Home > Holodomor
| d&d (Furman, Odynsky, Katriuk) | Zuzak Letters |
The Guardian | 29Jan2014 | Seumas Milne
In Ukraine, fascists, oligarchs and western expansion are at the heart
of the crisis
The story we're told about the protests gripping Kiev bears only the
sketchiest relationship with reality
We've been here before. For the past couple of months street
in Ukraine have been played out through the western media
a well-rehearsed script. Pro-democracy campaigners are battling an
authoritarian government. The demonstrators are demanding the right to
be part of the European Union. But Russia's president Vladimir Putin
has vetoed their chance of freedom and prosperity.
It's a story we've heard in one form or another again and again -- not
least in Ukraine's western-backed Orange revolution a decade ago. But
it bears only the sketchiest relationship to reality. EU membership has
never been -- and very likely never will be -- on offer to Ukraine. As
Egypt last year, the president that the protesters want to force out
was elected in a poll judged fair by international observers. And many
of those on the streets aren't
very keen on democracy at all.
You'd never know from most of the reporting that far-right
and fascists have been at the heart of the protests and
government buildings. One of the three main opposition parties heading
the campaign is the hard-right antisemitic Svoboda, whose leader Oleh
Tyahnybok claims that a "Moscow-Jewish mafia" controls Ukraine. But US
senator John McCain was happy to share a platform with him in Kiev last
month. The party, now running the city of Lviv, led a 15,000-strong
torchlit march earlier this month in memory of the Ukrainian fascist
leader Stepan Bandera, whose forces fought with the Nazis in the second
world war and took part in massacres of Jews.
Note the typical Ukrainophobic tactic of demonizing Svoboda, Oleh
Tyahnybok, fascist leader Stepan Bandera, Nazis, massacre of Jews. It
is surprising the Mr. Milne has not referred to and demonized the
OUN-UPA independence movement. The best antidote to Mr. Milne's
vitriolic defamation of Stepan Bandera and the Ukrainian independence
movement would be a requirement to listen to or read the
English-language translation of Ivan
Patrylyak's lecture on
So in the week that the liberation
of Auschwitz by the Red Army was
commemorated as Holocaust Memorial Day, supporters of those who helped
carry out the genocide are hailed by western politicians on the streets
of Ukraine. But Svoboda has now been outflanked in the protests by even
more extreme groups, such as "Right
Sector", who demand a "national
revolution" and threaten "prolonged guerrilla warfare".
Not that they have much time for the EU, which has been pushing Ukraine
an association agreement, offering loans for austerity, as
of a German-led drive to open up Ukraine for western companies. It was
Yanukovych's abandonment of the EU option -- after which Putin
offered a $15bn bailout -- that triggered the protests.
But Ukrainians are deeply divided about both European integration and
the protests -- largely along an axis between the largely
Russian-speaking east and south (where the Communist party still
commands significant support), and traditionally nationalist western
Ukraine. Industry in the east is dependent on Russian markets, and
would be crushed by EU competition.
It's that historic faultline at the heart of Ukraine that the west has
been trying to exploit to roll back Russian influence since the 1990s,
including a concerted attempt to draw Ukraine into Nato. The Orange
revolution leaders were encouraged to send Ukrainian troops into Iraq
and Afghanistan as a sweetener.
Nato's eastward expansion was halted by the Georgian war of 2008 and
Yanukovych's later election on a platform of non-alignment. But any
doubt that the EU's effort to woo Ukraine is closely connected with
western military strategy was dispelled today by
general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who declared that the
with Ukraine would have been "a
major boost to Euro-Atlantic security".
Which helps to explain why politicians like John Kerry and William
Hague have been so fierce in their condemnation of Ukrainian police
violence -- which has already left several dead -- while maintaining
studied restraint over the killing of thousands of protesters in Egypt
since last year's coup.
Not that Yanukovych could be mistaken for any kind of progressive. He
has been backed
to the hilt by billionaire oligarchs who seized control
of resources and privatised companies after the collapse of the Soviet
Union -- and fund opposition politicians and protesters at the same
time. Indeed, one interpretation of the Ukrainian president's problems
is that the established oligarchs have had enough of favours granted to
an upstart group known as "the family".
It's anger at this grotesque corruption and inequality, Ukraine's
economic stagnation and poverty that has brought many ordinary
Ukrainians to join the protests -- as well as outrage at police
brutality. Like Russia, Ukraine was beggared by the neoliberal shock
therapy and mass privatisation of the post-Soviet years. More than half
the country's national income was lost in five years and it has yet
fully to recover.
Here, I agree with Mr. Milne. The shock therapy of mass privatizations
was a disaster for both Russia and Ukraine leading to the rise of the
Oligarchs and corruption on a grand scale. It was promoted by people
like Larry Summers, Anders Aslund, the USAID group and even George
Soros, who bragged that he got Leonid Kuchma elected. However, one
would have hoped that this "grotesque corruption and inequality" would
have led Mr. Milne to support the Euromaidan demonstrators in their
efforts to eliminate the corruption in Ukrainian society.]
But nor do the main opposition and protest leaders offer any kind of
genuine alternative, let alone a challenge to the oligarchy that has
Ukraine in its grip. Yanukovych has now made sweeping concessions to
the protesters: sacking
the prime minister, inviting opposition leaders
to join the government and ditching anti-protest laws passed earlier
Whether that calms or feeds the unrest will be clear soon enough. But
the risk of the conflict spreading -- leading political figures have
warned of civil war -- is serious. There are other steps that could
defuse the crisis: the creation of a broad coalition government, a
referendum on EU relations, a shift from a presidential to a
parliamentary system and greater regional autonomy.
The breakup of Ukraine would not be a purely Ukrainian affair. Along
with China's emerging challenge to US domination of east Asia, the
Ukrainian faultine has the potential to draw in outside powers and lead
to a strategic clash. Only Ukrainians can overcome this crisis.
Continuing outside interference is both provocative and dangerous.