Sunday, October 5, 2014

And In Kiev We Have an Uncle !

     I don't believe Winston Churchill's confession about Russia appearing to him a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.  It was play-acting, putting on he did not understand that Stalin was a Bolshevik, who signed a pact with Hitler to postpone an ideological war against Russia which both he and Churchill knew was coming. Winston showed he had firm grasp of the historical strategic interests of Russia in the next few sentences of that broadcast on the day Hitler invaded Poland:

......but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest. It cannot be in accordance with the interest of the safety of Russia that Germany should plant itself upon the shores of the Black Sea, or that it should overrun the Balkan States and subjugate the Slavonic peoples of south eastern Europe,  That would be contrary to the historic life-interests of Russia.
Thus, my friends, at some risk of being proved wrong by events, I will proclaim tonight my conviction that the second great fact of the first month of the war is that Hitler, and all that Hitler stands for, have been and are being warned off the east and the southeast of Europe.

    Winston Churchill knew his geopolitics; the gynocracy that rules the latter US State Department does not. They say things to Russians for which the Moskali have a clever old saying that goes like: "In the garden we have edelberry; and in Kiev an uncle".  The adage does not lend itself to an easy translation. It is a mocking paraphrase of someone who is full of herself, puts on airs, talks nonsense, gets lost in her own fantastic schemes.  It seems tailor-made for the US/EU posturing on Ukraine.
      Most Americans, in their arrogance and ignorance do not quite appreciate how lucky they are to have someone like Putin calling the shots in the Kremlin and not, some swell-head driven by an ideology, politically or religiously in a fundamental conflict of values with the West, and seeing himself the chosen figure to bring in a messianic kingdom, the Mahdi's rule in the end of days or a historically inevitable workers' paradise.  Of course, this appears to be talking edelberry to the likes of Susan, Samantha,Victoria or for that matter, to the martyred first lady and feminist presidential redeemer to come, Hillary Rodham-Clinton.  Ergo they, and their drone John Kerry,  will reply by pledge of support to their uncle in Kiev.

          The Ukraine narrative of the State Department and the MSM did not make any sense to begin with. The few wise old owls in the States and in Europe said so from the start in February and never wavered. Kissinger pointed out that this foreign policy adventure (like some others recently) lacks a clear objective, a clear-headed end strategy. Klaus (yes, him again) thinks this the unfolding of events in Ukraine are the greatest political tragedy of post-WWII Europe.  The former Czech president and the anti-EU conservative maverick calls the late  western lying about Russia monstrous.  If one may put it more politely, they are stupid

         Not always stupid, mind you. The reports of mass graves with hundreds of bodies of Russian-speaking civilians that Churkin and Lavrov claimed last week seem greatly exaggerated and one of the war tales that take on life of their own. There were dozens of civilians reported shot by the Ukrainian paramilitaries in Maiuopol last May.  It turned out to be less than a dozen.  But the fact remains that Donetsk and part of Lugansk have been shelled by the Ukrainian military and the Kiev paramilitaries since the ceasefire in what appears to be deliberate targeting of civilians.  That part cannot be denied or obscured by obnoxious formulas that makes the two sides equally guilty of violations. There is also the shameful silence on the hugely disproportionate number of Russian-speaking civilians among the victims. This omission looks like a sly suggestion that the innocent dead are victims of the pro-Russian "terrorists" who are in reality militias protecting the Russian speakers against the politics of ethnic cleansing (whether by intimidating them to leave for Russia, or by anti-Russian legislation that would deprive of political rights and their ethnic identity). That this is not some Moscow brewed propaganda kasha would be apparent to anyone who listens to debates in the Ukrainian parliament for one hour or less. 

       In no country which is a member of the European Union, or aspires to be one, a brutal suppression of an ethnic minority would be tolerated.  Unless of course it happens to be one which is Serbian or Russian. To those two, different sets of rules apply. Before the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 there were approximately two hundred thousand Serbs in Kosovo. There are twenty five thousand left today. The tragic fate of the Kosovan Serbs prompted even an deep-in-the-wool Serb hater like the ITCY prosecutor Carla del Ponte to revise her view, and speak out against the NATO sponsored Atrocity-aspiring-to-be-a-European-State that is Kosovo.

