Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Chivalrous Terrorists of Ukraine

Admittedly, it is not easy to explain why a Czech ex-pat after a Russian invasion in 1968 living in Canada would side with Putin on Ukraine. It is not easy to explain for a number of reasons. First, people – even the bright lights - are badly misinformed and lacking factual grounds to make valid calls about what is going on in Eastern Europe right now.  They fall prey to crude propaganda and make patently false assumptions about the hostilities. Second, and further, it has become a feature of the decline of democracy in the West generally, to take a dissenting political opinion not simply as a different approach to problems to be analyzed and critiqued, but as an exhibit of some combination of obtuse incompetence, moral depravity and lunacy.  The political polarization has become so pervasive that it makes a political dialogue impossible, and in fact redundant. Grandstanding and personal attacks have replaced a reasoned debate. In the electoral manipulations, it is not words and meanings that convince the masses. Winning is everything and the winner will be the one who can discredit the opponent(s) better. The style perhaps best exemplified by Ann Coulter and her struggle against the lying Liberals who are traitors to the Republic and who attack her ad-hominem.  Of course, in the logic of this culture of brainless recriminations, a Czech ex-pat of a 1968 Russian invasion who sides with Putin on Ukraine must be an idiot, or a paid agent or a pathological liar. 

It is interesting to observe how the MSM has fixed the naming of the actors and acts on the Ukrainian steppes.  The Kyiv government are the good guys, the underfunded, underequipped underdog fighting Russian invaders.  Kyiv’s paramilitary force is called National Guard. ( A word of explanation is called for here. The Russian and Ukrainian languages distinguish between narodnyi, in the sense of ethnic nation or a people, and natsionalnyi, as in state-national. The Ukrainian National Guard is Natsionalna hvardiya Ukrayiny.)  The Russian speaking Ukrainian nationals in revolt against the current regime that seeks to suppress their Russian ethnicity, are called separatists and terrorists.  Russia’s support for the rebellious regions is called mischief, and assault on Ukrainian sovereignity, and most recently an 'invasion',  an attempt to bend the Kyiv government to its will.   More than a quarter million Russian-speaking Ukrainian nationals in Russia are now called refugees, but until their numbers swelled in June they were called Moscow’s invention Got that ?  Good.  So let us see how all that works.  

Is the Kyiv government the good guys? Well, it is relative. Are they good guys relative to whom? Putin accuses the Kyiv government of waging war on its own people, which of course has more than a grain of truth in it.  Are they as bad as the Nazis?  That sort of comparison seems to be Putin’s narrative for domestic consumption, and really is counter-productive if he is serious about a political settlement of the conflict. The last thing needed here is more trash talk.  It would be enough to say that the large scale attacks on urban areas by Kyiv forces are unnecessary and shameful, and certainly merit condemnation in the West which roundly criticized Israeli large scale – even if precision – bombing of civilian areas in Gaza.  The added problem with justifying the Donetsk rubble is that there are no missiles flying from there in the direction of Kyiv, Lviv  and Rivne.

The apparently insoluble political conundrum in the Ukraine today arises from a fanatic definition of Ukrainian nationality. The exclusionary, oppressive view of national identity espoused in Kyiv not only flies in the face of an ostensibly multicultural Europe but the very notion of civility in our world. Yulia Tymoshenko’s now infamous histrionic threat of nuking the eight million Russian speakers in Ukraine is descriptive of this ugly phenom even though hers was more an angry blowing of steam than a statement of intent.  But still, the post-Maidan Ukrainian politics seem awash in such outbursts of irrationality and ill-will toward Ukrainian Russian speakers. President Poroshenko flew into a rage in the beginning of the month when the Verkhovna Rada (the parliament) refused to pass his bill naming the Luhansk and Donetsk republics “terrorist oranizations”. He called the deputies “fifth column” and dissolved the legislature.  This was posturing also but there are of course the real McCoy Nazis in Ukraine who do have influence and do shape public policy whose favours are being curried. One of the most vocal Russophobes is a Svoboda deputy Iryna Farion, who gained notoriety back in 2010 by berating five-year olds in a kindergarten for having Russian first names. Here is how she defended her action in a TV debate.  You don’t need to speak Ukrainian to understand one very important thing about what is going on there – the divisions are deep and hopes for a civilized dialogue slim. One faction's national hero is another faction's most despicable terrorist. 

Are the Russian militants in the East separatists ?  It is safe to say today that the great majority of the Russian speakers in South-East Ukraine and in refugee camps in Russia do not want anything to do with the new political model of Ukraine which is ostensibly pro-Europe but relies heavily on political support of the fanatically anti-Russian portion of the electorate.  Such union simply is a non-starter. And as the conflict lingers on, chances for even a loose federation with Kyiv vaporize fast even though the rebels called themselves Ukrainian federalists before hostilities started.  The mutual loathing grows rather than diminishes.

As for terrorism, this is a really curious epithet given that not a single act of terror against Ukrainian population inside or outside the defended regions have been reported as perpetrated by the militias. (This contrasts with the mass shootings in the Maidan square in February, and the revolting brutality against unarmed government opposition in Odessa). I looked hard but I failed to find even a single instance of some outrage against a civilian and political target that could be pinned reliably on the Russian-speaking fighters. That is truly odd – for supposedly terrorist organizations.  Imagine ISIS opening a humanitarian corridor for Assad fighters fleeing Taqba air base.  Kinda’ hard to picture that, isn’t it ?  So this Putin kind of terrorism must be some some sinister new brand. It does not use women and kids as hostages (even where going is rough); it flies the stripes of a Christian saint and recognizes chivalry as virtue.   

Oh yeah, the plane, the plane…almost forgot ! The militias shot down a passenger plane or so they are still accused though the findings of the investigators of the destruction of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 are now an officially guarded secret. Why would that be ?  Does this make sense in the narrative of the US State Department and the Kyiv government which maintains that the plane was shot down by the rebels ? The Verkhovna Rada passed a resolution condemning the act as terrorism before any forensic evidence was available from the site. Why would Kyiv want to suppress the findings if they confirm the accusation of wholesale murder by the separatist, terrorist, Moskali scum ?  My oh my !  What a strange world we live in !

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