Friday, August 15, 2014

Ukraine may be alone against Russia, but it is finally a nation

This is my hope exactly, as I've shared with my Ukrainian friends [emphasis mine]:

But while Ukraine may have lost Crimea, and may struggle to get a large slice of Donbas back under its control for an extended period of time, and while Europe has yet again disappointed, the big “win” for Ukraine is that the nation has been born.

Finally, after 23 years, Ukrainians do feel a sense of identity and affinity with the state of Ukraine. They have been willing to lie down their lives for the state, and will likely be willing to struggle to ensure its survival and success, irrespective of Russia having lopped off bits of its territory.

This is the big chance for Ukraine, to live to European values, and modernise the economy – because it has to, rather as Georgia did in 2008. Russia may have outmaneuvered the West and Kyiv to a stalemate, even a short term tactical victory over Crimea and Donbas. 

But importantly, over the longer term Russia has failed in allowing a new nation to be forged – 2014, could be the defining moment for Ukraine, equivalent to 1848 or 1861 in Europe, 1776 in the US, et al. 

Russia may hence have gained Crimea, and possibly bits of Donbas, but may have lost Ukraine permanently.

Such words, I know, are likely cold comfort to Ukrainians still reeling from the loss of Crimea, embroiled in a deadly war on their eastern border, and suffering from economic recession. 

Even so, Ukrainian nationalists have always known that breaking free of Russia's grasp would not be easy. Over the years Russia has used every means at its disposal to control Ukraine: trade sanctions; bankrolling pro-Russian political candidates, NGOs, political parties, academics and journalists; military pressure; infiltrating the government and other key organizations; gas exports; etc.  

Now, at last, Ukraine is breaking free. Let's just hope Ukraine doesn't break up in the process!...

By Timothy Ash
August 15, 2014 | Kyiv Post

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