Quo Vadis Now Ukraine?
It is Sunday, the 23rd of February, 2014. I am reading several newspapers, among them The New York Times, about the daily events in Ukraine.
I believe the commentators are missing the point. I have a different opinion. I have been to Ukraine many times for work and came back just recently after receiving my sixteenth honorary doctorate from their most prestigious university.
The revolution in Kiev is not against Russia. Or to bring the former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko back to power, as they seem to imply. Nor is it a revolution that erupted because Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych changed his mind and cancelled his promise to join Europe.
His reversal of a pledge was what ignited the protests, turning vocal dissent into open revolt; speech into action, as the people spilled onto the streets. It was not the cause of all the current demonstrations. It was more like the spark that ignited the fire. All the ingredients for a fire were already in place.
The people in Ukraine were “saturated“; overcome with disgust at the unending corruption. The dire economic conditions of the country while their government was openly stealing the wealth of the country. There was no trust nor respect left for the leadership of the country.
The dissatisfaction, the anger, the hard feelings have been building for years. All that was needed for a “mutiny” was the “spark,” the final straw” that led so many voices to shout “no more” and spill to the streets.
In my opinion the reversal of signing with the European Union was that spark. It could have easily been something else. The ground was ready. The only question was what would ignite it.
I believe President Yanukovych would not have lost his position if he had not made that final mis-step, had not, so to speak, added oil to the fire. When the police started to shoot at the dissenters, the crowds got committed to get rid of him. And not just the crowds. His own party voted him out of power.
If I were to advise the Russian government, I would say embrace the people who are protesting. They are fighting for the right cause, to have a country free of corruption. To support a corrupt leader will not endear Russia to the people of Ukraine. Crimea, granted, has a significant Russian population but to claim that they are in danger from Kiev is an unsubstantiated claim.
If Russia intervenes in Eastern Ukraine, if it exploits the weakness of the West which has no strength to defend Ukraine because of its preoccupation with Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Syria, it will only confirm suspicions that Russia supports corruption, that Russia has territorial ambitions. In my judgment it will in the long run lose politically rather than gain.
As to the United States, I would add that this revolution is not pro America. It is a demand for a healthy, honest government. One that can be respected and trusted.
So to the ”cold warriors” in the United States I say, do not try to turn this into a false victory. Do not endeavor to show (falsely) how you succeeded in wresting Ukraine from the bonds of Russian influence.
It will only make life more difficult for the people of Ukraine and in the process will impede their efforts to bring some semblance of order into their own lives. In effect open western meddling and confronting Russia will only add oil to the flames causing the Russian minority in Crimea to demand succession from Ukraine.
As for the people of Ukraine, their best tactic is to remain neutral. To maintain normal, friendly relations with both sides. To choose not to choose either the West or Russia.
Ukraine should become the new Switzerland. Several ethnic groups, several religions, all living in peace, benefiting from both sides of the curtain.
In May, Ukraine should elect governmental leaders who are not politically driven or identified with the East or the West. Technocrats without the slightest taint of corruption. Leaders who can restore order and trust, and by that I do not mean imprison the crop of corrupt leaders. Vengeance addressed to the past will only take energy away from fixing Ukraine’s future.
Ukraine requires a new generation of leaders, leaders who can instill hope. A leadership that is trusted and respected by the nation.
Not East. Not West. Just Ukraine.
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes