The Wrong Referendum, The Wrong Saviour 371

I am not opposed to self determination for the people of Crimea; I am opposed to this referendum.  Nobody can seriously argue there has been a chance for a campaign in which different viewpoints can be freely argued, with some equality of media access and freedom from fear and intimidation.

Hitler invaded Austria on 12 March 1938.  The Anschluss was confirmed in a plebiscite on 10 April, just 28 days later, by a majority of 99.7%.  Putin has done it in less than half of the time, and I have no doubt will produce a similar result in the vote.  The point is not whether or not the vote reflects the will of the people – the point is whether the will of the people has been affected by military demonstration, fear, hysterically induced national psychosis and above all an absence of space for debate or alternative viewpoints.

There is no reasonable claim that Putin’s swift plebiscite is necessary because of an imminent threat of violence against Russians in Crimea.  There is absolutely no reason that a referendum could not have been held at the end of this year, in a calm and peaceful atmosphere, after everybody had a chance to campaign and express their position.  Putin has proved that force majeure is powerful in international politics, and there is every reason to believe that he could have finessed international acceptance of such a referendum in due course.  Germany, in particular, is much more interested in its own energy supplies than in the rights of Ukraine.  In twenty years in diplomacy, I never saw a single instance of Germany having any interest in rights other than its own national self-interest.  It is very likely such a genuine referendum would have gone in Russia’s favour.  But the disadvantages of open debate about the merits and demerits of Putin’s Russia, and his own self-image as the man of military prowess, led Putin to take the more violent course.

The vote yesterday in the Security Council should give every Putinista pause.  Not even China voted with Russia.  The Africans and South Americans voted solidly against.  That is not because they are prisoners or puppets of the United States – they are not.  Neither did they take the easy road of abstention.  The truth is that what Putin is doing in Crimea is outrageous.

What happens now is going to be interesting.  I greatly fear that Putin is looking to stir up as much disorder in Ukraine’s Eastern provinces as possible, perhaps with the aim of promoting civil war in which Russia can covertly intervene, rather than open invasion, but I do not put the latter past him.  Against that, I am quite sure Russia did not expect the extreme diplomatic isolation, in fact humiliation, it suffered at the UN yesterday.  I am hopeful Russia may step back from the brink.

The EU I expect to do nothing.  Sanctions will target a few individuals who are not too close to Putin and don’t keep too many of their interests in the West.  I don’t think Alisher Usmanov and Roman Abramovic need lose too much sleep, that Harrods need worry or that we will see any flats seized at One Hyde Park.  (It is among my dearest wishes one day to see One Hyde Park given out for council housing.)  Neither do I expect to see the United States do anything effective; its levers are limited.  I doubt we have seen the last of Mr Putin’s adventurism.

Human society is not perfectible, which does not mean we should not try.  I believe western democracy, particularly in its social democratic European manifestation from approximately 1945 to 2000, achieved a high level of happiness for its ordinary people and an encouraging level of equality.  For approximately 20 years unfortunately we have witnessed a capitalism more raw and unabated than ever before, and massively growing levels of wealth inequality, a reduction in state provision for the needy, a distortion of state activity further to line the pockets of the rich, ever increasing corruption among the elite and growing levels of social immobility and exclusion, a narrowing of the options presented by major political parties until there is not a cigarette paper between them and their neo-conservative agendas, and a related narrowing by the mainstream media of the accepted bounds of public debate, with orchestrated ridicule of opinions outside those bounds.  Democracy, as a system offering real choice to informed electors, has ceased to function in the West leading to enormous political alienation.  On the international scene the West has retreated from the concept of international law and, heady with the temporary unipolar US military dominance, adopted aggressive might is right polices and a return of the practices of both formal and informal imperialism.

But every single one of those things is true of Putin’s Russia, and in fact it is much worse.  Wealth inequality is even more extreme.  Toleration of dissent and of different lifestyles even less evident, the space for debate even more constricted, the contempt for international law still more pronounced.  Putin’s own desire for imperialist sphere of influence politics leads him into conflict with aggressive designs of the west, as for example in Syria and Iran. The consequence can be an accidental good, in that Putin has thwarted western military plans. But that is not in any sense from a desire for public good, and if Putin can himself get away with military force he does.  His conflicts of interest  with the west have deluded a surprising number of people here into believing that Putin in some ways represents an ideological alternative.  He does not.  He represents a capitalism still more raw, an oligarchy still more corrupt, a wealth gap still greater and growing still quicker, a debate still more circumscribed.  It speaks to the extreme political failure of the western political system, and the degree of the alienation of which I spoke, that so many strive to see something beautiful in the ugly features of Putinism.


