Not Just Geopolitics: The Institutional Background to Ukraine’s Problems

by Antoaneta Dimitrova on February 20, 2014

(This is a guest post by Antoaneta Dimitrova, associate professor at the University of Leiden. We have edited for style.)

As the protests in Ukraine descended into violence in recent days and weeks, commentators focused on Russia’s geopolitical game and the EU’s incapability to counteract it. It’s hard to doubt Russia’s leadership was seriously perturbed by the Orange revolution and is determined not to lose influence in Ukraine again. It also seems clear that Putin’s intention in urging President Yanukovich not to sign the long negotiated Association agreement with the EU has been to encourage Ukraine to join the Russia-dominated Eurasian Economic Union instead. According to a friendly source, a treaty for Ukraine is currently under preparation in Moscow. Further speculations that Putin and more recently Medvedev have urged Yanukovich to use violence are still unproven, if plausible, and smack of the justifiably forgotten science of Kremlinology.

Having studied how the EU and Ukraine interacted while preparing their abortive Association agreement, I think that apart from geopolitics, there are important lessons in the institutional changes in Ukraine. I have been trying to understand both why the EU’s approach went wrong, and what the EU might be able to do in the future, should some compromise to end violence be found. Preferably as soon as possible.

In retrospect, the reforms that Yanukovich started introducing in 2010 were clearly intended to strengthen what has been known from Russia as ‘the vertical of power’ and to weaken the key non-presidential institutions of the Parliament (Rada) and the judiciary (Malygina 2010)

For some time, I and others thought there was little difference between the oligarchic domination of the Ukrainian political system under former President Yushchenko and Yanukovich’s rule. I now think we were wrong. Informal rules were as important as formal ones in that system, as Malygina rightly noted, which has prevented outside observers from getting a grip on what was going on in Ukraine.

As Melnykovska and Schweickert (behind pay wall) explained in an insightful article in 2008, the Ukrainian system was a closed system; a vicious circle of oligarchic power in which access to state power allowed oligarchs to secure their economic interests and enrich themselves, which in turn allowed them to increase their political power. This seemed to be the paradigmatic example of post communist state capture, showing how bad it could get. The old oligarchic system exhibited some signs of what Carothers (2002) termed (PDF) ‘feckless pluralism.’ Carothers argued that the regimes he labelled as fecklessly pluralistic experienced one change of government after another, but the state remained weak and politicians unable to solve the problems of society and the economy. Ukrainian elites seemed to have taken their cue from their Russian peers, which as Holmes and Krastev showed in their book on Russia, neither needed nor tried to engage with the electorate at all. What worked in Russia, thanks to oil and other natural resources based wealth, did not work in Ukraine, as is evident from its current balance of payments problems. Citizens were angry, but helpless and focused their hopes for change on the EU.

Yet, as we have seen in the last couple of weeks, even the oligarchic pluralism seems to have been better than an authoritarian system under a President intent on preserving his own power at any cost. The system changed in gradual but definitive steps after came to power as President in 2010. In contrast to Yushchenko’s uneasy cohabitation with Parliament, Yanukovich had support from the Party of the Regions, which had a parliamentary majority. He was able to initiate political and constitutional changes that transformed the relatively pluralistic oligarchic system into a strongly neo-patrimonial and much less pluralistic one, with his own ‘Family’ in all key positions, a toothless judiciary and a weakened parliament. For example, when he reorganized the Council of Ministers, Yanukovich gave positions to competing groups of oligarchs, strengthening his own position as the arbiter between them.

All this helps explain the so-called fiasco in Vilnius and the EU’s current inability to make any impression on or influence Yanukovich. It is even more relevant to understanding why the protesting citizens are so angry. Their protests are not any more about the EU, but about the path which Ukraine has taken and which Yanukovich seemed to cement with his last minute rejection of closer ties to the EU.

Various reports from the Vilnius summit itself further suggest that his refusal to sign the long negotiated Association agreement should be understood as driven by personal rather than national interests. One diplomat apparently commented that it appeared as if Yanukovich had nothing in common with the EU leaders, as if he was coming from another planet.

European politicians and diplomats and Commission civil servants were not so naïve as to have failed to notice the important role of oligarchs as informal veto players in Ukraine (Dimitrova and Dragneva 2013) However, a number of important oligarchs such as Rinat Akhmetov, Dmytro Firtash and Viktor Pinchuk had recently been rumoured to be favor establishing closer trade ties to the EU. What the EU underestimated was not only Russia’s determination to never let Ukraine out of its orbit, but also, more importantly, the personal interests of the President and his son and other members of his circle.

It wasn’t hard for Putin to understand Yanukovich’s motivations; Russian elites have been engaged with their own capture projects. Yet in the run up to Vilnius, many European politicians seemed to think it was all about whether the President was prepared to let Ms Tymoshenko go abroad for treatment or not.

The EU – both its technocratic and its political actors – does not understand this model of politics and seems to have invested little energy in understanding what drives Yanukovich. However, there arguably is not much that the EU could have done, as it is not in the business of personally bribing politicians to sign agreements. It would probably have done no good to make Ukraine a more generous financial offer as it would have come with reform plans attached, which would have made it far less attractive for Yanukovich and his Family.

What are the implications of these domestic factors, if the various actors involved find a way to stop the violence? The most important priority for reform – and the protesters clearly know this – would be constitutional change, to avoid such concentration of power in the presidency ever again. To make it stick, rule of law will be needed, so that any new constitutional legislation adopted would be upheld. The European Union and the US would have to invest in the training of civil servants and judges and support for peaceful civil society initiatives, as they have done in the Balkans. The EU would have to reconsider its focus on exporting its own regulations and prioritize rebuilding Ukraine’s political system instead. But that all concerns problems that we have not reached, and may never reach. For now, we can all only hope a diplomatic solution and a compromise is found before a full blown civil war erupts. In the end, it is possible that Yanukovich will find himself in the position of Romania’s late dictator Ceausescu. Violence to one’s own people often doesn’t pay.

{ 181 comments }

1

notsneaky 02.20.14 at 9:45 pm

good analysis

2

Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.20.14 at 10:43 pm

Various reports from the Vilnius summit itself further suggest that his refusal to sign the long negotiated Association agreement should be understood as driven by personal rather than national interests.

What about the standard explanation: the struggle between the eastern, industrial, pro-Russian part (where Yanukovich’s constituency is) that benefits from the cooperation with Russia, and the western, nationalist part that wants to break away from the Russian sphere of influence? Should this analysis be abandoned in favor of inferring president’s personal motives? Seriously?

3

Bruce Wilder 02.20.14 at 10:59 pm

Russia, as the article notes, has considerable natural resources, in exportable quantity relative to its population, including but not limited to petroleum and natural gas. What does Ukraine have? Constitutional reform is only a lovely abstraction, if the country has no economic foundation.

The post’s one oblique reference to economic reality is a reference to Ukraine’s balance of payments, a rather abstract measure of economic welfare, for a country sporting one of the highest death rates in the world (– that death rate is a remarkable feat for a country with a low birth rate, where the median age is 40; one would think someone would comment on that.)

Isn’t access at favorable rates to Russia’s natural gas a trump card for the Russians? Are Russia’s own economic troubles — the rouble is in trouble — relevant? Does the EU have anything to offer?

Is it possible that the EU, busy as it is, destroying the economies of Spain, Portugal and Greece, not to mention Hungary or Turkey, simply cannot spare sufficient attention for its eastern neighbor? What accounts for the EU’s credibility, assuming it has some. Do these people, who want into the EU, not read the newspapers?

4

notsneaky 02.20.14 at 11:04 pm

Joining the EU is not the same as joining the Euro, which is where the trouble starts (what does Turkey have to do with it?)

5

Bruce Wilder 02.20.14 at 11:06 pm

Turkey is collateral damage.

6

bob mcmanus 02.20.14 at 11:11 pm

4,5:Turkey is collateral damage.

Not really

FDI to Turkey …pdf slides and graphs, Feb 2013

“United Kingdom, Austria, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Germany
are the countries with the highest FDI flows to Turkey in 2012.”

7

roy belmont 02.20.14 at 11:11 pm

One thing we can know for sure, this has nothing to do with the neo-liberal conspiracy to destabilize and regime-change Venezuela.
Because, obviously, Venezuela’s way over in South America, and they speak Spanish there, and aren’t candidates for acceptance into the Euro-thingy.

8

Bruce Wilder 02.20.14 at 11:45 pm

notsneaky: Joining the EU is not the same as joining the Euro . . .

Isn’t it? Aren’t the newly acceding nations expected to work hard to adopt the Euro? To join the European Monetary System as a pathway to eventual euro adoption?

I know Euro adoption has an ever receding horizon for the Swedes, the Czechs and the Croats, which isn’t surprising in view of events, but, in theory, at least, they are supposed to accede. That’s the standard deal.

And, it is not like being outside the Euro is any ticket to ride for the UK. (Denmark, like the UK, has an opt-out, but participates in ERM-II.)

In any case, for the purposes of this thread, it’s not the technicalities that concern me, but the general impression, which might be made on Ukraine’s population. What’s attractive about the EU?

In Greece, I know many middle-class people had a faith in the EU, and the Euro, too, as a vehicle for developing better, more professional or first-world-standard political institutions, and the elite oligarchs, if you want to call them that, saw opportunities to make out like bandits, which they did.

So, here, in Ukraine, we have this naive story of the Russians offering their brother oligarch a deal he couldn’t refuse, and the EU diplomats and bureaucrats being blind-sided. Like the EU never makes itself a good deal for oligarchs anywhere else. As if. And, a popular revolt ensues.

I find myself genuinely curious.

9

JW Mason 02.20.14 at 11:47 pm

Interesting. But it’s striking that an article that starts out saying that the big mistake was to focus only on formal, legal arrangements for/ constraints on the exercise of power, ends up with a “solution” that focuses exclusively on those same formal arrangements. Apparently liberal democracy just requires writing the right rules into the Constituion. Isn’t it pretty to think so?

10

bob mcmanus 02.20.14 at 11:50 pm

belmont wins and gives my cue!

2: Should this analysis be abandoned in favor of inferring president’s personal motives? Seriously?

I don’t know how closely Mark Fisher would connect his Capitalist Realism book and “Exiting the Vampire’s Castle” North Star article, but I can do it, because neo-liberalism is an immanent ontology applicable on local and global and belongs to us all. To paraphrase:

1st rule of Vampire Castle/Neo-liberalism: Individualize and personalize everything.

Aw heck, a quote from Fisher.

“Remember: condemning individuals is always more important than paying attention to impersonal structures. The actual ruling class propagates ideologies of individualism, while tending to act as a class. (Many of what we call ‘conspiracies’ are the ruling class showing class solidarity.)”

11

Bruce Wilder 02.21.14 at 12:03 am

bob mcmanus @ 6

I’m not sure what the FDI flows are supposed to show, or how they counter — if that’s what you intended — my flippant remark about Turkey being “collateral damage”. I’m not sure, myself, what “collateral damage” was supposed to mean, other than indicating that Turkey’s economy has been seriously damaged during its pursuit of accession. You can see how FDI surged, when it looked like accession might go ahead. Now, the euro-zone’s strong swing to surplus is de-stabilizing the previously strong emerging market economies, Turkey chief among them.

Anyway, I hope we’re not de-railing the thread.

12

notsneaky 02.21.14 at 12:12 am

Isn’t it? Aren’t the newly acceding nations expected to work hard to adopt the Euro? To join the European Monetary System as a pathway to eventual euro adoption?

For some definition of “work hard” and with a lot of stress on “eventual”. I mean, what they gonna do once you’re in EU but not in Euro and not doing much except making noises about “eventually adopting” the common currency? Kick you out? Once you’re in the EU you’ve got the bargaining power. Once you adopt the Euro, you give it up. But having the option to wait and see has net positive value (among other positive values)

If Greece had not joined the Euro, just the EU, they’ve would’ve never been in nearly the pickle they’re in right now (though some pickle for sure)

13

notsneaky 02.21.14 at 12:13 am

Turkey’s FDI = symptom not the cause. Turkey’s cause is simple: Erdogan messing stuff up.

14

P O'Neill 02.21.14 at 12:45 am

The current crisis could also been as another data point for the flaws of presidential systems of government.

15

john c. halasz 02.21.14 at 12:48 am

“The European Union and the US would have to invest in the training of civil servants and judges and support for peaceful civil society initiatives, as they have done in the Balkans.”

Yes, that’ll work out very well. Just look at what’s going on in Bosnia right now.

16

erichwwk 02.21.14 at 1:05 am

I’d like to hear a bit more discussion on broader issues, away from “power ploys of individuals” to the broader aspects of the Ukraine people, and the perceived right of the US and the EU to intervene in whats good and appropriate for other countries.

http://bit.ly/1f02dzb

17

shah8 02.21.14 at 1:09 am

My main impression is that the insiders (of various factions) invested in the Ukrainian West probably has as its key motive a share of the oligarchic pot essentially as protection money.

The sheer lack-of-a-plan-itis among the West Ukraine folks is rather impressive. Ruthenia or whatever would pretty instantly be a basketcase for a number of reasons so far as I can tell.

18

notsneaky 02.21.14 at 1:10 am

Not here too. Youtube comments section is over that way –>

19

Sasha Clarkson 02.21.14 at 1:34 am

I doubt whether the proposed EU association agreement would have paid Ukraine’s gas bill, or provided an adequate alternative energy source for the future. Without that, it was a non-starter.

Ukraine has struggled economically ever since the dissolution of the USSR by Yeltsin forced independence upon it. My own relatives in Kiev hated Yeltsin for this “divorce without consent”. The abortive EU agreement raised hopes for a quick improvement in the economy and in governance. Given the EU imposed misery in Greece, and its failure to stand up to Orban’s proto-fascism in Hungary, these hopes were almost certainly an illusion. The reality of what was on offer was aid in return for austerity and an end to state subsidies for industry. This would be very damaging to Ukraine’s industrial areas and Yanukvich’s own political power base. Perhaps Yanukovich was trying to use the EU to get the better deal from Russia? If so, his tactics have backfired dramatically, upsetting just about everyone.

Ukraine has always been bitterly divided, thus although Yanukovich has always been an inept thug, he still managed to get elected fairly in 2010. Not all the protesters are peace-loving democrats. A significant number of those occupying buildings and trashing Kiev are Western Ukrainians neo-fascists, affiliated to the “Svoboda” party. This isn’t their city, why should they care? But they are playing into the hands of the hard-liners on the other side, bringing the country to the brink of a civil war.

The US and their EU allies are using Ukrainians as pawns in an ugly geopolitical game. A Seumas Milne suggested in his recent (excellent) Guardian article, these poor people ave suffered more than enough already!

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/29/ukraine-fascists-oligarchs-eu-nato-expansion

20

roy belmont 02.21.14 at 1:41 am

Erdogan messing stuff up
Yuh. Whereas Gulen and the CIA Company? They ain’t messin up nothin.
Because there are no regime-change conspiracies in Turkey, because there’s already too many elsewhere. And there can only be so many, it’s a rule.
Plus any similarities parallels correspondences etc. between any regime-changing activities anywhere in the last ten years are pure coincidence, even if they look sound and smell the same.
So by process of elimination it has to be all Erdogan.

21

Ronan(rf) 02.21.14 at 1:50 am

“Apparently liberal democracy just requires writing the right rules into the Constituion. Isn’t it pretty to think so? “

Eh, yeah, I’m pretty sure the writer of the OP doesnt think so.

22

notsneaky 02.21.14 at 1:51 am

Seumas Milne is a hack and that guardian article is one of the more disgusting and cynical hatchet jobs I’ve seen in a while

23

shah8 02.21.14 at 1:57 am

I’m not quite sure about the point of your participation, notsneaky. Or are you just trying for a bit of opinionated noise?

24

roy belmont 02.21.14 at 2:04 am

22-
Don’t get around much, do ya?

25

notsneaky 02.21.14 at 2:09 am

Well, that piece is quite simply dishonest. And given that Milne is not an idiot, that has to be intentional.

26

shah8 02.21.14 at 2:21 am

But you never say anything to back your assertions or give any reason why anyone should take you seriously. I mean, what if I disagree that Milne is a hack? Am I supposed to align my mindset to yours just because you say so?

27

shah8 02.21.14 at 2:21 am

But you never say anything to back your assertions or give any reason why anyone should take you seriously. I mean, what if I disagree that Milne is a hack? Am I supposed to align my mindset to yours just because you say so?

28

Andrew Burday 02.21.14 at 2:45 am

Could someone please explain who is the “we” who “have edited for style”? I thought CT was a collective, with each member responsible for her/his contributions.

29

notsneaky 02.21.14 at 2:45 am

Because one would think that at this point this whole meme that the protesters in Ukraine are “fascists” would be seen as the bunch of nonsense that it is.

Oh look:

“Old fascists”: http://www.ctvnews.ca/polopoly_fs/1.1579363!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_960/image.jpg

“Sneaky female fascists”:
http://wpmedia.o.canada.com/2013/12/ki9.jpg

“Topless feminist facists”:
http://www.discovery-zone.com/daily-photo-protests-ukraine/

“A fascist who deserved what she got”:
http://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine/journalist-and-protest-activist-chornovol-beaten-near-kyiv-334224.html

“Little fascists” (3)
http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/ukraine-crisis/violence-wreaks-havoc-ukraine-n33131

“Fascists apparently not clear on the concept that they’re fascists”:
http://wiadomosci.gazeta.pl/wiadomosci/5,114871,15492759,Rozejm_na_Ukrainie_przerwany__Ostre_starcia_z_milicja_.html?i=2

I could go on. But if this really needs to be explained, then there’s little point in actually explaining.

30

notsneaky 02.21.14 at 2:55 am

And Snyder’s much better (as usual) on this:
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/mar/20/fascism-russia-and-ukraine/

(another comment in moderation due to links)

31

QS 02.21.14 at 3:00 am

Turkey experienced dramatic economic growth since becoming an EU candidate. Its recent troubles have much, much more to do with (1) the general retreat from emerging markets sparked by the Fed’s rollback of QE, (2) the market’s worry that Turkey’s exposure to foreign-denominated loans is greater than its ability to pony up, given (a) the lira’s fall and (b) Turkey’s balance of payments deficit, and (3) the political mess Erdogan has made.

Realpolitik says that the non-euro EU members will not in the short run pursue the euro, and thus no one would seriously expect the Ukraine to do so either. It’s preferable to international stability, I suggest, that Ukraine enters one camp or the other and soon. The EU has imposed sanctions on Ukrainian leaders, one step in the possible escalation and freezing of EU/US and Russia relations, which to me is a scary prospect. The more blood the more each side will have to take a harder line, which would solidify into a longer lasting, sharper antagonism.

32

Thomas 02.21.14 at 4:15 am

I can’t say I have a good handle on who to trust on these issues, but this blog post would support notsneaky’s point.

http://anton-shekhovtsov.blogspot.com/2014/02/pro-russian-network-behind-anti.html

It’s certainly interesting that Russia would bankroll something called the “Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity”.

