Friday, March 14, 2014

The Ukrainian Far Right: Gruending On Ukraine

Dennis Gruending has a piece on some of the propaganda being employed by both sides in the standoff over Ukraine.  I found this bit particularly interesting:

... the Russians suspect, with some justification, that demonstrations in Ukraine were partly the work of right-wing Ukrainian nationalists assisted by the West. This claim strikes a deep chord among Russians because of the great sacrifices that were made fighting fascists in the Second World War. And if the West indeed orchestrated the ouster of an elected president based on his own corruption, it is certainly on thin ice. After all, it has supported its fair share of corrupt dictators in the past. 

This is rather too nice to the Russians, I think.  There is indeed a far-right element involved in the Ukrainian protests.  The Globe's Doug Saunders has written about them here, and others have written about them elsewhere.  But for the Russians to single out these people as a reason for their intervention is a bit rich. Russia has its own far-right, just as ugly as the Ukranian version.  If they are demonizing Pravy Sektor  it is certainly not over the contents of that group's beliefs, because that same kind of stuff flies OK back home.


crf said...

This will be a bit long, and difficult, but I hope you'll read it through.

This isn't about the existance of the far right in Russia. This isn't about hypocrisy.

The Russians paid an enormous price ridding Europe of the Nazis. One of the places they paid a huge price is Crimea. Crimea is now not Russian territory de jure, but it still is in its psyche. It is hallowed ground: perhaps now they only such kind of place outside Russia itself.

Since the Soviet Union collapsed (voluntarily and without war), there has been a real concerted effort on the part of Europe to repair its relationship with Russia. Russia was prepared to renounce a claim, paid in blood, on the whole of Eastern Europe it had earlier conquered (by Stalin, before Hitler attacked the USSR) or liberated (from the Nazis), in exchange for peace, security, but also respect and acceptance by the West.

Since President Bush jr. though, the expansion of the NATO alliance allied against Russia has made it feel somewhat peeved. It has also witnessed, in many ex-soviet republics massive anti-russian sentiments (including laws banning Russian, toppling of soviet-era statues commemorating the war, etc). These anti-russian sentiments have been nurtured and exploited by the West. Russia has seen the rise of Germany to become the defacto hegemonic European power (again).

This mostly just elicits feelings of peevishness ungratefulness from the Russia however. As a nuclear power, they did not feel existentially threatened by this. Russians were content to not have an empire in Europe. They had what they felt was an understanding with Germany: that the country would never forget its Nazi past, and what they owed to Russia. And, since Russians are not incapable of empathy, they understood the resentfulness many eastern Europeans had towards Russia due its stupid, murderous, communist totalitarian experiment. Russia showed it was capable of contrition. And this was reciprocated, initially, by Europe and the U.S..

(continued ...)

crf said...

(... continued)

This present business in Ukraine though, is a different story. This is an ex-soviet country that is certainly a country and a culture in its own right, but also one in which a significant part of its eastern territory is historically and culturally Russian, and has long been so.

Moscow had poured billions of dollars into Ukraine in the form of direct financing, and also bonds. The US and Europe were supportive of this action. But during maidan, Russians have seen the attempt by Europe to scupper the formation of a Ukrainian trade alliance with Russia, the installation a pro-Europe, anti-Russian government, and concerted western diplomatic attempts to delegitimize any Russian influence in the country, and in many other ex-soviet republics still close to Moscow's orbit.

In the Ukraine, they have just witnessed a toppling of an only somewhat friendly regime to one beholden the right, the far right, and the Nazi-right. And they are alienating the Russian Ukrainians: The intentions behind the since-revoked anti-russian language law passed by the new Ukrainian government was plain, and can't be unsaid. The fascist banners paraded around Kiev and right into the Ukrainian cabinet are real, and they represent a promise.

This is bridge too far for Russia, so to speak.

