After "The West" actively supported
insurgencies in Libya, Egypt and Syria (while they covered similar protests in Bahrain, Jemen and
others with self-serving silence), causing much human suffering in the process,
they now intend to support democracy in Ukraine.
People in the street know that our own implementation of democracy is almost fatally flawed, and that massive enrichment by, and around, the political elite and their entrenched power structures is happening via the opaque maze of our ‘democratic institutions’. During the coming decades, with decreasing wealth and increasing competition with other parts of the world, this practical brand of western democracy will come under much pressure and, undoubtedly, new forces will shape new structures – hopefully for the better, at least for a while.
Meanwhile ‘The West” throws its weight behind democracy in Ukraine. Apart from any geopolitical factors that play, one wonders how and where our political leaders perceive democratic saplings in Ukraine. Surely there are legitimate complaints about abhorrent corruption and surely a majority of protesters in Maydan spontaneously rose against their last government, as they did against others over the last twenty years. They deserve change.
The "power facts" on the ground are less rosy. A hard core of hoodlums, supported by subversive elements financed by “Oligarchs & Friends”, have created street warfare in Kiev and brutally forced the fall of the government. In the mayhem of this revolution of sorts, they took over the government by means of a quasi-legal process, appointing a new president (a figurehead, as it turns out) and a new prime minister. Because no 'experienced' Ukrainian politician can claim any kind of neutrality, let alone honesty, the new government team looks less than legitimate democrats: 4 ministers are ultra-rightists, and known oligarchs have been given governorships over regions. That does not immediately reflect the change that people in the street are entitled to.
So, who and what is “The West” supporting? The principle of sovereignty, they say. Of course, they have a point. From that perspective the (c)overt ingression of Russian soldiers, guards and/or policemen is, at its very roots, a transgression of international law. When exclusively focusing on that fact-on-the-ground, one can mount a strategy, obviously also reflecting self-interest, that includes all kinds of warfare (for now, short of its military variants) in order to make the incursor change its mind. No matter how that warfare is conducted, it must be obvious that, in essence, all parties stand to lose quite a lot. Russia and The West will definitely lose economically and politically, with repercussions in the rest of the world as well. The Ukrainians will lose much more, no matter whether they are pro-Russian or pro-Western.
Aassume now, just for a moment, that Russia withdraws its forces from Crimea. Understand, simultaneously, that the Crimeans, of their own volition, irrespective of any foreign pressure and irrespective of the quasi-illegitimate Kiev government forbidding it, will organize a secession referendum. Know that, meanwhile, the Kiev government has decided to create a “National Guard” to defend and protect the nation. (It is hard to imagine how such a guard can represent all the people of Ukraine; instead it has all the markings of a Praetorian Guard).
Those Western leaders who believe that, under the above circumstances, there will be no more (and bigger) bloodshed in Ukraine, must be truly incompetent, insensitive or hyper-cynical. After having witnessed the violence of the street protests, the actions of a newly constituted army in regions that are deadest against the central authorities, are not difficult to imagine: they will have the right ideology and the best weapons to overcome popular resistance. The next step, without a shred of doubt, has to be that Russia invades all of Eastern Ukraine, and explains it as a humanitarian action to protect innocent Russians living abroad (very much like, most notably, France does in Africa). There is no chance that Russia will wait until the UN gives the green light.
In view of the above, it would serve “The West” well to help Ukrainians come to terms with the predicaments that they have created for themselves, politically and economically. The presence of Russian forces is actually a protector of the peace: it strikes (hopefully) fear in the hearts and minds of Praetorian Guards, and it pacifies and polices protests of the local population (while giving them a sense of security which, understandably, any so-called national troops would not).
Resolving the quagmire that Ukraine, in fact, will take longer than the few months to the ‘next elections or polls’, no matter who organizes them. It does not, at this point, serve any Ukrainian or, indeed, European citizen for their politicians to act in the name of some hollow-sounding democratic principles or, even, interpret international law without allowing for humanitarian concerns. Such a constructive view may be too much to ask for, because one of the causes of international conflict is often that shaky leaders of countries in trouble, similar to what we have throughout Europe these days, are power-hungry and cynical enough to exploit foreign ‘opportunities’ to deflect attention from internal problems.
In conclusion then, one might argue that Russia seeks, from a geopolitical perspective, to gain more control over Crimea. And it is obvious that a Russian occupation force is a transgression of international law, which needs to be addressed in due course. It is equally evident that this same force has prevented that the Crimea (and maybe even other eastern regions) experienced violent clashes. Until there is a game plane for saving Ukraine, agreed by all players and preferably under supervision of international institutions, it behooves “The West” to work together with Russia for one great humanitarian goal: avoid more bloodshed and, by extension, avoid any kind of warfare that will kill many more innocent people.
Grimburger, March14th 2014