Democracy And The Crimea

Crimea_2Crimea_DSC_0122I’ve watched the news with interest the last several months each time a report airs about Ukraine. I have a good friend who was a missionary in Kiev for a number of years, and Ukraine is one of the countries my church goes to regularly for short term missions, especially with our high schoolers. As if that isn’t enough, a local seminary has partnered with a seminary in Kiev to provide degrees for their graduates. One more connection. My church supports a missionary family serving in Ukraine.

All these various connections make me aware of the political unrest plaguing the nation. First, in the dead of winter were the protests against the pro-Russian government. When the snow had barely settled upon the peaceful abdication of power by the former president and the installment of an interim government, the Russian forces crossed the border into Crimea, for the innocent purpose of “keeping order.”

Soon after came the famous referendum, declared illegal by the Ukrainian government, then the Crimean official declaration of independence from Ukraine, followed by annexation by Russia.

As reporters have covered this story, they inevitably get to the part about 60 to 80 percent of the population of Crimea favoring the change in allegiance, and they show mixed emotions. You can almost see the wheels turning: Well, if the people really want to join Russia, then maybe this isn’t a bad thing. After all, the will of the people, you know?

Except . . . the US fought a civil war to thwart just such a “will of the people” move.

Granted, the nature of the countries is different and the nature of the internal disagreements is different. But the truth is, if the US had believed in democracy a hundred and fifty years ago the way we think of it today (one citizen, one vote), we might be a collection of federations, not a country of united states. For surely, if put to the vote, if presented with a Crimea-like referendum, the citizens of the South in 1860 would have voted to withdraw from the United States and establish a Confederation of States. Oh, wait. That’s what their representatives did.

So do the majority of Americans applaud the one-nation result of the US Civil War because representative democracy was at work as opposed to unadulterated democracy? Or do we applaud the Crimean citizens for taking their destiny in their own hands?

I wonder, if the South voted today to withdraw from the US, would we find enough citizens who opposed the move as illegal, to stop it?

What if portions of Texas decided they wanted to withdraw from the US and join Mexico? Or what if portions of Washington state or Alaska decided they wanted to withdraw from the US and join Canada?

Has self-determination become the greatest law?

But how can that concept work? If a segment of the population loses an election, they simply vote to withdraw into a separate governing entity. If this pattern became the norm, it would soon break down countries into special interest city-states rather than groups willing to compromise and sacrifice for the greater good.

Or, as we see in the Crimea, self-determination turns territories into for-sale-to-the-highest-bidder self-loyalists. The individuals interviewed on TV said they thought the Russian government would give them more than the Ukrainian government had.

And isn’t that where unadulterated democracy inevitably leads?

The fact is, on paper democracy is by far the best form of government, but when sinful people, corrupt and self-serving take the reins of power, it doesn’t matter if they come to their position through socialism, communism, monarchy, dictatorship, or democracy, the results are the same.

So what’s the answer for Ukraine? There are parts in the eastern part of the country that have a similar majority of Russian-heritage citizens who have a desire to re-join Russia rather than work as a minority to make Ukraine successful. Should they be allowed to secede–something the US South was denied?

Or should Ukraine stand up to the Russian bully, with the international community at their backs, and a disdain for the wishes of the people living in the region in question?

Is democracy always right? Or is a “one nation” commitment always the legal, binding rule of law which takes precedence over all else? Who gets to decide?

In the US, ultimately it was the side that was strongest that decided. In Crimea, it would seem to be the same, though the results are exactly opposite to what happened in the US.

So is that the unspoken, underlying factor that still prevails in international affairs, no matter how much we pretend to be principled people? Might makes right.

And democracy? My guess is, self determination has become a pawn, a convenient slogan to trot out for the benefit of the western press in order to cover up Russian greed and exploitation.

If so, the next question is, will Crimea or Ukraine become the modern day Serbia or Poland that sparks a world wide conflict?

How is the Christian to respond to all this? That’s a question that needs to be explored a great deal more.

Published in: on March 25, 2014 at 7:33 pm  Comments (2)  
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