Reason and Russia: Part 2

“Reason must be the universal rule and guide; all things must be done according to reason without allowing oneself to be swayed by emotion.”

– Cardinal Richelieu

It’s important to review some history in a calm, rational, and methodical way when thinking about Russia, Crimea, and other neighbouring countries in the region.

A controversial question nowadays is which country should Crimea belong to? Should it be part of Greece, Khazaria, Mongolia, the Venetians, or the Golden Hoard? All ruled all or parts of Crimea.

Perhaps Turkey has one of the most legitimate claims to Crimea. They ruled the peninsula from 1441 to 1783. That’s about 342 years – a significant amount of time.

During the Crimean Khanate the Ottomans sacked Moscow in 1571, essentially burning the entire city to the ground. In addition to constant raids against the Russian and Slavic populations, the Ottoman Khanate, with their Tatar allies, trafficked millions of Russian and Slavic slaves from Crimea to the Ottoman Empire.

This came to an end in 1783 when, under the rule of Catherine the Great, she conquered Crimea from their Ottoman tormenters. Subsequently, Crimea became a Russian Oblast (or State) and then an Uyezd, which is an administrative subdivision of Moscow.

Crimea is also the site of Russia’s main and only warm water military port at Sevastopol.

So when 85 % of Crimea’s population is not Ukrainian and 77 % of Crimean people name Russian as their native language, it would seem strange that Crimea would end up part of Ukraine, how did this happen?

In 1954, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR issued an arbitrary and ambiguous decree transferring Crimea to Ukraine. That’s it. This is what Western powers are going on – a seemingly random, and from witnesses there, a drunken decree from Khrushchev.

In my opinion, that’s not the pinnacle of legitimacy.

I’m relatively sure Khrushchev never thought Ukraine would collude with Western powers for subsidies, steal vast amounts of Russian natural gas and other resources, and line stack pipelines reversing their direction east instead of west causing deaths from hypothermia in western Europe. This happened so Ukraine could bailout a failing and corrupt steel industry.

What’s more, Ukrainian leadership enriched themselves at the expense of Russian national security, attempted to seize Russia’s most strategic naval base, and threatened to join a military alliance traditionally hostile to the Kremlin.

In hindsight, the Crimean decree was a colossal blunder that President Putin is now trying to rectify. I don’t think he has a choice. Particularly when NATO is violating its agreements to Russia that they would stop expanding and empire building eastward.

Let’s recall President George H. W. Bush’s response to members of the Ukrainian nationalist movement in 1991. That he would not support their “suicidal nationalism” based on “ethnic hatred.” I think that is sound advice when you are seeking stability and navigating the complexities of the geographically immense landmass and cultural and ethnic diversity of Eurasia.

Britain’s omnipotence paradox

Omnipotence paradoxes have been examined for millennia. One of the most popular arguments on this subject is if God was omnipotent than he could create a rock he couldn’t lift. If then he could not lift that rock he would no longer be be omnipotent.

The examination of whether God is the author or is bound by logic is always interesting; unfortunately for the “Remain” camp there is no debate whether Parliament is bound by logic. In addition to logic, laws also bind Parliament.

Amongst the most important aspects of British law is parliamentary sovereignty, which is, as defined by Dicey:

“The principle of Parliamentary sovereignty means neither more nor less than this, namely, that Parliament thus defined has, under the English constitution, the right to make or unmake any law whatever; and, further, that no person or body is recognised by the law of England as having a right to override or set aside the legislation of Parliament.”

Thus, as the “Remain” camp puts it, “no person” or persons can override the laws passed by Parliament and the Brexit referendum result must be thrown out. This is true. However, if the laws of parliamentary sovereignty exist as defined above, and capable of refuting a popular referendum, than that law must be applied consistently and equally.

According to EU law, or Community law, the European Court of Justice has ruled in Costa v ENEL that Community law takes primacy over national laws. Furthermore, legal superiority of Community law over the laws of Parliament were implemented in the UK under the European Communities Act section 2(1) when Britain joined the EU in 1973.

