Supporting Self-Determination: Democratic Passions Creating Political Problems

pro_russia_protesters_rtr_img_0Interestingly, the jingo’ism being generated by the Russian Crimean action has been used in a discussion about the Falkland Islands. In a Face Book conversation, a Brit wrote about the Argentines: “They can write what they like, they are not getting OUR Falklands off us, talk about land grab, They’ll be asking the Russians for help next, arseholes.”

My response, “As we didn’t give the Falklands to Argentina, [your logic suggests that] the Russians should support the right of the Falklanders to remain British…?” then led to a series of historically-challenged comments and demands for the G7 to punish the “Kremlin bullies”.

So what are the parallels, and could they tell us anything. I think “Perhaps they could”…

In 1776, an RN captain claimed the Falklands for Britain. In 1783 Catherine the Great (a German) took the Crimea for Russia – and settled it with Russians. But Britain didn’t resettle the Falklands (the settlement on which today’s Falklander population is based) until 1833.

In the meantime, some Argentines (there was no Argentina so they did this in the name of the ‘United Provinces of the River Plate’) had tried to settle – at Port Louis to the north of the current town/capital Stanley. But they were attacked by the USS Lexington after they captured some USA sealing vessels. The Americans destroyed their settlement.

Fast-forward; the Americans refused officially to support Britain in the Falklands war – as the Falklands was said to be a “British colony”. Privately, thanks to Prime Minister Thatcher’s excellent relationship with President Reagan, a great deal of under-the-counter help was provided.

Today the USA continues this official refusal to recognise the Falkanders’ rights to self determination, and urges Britain to make a settlement with Argentina. This greatly encourages Argentine aspirations.

SO one could say that in the logic of the situation, Russia would be more likely to support the Falklanders than the Argentines – who voted for the US-sponsored UN condemnation of Russia’s facilitating Crimean independence. Not that Putin would of course…. but you never know. But Argentina very definitely fits the role being played by the Ukraine in the Crimea crisis – that of a bullying neighbour who’s interest lies not with the people but in acquiring the territory.

The Falklands are not “OURS” – as my Face Book correspondent stated, but an independent self-sufficient country with its own constitution. The Islanders have voted to remain an “Overseas Territory of the UK”, and the UK is pledged to allow them to continue to make their own decisions about whether this should continue. This is the basis on which Britain provides military support against the Argentine threat, and other infrastructure support. I don’t know the details of Crimea’s relationship with Russia, but it will remain independent and a member of the Russian Federation. Whether this makes it as independent as for example a state of the USA, or even more so like the Falklands, I don’t know. It was already an autonomous republic within the Ukraine, so that will certainly not change within the Russian Federation.

However, reality, detail and the facts – and in this case history, often turns many of the things being spouted by politicians (and others) into almost comic irony. Except that simplistic jingoistic misrepresentation are easy to turn into slogans that generate strong passions. Passions and their slogans are used cynically to create instability which deeply affects the lives of real people.

To return to the Falklands as an analogy, the Argentine ‘Ukraine’ was thwarted by Putin so it wasn’t actually able to impose Ukraine rule on the Crimea. Britain fought a very costly war having failed to stop the Argentine invasion. A similar Russian action could easily have taken place in the Ukraine.

The USA is consistent in its disapproving attitude towards both Britain in the Falklands and Russia in the Crimea. But being still the Cold War enemy, only Russia merits sanctions.

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