An Indulgence for Extremism in Ukraine

February 24, 2014
Pro-Russian activists rally in Sevastopol, Crimea, February 23, 2014 | REUTERS/Stringer

This editorial was published on February 19th, 2014, in the midst of the growing crisis in Ukraine (See The Interpreter’s liveblog from February 19 for additional context). It was published by the pro-Kremlin Izvestia. Note that the violent actions of the Ukrainian government, or the actions of the Russian government, are absent. Also note the call for regionalization of Ukraine should the crisis continue, a move that would expand Russian influence in the East. — Ed.

The world leaders suddenly became zealous advocates of the idea of ​​national sovereignty.

It seems like not so long ago they would dismiss the concept of “sovereignty” as something irrelevant and outdated. “Advanced” powers did not hesitate to intervene in the civil war in Yugoslavia, to support rebels in Libya and, on the contrary, help the current government in Mali. But in the case of Ukraine everybody has been suddenly overcome with some striking shyness, which was not there at the end of last year, when every enemy of Russia would consider it their duty to visit Maidan.

And then all of a sudden some kind of a stupor. Right in front of everybody’s eyes the country is falling into the abyss of civil war, the regions gradually crawl away from the center engulfed in flames, and the leaders of East and West pledge their allegiance to the principles of national self-determination.

The reason for this, I think, is quite simple: Western leaders simply do not want to be responsible for the actions of their direct customers. i.e. the leaders of the opposition, who are occasionally invited to the master’s table for important meetings, but are not really expected to behave properly. Or at least to behave in line with earlier promises – slightly cool down the tempers of the street rioters, so that they stop taking over capture administrative buildings, killing their employees and destroying state property. Anyway, it’s not even about property anymore. Back in January somebody could be concerned with broken windows and knocked out doors in buildings captured at the command of the visiting fighters from the “Right Sector” [Pravyi Sektor, a Ukrainian ultra-nationalist opposition group — Ed.]. Today, against the background of more than two dozen dead it’s not even worth mentioning.

I remember, earlier this year, several European leaders called for peace and tranquility, making special emphasis on the need for a broad amnesty. As a result, the amnesty was declared, and the very next day after the activists had been released the militants wearing helmets rushed to attack the Verkhovna Rada throwing Molotov cocktails.

And again, the same vicious circle. Attacks on the police, casualties on both sides, pushback by “Berkut”, again without any logical conclusion, exchange of firecrackers, lazy exchange of fire using firearms with real ammunition, and then, of course, as always, calls for peace, the demands to withdraw the riot police and the threat of sanctions.

So, after all, does the West control its political clientele?

If it does, we are dealing with an armed coup, very much like the one by Lzhedmitry I (False Dmitry) against Boris Godunov or by Pinochet against Allende. If it does not, it means that the West is deliberately spinning off the spiral of chaos in a divided country. In any case, the responsibility lies with those who has been holding Yanukovych’s hand all this time threatening him with sanctions and criminal prosecution for a timely use of force. As well as those who gave the rioters an explicit indulgence for mayhem.

Meanwhile, events on February 18, and what followed – that is the fact that nothing has followed yet – brings us to a number of not so comforting conclusions. [See The Interpreter’s liveblog from February 18 for additional context]

First, turmoil in Ukraine cannot be overcome only by Ukrainians themselves. This is partly the reason why this kind of unrest cannot be treated as an internal affair of that country. Even if the government in Kiev prevails, the turmoil will spread over to western regions, where things are about to get under control of the euro-integration rebels. Even if the integrators prevail, they will be faced with the problem of the South-Eastern regions self-determination, while the political system is falling apart and the security services and law enforcement fail.

The second conclusion logically follows the first one. It looks like even a specific situation, i.e. the standoff in Kiev, cannot be resolved by force. This phrase , alas, is no longer part of a diplomatic protocol. If such a decision was made, the force would have been used. But if after 10 policemen killed and with Kiev burning, the state of emergency is not declared, and the President again speaks about searching for a compromise, that means that he either for some reason doesn’t want to use force, or, which is more likely, simply cannot. And all this is the reality that has to be reckoned with. As I write these lines, all commentators are expecting the army to join the anti-terrorist operation announced by the security forces. Judging by the images from Kiev, today it is clearly much more difficult to use force than yesterday, when a “Berkut” counterattack would look justified. Today there are tens of thousands of Kiev residents on Maidan, including deputies, women and the elderly.

But the fact is that the “revolution” is not able to defeat the power of Kiev, either. “Berkut” is suffering casualties, but does not give up, and they have nowhere to retreat. That means, dual power, and the war as a consequence of the policy surrender.

And the third one, again follows from the second. If Yanukovych is not able to bring order to the streets of the capital and guarantee safety of even his employees, then his legitimacy is de facto a fiction. As to a fiction, you might consider that as well, but, of course, you shouldn’t count on it to become a reality.

But of the same fiction are the official Maidan figureheads: Klitschko, Yatsenyuk, and Tyahnybok, who has broken up with the first two. But they are not responsible for anything, and cannot guarantee anything.

What’s left to do? Just like in the case of the Syrian conflict, you can only count on the reason of those who haven’t lost it yet. That the leaders of the two civilizational unions – European and Eurasian, preferably together – will resolutely demand from the opposition to stop the violence, and from the government in Kiev to launch constitutional reforms, from the political establishment – to move towards regionalization. As to themselves, they have to self-impose a penance, like a 10-year moratorium on any involvement of Ukraine in any powerful and irreversible integration projects.

Because in the current situation any such project means provoking a civil war. A civil war in Ukraine – it’s just a shootout at a border between two civilizations. And if these civilizations clash, all the seas and continents will flare up.