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What if the Crimea poll had been legitimate?

22 March 2014

5:15 PM

22 March 2014

5:15 PM

Just wondering: what would we be doing now about Crimea if the referendum a week ago had been done nicely? I know it’s not a good time to ask what with protestors storming bases in the east occupied by Ukrainian forces, but it seems pretty fundamental to me.

The PM yesterday opined that the poll had been conducted ‘at the barrel of a Kalashnikov’ and was a twentieth century way of doing things (interesting put-down, that). And indeed, there’s no gainsaying that it was done in an inordinate hurry, that the entire exercise was conducted in the presence of about 20,000 troops – Russian supporting, or just Russian, take your pick – the opposition had next to no opportunity to conduct a counter-campaign, the option of keeping the status quo wasn’t even on the ballot paper and the turnout was quite embarrassingly excessive in places such as Sevastopol. So, not an object lesson in how to get a democratic mandate, then, even if it weren’t that anyone in favour – Tatars and many Ukrainians – simply boycotted the thing.

But, I repeat, if it had been nicely done, what would our reaction have been? Because the reality is that the result would unquestionably have been the same. Maybe with a two thirds majority rather than a nine in ten one, but still overwhelming. An embarrassingly large majority of people in Crimea want to be in Russia, not Ukraine.

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Now, I do appreciate that exercises in self-determination are only as valid as their context. I should, for instance, take a dusty view of a poll on secession conducted by Serbs in the north of Kosovo on whether they’d like to unite with Serbia; if you draw a line around a disgruntled ethnic minority and hold a vote inside it, well, you’re bound to get a majority result, but not a valid one. Just like the Serb Republic in Bosnia, which is an internal border around an ethnically cleansed land grab; if you asked its inhabitants if they’d like to unite with Serbia, I think we know what they’d say. Whereas I did very strongly take the view that the constituent parts of the former Yugoslavia, including Kosovo, were entitled to self-determination from the Yugoslav federation, on the basis that they were, are, coherent entities.

The critical factor about polls of this sort is in the first place whether the context is right, secondly whether there are proper rights for minorities (secession is all too often an occasion for ethnic cleansing, as I am afraid, happened in Kosovo) and lastly whether the poll itself is fairly conducted, and I think we can agree the Crimean one was flawed. In this case there’s the further disagreeable possibility that, on the back of this, Russia may intervene, Sudetenland-style, to protect Russian minorities elsewhere in Ukraine. But on the important question, I’m not sure we can take the view that Crimea isn’t entitled to self-determination.

Granted, the population which was polled is significantly different from the one that would have voted had Stalin not purged the place of its Tatar Muslims, only some of whom managed to return later – and there are those of us for whom the very name of Tatary remains indescribably romantic. President Putin was rather interesting about that in his speech accepting Crimea into Russia. But we are all by now aware that Krushchev handed Crimea on a plate to Ukraine in the fifties, though in the bigger context of the Soviet Union. The place is a peninsula, physically separable from its neighbours, and as close to Russia as to Ukraine. As I say, there is no question about the will of the majority of the people on whether they want to be Russian. So why, in principle, may it not secede?

President Putin has, if you are to take him at his word, given assurances that Crimea is not going to be a useful precedent to justify intervention elsewhere in eastern Ukraine to, ahem, ‘protect’ Russians. He has given quite explicit promises about the welfare of minorities, including protection of their language rights. On the Tatars, he says: ‘there was a time when Crimean Tatars were treated unfairly, just as a number of other peoples in the USSR. There is only one thing I can say here: millions of people of various ethnicities suffered during those repressions….We have great respect for peoples of all the ethnic groups living in Crimea.’ Granted, Mr Putin also quite unwarrantably said that the referendum showed that Tatars supported secession, but apart from that patent fib, this, as a statement of intent, seems pretty sound.

The West has said, quite simply, that the poll was a breach of international law. Certainly it happened without the acquiescence of Ukraine. But what if we had – given our muscle – insisted that Ukraine should allow a poll in Crimea to take place? What if the poll had been conducted properly? And what if it had produced exactly the same result as now? What then? So far I haven’t heard anything from any of our leaders to suggest that while it is quite, quite proper for Ukraine to determine its own destiny, it is quite, quite wrong for Crimea to do so.

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Show comments
  • maidanUK

    Many commenters here hvae been sadly misled by the Russian media. As someone who has Russian-speaking family in eastern Ukraine, let me help correct a few misunderstandings:
    1.Crimea is only 58% Russian-speaking and of those not all wanted to join Russia (source: national census)
    2.42% are Tatar or Ukrainian-speaking and do not want to join Russia – but boycotted the poll.
    3.Russian soldiers encouraged multiple voting and voting by non-resident Russian passport holders visiting (on film – news.vice.com)
    4.the provinces of easterm Ukraine are not all majority Russian-speaking. The % of Russian speakers varies from 80%-90% in Donetsk & Luhansk near the border, down to 50-60% in Kharkiv oblast.
    5.Even those eastern speakers of Russian do not all wish to join Russia – the paid-for pro-Russian demonstrations do not reflect the wishes of the majority of people. Local discussions and local media reflect the wish of the majority to remain part of united Ukraine (but with friendly relations with Russia).
    6. There is not, and has not been, any discrimination against Russian speakers. Most families (like mine) are mixed. Having said that, most believe that the law should be changed to set equal status for both languages as official.
    7. There is not, and has not been, any evidence of anti-semitic attacks as claimed by Putin. Just another example of his Sudeten-approach.

  • rtj1211

    I do ask you why you consider David Cameron a legitimate Prime Minister when so many UK citizens stay at home and don’t vote in General Elections.

    He got 35% of 60% which is about 20% of those eligible to vote and he’s PM.

    The Coalition got 58% of 60% which is 35% give or take, so no majority there was there??

