Tag Archives: Crimea

IMMINENT MISSILE ATTACK ON SYRIA

“Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap. (Isaiah 17:1) 

By an amazing coincidence, I have been reading a book on “Munich” while the current crisis in Syria has been building up.

At Munich in 1938, Hitler and Chamberlain met to discuss Hitler’s claims on German Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.   Chamberlain famously gave in to his demands. The former British PM described Nazi Germany’s annexation of the area of German-speaking Czechoslovakia in 1938 as “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of which we know nothing.”

Similar words could be spoken today about Syria.

At the time of writing this article, President Trump is deciding on how to react to Syria’s use of chemical weapons on its own people. If the US does nothing, nobody else will.   In 1938 Neville Chamberlain, as British Prime Minister, was the leader of the western world; today it’s President Trump.   Less than a year after Chamberlain’s famous appeasement toward Hitler, Britain and Germany were at war.   It had become all too clear, even to Chamberlain, that Hitler was intent on global conquest.

There’s been plenty of evidence that Russia has similar territorial designs.   The Russians took control of part of Georgia a few years ago; this was followed by the conquest of Crimea and of eastern Ukraine.   Domination of Syria makes them the most powerful voice in the Middle East.  This role is growing – last month, Putin met with the leaders of Iran and Turkey in Ankara.  These three are now in a de facto alliance while Turkey remains officially in NATO.

Geoffrey Wawro, a professor at the University of North Texas, wrote a book called “Quicksand” (2010), on “America’s pursuit of power in the Middle East.”   Reviewer Rick Atkinson sums the book up well, writing that Wawro reveals “how an extraordinary tale of idealism, politics, force and miscalculation began and unfolded over the last century.”

The more the US got involved, the more the US was sucked in; hence the title “Quicksand.”   Why should we expect any other outcome following action in Syria?   Could US intervention lead to war with Russia?

“There was no reason for war in 1914, beyond the murder of an archduke in Bosnia.   As AJP Taylor said of 1914:   “Nowhere was there a conscious determination to provoke a war.   Statesmen miscalculated [and] became prisoners of their own weapons.   The great armies, accumulated to provide security and preserve the peace, carried the nations to war by their own weight.”   I wonder what Taylor would have said of Trump’s “Get ready, Russia” tweet.” (“Look at Syria and you can see all the elements that have led to world wars,” Simon Jenkins, The Guardian, April 12th.)

A miscalculation now could be fatal for the US, Russia and Syria.

SYRIAN COMPLEXITIES

Syria is a perfect illustration of the complexity of modern warfare and the geopolitics that complicate everything.

Syria was established after World War One and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.   After “the war to end all wars,” the Treaty of Paris carved out a number of new countries from the ruins of the Turkish ruled empire.   The treaty was aptly described as “the peace to end all peace” by a British general who saw a future of never-ending conflict in the region.   A century later nothing has improved.

Before World War One, Mesopotamia was a sleepy backwater of no interest to anyone.   The same could be said of Syria.   Bible students know that this had to change to fulfill apocalyptic prophecies about Israel (the Jews) and its neighbors.   The prophesied Jewish national homeland was established exactly seventy years ago, in May 1948.

Syria was a Mandated territory of the League of Nations.   France was given the mandate; Britain was given Iraq and Jordan to administer, again under a Mandate from the League.   Palestine was also a League of Nations mandated territory, given to the British.

After World War Two, the French left Syria.   It soon fell under the Soviet sphere of influence.   From 1970 Syria has been the home of a Russian naval base, the only one Russia has on the Mediterranean. The Russians are not going to give it up.   And they will support President Assad as long as it is in their interest to do so.

The US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 helped Russia to gain further influence in the region.   By removing Saddam Hussein from power and arranging an election in Iraq, the majority Shi’ites came to power, altering the balance of religious and political power in the Middle East.   Iran is the leading nation of Shia Islam.   An arc of Shia Islam now exists, from Iran through Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, roughly the same territory of the ancient biblical King of the North. Russia is heavily involved with the Iranians and Syria.   Turkey is now also with them, wanting to stop its Kurdish minority from breaking away.   The Turks are not Arabs, so this does not present a conflict for them.