371 thoughts on “The Wrong Referendum, The Wrong Saviour

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  • guano

    If Russia had not thwarted US ambitions in Syria, we would have seen a repeat of Libya in Syria. Instead Assad has been able to multiply his violations against human rights and dignity by many times, sheltering under Russia’s military and diplomatic umbrella.

    US and its AlQaida, whose leader Zawahiri visited the US last year, would have imposed a US Muslim Brotherhood despot like Muhammad Mursi, who would have implemented the US plan to control Islam through NSA spying and torture, taming the custodians of the Arabic language from speaking by the light of the holy Qur’an.

    I can see some justification in Putin using military pressure in Ukraine, because if the US gets its ambition, as it did in Egypt, military force has to be used anyway to reverse the Satanic evil of US-created Islamic-thought-crime, which like the star chamber of the Roman Catholic Inquisition, uses the privacy of your own home to indict you with crimes against the state.

    Nobody is deceived that Putin, former KGB leader, or his military might is an ideologically good thing. Nor have they been since the 1920’s about Soviet-style Communism. But anybody who thinks that USUKIS is a force for good in this world after the relevations of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden or Craig Murray even, is also living in la-la-la-la land.

  • Herbie

    Res Diss

    If you’d provide some evidence for your allegations rather than continually parroting neocon propaganda, that’d be great.

    Even something approaching argument would do.


    It might help if you focussed on what the neocon plan for the world actually is, whether you agree with it and what it would mean for all the little people out there.

    I’ll help a bit.

    Do you think, for example, that Russia, China, the other BRICS, even Germany and other European countries might be just a tad concerned at this unfolding plan for a New American Century, with all that it entails?


  • Neil Saunders

    Scottish politicians (many with constituencies south of the border and/or cabinet positions) have certainly welcomed (mass) immigration to England. Incidentally, why are open borders – which hugely benefit multinational corporations – perceived as “left wing”, while opposition to them is automatically glossed as “racist”?

  • Andy

    Craig seems to have allowed his usually excellent judgment to be clouded by embracing the notion that Moscow is the malefactor in the Ukraine crisis.

    This is not an attempt by the evil Putin to extend the frontiers of Russia. It is plainly a clash between an expanding US/EU/NATO and an autocratic Russia which remembers Napoleon, Hitler and George Bush II, has few friends in this US-dominated world and has been forced onto the defensive again (as it was in Syria).

    Putin may have miscalculated in his response to the bloodshed in Kiev – although that still remains to be seen and almost all the killings have so far taken place there, not in the east. But the question is: who was primarily responsible for the explosion of violence in Ukraine and what can now be done to calm the situation?

    (Few would deny that the Putin regime is abhorrent, although many Russians seem to support it. But so are plenty of other regimes, many of them bought and paid for by “the West”).

    p.s. here’s a short film about the ever-changing frontiers of Ukraine (since 1914) published by Le Figaro (a right-wing French newspaper). Interesting, even if you don’t understand the French commentary.

  • Jay

    The first measurement to bring about reasonable equality would be destructiontof tax havens and wealth re-distribution, possibly a global monetary reset of which international law could over see.
    Asset values should extend beyond the material and should return to the creator of all things beautiful and godly.

  • wikispooks

    Your apparent inability to see things from the perspective of Russia speaks volumes. Likewise your single-minded refusal to acknowledge the elephant in the room that I have pressed in comments to previous posts.

    Can you not see that your even-handedness about the alleged iniquities of Putin -v- the West are straight out of the Cass Sunstein playbook; they further that ‘elephant-in-the-room’ agenda of the US-UK-NATO axis to perfection. Is that REALLY your intent? or are you simply naive in matters affecting the basically honourable intent of the West?

    You say that in your 20-odd years of FO experience there was never an instance of Germany acting in anything other than its own self-interest. Just what are we expected to infer from that little gem I ask? Are we really expected to believe that somehow the same does NOT apply to the US, UK and Russia? IOW, your anti-German disposition is also of-a-piece with standard FO blatherings; quelle surprise! – for sheer crassness, you could certainly teach the Daily Mail a thing or two.

    Everything you say in this post furthers the agenda of the interests you so plaintively claim to oppose. It is not a question of lauding Putin as a latter-day hero as you so persistently and pejoratively impute to your critics; it is is simply a matter of his being just about the last and only forlorn possibility of halting the globalising US-UK-NATO military/finance-capital juggernaut – the elephant in the room that you so steadfastly refuse to acknowledge. All you SEEM to see is an alleged petty self-aggrandizing tyrant and let’s just ignore his being the most popular politician on the planet (the baby elephant you might say).