    Or Ukraine.  Russia is that country's small problem. The much bigger problem is essentially a lack of a vision that could make it a functioning, prosperous modern state. What continually destabilizes Ukraine is not Russia but its internal identity crisis, a series of obsessive campaigns to redefine itself as a monolithic national whole. The only sustained theme of this struggle is a desire to be "not Russia", which is of course what all countries once dominated by Russia want to be. In the family of the Slavic nations perhaps only the Southern Slavs, namely the Serbs, Macedonians, and Bulgarians do not have a built-in defense reflex against Russia's quest of Euro-Asian hegemony.  There are two problems however which make Ukraine's version of it more prominent. One, the cultural and historical bond with Russia is much longer lasting than other nations', with the Russian state actually originating in the Kievan Rus and pushing eastward. Second, there is a large Russian speaking minority in Ukraine, and beyond that another, much larger segment of people who are ethnic Ukrainians who speak both languages but prefer using Russian for business and convenience. It is estimated that around 50% of the country stills speaks Russian or both languages at home.  Culturally also, Ukraine appears to be joined to Russia at the hip, with a number of Ukrainian writers and playwrights still preferring Russian. In the Galician (western Ukrainian) version of national identity, people who do not write in Ukrainian would not be considered Ukrainians, but that is not the view of most other compatriots. There are ongoing squabbles about Nikolai Gogol's nationality, even though all of his celebrated work was in Russian. The Bard of Ukraine, Taras Shevchenko composed in both languages, though his diaries and most of his personal correspondence was in Russian. 

          So, to begin with, the project of some ethnically pure laine Ukrainian nationality is a dubious undertaking which will be resisted by vast segments of the population, whether it be enshrining Russian as a second official language of Ukraine (Yanukovich's project which he abandoned) or, conversely, drastically curtailing the toleration for the use of the Russian language.  However, the language question is only scratching the surface.  In an able brief on the major political challenges the country faces Vaclav Klaus pointed to the artificiality of the state, stitched together as it were from different ethnographic regions, with varied historical loyalties and religious affiliations.  This goes beyond different dialects of the Ukrainian language. There does not seem to be a uniting motive other that essentially the negative theme of not wanting to be Russian, or to be dominated by Russia, or to be dismembered by Russia, in short of seeing Russia as the source of all of Ukraine's current misery. In a telling little incident in the Ukraine parliament not too long ago the current mechanics of destabilization have been beautifully illustrated.   They have nothing to do with Russia. The two actors are both anti-Russian: the one punched in the face a well-known political provocateur hurling insults at the bigger guy telling him to go and fight terrorists in Donbas. The puncher is affiliated with the supporters of the most prominent of the anti-Russian oligarchs, Ihor Kolomoiskij. 

       Which brings us to the biggest problem of Ukraine since it emerged as an independent state in the post-Soviet era.  It is a country dominated by oligarchs and political operators. In many ways it resembles Russia under Yeltsin, dragged into interminable fights for dominance by the top dogs, out to get as much of the piece of action as possible. The MSM in the West have no inkling of the behind-the-scenes manoeuvering of the political blocks around the huge concentration of money in the country. Or perhaps the do but they are not telling. At any rate, the system is well-known to people who follow events in that part of the world.

      How do the Russians see all of this ?  In absorbing several discussions on Rossiya 1 TV channel from the last month, I was surprised to find out that there is a general consensus around key issues. The Russian hyper-nationalists (who want "re-unification" with the cradle of Great Russia) were generally held in check. Most participants (well known figures in Russian political debates, academics and writers), seem resolutely against any kind of  "pan-Slavic brotherhood" of the sort that is falsely imputed to Putin by the western politicos and their media butlers. They are nearly unanimous in supporting the idea of a federated Ukraine, as they are against the continuation of the war in the East.  Surprisingly, one of the loudest "hawks" in Russia, the vice-chairman of the State Duma, Vladimir Zhirinovsky showed up consistently as a peace-maker and made a really uncharacteristic statement that "the worst peace (!) with Kiev is better than war".  (I think this was posturing but all the same !)  In the exchanges with the Ukrainian guests, there were some heated debates. The rep of Putin's party was attacked for the alleged use of Russian troops and for supplying the rebels with heavy weaponry. The response was predictable: "prove it !"  The argument that I did not hear before was that much of the heavy weapons which the militants flashed late in July, in the offensive in the South, was supposedly bought on the Ukrainian black market (where, the story goes, anything is available). But it was greeted with derision by the Ukrainians, and funny faces by the Russian guests. Everyone with any brains in Eastern Europe would not waste any time on arguing about this. In the unspoken rules of the Cold War, the opposing sides fight through proxies. Putin cannot agree politically to the hare-brained scheme of Nuland and Powers to restructure the country with the Galician hyper-nationalists and integrists calling the shots through violence and political repression. The scheme would turn Ukraine against Russia and destroy its influence in the region permanently. Such ideas can only breed in the heads of people who have no sense of reality.    

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