Ukraine: Thinking Together

An international conference called Ukraine: Thinking Together («Мислити з Україною») is currently being held in Kyiv, with participants who include Timothy Snyder, Leon Wieseltier, Timothy Garton Ash, Adam Michnik, Slavenka Drakulić, Paul Berman and others. The conference aims to discuss Maidan and reactions to it in the context of wider questions of human rights and contemporary geopolitics, and the sessions can be followed in livestream here.

Crimea – March 9

From the Facebook page of Dmitry Tymchuk:

 Итоги 9 марта на англ

(спасибо Euromaidan PR)

Brothers, here is the summary of March 9, 2014

(for summary of the previous day, see Summary of March 8).

The bad news:

 1. Some of our own politicians on the local and nationwide level suddenly started playing second fiddle to the Kremlin. Today, we have neutralized (hopefully successfully) two very dangerous rumors – about the mass betrayal of our border guards and the Russian saboteurs who flooded Kherson and Odessa oblasts. Our very own “public servants” disseminated these rumors.

 I do not understand how they can be so irresponsible to behave this way. Under the rule of Putin’s beloved grandfather Joseph [Stalin], [the officials implicated for participation] in such tricks were, without further due, taken by their arms and brought into the cellar at the Lubyanka [KGB headquarters and its prison], and were put against the wall. And rightly so. Because it is one thing when a street vendor Aunt Dunya who sells seeds on the market shares this disinformation with her commercial partner Aunt Masha. But it is a completely different thing when it [disinformation] is broadcasted by a politician.

 The task of bureaucrats and politicians as professional manipulators is to lie for the benefit of their country during invasion. And not to harm their own country. Learn from the enemy – Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.

 2. Today, a checkpoint at military airfield and military objects of the military unit A1387 were blocked in Dzhankoy [city in the north of Crimea]. Also, an airfield near Saky [Crimean city with major Ukrainian Navy bases] was seized by Russian troops. The occupiers immediately began to reinforce their formations, equip firing emplacements, and mount machine guns. The number of seized objects keeps growing. This contagion spreads around Crimea like ringworm in a hamster. If only it would not go further.

The good news:

 1. First about us. After today’s commanding statement made by our Information Resistance group that denounced the inaction of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and the General Staff, it was immediately followed by reaction. I was prepared for the moral and psychological Armageddon against us, and was ready to bark back (there is nothing to fear, but I never found anything pleasant about curses or threats). However … a rather constructive conversation followed. In general, we understood their position, and will be meeting with representatives of the military leadership tomorrow, to hear out their vision.

 We are ready to broadcast any type of positive information, the main thing for us is to make sure that we are not being used blindly, and that we are do spread any “disinformation.” We have no right to deceive you, my brothers, and we never will.

 2. According to our data, the Russians will continue to avoid using the firearms, as well as forestall the beginning of the armed conflict. Here special merit goes to our international partners – if the slaughter begins, they are ready for a very serious [military] action against Russia.

 Of course, in this situation it is now extremely important to provide moral support to our troops in Crimea. They are exhausted and overwhelmed. But they are still standing. And this is important.

 3. Putin and his military commanders are frantically trying to fix the mishaps they allowed to happen. It looks bad when the Kremlin broadcasts about the absence of Russian troops on the Crimean peninsula, and Russian military gladly admit it on camera. As a result, the “little green men” (Russian troops in unmarked uniforms) who have given our military ultimatums today in Yevpatoria, suddenly began to argue that they were a Crimean “self-defense unit.”

 It is too late, gentlemen wearing suits from Yudashkin. The whole world knows what country you are from, whose orders are being executed, and what goal you are trying to achieve. You will not be able to turn into “freedom fighters” after being invaders, occupiers and aggressors, despite the magnitude of vain attempts by the heavy-duty Kremlin propaganda machine.

 4. Tomorrow the Naval forces from the United States, Romania and Bulgaria will begin their joint military maneuvers in the Black Sea, near the territorial waters of Ukraine. I hope the reasons behind these naval exercises should not be explained to anyone.

 Russians immediately drove their “Moskva” [Moscow] cruiser closer to the area of naval exercises, but those guys left a USS George H.W. Bush [CVN-77, aircraft carrier] around the corner just in case, that is capable of turning all Black Sea Fleet dislocations into landfills in a matter of two hours. So, the Russian clown act with the cruiser “Moskva” is to show-off for the visitors.

 However, we still have no reason to celebrate. Let’s hope that tomorrow will bring us an excuse to do so.


The Miscalculation

maidanAs events in Ukraine once again enter a critical phase, it seems evident that the current upheaval, now in its third month, was triggered by the Kremlin in the hope of starting a civil war in the country. This conflict it intended to use as a bogeyman in order to suppress dissent in Russia itself. However, the  plan appears to have backfired: instead of a civil conflict, what has emerged in Ukraine is akin to a social and political revolution involving all layers of Ukrainian society in resistance to a tyrant-President and a government that has lost all touch with the electorate.