    But we go on quite happily.

  • tjamesjones

    When I first read this sensible article, I missed that it is in fact about UKIP. Thankfully the comments section set me straight.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …or maybe it was that bong hit?

  • Mr Grumpy

    Putin promising to be nice to minorities? That’s nice.

    Suggest you read your Catholic Herald, Melanie – and I don’t mean your piece on the back page…

    http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2014/03/17/ukrainian-pastor-released-after-being-seized-from-church/

  • https://belasariust.wordpress.com/ solly gratia

    Polls in Britain and Germany are showing support for the Crimea situation as a fait accompli. Comment sections following articles like this also largely show support for what Putin has done. Why are our leaders and media outlets so out of step with the people they supposedly represent. Is this democracy? Can they really think they can throw stones in glass houses?

  • DDownie

    Just wondering what does Putin has to do, before Ms McDonagh will criticise him? Just wondering how illegal does he have be?
    Maybe Crimea might have voted to join Russia. But it did not have a chance.
    Instead it was invaded by a foreign power that then carried out a ‘referendum’ in a matter of days under the barrel of a gun to ‘validate’ that invasion.
    She appears to be unable to see how wrong that is.
    As for the explicit promises for the protection of minorities – why does she believe that any more than that the troops which occupied Crimea of course were not Russians at all?
    Why does she continue to give credence to Putin?

    • Daniel Maris

      Would having 160 journalists murdered in his country be of sufficient interest?

    • Trofim

      Russia a foreign power? In the Crimea? The Crimea has always been to Russia what Brighton or Torquay is to London or Blackpool is to the north. The majority language has been Russian for centuries. In the 2001 census 77% of the population named Russian as their first language. You won’t open the collected poems of any Russian poet after 1850 without finding at least one poem dedicated to somewhere in the Crimea. The place is overwhelmingly culturally Russian, in the same way that Hong Kong has always been culturally Chinese, even when under British governance.

  • saffrin

    The Crimea election was legitimate. The people voted ‘overwhelmingly’ to rejoin Russia.
    It’s called democracy, get over it.

    • serialluncher

      It was not a free and fair referendum for various reasons. Not constitutional. Breached international treaties. No option to keep the status quo – ie. keeping Crimea as an autonomous republic. Free campaigning was impossible under the military occupation. The Tartars (Crimean natives) boycotted the referendum for a reason.

  • Rossspeak

    The EU has a simple principle – if the result of any referendum is not what the Political Elite want – either ignore it or make the stupid Electorate vote again until they see sense and vote the “right way”.
    Mind blowing hypocrisy for the EU to pontificate about “democratic legitimacy” given the fact that the EU is governed by an unelected and unaccountable Commission.
    As for the bluff and bluster about “serious consequences” – military action has already been ruled out ( surprise, surprise!!) – and given the economic investments by EU companies in Russia and our dependence on Russian gas – anybody really think there will be any meaningful action taken against Russia?
    Putin knows this full well – and is simply calling the EU’s bluff.
    As to Obama – we heard all this bluff and bluster over Syria – result – zilch.

    • David Booth.

      The EU are in no position to criticise Russia over the referendum in Crimea when the EU itself refused to accept the first result of the Irish/EU referendum and insisted the Irish Government conduct a second referendum to obtain a result acceptable to our EU masters.
      Leave Russia/Crimea alone to sort out their own problems.

  • viewcode

    It’s a valid question Melanie, and the answer is “we wouldn’t have the same problem”. But your question does ignore the actual point. The point of this kerfuffle is that Russia has obtained an annexation model that works. It works like this

    * Using historicity as a pretext, she sends troops in to homogeneous areas within a country and annexes it at great speed.
    * Indebted, lacking a counter, and with apologist commentators forgiving the move, the West is powerless to prevent it and the area is absorbed

    So a bad man has discovered a way to take bits of other countries and has done so three times already (Crimea, Abkhazia, South Ossetia). Areas he can take using the same pretext include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus (arguably already happened), some of Poland, all of the Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Armenia. He’s going to keep going until we work out a way of stopping him.

    And we don’t know how to stop him.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …so, sorta like the EUSSR, then?

    • Trofim

      The EU way of annexation – by long-term stealth – is less noticeable, and hence more difficult to challenge or object to. You do it like this: hold a referendum in country X whereby its population vote whether they want their country to join a free trade area. You then apply insidious mission creep for 30 years or so, and only by then do the inhabitants notice that what was a mere free trade area is now making laws which prevail over the laws of their own country. By that time the changes made are so deeply embedded that it’s very difficult to undo them. It’s a bit like growing old without a means of seeing yourself. You somehow know that it’s happening, but it’s only when you look in the mirror you realize the real scale of what has happened.

  • Bonkim

    The people have spoken – forget the procedural niceties and that EU or UN monitors were not invited. Crimea has been in the past and is now part of Russia. Natural justice.

  • andagain

    Just wondering: what would we be doing now about Crimea if the referendum a week ago had been done nicely?

    Assuming it gave the same result, we would be very relieved that we now had an excuse to not object. It’s always safer to back the strong against the weak.

    Because the reality is that the result would unquestionably have been
    the same. Maybe with a two thirds majority rather than a nine in ten
    one, but still overwhelming. An embarrassingly large majority of people
    in Crimea want to be in Russia, not Ukraine.

    Putin himself clearly did not share your confidence, or he would have conducted the referendum in a way which meant we could trust the result. Elections monitors, unbiased questions etc. As I recall the polls conducted in the Crimea over the last few years showed a majority of people did NOT want to unite with Russia.

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/many-signs-pointed-to-crimea-independence-vote-but-polls-didnt/

    (Money quote: “Forty-one percent of Crimeans in the latest KIIS poll, conducted from Feb. 8-18, said Ukraine and Russia should merge into one state. ” My understanding is that 41% is not “an embarrasingly large majority”.)

