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To understand the ongoing crisis in Ukraine it is necessary to take a look at two maps: the distribution of votes between Viktor Yanukovych (blue) and Yulia Tymoshenko (yellow) in the presidential election of January 2010, and the linguistic divide between the mostly Ukrainian-speaking western and central regions (red, pink) and the predominantly Russian-speaking southern and eastern regions (brown, yellow, beige).
These two maps coincide to an astonishing degree. They reflect a fundamental cultural and emotional division, not merely a difference of opinion on the issue of the EU association or the presence of the Russian Black Sea fleet in the Crimean Peninsula. It is a division between two fundamentally incompatible identities. As such, it is comparable to the divide apparent in the electoral map of the 1860 presidential election.
The main difference is that Ukraine is an evenly divided country, by territory and by population. The “unionists” (Western Ukrainian nationalists) cannot hope to subjugate and “reconstruct” the Russians and pro-Russian Ukrainians, who dominate the Black Sea coast and the East. The “separatists” (from Kharkhov in the northeast to Odessa in the southeast) will never become “Ukrainians” in the tradition of Stepan Bandera and the SS Division “Galizien.”
Any great power that attempts to control the whole of this deeply divided country will come to a grief. The pro-Russians in the east and along the Black Sea coast can never convert the Western Ukrainians to the paradigm of a Moscow-friendly “borderland” (the literal meaning of “Ukraine”), whose destiny is in a close association with Russia. The nationalists will never cajole their eastern and southern would-be compatriots to an image of “Ukraine” defined by a visceral hatred of Russia and all her works.
Ukrainian nationalism is a hybrid phenomenon. Its cradle is in Lavov, a predominantly Polish city until September 1939, whose ethnic composition (and that of the surrounding countryside) was irreversibly changed by the genocidal Banderists during the war and by Stalin’s commissars thereafter. The eastern border was arbitrarily drawn in 1922 by the non-Russian Bolsheviks, hell-bent on reducing Russia in size. The 85% Russian Crimea was transferred to Ukraine from Russia by a stroke of Nikita Khrushchev’s drunken pen in February 1954. There is nothing sacred and nothing permanent about those absurd borders. Any attempt to uphold them with the force of arms will lead to bloodshed, as Tito’s equally arbitrarily drawn internal boundaries did lead in ex-Yugoslavia two decades ago.
The “orange revolution” in the fall of 2004 produced an inept leader (Yushchenko) and a corrupt operator (Tymoshenko) whose terminal incompetence paved the way for Yanukovych’s victory four years ago. He proved to be equally incompetent and corrupt, paving the way for the Maidan-engineered revolutionary putsch last week. Western powers stage-managed a violent overthrow of what was, stricto sensu, a democratically elected chief of state. They will now reap the benefits: a bankrupt economy in immediate need of some tens of billions of ready liquidity, a disintegrating country with secessionist regions that cannot be controlled short of a civil war, and a new Cold War-like flashpoint that nobody needs. Jihadists of all countries, rejoice!
For Russia the future of Ukraine – and especially its Black Sea coast – is an existential issue. For the United States it is an optional crisis, the outcome of which will not affect the security and well-being of America in the slightest. John McCain would just love to repeat the disastrous Crimean War of 160 years ago, but he is insane. It is to be hoped that reason will prevail.
You quite likely have much better sources about the unfolding situation in Ukraine that most of us who frequent this forum.
One does not, of course, know what is in the mind of President Putin and his advisers. I know nothing of the readiness of the Russian Army, particularly the elements which would be the vanguard of any insertion into eastern Ukraine; however, it is difficult to imagine, if President Putin has the means, that he will allow, yea, can allow some U.S./EU/NATO insertion into Ukraine at the behest of a hastily erected puppet government. He has strategic, economic, fraternal, and existential reasons to act if he can.
Yanukovych is in Russia. He still has claim, however tenuous, of being the President of Ukraine. Would not one scenario be, undergirded by treaties, again however tenuous, between Russia and Ukraine, that Yanukovych would "ask" Putin to occupy strategic regions of the eastern Ukraine to protect the Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians and the vital infrastructures of that region against thugs, hooligans, outside agitators and those posing as acting under the color of law?
The calculation would be, if it is a worthy calculation, that NATO would not have the will to respond if the actions happened quickly.
This morning I have read that some airports in the Crimea have been "secured" by unknown security forces, and they do not appear to be, based on the reports, Ukrainian. Could this already be a first move?
I assume that Putin knows that this is not Serbia and this is not Syria. For Russia, the fat is in the fire. The question will be: Is Russia the fat or is Russia the fire?
Brilliant analysis Dr. Trifkovic, one would just hope that the American Administration may manage to read it and act appropriately. But it hard to imagine it would, since policy of "divide and conquer" is predominant factor in the USA foreign policy, from Balkan in 90'th till Syria nowadays. I am not sure what is the role of Great Britain in the Ukrainian putsch, but when you say
"Wester powers" Dr.Trifkovic, most of your loyal readers have pretty clear idea whom you are referring to. Let's just hope we do not need another apocalypse of the last recession.
I note by referencing NBC, MSNBC, CBS, FOX and CNN online, that all of the appropriate talking heads - Obama, McCain, etc. - are threatening with "grave consequences" if Russia continues its current military operations in the Crimea. Apparently those unknown security forces of which I spoke in the previous post were indeed Russians.
Obama and McCain warned Russia not to intervene in the affairs of a sovereign state. The historical context makes their remarks sound like a speech by Brer Fox or Brer Bear with Ukraine as the Tar Baby. I suppose if Putin is really Brer Rabbit things will maintain a violent equilibrium.
I would like to translate this article and post it at www.geopol.com.pt
With who should I talk?
The Asst. Sec. of State says we have been pursuing "U.S. goals" in the Ukraine. I know I am just a simple country lad, but why do there need to be ANY U.S. goals in the Ukraine?
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