Crimeans holding russian flags on March 16
Sylvie Kauffmann

PARIS – On March 12, Mustafa Dzhemilev, a leading figure among the ethnic Crimean Tatars, had a long conversation over the phone with Vladimir Putin. No doubt, they talked about the referendum that was set to take place four days later. According to what Dzhemilev reported to the Ukrainian media, the Russian president asserted that Ukraine’s 1991 Declaration of Independence, which was voted by Parliament after a referendum, did not “comply with the Soviet procedure laid down to leave the structures of the USSR.”

As the Kremlin did not offer its version of the conversation, we have no further clue as to what Putin meant. But in those words alone, we can conclude that the Russian president sees the entire dissolution of the USSR as an illegal act.

This could imply that Putin wants to re-establish the Soviet Union. In reality, he has already gone further than that. Still, his own regrets aside, the Russian president knows that the USSR belongs to the past.

During the 2012 presidential campaign (his third), he set out his vision of the world in a series of articles published by Russian media that ought to be read again in the light of what is happening today. For him, 20 years after the collapse of the USSR, “the post-Soviet phase of the Russian and global history has now come to an end.” During these two decades, Russia was in a phase of “recovery”, which is now “over.”

“Russia," he concludes, "will only be respected and able to defend its interests when the country is strong and stands firmly on its feet.” A new era was opening then – we are now in the middle of it.

The annexation of Crimea is disrupting the international order of the post-Cold War. In fact, it has already led to reversals of several trends, and foretells key realignments.

The most obvious one is the return of the United States in Europe. Concerned about “pivoting” towards Asia, discouraged by the failures of the Bush era in the Middle East, the Americans have let the Europeans handle the security of their continent, and even beyond, on the other side of the Mediterranean, by “leading from behind.” With the Ukrainian crisis, they are returning to the front line.

These last few days, American F16 fighters have been deployed in Poland, preceding Vice President Joe Biden, who arrived Tuesday in Poland before visiting Lithuania, both neighboring countries of Russia, members of the EU but eager to welcome American hard power.

Goodbye “Ostpolitik”

The EU is deeply shaken. Should it expand towards the east? It had no common strategy regarding Moscow and is now paying for it. Its capacity to react, in the face of its state members' economic and energy interdependence with Russia, is inadequate, as are its defense policies. The invasion of Crimea has made these facts brutally evident.

Germany has become disillusioned in regards to Putin’s openness to dialogue, which has sent Angela Merkel packing, as well as her numerous phone calls and her pleasant idea of a contact group. Berlin is saying goodbye to the Ostpolitik that was so dear to its Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Saturday’s vote on the United Nations Security Council’s resolution denouncing the illegality of the referendum in Crimea has revealed Russia’s isolation. The resolution was rejected because of Russia’s veto, but not a single one of the other 14 members supported Moscow.

China abstained, revealing its ambivalence in this situation: President Xi Jinping hates popular uprisings as much as Putin does. He also thinks they are products of manipulations by the West, but, for Beijing, the principle of territorial integrity will not be challenged. Unlike the Russian president, who seems ready to sacrifice the benefits of globalization in the name of state power, China is fully playing the globalization card and does not want to destabilize the current system.

If Putin was counting on the enthusiastic support of the members of his customs union, he must be disappointed. Nursultan Nazarbayev, the eternal president of Kazakhstan, a country that is home to an important Russian minority, has been deafeningly silent. The Kremlin had announced a visit of the Kazakh president slated earlier this month, “upon invitation of President Putin,” but it never took place. On March 10, Nazarbayev did call Putin, but he also called Barack Obama and Angela Merkel, to whom he expressed his support of the principle of territorial integrity. We can understand that the leaders of the former Soviet republics, where many Russian-speaking people still live, may not feel particularly reassured by Putin’s commitment to “protecting the Russians and the Russian-speakers” outside their country.

Global governance, likewise, will not be spared by these sweeping changes. At the UN, the Security Council, as we have seen, has been paralyzed by Russia’s veto, one of the five permanent members. Will the Group of Eight (G8), scheduled to be hosted by Russia in June in Sochi, remain unscathed by this affair? The Western leaders have already reactivated the G7 (the G8 minus Russia), which only still existed at ministerial level.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has suspended Russia’s membership application. But, most importantly, the invasion of Crimea could have a negative impact on nuclear non-proliferation: under the terms of the 1994 Budapest memorandum, Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal inherited from the USSR in exchange for the protection of its territorial integrity. The non-compliance of these guarantees establishes a very poor precedent for countries that are being persuaded to renounce nuclear weapons, such as Iran.

