Ukraine On The Brink

I have procrastinated in writing about this last part of Ukraine’s revolution because it is painful to contemplate its outcome and see only bad endings. It is hard to read about an uprising that began with such high hopes and was so sadly derailed.

Putin came wooing Ukraine with smiles and flowers. He and his flowers were sent back to Moscow and he is not a man to accept rejection.

When President Yanukovich lost to the protesters in Maidan Square and fled to Russia, a new provisional government was installed and it is still fragile, very tenuous…and Putin’s rage is ominous. Vladimir Putin is still a very Soviet man and does not take kindly to the toppling of Lenin statues. The first manifestation of his rage was the annexation of Crimea and the very ease with which it was accomplished only whetted his appetite for more.

And so we now see masked thugs in many parts of Eastern Ukraine. They look very menacing with their arms at the ready but they say nothing. Were they to open their mouths they would speak Ukrainian with very heavy Russian accents. Their faces are covered with ugly masks. Were they to remove them one would see many “locals” which had already been “locals” elsewhere in the country. They carry huge Russian flags with which to decorate all official buildings as they seize them one by one.
The choices facing the new Kiev government are both bad. Either they do nothing and the Crimean scenario will unfold again and again. Or they try to retake the occupied buildings by force. This is what Putin hopes they will do. In that event many Ukrainians and Russians will be killed and the people will have the same reaction as when Yanukovich fired on his own people. Anger. This will be Putin’s cue to intervene militarily and Ukraine will be dismembered.

What about the US and European reaction? America will not respond. We have grown tired of invading nations whose mentality we do not understand. We are disinclined to embark on yet another failed mission. Putin knows this and he has been heard mocking Victoria Neuland’s distribution of donuts in Maidan square. We are good at such gestures but they are futile.

The US is deeply entrenched in disengagement. Europe is too close to Russia and dependent on its natural gas. It has also grown too fond of peace. But it takes only one person to disrupt peace.

And so Putin‘s Russia will have won in the short run. How will it swallow this victory? Will it endure? We really don’t know.

2 comments

  1. I totally agree with your first paragraph. We encourage people to revolt and then stand aside. As far as the Western press demonizing Putin. No. It has taken us too long to realize how much he despises the West.
    The Ukraniian temporary Government has made huge mistakes. Yes. I certainly do no think they are saints. As far as the thugs I mention go, THEY are not Eastern Ukrainians. They ARE Russians. Otherwise why do they cover their faces? Why do they take western observers as hostages? They have been infiltrated from Russia.
    I do not claim to know all the facts since I have not investigated this first hand. I do not watch CNN. My sources are: Vesti (from Moscow), Mir Sevodnya (New York} PBS Newshour The French television and Charlie Rose”s interviewees.
    I probably reflect their biases.

  2. Hi Simone, I appreciate your thoughts and you are correct that Maidan started with high hopes, and that is exactly what the USA should stop doing. To give so much support and to help organize a revolution, while not willing to actually pay for the consequences, is very dispiriting and does remind me of playing with people as with toys.
    There are some factual mistakes in what you wrote:
    – Putin’s ‘rage’… really? I am no great fan of Putin, but you are going along too easily with the Putin demonization in the western media.
    – The temporary government made some huge mistakes; in barely 60 days they succeeded in exacerbating the divisions that were already running deep in the country. They went in bed with the far right, did not allow any influence from eastern Ukraine in their government but installed ‘oligarchs’ to rule over them, abolished Russian as official language, legalized nazi symbols,… no wonder that 75% of eastern Ukrainians disapprove of this government.
    – You call the eastern Ukrainian rebels ‘thugs’. Yet I can assure you – and I understand and speak both Russian and Ukrainian – that you would be quite safe to have most of those rebels over for dinner, while I could not assure you the same of the Right Sector’s skinheads. Did you notice that the violence during Maidan was initiated by the Right Sector, while there is hardly any violence by the eastern Ukrainian activists? Yet you call the ones revolutionaries, and the other ones thugs.
    – The few armed men and the many unarmed men do open their mouths and speak, and you can clearly hear the typical Ukrainian Russian. You surely can read the reports on CNN, the mistakes and withdrawals of the NY Times: there is no evidence that Russian forces are currently organizing this.
    If it continues like this, the Russians will intervene. Yet there is still a possibility, however remote, that it could be resolved peacefully.
    I think you and I agree that we want peace for Ukraine. That we want corruption to be finished in Ukraine. The Ukrainians did not need the Russians to be so corrupt: both sides of the country stole so much that they are left now with only stealing from each other. There is nothing else left.

    And their emotions are running so high that it is unlikely the country will stay together.

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