    President Putin has, if you are to take him at his word, given
    assurances that Crimea is not going to be a useful precedent to justify
    intervention elsewhere in eastern Ukraine to, ahem, ‘protect’ Russians.

    The Russian state signed a treaty in the 1990s guarenteeing the borders of Ukraine. Would you say they kept their word?

  • Arden Forester

    If it had been legitimate then all would be OK. It was the manner of doing it that’s troubling. Anyone can see that the majority in Crimea want to be in Russia. Good luck to them. But Ukrainians better not believe the poncy twaddle coming from the EU High Baroness and the likes of Rompuy, Martin Schulz and Barroso in defending Ukraine. Totally meaningless as EU cannot guarantee anything, let alone security.

  • Two Bob

    Russia have a great national anthem. Good enough reason to want to join.

    • rtj1211

      You might as well join Italy on that basis…….

  • Martin Sharp

    If we had worked in a more old fashioned Great Power way we could have solved this easily. Once the Crimea revolt started we should have offered a deal to Putin. He withdraws his forces and we strong arm Ukraine to agree to abide by the result of a fair referendum organised by the OSCE. The result is the same but seen as legitimate and we don’t find ourselves in a stand-off that we do not have the guts for.

    The West must remember you should never bluff. Either you are prepared to follow through with your words or you shut up. I fear we are about to be found out of our lack of resolution.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      That’s actually what happened, if you look close, with the exception that Putin’s forces were already there, and they weren’t about to go anywhere. Barraco Barma scary and Kerry tried to bluff, but they’re too stupid and have no understanding of diplomacy and power projection and negotiations. Now they look like idiots, deservedly so.

      Ukraine will do what the US tells it to do, which is to take all the welfare cash the EUSSR and US hands them, as they become another corrupt protectorate.

  • andy_gill

    Like him or loath him, You have to admire Putin’s support of ethnic Russians abroad, and his unflinching support for his allies.

    If only Obama would show a similar commitment to the Christians being persecuted in the Middle East and show some solidarity with his own allies.

    • Daniel Maris

      Admire? Why? Are you recommending we invade Southern Spain to liberate our British brethren?

      Of course Middle East Christians need our help and support.

      • Two Bob

        We could always just have an in out EU referendum.

    • Bonkim

      Don’t bring religion into the argument and in any case why should the US save Christians from all others in the Middle east massacring each other? Have you been to Central Africa recently where Muslims are being eliminated by Christians? Why is the US quiet about that?

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Actually, Barraco Barma and Call Me Dave and company are helping the islamofascists slaughter Christians.

        And no, the slaughter is a one way street, lad. If you have any proof of what you’re blathering about, let’s have it.

        • Bonkim

          Keep up with current affairs and not only read/listen that you agree with? You might still learn how to analyse events impartially if you throw your prejudices down the toilet.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            So you don’t have any proof of what you’re blathering about? I thought so.

            • Bonkim

              What proof would a bigoted person accept?

              • the viceroy’s gin

                …so, still no proof then, lad?

  • Frank

    Look, Russia is doing the same thing in Moldova, where a strip of land is asking to be “reunited” with Russia. The importance of this is that Ukraine will then be sandwiched between two strips of Russian land – next step Ukraine asks to be “reunited” with Russia.
    I am happy for referenda to be used to determine political decisions, but they have to be conducted fairly and without a military occupation to ensure the correct result.
    Since the west doesn’t want to go to war over this, the EU and America should apply sanctions and travel bans on the top 1000 businessmen and officials in Russia. Go for the people not the companies, but ensure that everywhere (ie that the banks in Switzerland, Singapore, etc, all obey the sanctions and assets freezes). Then do the next 1000 down and keep going.

    • Daniel Maris

      I think that’s a good plan…just keep ratcheting it up. Ultimately a properly conducted referendum is still likely to go Putin’s way – especially as many Ukrainians and Tartars will now leave and not want to go back to register. But if the referendum can be re-run it will establish an important principle.

      While we ratchet up we need to limit further contracts with Russia and begin economic disengagement, which will of course include a crash programme of energy independence.

      • HookesLaw

        You cannot put nthe genie back in the bottle. Putin has shown us all what he is.

        • Two Bob

          A leader.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …whatever you say about him, Putin is clever enough to see right through jelly faced buffoons like your boy Call Me Dave.

        • Tom Tom

          Thank God ! It gives hope to millions of people that someonre still has XY chromosomes

  • the baracus

    The EU have no business in the Crimea until they demonstrate their democratic credentials. Something that was lost when they made Ireland vote until they got the right answer….

  • Baron

    Melanie, wise up, even if the referendum was organised and carried out by saints the West’s elites would not accept it because Putin isn’t one of them what with his take on the family, the Judeo-Christian tradition, multi-culti and stuff like this.

    • rtj1211

      Not to mention the fact that he balances his budget pretty much, has built a bloody sovereign wealth fund up and has this strange notion that the Russian people should benefit from Russian raw material assets………

  • Benedict WELLS

    If this referendum had been organised by the Ukraine, under the Ukrainian constitution, then the result would be perfectly acceptable to the international community, if not very palatable to the Ukrainians. In fact, it is a little surprising that Putin did not insist that this was how it should be done, since the result would have been the same but he would have been free of sanctions and with an internationally endorsed model for further expansion.

    As it was, he might have won a tactical victory in Crimea, but has made a strategic blunder overall. Moreover, the victory that he did win is beginning to look rather tatty: if he is in proper control of Crimea, why does he need crowds of “Russian supporters” to be seizing buildings, bases etc? Could it be that he is not really in control of events, but is merely scampering after them, trying to gain control from behind?

