Saturday, May 3, 2014

Burnt Flesh in Odessa


When the protests in eastern Ukraine began to break out, Secretary of State, John Kerry had this to say,
Russia’s clear and unmistakable involvement in destabilizing and engaging in separatist activities in the east of Ukraine is more than deeply disturbing... No one should be fooled — and believe me, no one is fooled by what could potentially be a contrived pretext for military intervention just as we saw in Crimea.
No one would be silly enough to believe that after a government they elected was overthrown and partly taken over by radicals with a different culture and history, that people in the east could be unhappy with that turn of events and demonstrate their displeasure in the exact same way as the protesters in Kiev who brought the new government to power - creating armed camps and taking over government buildings.

Nah, all the "pro-Russian separatists" and their dog and pony show are nothing more than a "contrived pretext for a military intervention" by Moscow.

Even the term "pro-Russian separatists" has a nice flare to it if you are in the market for a term to easily dismiss a movement because calling them "Russian-speaking anti-government protesters" (which is what most of them are) would grant them a dangerous degree of  political legitimacy. After all, even western countries have anti-government protesters to spare; but none have "pro-Russian separatists" -- a backward and sinister breed to be sure.

Let me state this again. I am not criminally naive and know that Russia is supporting the protests in the east and that this support includes coordination, arms, intelligence, expertise and people flowing over the border.

However, after multiple clashes with government forces resulting in casualties and arrests among the "pro-Russian separatists" all of them have turned out to be Ukrainians. The Kiev government invokes Russian presence in eastern Ukraine constantly but has yet to produce a single detained or killed protester who turned out to be a Ruskie.

That is not to say that Russians aren't present there, I'm 100% sure they are; but the presence of the Russian hand in the protests (no matter how powerful that hand may be) is different from saying that it is the only hand or that it erected the whole protest movement out of thin air. The Kremlin is an investor in the mutiny but its origins are native and strong- it is ultimately a Ukrainian product, homegrown strife with a powerful patron.

As I have noted in my prior post, I am not all too happy about the role Russia is playing in this but no one should be stupid enough to believe that Russia is writing the music of discontent, it did enthusiastically hook up an amplifier because the tune being played serves its interests in the region but you have to be ignorant, stupid or deluded to see Ukraine as a intrinsically untied country pulled apart solely by Russia.

The desire to have close relations to Russia, the animosity toward a revolutionary government that purports to lead Ukraine toward the happy family of European democracies, and even the desire to become a part of Russia are the beliefs that unite the opposition to the Kiev regime but all of those sentiments are so poorly understood and alien to the west that they quickly become politically incorrect and unfathomable- thus a purely Russian concoction designed to mask a united Ukrainian populace leaping toward prosperity and freedom in Europe.

So when the prior "pro-Russian" regime in Kiev faced a protest movement seeking to depose it and using force and occupation of government building to get it done, the west vocally supported it and warned the president that he will be a sanctioned pariah if he moved the army against his unhappy people.

Today, America and EU support the use of the army by the new revolutionary government against the rebelling regions because the people at the receiving end are Russian agents anyway and even if they aren't they occupy a place on the ideological spectrum that is very far removed from what is deemed modern and civilized in Washington or Brussels.

FDR one famously said of some three-bit dictator, "he is a son of a bitch but he is our son of a bitch."

Ukraine is a divided, failed state with different factions fighting for power guided by the law of the jungle as the economy is in free fall, but since this failed state's capital is ideologically aligned with the cherished, western ideals, this capital (Kiev) is supported unconditionally and Russia - which is a relatively successful country when paired next to Ukraine- is condemned because it has an autocratic government that professes different ideals and has an independent foreign policy that periodically turns adversarial toward America and -to a lesser degree- Europe.

The Ukrainian people are expected to be delighted with and support their failed, divided state with its minty fresh revolutionary government because these new rulers are "freedom loving" and Western in their rhetoric and oppose Russia because it is dark and authoritarian. Any protests against this state is nothing more than Russian trickery that as John Kerry has said, "no one is fooled by."

Thus as unstable Ukraine is rolling down the cliff of history, the west fully expects all of her people to put carefree smiles on their grim, Slavic mugs and enjoy the ride because... well, because... ah yes, I remembered... because Europe, prosperity and democracy are on the other side of the bumpy slide down.

I am not very knowledgeable about the history of Ukraine, I wish I knew more, but this much I do know. Ukraine in its present territorial state did not exists until after World War 2, the people who live within its borders never lived together as an independent country until the fall of the Soviet Union. Those in Eastern Ukraine have more in common with Russians (and are indistinguishable from them) than they do with their Ukrainian-speaking compatriots in the west of the country. The two groups in Ukraine are used to living together but aren't used to be ruled by the other group- hence this dysfunctional loop of revolutions and counter-revolutions that the country is facing now.

A major event happened in what tragically looks like the birth of a civil war.

In the Russian-speaking port city of Odessa, a clash between anti-government and pro-government factions resulted in a bloody massacre. The camp of "pro-Russian" protesters was attacked by a mob of Kiev supporters. After a confrontation, the anti-government people retreated into an administrative building. Then the peaceful, pro-Europe faction proceeded to surround the building, prevent people from leaving and set the structure ablaze with Molotov cocktails. Over thirty people burned to death or suffocated from smoke, others leaped to their death from the windows. Some survivors who made it out of the building were kicked and beaten by the mob who saw them as traitors as they crawled around in charcoaled clothes seeking medical help.

For the longest time, the west denied that Russian-speakers face any dangers from the new government or its supporters. Now over thirty burnt corpses provide a counterweight to that assurance. Odessa is far from the Russian border and the anti-government protesters there did not take over any administrative buildings.

To many opponents of the new authorities the darkest Russian propaganda of a new, fascist government willing to violently subjugate them is coming to life. These deaths in Odessa are happening at the same time as the Ukrainian army is planning a major operation against the rebelling regions in the east where villagers are putting up barricades against the advancing forces and pleading and hollering for them to leave them be.  
With each day a Russian invasion in the East looks more and more likely. The hard truth is that Ukraine with its divisions and different regional identities was as much of a social experiment as it was a united country when it emerged independent from Soviet rubble. Today this experiment looks tp be on the verge of collapse. Russia has played its role. But when this revolution began at the end of last year, Russia was not the only foreign player on the track, other's were just putting their money on different horses.

Now the Pandora's box is open and ghosts of history have emerged, flying free, crying their screeching screams.

***

My article on Ukraine got published on another insightful blog with a sizable readership run by a Canadian Russophile named Mark. Aside from hard currency, the gift of readership is one of the best things anyone can give me right now and Mark did; thus I am really grateful to him.

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