33

Bruce Wilder 02.21.14 at 4:15 am

John Michael Greer had an interesting piece on Wednesday — the second part of a meditation on fascism — that might be relevant to the use of this “snarl word” in application to the protests in Ukraine or elsewhere. He, of course, made the point, again, that the term, fascism, is used so loosely in our times that it often has no meaning beyond the general indication of disapproval and scorn. But, he made another interesting point, which is that historical fascism was a popular response to the breakdown of elite governance. Institutions and governments, including the contending middle political parties, were not able or willing to solve problems or respond to popular needs and sentiments. Fascism, as he put it, was not conservative extremism, as the subsequent propaganda had it, but, rather, a totalitarianism of the political center, in response to the paralysis or palsy of liberal democracy.

It’s an interesting hypothesis to me — my version: That mass movements are arising in rebellion against an unresponsive and corrupt governing class, trying to find leaders, who will solve their problems and govern in their interests.

It dovetails with another hypothesis: that neoliberal policies and institutional reforms are corrupting elites, and, also, disabling elite governance, leaving even well-intended elite governors without good options. As shah8 notes, there doesn’t seem to be a plan. That seems like it could be a significant indicator of the nature of the problem, and why the anger takes a form that looks like fascism.

34

notsneaky 02.21.14 at 4:38 am

Yeah that whole Putin-Ron Paul connection just squares the creepy factor.

35

john c. halasz 02.21.14 at 4:40 am

As to the underlying economics of the EU pact, try this one on:

http://www.pglobal.org/news/759/

36

Alex K. 02.21.14 at 7:50 am

Thanks a lot for this insightful peace and for the links. I believe Ukraine’s failure is institutional, like Russia’s. Ukraine’s institutions are dysfunctional much like Russia’s were in the 1990s. Russia’s institutions are still dysfunctional but in a new way, captured by interest groups within the regime’s executive rather than by private interests.

Russia could supply cheap gas to Ukraine. It could provide cheap oil to Ukrainian refineries and greater access to the Russian market to Ukrainian food producers if Ukraine agreed to join the customs union.

But Russia cannot provide the institutions.

37

Doug M. 02.21.14 at 10:37 am

“The European Union and the US would have to invest in the training of civil servants and judges and support for peaceful civil society initiatives, as they have done in the Balkans.”

“Yes, that’ll work out very well. Just look at what’s going on in Bosnia right now.”

– as opposed to what’s not happening in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Croatia.

God knows the EU has its problems. But a tremendous amount of work has gone into building civil society in the Balkans, along with some semblance of responsive, transparent government. If you look at where Albania, Romania, or the former Yugoslavia were 15 or 20 years ago, it’s a fairly impressive accomplishment.

(Note that the amounts of actual foreign aid involved were surprisingly small; there was never any Marshall Plan for the Balkans.)

Doug M.

38

Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.21.14 at 10:50 am

Ukraine’s institutions are dysfunctional much like Russia’s were in the 1990s. Russia’s institutions are still dysfunctional but in a new way, captured by interest groups within the regime’s executive rather than by private interests.

And most of the western institutions are captured yet in a different way: by financial interests, military-industrial complex, multinational corporations, or what have you. They operate more smoothly, not so brazenly, and have more wealth to cover their excesses (like the financial crash of 2008), but is there really such a clear contrast, in most cases? I mean, does anyone have a realistic plan for turning Russia and Ukraine into Sweden and Finland?

39

Jesús Couto Fandiño 02.21.14 at 11:44 am

#38 We in Spain say “they cook beans everywhere”. But there is a difference between having beans some days of the week, and having a diet of beans 3 times per day, 7 days per week.

Quantity is sometimes a quality of its own, and there are clear contrast between systems where irregularities happen and systems where normality is the irregular.

40

Sasha Clarkson 02.21.14 at 12:19 pm

“Milne is a hack”? It’s always easier to insult than to discuss the facts.

“Fascism”? I agree: it’s a dangerous and misused word. To me, it’s a flexible combination of a “blood and land” myth, racism, religion, and the kind of violent attitude that defines your opponents as inferior/worthless human beings who do not deserve life and dignity.

Svoboda does I think fall into that definition of a fascist movement, a Catholic one, like Franco’s Falange or Croatia’s Ustaše. There are fascistic tendencies in the Orthodox inclined right-wing groups of Russia too.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svoboda_%28political_party%29

Svoboda’s appeal is confined largely to Galicia, because its concept of nationhood is incompatible with the “Rus-centred” view of history elsewhere which looks back to the Kievan Rus as the origin of Slavonic Orthodoxy, and a family of east-Slav nations.

I am not siding with either tradition, just pointing out that they both exist and are mutually incompatible.

41

Sasha Clarkson 02.21.14 at 12:29 pm

“…. commentators focused on Russia’s geopolitical game and the EU’s incapability to counteract it. ….”

This seems to reveal the basic bias of the article. If anyone really believes that only Russia is playing a geopolitical game here, then they are very naive indeed.

42

Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.21.14 at 12:53 pm

Quantity is sometimes a quality of its own, and there are clear contrast between systems where irregularities happen and systems where normality is the irregular.

Well yes, but these are brand-new political and socioeconomic entities, and so a fair amount of overt power struggle/instability is to be expected. Especially in view of the geopolitical context. Eventually some cliques will get squashed, others compromise, acceptable forms of coercion and bribery will get legitimized and normalized, and blessed stable (aka ‘well functioning’) institutions emerge. Of course Ukraine may split itself in two in the process, who knows.

43

The Raven 02.21.14 at 1:07 pm

With Ukraine dependent on Russia for energy, the stage is set for a second genocide in Ukraine, should Ukraine assert its independence, and this does not even consider the possibility of military intervention.

Bruce, Ukraine has the fertility of its land; it was “the breadbasket of Imperial Russia,” and then the breadbasket of the USSR. This is part of why Putin wants so badly to hold it. After the Holodomor—mass starvation in a fertile land—, it is not hard to see why Ukrainians want out of Russia’s sphere of influence; the surprising thing from my viewpoint is why any Ukrainians would want to stay.

Are we talking about internal politics when we ought to be considering basic strategy?

44

mab 02.21.14 at 1:07 pm

Sasha Clarkson – you have an odd version of history: “Ukraine has struggled economically ever since the dissolution of the USSR by Yeltsin forced independence upon it. My own relatives in Kiev hated Yeltsin for this “divorce without consent.”
Actually, the Ukrainian referendum of Dec. 1, 1991, in which over 90 % of the population voted to leave the USSR (majorities everywhere, including in primarily Russian areas) is what made Yeltsin stop trying to hold on to a union.
In any case, the main problem in Ukraine is that Yanukovych and his two sons essentially pocketed the country’s wealth, such as it is. The economy is dismal, and the corruption is horrendous. People hoped the EU agreement would lead them towards “normality” (rule of law, independent courts, sanctity of the contract, etc.), or at least make it easier to go to Europe to work (instead of Russia, where they go now). The discontent is across the board and across the country — and ethnic lines. But that is not to say that there aren’t tensions between the largely Russian east and the largely Ukrainian west. And there are plenty of extreme right-wing, anti-Semitic parties/groups.
“Does anyone have a realistic plan for turning Russia and Ukraine into Sweden and Finland?”
No.

45

Hix 02.21.14 at 1:11 pm

Blaming the eu for turkeys current account problems is ridiculous.

46

Sasha Clarkson 02.21.14 at 1:39 pm

Mab – I don’t have an “odd version of history”, just a fuller and non-superficial view of the reality of the events.

Yeltin defeated the 1991 August coup against Gorbachev by using the parliament of the Russian Federation as his power-base, and establishing his own supremacy as Russian Federation President. This saved Gorbachev personally, but killed the USSR. The Congress of People’s Deputies dissolved itself on 5 September.

By the time of the Ukrainian independence vote, there was no longer a Soviet Union to be a member of. The vote legitimised the new de-facto position.

As for your assertion that “the main problem in Ukraine is that Yanukovych and his two sons essentially pocketed the country’s wealth, such as it is.“, that considerable overstatement ignores all of the other oligarchs and the complex history since independence.

The Raven “it is not hard to see why Ukrainians want out of Russia’s sphere of influence; the surprising thing from my viewpoint is why any Ukrainians would want to stay.” But many, perhaps most, do. Despite being a very unattractive character, Yanukovich won in 2010. If you don’t understand why, then you don’t know enough about the history, culture and demographics of the area, nor about the economic divisions within Ukraine. Its people are not who you think they ought to be.

47

Ronan(rf) 02.21.14 at 1:40 pm

I don’t know to what extent ‘neo liberalism’ can be said to be the cause of the wave of protests over the last few years, unless we’re adopting a definition of neo liberalism so broad as to be virtually useless. Yes the econmic downturn (and in some parts of the world inflation in food prices) has played an important, primary cause in unrest, and growing inequality and corruption is plausibly a common secondary factor, but to bracket all of these under the moniker neo liberalism doesnt make a huge amount of sense, to me anyway.
There are obviously issues with governance driving the opposition, but it’s also in part an opposition to authoritarianism, an opposition (in part) to the political economy that develops when you implement market reforms in authoritarian countries (and at least part of the opposition is asking for greater reform) which is occuring in countries with a wide difference of domestic contexts.
I genuinely have no idea what neo liberalism means anymore. It seems to just mean everything bad ?

48

Alex K. 02.21.14 at 1:42 pm

#38: “And most of the western institutions are captured yet in a different way: by financial interests, military-industrial complex, multinational corporations, or what have you.”

I don’t think that is relevant to the Ukrainian crisis. We’re talking about very basic things, such as Ukrainians being able to use courts to settle claims and police not taking bribes to investigate/not investigate cases. A predictable tax system with a decent collection rate. Business owners not fleeced by well-connected competitors through corrupt courts. People being able to send kids to good schools without paying bribes.

49

Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.21.14 at 1:58 pm

After the Holodomor—mass starvation in a fertile land—, it is not hard to see why Ukrainians want out of Russia’s sphere of influence; the surprising thing from my viewpoint is why any Ukrainians would want to stay.

Where’s the logic in this statement? There is none. This is exactly the kind of emotional nationalist appeal that produces meaningless violence.

50

notsneaky 02.21.14 at 3:25 pm

@48. Premise: people don’t like to be starved and they don’t like those who starve them. Premise: Ukrainians were starved by Stalin’s Russia. Conclusion Ukrainians don’t want to be in Russia’s sphere of influence.

Seems perfectly logical to me. I think that word doesn’t mean what you think it means. And speaking of lack of logic, even if the premises/conclusion was flawed, jumping from that to “This is exactly the kind of emotional nationalist appeal that produces meaningless violence.” is one helluva hyperbole.

51

bob mcmanus 02.21.14 at 3:43 pm

46: I genuinely have no idea what neo liberalism means anymore. It seems to just mean everything bad ?

And everything good. It’s immanent, an ontology. OTOH, it is just like corrective glasses to see through the fog. Except not? Umm, what is “liberalism?” Are “human rights” out there or in here?

As neoliberalism converts every political or social problem into market terms, it converts them to individual problems with market solutions. Examples in the United States are legion: bottled water as a response to contamination of the water table; private schools, charter schools, and voucher systems as a response to the collapse of quality public education; anti-theft devices, private security guards, and gated communities (and nations) as a response to the production of a throwaway class and intensifying economic inequality; boutique medicine as a response to crumbling health care provision; “V-chips” as a response to the explosion of violent and pornographic material on every type of household screen; ergonomic tools and technologies as a response to the work conditions of information capitalism; and, of course, finely differentiated and titrated pharmaceutical antidepressants as a response to lives of meaninglessness or despair amidst wealth and freedom. This conversion of socially, economically, and politically produced problems into consumer items depoliticizes what has been historically produced, and it especially depoliticizes capitalism itself. Moreover, as neoliberal political rationality devolves both political problems and solutions from public to private, it further dissipates political or public life: the project of navigating the social becomes entirely one of discerning, affording, and procuring a personal solution to every socially produced problem. This is depoliticization on an unprecedented level: the economy is tailored to it, citizenship is organized by it, the media are dominated by it, and the political rationality of neoliberalism frames and endorses it.” …Wendy Brown

I recognize feminism, anti-racism, anti-colonialism, LGBTQ recognition etc as instances of neo-liberalism. Like Capitalism, it has its good points, in an overdetermined dialectic with its bad points.

“In the light of these complementary observations, we could argue that what defines
the regularity of neoliberalism as a discursive formation is precisely the persistence of an individualistic conception of human selfhood and of the idea of the individual both as the ideal locus of sovereignty and the site of governmental intervention. In fact this observation may help us to explain the peculiar persistence and success of neoliberalism in recent decades. While it can clearly be understood as a modernising project in the tradition of liberalism and its forebears in radical Protestantism, neoliberalism’s attention to the specificity of discrete governmental tactics and to the management of individuals qua individuals is arguably what has enabled it to flourish so impressively under postmodern conditions. “

52

Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.21.14 at 3:59 pm

Premise: Ukrainians were starved by Stalin’s Russia. Conclusion Ukrainians don’t want to be in Russia’s sphere of influence.

There’s never been any “Stalin’s Russia”. Stalinist regime in the USSR ceased to exist 60 years ago, and the USSR itself 25 years ago.

By this logic no two neighboring countries in Europe (or everywhere, for that matter) should be able to cooperate. A wall has to be built around Germany because of the events more recent than Holodomor. Napoleon invaded all over the place, and Romans used to enslave everybody. This is just insane, not to mention vaguely racist.

53

Anderson 02.21.14 at 4:05 pm

“Ukrainians were starved by Stalin’s Russia. Conclusion Ukrainians don’t want to be in Russia’s sphere of influence.”

I absolutely agree that the Ukraine should not agree to be ruled by Stalin.

54

notsneaky 02.21.14 at 4:08 pm

For better or worse, correctly or incorrectly, today’s Russia, at least it’s Putinite part, is seen as to some extent the successor of the USSR. And the Holodomor did have an ethnic character – it originated from Moscow, and targeted the Ukrainians specifically.

By this logic no two neighboring countries in Europe (or everywhere, for that matter) should be able to cooperate.

You keep using the word “logic” while failing to employ any yourself. Wanting to “not be in a somebody’s sphere of influence”, i.e. in this case not be dominated by Russia, is obviously not the same thing as “unwilling or unable to cooperate”. See that? That’s called a strawman fallacy, or more simply a sleight of hand trick.

55

hix 02.21.14 at 4:09 pm

Attractive about the EU lets see:
-Enables less corrupt, more rule based governance
-money
-protection against Russia.

Not necessarily in that order in the view of the players. Theres often resistance to EU rules in eastern Europe since they are perceived as a way back into the Sovjet era Russian dominance -more as a way to show whos in charge by outsiders and less as a way to make a country work better. Im a big fan of clear bureaucratic rules in contrast, especially in supernational bodies, with so many cultures and language. The relaxed we got no plan, but lets do something now and make up/change the rules as we go attidtude dominant in the US is less of disaster in a more homogenous integrated single country. In Poland and the baltics, fear off Russia is a major driving force behind agreement to further EU integration.

56

stevenjohnson 02.21.14 at 4:46 pm

“One diplomat apparently commented that it appeared as if Yanukovich had nothing in common with the EU leaders, as if he was coming from another planet.”

Crooked Timber has decided this sort of thing is the path of wisdom? Do you as a group really think that it is wise and honest to cite this unnamed diplomat’s judicious assessment in preference to Victoria Nuland’s delightfully forthright injunction to “Fuck the EU”?

Personally I disagree. I think you’re revising recent history, pretending that 1.) everything the protestors do is actually motivated by aggressive actions by Yanukovych , 2.) completely disappearing the background of economic crisis, 3.) disappearing the repeated efforts of Yanukovych to appease opposition without actually doing anything substantive that would conflict with the interests of the oligarchy.

Yanukovych is of course a terrible person. He’s a right-wing authoritarian who believes in capitalism. But this is perfectly compatible with democracy. NOnetheless he is not a demon determined on personal autocracy, to hell with everybody else. After all, it is likely that Yushchenko did not win the election and that Yanukovych knew this perfectly well. But he still stepped down and pretended Yushchenko was a legitimate president.

And sure enough, even while Right Sector fascists are streetfighting, Yanukovych is trying to make a deal. I believe that Svoboda and Right Sector and Udar are at this moment trying to seize control wherever they can in preparation for a civil war. There Euromaidans are no more democratic than the protestors in Bangkok trying to overthrow Shinawatra.

And just as a general reality check, a minority with enough committed support from an elite (foreign or domestic) can use relatively small partisan groups as spine to support a slow-motion journee. It’s slow motion precisely because it’s a minority. A cause genuinely held by the large majority carries out its journees rapidly because they can, having overwhelming force. If they go up against a regime that is reluctant to try to mobilize the larger portion of the population (because that actually requires substantively further the general interest,) the appeasement strengthens their capacity for street violence. But even if they win, the protestors are not popular revolutionaries.

As for the Snyder link? I am unfazed by the veiled threat. I think that violence against Jews will be carried out by his side, if incidents haven’t occurred already. I think he won’t change his position at all.

57

Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.21.14 at 5:17 pm

And the Holodomor did have an ethnic character – it originated from Moscow, and targeted the Ukrainians specifically.

It originated from the capital of the USSR, enacted by an ethnically diverse group of people (if this is what matters to you, which is weird). It targeted Ukrainian farmers and was managed and implemented – I don’t have any research, but I have little doubt – by Ukrainian apparatchiks.

Wanting to “not be in a somebody’s sphere of influence”, i.e. in this case not be dominated by Russia, is obviously not the same thing as “unwilling or unable to cooperate”. See that? That’s called a strawman fallacy, or more simply a sleight of hand trick.

No, this doesn’t work. “Sphere of influence” and “domination” signify, in this context, the relationship, cooperation between larger and smaller economies. The “Customs Union” (Russia,Belarus, and Kazakhstan) is no different from their “Association Agreement” with the EU. And since the later represents a much larger economy than the former, so does the extent of ‘domination’.

So, why opt for a stronger domination, by the EU? Well, there could be many rational reasons to prefer to be dominated by the EU (or, as some would say, by the Germans, if this is what matters to you), but Holodomor definitely is not one of them.

58

I.G.I. 02.21.14 at 5:23 pm

Am I alone in finding the OP piece an elaborated verbose reinforcement of the official US/EU narrative, and thus disingenuous? A lot of the statements would have been laughing stock for if they were not tragic. Like,

“The European Union and the US would have to invest in the training of civil servants and judges and support for peaceful civil society initiatives, as they have done in the Balkans.”

I don’t have detailed knowledge about every Balkan country, but if Bulgaria is anything to go by – it was ruled by the US/EU Chicago-style dictates from day one – in the end the country was reduced to captive market akin to a colony from the classic imperialism era (just substitute the human colonization with financial robing of the country infrastructure). Countless millions from the US were poured to brainwash and alienate the population. In the end Bulgaria have a spectacularly ineffective legal system; the political system is shockingly and openly corrupt; for 20 years all real business was only about looting the assets of the “ineffective” state economy of yesterday; and quite possibly Bulgaria have the highest in Europe emigration per capita – estimates vary, but still it is in the realm of 1,5 millions of emigrants to 7,5 millions population. Such levels of emigration reflect not just economic desperation, but, wittingly or not, a disapproval of the democratic charade established there. The OP melodramatic line that Ukrainians”…. were angry, but helpless … ” fully apply to the majority Bulgarians; and in fact to many EU and US citizens where the political process has been highjacked by special interests of a tiny minority.

