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Peter Millett

Ambassador to Libya, Tripoli

Part of UK in Jordan

2nd April 2014

Ukraine: Mysteries and Myths

Winston Churchill once described Russia as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”. That quip probably reflected his frustration from dealing with Stalin 70 years ago.

There are no mysteries about Russia’s bullying behaviour of Ukraine in recent weeks. But there are plenty of myths.

For example, the Russians claim that their annexation of Crimea is in line with international law. Yet their action is directly contrary to Russia’s own international guiding principles, which their Ministers trot out at every opportunity, notably their commitment to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of other countries. By acting in this way Russia has thrown away the international rule book, including the UN Charter.

Moscow also claims that it is acting in defence of Russian nationals. But experts from internationally-respected bodies have stated that they have found no evidence of any violence or threats to the rights of Russian speakers in Crimea.

A further claim is that the Crimean referendum was legitimate. Leave aside the fact that Russia was completely isolated when it vetoed the draft UN Security Council resolution on 15 March which declared the vote illegal. Leave aside the fact that the 96.7% result of the referendum was wildly out of kilter with a representative opinion poll in February, which showed that only 41% of Crimean voters favoured joining Russia.

متظاهرون أوكرانيون
Ukrainian protestors

The essential fact is that it was held under conditions of direct military interference with less than 10 days preparation. It was unrepresentative and a mockery of justice. The result cannot be presented as the statement of the free will of the people of Crimea.

Another red herring is any comparison between Crimea and Kosovo. Independence for Kosovo was a response to a humanitarian crisis and indisputable evidence of ethnic cleansing. In Crimea there wasn’t even any serious unrest. Moreover, Kosovo’s independence followed long years of diplomatic effort; in Crimea Russia went for a military option first.

Finally, the crisis in Ukraine is seen as a classic cold war-style tussle between East and West, a choice between Moscow and Brussels. It is true that the protests in Kiev were driven by the desire of Ukrainians to share the prosperity that their neighbours, like Poland and Hungary, have enjoyed in the EU. But opening the door to the West does not close the door to the East. Closer alignment to Europe would make Ukraine a more stable and prosperous partner for Russia and the region.

The result of this illegal land-grab has been to isolate Russia, undermine the internationally accepted rules-based system and make Russia look like a bully to the rest of the world.

Russia’s isolation was illustrated last week when 100 countries voted at the UN General Assembly to dismiss Russia’s annexation of Crimea as illegal. Only 10 countries voted against the resolution with Russia.

We should not give up on diplomacy in the face of a bully. The risks of escalation – not only for Europe but also for other vital issues – are clear. We need to continue to work with Russia to find solutions to the crisis in Syria, the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme and the Middle East Peace Process.

There are no riddles or enigmas behind Russia’s precipitate action in Crimea. The mystery is how the Russians failed to realise that a short term populist move against Crimea would lead to the inevitable international reaction against them.

6 comments on “Ukraine: Mysteries and Myths

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  4. Dear Peter , dear Mr. Nofuture,
    1st. of all : I ´m writing these lines with my full respect to both of you , esp. Mr. Nofuture.
    But there are in yr., Mr. Nofuture , above released comment sentences of which I do strongly disagree. I wanna make it short so I ´ve picked up just 3 lines out of it .
    #1 : You can ´t “annexing” a Group of Islands in 1833 – the Falklands – from a state – Argentina – which was founded in 1862, 1st. democratic elected President : Bartolome Mitre. Plus and according to BBC ´s history channel in a friendly & peaceful way.
    #2 : “Principles always over persons ” ( Sigmund Freud, “Analyze this”). It ´s nothing but UNFAIR by critizising People /politicians ( in yr. case US-President B. Obama and “tons of British People ) in such a discriminating way. Of course, you can always critize their POLICY but not and never ever the persons itself. For they are HUMAN BEINGS like you , Peter or me too. Very unfair.
    #3 : Who , pardon , has finally “arranged” this “violent coup2 in Kyiv ? The Obama Administration, These American puppets or maybe President Obama itself ? I ´m very sorry but you have written in a Little bit strange and confusing way. Plus (willingly ?) thrown out “Facts” without mentioning o n e s i n g l e serious source or Name . Within this context : what makes you so sure , that ALL European People do know ´bout this US/EU Expansionist adventure ? Me and millions of others do surely nothing ´bout it.
    So These lines are to me a typical case of wishful thinking.
    Best wishes 6 a peaceful Weekend , liebe Grüßle & a frideliches Wochenende, Ingo-Steven Wais , Stuttgart