Syria is not majority Shia.   Assad’s support comes mostly from his Alawite clan, a branch of Shia Islam, which amounts to only 11% of the population.   The Sunnis do not want to be ruled by Assad. Neither do the Sunnis in Iraq want a Shia government over them.  This is why ISIS formed, to “protect” Sunnis from Shi’ites.

It’s all very complicated.

No wonder the president is taking his time.

If he does nothing, he will be seen as weak against Syria and the Russians.  If he does something, innocent lives will be lost, but Assad will remain in power and Russia will continue as its benefactor.

A further complication came today when the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced that Moscow has “evidence” the video of the gas attack was performed by actors.   How does the West prove the film was real?

It seems like a no-win situation for the United States.

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European Immigration:   Nuns Out, Terrorists In                                                          by Douglas Murray, April 13, 2018 (Gatestone Institute)

  • When the same Home Office that forbade Sister Ban even to enter the country discovered that the young male Iraqi was in Britain, he explained clearly that he had been trained by ISIS.  He told the Home Office officials that the group had trained him to kill.   The Home Office promptly found him a place to live and study, and treated him as the minor he said he was but most likely was not.   He subsequently told a teacher that he had “a duty to hate Britain.”
  • Last year the Institute of St. Anselm (a Catholic training institute for priests and nuns, based in Kent) closed its doors because of problems it had getting the Home Office to grant visa applications for foreign students.   One nun last year was apparently denied entry to the UK because she did not have a personal bank account.
  • So, those who flee ISIS are turned away, while those who are trained by ISIS are welcome.

 

 

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INTERESTING DEVELOPMENTS IN EUROPE THIS WEEK

German Chancellor Angela Merkel with US President Barack Obama outside the Elmau castle in Kruen near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Monday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel with US President Barack Obama outside the Elmau castle in Kruen near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Monday. (Reuters)

The week began with the 41st G7 summit, held this year in the Bavarian town of Krun.

The former G8 is now down to 7 since Vladimir Putin started misbehaving himself and invaded Ukraine.   He never really belonged anyway.  The group is made up of the seven biggest industrial powers in the world – Russia was never the eighth.   Even the Belgian economy is bigger than Russia’s.   At the same time, Russia under Putin can hardly be described as a model democracy.

The leaders of the seven seem to have had the usual amicable two-day session, during which they discussed Russia and Ukraine, global warming and ISIS.   President Obama was more than candid when he said that the US does not have a “complete strategy” when it comes to dealing with the terror group.  One year after ISIS captured the city of Mosul, the Administration still doesn’t know what it’s doing!   It’s a good thing the president wasn’t in power at the time of Pearl Harbor – Hitler and Tojo would have won!

Fortunately, there are leaders out there who do know what they are doing and who seem to have a clear strategy.  Unfortunately, they live in Moscow and the Vatican.

Today, the leader of Russia, no doubt sore at being barred from the summit and all that Bavarian beer, met with the Pope in the Eternal City.   This was the second time the two men have met, the first since the Russian annexation of Crimea.   Note what Russia Today had to say:

“The two men champion similar conservative values in a rapidly changing world, as well as concerns for emerging threats to Christianity.  During their last meeting in 2013, Putin and the Pope discussed the danger Christians face in the Middle East at the hands of radical Islamists.

“The meeting is expected to touch upon Ukraine and the civil war in the east of the country.  Pope Francis has been rejecting calls from the Ukrainian Catholic Church to condemn Russia over allegations that it’s fueling aggression, and instead called on all parties involved to cease hostilities.”

Today’s meeting was a test of the pope’s diplomatic skills.  Fresh from a visit to Cuba, which was appreciated in both Washington and Havana, the pope was instrumental in breaking the ice between the US and the communist country.  Can he help break the logjam over Ukraine?