 At present it’s still unclear what direction the new Maidan movement will take. As the Yanukovych regime applies brutal force under the Kafkaesque pretext of “anti-terrorist operations” – thus branding Ukraine’s own people “terrorists” – the peaceful opposition still has to overcome and reconcile its own internal divisions. It’s uncertain whether by the end of the present crisis the leaders of the resistance will be the same as the eloquent but somewhat disconnected figures who have so far emerged, or whether other hands and voices will eventually take command. What is clear, though, is that this is a people’s movement: a movement that reflects a widespread discontent and anger among all age-groups and social classes with the corruption and self-seeking of the political establishment that has gripped Ukraine in a stranglehold. As a protester says of Yanukovych: “We cannot trust him. There can be no compromise with a dictator. He must go.”

 In opting for violence as a solution to its unpopularity, the Kyiv regime may have badly miscalculated, for the violence and its consequences can be redirected back to it, and may soon destroy it. With pressure exerted by the EU and the United States, and by world public opinion, the regime’s international legitimacy is likely to be further eroded and undermined. Instead of the “East-West” conflict scenario envisaged by the Kremlin and its Ukrainian clients, a national uprising has the potential to sweep first through Kyiv, then through the other cities and regions of the country, and finally over the border into Russia, where it may threaten Putin himself.

Better Russia

New_Russia_on_territory_of_UkraineIn Slon, Leonid Ragozin takes a long and searching look at the twin identities of Ukraine. In the Russian-speaking part of Ukraine he sees a “Better Russia”:

It’s a more peaceful country with a better climate and less abrasive manners than Russia, a country where Russian military personnel and “northern” oil pensioners still go to live out their days as before, and to where  – as in Cossack times – the Empire’s more freedom-loving, enterprising and talented citizens escape.

And this alternative Russia, unlike the original, has a chance in our lifetime to become part of a Greater Europe, to achieve its standards of state governance and quality of life. Such a Russia will, more than Ukrainians themselves, be interested in preserving Ukrainian statehood  because this will be the guarantee of its survival and success. If you really need a single, albeit diverse, Ukrainian nation, then it is with the help of such a Russia that it will be built.

Instead of relying on a narrow and sometimes intolerant Ukrainian nationalism, Ragozin thinks, the Euromaidan movement would do better to maximize its appeal to this “other Russia”. After all, he points out, the movement’s most prominent  leader, Vitali Klichko, is a boxer trained in the  Soviet army and with direct experience of the authoritarian and “athletic” mentality typical of the so-called “titushki” who are charged with maintaining support for Yanukovych’s government.  If Klichko could extend his influence to this constituency, and even become its leader, Ragozin believes that

there would be no need for the fighters of the Right Sector, the Molotov cocktails and medieval catapults: the Berkut would take him to the Rada and to Bankova.

After reading this the only question that occurs to me is whether the influence of Putin and Great Russian chauvinism may not now be more widespread among Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population than Ragozin is prepared to admit.

Learn it by Heart!

Ukraine People’s Deputy Inna Bohoslovska says:

I ask everyone to commit this to memory and pass it on to anyone you can. And if doubt starts to erode your strength, remember:

1. This government has put itself outside the law, and is doomed to 100 percent failure. The struggle will last for several months.

2. Everyone can and must contribute to the resistance their own share of decisive actions:

– not pay taxes to the budget, but spend the money on the cause of resistance;

– expel from offices all inspectors without exception;

– not buy any goods produced by the Regionals;

– devote every minute to talking with doubters and persuading them of the inevitability of the collapse of the Regionals, exert all possible means of pressure on the active supporters of the criminals in power.

3 Forbid yourself and those around you any public dissatisfaction with members of the resistance. Each for each. The task – to defeat evil. It cannot be worse. It will only get better. Difficult, but for the Good!

Завчити на пам’ять!

Прошу всіх завчити на пам’ять і передати кому зможете. І якщо сумніви почнуть підточувати Ваші сили, згадуйте:

1. Ця влада поставила себе поза законом і 100 відсотків приречена на поразку. Боротьба буде тривати декілька місяців.

2. Кожен може і повинен привносити в спротив свою частку рішучих дій:

– не платити податки в бюджет, а витрачати ці кошти на справу спротиву;

– виганяти з офісів всіх без винятку перевіряючи;

– не купувати жодних товарів, що виготовляються регіоналами;

– кожну хвилини говорити з тими, хто сумнівається, і переконувати їх в неминучості краху регіоналів, застосовувати всі можливі методи тиску на активних прихильників партії злочинців у владі.

3. Заборонити собі і оточуючим будь-яке публічне невдоволення учасниками спротиву. Кожен -за кожного. Задача – перемогти зло. Гірше не буде. Буде тільки краще. Складно, але до Добра.


Ukraine: Scenarios

ukreuropeOn his LiveJournal blog Ukraine/Russia specialist Andreas Umland asks:

What happens to Europe should its territorially largest country slide towards civil war and a violent break-up? What happens to the current trans-European security architecture, pan-European organizations and all-European law should the Ukrainian state fall apart? What will happen to the already strained political, yet surprisingly intense economic EU-Russia relations when Moscow accepts possible offers from East and South Ukrainian regions to become, like Transnistria, Abkhazia or South Ossetia, Russian protectorates (if not oblasts of the RF)? I hope that these scenarios are currently being discussed in Brussels, Washington, Berlin, Moscow… etc

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is giving signs that Moscow may not wait indefinitely for the answers:

Russia urges EU “not to interfere” in Ukraine.