chemical weapons, and Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. President Obama’s current trip to Europe needs focus more on these issues, and not overly denounce Mr. Putin’s annexation of Crimea.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) insisting that we install the scrapped missile defense system in Poland and Czech Republic could further exacerbate the tenuous situation with Russia. There will be an opportunity in the future to address that issue. But for now finding alternative natural gas and oil sources for Europe seems to be a more pressing issue.
President Obama needs to find a diplomatic solution, with hopes that Russia will reverse its acquisition of Crimea. We need to immediately engage the Tatar, and Caucasus Emirate leaders so as to avoid retaliation and terrorist attacks which could destabilize Europe. The planned U.S. military exercises with Ukrainian troops in Russia’s backyard will further exacerbate the crisis. If we are not careful we could be inching closer to World War III. (emphasis added – Please note Mr. Price wrote this on March 25, 2014)
While Mr. Obama is in Europe he should plan to have a beer with Mr. Putin to get better acquainted. This could be the beginning of a friendship and better understanding each other’s goals. World leaders may misunderstand Mr. Putin’s real motives, and overestimate his desire of rebuilding the Russian Empire. Spending time together socially might diminish the hostility, and even reach a diplomatic resolution to the Crimea standoff—it’s worth a try.
Originally written/posted on March 25, 2014 | ambassadorsperspectives.wordpress.com
To fully illustrate how important it is for men and women of ACEWA’s efforts to become supported, effective, successful, widely known and disseminated: Mr. Price wrote “If we are not careful we could be inching closer to World War III” – fifteen months ago.
Mission Statement of The American Committee for East-West Accord:
The Committee for East-West Accord is a nonpartisan, tax-exempt educational organization of American citizens from different professions — business, academia, government service, science, law, and others — who are deeply concerned about the possibility of a new (potentially even more dangerous) cold war between the United States/Europe and Russia. Our fundamental premise is that no real or lasting American, European, or international security generally is possible without essential kinds of stable coöperation with Russia.
Since early 2014, we have therefore watched with growing dismay as East-West coöperation created over decades — in diplomacy, arms control, economics, energy, education, science, space, culture, even in preventing nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and environmental threats — have been heedlessly discarded or gravely endangered. While experts warn of an unfolding new nuclear arms race, and with it the risk those weapons may actually be used, there may already be less East-West cooperation than existed during the latter decades of the preceding cold war.
And yet, these looming dangers, whose immediate cause was the U.S./EU -Russian confrontation over the future of Ukraine but whose origins lie in policy decisions taken and not taken on both sides since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, have developed virtually without any significant public debate in the United States — in Congress, the mainstream media, academia, think tanks, or anywhere else that might influence the course of events. There may be no precedent for such an absence of American democratic discourse at such a fateful moment.
The primary mission of the Committee is to promote such discussion about East-West relations and thus to create broad public awareness of the new dangers and of ways to end them. The Committee encourages open, civilized, informed debate of all the related issues, current and past, among Americans with different, even opposing, positions, perspectives, and proposals. And the Committee seeks to do this in as many ways as possible,including an informational website for engaging individuals and other groups; sponsoring or cosponsoring public events in Washington, at universities, and across the country; and in the national media, including social media.
The Committee is new but not without a distinguished predecessor. Its name derives from The American Committee on East-West Accord, a pro-detente organization founded in 1974 by illustrious Americans — among them, CEOs of multinational corporations, political figures, educational leaders, and policy thinkers such as George F. Kennan. That Committee, believing cold war had ended, closed its doors in 1992, though not before being credited with having contributed to the historic agreements reached by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. Bush, and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985-1991.
Today’s need for something akin to a new détente is no less imperative. And the new Committee for East-West Accord, which expects to be joined soon by an affiliated European branch in Brussels, strives for even more: A conclusive end to cold war and its attendant dangers.
Please vigorously support and strongly promote the urgent, vital work of The American Committee for East-West Accord. Thank you.