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Why Ukraine referendum is a big deal

BY M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | INDIAN PUNCHLINE | SEPTEMBER 22, 2022 

The referendum on September 23-27 in the Donbass and southern Kherson and Zaporozhye regions of Ukraine on their accession to Russian Federation is, prima facie, an exercise of the right of self-determination by the native population who reject the western-backed regime change in Kiev in 2014 and the ascendancy of extreme nationalist forces with neo-Nazi leanings in the power structure. 

But it has other dimensions, too. In all probability, the referendum will overwhelmingly opt for accession to Russian Federation. In Donbass, it is a straightforward question: “Do you support the entry of the DPR into the Russian Federation as a subject of the Russian Federation?” For  Kherson and the Zaporozhye Cossacks, the referendum ascertains three sequential decisions: secession of these territories from Ukraine; formation of an independent state; and its entry into the Russian Federation as a subject. 

In 2014, all legal procedures for the admission of Crimea and Sevastopol to the Russian Federation were completed in four days. An expeditious process can be expected this time around too. There is huge mass support within Russia for reunification with the ethnic Russian populations in the eastern and souther regions of Ukraine who suffered severe persecution during the past 8-year period, including brutal violence, at the hands of extremist Ukrainian nationalist elements in control of the state apparatus. This is a highly emotive issue. 

In the post-cold war era, the genie of self-determination was first let out of the bottle by the West during the dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia. Although the US midwifed the secession of Kosovo from Serbia as far back as in 2008, the entity is yet to be accorded recognition by the UN. Serbia rejects the secession despite sustained western pressure. 

That said, the Kosovo precedent will not stop the western powers from condemning the accession of regions of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.

The big question today is about the Russian calculus. President Vladimir Putin has surely factored in that the accession of the “Russian regions” of eastern and southern Ukraine is an immensely popular decision in the domestic opinion. The most revealing comments on the topic have come from the former President Dmitry Medvedev.

Medvedev wrote in his Telegram channel: “Referendums in Donbass are of great importance not only for the systemic protection of the inhabitants of the LNR, DNR (Donbass) and other liberated territories, but also for the restoration of historical justice.”  

In Medvedev’s opinion, these plebiscites “completely change the vector of Russia’s development for decades.” He adds, “And not only our country. Because after they (referendums) are held and the new territories are accepted into Russia, the geopolitical transformation in the world will become irreversible.” 

Most important, Medvedev forewarns, “An encroachment on the territory of Russia is a crime, the commission of which allows you to use all the forces of self-defence.” 

 Furthermore, he says, once the process of annexation of the new territories is completed, “not a single future leader of Russia, not a single official will be able to reverse these decisions. That is why these referendums are so feared in Kiev and in the West. That is why they need to be carried out.” 

What emerges is that Russia has given up hopes of any negotiated settlement. Moscow was initially optimistic that Kiev would negotiate, but the bitter experience turned out to be that President Zelensky was not a free agent. It is the Biden Administration that holds the stop watch for the proxy war. And Washington’s timeline is linked to the weakening and destruction of the Russian state, which has been the ultimate US objective. Lest we forget, Joe Biden played a seminal role in installing the new regime in Kiev in 2014 and in moulding Ukraine as an anti-Russian  state.

Suffice to say, the referendum on Wednesday is Russia’s only available course of action under the circumstances, while Kiev maintains a maximalist position as advised by the US, UK and Poland. 

The accession of Donbass, Kherson and Zaporozhye creates a new political reality and Russia’s partial mobilisation on a parallel track is intended to provide the military underpinning for it. The accession signifies a paradigm shift insofar as any further attacks on these regions that are part of Russia can be construed by Moscow as attacks on Russia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. 

Certainly, Kiev’s wanton attacks in future on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Donbass, Kherson and Zaporozhye will trigger Russian reaction. Any attack on them will be considered aggression and will give Moscow the right to respond “adequately.” The fact the Russian deployment in these territories will be significantly augmented and upgraded signals a willingness to use force. 