The problem is, that if the Ukrainians have “focused their hopes for change on the EU.” (according to Mrs Dimitrova) neither the Bulgarians nor the EU and US citizens hold any hopes for outside help. But have really Ukrainians focused their hopes for change on the EU?? I haven’t got such an impression from my admittedly limited and non representative contacts. Many in fact think exactly the opposite: that the violence is caused by efforts of the US/EU to exploit, subvert, and highjack the internal divisions/plurality with the aim to destabilize, and ultimately fracture/take over/and loot the country. That same recipe worked, more or less, in the cases of the the former Yugoslavia; and more recently in Libya (only in Syria it didn’t work as smoothly as planned).

Judging by the OP analysis Ukraine is between a rock and a hard place: either get taken over by stealth and get their political system “rebuild” (what a nice euphemism…); or face an instigated civil war (and possibly humanitarian bombing). Apparently nothing has changed in the last 25 years – same options were laid before the former Eastern Block countries at the beginning of the 1990s.

59

notsneaky 02.21.14 at 5:27 pm

Freakin’ a, I can’t handle this. Too stupid for words. I’m out of here. Where do you find these people?

60

notsneaky 02.21.14 at 5:27 pm

Above response to comment just above, not the OP which like I said, actually provides, good analysis.

61

mab 02.21.14 at 6:10 pm

Good grief.
No, the customs union with Russia and Kazakhstan is NOT the same thing as the EU agreement. Read about them, why don’t you, and see the difference. And then there’s the extra-agreement aspects of the relationship with Russia. In the month before Ukraine was about to sign the agreement with the EU, suddenly all Ukrainian goods were held up at the border with Russia for no reason. When the EU does that — when it bullies and punishes Ukraine — we’ll talk about equivalency.

IGI, have you read anything in the Ukrainian press? Have you talked to any Ukrainians? What a bizarre and offensive view you have of Ukrainians — are they really so stupid and hapless and spineless that they are simply manipulated to the point of civil war by the US and EU?

62

john c. halasz 02.21.14 at 7:14 pm

@57:

But it looks to me that the OP author’s name is Bulgarian. If so, she must know what she’s talking about. QED.

@60:

I offered a link to some brief comments by Boris Kagarlitsky above @35. You have the economics of this all wrong. The fact of the matter is that the EU draft offered little economically. Whereas the economics favor the Russians. Virtually all the Ukraine’s exports go to Russia and other parts of the F.S.U. , and Russia would have to raise tariffs on Ukrainian trade to avoid being swamped via the Ukraine by EU export surpluses being dumped on them, as they would be on the Ukraine. And it was Russia that was offering a large loan to avoid Ukrainian default and tide over their CA deficit, (er, which would be largely with Russia). The population of the Ukraine might have many valid grievances and would rather not be dragged back into Russian domination, but they also likely don’t understand and are confused about the economics, (as most ordinary people are most of the time).

63

The Raven 02.21.14 at 9:41 pm

john c. halasz@61: The favorable economics of any Ukrainian agreement with Russia is likely illusory; such a relationship will, based on historical evidence, be exploitative. Can a relationship with the EU be more favorable? Perhaps not. Still, it might be better, and seems unlikely to be worse.

64

john c. halasz 02.21.14 at 9:54 pm

@ 62:

Umm…no. The facts of economics don’t work that was, appealing to ideals in the distant future without all the immediately pressing steps in between. Ukraine’s economy is in shambles; it is on the verge of default; it has large current account deficit problems; its exports largely go to Russia and would have no EU market, due to quality standards, (again the CA deficit); and under the EU draft agreement, likely it would be swamped by EU imports that would further collapse domestic industry. It would largely become just a backyard colony of the EU, which is offering little but moralizing lectures. The deal of a loan and sharp cuts in gas prices that Russia offered would have helpful economic effects, regardless of the political implications. Is the EU and the IMF at all likely to offer anything comparable?

65

I.G.I. 02.21.14 at 10:04 pm

@61

Sorry if misunderstood, I never implied the OP author doesn’t know what she is talking about. Quite the contrary, it is a sophisticated professional piece from a pseudo-independent intellectual where basically the “approved” mainstream propaganda narrative is repeated. All is there: the vile anti-Russian rhetoric/ the demonization of the leadership/ attribution to our own flaws to others / and portrayal of the Western expansionist and ransacking policies in positive light to the point of delusion. I can’t believe anyone in their right mind can write all this stuff seriously; that is why I politely qualified it as “disingenuous”.

66

The Temporary Name 02.21.14 at 10:20 pm

the vile anti-Russian rhetoric

What’s the “vile” part?

67

john c. halasz 02.21.14 at 10:29 pm

@ 64:

You’re not a native English speaker, but I was being ironic.

68

I.G.I. 02.21.14 at 11:17 pm

@66

True. Sorry, I didn’t get it – subtlety in humor could be very difficult to get for a non native speaker, and especially one not living among and interacting with native English speakers.

@65

The vileness is in reinforcing the negative stereotype of Russia as The Enemy, and as some kind of a center of a web of negative forces. It is the propaganda exaggeration of the Cold war which, evidently, is still quite useful in stocking fears; and more importantly as a ready-to-use moral justification in case of a future conflict. Contemporary Russia adopted closely the Western political model. And I am eager to learn what makes for instance the Russian oligarchs so much more wicked compared to their US and German counterparts (the two countries with the highest economic inequality in the developed world); or what makes Russian governmental practices so much worse compared to the US/EU where in reality citizens have neither effect on policy or control over their deputies, nor they have access to important information related to governance (US and UK for instance have extensive regulation to prevent access of information by the citizenry). IMO the true problem of the Western establishment with Russia is that it remains independent; still have some influence; and managed to ward off it’s wealth from Western grab. That is why I termed the anti-Russian rhetoric vile: because is simplistic; manipulative; aimed to deceive; and ultimately dishonorable if coming from a voice of influence.

69

roy belmont 02.21.14 at 11:42 pm

Oil.

70

Matt 02.21.14 at 11:52 pm

60:
In the month before Ukraine was about to sign the agreement with the EU, suddenly all Ukrainian goods were held up at the border with Russia for no reason. When the EU does that — when it bullies and punishes Ukraine — we’ll talk about equivalency.

63:
Ukraine’s economy is in shambles; it is on the verge of default; it has large current account deficit problems; its exports largely go to Russia and would have no EU market, due to quality standards, (again the CA deficit); and under the EU draft agreement, likely it would be swamped by EU imports that would further collapse domestic industry. It would largely become just a backyard colony of the EU, which is offering little but moralizing lectures. The deal of a loan and sharp cuts in gas prices that Russia offered would have helpful economic effects, regardless of the political implications.

It looks like there are good reasons for Ukraine to avoid joining the EU. That doesn’t excuse Russian pressure on that decision if the allegation of Ukrainian goods suddenly being held up at the Russian border is true and related to Ukraine-EU negotiations. If the carrots are all on the Russian side, from a material Ukrainian perspective, why Russian use of the stick too?

I see how Ukraine could suffer from a flood of EU imports, but not how Russia could suffer the same due to Ukraine’s decision. If Ukrainian products are really that bad Russia’s customs inspectors can surely figure out if they are inspecting made-in-Ukraine goods or products rerouted from Germany, even if people are falsifying records on the Ukraine side of the border.

71

roy belmont 02.22.14 at 12:13 am

Oil in Iraq.
Oil pipelines through Ossetia.
Oil in Venezuela.
Oil pipelines through Ukraine.
Oil.

72

The Temporary Name 02.22.14 at 12:23 am

The vileness is in reinforcing the negative stereotype of Russia as The Enemy

I’m happy to believe that everyone else in the world is awful, but what parts of the original post about Russia are wrong?

73

john c. halasz 02.22.14 at 4:41 am

@69:

If you think technically that’s the way customs procedures work, then you might be making sense, (assuming both the integrity and competence of customs officials). Russia actually does far more trade with the EU than with the Ukraine, and has its procedures and tariffs in place for that trade. But if the Ukraine were open to imported EU goods, then import leakage to Russia would be virtually inevitable, and the idea that low level inspectors would be capable and authorized to determine the quality and provenance of goods is far fetched, (especially considering the ingenuity that the profit-motive induces). So, no, Russia raising tariffs on Ukrainian imports across the board is quite reasonable. My understanding is that the Russians directly told the Ukrainians that that would be a consequence of signing the EU draft. That they might have offered a brief demonstration of the real effect isn’t surprising. And, of course, Russia is scarcely the only one to use both carrots and sticks.

And BTW the EU draft wasn’t about the Ukraine joining the EU. That prospect would have been 20 years or more in the future.

74

mab 02.22.14 at 6:23 am

then import leakage to Russia would be virtually inevitable, and the idea that low level inspectors would be capable and authorized to determine the quality and provenance of goods is far fetched, (especially considering the ingenuity that the profit-motive induces).
This is totally wrong. The goods are marked with bar codes, and of course the customs officials check them! Can they be bribed? Sure, but they are bribed everywhere.

Yes, of course Russia held up Ukrainian goods to bully them out of signing with the EU. Russia has a history of punishing the neighbors this way. Google it or Moldova, why don’t you. When Moldova decided to start diversifying their energy sources, once again their wine was deemed unsafe to drink. Here in Moscow — where I live — every time sprats or wine or mineral water from Latvia, Moldova, Georgia, etc. is suddenly pulled from the shelves, we look to see what the countries have done to displease Russia.

As far as the “vile” talk about Russia… I don’t even know what to say. You clearly have no idea about the country, and if you can’t trouble yourself to even follow the most basic news (and there is plenty in English), I’m not going to waste my Saturday morning trying to educate you. Lefties supporting Russia is just– I don’t know. “Shameful” doesn’t seem to be a big enough word.

75

Ronan(rf) 02.22.14 at 9:45 am

“As to the underlying economics of the EU pact, try this one on:”

This link doesnt look the most careful bit of scholarship ever produced:

“If one was to ask representatives of the Kiev middle class, they would tell you that it would abolish visa requirements and raise wages to the European level”, he said. “

“According to Kagarlitsky, the actual agenda behind European expansion is including as much cheap labor in the EU as possible, to put pressure on the European labor market, which would result in the further deterioration of the welfare state. “

“”The EU is a tool of financial oligarchy, of German and French banks, and corporations which are seeking the destruction of the welfare state”, Kagarlitsky suggested. “

And it doesn’t actually lay out any of ‘the economics.’ Just rhetoric.

Obviously the report itself might be better but it’s in Russian (?)

76

Bruce Wilder 02.22.14 at 10:08 am

“the actual agenda behind European expansion is including as much cheap labor in the EU as possible, to put pressure on the European labor market, which would result in the further deterioration of the welfare state.”

And, that’s not economics?!?

I’m not saying it is an accurate or sophisticated analysis, but it is certainly an economic analysis.

77

Jeff Martin 02.22.14 at 12:06 pm

Lefties supporting Russia is just– I don’t know. “Shameful” doesn’t seem to be a big enough word.

Lefties supporting the neoliberal EU is just – I don’t know. “Shameful” doesn’t seem to be a big enough word, after what has been done to Greece, for example, and given the continuing campaign to undermine social democracy throughout the continent. It’s not really that difficult to wrap one’s mind around the thought that both Russia and the EU can be the suck, simultaneously.

78

Chaz 02.22.14 at 12:25 pm

@John Halasz

I’m not convinced by your arguments about reimportation of EU goods into Russia. I’m not expert on this, but aren’t reimportation rules a standard part of trade treaties and domestic trade law? Country of origin labeling is well standardized. Just about every country in the world maintains widely differing trade treaties and tariff rates to different countries.

For example, the US imposes strict restrictions to block sugar imports, mainly from Brazil. Mexico lets sugar in freely. And the US has a free trade treaty with Mexico. But the US still manages to keep all that sugar out.

What makes the Russia-Ukraine-EU situation so different, and what goods would you expect to heavily leak through?

79

Ronan(rf) 02.22.14 at 4:20 pm

Bruce – “And, that’s not economics?!?”

True. But what the ‘agenda’ is is primarily political. I dont think it’s convincing as *the* agenda (at least in the terms stated.It could be part of an agenda of course)
The economic argument, though, is showing that :

” European expansion is including as much cheap labor in the EU as possible, to put pressure on the European labor market, which would result in the further deterioration of the welfare state.”

IANAE (of course) but my impression is that this claim is seriously contested. If this hasnt happened then the agenda hasnt been particularly successful. (again the evidence might be in the report itself, but I personally didnt find the bit linked convincing)

80

The Temporary Name 02.22.14 at 5:08 pm

It’s not really that difficult to wrap one’s mind around the thought that both Russia and the EU can be the suck, simultaneously.

Or that people who say bad things about either of those entities might not automatically be boosting the other.

81

Jeff Martin 02.22.14 at 5:28 pm

Or that people who say bad things about either of those entities might not automatically be boosting the other.

Precisely. The trouble is that altogether too many of the people saying bad things about Putin’s Russia – things that neither I nor any other sane person would care to dispute, provided that they don’t involve the delusional fantasy of the Soviet Union Redivivus, which is just a euphemism for “Russian empire bad, American empire good” – then go on to whinge about the unrest in Ukraine, casting the lion’s share of the blame at Putin’s feet. In doing so, they belie their claims of impartial judgment of all the bad actors in the situation. Had the EU offered a legitimate deal, as opposed to the neoliberal structural-adjustment, 1990s 2.0 deal that was on offer, and had the EU not issued the ‘either EU or Russia, but not both’ ultimatum, this could have been defused three months ago – or better yet, forestalled completely.

In other words, if someone really believes that both the EU and Russia are the suck, then they don’t tacitly or otherwise hope that the EU has its way in Ukraine. The enemy of your enemy is still your enemy.

82

notsneaky 02.22.14 at 5:50 pm

The problem is not that they both don’t suck, but that they suck to a different degree. Basically folks are slipping into a faulty moral equivalence. I’m not a big fan of the EU as currently practiced. I think even less of the euro. The austerity thing is idiotic. But that’s still a long long long way from Putin’s Russia. It’s also an improvement on Yanukovych’s Ukraine-sans-Russian-influence. EU is pretty much the only way that Ukraine is going to get out of the mess it’s in.

And one more time. There was no “neoliberal structural adjustment” or “shock therapy” in Ukraine. Certainly not in 1990. There was a collapse of communism, collapse of the state run economy and take over – often via the state – by the oligarchs. Back before the present crisis, when Ukraine was doing very well economically, it was the poster boy for the “shock therapy not needed” folks. Now all of sudden, when it became a mess, it turns out that it did have “neoliberal reforms” after all, supposedly. Except it didn’t.

83

Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.22.14 at 6:05 pm

Or that people who say bad things about either of those entities might not automatically be boosting the other.

Well, upthread someone named mab clearly believes that Russia is a ruthless bully, while the western institutions are super-extra kind and gentlemanly. And that’s a total delusion, imo:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10101468
Romania is to cut wages and pensions in the public sector later this year to comply with an IMF-led rescue deal.

Public sector wages will be cut by 25% and all salaries, including the minimum one, will be affected. Jobless benefits and pensions will be slashed by 15%.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8096817.stm
Latvia’s prime minister must make cuts to receive loans from the EU

The cuts will include reducing old age pensions by 10% and cutting public sector salaries by 20%, but they decided against increasing income taxes.

etc. etc. etc.
Now, that’s what a real domination looks like.

84

john c. halasz 02.22.14 at 6:13 pm

@75 & 79:

In his wayward youth in Soviet times, Boris Kagarlitsky was a Marxist, pro-labor dissident; it earned him a brief vacation in the Gulag. Nowadays, in his mature, wiser days, he is a Marxist, pro-labor dissident. His doctorate is in sociology, not economics, but if you think something that is not written up in mathematical runes is thereby mere rhetoric and not economics, then you disallow almost all intelligible economic commentary. Kagarlitsky is a very smart, sardonic fellow, and, given his priors, is an independent Russian voice in this matter, who doesn’t have any ax to grind in favor of either side. I deliberately googled him to see if he had any commentary on the current Ukrainian situation, and provided one of two links I found. I trust his judgment far more than I would yours, Ronan(rf), and he at least has bothered to read the actual EU draft. (Incidentally, his relative prosperity in Putin’s Russia shows you how much freedom there actually is over there; if you are marginal and uninfluential and don’t really threaten the dominant interests, they leave you alone and you can speak and travel freely).

@75:

I’ve never worked in customs related fields, but I take it only a tiny fraction of goods are ever physically inspected and it’s mostly a matter of making sure the paper work is in order and duties paid. “Parallel importation” is currently an issue in “high quality” trade agreements being negotiated, such as the TPP, and is not generally prohibited. At the very least, if the EU draft were implemented, Russia would have to redo its trade arrangements with the Ukraine, and their concerns about it are not unreasonable, in realistic economic terms.

The American historian Stephen Cohen is currently saying, in his own terms, something along the lines of what I.P.I. is saying above. That Russia and Putin in particular are being villified in an excessive and personified way by aggressive U.S./EU interests, which are not acting cooperatively to ensure stability in the region.

85

Jerry Vinokurov 02.22.14 at 6:23 pm

I don’t know what “logic” has to do with the Holodomor at all. It’s not about “logic,” it’s about historical memory, which can go back generations, centuries, or millenia. It’s a bit like asking what the legacy of the Great Depression has to do with US politics today, given that just about everyone who lived through it as an adult is dead. Well, yes, but there’s such a thing as collective and institutional memory that doesn’t die with the individuals who lived through the events.

86

The Temporary Name 02.22.14 at 6:29 pm

Well, upthread someone named mab clearly believes that Russia is a ruthless bully, while the western institutions are super-extra kind and gentlemanly.

Russia IS a ruthless bully. But mab doesn’t actually suggest that the EU is super-extra kind and gentlemanly. And I agree with you that they are not.

87

The Temporary Name 02.22.14 at 6:33 pm

Poor Ukrainians. No wonder the relatives left for Montreal.

88

Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.22.14 at 6:45 pm

Jerry, you need logic to justify using this historical memory against a trade deal with Russia today, in 2014. Without it, you’ll just come out as a russophobe. And that is not a proper attitude in a civilized society.

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Jeff Martin 02.22.14 at 7:03 pm

Basically folks are slipping into a faulty moral equivalence.

Allow me to be blunt, if I’ve not yet been blunt. This is why the left loses. It is why the left has been losing for well nigh 50 years, at least on economics.

Russia is a weak state possessed of natural resources and a degree of acumen in foreign affairs, albeit that acumen was not in evidence in the handling of Ukraine; its economy is perched precariously upon extractive industries and state-managed banks, and is but a slight totter away from the economic chaos now swirling around other ‘emerging markets’. However, an economic collapse in Russia substantial enough to undermine the apparatuses of state power would be immensely perilous for the world as a whole, for a host of reasons too obvious to enumerate. Russia, in fine, is incapable of asserting itself on the global stage in manner claimed by neoconservatives and most liberal interventionists; it is quite capable, occasionally, of preventing something epochally stupid, such as Obama’s proposed intervention in the Syrian conflict – something the US has done more than enough to facilitate and/or encourage since 2007 – but it is not capable of extending any sort of hegemony. In fact, with the exception of quarternary powers such as Georgia, it isn’t really capable of offering much resistance to a determined American imperium and its client states, as witness, well, the expansion of NATO and the entirety of the Middle East.