Perhaps more important to the pope is the state of Christians in the Middle East.  Extremists throughout the region are killing Christians at an alarming rate and in a most alarming manner.  Russia’s president has said that Russia will protect them.  The pope has called for world leaders to intervene and use force against those persecuting Christians.  The US president is on record as saying that the US is a “post-Christian” country – he will not be seen to favor Christians over Muslims, reminding people a few weeks ago that Christians did some terrible things to Muslims during the Crusades. At the same time, Christianity is a thing of the past to most western Europeans.

So, what next in Europe and particularly Germany, Rome and Moscow?

Bible prophecy shows that prior to Christ’s Second Coming, there will be a revival of the Roman Empire, in which Rome and Germany will play major roles.   You can read about the revived Roman Empire in Revelation, chapter 17.   History students will know that this union is not improbable.   In 1922, Mussolini proclaimed a revival of the Roman Empire.   After his plans failed, six European nations came together to sign the Treaty of Rome in 1957, pledging to form “an ever closer union”, in effect a nicer Roman Empire, not built by force.

For this revival of the Roman Empire to come into its final form, a German led Europe and America are set to go their separate ways. Clearly, there are already differences between Washington and Berlin, the only European capital that counts.   Germany is witnessing increasing anti-Americanism, which is likely to get worse with the publication of “Schindler’s List.”   Gerhard Schindler is the president of Germany’s BND, the equivalent of America’s National Security Agency (NSA).   He has in his possession a list of people in Germany that his BND has been spying on at the behest of the NSA.

“This list has become a potential time bomb both for Germany’s ruling coalition and for the transatlantic relationship.  It refers to the documentation of millions of “selectors”— search terms for phone numbers, e-mail addresses and so on — that America’s National Security Agency (NSA) has over the years fed into the computers of its German equivalent, the BND.   The Germans monitored these and passed the intelligence back to America.  Under a 2002 deal, the selectors may not point to German citizens, European firms or European Union governments.

“But for years the BND failed to check the selectors, according to parliamentary testimony by Gerhard Schindler, its president. It began doing so properly only after revelations of American mass surveillance by Edward Snowden in 2013.  The BND then rejected thousands of search terms as impermissible, apparently because they aimed at European firms and governments, including France’s. A big question is just how many problematic selectors had got through.   Mr. Schindler says he was informed of the situation only in March.  How much Chancellor Angela Merkel knew is unclear.” (“Germans are angry not only with America’s spies but also with their own,” The Economist, June 6th.)

There is likely to be considerable fallout when the list is revealed.   In turn, this could affect transatlantic relations.

Add to this a growing disillusionment with a do-nothing Washington that is no longer committed to Europe and seems averse to doing anything significant in the Middle East.   This leaves a vacuum in the Western world.   Europe is not ready to fill the vacuum yet, but if the West is to be saved, it must do so.   And do so soon.

Rome will also play a role here.   A revived Roman Empire is not possible without the papacy.   Note the following comment in Time Magazine one day before the pope met with President Putin.

“The Bishop of Rome may not represent the United States or Germany, but he is increasingly a superpower in his own right, and the Wednesday meeting is a diplomatic test of how Francis will use his influence.”

(“Vladimir Putin Tests the Limits of Pope Francis’ Powers,” Elizabeth Dias, Time Magazine, June 9th.)

Little attention is given to Berlin, Rome, or Moscow on American television news programs, but developments in these three cities could affect America’s future and very soon.

TWIN THREATS PROMPT CALLS FOR ACTION

Pope

One thousand years after the Crusades, the Pope is calling for force to be used to protect Christians in the Middle East.

The Catholic website “Crux” is currently leading with the headline:  “Vatican backs military force to stop ISIS ‘genocide’.”   The news story begins with the following two paragraphs:

“In an unusually blunt endorsement of military action, the Vatican’s top diplomat at the United Nations in Geneva has called for a coordinated international force to stop the “so-called Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq from further assaults on Christians and other minority groups.

