Wednesday, March 5, 2014

How America's far-left gets Ukraine wrong

Here's a letter I wrote on February 26 to freelancer Eric Draitser in response to his inflammatory article "Ukraine's Sickness" in the far-left publication CounterPunch, to which, I may say, I was recently a subscriber, (so far with no reply from Eric):

Dear Eric,
I'm a proud liberal myself, and I often criticize U.S. actions abroad, but the American imperialist template in your article ( does not apply in Ukraine. Most Ukrainians have been begging the U.S. to get more involved these past 3 months.

The word "fascist" is a very strong, loaded term.  Before you apply it to the people who fought and died for their freedom and the rule of law in Ukraine, you should go and talk to these people. They are the most liberal, progressive and tolerant people in Ukraine: artists, teachers, students, human rights activists, journalists, etc.  Many ethnic Jews are taking part on Maidan, not at all worried that they are supporting "fascism!"  Same with the ethnic Crimean Tatars who were deported and killed by the Soviet regime: they are supporting Maidan and not all afraid that it will lead to "fascism!"  

The protesters on Maidan stood freezing in the winter ice for two months peacefully until Yanukovych cleared them by force, ignoring their calls for talks. Only when they answered violence with violence did Yanu listen, being the thug and bully that he is.  My guess is that you supported the #Occupy protests; well, this was Occupy to the 10th power. They organized their own councils, food preparation, sanitation, schools, hospital, you name it.  And fueled by hundreds of volunteers and donations from thousands of Ukrainians. They were trying to show another model of self-organization and self-governance in Ukraine, against the corrupt status quo. These are people you would feel an immediate connection with.

Have you been to Ukraine lately? Have you ever been? You should talk to these people before you call them fascists, or in some ways worse, accuse them of being puppets of fascists.  The protesters on Maidan are not all greeting Tymoschenko with roses; they understand she's a leader from the corrupt past. The same goes for Yatseniuk, Klitshcko and Tagniabok.  After the murder and corruption by Yanukovych, the main concern of Maidan has been the lack of leaders to represent them faithfully -- the same problem of the #Occupy movement.

Yes, Ukraine is an economic basket case, but it has nothing to do with the IMF, but rather stupendous levels of Ukraine's government corruption. An MP of the former ruling Party of Regions admitted as much last week: if we stop stealing, we'll have enough money for everything, he said. (See: ).  

Yes, Russia was ready to give $15 billion (in tranches) to Ukraine... but do you seriously believe without any strings attached?  The IMF at least has criteria that are transparent.  Even so, Ukraine has flouted the IMF conditions in the past and yet here is the West, talking about even more aid.  Is this not the very definition of tolerance and understanding?  Yes, pain awaits Ukraine in any case because money doesn't grow on trees, and it has stolen and mismanaged its state budget for years upon years.

As for your remark about Russia "protecting" its citizens in Ukraine.... this is a throw-away Kremlin propaganda line. Protecting them from whom?  From what?  From their own country?  Just because some Ukrainians call themselves ethnically Russian does not give Russia the right to meddle in the affairs of Ukrainian citizens.  Russia leases territory in Sevastopol (contrary to Ukraine's constitution, but whatever); it does not have an "enclave" or right to territory there. It's a renter; Ukraine is the landlord. It cannot fly its flag over state buildings, suddenly hand out Russian passports willy-nilly, or patrol around in its military vehicles; this is prelude to open military conflict because it flouts Ukraine's sovereignty.  

As for your cautionary tales of EU accession.... Points taken. But there are also EU accession success stories. Which will Ukraine be?  You cannot predict it based on events in Slovenia and Latvia. Why not take the Polish example, why is that not valid?  Also, remember that on the table is an Association Agreement, not accession. This far-reaching agreement, the most detailed ever negotiated -- over several years with the Yanukovych government! -- between a country and the EU, covers everything from the courts, to human rights, to energy efficiency.  Have you read what it says?  It basically asks Ukraine to become what all Ukrainian citizens ask for: a non-corrupt country that protects its citizens, its environment, provides health care, etc., etc.  I encourage you to read this: .

Again, I encourage you to travel to Ukraine and meet these people whom you label neo-fascists.  I think you will be surprised, and come to see that they are the future of Ukraine; not those who are hoping for a continuation of the past 20 years in the delusion that, with a little more Russian influence and dirty money, it will yield better results. 


P.S. -- I do not know you or anything about you; I've tried to respond to what you've written only. I do not engage in ad hominem attacks. 

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