    However, the new Putin Doctrine might come in quite useful in this country: if Scotland does vote for independence come September, then what are the odds on Norway organising a referendum in the Orkneys for them to revert to rule from Oslo (or Valhalla, or wherever…)

    • HookesLaw

      Ukraine was alright as it was whilst it was non-aligned. As soon as it started to think about its future then its internal imbalances would always come to the fore. But whatever they wanted to decide should be done democratically. The previous govt was mired in corruption and clearly a Putin tool. Ukraine needs to decide fairly what it wants it should have fair elections. The Crimea should have had a fair referemndum. Putins actions now however must have forced opinion in Ukraine away from Russia towards the EU.

      Putin acting the way he has has exposed him for wha=t he is – a non democratic dictator. his own elections were fraudulent. In the longer term he does himself mo favours. Russia should be expelled from the G8.

      • Two Bob

        The EU has been exposed for what it is – completely useless.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …yes, both the EUSSR and scary Barraco Barma have been exposed here.

  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    Government by referenda is a fast track to any amount of artificial divisions and set-ups that could not and do not respect one’s basic rights. Individual members of any general community will always be the poorer, for government by referenda.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …not “always”.

  • LondonStatto

    “An embarrassingly large majority of people in Crimea want to be in Russia, not Ukraine.”

    This is simply untrue. The last number with any degree of reliability was 41%. http://www.cityam.com/blog/1393929175/poll-shows-not-one-majority-any-ukrainian-region-favours-joining-russia

    • Guest

      That was a s

  • paulus

    I think the word autonomous in the title Autonomous region of the Crimea, sort of gives the game away in how they order their constitutional affairs of political association. The elected Prime Minister of the Crimea, felt the overthrow of the Ukrainian president was unconstitutional and as such did not feel obliged to the new government in Kiev. He organised a poll of this autonimous region with its own legislature and executive and the people exercising their legal right of self determination, opted to federalise with Russia.

    I would maintain every point of that process is legal. Only a pedant trained in sophistry could argue otherwise, No Treaty can bind or oblige a self governing Country in a Federalised system they no longer wish to belong too.

    • LondonStatto

      “I would maintain every point of that process is legal. ”

      You would be wrong. The referendum was explicity unconstitutional.

      • Baron

        Of course, it was LondonStatto, because it was carried out by someone we don’t like.

        • Daniel Maris

          Too cynical. It’s not in the UK’s strategic interests to let Scotland go. But a process has been agreed as to how that might happen.

          A similar process should have been followed in the Ukraine: negotiation between Kiev and Crimea over the terms of the referendum and then a free and fair campaign/vote, followed by negotiations over disengagenment that protect rights on both sides (if indeed the vote was for detachment).

          • the viceroy’s gin

            The negotiations have already taken place, lad. The US and Russia have agreed that Crimea would go over to Russia. They have also agreed that the Ukranian provinces will be autonomous and not beholden to any resident crop of gangsters, and that the Russian language won’t be trashed as the current gangsters attempted to do. Also, look for precisely zero military NATO presence in Ukraine. The US agreed to hold off on that as well, even as they’re bolstering same in Poland and the Baltics, etc.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              You seem to be hung up on this as a local matter, which most of you socialist muppets tend to do.

  • In2minds

    We could get them to vote again, that’s what happens in the EU!

    • the viceroy’s gin

      I’m sure Putin would be thrilled. He could sell referendum votes like Ipods to the clueless EUSSR jabronis.

      Never mind asking for the results, though. You already know those.

  • Mikkytoo

    I like this Russian way of doing things quickly, maybe we should have got them in to organise the Scottish one, how many years has that been running?

    • rtj1211

      Look, it’s a lot simpler acquiring a new state than breaking away. A new accession state simply has to agree to the Russian Constitution.

      Scotland is proposing creating a new Constitution for Scotland as we Brits have decided that a few Old Etonians saying: ‘I say old chap, that’s really not cricket is it?’ does when sorting out matters of the highest political questions. They’ve been beavering away drafting one and now they’re letting the people have their say-so. They’re doing things the democratic way, win or lose. Yes they can be slippery and they’ve had some most unsavoury spies working in England the past decade or so, but they are playing the thing out by the book in the main, although getting some student thugs to try and beat up Nigel Farage was perhaps a rather grave stain on their copy book.

  • Daniel Maris

    People should remember how Hitler used dubious plebiscites – conducted with intimidation, fraud and no free debate – to secure strategic objectives.

    Of course one thing raised by this whole discussion is whether the USA’s ban on secession of states could ever be acceptable in international law. This could become important when some states become majority Hispanic and may wish to reunite with Mexico at some future date.

    • James Todd

      I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for that particular development.

      • Daniel Maris

        Already 47% of the population of New Mexico count themselves as Hispanic. Mexico is now doing rather well economically and as the econmic gap reduces, Hispanics might find the idea of reunion with Mexico attractive.

        I think it’s a being a bit naive of you to think that in say 30-40 years’ time when it might be an 80% community that there is no prospect of an independence movement. There have been independence movements in the USA e.g. Hawaii and Alaska.

        As things stand it is unconstitutional for a state to detach itself from the Union.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          Where in the United States Constitution does it say that? Be specific, since you’re blathering about it. Point us to the wording in the Constitution.

          Oh and fyi, New Mexico and other such Southwest portions of the US have more Spanish roots than Mexican. Landholders and long time family groups and residents don’t identify with Mexico, they identify with those Spanish roots, some of which go back long before any other Europeans were in North America.

          • Daniel Maris

            Texas v White 1869 Supreme Court Judgement. Makes it clear that unilateral secession is not constitutional. The argument is that the Preamble to the Constitution which talks of a more perfect union necessarily means that at the least the union was perpetual, as indicated by the previous Articles of Confederation.