Meanwhile, Russia’s special military operations will also continue until its set objectives are met. Which means, even more territories may come under Russian control, creating ever newer facts on the ground. Kiev needs to factor all this carefully.

The Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder has reacted as follows: “No one will take such bogus referendums seriously, and the US will certainly not recognise their results. How will this affect our and international support for Ukraine? This will not affect in any way, we will continue to work with Ukraine and our international partners to provide them with the necessary assistance to protect their territory.” 

It is a sufficiently evasive statement.  Neither Pentagon nor the Russian military command will risk brinkmanship. The likelihood, therefore, is that the accession of the new territories to the Russian Federation may not be militarily challenged by the US or NATO. That said, Russia is already at war with the NATO, as Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu said, albeit not in terms of weapons supplies, which “we find ways to counter,” but in the Western systems that exist — “communication systems, information processing systems, reconnaissance systems and satellite intelligence systems.”

The point is, the accession of Donbass, Kherson and Zaporozhye regions to the Russian Federation will require the NATO and the US to reset the proxy-war algorithm. The CIA’s analogy of the Afghan jihad of the 1980s no longer holds good. Russia has avoided a quagmire in Ukraine and probably is turning  the table on the NATO. To make things doubly sure, Moscow lifted the veil today on its newest ICBM, Sarmat. 

In Putin’s national address on Wednesday, he had said: “In the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and to defend Russia and our people, we will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us. This is not a bluff.”

The results of the referendum must be determined not later than 5 days after the last voting day (Sept. 27), and the issue of accession to Russia is considered approved if more than 50% of the plebiscite participants vote for it. Significantly, the Russian State Duma is scheduled to hold plenary sessions in Moscow on September 27 and 28. 

September 22, 2022 - Posted by | Aletho News | , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. How soon before Zelenskyy ‘abdicates’ and skedaddles off to Israel, to his already owned property, to join his parents there, or to his Italian villa, to tally his bank accounts and lambast, blame and harangue every state for not supplying his fiefdom with more money and armaments.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by michael | September 22, 2022 | Reply

  2. Thanks, MKB and Aletho News! I am concerned but determinedly optimistic that President Putin and his inner trust and valiant/patriotic people can/will maintain (enough of) the narrative to make Russia’s paradigm shift a reality despite hegemonal US/West belligerence, lies, mis/disinformation, outright warmongering, war-materiel supplying, etc. But hurry up, Mr. President…the wolverines never stop circling, gnashing teeth, plotting….

    Like

    Comment by roberthstiver | September 22, 2022 | Reply

  3. Although the news about a referendum is interesting, nobody seems to be considering the legal situation. For example, if the German speaking part of Switzerland were to hold a referendum to become part of Germany, would the Swiss government sit idly by and accept the result? Would neighbouring countries do the same? Would any country tolerate part of its territory being taken from it, and in this case, being told that they will never get it back? To me, this appears to be military conquest followed by legal manoeuvres to justify the theft.

    Depending on the relative strengths of the opponents, the result will either be all-out war, or a much more serious and speedy effort to reach a compromise.

    Like

    Comment by Bill Francis | September 23, 2022 | Reply

    • Other factors come into the equation such as for how long the ethnic composition was stable. In this case the argument for secession is much stronger than for Kosovo for example.

      The ethnicities that were expelled from New Russia was German and they were expelled in 1919 and the early 1920s by Jewish led Ukrainian anarchists during the civil war and the job was completed at the end of WWII.

      This makes the western position seem quite odd.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by aletho | September 23, 2022 | Reply

  4. “The Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder has reacted as follows: “No one will take such bogus referendums seriously, and the US will certainly not recognise their results.”

    Same with the Catalan and EU referendum.

    Like

    Comment by Balthasar Gerards | September 23, 2022 | Reply


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