The Ukrainian crisis

One of the issues I have put in the backgrounds of my ebook novels is governance. Thus Puppeteer was set in a failing over-leveraged democracy under siege from terrorism, Troubles involved emerging from anarchy, and how governance gets reborn, and not necessarily in the best interests of the average citizen. Thinking about the current problems in the Ukraine got me thinking about this problem. In some ways, there are similarities between what I wrote about in Troubles and what is happening in the Ukraine. We had a corrupt government there that collapsed, but rather than a period of anarchy, a government has emerged, but one based on might rather than right. Then, those in the Eastern Ukraine do not want what the West has to offer, and just as in Troubles, there is a massive force nearby. Perhaps I am taking this a little too far, because the Ukraine is not quite in such a dire situation, but . . .

One similarity with the characters in Troubles is that almost certainly none of the key players know enough about the other players, which makes for an extremely difficult situation. What do we know? The revolution was almost certainly carried out by average citizens who had had enough of Yanukovich’s corruption, however if we believe the BBC Newsnight, it did not stay that way. The revolution was somewhat taken over opportunistically by right wing militants of the Svoboda party, also known as the Social-National Party. A BBC program had one such right-winger saying that their policy was to eliminate Jews and Russians from the Ukraine by sending them elsewhere. In this context, they were wearing a Wolfsangel symbol that was also used by the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich, and some western Ukrainians fought in SS divisions. Irrespective of how much of such extreme policies would be in a future Ukrainian government policy, the Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the east would have to be nervous. Add to that, consider the city of Kharkhov, which may have been one of the most fought-over cities in WW II, as it changed hands several times, all of them bloody battles. The third battle for Kharkhov may have been one of the greatest displays of strategic brilliance in that war as von Manstein did the near-impossible, but I doubt the Russian citizens appreciated that, nor would they be overly enthused to know of the help given to the Germans by the western Ukrainians. Since Das Reich took a prominent role in the third battle for Kharkov, the current use of the Wolfsangel by some Western Ukrainians can only be considered provocative at best.

The next question would be, faced with this, what would Putin do? Again, some background. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, countries like Poland and Lithuania promptly joined NATO. Further, despite previous agreements to the contrary, the US set up “missile defence systems” in these countries, ostensibly to defend against Iranian missiles. Russia not unnaturally considered these to be aimed at it, while the US seemed to think Russia should not be concerned in the slightest. In this context, recall what the US thought about missiles placed in Cuba, which is far further away from the US than Lithuania is to Russia. Are the missiles purely defensive? Who knows?

The first thing Putin did was to recover Crimea, which had been part of Russia until Khrushchev, a Ukrainian, transferred it to the Ukraine in the 1950s for administrative convenience. For Russia, however, it is its only seaport going towards the south. To lose that as a naval base would have been unacceptable, even though, from a strategic point of view, it really is not very effective. What about eastern Ukraine? It seems to me that Putin would be expected to have two primary objectives. The first would be to ensure that Russian-speaking citizens were not subjected to right-wing purges. The second would be to ensure that NATO did not dump more missiles on its borders. Are these so unreasonable?

Which gets to the next question, why is the US and NATO so interested in supporting a fascist coup? Yes, they will have elections, but elections there are unlikely to be truly honest because the only two parties sufficiently active in Kiev right now seem to be right wing and more right wing. If the US is a disinterested spectator, why was the head of the CIA in Kiev? More to the point, what sort of incompetence led to his being shown up being there? So far there is no sign that Russia wants to annex the east, and from a strategic point of view, it would probably be undesirable to do so, irrespective of what the West wants. Russia’s second most desirable outcome, and the most desirable of the “likely to be realized” is for partition. Which raises the question, why is the West so against partition? Scotland is about to have a referendum to see whether it wishes to secede, and nobody is too worried about this. Why cannot another group secede when they do not speak the same language, and they want no part of what the other half wants? Because the industrial strength lies in the east? Make no mistake about it, if the east is forced to join the EU, its industries will be history, because they cannot compete on even ground against the technical might of Germany.

Then again, do any of the Ukrainians know what is in store for them? Going west means they will be subjected to IMF economic stringency, and of course, the first twelve billion dollars of aid has to go to Russia to pay the arrears on their gas bill. They should look at Greece, and see if they really want that. Which brings us back to the east. Suppose they do not want that? Should they be forced to? What do you think? My guess is, as in Troubles, the average citizen will get no effective voice.

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