    For those with eyes to see – and frankly I suspect that does include you – this is about neither the Ukraine nor the Crimea referendum. It is about yet another ratchet in the ascendancy of that elephant.

    Anyone who seriously tries to equate alleged Russian imperialism with what the US-UK-NATO has been about since the end of WWII (and earlier) is either a willing Cass Sunstein acolyte or terminally naive. So which are you Craig?

  • Someone

    Will it be any different to this below if Scotland gets independence ?, I don’t think so.

    “George Osborne, David Cameron, and their London mayor mate, Bo-Jo may welcome this influx of dirty money, as far as I can tell, the Tories are very relaxed about the sources of criminal cash being deposited in the City, but it does no exonerate banks from ensuring the full implementation of the regulations demanding full due diligence on the sources and provenance of the funds being deposited, and the nature and quality of any PEPs seeking client status.”

  • DomesticExtremist

    I am no Putin apologist.


    Crimea has never sat too comfortably within the independent Ukraine and has agitated for as much autonomy as it could get for the last twenty odd years. I suspect that had today’s referendum been offered at any time since the break-up of the USSR, it would have passed massively in favour of rejoining Russia.

    So the lack of preparatory time is really a non-issue.

    I don;t ike the characterisation in terms of Putin’s adventurism either – he is reacting to events instigated by the EU, Us and Nato. The whole Crimea hoopla serves as a convenient distraction for far darker events happening in Ukraine proper.

    The Maidan crowd are most unhappy with the unelected interim government, seeing it as a replacement of one corrupt oligarch with another set of election-losing, corrupt oligarchs with a smattering of fascists for good measure. This government is going to lock them into an IMF adjustment programme that will pauperise them for decades.

    Now that’s a lack of democracy we should all be screaming about.

  • By their fruits

    ye shall know em, (the good prophets that is) !

    1) Preventing NATO bombing of Syria based on a ghastly false flag,an evil gassing of 400 children at Ghouta.

    2) Giving refuge to Snowden, and thereby opening the eyes of the ENTIRE world to the Beast mentioned in the Bible. A service to mankind of the highest level.

    3) Making public the Nuland devils’ conversations – “Fuck EU” and “sniping of both sides”. If CM stays patient Putin may well have saved the best leaks for last.

    4) Being an only brave countervailing force to a Great Satan gone berserk with its limitless dollar printing press – its NSA even knows what colour panties Angela Merkel is wearing on any given day ! Compare with a 1.3 billion population PRC that can only abstain from the action.

    CM needs to be reminded Putin is in power with a 60% majority, a figure most Western leaders can only dream of. And that Yanukovich with all his faults was in power with a higher majority than Cameron, an election overseen by the EU no less. A Putin that is standing upto the devils that overthrew Mossadegh,Morsi,Yanukovich,etc and very soon Maduro, can only be the good guy.

  • craig Post author


    The problem is you are ignoring the historical viewpoint. Russia is a massive imperial power. As I have explained ad nauseam the growth of the Russian Empire was precisely contemporary with the growth of the British Empire. For geographical reasons most Russian colonies were contiguous and most British were overseas. But Dagestan, Chechnya and Tatarstan are Russian colonies just as much as India or Ghana ever were British colonies.

    Britain divested most of its empire, (the process still needs to complete) and Russia has not gone nearly so far in the process. The War on Terror gave it backing for the continued suppression of its largely Muslim colonies. For you to say Russia is not an imperial power is ludicrous.

    My argument is that people like you are backing one imperial power against another instead of condemning them both, as I am plainly doing.

  • Herbie

    Paul Craig Roberts discusses Ukraine and intimately related matters.

    Amongst issues addressed:

    How the neocons have wanted war with Soviet Union/Russia since Reagan’s presidency. PCR was a member of that govt.

    How the neocons believe nuclear war is winnable. “What good are nuclear weapons if you can’t use them”, said William Krystol, founding member of PNAC. How Reagan fired the neocons, and prosecuted some who were sentenced, but later pardonned by Bush Sr.

    How the neocons have re-emerged and determined US foreign policy since the Clinton administration and they’re still there through Bush Jr and Obama.

    How neoconism is a family business.

    How neoconism seeks hegemony over the whole planet.

    How neoconism trashes domestic and international law, discussion, cooperation, preferring to use might and violence instead.

    How neocon political philosophy is no more sophisticated than that of the football hooligan. “All they talk about is war and winning”.

    How Russia, China and Iran stand in the way of the neocon goal of world hegemony.

    How the neocons use money to fund destabilising forces within these countries.