The EU, on the other hand, is immensely wealthy, and could easily exercise significant geopolitical clout, had it the mind to do so; these days, the EU appears to this observer to vacillate between true independence in foreign affairs and serving as the US’ lickspittle, but leave that to the side. The point is that the EU is quite powerful, for all of the fractiousness. And you know what? You’re never going to transform the EU into anything other than what it is, namely, a supra-national politico-economic apparatus for the advancement of neoliberal economic and social structures – and those structures are relentlessly eroding what remains of the social democratic achievement in Europe. In fact, so great is the economic gravity of this neoliberalism that even countries not formally subsumed into the EU are gradually undoing their own social democratic systems. That may or may not matter to you, depending on your opinion of neoliberalism, among other things; every man is entitled to use his illusions. But it matters to me, because what it demonstrates is that the organized left can always find something that they regard as worse than structurally entrenched economic inequalities, with all that they entail. There are always other battles to fight; and even when the things the left hates about Putin, for example, are barely implicated in a controversy, they’d often rather witness the triumph of something obviously reactionary than allow that Putin might have been kinda sorta maybe right about something. Understand, I have no sympathy for Putinism, except insofar as it occasionally inhibits the worst impulses of Western, mainly American, foreign policy. However, the struggle for any sort of social democratic economic alternative, let alone socialism, becomes orders of magnitude more difficult with each EU triumph. If the past six years have not made this manifest, nothing will.

As I said, however, your mileage may vary. You may think that neoliberalism is teh awesome! and that Great Game geopolitical practice is like chess, but with real-world implications. I couldn’t care less. From where I sit, left economic practice is dead in the water so long as the EU goes from strength to strength, and the last six years essentially validate that judgment. So yes, this is why the left loses, IMO. Yes, the EU is better than Putin on metrics a-z, so the EU should win in Ukraine, or whatever. Except that the EU is Thatcherism, or something in the tree of family resemblances, stamping on the working classes, forever. Moreover, to the extent that the advance of the EU is also the eventual advance of NATO, the expansion of the EU is also the advance of American geopolitical interests; the left thus loses twice, locking in both neoliberalism and American dominance in world affairs. After the past fifteen years, it stupefies me that any leftist would desire that, but whatever, use your illusions. The American Deep State is grateful for your usefulness.

And no, I’m not going to reprise last month’s debate over structural adjustment, shock therapy and privatization in the FSU; we’re never going to agree even on the relevant definitions, and I’m not a masochist. Having the debate, given that my wife and in-laws lived through the period in question, is rather like listening to a white man tell a black man what it’s like to be black in America.

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notsneaky 02.22.14 at 7:23 pm

Having the debate, given that my wife and in-laws lived through the period in question, is rather like listening to a white man tell a black man what it’s like to be black in America.

Oh fuck off. Your wife and in-laws are not the only ones who lived through the period in question.Your analogy is not only insulting to those who lived through the period in question who happen NOT to be your wife or in-laws, but actually to black people in America as well. You got some kind of dispensation from the NAACP to drag black people as strawmen cannon fodder into arguments about Ukraine or something?

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Bruce Wilder 02.22.14 at 7:39 pm

EU is pretty much the only way that Ukraine is going to get out of the mess it’s in.

I’m not seeing how the EU would help. I get that the association agreement was an important symbol of popular hope that things could be made better. But, the problem of elite corruption isn’t likely to be solved by the EU, making their usual demands for neoliberal reforms and “opportunities” for FDI.

The particular problem of natural gas transit necessarily involves the Russians, because it’s Gazprom’s gas. Ukraine’s “natural resource curse” is apparently that gas, or the pipelines thru which it passes. The Russians and their customers in central Europe have a mutual interest in having that transit in at least minimally competent hands, and not have either the oligarchs or a false socialism siphon large portions of it off. In this the Ukrainians, whether the rent-seeking oligarchy or the wastral consumers, industrial and otherwise, are not exactly their own best friends. Putin’s tough love approach to bringing the pipelines (and storage — Ukraine has enormous storage capacity, which is useful in managing distribution) under control resembles the policy of a Mafioso bringing an addict & his addiction “under control”: enhance the dependency, increase the debt. The EU, as we know, has a similar modus.

I do not mean to be unduly pessimistic, but it is a hard problem of political economics. Getting to an enlightened self-interest and a public interest, where mutually beneficial deals can be done around reliable institutions is hard. Doing the right thing requires discipline and commitment, and not just a rhetoric of such covering for an elite negligence or theft.

I don’t think a morality play featuring either “fascists” or Putin in the villainous role, or “free trade” in white robes, helps to see the outline of the political and economic problem.

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Sasha Clarkson 02.22.14 at 7:48 pm

@82 “EU is pretty much the only way that Ukraine is going to get out of the mess it’s in.” But EU membership is not even on offer in the short, or even the medium term. The EU has already bitten off more than it can chew with previous enlargements; in the old EU, there is huge opposition to immigration from the new EU, as well as hostility the the institution itself.

I strongly suspect that these riots started because the many economically disadvantaged thought that EU membership WAS on offer, but that Yanukovich had turned his back on it, whereas in reality, all that was on offer was a highly dubious trade deal.

Also, there might not have been “neoliberal structural adjustment” in Ukraine, but they certainly had the shock, if not the therapy, after the Soviet Union collapsed, as much of the socio-economic structure gradually disintegrated. Fair or not, this was largely blamed upon capitalism.

In the Soviet and early post-Soviet days, personal religion was fairly unimportant and invisible in Kiev. But I remember the scene in 1995 as we (myself, my mother and my cousins) approached a Metro station. An old man was standing outside, crossing himself. In itself that was unusual. My cousin’s first comment was “pianitz” (drunk), but he wasn’t. As we got closer we realised he was continuously repeating “Gospodi po mili” (Lord have mercy upon us) and holding out his hand – begging. This behaviour would have been unthinkable in 1992, let alone in the Soviet era, and our hosts were very upset that we’d seen it. My mum was also very upset because she pictured her late octogenarian uncle in the beggar’s place, had she not been helping support him financially.

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Bruce Wilder 02.22.14 at 7:48 pm

Jeff Martin — well said.

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notsneaky 02.22.14 at 8:15 pm

The reason it would’ve been unthinkable in the Soviet era is simply because that the man would’ve been grabbed by the militsiya within minutes, thrown in jail (you know for messing with the constructed reality of prosperous workers’ paradise) and then who knows what would’ve happened to him.

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The Temporary Name 02.22.14 at 8:23 pm

An uncle in the countryside told of a friend who got picked up for being jobless and was shot on the spot, for sport I suppose. Mid 80s I think.

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Sasha Clarkson 02.22.14 at 8:59 pm

@94 Er no, notsneaky don’t invent facts – that’s a very sneaky thing to do based upon ignorance.

Everyone, certainly in the cities, had the basics in late Soviet times, but life was drab with no freedom and few luxuries. And the old WERE respected – I saw that for myself.

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Jerry Vinokurov 02.22.14 at 9:03 pm

Jerry, you need logic to justify using this historical memory against a trade deal with Russia today, in 2014. Without it, you’ll just come out as a russophobe. And that is not a proper attitude in a civilized society.

Not wanting to cooperate with people who have done you wrong in the past is an eminently reasonable heuristic. “I won’t have anything to do with the bastards who screwed me the last time” may not be a deduction in first order logic, but it’s a pretty understandable principle.

And Jeff Martin, even if everything you say is true, it’s not clear from any of that how the triumph of a mafia state in Russia is going to do anything to advance socialism. Putin and his epigones don’t love socialism any more than the neoliberals do.

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Ronan(rf) 02.22.14 at 9:43 pm

“I trust his judgment far more than I would yours, Ronan(rf) “

Yeah of course, but I (random opinionated internet ejit) aint the standard, and I’m basically innumerate so don’t think that if something ‘is not written up in mathematical runes’ it’s illegitmate.

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Jeff Martin 02.22.14 at 11:31 pm

Oh fuck off.

Oh, you fuck off, you pretentious asshole. For two days we’ve been glued to every Russian and Ukrainian news outlet we can find, in a desperate attempt to piece together what is actually going on over there, and, among other things, we’ve found that fascist cadres of the Svoboda and Pravy Sektor factions have taken over several towns, vowing to fight Jews and Russians to the death; that the Pravy Sektor cadres are refusing to leave the Maidan until the Communist Party and the Party of Regions are officially proscribed (given that these are the parties the overwhelming majority of Russians support, this is effectively a demand that Russians be disenfranchised de facto); that some of the unelected “deputies” now claiming to be a part of the Rada are proposing a bill to ban the use of the Russian language in all of Ukraine (not that I’m claiming that this has majority support, even among the revolutionaries, or that it will pass; merely that it is illustrative of the mindset; and, incidentally, Russian has been banned in public service previously, which law was reversed a few years ago); that Pravy Sektor and Svoboda groups have attempted several times to mass, for the purpose of overthrowing local governments in the Russian regions; and that the opposition ‘government’ is seeking to prosecute as traitors to Ukraine those who merely objected to elements of the nationalist mythology of Western Ukraine – and we know what those elements are. I don’t know that all of these things will come to pass, and you don’t know that they won’t. Neither of us knows the degree to which they will be realized, or fail to be realized; but they are indicative of the people who actually control the streets, and now overawe the moderates, such as they are.

And yes, given the degree of anti-Russian animus in the protests, in the political demands of the opposition, in many media outlets, and in many of these discussions, I’m warranted in employing any analogies it pleases me to employ. My wife, by the way, along with some friends, was assaulted by some Ukrainian toughs for the bare fact of being Russian, before she came to America. I suppose I will now be told that she’s not the only one to have suffered such an assault, and that, anyway, I should be more understanding because (insert Ukrainian nationalist historical grievance here). If you’re going to tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about again, well, again, fuck you. Do you not see what all of this historical grievance-mongering is accomplishing in Ukraine? Or will I now be informed that the fascist gangs are illusory, and that the protestors, to a man, were only angered by Yanukovych’s excessive grasping as an oligarch, and by the failure to accede to the EU accord? And that asset grabs by genteel banksters and businessmen are so much more tolerable than asset grabs by semi-literate gangsters, the former being neoliberalism and the latter being FSU mafiya capitalism? Spare me. The fist, or the fist in a glove? Who gives a fuck which fist beats you? Masochistic EU-boosters, perhaps, but not actual leftists.

And Jeff Martin, even if everything you say is true, it’s not clear from any of that how the triumph of a mafia state in Russia is going to do anything to advance socialism. Putin and his epigones don’t love socialism any more than the neoliberals do.

The triumph of a mafiya state in Russia and the Ukraine does nothing to advance socialism, or social democracy, and I wouldn’t claim the contrary. However, the EU is no more susceptible of a transformation into either than is the Russian-Ukrainian model.

Bruce is perfectly correct about the structural determinants of the crisis, about which nothing can be done short of endeavouring to facilitate the weakening of the Russian state, by various means, so that the profits of the resource monopolies flow into ‘appropriate’ coffers, and not those of the Russian state. Many in the American foreign policy community do have precisely this as an objective, though it is normally cloaked in IR-speak in re: “preventing any hegemon from emerging in Eurasia”.

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notsneaky 02.22.14 at 11:50 pm

And I’ve been glued to various outlets (Russian ones, not so much, except for some laughs) for… FOUR days. That’s right, not two, four. What does that prove?

Look, you made a highly insulting and offensive analogy. Not to mention particularly stupid one. Not just to the people whom you were actually trying to insult, but to others as well. And then you follow it up with a hysterical rant with a bunch of nonsense in it, straight out of Russian state TV. Yes, with some pieces of truth – but it’s not like we can actually discuss these given how you presented the discussion. You know, anyone who disagrees with you or your in-laws is some low life racists who wants to lecture black people around. Not to mention that you have this narcissistic belief that you’re the only one around who is/knows/is related to people from Russia or Ukraine, and therefore you have the right to speak with authority which may not be challenged. And then… you lecture people about how they shouldn’t give forth their opinions because that would be like “white people lecturing black people”. Seriously? You don’t see the irony and hypocrisy?

My barber’s brother’s second cousin is married to someone from Bangladesh. Let me go to some forum where Indian/Bangladeshi/Pakistani issues are being discussed and explain to folks over there what it’s really about. And if anyone disagrees with me I’ll get indignant and lecture them – without knowing who they are – about how they shouldn’t lecture those like me who know better.

Jeez christ. Westerners (actually I’d say “Western white people” but that’d be a guess)! How easy it is to stretch a little chunk of knowledge into a colossus of arrogance. The chutzpah! The hypocrisy! The masquerade!

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shah8 02.23.14 at 1:10 am

You’re not proving yourself to be anything other than a rather ill-tempered troll, notsneaky.

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john c. halasz 02.23.14 at 1:23 am

@98:

Here’s a site that Kagarlitsky is affiliated with:

http://www.tni.org/

If you search that site, you can find many pages of listings of his writings of various sorts, in English. In fact, he’s listed to speak at a conference of the Ukraine on 2/27/14, though given today’s developments, I don’t know if that would still be on.

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Ronan(rf) 02.23.14 at 1:30 am

Thanks john c. halasz, I’ll check it out.

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Jeff Martin 02.23.14 at 2:23 am

And I’ve been glued to various outlets (Russian ones, not so much, except for some laughs) for… FOUR days. That’s right, not two, four. What does that prove?

Your phrasing reveals that you don’t regard as legitimate perspectives other than those of the factions you’ve already deemed righteous, or more deserving, or whatever, in this crisis; this tells me all I need to know, and tells me that my analogy fits – you have no knowledge of what it is like, nor any curiousity to learn what it is like, to be told by a significant percentage of one’s countrymen that one’s language is an affront; that one is a filthy Moskali; that one is a representative of a barbarian and genocidal people; that one should be forbidden to interrogate someone’s nationalist myth that Nazi collaborators were really great patriots, for such is tantamount to Holocaust denial (yes, Svoboda claims this; it’s in their platform); that one is an occupier and interloper, like Israelis in the West Bank, even though one dwells in a part of the country never part of the actual, ethno-national Ukraine. There just is, not merely the historical grievance-mongering that all fascists wallow in, but the ethnic edge – which we’ve received here in America, from Ukrainians. Ukrainians, mind you, who were our friends until all of this geopolitical nonsense began unfurling, but took it upon themselves to retail all of this nonsense to my wife. This is pathetic. Ethno-nationalist bullshit that would never be tolerated if directed by white Republicans against Mexican immigrants, or by the EDL against Pakistani immigrants, somehow becomes either legitimate, or something to be passed over in discreet silence, when the victims are Russian.

Go ahead, enjoy your five-minutes hate at my expense, and at the expense of any others who share my opinions, to whatever degree. I have to concern myself with how I might help my own family in Ukraine, should others’ hate come for them.

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Andrew F. 02.23.14 at 3:01 am

The most important priority for reform – and the protesters clearly know this – would be constitutional change, to avoid such concentration of power in the presidency ever again. To make it stick, rule of law will be needed, so that any new constitutional legislation adopted would be upheld. The European Union and the US would have to invest in the training of civil servants and judges and support for peaceful civil society initiatives, as they have done in the Balkans. The EU would have to reconsider its focus on exporting its own regulations and prioritize rebuilding Ukraine’s political system instead.

From my very distant and very roughly informed view, this seems exactly correct.

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A Ukrainian (born anyway) 02.23.14 at 4:10 am

Comrade J. Martin, if we are going to be using African American in the service of analogies I have one to you : you’ve mostly been serving up a version of “black people (and their supporters) are the real racists!” and “it’s the whites who are the real victims here!” with a bit of “look at their scary black nationalism” and “how many white people must they assault before you realize who the real victims are!” I mean, it’s shocking that a genocide, generations of Russian and Russian led imperialism and colonialism (including a serious attempt to annihilate Ukrainian culture, language, religion, tradition, etc…) has led many Ukrainians to have less than cosmopolitan views in regards to Russians, the creation of certain less than historically accurate national mythologies and other pathologies. Oppressed people never do that! And when they do, most def they become the real villains and those belonging to the ethnic groups that have historically been their oppressors the real victims here. White Power! #ClaytonBigsby.

Oh. And solid analysis re: the EU needing to be defeated at every turn for the left to make a come back no matter what. Yougottobdeakafeweggstomakeanomeletteism def needs a come back.

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notsneaky 02.23.14 at 5:45 am

Jeff, your insulting analogies are nothing but weak attempts to appropriate the mantle of victim-hood via completely wrong and twisted comparisons to situations which are not at all like the situation in Ukraine, and which are not only insulting to the group you’re trying to insult, but also to groups which have suffered actual disproportionate discrimination. Which you are haphazardly roping into your rhetorical arguments.

No, Ukrainians wishing to be not dominated by Putin’s Russia is *nothing* like Republican racism against Mexican immigrants. That analogy would only work if somehow Mexicans ran the US government, and Mexico regularly intervened in US affairs to keep the country destabilized and weak. If Mexican snipers picked off protesters or mowed them down with AK47 fire. See how that just doesn’t work? Maybe if you flipped it. No, Ukrainians not wishing to have their country fucked up by Putin is *nothing* like English racists engaging in anti-Pakistani violence. That would only work if Pakistan was somehow attempting to control and steer British politics, blackmailing the British economy and Pakistan planned on splitting off Wales and joining it to Pakistan. See how that just doesn’t work? The fact that these pretty obvious – in fact, diametrically opposed – differences have to be explained to you (and a couple of others apparently) is just testament to how clueless you are. You’ve drank way too much Putin kool aid and spent way too much time watching and believing the junk you get on Russian state tv.

If you want a more appropriate political/historical analogy I’ll give you one in a second. But let’s stick with Britain and Pakistan. See, what you are doing is taking an actual former colonial relationship which in some weaker manifestation persist till this day, and flipping it, trying to turn the colonizer into a poor victim and the colonized into some kind of aggressor. There are few things more distasteful than when bullies try to play the role of the victim.

And let’s go back to your earlier analogy. It’s horrible that your wife got accosted. But the way you presented this is basically the same as if someone mentioned that they were beat up by black kid in high school and then proceeded to go on a long rant about how you don’t want to be told how black people have suffered too, how you don’t feel the need to be understanding (insert African-American “nationalist” historical grievance here. Slavery? Pshaw, that was long ago! And that was CSA (USSR) not USA (RF) so irrelevant to today!) and that nobody who didn’t get beat up by a black kid in high school has a right to tell white people what to think of black people. And then throw in some sarcastic statements along the lines of “or will I now be informed that the anti-white prejudice of (say) the Black Muslims, is illusory or those who oppose racism are, to a man, only angered by white dominance” (subtly implying that they’re all crazy fascists). Scoff loudly.

Basically, you’d come off as a crass racist jerk, which is actually the way you did come off, once the specific context is stripped away.

If you want an analogy that has some resemblance to the actual situation, try … Sudeten Germans. A *really* fascist , imperialist, expansionist, neighbor next door, seeking to destabilize and break up a country so that it can take a chunk of it over or at least control it. A minority deeply sympathetic to that regime and its irredentism (though in this case, probably less than is sometimes portrayed – the Russian speakers in the East after all where the ones who refused to let Yanukovych set up his little would-be-come back party or leave the country and organized an anti-government demonstration in Kharkiv of their own). Extensive propaganda at home and abroad about supposed oppression of that minority and hysterical hyperbole and hand wringing (mostly unproven even if based – like all quality propaganda – on a grain of truth). The cynical rhetorical switch where the aggressor is portrayed as the victim, the subject as having “asked for it”, and the outside world as “meddling in internal affairs”. See, that fits much better, although in Czechoslovakia the Germans didn’t manage to install a puppet government before actually invading.

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notsneaky 02.23.14 at 5:57 am

Everyone, certainly in the cities, had the basics in late Soviet times, but life was drab with no freedom and few luxuries. And the old WERE respected – I saw that for myself.

I’m not inventing anything. Whether or not “everyone” had the basics in late Soviet times is a discussion for another time (they didn’t, the abject poverty was just hidden). My point was just that you would never see a beggar under communism, certainly not in the cities (in the suburbs or countryside, sometimes), simply because the authorities would never allow begging in the first place.

The stuff about the old being respected more under Soviet rule… is a little weird. The level of respect that the young have for the old is more or less a constant across time and space (i.e. not much of it). And another constant is that the young once they get old always think that back when they were young there was more respect for the elders.

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Alex K. 02.23.14 at 6:18 am

@Bruce Wilder (#91): good points but consider Gazprom’s South Stream project and Ukraine’s shale gas prospects. Russia does have a Plan B, although it is outrageously expensive: bypassing Ukraine via South Stream. Ukraine’s Plan B is less certain, but a combination of shale gas production and gas imports from Poland or Slovakia could ease its dependence on Russian gas.

But that won’t solve the competitiveness problem for Ukraine’s heavy industries.

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Jeff Martin 02.23.14 at 1:13 pm

Jeff, your insulting analogies are nothing but weak attempts…

Err., no, they’re not, inasmuch as what I have related is precisely how the Ukrainian nationalist discourse, which influences a great many people not formally affiliated with the overtly fascist political parties, regards and speaks of the Russians.

No, Ukrainians wishing to be not dominated by Putin’s Russia is *nothing* like Republican racism against Mexican immigrants. That analogy would only work if somehow Mexicans ran the US government, and Mexico regularly intervened in US affairs to keep the country destabilized and weak…

You’re equivocating here. Ukrainians not wishing to be dominated by Putin’s Russia is natural and understandable, although the Ukrainians are, frankly, a bit mystified as to what the domination actually consists of, namely, energy dependence and the resultant debt dependence, plus existing trade networks that Russia, along with some Ukrainian oligarchs, would prefer not to see disrupted. Russia did not impose Yanukovych on the Ukrainian political system; he was popularly elected. What Russia has done is employ the gas/debt dialectic as a lever; this is a structural feature of the region’s infrastructure, and much the same economic outcomes would result even if Putin’s Russia never explicitly utilized it as a lever: Ukraine would still have to borrow money it cannot repay in order to buy gas it cannot afford. It’s not really different in kind from the Troika’s policies in regards to the EU periphery, just cruder. Again, there’s not really anything that can be done about it, save to follow the advice of the the neoconservatives (and some pseudo-realists) and strive to dominate and dismantle the Russian state; as this would be deleterious to global stability, I fail to see the logic in this hegemonic opposition to (a merely imagined) hegemony. So, again, equivocation: the actual analogy I made was between the anti-Russian animus of some Ukrainians, which is abundantly evident, and the anti-Mexican animus of teabaggers.

As should be reasonably obvious, what I am arguing – and what that Ukrainian syndicalist I referenced the last time we had this discussion is arguing – is that a structural economic-geopolitical relationship is being contested on grounds that pass beyond those categories into dangerous blood-and-soil categories. This has been facilitated by the Ukrainian nationalist mythology that is quasi-official throughout much of the country, and establishes the ideological frame within which the controversy has unfolded. There isn’t much the Ukraine can do, save to strive to establish economic equidistance from both Russia and the EU, by judiciously managing its relations with each.

But the way you presented this is basically the same as if someone mentioned that they were beat up by black kid in high school and then proceeded to go on a long rant about how you don’t want to be told how black people have suffered too, how you don’t feel the need to be understanding (insert African-American “nationalist” historical grievance here. Slavery?

Err., no. My wife and I understand well the historical relationship between the Ukraine and Russia, and the animosity that has often obtained between the peoples. What I don’t want to be told, and won’t suffer being told, is that these historical grievances legitimate the anti-Russian animus, the veritable cultural, linguistic, and ethnic hatred now being vented and acted upon. As I’ve said, I understand the Ukraine-Russia thing, though I think Ukrainians profoundly mistaken in their analysis of the situation and its potential remedies; however, what keeps us up nights is not even the absurdity of imagining the EU as a deliverer from corruption and economic oligarchy, but the ethno-nationalist framing of the economic-geopolitical dispute. I’m sorry, but this sort of stuff is just not helpful; invocations of historical grievances, however atrocious, do not merely explain why many people think and feel as they do in the circumstances; they also serve to reawaken animosities and to provide a pseudo-legitimation for base sentiments and invidious policies. Such as the legislation the opposition ‘government’ is debating today: banning the only political parties that represent Russians, and banning Russian television in Ukraine, on the grounds that its reporting was ‘biased’ and ‘anti-Ukrainian’. It may or may not be those things; I would argue that it was no more or less biased than outlets favouring the opposition. All media outlets choose the stories, and perspectives, that advance the interests of their backers and audiences. The trouble is that this cannot be reconciled with the ostensible – merely rhetorical? – desire for a “Western” open society; nor can it be squared with any sort of political and cultural pluralism, as it essentially deems the perspectives of some chunk of population wholly illegitimate. Needless to say, this ill conduces to comity, peace, and reconciliation.

The notion that I’ve come across as a racist because I’ve pointed to the anti-Russian bigotry of some Ukrainians, and the threat it represents to people like my family, is risible. It’s personally offensive to me, given the social circles I move in, but leave that to the side, as it’s not important here. I’ll be blunt: the Russian relationship to Ukraine is not irredentist; it’s a relationship characterized by some degree of domination, owing to the structural factors mentioned, and one in which the Russian state apparatus would like to retain some economic influence, and political influence conducive thereto; but the Russian state does not desire the formal re-incorporation of Ukraine – hell, Russia probably won’t even do anything about the Crimea, even though many people there are practically begging them to do something. This domination – or influence – through the vehicles of economic ties, and the management of political relationships, is common to the neoliberal era as a whole, and not unique to Russia, as a glance around the world demonstrates.

The cynical rhetorical switch where the aggressor is portrayed as the victim, the subject as having “asked for it”, and the outside world as “meddling in internal affairs”.

There is no cynical rhetorical switch: “Russia” is not the victim; it may be an aggressor from a certain perspective, but it’s not unique in that regard. Rather “Russians” in Ukraine are to some extent potential victims of the nationalist hysteria whipped up over economic/geopolitical questions. And Ukrainians haven’t “asked for it”; they’re trapped by objective economic and geopolitical coordinates – and in fact, what they’ve actually been offered by Russia so far is preferable to what the EU has offered. Moreover, as to “asking for it”, the Russians aren’t giving, or threatening to give, Ukrainians anything like what the latter are threatening to give Russians in Ukraine – all of the ethno-nationalist, cultural bullshit. Finally, the outside world is meddling, though the Eastern half of that outside world won’t likely be reprising the Sudetenland, for reasons elaborated upthread; the Russians in Ukraine – apart from the Crimea, perhaps – don’t want to be reincorporated into Russia, and saw no reason to defend Yanukovych, because they never really cared for him anyway: they supported him only because he represented the economic interests of their slice of the country, and refrained from the antagonistic cultural bullshit (unlike the other parties); now that he has fallen from power, he cannot defend their interests, and as his grasping is loathsome to the Russians as well as the Ukrainians, no one finds him sympathetic. His fate is richly merited. But, well, whatever. The ‘West’ will have its way, after its own meddling mingled with endogenous grievances; left options will be foreclosed in Ukraine, and will further recede in Western Europe; and many leftists will think it a triumph that they stuck it to Putin, notwithstanding the actual consequences for actual leftist options (which, I reiterate, Putin does not represent either), and the triumph in Ukraine of something like Fidesz-Jobbik in Hungary. Beautiful losers, always.

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jwl 02.23.14 at 1:41 pm

Jeff Martin,

1. Ukrainian nationalists aren’t the only ones with ethnocultural nationalism. There are echoes of it in statements like “the eastern parts were never part of the Ukranian cultural sphere”, which is very disputable on its face, particularly when you think about areas like the Kuban in Russian now.

2. What are “Russians” in Ukraine? According to the census, they are a minority in every province except Crimea. Even there, their numbers and percentages are dropping as Crimean Tatars return from their forced exile. We are not talking about two equal-sized groups. Many Ukrainian citizens who regularly speak Russian have a Ukrainian ethnic identity as they regularly state in polls.

3. I’m a little unclear why Ukrainians are supposed to accept Russian domination just to make Western leftists feel good. Poland is a much more social democratic place now than Ukraine, for example.

4. Your faith in Russian media is inspiring. Why exactly do you trust Russian media to report faithfully on events Putin is very interested in shaping?

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jwl 02.23.14 at 1:47 pm

One other thing I would mention. There is substantial Russian hostility to Ukrainian culture and language and it manifests in eastern Ukraine and Russia proper. You hear it in statements that “Ukrainian isn’t a serious literary language” that Ukrainians are “little brothers” or “really just Russians” or that “Ukraine isn’t a serious country”. That last one came from Putin himself.

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mab 02.23.14 at 3:10 pm

Oh yeah, what jwl said. And what nonsneaky said.

A few things:
The “I know because I lived/my relatives lived etc and my/their experience shows/proves” line of argument is a bad one. I’ve lived through all of this, too. As opposed to probably all of you, I’m still living through it over here in Moscow. By choice. Your/our experiences aren’t the only ones people have had, and they are not enough to construct a theory. Really.

Don’t trust the Russian media. I watch direct transmissions from Ukraine and then listen/watch/read the Russian media, and the latter is largely lies.

Ukraine wasn’t trying to join the EU. They were just going to sign a trade agreement. I have not read every bit of it, but I don’t think it would have hampered Ukrainian trade with Russia in any way. But the EU wanted Timoshenko released as a condition of signing it, and then Russia held up all Ukrainian goods (chocolates, I recall, were deemed unsafe for a month or so), and sources in Lithuania said Yanukovych told them that Putin threatened to devastate the Ukrainian economy if he signed the EU trade deal. So he didn’t. And that was the trigger for what followed. But it was ONLY the trigger. There is much more going on.

And before someone jumps in here again to tell me how nasty I am for saying cold-war inspired nasty things about Russia… I don’t get that at all. Russia does a lot of very nasty things, but we are not allowed to mention them because it smacks of the cold war? That’s ridiculous.

I’m going to frame: I’m a little unclear why Ukrainians are supposed to accept Russian domination just to make Western leftists feel good.

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Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.23.14 at 3:18 pm

jwl 111, the sentiment you describe does not constitute “hostility”. It’s no different than, for example, a common attitude in the US towards Canada.

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Roy 02.23.14 at 4:23 pm

113
Most Americans, even in border states just don’t think about Canada, and very very few Americans have any ill will toward Canada. The main objection to Canadians in my neck of the woods is they make going to Costco on a weekend very difficult. Of course we have jokes about them, but among Americans the antipathy and disrespect to Canadians. Is far less than what we generally have toward other sections of our own country.

Of course on the Canadian side resentment and hostility to the US is far more widespead, but most Americans have no awareness of this at all. This morning I was the only person in a crowded room rooting for Sweden, and at one point an Idahoan basically accused me of a lack of patriotism. I had to point out that my mother was Swedish to justify myself.

Americans may know nothing about Canada, but they are hardly hostile to its independence at all.

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notsneaky 02.23.14 at 5:35 pm

So, again, equivocation: the actual analogy I made was between the anti-Russian animus of some Ukrainians, which is abundantly evident, and the anti-Mexican animus of teabaggers.

Yes, and my point was that it was a completely ridiculous analogy.

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notsneaky 02.23.14 at 6:04 pm

and the triumph in Ukraine of something like Fidesz-Jobbik in Hungary. Beautiful losers, always.

And here you’re just scare-mongering, trying to hop on Eszter’s post about Hungary. The thing is though… Jobbik has declared itself early on as strongly anti-protesters and pro-Yanukovych/Putin. As have a number of actual far right-parties in the region. Partly because they represent their own irredentist claim vis a vis Ukraine, partly because they fetishize Putin style fascism and are impressed by it, and partly because they hate the EU so much they’re automatically opposed to anyone who has even a smidgen of sympathy for the European project. So again, you got it completely upside down.

And that should tell you on which side of the barricade the real fascist are.

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Bruce Wilder 02.23.14 at 7:40 pm

“. . . which side of the barricade the real fascist are.”

I’m not wondering which side of the barricade the real fascists are on; I’m wondering why, and worried that, there are fascists (or “fascists”) at all.

I thought Jeff Martin’s remarks, in the main, were thoughtful, and I’m sorry that you responded with anger instead of analytics.

Alex K. @ 108

As I understand it, during the years when natural gas was outrageously cheap, Ukraine became dependent on profligate use of the fuel, and now that it’s not so cheap, Ukraine borrows money it cannot repay to keep it flowing, and, to make matters worse, much of the gas it buys, or earns as the price of transit, passes behind a curtain through the hands of the oligarchs, where it becomes a source of pervasive corruption. Meanwhile, the burden of debt depresses maintenance investment in the pipeline infrastructure even as political corruption makes the institutional administrative structures less reliable.

I don’t know if there’s a really good (easy and obvious) Plan B for Ukraine. Apart from the particulars of natural gas and being hard by Russia, Ukraine is Argentina. If it borrows abroad, it will have terrible crises, and could very easily ratchet its economy downward (not that there’s far to go toward bottom). GDP plunged in the 1990s, and the country never completely recovered, and needs to invest, but the immediate effect of additional investment will be less consumption and dismantling obsolete industry, putting downward pressure on the standard of living. To do the right things, requires more and geographically and ethnically broader credibility and legitimacy than Ukraine appears capable, at the moment, of generating.

I also think that Ukraine’s crisis should not be isolated from the diverse and disparate other crises arising all around the world. There’s a whole, even if we cannot see it, yet. Something about degenerate neoliberalism and looming global resource constraints is a common driver, even if the details in their complexity are highly varied. I’d really like to hear someone make some connections.

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William Berry 02.23.14 at 8:41 pm

Jeff Martin@89: excellent comment, thoughtful and well-stated.

Notsneaky@90: pretty damn’ sneaky, I would say.

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bob mcmanus 02.23.14 at 8:47 pm

I’d really like to hear someone make some connections.

Me too. Just finished Daniel Alpert’s Age of Oversupply. It’s a readable middle-brow summation by with affinities to DeLong and Krugman, with the usual laundry list of Keynesian technocratic prescriptions that are politically implausible.
I think the resource or supply constraints are still a long ways off.

What we have is a typical glut, overcapacity, overproduction, oversupply crisis, a typical Marxist (too much capital) crisis of astronomical proportions. Combined with an equally terrifying failure of distribution and global and local imbalances of power and resources.

Combined with perhaps social technological advances (US hegemon, nukes, smarter Central Banks, int’l technocrats) that prevent the old mechanisms of creative destruction and rebalancing, war/revolution and/or depression/capitals destruction => reterritorialization and reconstruction.

Maybe Schumpeter and his followers. Maybe Meszaros. I really miss Arrighi.

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js. 02.23.14 at 9:47 pm

Count me among those who’ve found Jeff Martin’s comments excellent.

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Jeff Martin 02.23.14 at 10:02 pm

JWL,

1. Yes, Russian do sometimes exhibit an ethno-cultural hostility towards Ukrainians and their culture, something I deplore when it happens. I’m not sure what this has to do with the ethno-cultural hostility of Ukrainians towards Russians in Ukraine, since it is the latter hostility that is receiving some degree of effect in policy. The people now making policy previously declared the Nazi collaborator Bandera a “Hero of Ukraine”, which honour was revoked by the Yanukovych government, and will probably be reinstated at some point by the folks now running the joint. If you want to draw some analogies to the similarly unconscionable cult of Stalin that some parts of the Russian establishment have promoted, I suppose that could be illuminating; but the two ‘cults’ don’t stand in the same relationship to actual policymaking.

2. Not saying that Russians in the Ukraine are purely ethnic Russians, nor even that they’re numerically half of the population. I’ve no interest in rehashing all of the stuff I wrote last month on the subject; suffice it to state that there are Russian Russians in the Ukraine, and Russian Ukrainians in Ukraine, with plural and complex identities, such that they identify as members of the Ukrainian political nation, but don’t necessarily go in for the ethno-nationalist mythology emanating from Western Ukraine. In other words, they’re happy to be Ukrainian in some complicated sense of the term, but not terribly enthusiastic about Stepan Bandera propaganda, notions that Russian being spoken is a ‘linguistic genocide’ against Ukraine, etc. Finally, I’m not certain what their minority status in the population has to do with anything; regardless of their numbers, they ought not be stigmatized as described above.

3. Please read more closely. IMO, Ukrainians ought to attempt some form of non-alignment, to whatever degree this proves possible. As I’ve said, the domination is baked into the infrastructure of the region, in the absence of some development of the Ukrainian economy, and pending the success of the neoconservative/liberal interventionist Drang nach Osten – about which, well: American imperium forever. Not sure what’s lefti-wing about that. No, what I’m arguing is that leftists’ hoping for an advance of the EU and defeat of Putin are self-defeating. This has provoked some ire, so I consider it close to the center of the target.

4. Sigh. I don’t fully trust any media venue, and the trust folks seem to have in Western and Ukrainian media outlets is rather touching, as though those outlets were somehow preserved in pristinated journalistic perfection, untainted by the economic and geopolitical interests of their owners, backers, and investors. I mean, Judith Miller, anyone? Discernment and analysis are required regardless of the media sources one chooses. Besides, when I see a Ukrainian nationalist on Russian TV bloviating about fighting the Jews and the Russians, am I supposed to pretend it didn’t happen, or go straight to tinfoil hat mode and regard it as a false flag? Even when it goes on for 10 minutes or more? I don’t do that when I hear a Ukrainian protestor telling of some imbecile brutality perpetrated by Berkut, so why would I do it in the former case? Both outlets alike are selective, because they’re both alike selling a narrative; the Russian outlets will exaggerate the percentage of fascists, though there are fascists there, while the Ukrainian outlets will sometimes decontextualize the actions of Berkut.

mab,

Your/our experiences aren’t the only ones people have had, and they are not enough to construct a theory.

Those experiences are not the basis of whatever theory I have; that theory, if such it is, goes back to observations some scholars were making about the post-Soviet space as early as the mid-nineties. I realize that there exist all manner of disagreements, scholarly and popular, concerning what has happened in that geopolitical space and what is happening now; moreover, those disagreements are conditioned as much by differing analytical frameworks and normative judgments as by differing empirics. Ever was it thus. But most of my appeals to experience cite concrete occurrences and experiences, not mere impressions my friends and family have formed as they have lived through this period. I fail to see how experiences that are explained by theory, and corroborate that theory, are somehow invalid because partial, or because others have had different experiences. History is complicated.

They were just going to sign a trade agreement. I have not read every bit of it, but I don’t think it would have hampered Ukrainian trade with Russia in any way. But the EU wanted Timoshenko released as a condition of signing it, and then Russia held up all Ukrainian goods (chocolates, I recall, were deemed unsafe for a month or so), and sources in Lithuania said Yanukovych told them that Putin threatened to devastate the Ukrainian economy if he signed the EU trade deal.