Therefore, if parliamentary sovereignty can legally be applied to negate a referendum, then it must also be exercised to leave the EU because, as defined above, “no person or body is recognised by the law of England as having a right to override or set aside the legislation of Parliament.” In this case, the “Remain” camp is defeated by their own reasoning – Brexit wins.

If, on the other hand, parliamentary sovereignty no longer is sanctioned as described above, then Parliament must recognise the result of the referendum. Brexit still wins.

One response to omnipotence paradoxes is that God cannot perform absurdities but can do anything only according to His nature. And so it is with British Parliament.

The European Union would be wise to remember what Lucretius once wrote, “Thus the sum of things is ever being reviewed,” and the ensuing question should be asked: which domino will fall next?

 

Britain leaving the EU is necessary and an important precedent for the democratic world

Barack Obama is against Brexit – so what? That would be putting a very small cart before an enormous horse for without British institutions and common law, and without British political philosophy, the US executive branch probably would have never come into existence in the first place.

Likewise, global institutions such as the IMF, UN, and the OECD are also against Brexit – but it should be noted these organisations are recipients of substantial amounts of money from the EU so their objective opinion should be treated with some scepticism.

In the media you can hear academics, CEOs, various important analysts, etc…predict an economic apocalypse and the collapse of the Sterling if Britain were to vote to leave the EU. However, it’s important to remember these are the same folks who forecasted the decline and fall of London as a global financial centre if the UK voted not to adopt the Euro currency. Well, the UK didn’t adopt the Euro and London experienced a financial renaissance where decline in economic growth largely mirrored increasing European integration in the Eurozone over the past four decades. With the advantage of hindsight, we can see the post-apocalyptical, Europhile analysis was dead wrong. I think it will probably be again.

British Prime Minister, David Cameron, is in the remain camp. He asserts that Britain has always been a European power since the time of the Romans. Yet, there is a difference between being a European power and being powered from Europe.

Direct representative democracy originated in Britain. Parliamentary sovereignty derived from represenative democracy and is arguably the most important feature in Britain’s un-codified constitution. Whether this advancement began in 1215 or later with William Blackstone in the late 18th century or even posterior in the 19th century when reading Dicey, I will leave that debate to the faculty lounge. The important point is that it was a process and it exists today.

It is the greatest endowment Britain gave the world.

It is the very soul of Britain.

This political system is the reason why most stable and rich democracies adopted it. It’s the reason why billions of people live in prosperous countries in peace. It’s the reason why mercantilism, fascism, Nazism, and communism were defeated. Most importantly it holds the individual over the vast, Byzantine bureaucracies of the State because there is a direct relationship between the elected and the electorate.

In brief, the EU is not a democratic institution.[1] The real power brokers of the EU, whether it is European Council President Donald Tusk, the president of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, or EU Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, the important commom denominator is that no one voted for them (you probably never even heard of them). There is an elected body in the EU, the European Parliament, but because the Commission has the sole right to propose legislation, it’s essentially powerless. Additionally, the European Parliament encompasses an unwieldy group of communists, fascists, socialists, Berlusconi’s bimbos, and, in general, a place where professional politicians go to die.

For Britain to sell its sovereignty and forfeit its democracy to these un-elected bureaucrats in return for some perceived sense of potential GDP growth is unforgivable and absurd. Nor do you need to join a political union in order to engage in free and amicable trade with neighboring countries.

The antiquated model of custom unions, like the EU, will eventually be tossed into the waste paper basket of history. Britain will eventually leave at some point and probably some other countries as well, particularly Greece, just like they were kicked out of the Latin Monetary Union in the beginning of the 20th century. This is inevitable. It will probably be best to get out now than suffer under the regulatory burden, the taxation without representation, and the countless, faceless committees that make up the EU for much longer.

Britain, please don’t sell your soul to the elitist professional bureaucrats, the academics, or to the special interest groups that are telling you to do the opposite.

