by Bruce Gagnon, published on Organizing Notes, November 9, 2019
The Fifth Anniversary International Conference: “Crimea in the Current International Context” began on November 7 inside the Livadia Palace, Yalta, Crimea. In these same rooms Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met in 1945 to discuss the post-WW II architecture.
More than 30 nations were represented (officially or unofficially) – I was able to catch this list: Austria, Cyprus, Poland, Norway, Germany, Japan, India, USA, Czech Republic, China, Greece, Israel, Belarus, Belgium, Tunisia, Palestine, Slovakia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Italy, Turkey, Armenia, and Abkhazia.
The place was packed with participants, observers and media. Here are some of my many pages of notes from various speakers at the event. They are not posted in any particular order of relevance.
- We [Crimeans] don’t need any proof of our rights. People who think of themselves as the master of the world can’t live with our choice [to return to Russia in the 2014 referendum]. Sanctions have a negative influence. We are still not free to travel to Europe. Every international delegation is a new friend of Crimea. We seek peaceful non-violent changes.
- The US strategy is to dominate the world….fears the growth of China. Some US analysts predict war with China. They wish to break Russia apart before it becomes too strong. Change of US president will not change their course. Some Kissinger followers wish to neutralize Russia so that it would not support China. Trump says our main enemy is China and that the US has to maintain good relations with Russia.
- The majority of Americans don’t know where Ukraine is.
- The west tries not to recognize the violations of law during [the US orchestrated] 2014 Kiev coup d ‘etat.
- The Crimean spring vote was legal and should be recognized.
- The US grab for Syria’s oil is illegal.
- You should not look for enemies, but instead look for friends.
- Public diplomacy [a common topic during the event] should be used in order to circumvent the efforts of those who believe that a unipolar power should dominate the world.
- Public diplomacy is key to shaping public opinion. Public tribunals were used during the Vietnam War to expose US war crimes and should be used again.
- Russia got religion through Crimea 1,000 years ago.
- When Russia is attacked it is usually through Crimea. The fascists occupied Crimea during WW II.
- We are living in a transitional stage with the weakening of international law and international institutions like the United Nations.
- Russia is playing a very important role in the world today by encouraging international dialogue.
- US-NATO sanctions on Russia are having a boomerang effect on Italy’s economy. When market share with Russia is lost, it is difficult to get it back as Russia seeks new trading partners. Why must a false economic restriction on Crimea imperil the future of Europe?
- Russia is a historical and valued partner of India. We need to have dialogue.
- Crimea looked worse under Ukrainian control than it does today under Russia despite the sanctions.
- Railroad to Crimea from Russia will soon be opened lessening even further Crimea’s isolation.
- Friends of Crimea in Germany think we are running out of time and we must work together to do environmental projects. These kinds of exchange projects could lead to more bi-lateral environmental coordination.
- Commercial banks in Poland are beginning to question and threaten people who have traveled to Russia and Crimea.
- Many people in Bulgaria love Russian culture and language so we also care about Crimea. Thousands of Bulgarians live in Crimea and they are local witnesses who understand the Crimean case.
- There seems to be a threat from the Anglo-Saxon world.
- I represent the Brotherhood of War Veterans – terrorism and breath of war we feel now – Lots of events are going on today to rehabilitate fascism, Bandera, etc. Russia should have its own veterans department in government because we might have more of them the way things are going today.
- We need a new Yalta meeting between Russia, China and the US.
- Where ever oil and gas is present the US military is there destabilizing things. We don’t want American missiles on our Serbian border.
- The US will lead the war by the hands of other countries. If they want war with Russia, then they will use Ukraine.
- Sanctions on Crimea are well targeted genocide against two million people. How do we meet this genocide? Public diplomacy should be concentrated on.
- For us in Norway, the most important thing to do is to bring people to Crimea.
- As a lifelong Yalta resident, with family here for generations, there was never a doubt how I’d vote in the 2014 referendum to rejoin Russia. While still under Ukraine’s control they said we would no longer study Anton Pavlovich Chekhov in schools because he was a ‘foreign’ [Russian] writer.
- We must reach out to environmental groups in different countries to share information and work together.
I had several good connections with people I met while at the conference. Two in particular are of special note.
Costas Isychos from Greece was the former Alternate Minister of National Defence. He was appointed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in January 2015 but resigned six months later along with five other cabinet members. Isychos told me that they resigned their posts because Tsipras betrayed the nation [he was elected as an opponent of neo-liberalism] when he agreed to an austerity package with the EU which further increased poverty in the country. In addition Tsipras agreed to allow the US to dramatically expand its military bases in Greece that are aimed at Russia.
The other person that I formed a close bond with is Kimura Mitsuhiro from Tokyo. He is a long-time activist and strong friend of Crimea. We spent lots of time comparing notes about many foreign policy issues.
As one might imagine I learned a lot from being at this conference. Taking in the collective experience and wisdom of those assembled from so many nations was a gift I will always treasure.
*Featured Image: Conference photo from Organizing Notes.
Bruce Gagnon has been working on space issues for the past 30 years and helped create the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space in 1992. His book, called “Come Together Right Now: Organizing Stories from a Fading Empire“, was republished in 2008. For 15 years he coordinated the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice. He was trained as an organizer by the United Farmworkers Union and is also a member of Veterans for Peace