    How the short term payback in looting resources, and also other longer term economic benefits to the US enables the neocons to recruit a broader constituency to their program, which ultimately is to put NATO bases in Ukraine, weakening Russia’s capacity to resist ultimate hegemony.

    How the BRICS etc are hatching plans to abandon the dollar whilst they still have that opportunity.

    His views on a variety of military options and non options, especially for Europeans.

    His views on the economic situation and the delicate balancing act involved in maintaining the dollar.

  • craig Post author


    I have never forgotten the dead in Iraq. You do not honour them by your stance that dead Chechens don’t matter. Killing Muslims is OK if it is Putin that does it?

  • nevermind

    Residents of the Crimea are taking massive sums out of their banks, why? with all this good will feeliong for the Russian Empire.

    This from Christopher Clarke on the paralells between 1914 and 2014. And why the geo political p[aralells are totally different.

    “German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier conceded that the EU foreign ministers (himself included) had been too quick during the early days of the crisis to engage with the Ukrainian opposition and too slow to take account of the larger geopolitical issues that are entangled with the crisis. This remark exhibited a level of self-critical reflection and a readiness to adjust to new developments that would have been completely alien to his early twentieth-century counterparts. The statement issued by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso on March 5 following a meeting of the Commission to discuss the situation in Ukraine struck exactly the right note.”

  • mark golding

    1,000,000 innocent murdered in the Iraq war; 4,000,000 families displaced, after George W Bush rolled out the ‘war on terror’ after the planned twin towers operation.

    Putin took advantage of this scam after calling Bush with his sympathy after learning of the 9/11 attacks, graciously offered to help with the invasion of Afghanistan.

    Then Uzbek President Islam Karimov allowed the U.S. to build a permanent base, sensing that his new alliance with the war on terrorism would reduce world scrutiny of human-rights abuses that included gross acts of torture in Uzbekistan, like boiling humans alive.

    What other atrocities can we attribute to this terror con game?

  • Herbie

    “The Maidan crowd are most unhappy with the unelected interim government, seeing it as a replacement of one corrupt oligarch with another set of election-losing, corrupt oligarchs with a smattering of fascists for good measure. This government is going to lock them into an IMF adjustment programme that will pauperise them for decades.”


    Remember that Baroness Ashton told these pawns/protestors to go back to their homes.

    The West now had a govt it could do business with, whatever about what the protestors wanted.

    For good measure that govt has now recruited the fascist thugs into a 60,000 Ukrainian Defence Force which will ensure there are no more protests.

    Job done.

    How anyone can support what’s going on here is beyond me.

    I’d imagine they just don’t understand the full implications of it all.

    It’s a continued appeasement of US and neocon thuggery which may not end well.

  • Daniel

    I agree with Craig’s analysis. However, the elephant in the room that seems to be overlooked is the fact that this joke of a referendum would not have happened had the U.S-instigated coup not been intended to isolate Russia from the outset.

  • nevermind

    What sort of hell and high water, one wonders, will Baroness Ashton raise to ensure that the planned general election in the autumn will take place, how will she ensure that the ballot is monitored by someone reputable?

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    The comparison of Hitler’s treatment of Austria and Putin’s of the Crimea seems ludicrous to me.

    Austria was a broken imperial power, like Germany, and when the victorious Western powers did nothing to stop his invading, it was hardly surprising that the Austrians supported him invasion overwhelmingly. To act as if more time about that referendum would have changed the result seems groundless to me.

    If Hitler had stopped then rather than going further with military aggressions, the Nazis might well have succeeded in taking over Europe.

    Putin has only used Russian power to support Russian ethnics from being taken over by non-Russians who support Western powers while trying to prevent non-Russian bits of its old empire from breaking away. He has good reason to suspect the West of wanting to destroy what’s left of Russia.

    And here too I see nothing changing for the better if the referendum were delayed in the Crimea.

    To make Putin sound like the German dictator is just another example of playing the Hitler card in discussions.

