Monday, March 3, 2014

Why can’t I feel more outrage? Perhaps because neither side is as kitchen-clean as it likes to show itself. But looking at leading folk on both sides, we should be very careful to get involved. (Beware the US moral high ground)

I feel awful. I have a strong suspicion that I ought to be outraged by the actions of the Russians of marching into Crimea but for some reason I am finding it rather difficult working myself into a lather of indignation. And I don’t know why.

My first principle is Don’t Take Sides, especially in a business as murky as this. And while I’m not taking sides, I shall merely record a little of what has been going through my mind. So Yanukovich was corrupt and pocketed large sums of moolah. Yes, he should have been gotten rid of and the people of the Ukraine would have had their opportunity to do so at the election which was due in May.

The Russians insist his removal was a coup and, you know, I really can’t see it any other way, either. And if you accept that it was a coup – you might not, of course – then the chap is still the legitimate president of the Ukraine. It is a bit thick when, as in Egypt, a coup is only a coup when the good folk in the West decide. I like to be a little more straightforward on these matters. You can, perhaps, argue that some coups are legitimate and that this one was, but you are already on sticky ground if you do that. It has been pretty obvious over these past few years that the West (for which read the EU and the US) have been wooing the Ukraine into its camp.

And one thing we can be certain of is that it wasn’t for the greater glory and universal benefit of the people of the Ukraine. It was just another move in the longstanding diplomatic game which has been going on for centuries of gaining influence. Certainly, the people of the Ukraine would probably be economically better off if their country were part of the West than part of the East, but the improving the economic well-being of the Ukrainians was never a motive. A few nights ago, as part of its coverage of


what was happening in Kiev – and before Putin sent in troops to Crimea – Newsnight, not a programme given to sensationalism – had a report of far-right and ne0-Nazi elements among the anti-government protesters. Several were interviewed.

It seems also to have been the case that gangs of these neo-Nazis had taken to patrolling the streets of Kiev carrying batons in the absence of the city’s police. Then tonight I heard suggestions that these neo-Nazis were, in fact, Russian agents provocateur sent in to justify Putin’s claim that the new government in Kiev if riddled with neo-Nazi nationalist. True or not? Who knows? How can we know the truth? Well, we can’t at this stage.

There’s also the rather inconvenient fact that we, the Good Guys, aren’t above invasion ourselves, in Iraq and Afghanistan (and to this day I cannot think of a single good reason why the US and Britain invaded Iraq. It made no sense at all, none whatsoever). So it is awfully difficult to take the moral high ground on this one, although that is what we seem to be doing. And here is my final thought: the EU is once again proving as if further proof were necessary that when push comes to shove it couldn’t organise a tearound in anger, let alone a coherent, rational and intelligent response to the crisis in the Ukraine and Crimea.

The only thing I am certain of at this point is that I dearly and sincerely hope no one gets killed on either side.
. . .

This below was written a day later than the above, but I have decided to make it an addendum rather than start a new entry.

Anyone wanting a few facts about the situation in Ukraine and that the choice between one side and the other in this confrontation might care to visit this page from the Guardian. It is a rundown of some of the folk who make up the provisional government in Kiev and it doesn’t make encouraging reading. Incidentally, it is unclear who has been appointing them.

Let’s highlight the Olexander Turchynov, the ‘interim president’. According to the Guardian he is the deputy leader of Fatherland, and was previously the head of Ukraine’s domestic security service and has close ties to Yulia Tymoshenko. Fatherland is regarded as pretty much right of centre, if not right-wing and is suspected of being anti-semitic.

Then there is Oleksandr Sych, the deputy prime minister who is not exactly right-of-centre but proudly a far-right nationalist. His profile in the Guardian states that he ‘once publicly suggested that women should “lead the kind of lifestyle to avoid the risk of rape, including refraining from drinking alcohol and being in controversial company”.’ He belongs to the Svoboda (Freedom) party and is against abortion.

Rather further to the right is Dimity Yarosh who is now deputy leader of the department responsible of national security. He is head of the militant

Dimitry Yarosh makes a speech, flanked by two of
his bodyguards. The chap on the right most certainly
did not much like the look of the photographer

ultra-right-wing Praiyiy Sektor and is thought to be behind much of the violence during the recent protests.

These are the chaps the West is championing. Having said that, I should prefer to remain even-handed and state quite clearly that I would turn down the chance to break a lance for Vladimir Putin. On the face of it the situation in the Ukraine could be likened to the choice of suffering a fatal heart attack or a fatal stroke. It will need all the diplomatic skills of those in the West we trust with our security to ensure we come out of it unscathed. But I’m not holding my breath. As I remarked above it’s a wonder the EU can organise a tearound.

PS Incidentally, here’s an interesting site I came across. The usual caveat applies: don’t believe everything from the off, but investigate it, keep your feet on the ground, and evaluate what you come across with extreme diligence. But always keep an open mind.

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