[1] For more information please see (https://christophergrace.org/2016/02/05/is-the-eus-democratic-deficit-causing-more-problems-than-its-solving/)

Defending UKip

Margie 1

Published in Financial Times, September 29, 2014

Sir, I am increasingly becoming somewhat confused by a series of opinion pieces written from Niall Ferguson, apparently former Thatcherite, now suddenly the great pro-EU centrist. Again in the FT, Niall Ferguson has likened Nigel Farage and UKip to “populists” and neo-Nazi parties like Golden Dawn. Mr Ferguson said last year in a debate that the EU has had nothing to do with peace in Europe and “Europe has to be judged in its own terms, and its own terms have always been economic. How did it do? In the 1950’s it grew at 4 per cent, in the 1960’s it was about the same. In the 1970’s 2.8 per cent, in the 1980’s 2.1 per cent, in the 1990’s 1.7 per cent and so on down to 0. As integration has proceeded European growth has declined. The share of Europe in global GDP has fallen since 1980 from 31 per cent to just 19 per cent….” Now, a bit bizarrely, in “Scotland’s No echoes Europe’s Yes to grand coalitions” (comment September 22nd) Mr Ferguson lauds the grand and largely unelected coalitions that encompass the Byzantine institutions of the EU. Ukip wants to leave the EU because they believe in freer markets and self rule; two things Mr Ferguson’s hero Mrs Thatcher would agree with; I have no doubt that if Mrs Thatcher were alive today, she would probably be a member of UKip. After reading Mr Ferguson’s last opinion pieces on populism and UKip I can hear Mrs Thatcher screaming, “No, no, no,” from her grave.

Christopher Grace

New York, NY

The West may be wrong about Ukraine and Russia

Blog pipelinesUkraine verse Russia: A different perspective

 March 3rd 2015

“At the proposal of the Russian Imperial Government, made through the minister of the Emperor residing here, a full power and instructions have been transmitted to the Minister of the United States at St. Petersburgh to arrange, by amicable negotiation, the respective rights and interests of the two nations on the northwest coast of this continent…. In the discussions to which this interest has given rise, and in the arrangements by which they may terminate the occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers…”

This excerpt from the Monroe Doctrine, stated in 1823, and ironically, made possible via negotiations with the Russian Empire, was a warning to European powers who sought to meddle or intervene in the Western hemisphere. This doctrine attempted, albeit passively, in the early 19th century to protect the peoples and countries of the Americas from potential external colonisers.

By 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt added his Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The addition avowed to uphold order, offer protection, and safeguard the interests of the United States and the countries of the Americas; this included the use of US military force if necessary. President Roosevelt affirmed the United States would “exercise international police power in ‘flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence’” to avoid “foreign aggression to the detriment of the entire body of American nations.”

Effectively, by the beginning of the 20th century, the United States had established a sphere of influence throughout the entire Western hemisphere. A mere cursory glance of 20th century history in the Americas confirms this. The U.S. has intervened, either covertly or blatantly, in Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Chile, Grenada, Guatemala, and other countries. This foreign policy stance has changed or been relaxed, somewhat, since the end of the Cold War, however, still today, whether it’s Cuban sanctions, Guantanamo Bay or Mexican and Argentine debt restructuring, there is little doubt who commands “preponderance” in the America’s, as elaborated by Secretary Condoleezza Rice to the Russian Federation during the Bush years.

It’s perhaps a bold posture for a nation and a people who have only inhabited a country for little more than 200 years. Yet, it would be difficult to find many citizens of the United States, either working in the public or private sector that would disagree with the Monroe Doctrine Roosevelt’s Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, or the United States’ regional power and influence.

It’s disputed when the Slavic peoples first appeared in historical records but most historians agree it was sometime between the 8th and 10th centuries when Viking peoples came down the Dnieper River and established trading posts around Kyiv to conduct commerce with Byzantium. These Norsemen intermingled with local Slavic populations, who, eventually were converted to Christianity by missionaries from Constantinople. Most notable were Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, from whom the Slavic alphabets are derived. Christianity in Kyiv took firmer hold in the 980’s with the conversion of Vladimir Sviatoslavich the Great (Valdamarr Sveinaldsson in Norse), prince of Novgorod, grand prince of Kyiv, and prince of the Rus.