“We have to stop this kind of genocide,” said Italian Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative in Geneva. “Otherwise we’ll be crying out in the future about why we didn’t do something, why we allowed such a terrible tragedy to happen.”

At the same time, the Fox News website’s top story is:  “Islamic State intensifies its efforts TO WIPE OUT CHRISTIANITY.”

Meanwhile, there has been another call for a European Army.

Presently, every single country in Europe has its own military.   However, many European nations are members of NATO and co-operate greatly on defense.  In spite of increasing threats to the peace and stability of Europe, some European countries have been cutting defense expenditure in order to balance their budgets in a time of austerity.   This has caused some resentment in the United States.  Many feel that Europeans are not pulling their weight.  A number of countries are spending less than the required 2% of their budgets on defense.

At the same time, Europeans are concerned that Americans seem intent on raising the stakes in Ukraine by sending more arms to Kiev.   This scares some European governments including Germany.  Additionally, the US is closing 15 military bases in Europe, as if to emphasize that the country’s priorities are changing.

Europeans see Russia as their greatest threat at this time.  So do many members of the US Congress.  However, differences remain on how best to handle Russia.

The President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, has called for an EU Army to make the Russians realize that Europe is serious about Russia’s threats (“Jean Claude Juncker calls for EU Army,” The Guardian, 8 March).

In the last twelve months, Russia has invaded and annexed Crimea, continues to occupy (supposedly through surrogates) eastern Ukraine and has increased intimidating military flights over the Baltic countries and the United Kingdom.

But Russia may not be the biggest military challenge Europeans face.   Islamic extremism could be an even bigger problem.

The Europeans have to contend with both ISIS and Al-Qaeda.  The latter was behind the attacks in Paris in January.  ISIS is now at Europe’s back door with a significant presence in Libya, Italy’s former colony, and not that far away from the Italian peninsula.   ISIS also now has an ally in Boko Haram, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State a few weeks ago.   Boko Haram is causing a great deal of turmoil in Nigeria and neighboring countries, all of which have commercial and historical ties with European countries and the EU.

The Bible highlights the fact that the Middle East is at the center of Bible prophecy.  Many of the prophecies in scripture could not have been fulfilled until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire less than a hundred years ago.  The subsequent peace treaty created a number of new countries, many of which remain in varying degrees of conflict and instability.  Deeper tensions came with the establishment of the nation of Israel in 1948.   These events have made the final biblical scenario all the more credible.

Daniel 11:40-41 prophecies:  “At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through.  He shall also enter the Glorious Land (the Holy Land)….”

Earlier in chapter 11 we read a prophecy, written in the sixth century BC, of Alexander the Great.  His empire, a fulfilled prophecy, came about two centuries after the prophetic words of Daniel were written.  As predicted, his empire was eventually divided between his four generals.  Two of these generals founded biblically significant dynasties, one to the north of Jerusalem (the King of the North, or the Seleucid dynasty) and one to the south of Jerusalem (the King of the South, or the Ptolemaic dynasty).   These two dynasties were often in conflict.  As the Jews were in the middle, they suffered greatly because of them.

After the horrendous climactic events in the middle of the second century BC, the prophecy takes us down to the present time, where, once again, there’s a king of the North and a King of the South.   It should be noted that the prophecy has a gap of two thousand years because the Jews did not have a country of their own during that time.  Now, once again, they do.

The ancient King of the North was conquered by the Roman Empire in 60 A.D.   A new revived Roman Empire is going to emerge as the new King of the North, although it won’t be called by that name.  But it will fulfill the prophecy in Daniel 11.  It will send troops into the Middle East to deal with the growing threat of Islamic militancy, political turmoil and conflict.  A European Army is more likely to be used in this region than against Russia.