            The only possible exceptions are “revolution” (which would just be a de facto acceptance of whatever happened) – I think because the USA is founded on the principle that people may govern themselves or “consent of the states” i.e. if all the States agree to some new or revised form of union which would allow unilateral secession.

            Of course, those mid 19th century Supreme Court judges were all poorly educated socialist numpties.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              So you admit that you are wrong, and the US Constitution does not state that it is “unconstitutional” to detach itself from the Union. Well done, lad. It’s better to admit you’re a clueless blatherer, than just keep rambling on. And no, a court case is not the Constitution, lad.

              FYI, lad, it’s only firearms and artillery and blood that can keep a state from detaching itself from the United States. History is quite clear on that, although likely not to an ignorant and poorly educated socialist nutter like you.

              • Daniel Maris

                The US constitution does not state that anything is “unconstitutional”. It’s a positive document and the only interpreter of it is the Supreme Court, subject as I say to the opinion of the people (through revolution) and the complete agreement of the states.

                We all know that might can determine events, but even dictators are keen to observe the legal niceties and they are therefore part of the equation, and – at times – can have great effect e.g. when the Soviet Union disintegrated it did so on the basis of the borders of the constituent republics, even though there are huge swathes of Russian territory that are not at all Russian – Russia is in fact a Federation itself, but another “perpetual” one.

                Still I expect such subtleties are beyond you, now you are entering upon your dotage and can only parrot received dogma.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  You were the idiot who claimed the US Constitution actually said whatever it was you were blathering about, lad. No need yammering now about what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t say what you were blathering about, just as was pointed out to you. That is all.

                  No, the courts are not the “only interpreter” of the US Constitution, but we can’t expect an ignorant and poorly educated socialist nutter like you to be educated enough to have read the Constitution, let alone understand it.

                  As was mentioned earlier, you best stick to your global warmingist kookery and your windmill hysteria, lad. You don’t know anything about those either, but it’ll keep you out of the adults’ discussions on everything else.

                • Daniel Maris

                  OK Humpty Dumpty – you carry on believing that the US constitution is what you want it to be. The rest of us will look at what the Supreme Court says the constitution means. The Court clearly interprets the preamble to the constitution, which is of course part of the constitution, to mean that the USA is a perpetual union which necessarily means that unilateral secession is banned, which was my point.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  I don’t “believe” anything about the US Constitution, lad. Unlike ignorant and poorly educated socialist nutters like you, I’ve actually read it.

                  And it’s only you socialist nutters who think courts are the inventors of what the Constitutions says, you dolt.

                  It’s amusing that after being exposed as ignorant of the Constitution, you’re back to reasserting your original “secession” stupidity.

                  You really are a clueless dolt.

  • Curnonsky

    Ask any Central Asian living in Moscow about how well Putin’s Russia treats ethnic minorities…like stray dogs, would be the answer.

    In any case the referendum was nothing more than a fig leaf to ratify the new reality; it was never going to change anything (just like every other Russian election). Russian elections are exercises in which regional bosses vie to show how many votes they can deliver for the big boss – the winners are decided behind closed doors well in advance. Speculating about who would win a “clean” election in Crimea is just silly, and also irrelevant: the significance of what has happened is that a European border has just been altered by force without meaningful penalty.

    It will therefore happen again, soon, and it is only a question of where.

    • callingallcomets

      Blimey, mate,, you’ve got some cojones coming on here saying that. The tinfoil hat brigade is out in force on this matter….EU/US axis, New World Order, Putin is such a great chap etc etc. How the idiotic woman who penned this tripe can quote Putin on that “tolerance” rubbish is beyond belief. But then a lot of the people who comment here are quite impressed by a bare torso and anti gay rhetoric

      • Baron

        Aren’t we lucky we have you to explain it all.

    • Baron

      If the Crimean referendum was a fig leaf what was the regime change in Kiev?

      Since when does the arsenal of democracy include a band of armed thugs changing a legitimately elected government?

      • Daniel Maris

        Was it legitimately elected though? That seems doubtful.

        Ukraine has been a very corrupt place up until now.

        • Denis_Cooper

          From 2010:

          http://euobserver.com/foreign/29431

          “EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton has congratulated Ukraine on holding free and fair presidential elections, in remarks that will make it harder for the losing side to contest the result.”

        • Colin

          Don’t forget, up until Viktor Yanukovich rejected the EU money, in favour of the Russian money, he was seen by the EU as legitimate. As soon as he rejected the EU, he suddenly became a despotic pariah, and had to be deposed. Do keep up.

          • Daniel Maris

            No, I think it’s when the Ukrainian parliament declared him illegitimate that we agreed with the Ukrainian people’s representatives.

        • Baron

          What? All the places recovering from communism have been and will be corrupt to a large degree until the legacy of the evil doctrine is perched out the people’s character, behaviour.

          To say Ukraine has been a corrupt place until now, implying the new bunch who got where they are by the gun will be non-corrupt borders on certifiable lunacy. You should stick to defending the wind monstrosities, Daniel, and shut up about things you know FA about.

  • the baracus

    Given that the first Irish referendum result was not respected and the EU required that it was repeated until the correct result was arrived at I don’t think there is much that can be said against this poll. To me the Ukrainian result is more legitimate the the Irish result.

  • McRobbie

    Isn’t the reaction of the west more about making sure putin the small doesn’t think he can keep going further west? The crimea was always logically influenced by russia (they’ll regret it but hey) but putin needed to be made aware that the rest of the ukraine was not up for his grab. I’m not sure if the bare chested man is wise enough to realise that however.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      I’d say Putin is more aware of geostrategic realities than the Camerluvvies, the EUSSR muppets and Barraco Barmer, scary.

      • Daniel Maris

        Putin’s gas is just that – gas. The EU will certainly have learnt its leasson and will be pursuing energy independence at full speed from now on.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          Yes, they’ll continue to ramp up the mining and burning of lignite coal, and fracking up that natural gas, and everything else you global warmingism socialists hate.

