Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Ukraine: long-term chaos likely outcome

The Syrian civil war has dragged on for nearly three years with no end in sight. The Geneva talks could be seen at the outset as going nowhere. The West is split between doing something and doing nothing. Plenty of arguments for the latter - unpleasant types on both sides, not in our interests to see either dominant.

I fear Ukraine might go the same way. Yanukovych and his gang are a bunch of bandits that have seized an entire country - a large one at that - and are milking it for all its worth, syphoning off the proceeds to the safety of the West.

Ukraine might be torn between its Ukrainian- and Russian-speaking parts, but it is united in its loathing of Yanukovych. Since the beginning of the Maidan demonstrations in November, the protesters have been calling for the EU and US to prevent Yanukovych, his family and cronies from entering their territory and freezing their assets (bank accounts and real estate). These calls have largely gone unheeded until now.

Only after the deaths of some 30 people has the leadership of the Western world started seriously deliberating how to hit these bandits where it hurts most - deny them access to the money they've plundered and the lifestyle they buy with it. Sanctions against Yanukovych are needed not to get him to change course - he won't - but to claw back some of his loot.

For most Ukrainians the issue of a long-term roadmap to EU membership is of secondary concern - what they want above all is for the Yanukovych clan to be ousted. This is their one demand, a unifying demand. The current visit of EU foreign ministers to talk to Yanukovych is a waste of time - they won't persuade him to go; that's what Ukraine wants.

After the Sochi games end, Putin will be faced with the choice of propping up Yanukovich - and risk the serious opprobrium of the civilised world - or to go in and dump his erstwhile ally. But that would leave a vacuum that may well be filled by someone more pro-Western. If that happens, Putin himself will find himself on shaky ground. It was after the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004/5 that Putin started really tightening the screws on the slightest signs of opposition to his rule.

Putin has painted himself into a corner - the unsustainability of his compact with the Russian people based on the premise that the prices of commodities would continue rising indefinitely is becoming apparent.

We here living in the civilised world can no longer envisage ourselves living in a totalitarian system that brutally suppresses its citizens in a bid to maintain power. And yet that scenario may be about to happen just across our border.

Intractable conflicts can drag on. Israel and Palestine have been at loggerheads since 1948, with no sign of peace in the air. The Soviet Union, with the Gulag system at its very heart, existed for 73 years.

I am not optimistic regarding a positive outcome for Ukraine. It will now take much wisdom and much moral and intellectual strength to recover the nation from the thuggery and corruption in which it has been mired for most of its post-Soviet past. Are there the cadres for nation-building from within? The people with the know-how to create strong, well-governed institutions? I'm sure that Poland and other post-communist neighbours would be willing to help - but would this be seen as interfering by foreign agents?

Lack of simple answers to questions like these help keep the Putins and Yanukovychs in power. As long as the alternative to them is seen to be totally unpalatable - a protracted civil war - a passive population will not rise up against them. But when once there is no alternative to protracted civil war - I dread to think.

Will eastern Poland fill up with refugee camps like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are with Syrian refugees? Or will the scenario be like Hungary in 1956, with Russian and loyalist troops clamping down and establishing a totalitarian dictatorship?

Right now, the situation looks very worrying.

This time last year:
Wrocław's new airport terminal

This time two years ago:
A study in symmetry: Kabaty Metro station

This time three years ago:
To the Devil with it all - a short story

This time four years ago:
Waiting for the meltdown

This time six years ago:
Flat tyre


AndrzejK said...

I guess part of the problem is that the Ukraine has the same problem as many African countries i.e. artificial borders imposed by succesive occupiers rather than a natural national territory.

Main problem is that Russia still thinks that it has some right to impose its dictat on others. This of course is a problem shared by the US however the US is tempered by the need to be re elected.

Alexander said...

The EU countries are depending on Russian energy now, and the Russians like expensive German cars..
But not all is lost I hope.

Best regards, Alexander

Anonymous said...

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” --Edmund Burke

And the all what happens now from the East of Poland is a result of a naive, childish, wishful thinking, that that Eastern Europe (incl. Moskovia and sorrundings) is able to westernize. Apart of that is a problem, that most of that communist and postcommunist nightmares rise their ugly heads. Putin and his Bielarussian, Ukrainian and alike camrades are mentally unable to think without their brutal, oppresive manner. And if all of that is enforced by a material, financial interests, then there's a solid ground for the unhuman totalitarian oppression. Believe me, every dictator now wears an elegant suit, shoes, tie and watch... Every dictator is now coatched by PR coaches, practices a "western-like" smiling and handshaking and... sends his kids to Harvards, Oxfords, Yales, Sorbones...