Tuesday 22 February 2022

A Scottish separatist


The BBC has just told us that Russia has recognised two Ukrainian separatist regions as independent. The Lugansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic have de facto been separated from the other parts of Ukraine since 2014, but the BBC still describes them as regions. The Ukrainian ambassador to the UN has told the world that Ukraine’s borders remain unchangeable no matter what Russia does and everyone nods their heads, agrees and will impose sanctions on Russia for supporting separatists and helping them gain independence. But it’s rather strange that this logic does not apply to another European country that also begins with U.

The truth that everyone also recognises including the unfortunate Ukrainian ambassador is that neither Lugansk nor Donetsk will ever be part of Ukraine again. No one now thinks that Crimea will rejoin Ukraine. Russian nuclear weapons are situated there. Who is going to take it back? Well, the same logic applies to the Donbass. What happened there is as illegal and unjustified as what happened when Germany and the Soviet Union carved up Poland between them in 1939, but the result of this change in borders is still reflected in the map today.

The people living in Donetsk and Lugansk already have Russian passports. Many of them have been evacuated to Russia. Soon these places will be integrated into Russia and until and unless the Russian state collapses or someone can force Russia to give back what it stole that will be as it remains. Eventually the world will recognise the new reality, just as we have recognised the results of any number of unjust wars and aggressions previously.  

But why are people living in Donetsk and Lugansk described as separatists, but we never hear the BBC describing those in Scotland and Northern Ireland who wish to leave the UK as separatists too?

There is little doubt that the majority of the population of the Donbass would prefer to be Russian. They speak Russian. They nearly all have Russian passports. But this makes no difference legally. Their territories are still part of Ukraine.

Compare the situation in Northern Ireland whose neighbour has spent the past hundred years trying to find a way to gain UK territory. Just as in the Donbass irregular forces waged a war against Ukraine, so too in Northern Ireland irregular forces waged a separatist war. Dublin disapproved but was pleased to enjoy the fruits of that war and to take advantage of its peace treaty.

No UK ambassador has ever stood up in the UN, nor has a British Prime Minister stood up in the House of Commons, to tell us that the borders of the UK are unchangeable. But why not? Ukraine came into existence in 1991. Why should the borders of a state that was part of the Soviet Union and before that shared between the Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires have borders that cannot be violated while the UK can be split up because of the actions of IRA terrorists and those Scots who wish to continually refight the Battle of Bannockburn?

Imagine if the SNP had won the vote in 2014, would the BBC have reported Russia recognised UK separatist region as independent? But what’s the difference? Scottish nationalists will of course claim that the difference is that Scotland is a country. But I’m sorry to point out that today, both Lugansk and Donetsk have a much better claim to be countries than Scotland does. Each have in fact been separate from Ukraine since 2014. The people living in these places have different passports from those living in Ukraine and their independence will be defended by the Russian army.

Scotland was last an independent state in 1707 arguably 1603. Since then, we have been called a country, but we have lacked the vast majority of the characteristics that are typical of a country since then. We are culturally, linguistically, religiously similar to the other people who live in the UK. We marry each other and live without difficulty anywhere in the UK we choose. By comparison the people in Donetsk are Lugansk are vastly different from the people who live in Lviv in Western Ukraine.

Historically Lviv was known as Lemberg and was part of the Austrian Galica. It was then as Lwów part of Poland until Stalin annexed it in 1939. The people in the Donbass have a quite different history, which is reflected in their attitudes and language. In the Soviet Union they would have been indistinguishable from Russians.

While Britain will impose sanctions on Russia for violating Ukrainian sovereignty and while in theory at least our soldiers will defend the Baltic States and Poland if Mr Putin decides to violate their sovereignty, we will do nothing whatsoever to defend our own sovereignty and territory from separatists.

All it will take is for a majority of separatists in Northern Ireland and the IRA bombing campaign will have succeeded. Dublin will have achieved its long-term aim of taking UK territory by means of an irregular army just as Mr Putin will have achieved his aim by means of irregular forces in the Donbass. But while Ukraine endeavours to fight against the separatists who want to destroy it, we in Britain merely acquiesce.

I wonder if Scottish nationalists will be waving the flags of Lugansk and Donetsk. Will Scottish separatists be dancing in the streets in Lanark and Dunfermline because there are two new countries in the world today? Will Nicola Sturgeon send congratulations?

Every other country in Europe takes the attitude that Ukraine takes regarding its borders and its sovereignty. No other country apart from the UK allows separatist threats or claims from abroad on its territory. We alone allow separatists to separate so long as they can gain a simple majority in a referendum just once. What’s more we allow international bodies like the EU to encourage separatism both in Scotland and in Northern Ireland.

No wonder the EU’s response in Ukraine has been so feeble, you cannot very well oppose separatism in Crimea and the Donbass if you welcome and encourage it in Britain.