  • Paul Barbara

    I agree with a lot of what ‘By Their Fruits’ aays. Check out ‘US caught planning terror attacks in Ukraine’
    This is the usual MO that the CIA and other ‘Security Agencies’ have become adept at; the whole so-called ‘Arab Spring’ was nothing but a fomented ‘Regime Change’ scenario, funded by Soros, NED etc.
    4* General (ret) Wesley Clark, ex-Supreme Allied Commander Europe, is on video saying that in 2001, shortly after the 9/11 ‘Attack’, he visited the Pentagon to find out what was being planned, and was told the US was going to overthrow ‘7 govts. in 5 years: Iraq (they had already started bombarding Afghanistan), Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran’ (obviously the time scale has slipped). French ex-Foreign Minister Roland Dumas is on record saying that in 2009 he was told by two high British Officials that Britain (and France) were going to overthrow the Assad regime with mercenaries, and asked if he was interested.
    ‘Ukraine Protests Carefully Orchestrated: The Role of CANVAS, US-Financed “Color Revolution Training Group” –
    Identical ‘Street Warfare’ leaflets (except the languages), the first from Egypt, the second from Kiev.
    Re above link ‘US caught planning terror attacks in Ukraine’, the attack on an airfield with planes attacked is just like ‘Operation Red Rock’, where US Special Forces raided a Camboodian Air Base, destroyed a load of aircraft, left dead Vietnamese Sappers they had brought for the purpose (of making it look like a Communist raid) to get Lon Nol ‘off the fence’, and in the war on America’s side.
    Neither Putin nor the Chinese are ‘Angels’, but I thank God they are standing up against the marauding NWO Bankster War Criminal psychopaths/sociopaths.
    One last point: re Venezuela and Maduro, in 2000, eleven months before 9//11, Nick Rockefeller told Aaron Russo that ‘there was going to be an incident, and because of it he would see the US going into Afghanistan and Iraq, he would see US troops hunting through caves for Arabs, there would be a ‘War on Terror’, and after that the US was going after Venezuela (remember the 2002 Coup attempt?); well, the time-scale has slipped on that too, but the same type of sniper killings of both sides is occuring now (see ‘Aaron Russo – Historiic Interview’

  • Someone

    “You do not honour them by your stance that dead Chechens don’t matter.”

    I was pointing out that both sides have killed many people. I NEVER said that “Chechens don’t matter”, you Craig have lied, so please don’t make things up!, makes you look an idiot.

  • Gaston

    “There is absolutely no reason that a referendum could not have been held at the end of this year, in a calm and peaceful atmosphere, after everybody had a chance to campaign and express their position.”

    By the looks of it, it is very unlikely that the calm and peacefulness would have increased with the passage of time.

    Given that “the West has retreated from the concept of international law”, what could Putin get away with other than military force?

  • fred

    It isn’t much of a referendum as referendums go.

    But it’s a darn sight more than the Palestinians get as Israel annexes more and more of their land, they get no referendum at all.

  • Joe

    Have to disagree with your claim that Russia has been much worse that the US Empire on the flouting of international law. That’s simply wrong. Russia is an imperial power, but compared to the US it is a rather small and ineffective one, at least in scope.

    I think the context is all important here. Russia is responding to aggression to protect its interests, not initiating it to secure new ‘interests’. To me that is very different from initiating aggression, which is the forte of the US Empire.

    Maybe it’s easier for me to take this approach because I don’t feel personally invested in the situation in any ideological way, unless the truth is an ideology. I am simply studying the situation and attempting to give everything its due based on the available data, past and present.

    In dealing with moral sticky wickets like Russian military or other responses to the situation and emotionally-charged issues like being anti-war and respecting laws etc. I usually end up applying the ‘law of three’ rather than relying on absolute rights or wrongs as defined by standard moral convention. The ‘law of three’ states:

    ‘There is ‘good’ and there is ‘bad’, and there is the specific situation which determines which is which.’

  • Chris Jones

    Craig is simply putting out unbalanced guff now. No mention of the violent fascist led coup in Kiev? No mention that the fascist non democratic new government in Kiev voted to abolish the Assembly in the Crimea without a referendum or the fact that the UN voted to make any referendum in Crimea illegal? Nobody is saying that Putin is an angel but all perspectives have been lost in these latest posts

  • Someone

    “Craig is simply putting out unbalanced guff now.”

    Chris Jones,

    I agree!, I think Craig is undergoing some mental issues at the moment.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    Tovarish Goss

    “One sycophantic comment-maker has been raiding the apple-barrel to set himself up as teacher’s pet again, having suffered some disgrace by having comments binned through not having done his homework. It must be pretty galling for Craig to have attracted such a bedmate.”




    “Under normal circumstances I would agree myself with the blog-post, although I do not think the comparison with Hitler’s invasion of Austria is valid because of the extraordinary circumstances in the Ukraine.”

    Yes, we know that argument – there are always ‘extenuating circumstances’, aren’t there 🙂

    “My client knows that rape is wrong, m’Lud, but the girl was wearing a rather short skirt, wasn’t she”

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    Tovarish Goss

    “Resident Dissident, argue against the video (did you watch it?) not what you consider my politics to be.”

    In general I think it’s fair to say that posters reveal where they stand politically through the links they provide.


    “Life is getting better, life is getting merrier!” (J. Stalin, ca. 1932. 1932!!)

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