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Sunday, March 09, 2014

The Ukrainian Situation Seen From Afar

At least from a viewpoint different from the American Media, which tends to do little investigation or thinking anymore and merely reads the script handed to it by the government.

This is from The Fiscal Times.
It is based in the UK.

The Two Ukraines Portend a Disastrous Possibility
Patrick Smith
The Fiscal Times
February 24, 2014

In less than a week, the simmering crisis in Ukraine has tipped into tragedy and tumbled straight down to existential calamity. As Viktor Yanukovych fled Saturday from the presidential compound in Kiev to a hotel room in the eastern city of Kharkiv, Ukraine went from a weak and corrupt government to what could shortly turn out to be no government.


Incessantly last week, President Obama and many administration officials insisted that Washington desired only that Ukrainians be permitted to determine their fate for themselves. “Our approach as the United States is not to see this as some Cold War chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia,” Obama said during a midweek visit to Mexico. “Our goal is to make sure that the people of Ukraine are able to make decisions for themselves about their future.”

The talk on the Sunday press shows was of a piece, casting the ouster of Yanukovych as an expression of popular will. “The good news is the fact that this happened from the bottom up,” Tom Friedman said on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. “The West didn’t do this. The United States didn’t do this. The EU didn’t do this. The Ukrainian people did this.”

If only our world were so clean and simple.


Yanukovych is an interesting figure in this respect. He is an easterner, but he was elected to office in 2010 committed to guiding Ukraine toward the West European orbit. You would think he was precisely the kind of figure who could keep the country stitched together and find some variant of the “third way.”

With evident enthusiasm, Yanukovych entered into talks with the EU last year that were to lead to extensive political and trade agreements. It was with the collapse of these talks last November, when Yanukovych turned abruptly back to Moscow and a $15 billion package of bond purchases and energy discounts, that his support crumbled and opponents took to the streets.

Yanukovych had his reasons, and his opponents are mistaken in glossing them in favor of the idealistic posturing evident in Kiev’s Independence Square. The EU deal, in concert with an International Monetary Fund bailout, offered too little money, required a painful debt-repayment schedule, and imposed an austerity program replete with the IMF’s familiar conditions, including cuts in fuel subsidies and the dismantling of the regulatory regime.

The Russian bailout came with plenty of political implications, no doubt, but no conditionality.

As to the Americans, the infamously profane YouTube recording of two diplomats plotting to manipulate prominent opposition figures, said it all. The three oppositionists—Vitali Klitschko, Arseniy Yatseniuk, and Oleh Tyahnybok—were those who signed a short-lived compromise with Yanukovych late last week.

The EU made its offer and fair enough; but I fault it on one of its conditions: It reportedly required Yanukovych to reject all Russian offers of support. This was intrusive, Cold War-ish if ever a stipulation was.
The calamity is the sophomoric mindset of our policy makers. The foreign policy is as much a shambles as is domestic.


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