Whether it would have altered the trade relationship with Russia is much in dispute. Moreover, other sources are reporting that the EU refused to renegotiate the disadvantageous financial terms of the trade accord, and basically asserted that the association accord was binary: either free trade with the EU or the deepening of trade ties with Russia. I don’t see why that binary would have been necessary; neither do I see why both accounts cannot contain some of the truth: Ukraine was rather obviously pressured from both sides, crudely from the one, and in a more genteel manner from the other.

Russia does a lot of very nasty things, but we are not allowed to mention them because it smacks of the cold war?

Err., no. My wife and I say them all the time. My point is that moving from “Russia does so many nasty and vile things” to “the EU should triumph in Ukraine” is self-defeating for the left.

notsneaky,

Yes, and my point was that it was a completely ridiculous analogy.

It’s ridiculous if and only if it is always ridiculous to state that Members of group A ought not lecture members of group B on what it is like for members of group B to experience some invidious treatment.

And here you’re just scare-mongering, trying to hop on Eszter’s post about Hungary.

How can it be scare-mongering – which accusation presupposes that I’m crying wolf – when there are actual fascists on the ground in Ukraine, and when the discourse of Ukrainian nationalism itself contains creepy ethno-nationalist overtones – not unlike some of the Nashi stuff in Russia? For the record, the fascist component of the opposition does hate the EU, just like the fascists in Hungary and elsewhere in Europe; they sought to catapult themselves to greater prominence by joining protests that began with some wishful thinking about the EU and contempt for Yanukovych’s kleptocracy, and they’ve had some success in both achieving that prominence, and in shaping the terms of the debate. Sclerotic and kleptocratic regimes afford fertile soil for their sort of discontent with the democratic process; and Svoboda vaulted to ten percent of the Rada in the last parliamentary election, not solely on the strength of the lumpenproletariat vote in Lviv, but by gaining significantly among middle-class folks in Kiev fed up with ‘business as usual’. So, no, they weren’t manning the barricades for the EU, but for their own brand of politics, which is as inimical to ostensible EU principles as it is to Party of the Regions. I suspect though, that when push comes to shove, they’ll opt for the EU association over any sort of trade agreement with Russia, because their animus towards Russia seems to be greater; besides, fascists already serve in governments in EU member states, so there’s an example for them already – and they’ll only be in a trade/military standards association, not a member state.

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Ze Kraggash 02.23.14 at 10:57 pm

Jobbik has declared itself early on as strongly anti-protesters and pro-Yanukovych/Putin.

There is a sizable Magyar minority in western Ukraine (Zakarpattia), and as far as Ukrainian ‘protesters’ of ultra-nationalist persuasion are concerned they are just as foreign and evil as Russians, Poles, and Jews. So, it would’ve been odd if Jobbik declared itself pro-protesters. There’s no “ultra-nationalists of the world unite” movement.

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bob mcmanus 02.23.14 at 11:18 pm

I’d really like to hear someone make some connections.

I guess my previous wasn’t on topic enough.

How bout as connective: neo-liberalism is the exploitation of ascriptive identity processes. Anarchism as basis for capital accumulation.

Fordism, or the 2nd industrial revolution, was about mass organization of identities, as nations as unions as consumers. Post Fordism/neoliberalism is about disassociation and disorganization in order to create liquid social capital. The failed state in various degrees (dysfunctional US Congress) is the new model profit center.

Thing is, I don’t consider this top-down (divide and conquer) or bottom up or institutional. I’m am doing a variant in this comment, differentiating myself in order to accumulate social capital.

And just cause a self-ascribed identity (South-Eastern RC Russo-Ukrainian Tymoshenko fan, with an interest in field hockey and Beyonce) is created or optional doesn’t make it less real.

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Sasha Clarkson 02.23.14 at 11:19 pm

Dear Jeff @ 121 Your comments are informed, well-considered and excellent, but perhaps the time has come to consider Matthew 7:6 and refrain from casting your pearls. ;)

There are people on the blog who want to discuss and advance understanding about the nature of the problem(s); but there are others, usually a subset of the pseudonyms, who have a different agenda. These are either propagandist caricaturists, or point-scoring trolls who have no interest at all in Ukraine except (possibly) to advance some kind of global agenda. There is no point in continually repeating oneself to the latter: it’s better to get some fresh air and spend time with one’s loved ones.

Best wishes, Sasha

PS You are right – identity even amongst self-described Ukrainians means different things to different people. Ukrainian identity could be, and is amongst some, thought of as a variety of Russian: but just not “Moskoviti”, for, as I’m sure YOU know, just as many Iberians speak of Castellano rather than Español, Ukrainians often refer to Muscovite rather than Russian. Obviously, for others this thought is heresy and anathema, due to region or family history. But the world is not always as we want it to be. Ivan Grozny was not crowned Tsar of Russia, it was Tsar of all the Russias.

And now I’m off to shape my sourdough rye loaves (хлеб/хліб rather than булочка) to bake in the morning. :)

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bob mcmanus 02.23.14 at 11:27 pm

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mattski 02.23.14 at 11:55 pm

Count me among those who’ve found Jeff Martin’s comments excellent.

Count me among those who find notsneaky more persuasive. Jeff Martin, I think, is employing the “neoliberal” dog whistle which, unfortunately, many here find irresistible.

Allow me to be blunt, if I’ve not yet been blunt. This is why the left loses. It is why the left has been losing for well nigh 50 years, at least on economics.

Are you saying the left loses because of “lesser evilism?” What, exactly, are you saying? Because it seems to me you’re advocating some version of “the worse the better.”

they’d often rather witness the triumph of something obviously reactionary than allow that Putin might have been kinda sorta maybe right about something.

WTF are you talking about?

However, the struggle for any sort of social democratic economic alternative, let alone socialism, becomes orders of magnitude more difficult with each EU triumph.

You haven’t demonstrated this, only asserted it. And you certainly haven’t shown that Russia is a better model/master for Ukraine than the EU.

Except that the EU is Thatcherism, or something in the tree of family resemblances, stamping on the working classes, forever.

A regular Nostradamus.

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js. 02.24.14 at 12:08 am

Jeff Martin, I think, is employing the “neoliberal” dog whistle which, unfortunately, many here find irresistible.

You know, it’s generally not the best idea to have your first move be an offhand insult thrown at everyone who disagrees with you. Because what you’re saying is that anyone who holds the view you disagree with is simply displaying a Pavlovian response—that they might have well-considered reasons that may nevertheless be misplaced or wrong, this is not even a possibility you’re acknowledging. Like I said, not the smartest argumentative move, especially when it’s your first one.

(Leave aside the fact that you’re misusing the “dog-whistle” metaphor, though in your defense that’s hardly uncommon these days.)

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Tyrone Slothrop 02.24.14 at 12:16 am

In the (winding-up) spirit of the Sochi Olympics, perhaps some kind soul could maintain a tally of the I’m-with-Jeff-Martin and I’m-with-notsneaky sides, that the casual reader might readily gauge which possesses better numbers at any particular moment.

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mattski 02.24.14 at 12:39 am

js,

Accusing people of finding particular political jargon seductive is not in my opinion an insult. Maybe you can tutor me on this, maybe not. But I’ll stand by the notion that many folks here really enjoy watching certain strawmen get beaten. That’s the way it is.

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notsneaky 02.24.14 at 12:41 am

It’s ridiculous if and only if it is always ridiculous to state that Members of group A ought not lecture members of group B on what it is like for members of group B to experience some invidious treatment.

No, it was ridiculous simply because the relationship between Ukrainians and Russians has no semblance what so ever to the relationship between Mexicans and TeaBaggers. Mexico is not engaged in trying to destabilize the US as a country. Poor Mexican immigrants don’t control the US government. This is obvious, no?

Yes, some Ukrainians don’t like Russians. Some Russians don’t like Ukrainians. Republicans don’t like Mexican immigrants. And? How does it follow that Mexicans immigrants are in any way similar to Russians and Republicans to Ukrainians? Is there any similarity in the relative position of the two groups in their respective countries? Obviously not, if anything these relative positions are polar opposites. Is there any similarity in the historical relationships between the two groups? Not even close. Is there any similarity in the actions of each set of groups vis a vis one another? No, not at all.

Like I said, all you’re trying to do here is to claim the mantle of victimhood by drawing completely inappropriate and offensive analogies, and employing cheap rhetorical tricks that try to appeal to the readers’ emotions and pre-existing mental framework. You think “oh, Republicans hating on Mexican immigrants is bad. And people on this blog probably think that too. So to generate sympathy for my argument I’ll just compare Ukrainians to the bad Republicans and Russians to the oppressed Mexican immigrants. And compare anyone who disagrees with me to white people who lecture black people, and that way I’ll put myself in the position of a black person who knows about oppression”.

It seems it works on some people, but that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous. It’s bunk. No other way to call it.

If you don’t like the analogy with Sudetenland, I got another one for you. Rhodesia.

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jwl 02.24.14 at 12:55 am

Jeff Martin,

I think your response on 1. Is getting to the heart of some of the disagreement one sees on this. For people in Ukraine who view development of the Ukrainian language as important, the government of Yanukovich was seen as embodying the Russian cultural hostility toward Ukrainians. In particular, the education minister went out of his way to close Ukrainian language schools and open Russian language ones, even where there was no demand. Local authorities in the east and Crimea have taken a number of steps to inhibit Ukranian language education and culture. Nothing I’ve seen on this thread suggests that you deplore those kind of actions.

2. It was Russian and Soviet policy (for much of the Soviet era) to repress the Ukrainian language and culture. It’s not like there was some equality of the two languages. Even now, Ukrainian speakers feel compelled to speak Russian when they move to the city so that they aren’t coded as bumpkins. The majority of the country speaks Ukrainian and Russian, but the social implications of each are not the same.

3. You say this, but you don’t present domination by Russia as dashing the hopes of the Left forever. For you, Russian domination can be managed but EU domination is game over.

4. You betray binary thinking on this. If you don’t like Western media watch aljazeera. You may think you can counter bias in your head, but the studies are pretty clear that this is very difficult.

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mattski 02.24.14 at 12:55 am

BTW, js, is it an insult to accuse someone of spouting bullshit? Because this is bullshit:

You may think that neoliberalism is teh awesome!

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js. 02.24.14 at 1:29 am

BTW, js, is it an insult to accuse someone of spouting bullshit?

Look, you started by saying, or at least implying, that anyone agreeing with Jeff Martin was responding to “dog whistles”. I continue to think that argumentatively speaking, not a smart move that. And yes, it’s insulting insofar as you’re refusing to even consider that the people you disagree with have reasons for their views. But whatever, argue as you want.

As to 132, I’m not sure why that’s bullshit. There are plenty of self-described neoliberals, and neoliberalism is considered by lots of people to be a perfectly reasonable position. Yes, it’s a bit sarcastically phrased, but “bullshit”? Not seeing it.

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john c. halasz 02.24.14 at 2:37 am

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notsneaky 02.24.14 at 4:55 am

Oi, John I would really expect better from you. You’re one of the few people around here who seems to know enough of the historical background to pick up on this bullshit. Let me quote it first:

“‘The entrance of the Western-supported, Euromaidan-occupied City Hall in Kiev now sports a giant banner-icon of the WW2 Nazi collaborator Stephen Bandera, who orchestrated the genocide of Jews and Poles in the Nazi occupied Ukraine, flanked on either side by the blue and yellow three finger salute flags of the literal Neo Nazi, Svoboda party.’ “

The first part of the sentence “the Western-supported, Euromaidan” – that right there is trying to establish the whole narrative and fix the parameters of the discussion within the standard Putinist National-Bolshevik framework which is basically “it’s outside powers that did it, probably the CIA, Soros and Rothschilds (i.e. the “Jews”)” Yes, they play it differently for audiences back home and for the useful idiots abroad. The levels of anti-semitic crap you find from Putin supporters is way more above whatever comes out of the likes of Svoboda. It’s just couched in a lot more double speak and code-words.

And where the hey has there been any “Western support” for the “Euromaidan”? Aside from vacuous and meaningless statements about “peaceful resolutions” or “democracy” and “avoiding violence” and “let’s everyone get together and have a big hug”, the West, which here includes both the US and the EU, was totally lost on this whole development, They only came up with some threat of sanctions once it was like two moves away from an obvious check mate. Which is sort of what they always do, because, honestly, they don’t really give a shit about places like Ukraine. Not that you can blame them.(At the same time, there was a slew of idiotic stories on Russian TV about how supposedly US was supplying “20 million dollars a day”to the Euromaidan folks” and certainly some people obviously ate that up).

Let’s go to the next claim. “the WW2 Nazi collaborator Stephen Bandera”. Obviously, I got no love for Bandera and his organization (OUN/UPA). They were responsible for something close to a genocide of Poles in Volhynia and Galicia. Most of the rank and file of his organization recruited from Hiwi Ukrainian policemen who did take an active part in the Holocaust. But… as confusing as it may be, it’s hard to call OUN-B a “collaborationist” organization. For a brief period of time in 1941 they welcomed the Germans and then declared an independent Ukraine. Of course the Germans would have none of that, so Bandera spent WWII imprisoned in a German concentration camp. His family was murdered, the leadership of of his group went underground and ended up fighting the Nazis. To be sure, they were fascists (in the true meaning of that word) but they were home grown Ukrainian fascists who ended up butting heads with the German fascists. Bandera fascist? Yes. Nazi collaborator? No. Confusing to Hollywood Americans? Yup.

“who orchestrated the genocide of Jews and Poles in the Nazi occupied Ukraine”. No. Mostly. The Germans orchestrated the genocide of Jews in occupied Ukraine. Period. That’s it. The Bandera faction of OUN did orchestrate something like a genocide of Poles in occupied Ukraine (whether you want to call it a genocide or just mass killing – well, it depends on who you read) but even as far as that goes, at the time Bandera was sitting in a German prison. More precisely, the people who took over his organization “orchestrated the genocide of Jews and Poles in the Nazi occupied Ukraine”. That’s actually how Ukrainian nationalists make a special “exemption” for Bandera – “he just wanted Ukrainian independence and all that bad stuff would not have happened if he was there, but he got oppressed by the Nazis! So you see he was a good guy!”. It’s bullshit but it does make for a clean enough narrative for a country which has been smacked around so many times that it’s desperate for founding heroes. You know, Jefferson owned slaves, but he was thinking about freeing them and all. There’s a serious discussion to be had about how messed up OUN-Bandera was, but this is just propaganda and bullshit.

“flanked on either side by the blue and yellow three finger salute flags of the literal Neo Nazi, Svoboda party.”. Again, nonsense. I don’t particularly like being put in a position of trying to set a record straight with regard to organizations which I find pretty despicable. But bullshit is bullshit, and lies are lies. The three finger thing is just the Ukrainian “trojec”. The trident. It’s just a symbol of Ukraine. It can be used in a fairly innocuous manner, like, say someone saying “bars and stripes” in the US. Or flying the cross of St. George in England. Or that freakin’ scary creepy Maple Leaf which I see graffittied all over the northern cities of the US. Now, within certain contexts, it sure can take on nasty meanings. But that’s where contexts matter. Second, as messed up as Svoboda is,they are not “a literal Neo-Nazi party”. Nationalistic? Sure. Far-right? Maybe. Neo-Nazi? No. At this point they’re more like a standard loud-mouth populist party which some people will vote for as a protest vote – because they’ve never been in power, they have never had a chance to become corrupt and they play that up. You find parties like that all across Western Europe, Geert Wilders or something. Not folks you’d want to say nice things about. But not exactly neo-Nazis either.

That last part is worth emphasizing. The reason why Svoboda gets some support (and it’s really not nearly as much as Russian TV and the Guardian and other useful idiots pretend) is simply because they are untainted by the system, because they’ve never been part of it. It’s the same as with, say, why the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Egypt (except, like I said, it’s nowhere near that kind of support). You got a totally dysfunctional, corrupt, fucked up system of governance where even (or especially) the groups which say the right things – about “social justice”, “transparency”, “reform”, “power to the people” and… “socialism!” – are thoroughly up to their ears in stealing as much as they get their hands on. The only politicians who are not part of it, are the ones who are outside. And that means the fringe.

There’s two ways this can play out. Either the fringe outsiders are given a taste and become “corrupt” themselves, and hence lose support. Or the system as a whole becomes less corrupt so the positioning of the fringe party as “not-corrupt” becomes irrelevant. The latter is hard so usually you get the former. The best way to marginalize parties like Svoboda is to cut off the “protest vote” of their support. Which means fixing your own mess. And that has to start somewhere. And for Ukraine, the first step towards that is a step towards EU. Even if the actual accession won’t happen for another 20 years.

If Ukraine remains under the Russian thumb it will never become a “normal country” (for some definition of “normal”, which allows for the standard amount of corruption and dysfunction). Best case scenario in that kind of relationship would be where it becomes an oppressed but stable satrapy of Russia, along the lines of Belarus. But for historical reasons it’s just not in the cards. Mostly because Ukrainians, unlike Belorusians, are not going to put up with it. That means, that as long as Putin gets to play with internal Ukrainian matters, there’s always gonna be a Svoboda. The two deserve and thrive on each other. They use each other as scare tactic. You take away Putin, you get Svoboda becoming irrelevant. Again, for that to happen, at some point you got to start on a way towards Europe, even if that Europe has problems of its own and even if that journey is gonna take some time.

What are the alternatives for Ukraine? Absent some serious military trouble and a really huge tragedy, the historical dialectic pushes it, however slowly, towards the EU, whatever the shortcomings of that system are.

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roy belmont 02.24.14 at 5:24 am

Some questions, not necessarily rhetorical:

Why did McCain see fit to go to Kiev?
He’s a tool, right? Of whom, or what?
What exactly does Naomi Klein mean by “disaster capitalism”?
Is that of the same order of thing as what McManus means by “The failed state in various degrees (dysfunctional US Congress) is the new model profit center”?
Is there something operating here that feeds on corruption and dystopia? That seeks it out, causes it, and crows in triumph over it?
Are we corrupt?
Are we being eaten?
Is oil the blood of Satan?
What do the authors of posts 129 and 130 have in common aside from their agreement in this specific matter?
Is it possible, it seems to be, that hatred of Russia is so pathological in some quarters it’s enabling Western support for neo-Nazis in Ukraine?

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notsneaky 02.24.14 at 5:28 am

Or to add to the actually relevant analogies (in addition to Sudeten Germans and Rhodesia):

Ireland. You could tell a story where the Irish Nationalist were Nazi collaborators (they were!) And hey, there’s some English people in Ireland (depending on the time frame and when you’re telling the story, either Southern or Northern) who are getting oppressed by the Catholics so that means that Ireland (all of it, or just the northern part, depending where you want to go) should be part of Britain or “within the British sphere of influence”. And anyone who invokes the symbols of Irish independence is a “fascist” who’s probably out there screaming for true British blood. Blood thirsty hooligans and barbarians who could never be expected to rule on their own!

Or India. Those fascist Indian Nationalists like Ghandi supported Hitler! Against the democratic British empire! As others have mentioned, they even try to pretend that a naturally occurring famine – like the one in Ukraine – was actually orchestrated by the British (Soviets) as a political crackdown. The nerve and the ungratefulness! And why do they have to bring up old shit anyway? It just proves that they’re fanatical nationalists, because these days no polite people remember history (especially when forgetting it is convenient for the smug self satisfaction of the still-dominant group in power, who’s grandparents just may have been partly complicit in how it unfolded)

The point is, you can always construct these kind of funny narratives. Where the people who are protesting some kind of real oppression can be portrayed as just fanatical extremists. Because any kind of genuine protest movement will always contain some element of these fanatical extremists. Wait… I got another one… Algeria! So it becomes easy to dismiss them, marginalize them, turn them into the proverbial “other” that should not be taken seriously, or better yet, smacked down.

