China Daily Website

Cool heads over Crimea

Updated: 2014-03-18 07:21
( China Daily)

So far, each of the parties involved, directly and indirectly, has proceeded on its set course:

In the Sunday referendum, 96.6 per cent of Crimean residents voted in favor of seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia;

The United States and the European Union called the referendum "illegal and illegitimate" and in violation of Ukrainian constitution and international law, and threatened sanctions;

Russia, maintaining that the vote was legal and consistent with international law and the United Nations Charter, remained unmoved, and "wouldn't regret" even losing its seat at the G8.

As the US and EU move on to impose threatened sanctions, Crimean and Russian authorities will set out working on the legislative technicalities regarding Crimea's immediate future.

If the current pattern of no compromise by any party continues, the well-hyped East-West standoff has every possibility of evolving into a Cold-War style confrontation that can dramatically change the world's political landscape. An exhausting game where no party wins.

US President Barack Obama's proposal of a diplomatic de-escalation of the crisis is a good one. But the burden should not just be on Russia's shoulders. Each party involved must contribute.

Since the issue originated in the form of a Ukrainian domestic crisis and involved substantial Russian interests, its resolution rests ultimately on domestic maneuvers inside Ukraine and diplomatic ones between Ukraine and Russia. Third-party intervention may help contain the crisis, but cannot solve it.

The absence of an elected Ukrainian government whose legitimacy is accepted internationally, however, makes the impasse difficult to break at this point. It is unrealistic to expect the Kremlin to negotiate with the interim government in Kiev, which it deems illegal.

Since an elected Ukrainian government will not emerge until May, the only way to preserve the hope of a diplomatic resolution is to avoid provocative moves by any party involved.

Moscow will find a diplomatic agreement with Kiev more cost-effective. Kiev, too, will see tremendous benefits from a non-confrontational approach in dealing with Moscow.

After all, they are neighbors. And always will be. If it chooses to depend on Western backup and stand against Russia, Kiev can only expect a future under constant pressure. But the prospects would be quite different if Ukraine can negotiate deals with Russia on its own terms.

Ukraine's best bet lies in good-neighborliness with both Russia and Europe. In former US sectary of state Henry Kissinger's words, it should try to play a "bridge" between the two sides, instead of anyone's chess piece.