In short, the Russian people for the past 1,000 years have traced their religious, cultural, ethnic, and linguistic origins from the Rus people who originated in Kyiv and the surrounding areas. In history, the principality of Kyiv often included parts of modern day Russia, and later, many parts of Kyiv were united with the principality of Muscovy, which of course, became modern day Moscow and the centre of the Russian Empire.

Additionally, throughout its history, Kyiv and various parts of Ukraine were not only controlled by Russia, but also by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Poland, Mongols, the Turks and the Hapsbourg Empire; in brief, despite some Ukrainian nationalist sentiment in the mid-nineteenth century, Ukraine has never enjoyed a cohesive demos amongst its population or coherent boarders geographically. More importantly, Ukraine was divided between Poland and Russia in 1686 as part of the Eternal Peace treaty; later in the18th century, as Poland itself was being partitioned between Prussia, the Hapsbourgs, and Russia, Ukraine was divided along the Dnieper River between Austria and Russia. To underscore the ancient and profound divisions existing in Ukraine, even up into modern times, during WWI approximately 3 million Ukrainians, east of the Dnieper, fought for Russia under the Triple Entente while hundreds of thousands of others, west of the Dnieper, fought with Austria in the Central Powers Alliance. Moreover, many Ukrainians fought with Hitler against Russia. In all of Ukraine’s history, the only time it has been mostly united was at the eve of WWII when the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement was implemented and east Galica and Volhynia were absorbed by the USSR. This being the case, under the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, which is recognised in the Americas, the Badinter Arbitration Committee, recognised by the EU, and by most other norms of international law, a State is only a State, inter alia, if it has a territory, a population, and a central political authority; yet Ukraine’s ability to meet these standards for a millennia, and even after 1994, have been tentative at best. In fact, even the name “Ukraine” is a recently developed term. Ukraine means borderlands and thus was always known as “the Ukraine” or the borderlands.

Regarding Crimea, historically it was home to many peoples including Greeks, the Rus, Byzantines, Venetians, and a variety of peoples form the Caucuses until the Mongol invasion in the 13th century. By the 16th century, Crimea was a Tartar Khanate allied with the Ottoman Turks and a major staging area for the exportation of Slavic slaves to the Ottoman Empire. Crimea was conquered by Catherine the Great in 1783 and has been considered amongst Russia’s most strategic assets and the site of its only warm water port at Sevastopol. In 1954, Crimea was given to modern Ukraine by Khrushchev (probably during a drunken stupor) in return for Ukraine’s membership in the USSR; a handover, nevertheless, still considered as illegitimate by most Russians.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s, a humiliated Russia was broken apart. Many former republics of the Soviet Union were only too happy to break away and try something new, many of them with good reason, and most of them, like Poland, Czechoslovakia (at the time), and the Baltic countries were already considered coherent States with distinguishable ethnic populations by the international community long before the Russian Empire and Soviet times. In the east, many of the Khanates conquered by the Russians (mostly as a counter-offensive against the ancestors of the Golden Horde) in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries also sought to be independent, though many still maintain strong Russian ties.

Russia, in its Cold War defeat has been more or less conciliatory; vast regions, long considered buffer States within the Russian sphere, have joined the European Union, other Western institutions, and NATO with little or no protest from the Kremlin; amen to that.

So what’s the problem with Ukraine now? To answer that we will have to take a look at another perspective of the Russian historical experience and Russian subsidies in Ukraine since Ukrainian “independence.”