But, after intervening in the Middle East, that same army may have to deal with Russia.  “But news from the east and the north shall trouble him . . .” (v. 44).   It should be noted that Russia, Iran, Syria and a number of central Asian, former Soviet republics, co-operate militarily.  If Europe was embroiled in the Middle East, Russia would no doubt take advantage and annex other countries that were formerly in its empire.

This brings us back to the pope’s call for force to be used to save Christians in the Middle East.

In the latter part of the eleventh century, Muslim Turks massacred Christians and treated surviving Christians cruelly.  This led to Pope Urban II in 1095 calling for a Crusade against the Muslims, to free the Christians in the Holy Land.  The Crusades lasted two hundred years.

Today, it’s not the Turks who are persecuting Christians.  It’s ISIS and other extremis groups.   And, it’s not just Christians who need protecting.   Other minorities also need intervention on their behalf.   But, as with events a thousand years ago, it could be the pope who calls nations to arms.

Western civilization is once again seriously threatened.  Politicians, never able to see beyond the next election, seem blinded to this reality.   The papacy is, once again, more in tune with global reality.

The pope’s call, together with the call for an EU Army, show that the prophecies of your Bible are on track, leading ultimately to the second coming of Jesus Christ to establish His Kingdom.

GERMANY OVERHAULING DEFENSE STRATEGY TO COUNTER RUSSIAN THREATS

GDM von der Leyen

The Ukrainian situation is having a profound effect on Europe.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen is promising to overhaul defense strategy in response to Russian aggression against the government and people of Ukraine.   The Russians have been using “power politics and military force,” to get their own way.

The latest deal, Minsk 2, brokered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with the aid of French President Francois Hollande, failed to end the fighting.   It’s clear who is the major problem – yesterday, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, was warning Ukraine to pull its forces out of yet another of the country’s cities, so that Russian rebels can take over.   There’s ample proof these rebels include Russian professional soldiers.   This is a blatant attack by Russia on the sovereignty of one of its neighbors.

Not content with being the biggest country in the world, the Russians clearly want more territory.   It may even be that Moscow is intent on taking back all the territories of the former Soviet Union. The fall of the USSR in 1991 was once described by Mr. Putin as the greatest disaster of the twentieth century.

It’s less than seven years since Russian troops invaded Georgia in support of ethnic Russians living there.   Less than a year ago, the Crimea was annexed.   Now eastern Ukraine is seriously threatened. Other countries on Russia’s borders now face the same prospect, as the western alliance is proven impotent in the face of Moscow’s aggression.

Watch for dramatic changes ahead in Europe.   As the US shuts down military bases in Europe to focus on needs elsewhere in the world, only one western European country has the capacity to fill America’s shoes.   That country is Germany.   The German Defense Minister sees clearly the need for Germany to reassert itself in the face of Russian threats from the east.

 

 

WILL RUSSIA END NATO?

 

100415a-HQ28-010 NATO Headquarters Brussels.

Time Magazine has an interesting article on “Russia’s Fifth Column” in the latest issue, by Simon Shuster.

The article explains Russia’s modus operandi for re-acquiring its former empire.

The annexation of the Crimea earlier this year and the ongoing problems in eastern Ukraine help give insight.

The idea is to use Russian-speaking people left behind when the Soviet empire collapsed.  There are ten million of them in a number of eastern European countries.  Three notable ones are the Baltic countries, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.  These countries could see a repeat of Ukraine’s experience.

“… Russia’s military support for separatists in eastern Ukraine has sent the clearest message to Russians everywhere.  Moscow has your back.”

The methodology is similar to Hitler’s 75 years ago – get local German (now Russian speakers) to claim discrimination and provoke conflict.  Russia will do the rest, providing arms to local militias or even sending their own troops in, claiming they are locals protecting their own community.

The three Baltic republics are the most vulnerable.  They are all members of NATO so, if Russia invades, the US and other NATO members are obliged to intervene on their behalf.