  • London Calling

    The outcome was obvious and in its own way legitimate considering a high population want to be part of Russia………….The Russians are now moving forward into Crimea as we speak and nothing is going to stop them, no sanctions, no warnings, all are futile and pointless……….pressure on Russia from the US and Europe will not dent a dime and the only way forward is to accept the situation as it is or go to war, which isnt going to happen unless Russia were to invade other parts of Ukraine………which they are not……..so check mate…………….:(

  • Tom Tom

    How many US troops were in Iraq during the elections in January 2005 ? How many Occupation troops in Afghanistan in October 2004 or when the US forced a runoff in November 2009 between Karzai and Abdullah and Abdullah stepped aside because “a tansparent election was not possible”……..””A government that is appointed by an illegitimate commission, a commission that has tainted its own legitimacy, cannot bring the rule of law to the country, it cannot fight the corruption.”

  • Denis_Cooper

    Arguably if there had been a government in Kiev which agreed in principle that Crimea could secede from Ukraine and join Russia if that was what the Crimeans wanted, and it had been prepared to make all the necessary legal and practical arrangements for a legal and free and fair referendum, then there would have been no need for Crimea to secede from Ukraine and join Russia and therefore no need for a referendum.

    Instead there is a revolutionary government in Kiev which is anti-Russian and clearly determined to assist the longstanding EU/NATO/US troika plan to gradually encircle Russia from the south as a prelude to breaking up Russia itself.

    Ukraine, then into the Caucasus, then across the Caspian Sea into Kazakhstan and its neighbours so that the EU would butt up against China and Iran and eventually Afghanistan, as shown on this handy map of the Caucasus and Central Asia:

    http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/middle_east_and_asia/caucasus_central_asia_pol_2009.jpg

    The capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, is marked with a star; that is where Cameron went last July to make his “I want the EU to stretch from the Atlantic to the Urals” speech:

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/01/eu-extend-soviet-union-david-Cameron

    is already further east than the line of the Urals – Yekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk are on the eastern or Asiatic side – and 1200 miles further east than Stalingrad, or as it has since been renamed Volgograd.

    Utter insanity, unless you believe that Russia is so weak that it will accept not only being encircled by its enemies but later being broken up into its European and Asiatic parts along the line of the Urals, and unless you really believe that the EU should have a border with China and very nearly with Mongolia.

    • rtj1211

      i think it would be a good idea to break up the USA: how about an independent Texas, an independent California and an independent New England??

      Nothing like a bit of salami slicing to get some self-righteous Yankee-doodle-dandy patriots foaming at the mouth, is there??!!

  • littlegreyrabbit

    Melanie McDonagh is just bitter that Russia, unlike the US or UK, managed to bring about a regime change or secession without the massive blood baths that invariably accompany Western rearrangements.

    • telemachus

      And bitter that Will Hague has been made to look even more foolish that he usually does

    • rtj1211

      OH, I don’t agree there. I got Tony Blair thrown out by writing a football song. It would be moderated out if I typed here, so you can understand that it was fairly pungent.

      No deaths there…….

  • swatnan

    The West made the mistake of believing its own propaganda.
    The Referendum was fair, and even if all the Tatars had voted NO, it would still have made no difference. The Russians have been pretty fair and reasonable considering all the hostility they have been exposed to.

    • GentlemanPugilist

      Exactly. Kiev amended the constitution in order to deprive Crimea of a president in 1995, after a pro-Russian separatist was elected. Surely that wasn’t fair? Furthermore, surely giving the Crimeans the option of remaining part of the Ukraine but under the 1992 constitution is MORE enticing than preserving the status quo, and therefore more likely to entice Crimeans to vote against joining Russia than had the alternative been on the ballot paper?

      As for the Tatars, well you can’t blame the Russians for Stalin’s antics as he was Georgian and he murdered millions of Russians let’s not forget.

      Ultimately this boils down to the fact that the Crimea has an ethnic Russian majority, and thus – if you believe in self-determination – they’re always going to vote to join their motherland.

      • telemachus

        I was with you until the second paragraph
        As Putin is demonstrating, taking a great state forward requires positive action which does not always find favour with feeble liberal minds
        The same steely resolve reversed Barbarossa lest we forget

        • Harold Angryperson

          DO NOT FEED THE TROLL.

          • an ex-tory voter

            Why not change the comment rules such that any reply whose number of “down” votes exceeds the number of “up” votes received by it’s parent comment will be disassociated and floated to the bottom the list as a comment in it’s own right.
            It would at a stroke destroy the power of Telemachus and his trolling mates to spread their nonsense, but still allow access to their messages by scrolling to the very bottom of the comment thread.

            • Colonel Mustard

              A good proposal but unfortunately either Disqus or the Spectator have now removed the facility to down vote any comment. Even up voting comments he has not tagged will just attract a later tag. His purpose here is not to comment but to disrupt and ‘own’ the blog on behalf of his wretched party. It is an orchestrated campaign of harassment, but one apparently tolerated or approved of by the Spectator. Go figure.

              Every right of centre blog seems to have one or two of these persistent trolls posting a combination of propaganda and sneering ad hominem whereas attempts to present any right wing viewpoints on leftist blogs are quickly ‘moderated’ out.

              • an ex-tory voter

                Every cloud has a silver lining. It does at least allow the rest of us to gain a little knowledge as to his thought processes and those of his masters. It also allows us to gauge the principles of those who are content to allow his continued abuse this forum.

                • HookesLaw

                  But how many versions of him are there? When this one says that ‘taking a great state forward requires positive action which does not always find favour with feeble liberal minds’, he is hardly aligning himself with Labour or Miliband on the issue.

