Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Stop forcing Ukraine into a 'West vs. Russia' narrative?

I have a lot of sympathy with where writer Oliver Bullough is headed here.  Indeed, the Euro-Maidan movement started in 2013 as an internal struggle against endemic corruption, lies and bad governance, personified by President Yanukovych's regime and his ruling Party of Regions, whose sole mission, sans anything resembling an ideology, was to consolidate power from the presidency down to the level of every village in Ukraine.

Writes Bullough:

This is what the revolution is about: Ukrainians trying to wrest control of their country from the oligarchs of Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk and elsewhere who – with help from east and west – have robbed them for 23 years. The left should be cheering them on.

The east against west story does have one beneficiary: the Kremlin. In Ukraine Moscow is trying to preserve a crooked regime against the wishes of Ukrainians who want to live with dignity, because the old ways made it money. It also fears a united and stable Ukraine would join Nato. That's why Russia is sheltering Yanukovych, and threatening not to recognise the elections on 25 May. Russia is deploying its propaganda apparatus to present this as an ideological struggle rather than a mercenary one. RT, the channel formerly known as Russia Today, addresses the outside world, while state television channels bombard Russian-speakers with denunciations of the "fascists" in Kiev.

But let's not forget that Yanukovych was always "Putin's man" in Ukraine, starting in 2004 when Putin bankrolled Yanukovych's presidential campaign and Putin spoke out against the Orange Revolution.  And Yanukovych's "power vertical" was a direct emulation of Putin's regime in Russia.

Secondly, the Ukraine conflict quite openly ceased being an internal Ukrainian struggle the moment Russian troops left their Crimean bases in February 2014 and took over the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in southern Ukraine.  

Thirdly, now less openly but still quite actively, Russia is supporting, arming and coordinating the actions of pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine (aka Donbass).

Having said that, I believe, as Bullough is trying to say, that internal corruption and bad governance are still at the heart of this crisis.  If Ukraine's new government can truly tackle corruption, then they will have addressed the main grievance of most of Ukraine's population, and win a respect and legitimacy that no government has enjoyed since Ukraine's independence. 

(The language issue is a red herring; people in Kyiv and Lviv speak Russian freely everyday without a thought of suffering persecution; this is just a Russian-inspired media lie.)

However, if the new government cannot manage to make Ukraine less corrupt, or says one thing and does another, then it risks the wrath of a second "Euro-Maidan"... but one that could be much more violent and chaotic, and set off a true civil war.... 

Hopefully Ukraine's self-serving and often puerile politicians understand what's at stake, and will do what's right and necessary to pull the country back from the brink of dissolution!  

By Oliver Bullough
May 19, 2014 | Guardian

No comments: