01 May 2014
In the end, we may decide that Viktor Yanukovich's flight from Ukraine was a stroke of genius by his Russian puppet masters, or one of those random, stupid moments that change the course of history. The embattled president's departure effectively forced the opposition to take power before they were ready, and now we hear them admitting that they've lost control over the eastern, Russophone part of their country. They lack the means or the will, given threats from Russia, to suppress the eastern separatists. It seems inevitable now that the current Ukraine leadership will submit to constitutional reform rendering the country a weak federal system effectively subject to Russia. Earlier this week I read Anne Applebaum's piece in The New Republic, in which she says that Ukrainians need more nationalist consciousness, effectively conceding that despite the notorious or overrated gestures by Russophobic right-wingers nationalist consciousness in Ukraine is insufficient for the task of preserving effective independence from Russia. It's not that a majority still identifies with Russia, but that generations of indoctrination, followed by a most recent disillusioning generation of corrupt independence, has left most Ukrainians passive if not indifferent to the tug of war between Maidan and Moscow. It makes you wonder again why the U.S. has turned Ukraine into such a high-stakes game, when it seems like the odds were against "our" side all along. I don't exactly have new answers. Russophobia compounded by a neocon obsession with Vladimir Putin accounts for much of it. I still see writers propagating the myth that this crisis has something to do with Putin fearing the supposed example Ukraine presents of "people power" toppling a corrupt, repressive government, or the more enduring example of an effective liberal democracy on Russia's border. If Ukraine succumbs, Putin will be blamed for doing all in his power to sabotage the Maidan experiment, but if you resist taking a Putin-centric view of things, it really looks as if Putin himself could use the Ukraine example to defend his own style of government. Doesn't Ukraine prove that people power alone can't govern a country, or that western-style liberalism in Eastern Europe is hopelessly weak? Despite American fantasies, Putin never had anything to fear from Ukrainian liberalism. Meanwhile, American insistence that Putin is some sort of ideologue with a global agenda to promote tyranny suggests that leaders here fear Putin's example, however they might define it. They decry Russia's supposed unreasonable insistence on having compliant buffer states between it and western Europe, but it certainly looks like Ukraine was meant by us to be a buffer between Russia and the civilized world. That was just another American dream, I guess. Better luck next time.