                  He is just ‘avin you on. Spouting rubbish for the fun of it

                • Colonel Mustard

                  “When this one says that ‘taking a great state forward requires positive action which does not always find favour with feeble liberal minds’, he is hardly aligning himself with Labour or Miliband on the issue.”

                  Actually he is. Labour dress themselves up but in reality are an extremist party full of malevolent nutters far more dangerous to the country than UKIP. What you see with Labour is never what you get. They coast on a myth of their roots and own creation. The majority of the new generation are cynical, conniving Long Marchers or grubbing wonks and the few old Labour working class Englishmen are dinosaurs now. They are a national socialist party with all that implies.

                  But a lot of what ‘telemachus’ writes is just mischievous provocation intended to get a rise.

                • Pip

                  No its intentional nonsense just like yours is.

              • rtj1211

                I think the right wing see that as part of the reason for their ‘superiority’: they tolerate dissent whereas the Left doesn’t.

            • Baron

              Nope, however much one can be annoyed by anyone else, Baron’s against any censoring or discrimination except in cases where the poster incites, encourages, fomets violence.

              telemachus may irritate, offend or whatever, but he has the right to do so a we have to right to kick him for it, often do, sometimes with wit, too.

      • HookesLaw

        So when the tartars were ethnicly cleansed and starved it was not Russian soldiers doing it? When all the grain was extorted it was not sent to Russia?
        I rather think it was Russia that had a bit of something to do with the persecution of the tartars.

        • Tom Tom

          The grain was sent to Germany up to June 1941

        • Pip

          Too late, Crimea is Russian again and their is nothing you or your Liberal lefty tree huggers can do about it except talk about the past.

    • the baracus

      It was as honest as the Irish vote. That time the EU had to get them to do it all over again as they made the mistake of getting the answer wrong first time round. At least Putin is refreshingly honest about his intimidation…..

      • telemachus

        Except that no intimidation was given or needed
        The Kiev Putch was a fundamental anathema to all Russians in Eastern Ukraine or Crimea
        As a majority in Crimea they simply wished to look to Moscow than Brussels
        Putin saved them from a degrading epoch of Faragism

        • Harold Angryperson

          DO NOT FEED THE TROLL

          • Colin

            “DO NOT FEED THE TROLL”

            I’d normally agree, but it’s correct on this one.

            • the baracus

              Why then did the EU not respect the first Irish referendum result?

              • Colin

                ??

              • HookesLaw

                Whether you (or the Irish) like it or not the second referendum was 16 months afer the first and passed by 67%. No one held a gun to their heads.
                The Irish were in fact the only country to hold a referendum on Lisbon. The tories of course voted against it in parliament. As I recall Labour had promised a referendum but on a technicality did not give one. This is the party that the kippers want to help into power.

                • Colonel Mustard

                  But having given one answer why was a second referendum held? Simply because the Irish government of the time wanted a ‘yes’ vote and chose to ignore the answer already given. Gordon Brown had his sticky fingers all over it too, holding secret talks with Cowen in some shady dealing with Barroso.

            • Pip

              He has never been correct about anything.

  • FF42

    It’s possible they would have voted to remain in the Ukraine in a properly run referendum eg one that wasn’t imposed after a coup d’etat and which offered the status quo as a referendum choice.

    This opinion poll just last year had only 23% in favour of joining Russia against 67% wishing to remain in the Ukraine in some form.

    Another reason for believing the 97% figure to be fraudulent is that Crimea is less monolithically pro-Russian than other Ukrainian regions as indicated in previous elections.

    It’s also possible that Crimea would vote for secession in a properly run referendum, but we don’t know that.

    It was a a far from properly run poll

    • Michael Mckeown

      It is possible but when your democratically elected president is striped of office without following the constitution then that can only be a game changer.

    • telemachus

      I would be inclined to forget the likes or dislikes of the three main groups in Crimea
      I would look at this as a strategic issue for the Russians
      It is the base of their Black Sea fleet and the progression from the Kiev Putch of 3 weeks ago would have been close ties with the EU and more importantly for Putin NATO
      What do you think we might do if Hampshire decided to secede from the Union with the Portsmouth Naval base
      Let us also begin to assess what might happen if Salmond wins and fancies the Holy Loch and it’s submarines
      *
      We should leave Putin to it and butt out

      • Colonel Mustard

        Labour safe seats worst places to live.

        http://thebackbencher.co.uk/fact-labour-safe-seats-worst-places-live/

        And in breaking news Red Prince Kinnochio, son of King Kinnochio gets Labour seat sponsored by King Red, Son of Communist.

        Well awwwwwwwwwwwright!

        • telemachus

          You folks cannot grasp the importance of Neil to our great movement
          He single handedly and by the power of his magnificent oratory rescued the movement after the betrayal by Philbyesque traitors Rogers Williams Owen and the worst of them Jenkins
          Sheffield may play well with the revanchist press but laid the foundations that led to the longest period of untrammelled prosperity in a century
          He deserves a statue in Parliament Square

          • the viceroy’s gin

            …once in a while, you let the mask slip, and we realize that you’re a Camerluvvie wearing a lefty beard, winding up the tribalists. This is one of those times.

      • rtj1211

        I think there’s a far greater chance that Salmond will hand David Cameron an ultimatum to get Scotland free of nuclear weapons and submarines within 90 days or he will ask the UN to oversee their decommissioning as a matter of urgency.

        Jolly expensive eventuality that for rUK, especially when you wonder as to suitable places to locate the fleet in England or Wales or, I suppose in an extremely unlikely scenario, in Northern Ireland.

    • GentlemanPugilist

      Interesting poll, though of course that was before the Western-sponsored coup – whose first act was to ban Russian as an official language – came to power after a violent uprising.