  5. Dear Peter ,
    you ‘re correctly right by writing ’bout Russia ‘s “bullying behaviour ” to the Ukraine. So pls. allow me to write and going 1 step further : in fact , it ‘s to me just unacceptable for the entire so – called WORLD COMMUNITY. And – if it wouldn ‘t be so tragic and sad – you could also smile ’bout some official Russian statements in re. of the military supported occupation of the Crimean – Peninsula. Esp.: “…is in line with int ‘l. laws..”. Well , you ‘ve also written ’bout the “statement of the free will…”. This means in my opinion nothing but that ‘s NON-DEMOCRATIC. Last but not least : Tome , Russia , or better some few high – ranking politicains have finally reached (so far) the opposite of what they ‘ve intented. An isolation of their own country. Even at the UN. That ś why it would be interested to know the names of the 10 states who voted against the resolution.

    “Mysteries do often end in myseries/ Mysterien enden oft im Elend”. (Günter Grass , The Tin Drum”)
    Best wishes, Ingo-steven , Stuttgart

  6. I couldn’t even read most of the above propaganda because it’s so one-sided. Nobody is seriously arguing anymore about Crimea because it was Russian for centuries and the Americans took Hawaii by force and annexed it and the Brits took the Falklands in the same way and their referendum took place with tons of British troops around the polling places.

    93 countries refused to vote for the toothless UNGA resolution about Crimea so it was really a 100-93 vote = split decision = a failure for the left wing Obama administration and socialist EU that arranged the violent coup in Kiev that is the essence of undemocratic because more than 120 parliamentarians have been disallowed from showing up at the Rada to vote for their eastern and souther constituencies. The unelected pres is making agreements with the EU and NATO with no mandate and everyone in Ukraine thinks of Yats as an American puppeet.

    In that UNGA vote, 11 openly said no but 58 abstained and 24 countries didn’t bother to show up for the vote. That makes 93 countries that did not vote to criticize Russia for taking back part of its traditional territory at a moment when NATO facilitated a hostile coup that would have given the Black Sea base to NATO. What would you have done if you were pres of Russia?

    The socialist EU is now going to split up because the European people know that the US/EU expansionist adventure in Ukraine has been outrageously wrong-headed.

    Russia will but won’t have to fund nationalist parties inside the EU that will demand that their countries get out of the EU and NATO. Bulgaria will probably be the first to do this.

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About Peter Millett

Peter arrived in Tunis on 23 June 2015 to take up his post as Ambassador to Libya. Previously he was British Ambassador to Jordan from February 2011 to June 2015. He was High Commissioner to…

Peter arrived in Tunis on 23 June 2015 to take up his post as
Ambassador to Libya.
Previously he was British Ambassador to Jordan from February 2011 to June 2015.
He was High Commissioner to Cyprus from 2005 – 2010.
He was Director of Security in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
from 2002-2005, dealing with all aspects of security for British
diplomatic missions overseas.
From 1997-2001 he served as Deputy Head of Mission in Athens.
From 1993-96 Mr Millett was Head of Personnel Policy in the FCO.
From 1989-93 he held the post of First Secretary (Energy) in the UK
Representative Office to the European Union in Brussels, representing
the UK on all energy and nuclear issues.
From 1981-1985 he served as Second Secretary (Political) in Doha.
Peter was born in 1955 in London.  He is married to June Millett and
has three daughters, born in 1984, 1987 and 1991.  
His interests include his family, tennis and travel.