Why is it that a “rational” economist has to remind you humanities/political science/post-modern folks of this stuff? This is suppose to be your specialty, not mine.

139

Bruce Wilder 02.24.14 at 5:29 am

bob mcmanus

neo-liberalism is the exploitation of ascriptive identity processes. Anarchism as basis for capital accumulation.

I really don’t have a clue as to what that means.

What we have is a typical glut, overcapacity, overproduction, oversupply crisis, a typical Marxist (too much capital) crisis of astronomical proportions.

The economic dysfunction this language denotes can be real and important, but the analysis strikes me as wrong-headed and the terms descriptively misleading.

Too much financial capital facilitates disinvestment, and creates the potential for crisis.

Combined with perhaps social technological advances (US hegemon, nukes, smarter Central Banks, int’l technocrats) that prevent the old mechanisms of creative destruction and rebalancing, war/revolution and/or depression/capitals destruction => reterritorialization and reconstruction.

Tyler Cowen, not my favorite analyst of anything, has this bit of snark, which may prove acutely prescient:Ukraine seems to win the “next financial crisis” award
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/02/ukraine-seems-to-win-the-next-financial-crisis-award.html
So, “prevent” may be re-written, “postpone”. (Before many months pass, I fully expect crisis to open on a Chinese stage, with far more lavish production values, and a much larger cast.)

Fordism, or the 2nd industrial revolution, was about mass organization of identities, as nations as unions as consumers. Post Fordism/neoliberalism is about disassociation and disorganization in order to create liquid social capital. The failed state in various degrees (dysfunctional US Congress) is the new model profit center.

Long waves are new wave once again. This phase of the long cycle is catabolic.

140

roy belmont 02.24.14 at 5:42 am

Or Palestine.

141

notsneaky 02.24.14 at 5:50 am

If there were some Turks involved, maybe.

142

Bruce Wilder 02.24.14 at 5:59 am

notsneaky @ 137

Morality plays are dramatic, so I don’t think anyone should be surprised that literary types like them. It’s human nature to want to personify and to link cause-and-effect in chains of moral conflict and climax. It makes a good story, and we are nothing, if not story-telling animals. (It’s bad sociology, though, and worse economics.)

Economists are as prone as anyone to this sort of thing. Its what non-mathematical “expectations” are for, so some fool can claim, say, that “policy uncertainty” (fill in that blank with details of whatever the Wall St Journal doesn’t like this week) has depressed business investment. Or, that a deficit in the current account reflects some national vice. Or that a policy of fiscal austerity will be a public virtue richly rewarded.

The political causal connection I was looking for, in the discussion, was some awareness of why the kind of crisis Ukraine is experiencing might bring to the surface fear and bigotry, and some of the anger and authoritarianism, which we associate with “fascism”, why it might stoke collective animosities and grievances. Instead of the meta, we seem to just get the animosities and grievances.

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john c. halasz 02.24.14 at 6:11 am

Actually, Radek, I was more interested in the photo than the caption,- (they spelled his name wrong after all). And I don’t know enough to detect specific Ukrainian political symbols. As to Svoboda, they are probably more comparable to Le Pen’s Front National than to neo-Nazis, but they do provide some cover for actual elements even further right that could be so described. And, yes, there is a lot of pot and kettle calling each other black going on here, and neo-fascist and neo-Stalinist elements playing on the fringes of both sides. But the Ukraine is in a state of anarchy now, and the presence of clearly fascist elements is disturbing. (And though he was alternately convenient and inconvenient to the Nazis, and was held prisoner for a couple of years, it’s clear that Bandera was intent on eliminating both Poles and Jews, and there’s no excuse for whitewashing his legacy).

My view is that there has been interference and manipulation by both the EU/U.S./NATO side and the Russian side and neither is offering a clean and good deal for the rank-and-file Ukrainians of whatever stripe, who are caught between a rock and a hard place, as I said on the last Ukraine thread. But unless the EU/IMF are offering an extraordinary deal, (contrary to their track record), the Russians are holding the better economic cards. But obviously, it would be better if both sides engaged constructively rather than competitively in fashioning a solution to a potentially catastrophic crisis. (Which also means acknowledging some legitimacy to Russia security and economic concerns).

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lurker 02.24.14 at 6:44 am

‘The Germans orchestrated the genocide of Jews in occupied Ukraine.’ (notsneaky, 135)
The Germans and the Russians are happy to blame the Holocaust on the occupied peoples of Eastern Europe. The Germans because it reduces their guilt, the Russians because it justifies their policies against those nations.
The readiness of others to buy into a Nazi/Stalinist narrative is more peculiar.

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notsneaky 02.24.14 at 7:24 am

Economists are as prone as anyone to this sort of thing.

Are you referring to the “we are nothing, if not story-telling animals” part – in which case I agree and, per McCloskey think it a good thing for economists to engage in – or the “It’s human nature to want to personify and to link cause-and-effect in chains of MORAL conflict and climax”, with that emphasis on “moral”? In that case… well, I’m tired and it’s complicated. Sure, we want to use our morals as some kind of guidance in constructing our cause and effect chains, but it’s also very important to be able to at least try and step outside of them. Which, if we’re talking about economics, is what at least partially the whole formal apparatus is intended for.

Or the “why the kind of crisis Ukraine is experiencing might bring to the surface fear and bigotry, and some of the anger and authoritarianism, which we associate with “fascism”, why it might stoke collective animosities and grievances.” part? There, I don’t think any serious mystery is present. Crisis *always* bring to surface all kinds of primal feelings, fear and bigotry always being one of these. Yet, in some situations, crisis is inevitable. It will happen. Unsustainable situations will not persist forever by definition. And there will be some manifestations of collective animosities and grievances. This is true of any kind of social movement, from some vanilla white planters bourgeois “American Revolution” (Thomas Paine!) to the burning of Watts. The question then becomes whether you want to focus on the roots of the crisis or on the particular pathological manifestations that it has generated.

Again, I find it strange that I’m an argument with people for whom these kinds of analysis should be bread and butter. Pick any “independence struggle” or “anti-colonial movement” or “fight against oppression”. In *any* of these you can *always* find some nasty sentiments. People get pissed off. And they get radicalized. At one level, yes, it’s important to point that out. But ultimately, the underlying rightness or wrongness of the issue, or if you like, the existing power dynamics present, is probably more important. That’s why I mentioned the bullshit moral equivalence that some people were engaging in above.

The really shitty part is when someone comes in and tries to utilize the inevitably occurring “nasty parts” of a well justified “fight against oppression” to try and cynically discredit the fundamental correctness of a particular struggle. Or not even the “nasty parts”, just anything that comes in handy. You know, MLK actually did like pretty ladies who were not his wife. Early Malcolm X did essentially hate white people. A good chunk of the early labor movement in the US was explicitly racist. The Weimer Republic politicians actually were hopelessly incompetent. American troops really did commit some war crimes in Germany in 1945. You can take that part of the story and blow it up and turn it into the big story itself. You never actually defend the obvious “bad” (in fact, throwing in a lot of weaselly disclaimers about how “of course I don’t actually support X, but…”) you just try to drag down the imperfect “good” down to a level where the difference becomes blurred.

And that’s how propaganda works. And that’s pretty much what Jeff has been doing. Which is why it’s despicable. Not exactly wrong – because it is based on some grain of truth – but despicable. And yeah, I find it offensive. Meta or not.

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notsneaky 02.24.14 at 7:57 am

I was more interested in the photo than the caption,- (they spelled his name wrong after all). And I don’t know enough to detect specific Ukrainian political symbols. As to Svoboda, they are probably more comparable to Le Pen’s Front National than to neo-Nazis

Well, they just translated it for the English speaking audience. The symbols, like I said, depend on context (another example, the whole “Glory to Ukraine” thing. By itself is not a “fascist” salute, it predates Bandera et al. By itself it’s sort of like “God Bless America” and any normal person could say it. But, once somebody answers “Slava Gierojom” – “Glory to the Heroes” – then yes, it’s probably the fascist Bandera cry/password, although, now even that is getting muddled because most people who give the call back are probably unaware of the background).

Svoboda’s weird (in a bad way). They’re definitely far-right and nationalistic. But again, context. I do think that a good chunk of their support so far has been just simple “protest vote” from people who are thrashing around for someone, anyone, who’s not part of the existing corrupt system. I mean, even Timoshenko is pretty compromised and that’s like the second best alternative to Yanukovich. They’re not like Le Pen, simply because that’s an evil messed up party operating within a well established, stable democracy, which makes the situation somewhat non-comparable and gives their existence a lot less of an excuse. If Ukraine was (somehow, in a fantasy world) a “normal” country Svoboda’d have less support than Western parties like PVV or the TeaBaggers. On the other hand, that Tyahnybok fellah has really toned down the rhetoric lately (which essentially involves him saying he’s okay with Poles, Jews and Europeans as long as they’re anti-Putin) which suggests he’s trying to take it “respectable”. Though I doubt he can live down the past things he’s said. It also suggests – in a twisted cynical fashion – that he’s not really that much of a dedicated “right wing ideologue” as much as a standard amoral politician who just chose to supply a specialized good (political ideology) to a previously thin particular niche market. Given that all the other political niches (pro-EU, pro-Moscow etc) were already filled and he’s the one guy who’s got no oligarchs, Russian or Ukrainian, behind him. As the market sentiment changes (and as his market share gets eaten up by the Right Sector) he seems perfectly willing to accommodate the demand. Wouldn’t be surprised if he became one of the biggest EU boosters in the near future. That’s good and bad. But it’s pretty standard politics.

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notsneaky 02.24.14 at 8:01 am

My view is that there has been interference and manipulation by both the EU/U.S./NATO side

Ok. Give specific, concrete examples.When, where, how? The mere existence of the proposal for the EU treaty doesn’t cut it. The fact that once Berkut snipers started shooting protesters and that was condemned doesn’t count. Say, specific, concrete, examples of EU/US/NATO interference and manipulation between late November and early February.

And no Russian TV crap about Soros paying protesters 20 million dollars a day.

148

Alex K. 02.24.14 at 8:06 am

Bruce Wilder (#177), you summed it up well – Ukraine had become addicted to cheap Russian gas before Russia yanked up the price in 2010.

However Ukraine’s situation is not hopeless. First, it’s a two-way street: Russia is going to depend on Ukraine for gas transit until Gazprom completes South Stream. This gives Ukraine some bargaining power against Russia for the next three-four years. Second, Ukraine’s gas consumption is not what it used to be: 76 bcm in 2005; 70 bcm in 2007; 50-51 bcm in 2013. Likewise, its gas imports from Russia fell from 50 bcm in 2007 to 28 bcm in 2013.

Third, Ukraine is a gas producer (21 bcm in 2013) with great potential, shale and conventional. It’s a shame that Ukraine has failed to attract enough investment in its oil and gas sector in the 22 years since independence. To his credit, Yanukovich signed two major shale deals in 2012-13 with Shell and Chevron, so let’s hope they don’t get annulled by the new government.

The parallel with Argentina is also interesting because Argentina, like Ukraine, is a mature oil and gas province with great shale promise.

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Alex K. 02.24.14 at 8:55 am

#135, notsneaky: “The reason why Svoboda gets some support (and it’s really not nearly as much as Russian TV and the Guardian and other useful idiots pretend) is simply because they are untainted by the system, because they’ve never been part of it.”

Agreed – it’s a Svoboda man, Igor Miroshnichenko, who called yesterday for ALL past office holders, including Timoshenko, to be disqualified from the presidential election. On the other hand, it’s the same Miroschnichenko who has made ugly anti-Semitic remarks about Mila Kunis, a native of Chernivtsi (Czernowitz/Cernăuți).

It seems to me that Klichko’s UDAR is equally untainted by corruption but is far more decent overall.

Svoboda’s vision of Ukraine is rooted in a parochial idyll of a rural Greek-Catholic Western Ukraine. Rural idylls are incapable of accommodating the Other. The Kyiv-centered national myth is different, envisaging a noble struggle by Greek-Orthodox Cossacks, landowners, and clergy against Polish/Catholic oppression. That gave birth to a peculiarly Ukrainian culture and identity; followed by Russian domination, yes, but also by Ukrainians marching through Russian imperial institutions.

The latter approach is more complex but more flexible.

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Bruce Wilder 02.24.14 at 9:35 am

Alex K. – It’s a shame that Ukraine has failed to attract enough investment in its oil and gas sector in the 22 years since independence. To his credit, Yanukovich signed two major shale deals in 2012-13 with Shell and Chevron, so let’s hope they don’t get annulled by the new government.

I know it is an essential part of neoliberal ideology to think oil and gas requires “foreign investment”, but it doesn’t really. Ukraine has sufficient technical competence and the money doesn’t matter, if it’s your own. I would hope Ukraine, under new management, gives Shell back the solid gold toilet, and Chevron, nothing at all.

151

notsneaky 02.24.14 at 10:07 am

Alex, I’m with you on Klichko, though my Eastern European cynicism kicks in and I’m thinking “ok, but where did he really come from, and who’s really backing him”. But overall, I agree. Tymoshenko is just not a good idea, she had her chance and ruined it, in some way partly to blame that it got to this point.

The Kiev-centered national myth is actually a bit different. Kiev is not western Ukraine, although it’s far enough west to be anti-Moscow. Traditionally there were two strands in the whole Ukrainian independence movement, the Galician one, which is sort of represented by Svoboda, and the Kievan one. Historically the Galician one was more anti-Polish than anti-Russian, as long as Poles had a presence in the region, although ultimately geopolitical circumstances (i.e. Stalin) made Moscow their primary enemy as well. The assumption of the OUN-Bandera – which was a Galician organization -during WWII was that the Germans were going to lose the war, the Western Allies were going to fight the Soviet Union in a WWIII, so all that remained were the Poles who needed to be taken care of (cue ethnic cleansing in Volhynia and Galicia)

The Kiev Ukrainian nationalists on the other hand always saw Russia as the main antagonist. By the logic of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” that made Poles their natural ally against Russification (unlike Galicia, where the natural ally was Austria/Germany). And if you go back to the documents of early 20th century issued by Kievan Ukrainian nationalists, you’ll be scratching your head about how much love and praise they had for Poles (and Jews too, to some extent). And it’s all well meant too. “Brothers in struggle” and all that.

That’s where you got Petlura and the short lived (and ultimately betrayed by Poland) Ukrainian-Polish alliance. Then Stalin came in, Holodomor, and basically killed off any and all Ukrainian nationalism in the Russian territories. Quite efficiently, so that tradition got snuffed. On the other side, idiotic interwar Polish policy cleared off all the moderates in the Galician Ukrainian independence/autonomy movement, which opened up a vacuum filled in by the extremist Bandera folks.

There’s a lot of different things one can take from this narrative. Especially if you’re a “nationalist” Ukrainian party.

(One thing to remember about Ukraine. If there’s anything the least bit interesting going on there, there’s at least, *at least*, 15 different factions, all at each other’s throats, but at the same time in some kind of complicated multilateral alliances with each other, ever changing, on the ground at any given time. I am still trying to figure out the exact layout of the relationships during the Russian Civil War, never mind the present. See Bulgakov’s White Guard for an introduction)

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Jeff Martin 02.24.14 at 11:46 am

mattski,

You haven’t demonstrated this, only asserted it. And you certainly haven’t shown that Russia is a better model/master for Ukraine than the EU.

What better historical demonstration could be proffered than the past six years of relentless neoliberal austerity in the Eurozone? Or the fact that Hollande, elected on a platform that appeared, to this observer, to aim at extending the French social model, or at least preserving it, has been compelled by various circumstances – all of which can be summed up under the neoliberal rubrics – to start mouthing supply-side nostrums? And I never said that that Russia was a better model for Ukraine. What I have said is that the EU is no more susceptible of transformation into social democracy or socialism than Russia; FWIW, I agree with Kagarlitsky that Russia embodies a sort of authoritarian state neoliberalism. I’ve also stated, repeatedly, that the Russian domination of Ukraine originates in brute physical and geographic factors, coupled with the inability of the sclerotic and kleptocratic Ukrainian economy to grow its way out of the resource dependency trap.

I suppose I can conceive of a theoretical model under which the EU apparatus becomes more social democratic, progressively ditching the retrograde neoliberalism along the way; what I don’t see is a plausible political path towards this end.

notsneaky,

No, it was ridiculous simply because the relationship between Ukrainians and Russians has no semblance what so ever to the relationship between Mexicans and TeaBaggers.

Since I’ve already differentiated the sense in which the analogy was employed from the sense you’re attempting to give to it – and analogies are always partial, intended to refer to some discrete characteristics while excluding others – I’ll be brief: the analogy was intended to refer, not to the totality of the political and sociological circumstances obtaining in each case, but merely to the animus felt by one group for another, and to the inappropriateness of lecturing the despised group on how they should feel about being on the receiving end, or why they shouldn’t feel offended. I appreciate the summary refresher course in anti-colonial struggles and etc., but it’s quite beside the point of my analogy. I really hate having to blogstutter, but: notwithstanding the history of animosity between Ukrainians and Russians, and notwithstanding the history of Russian repression of Ukrainian culture and language during the Soviet period, it’s just pointless and unhelpful to refer to this past history when Ukrainian nationalists are speaking of the Russians as they now are. It explains why they feel their hatred for the Russians; it doesn’t legitimate it – and therefore, it’s just incoherent to refer to this history when someone points to the anti-Russian hatemongering, implying – if this is what you’re doing, since it’s not clear to me what you’re doing, beyond misconstruing my intentions – that Russians should just ‘understand’, instead of feeling offended and threatened at some level. What normal person, when subjected to a discourse of demonization, thinks this way?

jwl,

For people in Ukraine who view development of the Ukrainian language as important, the government of Yanukovich was seen as embodying the Russian cultural hostility toward Ukrainians. In particular, the education minister went out of his way to close Ukrainian language schools and open Russian language ones, even where there was no demand. Local authorities in the east and Crimea have taken a number of steps to inhibit Ukranian language education and culture.

I would disagree with the imputation that I haven’t sufficiently deplored this sort of thing. I thought I had in one of my comments yesterday. I wasn’t aware of this little detail about Yanukovych, so I’ll reiterate that I’m opposed to these sorts of linguistic-cultural games, and that both sides should refrain from them, as being the bigoted nonsense that they are.

It was Russian and Soviet policy (for much of the Soviet era) to repress the Ukrainian language and culture. It’s not like there was some equality of the two languages. Even now, Ukrainian speakers feel compelled to speak Russian when they move to the city so that they aren’t coded as bumpkins. The majority of the country speaks Ukrainian and Russian, but the social implications of each are not the same.

All true, though in my experience (insert caveats here), the latter has been changing, albeit gradually. I would still maintain that any language policy (a term that strikes me as absurd, but whatever) undertaken by the Ukrainian authorities will do more to foster distrust and ill-will than to reconcile the disparate cultural communities, especially given the aggressive tenor of the Ukrainian nationalist discourse.

but you don’t present domination by Russia as dashing the hopes of the Left forever. For you, Russian domination can be managed but EU domination is game over.