“Under Article 5 of the treaty that binds NATO together, Washington and its 27 allies are obliged to come to the defense of any member attacked by a foreign power. Should Russia invade Estonia or Latvia, perhaps using the rationale that it is protecting the Russian minorities in those countries – just as it did in Crimea – the West would face a sobering choice: go to war with a nuclear-armed state or back down and accept that NATO is no more.”

Based on this rationale, which makes sense, Putin could bring about the end of NATO quite quickly. If a Russian invasion of a NATO country does not see Article 5 invoked, it would mean the end of the alliance.

My wife and I are going away for a week starting tomorrow. I will not be posting again until Thursday December 18th.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

SOME THOUGHTS FROM INDIANAPOLIS

ed-miliband-getty

Ed Miliband is right.  You can’t trust the people.

Mr. Miliband is Leader of the Opposition Labour Party in the United Kingdom.

If his party wins the next election and he becomes prime minister, there will not be a referendum on Britain’s EU membership.  Mr. Miliband knows that if such a vote took place, it’s likely it would go against the EU.

The present Prime Minister, Conservative David Cameron, has promised a referendum in 2017, if his party wins next year’s election.  This does not mean Mr. Cameron actually wants the British people to vote on the issue – he had to commit to keep anti-EU members of his own party happy and to take the wind out of the sails of UKIP, the United Kingdom Independence Party, which is gaining in the polls.  UKIP advocates withdrawal from Europe.

The fact is that the ruling elite are not comfortable with referenda, giving the people the opportunity to vote on important issues like their future – do they want to continue a thousand years of freedom and independence, or would they rather surrender that freedom to the emerging European superpower that some have dubbed “the Fourth Reich?”  Certainly Germany, not Britain, is the dominant country in the union.

Why would party leaders want to continue EU membership and deny voters the opportunity to express themselves?

The EU is often described as “the gravy train.”  The most powerful Eurocrats, including former Labour leader Neil Kinnock and his wife Glynis, have done well out of the Eurocracy, the ruling cabal that runs the EU.  Thousands of others have equally benefitted at the expense of the people.

Those in power now know that, when they lose power in the United Kingdom itself, they can look forward to a lucrative “retirement” in the EU.

Besides, many British companies are in favor of continued membership as most of their sales are to other countries in the Union.

And it’s always nice to be able to travel around Europe without any visa or passport restrictions.

Those against an EU vote are in a difficult position right now – while denying the British people the right to express themselves on this crucial issue, they are condemning Russia for giving the people of Crimea an opportunity to determine their future!

There’s something not quite right here.

Of course, Putin knew the way the people would vote, so he did not take any risks.  Is it possible that Vladimir Putin is more in touch with the people than the average western leader?  Perhaps Ed Miliband and David Cameron should spend more time listening to voters instead of deciding what’s best for them.

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The Crimea is now a part of Russia and likely to remain so.  Nothing will change that.

But that does not mean nothing has changed.

The US could not really do anything.  But the perception of the United States has changed slightly due to this crisis, with the US seen as increasingly impotent.  It didn’t start with Crimea – the problem was highlighted last summer when President Obama backed down and did nothing about Syria’s genocide.  The president keeps making the mistake of declaring that the US will not use military force, when the best thing is to keep options open, which might make Assad, Putin or anybody else hesitate.  As Putin backs Assad, this means Russia has beat America twice in just over six months, which may encourage the Russian leader toward further action.

The EU, much closer to the scene of the crime, couldn’t do much either.  Apart from imposing economic sanctions, the EU was also impotent.  Surely this will spur the Europeans on to integrate their military forces so that they can thwart any further threat from Russia?  A combined European military would be a major military power, easily able to deter Russia and anybody else.

Russia also will suffer as a result of this.  It’s highly unlikely the country can remain in the G8, thereby further isolating Moscow; while sanctions will set back the country’s economy.

Nobody has really won, though Russia now rules Crimea again.