The idea of Neo-nazis holding candlelight vigils in the Crimea (or only prevented from doing so by the goodness Yatsenyuk holds in his heart) galls them. When John Kerry or Yatsenyuk hold up a UN charter and tell Russia that they can do nothing about Crimea is like telling Moscow that Russian history is not real: a legal lie: not yours anymore to control. They are dumbstruck that those Western leaders cannot understand that the only reason they can hold up that UN charter is due to Russian sacrifices, and yet they wish to dictate to Russia about how it ought to view its relationship to the Crimea, everafter: that it is not Russian business, that they should rewrite its history books, that they should excise the idea of Crimea from their own hearts. That is enough to start world war three.

This isn't about a Nazi thuggery. This about a world in which Russia sees nearly every sacrifice it made in the Second World War now to the point of being reversed even in what they see as Russia proper in the Crimea. And they see that this is being celebrated in eastern Europe, western Europe, in most ex-soviet states and America. From a Russian perspective there is now next to no evidence in Europe that Germany lost the war. There is every evidence that Crimea is in fact the final battle of world war II, is being fought in 2014, and is being lost by Russia.

Were in a period right now infinitely more dangerous than the Cuban Missile crisis. We are not seeing Russian soldiers in Crimea: we are seeing the entire Russian nation in Crimea.

We are witnessing a country ready to crack.

And we may well all die because we have leaders and citizens who are profoundly ignorant of history, and incapable or restraint, empathy or dialogue.

doconnor said...

crf: Germany has come to terms with its Nazi past. Russia needs to come to terms with its Stalinist past which was just as bad and just as scaring to the counties between them.

meddy said...

The Holodomor & the sacrifices of the Great Patriotic War [eloquently limned by CFR & which phrase one member of the new Ukrainian government wants abolished] serve to corral emotional support among the respective populations & are the obsessive concerns of respective nationalists.
But I think that these latest moves by the West [midwifing a coup] & the Russians [invading Crimea] are really part of a recent pattern. The West is expanding the repurposed NATO right up to the borders of Russia & Russia has recently been taking action against this.

I'd like to drop a couple of quotes written in the late 90s when Russian was still on its back owing to the gentle ministrations of casino capitalism --

// One of the major paradoxes of NATO expansion polticy is its potentially negative impact on Russia. Alliances must have a purpose, and by definition must specify the adversary in advance; a distinct strategy is then devised to counter that threat. However, in November 1990, at the European Security Conference summit in Paris, the Warway Pact and NATO signed the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty in which they declared an end to their mutual enmity. Today [1999] it is difficult to see how Washington could view Russia as a threat.
As many Russian politicians point out, the West has already broken key verbal promises. They note that, in return for dismantling the Berlin Wall and allowing a reunified Germany to become a NATO member, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev believed that German Chancellor Helmut Kohl had promised in mid-July 1990 not to allow former Warsaw Pact countries to join NATO.
The idea to expand NATO arose perhaps more from the threat of extinction than from the need to counter a significant, identifiable adversary. NATO planners realized that if they did not find some larger raison d'etre in this post-cold war era, they might lose their jobs: "expand or die" was the slogan. But NATO might very will expand and die.
“The Many Paradoxes of NATO Enlargement,” Johanna Granville, Current History (April 1999), vol. 98, no. 627, pp. 165-170.

& the reason that NATO didn't dissolve when the Warsaw pact did?

Europe is America's essential geopolitical bridgehead in Eurasia. [...] NATO entrenches American political influence and military power on the Eurasian mainland. With the allied European nations still highly dependent on U.S. protection, any expansion of Europe's political scope is automatically an expansion of U.S. influence. Conversely, the United States' ability to project influence and power in Eurasia relies on close transatlantic ties.
A wider Europe and an enlarged NATO will serve the short-term and longer-term interests of U.S. policy. A larger Europe will expand the range of American influence without simultaneously creating a Europe so politically integrated that it could challenge the United States on matters of geopolitical importance, particularly in the Middle East

As for Russia, the preferred outcome --
// a decentralized political system [...] A loosely confederated Russia -- composed of a European Russia, a Siberian Republic, and a Far Eastern Republic //

A Geostrategy for Eurasia
By Zbigniew Brzezinski Foreign Affairs September/October 1997