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What if Sevastopol was Pearl Harbour?

What if Sevastopol was Pearl Harbour?

It is 2029. America has been through a major crisis: a financial collapse, the disputed election of a divisive, racist president, and widespread violence. Hawaii, with its largely Asian population, has voted for independence, which  has been controversially recognized by the Supreme Court. Fortunately, the government of Hawaii has compromised over the naval base of Pearl Harbour, leasing it to the United States for forty years. But now a new, more radical Hawaiian leader has just been elected who has close ties to Beijing. He has promised to terminate the lease of Pearl Harbour to the United States. Leaked emails show that China has offered Hawaii three times what the US pays to lease the famous naval base.

The prospect of the United States losing Pearl Harbour to the Chinese Navy is not one the Americans had envisaged when they accepted Hawaiian independence.  The vision of the Chinese Navy (with its four new aircraft carriers) patrolling the Californian coast gives nightmares to Pentagon officials. Rumours are rife that Washington is planning to seize back the island of Oahu, where Pearl Harbour is located, if not the entire archipelago. China has pledged to defend Hawaii against any invasion. Two Chinese aircraft carrier groups are moving across the Pacific. War looks imminent.

Is this an improbable scenario? Probably. But if it happened, would America’s reaction be seen as unreasonable? Then consider the situation of Sevastopol, built by Catherine the Great in 1783, the most famous naval base in Russian history, home of the Black Sea Fleet, the Hero City which held out for nearly a year against the Nazi siege in 1942, almost as long as it had resisted a hundred years earlier against the British, French and Turkish siege during their joint invasion of Russia, the Crimean War. The besieged fortress was finally forced to capitulate in both wars after hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers had died defending it, but it was retaken by the Red Army after another epic battle in 1944.  Whatever place Pearl Harbour has in American history and American patriotic sentiments, multiply that by ten for Sevastopol in the minds of Russians. Tolstoy wrote his first great book about the siege of Sevastopol, in which he fought as a volunteer. If you admire Tolstoy’s War and Peace, surely you can imagine what Sevastopol meant to him and millions of other Russians. To lose Sevastopol is to lose Russia’s soul. And this is the historic naval base which the American neo-cons set out to capture by stealth in their covert political intervention in Ukraine in 2014.

At least that is how the Russians view it. They could not see any possible benefit for the Americans in absorbing a bankrupt Ukraine into the EU. The only logical American goal must be the strategic one of taking Sevastopol, now only on lease to Russia since the independence of Ukraine. To Putin it was a series of chess moves by the enemy. First the US puts in power in Kiev a fanatically anti-Russian regime drawn from the western provinces which had only joined Ukraine in 1945 and had never spoken Russian till then, unlike the rest of the country which had been united with Russia since 1667, forty years before the union of England and Scotland, and had come to speak Russian for much the same reasons that the Scots had come to speak English. Next move: when tensions between Ukraine and Russia rise over new anti-Russian language laws, the US will persuade the new regime to cancel the lease of Sevastopol to Russia, and lease it instead to the US Navy. Thus the Black Sea will become an American lake, and the US Sixth Fleet can sail up and down Russia’s coastline, its nuclear missiles threatening from very close range, like a shotgun in your face. Russia, compelled to accept this utter humiliation or start a suicidal war, will lose all standing as a great power. Putin will fall, and a compliant vassal regime can be installed in Moscow like the one in Kiev.

Thus the neo-con plan. Enter the little green men. Putin re-annexes Crimea and its port Sevastopol without bloodshed and with the legal fig-leaf of a referendum which Ukraine had refused to allow Crimea in 1992. The Crimean people celebrate. The Black Sea Fleet stays in its historic home, without a shot fired. Fury of the American neo-cons at being outfoxed. And a campaign of vilification of Putin and Russia unlike anything ever seen since Goebbels ended his days in a bunker.

Before you scream about international law being violated, think for a moment how the Americans would react to the Chinese Navy taking over Pearl Harbour. Would they let international law stand in their way? And ask yourself whether Putin’s actions to secure Sevastopol were any different from what America would do in that analogous scenario.

Ah, but you will cry: what about the invasion of eastern Ukraine! Indeed, the Donbas has been invaded — by an army from Kiev, which launched an attack with tanks and jet fighters against initially unarmed separatists refusing the violent overthrow of their elected president. If the West thought it had the right to bomb Libya to save the rebels of Benghazi from the wrath of Gaddafi’s army, why wouldn’t Putin have the right to save Russian-speaking Donetsk from Kiev’s fascist militias like the Azov Battalion? Could he have accepted a massacre of Russian-speakers, the children of Red Army heroes, on his border — carried out by the disciples and admirers of the neo-Nazis of Lviv who fought for Hitler? The fact is Putin’s support for the rebels has been moderate and measured: enough to stop them losing territory but not enough to gain any more. Donbas appears to be a bargaining chip to obtain recognition of the Crimean fait accompli. But he can only persuade the Donbas rebels to compromise if Kiev negotiates with them. Since Kiev refuses to negotiate with what it calls “terrorists”, Putin can hardly pressure them to make concessions on a new constitutional arrangement. Nor can he withdraw aid and let them be massacred. Hence the stalemate. The ball is in Kiev’s court if it wants the Donbas back again. The longer the Donbas people are shelled and blockaded and depend on Russia for food, medicine and pensions, the more bitterly they will resist being ruled by Kiev ever again. And Western escalation by arming Kiev’s forces will only intensify the bloody stalemate by hardening Kiev’s refusal to talk to its own citizens in the Donbas.


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