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I haven’t had much time to read or write this week as we are staying with our eldest daughter and family in the Indianapolis area.  The number of children playing around me (and on me) has increased by 300% (from two to six), which still leaves two missing.

It’s been a great week.

IS CRIMEA EUROPE’S FUTURE?

crimea-map

It’s been exactly a hundred years since an assassin’s bullets opened up an ethnic can of worms across Europe, the Middle East, and eventually the rest of the world.

Prior to the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, Europe was not exactly free of ethnic tensions or religious divides.  Irish Catholics had been campaigning for Home Rule for decades; Hungarians wanted to rule themselves but remain under the Hapsburg crown; Poles wanted to be free of Russia, Germany, and Austria, free to resurrect their own nation again; Zionists wanted their own state in what is now Israel.

But, prior to 1914, imperialism was in vogue.  Large empires composed of multiple nationalities were more the norm.  Globalization was all the rage.

It all came crashing down as the most significant assassination in history led, 37 days later, to “the war to end all wars.”  After the war, the peace treaty allowed a number of different ethnic groups to have their own independent nation state.   The Czechs and Slovaks were grouped together in Czechoslovakia; the Poles got their own country; the Finns, too; Hungarians were formally separated from Austria; the Serbs, who, arguably started the war in the first place, got their own country with the Croats in the new Yugoslavia;  even the Ukrainians had a brief period of independence.

They have just had another such period, this time for over twenty years.  It may be coming to an end again.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

The vote in the Crimea on Sunday is a foregone conclusion, with 58% of the people in the region Russian speaking.  It’s not that the vote will be rigged – there’s no need for that.   The majority will vote to switch allegiance from Kiev to Moscow.  If it wasn’t a certainty, Russia would not be holding a referendum.   This vote, it is hoped, will justify their invasion and put an end to the whole matter.

It won’t be that simple.

What about the Ukrainian minority inside Crimea?  What about the Russian speaking areas in the east of Ukraine?  Will Russia invade them?  What about the Tatars?

Ah yes, the Tatars.

They constitute 12% of the population of the Crimea.  They were the pre-Russian inhabitants of the peninsula, invaded by Catherine the Great in the late eighteenth century.   They are a Turkic people left over from the days of the Ottoman Empire.  They are Muslims.  More significantly, they got a raw deal, a real raw deal, from Russia under Josef Stalin, who had them all forcibly removed from their homes and transported to Siberia with only 15 minutes notice.  They dread a return to Russian rule.

It may be that they have little to fear.  After all, neither Stalin nor Catherine were actually Russian.  But Russia is having difficulties already with its Muslim minorities – it’s unlikely the Tatars will fare any better than the Chechens.

The ethnic complexities of the region are symbolic of the wider European ethnic quilt.

Spain doesn’t want Crimea to break away from Ukraine because they don’t want their own Catalans to break away from their country; the Scots are voting in September on possibly breaking away from the United Kingdom; Belgium has had serious ethnic divisions ever since the country was created almost two centuries ago; the Balkans always has further potential for ethnic conflict; Rumania has a significant Hungarian minority that would like to join Hungary; while Hungary has its own minorities.

The EU has actually made the problem worse.   It is possible now for every small ethnic group to have its own country and still be economically viable through the European Union.  If Scotland breaks away from the UK, it can seek membership of the EU and minimize the economic consequences of breaking away from the bigger whole.

In theory.

They would actually have to have approval of the other member countries, including England.   And none of them has a vested interest right now in approving Scottish membership.  It might encourage separatists in their own countries.   Additionally, the last thing the 28-member EU needs is yet another voting member, holding back further progress toward European unity.  They also don’t want more members needing a bail-out.

However, it’s also possible that the proliferation of smaller countries in the EU could lead to a resurrection of the medieval Holy Roman Empire, a motley assortment of political entities that all owed allegiance to a common German emperor.

Rather than Sunday’s vote bringing an end to the European crisis, it may turn out to just be the beginning!