A Ukrainian friend passes along this op-ed from a Russian media outlet. I had to run it through Google Translate, and I think I’ve got a good sense of the original. If any of you read Russian — and I know some of you do — please read the original and correct me if I got any of this wrong. I think these points are worth considering.
The author, Maxim Samorukov, asks what is so different about the political situation in Ukraine today versus a year ago. The government is just as corrupt, he says. Indeed, it’s hard to say that it’s all that more corrupt today than it has been since independence. Ukraine is flat-out one of the world’s most corrupt countries. It was that under the leadership of opposition figures, and it is that under Yanukovych. The entire political and economic leadership is up to their eyeballs in corruption. One of you readers sent me a piece by a friend with Russian and Ukrainian experience, saying that Ukraine is in deep financial debt to Russia, which is part of the problem here. That, and the fact that both hardline Ukrainian nationalists as well as pro-EU liberals hate Russia and Ukraine’s relationship to Russia. It’s a hugely complicated situation, because while many, many Ukrainians are sick and tired of the status quo, they are that way for different reasons — not all of them creditable.
Anyway, back to Samorukov. He says that recently in Ukraine, the “now or never” feeling has emerged. The idea that they have to act at this instant has taken over, and it’s “dangerous and destructive.” This happened before, in 1990, when the European Union began negotiations to bring in Yugoslavia. The Croats decided that they weren’t going to wait for the others within the Yugoslav federation, Samorukov argues, and they declared their independence, and desire to be part of Europe. They saw no need to wait. They wanted what they wanted, and they wanted it right now. Result: four years of civil war, tens of thousands of dead, and half a million refugees. And they finally entered the EU in 2013, six years after Romania.
Was it worth it? Samurokov asks. Similarly did the Bosnian Muslims separate, to be free of Milosevic’s Serbia. “What could be worse than living under Milosevic?” they asked. And then they got the answer: the Bosnian war, with more than 100,000 dead, and half the country of 4 million turned into refugees.
Again, I’m reading the Samurokov piece in a computer’s translation, so perhaps I’m missing something. It seems that he’s blaming the impatience and rashness for leading to a far more destructive outcome — civil war — than would have happened had people been more patient and resourceful. This is what happened to the former Yugoslavia, he says, and it seems to be what’s happening to Ukraine. He says with each death in Ukraine now, nobody thinks about proportion, nobody thinks about “why”; they don’t think at all, only act. This is their tragedy. “What could be worse than living under Yanukovych?” they wonder. God help them, they may soon find out.
Oh, and by the way, take a look at this map of Russian gas pipelines passing through Ukraine to Europe. Tell me that if the United States had this kind of economic stake in maintaining a friendly government on our border, that we wouldn’t be twisting arms in that country to maintain our standing and economic security. Putin may be a son of a bitch, but he’s also a rational actor.