Ignoring Culture in International Conflicts: the Case of Crimea
Some time ago, I was watching a YouTube video where General Zeira, head of Israeli military intelligence during the Yom Kipur war, was testifying and de facto confessing, why he made the mistake of not alerting the military command of the impeding surprise attack of Arab countries.
He said that a major mistake of Israeli intelligence analysis was not to take into account Arab culture. And the culture he was referring was Arab pride.
The Arab countries were defeated and humiliated by the Israeli in the Six Day War and the wars before. They could not live with this shame. They had to do something.
Kissinger understood this well. When during the Yom Kipur war the Israeli crossed the Suez Canal and were advancing into Egypt proper, he threatened Israel with withholding further American support. He requested Israel to stop the humiliation; must give Egypt a way to leave the war without shame.
I am told a certain country, whose name now escapes me, as a strategy, when they surround enemy forces, leave some section open for the enemy to exit and escape. The defeat than is not such that for generations to come the defeat will become embedded in their culture causing the people to demand a replay and revenge.
Now let us analyze the Crimea situation. (I am publishing this blog out of its religiously followed date of publication which is Fridays, because the events in Ukraine are moving faster than I can type…)
Crimea has been part of Soviet Union and given to the Republic of Ukraine in 1954 when Khrushchev, an Ukrainian, was in power in Moscow. It is populated sixty percent by Russians. People who speak Russian, identify themselves as Russians.
Kiev, Western Ukraine, without any doubt leans towards joining European Union.
Now let us talk about pride and culture.
Who in his right mind would imagine that Russians in Crimea will agree to join the European Union and turn their back to their homeland, Russia?
Russian people are proud people. Have strong historical, ethnic, cultural ties: Pushkin, Tolstoy, national songs, dances…
I would say it is arrogance for Kiev to believe the Russians of Crimea will go along with Kiev plans for EU that may be even include joining NATO.
Totally unacceptable. It will be viewed by Russians in Crimea and in Russia proper as an act of treason against homeland.
Who could imagine that Russia will allow their ethnic brothers and sisters to be swallowed by EU?
And only because as recently as sixty years ago this enclave which was never before Ukrainian was given away to Ukraine.
Pride, national pride, cultural ties, play a significant role in international confrontations.
Russia has been humiliated with the fall of the Soviet Union. It is not that Russia today wants to have all Soviet Unions territory back. It simply wants to regain its self-pride. To regain its foot. To straighten its back.
What do you think were Sochi Olympic Games all about if not to regain some sense of self-esteem.
To let Crimea and its Russian population be part of EU which is belligerent to Russia is to suffer more humiliation. It will not happen. Cannot happen. They will not accept more humiliation. No way.
What should have happened, (I sent my suggestion on an SMS to a member of the Ukrainian new government, whom I have known for years and who by the way is certified in Adizes methodology)?
I told him: if you do not want to lose Crimea you must announce Ukraine will NOT join EU. Period. It will be NEUTRAL.
I am aware that politics plays an important role for those in power. If this provisional government wants to be elected by the Ukrainians of the western part, they must say that it is their goal for Ukraine to join the EU. But this is not the time for playing politics to stay in power. It is time to tell the truth. To look reality in the eye. To tell the people that reality.
Russia cannot; I repeat, cannot afford to lower its head and accept Crimea and its Russian population going to the West. Cannot. Will not.
It seems to me Kiev has a choice: join EU and have the country be split or keep the country united but for that to happen it has to be neutral.
Yes, I understand international law. Sovereignty and territorial integrity are sacred concepts but when pride and culture come to play, those legalese concepts pale in comparison. Assuming that those legal concepts will be adhered to and that they will save the situation is bloody naive.
I heard and hope this is a false rumor that the Kiev government asked the leadership of Chechnya terrorist movement to come and help Ukraine fight Russia.
This is not putting drops of oil on the fire. This is barrels of oil splashed on the fire. This is going to really ignite Russia and lead to real armed confrontation.
Do not stick needles into bear’s eyes. Especially when it is wounded. This is not a stupid Russian folk expression. We should listen.
Just thinking. And losing sleep.
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes