The list of items put out to the Western media about what was discussed at the summit between presidents Putin and Trump covered the usual issues: Syria, Iran, Israel, terrorism etc. These need discussing and the issue of Syria and the issue of Iran’s presence certainly need settling. So a Putin-Trump summit for those purposes should be welcomed. What was omitted, however, is what the Russian media is now discussing: at Helsinki Putin proposed a referendum for the future of Eastern Ukraine. That is to say a part of a sovereign country will have a referendum to decide whether it is to be amalgamated with a neighbouring state. Just like the Crimea.
This wretched proposal carries with it the assumption, no less digestible in Kiev, that the future status of the Crimea has been settled. This is what Vzglyad.ru refers to in the leading article today entitled “Referendum o sud’be Donbassa imeet ‘krymskuyu podopleku’.” Indeed. So after Ukraine, will it be Latvia next? And at what point will the process end?
Perhaps a lesson in history is in order. In September 1938 Neville Chamberlain pushed through a deal with Hitler at Munich that dismembered Czechoslovakia. The Czechs were told that their mutual assistance pact with France was effectively dead and buried. They were on their own. The entire Sudetenland, populated by Germans, was handed over to Berlin in the interests of “peace”. President Franklin Roosevelt condemned it as “the most terrible remorseless sacrifice that had ever been demanded of a State.” So, does President Trump envisage going down in history in shame as Prime Minister Chamberlain?