John Eden 24th Feb.
A thoughtful and thought-provoking article from the Guardian.
“What has happened in Ukraine goes beyond the fate of one politician and involves more than a realignment of political life
Sunday 23 February 2014
People power has prevailed in Ukraine. It has emptied Kiev’s streets of the riot police who had battled protesters since November, galvanised the Ukrainian parliament into a burst of decisive activity, and swept President Viktor Yanukoych not only from office but from the capital itself. It has swept away, too, most, if not all, of the deal that European envoys had put together late last week as they scrambled for a compromise to avert further bloodshed but leave the president in place.
But compromise is not a word that has much leverage in Kiev these days, as it becomes clear that what has happened goes far beyond the fate of one politician and involves much more than a mere realignment of Ukrainian political life. This has been, and continues to be, a revolution, the latest in the series of east European revolutions that began in Poland in 1989, and perhaps the last, unless and until change of this radical order comes to Moscow.
This consideration must rank high in the private deliberations of the Kremlin. At the time of the Orange revolution, the incomplete and disappointing attempt at remaking the Ukrainian political system that began in 2004 with popular manifestations very similar to those of today, Moscow’s fear of what the future might bring was summed up in the phrase “Kiev today, Moscow tomorrow”. But the Orange revolution stumbled quickly into a morass of infighting, corruption and incompetence. It was soon apparent that Ukraine was not going to be a model for other countries;quite the reverse.
President Vladimir Putin could heave a sigh of relief, and present the tougher and more effective form of authoritarian capitalism that he favoured as the correct choice for the Russian people. That might not be the case for ever, if Ukraine makes the most of new opportunities and gets the right kind of help. Moscow’s inner anxieties are among many factors that make the arguments between western countries and Russia over what has happened and what should happen in Ukraine so very delicate. Whatever we might hope for in the long run, America and the EU would be mad to operate as if Ukraine could be a back door to change in Russia. Leave that to history to resolve in her own good time. We should also accept that Russia’s baleful view of the revolution has some limited substance. Constitutionality and an elected leader were discarded, and there are some forces on the revolutionary side with repugnant political opinions.
The remarks on Sunday of Olli Rehn, the EU commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, about giving Ukraine “a clear European perspective” were unwise. That phrase is usually taken as meaning that EU membership is on the table, yet there is no consensus within the EU that this would be desirable, no evidence that Ukrainians want it, and every sign that Moscow would regard it as a deal breaker. Then there is the fundamental fact that Russia and Ukraine, whatever the regimes that might exist in the two countries at a given moment, are in a twin-like relationship that goes back centuries. It would be foolish to go against the grain of that, just as it would be crazy, on the Russian side, to encourage or endorse separatism in eastern Ukraine.
What Ukrainians seem to want is a strong connection with Europe and a strong, and safe, connection with Russia. There is no reason, other than stupidity or malice on the part of outsiders, why they should not have both. With the state close to bankruptcy, they also need very substantial financial help.
The EU, having played its part in setting this drama in train, has a responsibility to come through with the aid about which it was arguably niggardly before. The Russians, having also agreed to help financially, should not withdraw aid because things have changed politically. Western countries seem now to be trying to persuade Russia that Ukraine should be to some extent a joint project. It is very much the right thing to aim at. The coming days will show whether what is desirable is also possible”.