West Has Suffered a Crushing Defeat in Ukraine

We have witnessed the total defeat of western Ukraine, Western nationalists and the West in general, which made the unfortunate decision to support the anti-government activity. They failed to realize that the collapse of Yanukovych means the collapse of Ukrainian unity. They set fire to their own home and planted a time bomb under Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Russia’s image abroad as aggressor

While Russia has faced a torrent of criticism from neocons who still live in the Cold War era, like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and certain Fox News analysts, there are also a few thoughtful experts, like Steven Cohen and Dimitri Simes, that try to give a more objective and balanced view of events.

There has been an avalanche of statements demonizing Putin and portraying Russia as an aggressor. Regrettably, this extends beyond experts and journalists to government officials. Not long ago McCain made a fool of himself by saying that Pravda is still Russia’s main newspaper, revealing his ignorance of Russia and the surrounding region.

US Secretary of State John Kerry made similarly clueless statements in appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows Face the Nation and Meet the Press. He seemed completely untethered when he said on Face the Nation: “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text.”

Kerry seems to have forgotten the history of American intervention in the 20th and 21st century. Some people apparently are able to live with the cognitive dissonance of applying certain criteria to the actions of others but not oneself. The Washington Post had a good article recently about how many states in America have much more stringent laws than Russia when it comes to LGBT rights. It brings to mind that famous quote from the Bible: First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

Barack Obama’s advisers have also misled their president into believing that Russia has invaded Crimea, when in fact there has been no invasion. Russia has the right to deploy 25,000 troops to the area under an agreement with Ukraine. To my knowledge (I’ve checked with people from Sevastopol), there are a little over 10,000 Russian troops in Crimea, so Russia still has the legal authority to deploy another 15,000. And the need for Russian troops on the peninsula is undisputable.

Western media, especially American, portray the unconstitutional coup against the government in Kiev as a popular uprising, but when people in Crimea responded to an illegitimate government in Kiev by taking control of local government bodies, law-enforcement and security agencies, it is called illegal.

Ukrainian troops at some garrisons have been surrounded by Russian units in accordance with agreements both with the Crimean authorities and the legitimate president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych. It’s rich to hear the illegitimate government in Kiev, which came to power on the back of an armed revolt, talk about violations of agreements.

President Vladimir Putin has said repeatedly that the violent coup in Ukraine was unconstitutional. Likewise, there are people in Crimea who do not accept the cutthroats in Kiev whose first act upon taking power was a vote to repeal the law on regional languages in a bid to outlaw the Russian language and the Russian people .There have also been threats to end Crimea’s autonomy and kick out the Black Sea Fleet. Ethnic Russians in the east and south-east of the country are being deprived of their right to act in defense of their own interests.

Winners and losers so far

Western Ukraine and the West in general have suffered a crushing defeat in Ukraine so far.

In 2005, after the Orange Revolution, I wrote a prescient article in Rossiyskaya Gazeta that perplexed many people in Russia, Ukraine and the West at the time. It was called “Orange juice and Russian vodka, or why Russia won the Orange Revolution in Kiev.” I recognized that as long as Ukraine’s president hailed from the country’s east and won office on the strength of voters in the east and south, these regions wouldn’t be permitted to seek greater autonomy. Kuchma and Kravchuk appreciated the danger of making abrupt moves in a fragile environment where two nations, two languages and de facto two states co-exist. I argued that it would be better for Russia to have Yushchenko, an obvious radical, in power, because he and his team from western Ukraine would hasten the end of the Ukrainian state by moving too fast.

As long as the government in Kiev preserved some semblance of legitimacy, this fragile balance could hold. For this reason, pro-Western Ukrainians would have been wise to keep Yanukovych in power. As a president from the country’s east, he would have maintained Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Now the radicals and nationalists who took power in Kiev are likely to preside over the demise of the country in its present borders.

As a result, Crimeans and the defenders of Crimea and eastern Ukraine in Russia were able to achieve what once seemed impossible. The ousting of the legitimate government in Kiev gave them an opportunity to put in place their own pro-Russian mayor in Sevastopol and prime minister in Simferopol. In fact, Crimea is now planning a referendum to exercise genuine self-determination. Moreover, the Crimean authorities do not have to recognize Kiev’s legitimacy given the violations of the Ukrainian Constitution and other laws that have been committed. The forces that seized power in Kiev have also violated the agreements mediated by the Polish, German and French foreign ministers by ousting Yanukovych.

Events in Crimea have encouraged ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in Kharkov, Donetsk, Lugansk, Dnepropetrovsk and Odessa to raise the issue of federalization. Of course, the exact contours of a future federative system would have to be negotiated, as ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in these regions want to have final say in local government and choosing what language to speak, what books to read and what programs to watch.

We have witnessed the total defeat of western Ukraine, Western nationalists and the West in general, which made the unfortunate decision to support the anti-government activity. They failed to realize that the collapse of Yanukovych means the collapse of Ukrainian unity. They set fire to their own home and planted a time bomb under Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

A way out

Nobody will stand in the way of the referendum in Crimea, and it will become an autonomous entity with contractual relations with Kiev. A future agreement will allow Crimea to have its own military forces, foreign ministry and government bodies. People in Crimea will elect their own mayors and other government officials. Some symbolic ties with Kiev may be retained.
The situation in eastern Ukraine is more serious. It will demand federalization at the very least. The degree of autonomy in the east and the west can be discussed when a legitimate government comes to power in Kiev.   

This promises a real way out of the crisis that avoids civil war or use of force. Any reckless attempts by Kiev or the West to impose their vision and dictates by force of arms will be rebuffed. In this event, Russia will not remain a passive onlooker. It is with good reason that President Putin sought authorization to use force from the Federation Council to protect the lives and security of Russian citizens and Russian speakers in Ukraine. 

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.