The Texas Crisis

Stephen H. Unger
April 1, 2014

Rather than attempting to discuss all aspects of the looming Texas crisis, I will simply sketch the overall situation, reserving arguments over what should be done for a later article.

What do Texans want?

There are three basic options favored by various groups of Texans, plus variations combining elements of more than one.

  1. No change in the status quo.
  2. Secede from the US and become an independent nation
  3. Secede from the US and once again become part of Mexico

Moderates have urged that the situation be defused by returning to Mexico a small section of Texas, say the southernmost tip of the state, south of a line between Laredo and Corpus Christi. The idea has not, so far, been well received in Texas.

The idea of a referendum in which Texans would choose among these options is being hotly debated in the press, and demonstrations in support of the proposal have been held in various parts of the state. It has been strongly denounced by some prominent politicians, but others, some in each major party, have been arguing in its favor.

A Russian UN Security Council resolution calling for a binding referendum in Texas was approved by China, France, Argentina, Chad, and Chile. Australia and Rwanda opposed it. The other members (including, surprisingly, the UK) abstained. The US vetoed it.

The OAS (Organization of American States) has passed a resolution endorsing a binding referendum on this matter, and urging that all Texas residents be allowed to participate.

Since about 41% of Texans are Hispanics, and others are split between favoring an independent republic or remaining in the US, it is not clear how such a referendum would come out. The outcome might depend on whether the estimated 1.8 million illegal immigrants in the state would be permitted to vote. The position on this issue of Comanches, Apaches, and other American Indians in Texas is not clear.

Outside interference

Many Americans have been outraged by seemingly authoritative reports that several organizations in Texas who are leading the fight for Texas to rejoin Mexico have been funded by Russia to the tune of at least 5 billion dollars over the past five years.

The Russians have subtly conveyed their concern over the matter by holding a naval training exercise in the Gulf of Mexico, involving a fleet including an aircraft carrier, a missile cruiser, and four destroyers, deployed at one point as close as 50 miles from Galveston. An unfortunate consequence of this was the shooting down of a Russian reconnaissance plane by a US fighter plane. The 2-man crew bailed out and was rescued by one of the destroyers. The Russians deny that their plane intruded into US air space, and they are appealing to the World Court for compensation.

A large contingent of American warships, including two battleships and 4 cruisers, has been closely shadowing the Russian fleet, and there have been several instances of near collisions. Land-based US aircraft have also been buzzing the Russian ships.

More serious pressure from Russia has take the form of suspension of caviar exports to the US. The unspoken threat is that vodka shipments may also be halted if the Texas matter is not resolved to the satisfaction of the Russians.

When challenged to justify their various forms of intervention in a region so far from their country, the Russians have argued that, since the Americas were originally populated 12,000 years ago by people who migrated, via the Bering Straits, from Siberia, a part of Russia, they have an ongoing concern about the welfare of the descendants of their fellow countrymen.

Copycat movements

While events in Texas have dominated the news, there are serious separatist movements involving several other American states. The largest involves California, where Latinos now constitute 39% of the population. Illegal immigrants, estimated at over 2.5 million, are also a significant factor. Here too the population is split among those favoring becoming a state of Mexico, those favoring independence, and supporters of the status quo. Russian "fishing boats" off the California coast, just outside US territorial waters, have been broadcasting Spanish language messages favoring the Mexico option.

With 45% of its population Hispanic, the highest of any state, it is not surprising that New Mexico is another site of a strong separatist movement. There are indications that Russian financial support for those advocating returning the state to Mexico has been funneled thru the Venezuelan consulate in Santa Fe.

To the North, the separatist idea has taken a rather different form. A combination of Sioux, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, and several other Indian tribes, located in Montana, Minnesota, and the Dakotas, as well as on the other side of the Canadian border, no doubt inspired by events in Texas, are demanding that a region straddling the US-Canadian border be "returned" to them so they could form an independent nation. So far, their agitation has been of a peaceful nature, in the form of a petition to the United Nations, endorsed by the Russians. Indications are that there would be enough international support for this to require another US veto in the Security Council.


There have been several incidents in which people demonstrating in support of one of the three positions have been fired upon by unknown snipers. For example, in Dallas, a public rally in favor of returning Texas to Mexico degenerated into a clash with those favoring independence. Rifle fire resulted in 7 people being wounded and 3 killed. Since there were casualties on both sides, and since the shooters were not identified, it is not clear whether they were partisans of the status quo attacking both secessionist groups, or whether members of the two secessionist groups were targeting their rivals. In general, each of the three factions seems bitterly opposed to the other two.

The US response

Democratic Party leaders have been surprisingly quiet about the situation in Texas. It has been suggested that they might not be sorry if Texas, which has voted Republican for many years, were to leave the union. They have, however, been actively opposing separatist activity in California and New Mexico.

Speaking off the record, a high level American State Department official hinted that, if the Russians continue to interfere in our internal affairs, the US may retaliate in kind. Foreign affairs pundits have suggested that stirring up trouble in Ukraine might be an appropriate way for the US to strike back at Russia.

Comments are welcomed and can be sent to me at unger(at)cs(dot)columbia(dot)edu

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Return to Ends and Means to see other articles that you might find interesting.

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