Happy March 3! Thanks, Russia, Regards to US, Keep in Mind Who's Who
George Veltchev has studied, lived and worked in Moscow, Sofia, Harare, Vienna, Paris, Boston and London. He holds master's and doctor's degrees in economics from the Vienna Economics University, and master of business administration from Harvard and Insead. He is a reserve officer of the Bulgarian army and has taught economics at Harvard College and the Sofia University Kliment Ohridski, was elected President of the Harvard Club of Bulgaria in the first year from its inauguration in 2001, and is a long-standing investor in Bulgaria.
The opinion published here is his own, has not been edited and does not express the opinions of this newspaper, or any other institution, to which he may have been or is currently related.
It is March 3rd and on the National Day of Bulgaria, I am reading the newest reports in the western, but also "eastern", press and media, where Obama is waving his finger again, as if he himself still believes his own threats, Hague is warning Moscow that invading Crimea would lead to "substantial losses", and Kerry altogether behaves in a "19th-century fashion" and threatens like a Bulgarian "insurer" of the 90s with "all options on the table" and a language, which, if mirrored by Lavrov, would prompt Obama to recall his ambassador in Moscow. Meanwhile, Putin's laughter is resonating all the way from the Kremlin to Rublevka, and I seem to hear it as far as Kensington.
The issue of Ukraine is of particular interest to me for several reasons – first, the arrogance of the US exceeds for the first time the levels of the bilateral relations with the Soviet Union from the peak of the Cold War. Just 50 years ago, such behaviour would have prompted Kennedy to launch the nuclear missiles towards Russia.
Second, the similarities with our own "backyard" are striking – the trade mark of the pro-American politicians is "if we win the elections, we start looting, if we lose, we start demonstrating for new elections until we win". It's a win-win scenario for us! Let the others pay the price.
Third, and most important, I struggle to understand the motivation of the European politicians who chose to inflame the tragedy, imposed by far-right and self-proclaimed neo-fascist groups on the entire Ukrainian population. As if "trumping" Russia is a good reason and excuse for the suffering of 46 million people. Are these the European ideals that these people are striving toward? And we lived in the illusion that it was democracy and peace that we had been dreaming of, rather than covering "populist terror" with the thin veil of misconceived European values.
Last, but not least, the most interesting long-term issue is the predictability of the policies of the "current superpowers" – the question of the territorial integrity of countries with minorities, and what are the doctrines they follow. To date, the EU member states have firmly taken the side of the right to peaceful self-determination – Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, but the best example, without any doubt, is Great Britain – in the case of the Scottish referendum. Russia, on the other hand, has always proclaimed the doctrine of territorial integrity, with the notable exception of South Ossetia, where the defence of the Russian population was the noted underlying reason.
The most curious case, as usual, is the USA – Bosnia and Herzegovina are allowed to leave Yugoslavia, but the Serbian Republic within it is not, Kosovo can secede from Serbia, but Serbian Kosovo cannot secede from it. Kurdistan cannot leave Turkey or Iraq, but, if Iraq becomes as insubordinate as Afghanistan, maybe it can. Chechnya can and absolutely must secede from Russia, but South Ossetia cannot leave Georgia, and Crimea cannot leave Ukraine. Czech Republic and Slovakia can split, and Germany can unify, but these processes would break international law if applied to Ukraine and Russia. It's a real confusion – to me, at least, Uncle Sam's logic is a puzzle. And what is the common denominator in it – do you need a small or a large minority to justify a referendum? Should they be Christian or Muslim, so that Victoria Newland allows them to secede? Should they be democrats or terrorists so that the US does not bomb them?
As it looks, the main common characteristic is whether they are pro-American or anti-American. If they are pro-American, they can be Taliban, or Al Qaeda, or Pinochet – they will have Uncle Sam's blessing. If they are anti-American, there is no need for a UN resolution, and if there is a need, but Russia or China are against it, then it is not mandatory, but simply desirable – either way, NATO will get mobilised, and they will be taken care of. To be quite honest, under these premises, I can absolutely understand our political leaders from Ivan Kostov to Boyko Borisov – if we do not clearly and visibly align ourselves with the US, who knows, we could wake up tomorrow with Strandja and part of the Rodopi mountains under the big red flag with the white crescent.
My choice of March 3rd for sharing my views was not random – I am convinced that every sane Bulgarian has no doubt whatsoever that, 136 years ago on this day, Russia liberated Bulgaria purely from Christian and human compassion, and not for geopolitical reasons. This is not to say that the Russian empire did not want to limit the reach of the Ottoman empire, but every historian would agree that Bulgaria had not been a critical piece of the imperial puzzle.
Just as everyone would agree that NATO invaded Serbia in order to "trump" Russia in the American style of "there is a new sheriff in town", and not to prevent the abuse of the minority by the majority – we all like to believe in the beautiful tales about the fair Uncle Sam who will not allow the bad bully to abuse the helpless child, but somehow, on the backdrop of the consistent rampage of Kurdish villages and the hundreds of thousands of victims in Turkey under the careful approval of the US, and the quiet support for Pinochet – the favourite disciple of the CIA – these tales remain as beautiful and hollow as the stories of the tooth fairy from our childhood.
So let's call things by their real names – let's thank Russia for continuing to treat us as brothers for centuries, despite the many years of ungrateful Bulgarian politicians, let's send our regards to Uncle Sam, and ask him to stay away from where he does not belong, and let's not forget who is who in our little backyard called Europe.
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