Finally, a new energy landscape in which European countries would free themselves from Russia's Gazprom could take shape after this crisis. It is one hopeful piece of the emerging scenario. The rest, unfortunately, seems much darker.

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Thousands of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, on the border between Mexico and the U.S.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where the new U.S.-UK-Australia security pact is under fire, Italy becomes the first country to make COVID-19 "green pass" mandatory for all workers, and Prince Philip's will is to be kept secret for 90 years. From Russia, we also look at the government censorship faced by brands that recently tried to promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness in their ads.

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• U.S. facing multiple waves of migrants, refugees: The temporary camp, located between Mexico's Ciudad Acuña and Del Rio in Texas, is housing some 10,000 people, largely from Haiti. With few resources, they are forced to wait in squalid conditions and scorching temperatures amidst a surge of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. Meanwhile, thousands of recently evacuated Afghan refugees wait in limbo at U.S. military bases, both domestic and abroad.

• COVID update: Italy is now the first European country to require vaccination for all public and private sector workers from Oct. 15. The Netherlands will also implement a "corona pass" in the following weeks for restaurants, bars and cultural spaces. When he gives an opening speech at the United Nations General Assembly next week, unvaccinated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will defy New York City authorities, who are requiring jabs for all leaders and diplomats.

• U.S. and UK face global backlash over Australian deal: The U.S. is attempting to diffuse the backlash over the new security pact signed with Australia and the UK, which excludes the European Union. The move has angered France, prompting diplomats to cancel a gala to celebrate ties between the country and the U.S.

• Russian elections: Half of the 450 seats in Duma are will be determined in today's parliamentary race. Despite persistent protests led by imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny, many international monitors and Western governments fear rigged voting will result in President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party maintaining its large majority.

• Somali president halts prime minister's authority: The decision by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed marks the latest escalation in tensions with Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble concerning a murder investigation. The move comes as the Horn of Africa country has fallen into a political crisis driven by militant violence and clashes between clans.

• Astronauts return to Earth after China's longest space mission: Three astronauts spent 90 days at the Tianhe module and arrived safely in the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia. The Shenzhou-12 mission is the first of crewed missions China has planned for 2021-2022 as it completes its first permanent space station.

• Prince Philip's will to be kept secret for 90 years: A British court has ruled that the will of Prince Philip, the late husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth who passed away in April at 99 years old, will remain private for at least 90 years to preserve the monarch's "dignity and standing."

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

With a memorable front-page photo, Argentine daily La Voz reports on the open fight between the country's president Alberto Fernández and vice-president Cristina Kirchner which is paralyzing the government. Kirchner published a letter criticizing the president's administration after several ministers resigned and the government suffered a major defeat in last week's midterm primary election.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

€150

An Italian investigation uncovered a series of offers on encrypted "dark web" websites offering to sell fake EU COVID vaccine travel documents. Italy's financial police say its units have seized control of 10 channels on the messaging service Telegram linked to anonymous accounts that were offering the vaccine certificates for up to €150. "Through the internet and through these channels, you can sell things everywhere in the world," finance police officer Gianluca Berruti told Euronews.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

In Russia, brands advertising diversity are under attack

Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

❌ "On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos..." reads a recent statement by Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi after publishing an advertisement that included a photograph of a Black man. Shortly after, the company's co-founder, Konstantin Zimen, said people on social media were accusing Yobidoyobi of promoting multiculturalism. Another recent case involved grocery store chain VkusVill, which released advertising material featuring a lesbian couple. The company soon began to receive threats and quickly apologized and removed the text and apologized.

🏳️🌈 For the real life family featured in the ad, they have taken refuge in Spain, after their emails and cell phone numbers were leaked. "We were happy to express ourselves as a family because LGBTQ people are often alone and abandoned by their families in Russia," Mila, one of the daughters in the ad, explained in a recent interview with El Pais.

🇷🇺 It is already common in Russia to talk about "spiritual bonds," a common designation for the spiritual foundations that unite modern Russian society, harkening back to the Old Empire as the last Orthodox frontier. The expression has been mocked as an internet meme and is widely used in public rhetoric. For opponents, this meme is a reason for irony and ridicule. Patriots take spiritual bonds very seriously: The government has decided to focus on strengthening these links and the mission has become more important than protecting basic human rights.Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"Ask the rich countries: Where are Africa's vaccines?"

— During an online conference, Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, implored the international community to do more to inoculate people against COVID-19 in Africa and other developing regions. The World Health Organization estimates that only 3.6% of people living in Africa have been fully vaccinated. The continent is home to 17% of the world population, but only 2% of the nearly six billion shots administered so far have been given in Africa, according to the W.H.O.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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