      82% of the Crimean seats (82/100) were held by The Party of Regions: ‘The party claims to ideologically defend and uphold the rights of ethnic Russians and speakers of the Russian language in Ukraine.’ (Wikipedia)

      So assuming your poll is indeed correct, and wasn’t just a propaganda exercise by the Ukrainian government, it seems that the West’s meddling – which precipitated the anti-Russian coup – is the cause of the upheaval.

      The Ukraine now has made an enemy of her powerful neighbour, is potentially facing a civil war and has lost the Crimea. Obama, Hague, Cameron et al no doubt are proud of themselves.

      • FF42

        Except, the option that most people wanted, according to the opinion poll – the status quo – wasn’t available on the ballot paper as it would be in a respectable referendum. There were many other things wrong with this referendum.

        The coup in Crimea was an invasion from Russia. That’s my issue., not whether Uktraine or Russia should own Crimea. I am not at all pro the Ukraine. It’s an even more incompetently managed country than Russia. It wouldn’t be surprising if Crimea wanted to get out. In my book and according to International Law you do not invade other countries, particularly one whose territorial integrity you have committed to uphold through treaties. People say Mr Putrin was provoked and he is justified in occupying Crimea. He wasn’t and he isn’t. What goes on in Ukraine is none of his business or ours..But illegal invasions are the business of International Law. The referendum doesn’t change that.

        • GentlemanPugilist

          The option on to preserve the status quo – the 1995 constitution – would have been less appealing to most Crimeans as it eroded some of their autonomy by removing the position of a president of the Crimean parliament. That was done because a pro-Russian separatist was elected, and provided the possibility of secession back then.

          Regardless, any Crimean who didn’t want to join Russia had the opportunity to register their sentiment.

          Was it an invasion? I understood the Crimean parliament actually requested Russia’s assistance, in which case they were liberating them. The fact that 82 of the 100 elected representatives in the Crimean parliament were members of a party whose declared objective is to protect the rights of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers, and the Kiev government had just banned Russian as an official language, certainly seems to validate that assertion.

          Perhaps, had the pro-Russian government remained in Kiev, the Crimeans would have been happy to remain part of the Ukraine. However, the result is that the Western-endorsed government seized power and the democratically elected president fled the country under threat of imprisonment.

          It will be interesting to see how the situation develops there. In Donetsk there’s already been serious fighting, perhaps the best thing would be to send UN troops into the Ukraine to prevent a civil war, particularly as many Russian citizens live there. Proposing laws such as punishing dual citizenship with up to ten years’ imprisonment didn’t help the Kiev government’s cause, either:

          http://rt.com/news/ukraine-dual-citizenship-jail-572/

          • LondonStatto

            “I understood the Crimean parliament actually requested Russia’s assistance”

            “Requested”. Yeah, right. It’s right out of the 1940s playbook.

            • GentlemanPugilist

              Why wouldn’t they? 82% of their parliament belong to a party committed to advocating on behalf of ethnic Russians and those who speak Russian, and an unelected anti-Russian government takes power in Kiev. It’s not hard to see what happened, especially given the Crimeans have elected a separatist leader in the past.

              • HookesLaw

                Go on keep apologising for Putin. Its amusing.

        • Bonkim

          circumstances overtaking legal niceties I am afraid. Assume this to be a precedent in law.

      • Bonkim

        and the EU/US Axis is not going to bail out a corrupt and bankrupt Ukraine

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …dream on, lad. They’ll flush billions and billions and billions down that toilet.

          • Bonkim

            Once bitten twice shy. EU is now bankrupt too.

    • Tom Tom

      Crimea was given no referendum in 1954

      • HookesLaw

        A point which means precisely nothing.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …so, like all your posts, then?

  • Tom M

    Most sensible take on the referendum I’ve read so far. What would happen if say the Falkland Islands decided to hold a referendum and Argentina “helping with the election” to put the Crimea referendum into perspective.

    • Tom Tom

      The referendum on the Falklands had Britain helping and occupying islands of disputed ownership, by no stretch of the imagination are they neighbouring the United Kingdom being in a different hemisphere

      • McRobbie

        Isn’t the difference about the PEOPLE who lived on the land..the PEOPLE were falklanders and wished to be part of the UK. Crimea was mainly russian, thanks to stalins ethnic cleansing, so there was always going to be a vote in favour of joining russia,,but to storm a friendly country that had a signed peace treaty with russia? No, thats illegal. I doubt if any of putins allies will consider a piece of paper any safeguard from russian inference now.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          I can’t find any evidence that Russia “stormed” anybody.

          I doubt many consider a piece of paper from the EUSSR or the US of much value these days, either. Remember, Khadaffi gave up his nuclear program, handed it over lock, stock and barrel, and owned up to his past terrorism and promised to go forth and sin no more. And guess what happened to him? The EUSSR and the US bombed him and handed him over to the islamofascist headchoppers, for a bayonet proctological exam.

          • rtj1211

            One of these days they’ll probably try and do the same to Max Keiser, given his levels of non-PC analysis on RT about American banking practices………

        • Tom Tom

          There is no evidence other than pictures on Western TV using footage inside Russia of military exercises to suggest any such invasion

  • Michael Mckeown

    I’m still waiting on evidence to show the referendum was not legitimate.

    • BarkingAtTreehuggers

      don’t be silly – all referenda (including the Scottish one) are settled well before polling day.

    • LondonStatto

      I’m guessing you haven’t been paying attention, then.

    • James Todd

      Indeed. Thank you for asking about this. You have the choice of answer: a) Of course the referendum was indeed legitimate or b) The referendum will be legitimate very soon in the future, so don’t bother your head with other questions.

      Please tick which answer you prefer, and leave the polling booth via the armed paramilitaries.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …are you describing the referendum process in Crimea, or the one by which Ukraine drove off their elected president?

        • Michael Mckeown

          Indeed. how anyone can rely on a constitution for a legal argument when that very same constitution was violated is beyond me.

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