At the beginning of the 13th century, Mongols i.e. the Golden Horde, coming from the east, conquered and subjugated the Russian peoples. For the next two centuries, the principalities encompassing the modern-day territories of the Russian peoples were terrorised, brutalised, and economically savaged by tribute paying to the Mongols. Simultaneously, Lithuania, the Poles, and Teutonic princes advanced from the west, and, by profiting from an enervated Russia, they carved out large chunks of land for themselves. According to Peter Hopkirk, author of the “Great Game,” this Russian fear of encirclement from the east and west was persistently reinforced in modern times with invasions by the Swedes in 1708, the French invasion under Napoleon in 1812, WWI, and Operation Barbarossa in 1941. In the east Russia was habitually harassed and enslaved, post-Mongol times, by Tartars, Turks, and various Central Asian tribes that were offshoots of the Golden Horde. Mr Hopkirk writes:

“Rarely has an experience left such deep and long lasting-lasting scars on a nation’s psyche as this did on the Russians. It goes far towards explaining their historic xenophobia (especially towards eastern peoples), their often aggressive foreign policy, and their stoical acceptance of tyranny at home.”

Today, in the west, Russia sees an increasingly centralised Europe under the EU flag in Brussels, NATO expansion, and potential missile sites in Poland and the Czech Republic; to the east there is the rise of a powerful and assertive China; in Russia’s south they are feeling the barbaric impacts of the growth of radical Islamic terrorism and overall chaos throughout the Levant and Middle East. Crimea has been part of Russia since 1783; that’s longer than the United States has even been a country. It is also, as mentioned above, the location of Russia’s only warm water port, which makes it absolutely critical to the Kremlin’s national security and, without its control, would instinctively contribute to Russia’s anxieties of encirclement exponentially.

Secondly, Russian-Ukrainian relations have been defined by energy, particularly, the flow of natural gas from Central Asia and Russia to Ukraine and onwards from Ukraine to the European Union. This alone is a topic of extensive research and debate. Nonetheless, in order to be brief, Russia is often accused of using natural gas as a political weapon against Ukraine. Most notably in 2006 and 2009 when natural gas transits through Ukraine were cut off causing temporary supply crises in Eastern and Central European EU states. The gas disputes, coincidentally, also corresponded with the election of the pro-Western government of President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Tymoshenko after the Orange Revolution.

However, the narrative often played in the West, that Russia is the big, bad bully to little oppressed Ukraine is simply not true. Whether Ukrainian leaders are described as “pro-West,” like Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, or “pro-Kremlin,” like Yanukovych and Kuchma, it doesn’t really matter. They are all cut from the same cloth – all are political and business oligarchs with more unsavoury histories than any Mafioso. In general, they are fighting each other, via complex intermediaries and subsidiaries, over who personally gets what natural gas royalties where and at what price; whether prices be net-forwarded from the Central Asian frontier (as in the past), or, more recently, net-backed from the EU.

Regarding these gas conflicts, whether happening internally between Ukrainian political elites, or spilling across borders between the EU, Russia, and Central Asia, the one true fact is that whether it’s the Ukrainian people staying warm in winter (whilst paying almost nothing) or Ukrainian industry, such as steel (accounting for 40 per cent of exports), they both have been for decades subsidised and supported by cheap Russian natural gas. If this isn’t true, than why is Ukraine’s national oil and gas company, Naftogaz, bankrupt at the end of every year? Because no Ukrainian government would survive a winter with a freezing population; so Naftogaz essentially gives Russian gas away to its people for nothing. The big industries pay a little more while the rest is sold, via Ukrainian and Russian intermediaries, to the EU, where most of the profits are made. However, these profits flow into the bank accounts of Ukrainian oligarchs and not into the coffers of Naftogaz leaving the taxpayer to bail out Naftogaz at the end of almost every year.

Is the Kremlin completely innocent or purely altruistic? No, but which global power is? Logically, they want to keep Ukraine close strategically and afloat economically. However, Russian energy subsidies and economic benefits to Kyiv, have been in return, thanked by continuous Ukrainian theft of Russian natural gas and an inability/ unwillingness to compensate Moscow even for far below-market priced hydrocarbons. Ukraine is, essentially, a principal energy miscreant of Europe. Like a troublesome child, Yanukovych, the president before the current one, played the EU versus Russia to maximise whatever benefits he could possibly get from either.

For example, President Yanukovych, had planned to sign an economic and political association agreement with the EU (the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement), however, in 2013-2014, Yanukovych got a better deal from Putin and sided with the Kremlin, triggering protests in Kyiv. These protests began with EU-phile students but ended up with armed neo-Nazi Ukrainian nationalists overthrowing the democratically elected government of Yanukovych in 2014. The current administration under President Poroshenko was later installed.

As just mentioned, the latest revolution brought to status a variety of Ukrainian neo-Nazi political and paramilitary parties. These groups include Right Sector and Tryzub led by Dmytro Yarosh, Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self Defense (UNA–UNSO), Patriot Ukraine, Social-National Assembly, White Hammer, and Carpathian Sich. Many of these neo-Nazi paramilitary groups have tens of thousands of members, are heavily armed, and are violently indoctrinated against Russia and the ethnic and Russian speaking people of eastern and southern Ukraine. These parties are now fighting combat missions with the Ukrainian normal military and it can be expected any lethal or non-lethal aid would evidently be given to these groups. Russia is not so weak and it is not so humiliated as it once was and they will fight back against what they feel are Western backed Ukrainian nationalists/neo-Nazis. Surely, war with Russia (and for what?) must be a reason for pause and contemplation for the US and its allies.

If the US, during its brief history, can justify countless policing interventions in its near and very far abroad, unquestionably it might try to at least understand the Russian Federation’s interests in events taking place in provinces directly on its borders and once considered its own. If Western diplomats are surprised over Putin’s actions in Ukraine and Crimea one might be forced to consider what exactly their citizens are paying them for. Of all historical certainties, one must be that Russia has generally leaned to the side of protecting other ethnic Russian peoples. How can the US expect anything else when neo-Nazi’s, like Mr Yarosh, with his allies in the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament), are running about with automatic Kalashnikovs and now potentially weapons from the US.

Aristotle said decisions should derive from desire and reasoning directed to some end. In this particular case, what are the US and the EU’s desire? What is their end?

Is it to enter into a proxy war against Russia by supporting the Ukrainian nationalist? This would certainly inflame the conflict, a conflict Ukraine cannot possibly win and for what? It would wholly destroy Ukraine’s economy and the hryvnia, cause the death of far more people, and create a depression in Russia that would probably damage Europe’s economy more than Moscow’s.

What if for some inexplicable reason Russia surrenders, admits defeat, is humiliated, or something to that extent? Will ethnic Ukrainian Russians want to be governed by Ukrainian nationalists, or vice versa? Most likely not, and, consequently, this will also aggravate a civil conflict. Without Russian economic aid and energy subsidies, Ukraine’s economy and the hryvnia will, again, wholly collapse, leaving Ukraine to be bailed out by some sort of troika made up of the EU, the US, and the IMF.

The EU is already having difficulty, amongst a plethora of other things, with bailing out Greece, an economy the size of Missouri. Additionally, the EU is suffering from its own secular stagnation and deflationary problems so it is questionable whether it will be much help to the Ukraine financially. Policy wise, the 28 members of the EU will have to vote unanimously on any foreign policy stance regarding Russia moving forward. With Greece, Cypress, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and possibly a few other member states, already wavering on Russian sanctions, it will be hard to say if the EU will even have a common strategy in the near future.

Best case scenario, the probable outcomes would leave the US, and maybe part of the EU, alone to either: 1) aid dubious Ukrainian nationalists with neo-Nazi connections to prolong a conflict the Ukrainians will eventually lose. Or: 2) aid dubious Ukrainian nationalists with neo-Nazi connections to prolong a conflict with Russia that the US eventually wins; then be left alone to bail-out a Ukrainian economy in total shambles and prop up, according to the World Bank, one of the most corrupt political systems in the world; of course, only until everyone loses interest and Ukraine falls back into the Russian sphere at some point in the future anyway.

Neither the United States nor the European Union has a security agreement with Ukraine. Putin is not a lunatic with a fanatical idée fixe. Nor is he going to march his armies across Europe. He wants respect and regional influence, just as the US, the EU, and most other powers seek and actively sustain. The US, the EU, and Russia have a lot in common and could accomplish much if they worked together on the basis of mutual respect. Let’s try, for once, to think this one through; what is our desire? What is the end?