I’m rather dubious that the Russian system is durable, for reasons I laid out far above, to which could be added any number of additional endogenous factors; once the Russian system begins tottering, well, I don’t imagine much good coming of that geopolitically, but there could be small window of opportunity for a reformist left to act, if there is such a left. As to the EU, I don’t see any sort of politically-plausible roadmap towards transforming the EU into something other than it is.

You betray binary thinking on this. If you don’t like Western media watch aljazeera. You may think you can counter bias in your head, but the studies are pretty clear that this is very difficult.

Aljazeera is hewing to the ‘Western’ line on the crisis in Ukraine; I suppose I could speculate as to the reasons for this, but it’s not really necessary. In re: binary thinking and the psychology of bias: this applies as much to my critics in this thread as it does to me; in fact, it’s rather easier for disputants arraying themselves on the side of the dominant narrative to accuse those taking a minority position of bias, than the reverse. The dominant narrative carries the weight of consensus and so forth; it can still be quite biased.

Random notes:

The ‘Slava Ukraine’ business is utterly benign, at least in itself; it is rather like “God bless America’. However, as in the latter case, in certain contexts, it can assume a rather more partisan meaning. The three-finger banners are also benign; it’s a standard Ukrainian gesture. Those banners did replace, though, a Nazi rune, when Svoboda was called on such obvious fascist references some years ago.

notsneaky, again,

I agree with your remarks concerning the reasons for Svoboda’s rising support among the electorate; I’ve probably hinted at them somewhere above. However, the increasingly nationalist framing of the discourse, even apart from Svoboda’s peculiarities, could serve to push policymaking further right, ie., in the direction of aspects of Svoboda’s programme. There are too many examples, historical and contemporary, of this sort of thing – whether ethno-national or economic – for this possibility to be discounted; this is the third option for the development of the political situation, besides the fringe parties becoming corrupt and discredited, or irrelevant with some degree of reform within the system. Your remarks concerning Tyahnybok hint at this possibility, at least to my mind, since ideas cynically manipulated and let loose within the body politic don’t necessarily wither away once the cynic discards them; there are always true believers, who may not be numerous, but do exert a significant political-ideological gravity.

Your comment #151 – we’re in complete agreement on something!

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Igor Belanov 02.24.14 at 12:30 pm

It was Russian and Soviet policy (for much of the Soviet era) to repress the Ukrainian language and culture. It’s not like there was some equality of the two languages.

IIRC, in the post-Stalin period there were substantial language rights given to titular nationalities in the union republics. Republics within the RSFSR often had an ‘official’ language that was spoken by a minority of their citizens.

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Ronan(rf) 02.24.14 at 3:24 pm

“Or to add to the actually relevant analogies (in addition to Sudeten Germans and Rhodesia):

Ireland. You could tell a story where the Irish Nationalist were Nazi collaborators (they were!) And hey, there’s some English people in Ireland (depending on the time frame and when you’re telling the story, either Southern or Northern) who are..”

I haven’t been following this closely enough so don’t know if Jeff Martin is reimagining the historical relationship between Ukraine and Russia, or just worrying about the position of Russian speaking (? ethnically Russian ?) Ukranians in a future Ukraine that has moved West. If it’s the second then it seems a fair point to raise, as previously dominant groups (or groups that are seen to have been allied with a foreign patron) can be subjected to exclusion/discrimination in a new state. Which is an obvious point of course, but I dont think these concerns become illegitimate or merely hyperbole because of the historical record.
(The various equivalances drawn above between the EU and Russia, however, strike me as completely bizzare, obnoxious and indefensible.)

155

Alex K. 02.24.14 at 3:34 pm

Bruce Wilder (#150): I have to disagree with you on this. Russian oil and gas companies have the capital and the expertise and access to modern technologies, yet the state-controlled Rosneft has brought in ExxonMobil to help it develop shale oil in Western Siberia and drill in the Arctic.

notsneaky (#151): I was thinking about present-day Kyiv and what looks to me the mainstream interpretation of Ukrainian history, the stuff of modern Ukrainian history textbooks.

156

roy belmont 02.24.14 at 6:19 pm

Watching the jots and tittles pile up here while the disaster porn flashes across the collective semi-conscious screen out there, it’s hard. To know, I mean.
Disinterested observers want something to go on, and all there is is, this.
Fatuous deceptive factuality and emotional theorizing. Against a public backdrop of violent exciting images that make Occupy Wall Street look like a Quaker meeting disrupted by uniformed gov’t thugs.
But some stuff is clear.
When the US went into Iraq they bombed al-Jazeera, and you know it was intentional whatever they said. Ten years later they’re allowing al-Jazeera onto the televised commons of the US mediascape.
So what happened?
Just don’t try telling us that some kind of enlightened opening up occurred in the mean time. Because you can’t make that stick.
It’s obviously plausible that what happened is that some thing calling itself “al-Jazeera US” was brought into the mix once it became clear that a critical mass of Americans who didn’t know what was up were turning away from outlets like the madeover CNN.
In fact it’s likely that’s what happened to al-Jazeera. Whatever happened to CNN after Turner let go of it.
Neoliberal media sophistication, and utter contempt for the consumers of news info.
So for those of us who don’t know much, simple formulae come to hand – whatever “that” wants us to believe, and feel, and think, do just the opposite. It’s safer and more likely to be accurate, if not exactly “true”.

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bob mcmanus 02.24.14 at 9:24 pm

156: Up above you mentioned Klein’s “Shock Doctrine” My feeling, and it has been since about 2003, is that in the last couple decades Neoliberalism has moved from “Shock Capitalism” to “Continual Low-level Crisis Capitalism.” The failed states are not getting fixed, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya…I found it remarkable that all those strongmen fell, and in no case did a new strongman or stable system arise or get imposed.

They don’t seem to care, they no longer need any kind of stable localities to extract adequate profits. The multinationals are so powerful now that they can grab the surplus from a civil war. Ghaddafi was taking too large a cut, and social welfare systems also take too large a cut. Better, since there is no possibility of a threat to global accumulation structures, to foment and tolerate Hobbesian anarchy at local and national levels.

Having said that, I also deny the anarchy is being imposed. Losing or denying authoritarian structures imposed from the top down, in our current neo-liberal identity mind-set, the people on the street will choose anarchy on their own over collective action and compromise.

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jwl 02.25.14 at 12:41 am

Jeff Martin,

For people in Ukraine who view development of the Ukrainian language as important, the government of Yanukovich was seen as embodying the Russian cultural hostility toward Ukrainians. In particular, the education minister went out of his way to close Ukrainian language schools and open Russian language ones, even where there was no demand. Local authorities in the east and Crimea have taken a number of steps to inhibit Ukranian language education and culture.

I would disagree with the imputation that I haven’t sufficiently deplored this sort of thing. I thought I had in one of my comments yesterday. I wasn’t aware of this little detail about Yanukovych, so I’ll reiterate that I’m opposed to these sorts of linguistic-cultural games, and that both sides should refrain from them, as being the bigoted nonsense that they are.

For Ukrainian language enthusiasts, this isn’t a “little thing”. I submit that you haven’t heard about this because you consume Russian media (where things like this would _never_ be mentioned) and don’t frequent enough alternate sources. See this for example.

I would still maintain that any language policy (a term that strikes me as absurd, but whatever) undertaken by the Ukrainian authorities will do more to foster distrust and ill-will than to reconcile the disparate cultural communities, especially given the aggressive tenor of the Ukrainian nationalist discourse.

In education, there has to be a language policy of some kind, particularly in a multi-lingual state. What language are classes taught in, at what grades, in what subjects? What languages are college entrance exams in? Do pupils have to demonstrate facility in multiple languages? Which ones? In which parts of the country? At what level? How does one decide how many schools to open, teaching in what language, and which to close?

All these questions have to be answered. They can’t be waved away, and the answers are usually determined by some combination of government policy and polls or surveys or censuses. I think this is disingenuous of you. I imagine you have strong opinions on these questions.

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Jeff Martin 02.25.14 at 11:48 am

For Ukrainian language enthusiasts, this isn’t a “little thing”.

My choice of adjectives was poor there, I concede. I was thinking that it was a little detail by comparison to the epochal economic corruption that characterizes the Ukrainian state, but it really isn’t.

In education, there has to be a language policy of some kind, particularly in a multi-lingual state.

I’m suggesting that the policy should permit students at all levels to be instructed in their native language, with instruction in the other language a regular part of the curriculum in the primary and secondary levels. Although, to be fair, most people in Ukraine are either fluent in both languages, or understand enough of what is for them the other language to work through ordinary, everyday encounters. What becomes difficult is the more detailed business of public service, or education, in the other language.

They can’t be waved away, and the answers are usually determined by some combination of government policy and polls or surveys or censuses. I think this is disingenuous of you

I simply don’t agree that majority opinion plus policy should determine whether Russians can be educated in Russian, or Ukrainians in Ukrainian; and I don’t think I’m being disingenuous in stating as much.

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Sasha Clarkson 02.25.14 at 12:08 pm

What is the difference between Russian and Ukrainian in Ukraine? Consider Scotland: it’s not unlike the difference between the English spoken by Alex Salmond and Gordon Brown, and the Lallans of Robert Burns (which, by all accounts, was more or less what was spoken By James I & VI.) Indeed, Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine’s national poet has been compared with Burns. But Ukrainian, even in Soviet times, has always had a much higher status than Lallans in Scotland.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lallans

If I were trying to describe the difference to a German, I would compare the “Schwäbish” and “Hochdeutsch” as spoken, often interchangeably, by a resident of, say, Stuttgart.

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jwl 02.25.14 at 5:49 pm

Jeff,

My point was that you do believe in language policy, strongly, and don’t think it is “absurd”. You want students educated in native language, fine. That would be 80% Ukrainian, 17% Russian, 3% others. Are you ok with that? The Donetsk region passed laws to cap the number of Ukrainian language schools despite demand.

You keep painting Ukrainian language enthusiasts as the aggressors here, but there is an active effort by many in Ukraine to reduce non-Russian education particularlyin places like Donetsk, Kharkiv, and Crimea.

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jwl 02.25.14 at 5:51 pm

Sasha,

Ukrainian is closer to Polish than Russian in terms of Morphemes. I don’t think the Lallans example is a good one. You are probably thinking of Surzhyk.

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js. 02.25.14 at 7:09 pm

What is the difference between Russian and Ukrainian in Ukraine? … If I were trying to describe the difference to a German, I would compare the “Schwäbish” and “Hochdeutsch” as spoken, often interchangeably, by a resident of, say, Stuttgart.

Wait, this is really the level of distinction we’re talking about? jwl disagrees, obviously, but is this is right, then, I mean, wow! I’m rendered speechless.

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The Temporary Name 02.25.14 at 7:13 pm

Wikipedia sez:

Lexically, the closest to Ukrainian is Belarusian (84% of common vocabulary), followed by Polish (70%), Serbo-Croatian (68%), Slovak (66%) and Russian (62%).[7] But even with Russian, Ukrainian language has some degree of mutual intelligibility.[8]

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notsneaky 02.25.14 at 7:26 pm

@162 It’s probably a bit more than that. Dutch and German? It’s probably less than that.

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roy belmont 02.25.14 at 7:38 pm

Bob McM 157-
Yeah, and we have this vectoring of the unimaginable, consistently starker predictions of environmental blowback, and what can easily be viewed as over-population, going toward the verticular angle. Mechanical reduction of human goals down toward the contextual meaningless.
So context. And the undiscussed vision behind these metabolic dissolvings.
Dominos made in the 20th c. falling tic-tac across the linoleum of the new millenium.
The impulse toward collective action is what’s being managed in the second stages, when necessary, I think.
So yes anarchic, because leaders and plans make easy targets. But that will lack stature, magnitude.
After Tahrir Sq. the anxiety, borne out for some of us, was the military just sitting there, waiting.
But that’s Egypt, the Libyan idea was probably comatose ineffectuality, Syria seems to have been a fuck-up, but intended along the same lines.
Intentional creation of the failed state as rohypnol.
And contempt for any humane aspiration.

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Jeff Martin 02.25.14 at 7:55 pm

You want students educated in native language, fine. That would be 80% Ukrainian, 17% Russian, 3% others.

Err., no. Define ‘native language’, because the term is pretty slippery in some of the nationalist literature. It can mean ‘the language they speak, having inherited it from their parents, etc.’, and it can mean ‘the language we, the nationalists, think that they ought to speak based on their ethnic ancestry’. My argument is simply that people should be educated in the language native to them, ie., the language they learned at home, and therefore possess the greatest fluency in, not that language instruction nationwide should be broken down by percentages.

You keep painting Ukrainian language enthusiasts as the aggressors here, but there is an active effort by many in Ukraine to reduce non-Russian education particularlyin places like Donetsk, Kharkiv, and Crimea.

And I have repeatedly both contextualized this, by referencing a scholarly work on Ukrainian nationalism in the other thread, and condemned it. What is gained by continuing to repeat it? Does ‘Ukrainianization’ cease to be aggressive merely because ‘Russification’ preceded it, or is proposed by some as an alternative? Obviously not. This is just tu quoque stuff.

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Sasha Clarkson 02.25.14 at 9:38 pm

Within a large country, and sometimes even in a small one, there are often considerable differences in the spoken language: think of Geordie versus Cockney.

Southern Russian is pronounced similarly to Ukrainian, even if the words are Muscovite. That’s why I mentioned Scots standard English v Lallans. Outside Western Ukraine, there was always difference between city and country too. According to Wiki (grain of salt always needed), in Kiev, many who give their native language as Ukrainian nonetheless speak Russian at home. That certainly is in accord with my own (limited) experience. According to a recent Spiegel article, the Klitchko brothers speak Russian to each other too.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiev#Ethnic_composition

http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/profile-of-ukraine-opposition-leader-vitali-klitschko-a-954182.html

Another Spiegel article mentions the current echoes of the autobiographical novel White Guard by Mikhail Bulgakov, a favourite author of mine. That too has been on my mind in recent weeks. Amongst other things, Bulgakov described the very ugly chaos in Kiev during its short-lived occupation by Petlura’s forces.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/situation-in-ukraine-puts-putin-in-a-difficult-spot-a-955604.html

My own grandfather was a Petlurist. It’s not at all something I’m proud of, but their ferocity and hatred of city dwellers and other ethnicities is understandable when one considers the desperate poverty and ignorance of a rural population, only relatively recently liberated from serfdom and undoubtedly cheated of their rightful share of the good land. Poverty and cheating (corruption) continues to inflame the ethnic/cultural differences of Ukraine. But people who then refuse to recognise the ethnic complexities only make matters worse. If this blog is good for anything, then it’s to get people to understand the complexities: that there are different, often incompatible, views as to what it means to be Ukrainian, and what’s best for the country. That different narratives are incompatible doesn’t make them wrong: just incomplete. In the end there are choices: cooperation or separation, and jaw jaw or war war.

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js. 02.25.14 at 10:05 pm

Thanks for the responses.

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jwl 02.26.14 at 1:10 am

You want students educated in native language, fine. That would be 80% Ukrainian, 17% Russian, 3% others.

Err., no. Define ‘native language’, because the term is pretty slippery in some of the nationalist literature. It can mean ‘the language they speak, having inherited it from their parents, etc.’, and it can mean ‘the language we, the nationalists, think that they ought to speak based on their ethnic ancestry’. My argument is simply that people should be educated in the language native to them, ie., the language they learned at home, and therefore possess the greatest fluency in, not that language instruction nationwide should be broken down by percentages.

Having a detailed language policy seems to be getting less and less “absurd”, I see. The situation is actually substantially more complicated even than that. People might have a home language (often Ukrainian) and a street language (in the east, often Surzhyk or Russian in the cities). Which one is their native language? Are you going to teach them literary Ukrainian, literary Russian, or Surzhyk? There are cultural pressures to learn Ukraine in the rural areas and villages and Russian in the cities. It’s very difficult to determine exactly what people’s native language is. The numbers quoted above that I gave are based on people’s ethnic identification, and schooling levels in Ukrainian have never reached this.

You keep painting Ukrainian language enthusiasts as the aggressors here, but there is an active effort by many in Ukraine to reduce non-Russian education particularly in places like Donetsk, Kharkiv, and Crimea.

Does ‘Ukrainianization’ cease to be aggressive merely because ‘Russification’ preceded it, or is proposed by some as an alternative? Obviously not.

Here’s where I disagree with you. Russification in some places is still ongoing. There is still a flow from the Ukrainian language countryside to predominantly Russian-speaking cities (especially in the east and south) and people there experience legal and social pressure to speak Russian and enroll their children in Russian-language schools.

It is important, because Russification is viewed by many Ukrainians as an aggressive force. Ukrainian language activists believe their language could be killed (as in cease to exist) without specific measures. You clearly either disagree or are indifferent, but it is a strong motivating factor in the language disputes and needs to be acknowledged.

I think Russian speakers probably feel similarly about Russian in Ukraine, but there is no danger of Russian disappearing from civic life in a very large country next door to Ukraine. In Kiev, Ukrainian did disappear from civic life for decades, and Ukrainian language activists never want that to happen again.

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jwl 02.26.14 at 1:21 am

Sasha,

Thanks for references. It’s interesting watching what is happening in Kiev. Ukrainian-language schooling was utterly dominant in Kiev in 2010, but Russian on the streets was utterly common. I wonder if there is a shift happening where people speak Russian to some and Ukrainian to others.

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Jeff Martin 02.26.14 at 2:39 am

Having a detailed language policy seems to be getting less and less “absurd”, I see. The situation is actually substantially more complicated even than that. People might have a home language (often Ukrainian) and a street language (in the east, often Surzhyk or Russian in the cities). Which one is their native language?

I see what you’re saying. I still don’t see that the state ought to be imposing some sort of linguistic standardization; if it was, and is, terrible for one group to impose its language on the other, and to restrict the other’s language, I don’t see how a role reversal becomes just. “They did it to us, so we’ll do it to them” isn’t a recipe for comity.

Here’s where I disagree with you….

Please go to CB’s thread and read the extracts I quote from Wilson’s book on Ukrainian nationalism; they not only explain, quite lucidly, how Ukrainians view the threat to their language, they also show how (some) nationalists attempt to legitimate their desired language policies with the blood-and-soil stuff. Beyond that, I don’t agree that a perceived threat to their language justifies putting the arm of the state behind Ukrainianization; I don’t believe that there is a politico-ethical switch that gets tripped, such that something which was unjust when done to them becomes just when they do it to others. I understand what their concerns are, and simply don’t agree that their fear entitles them to get coercive on the language question. I’ve heard Irish nationalists complain that Gaelic is dying out (I don’t know the stats on this); but I don’t think they’d be justified in coercing people to use it in preference to English.

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notsneaky 02.26.14 at 3:26 am

My own grandfather was a Petlurist. It’s not at all something I’m proud of, but their ferocity and hatred of city dwellers and other ethnicities…

Hmm, the way I remember it, though it’s been awhile, in Bulgakov’s White Guard the bad guy is the German supported Skoropadsky Hetman, not Petlura (though all the main characters are somewhat associated with the former, and maybe we’re reading the subtext of the story differently). I’m also not sure where this “hatred of city dwellers and other ethnicities” that is being attributed to Petlura comes from. There was some of that. Basically, like I mentioned above, there were like 15 different factions (at least!) running around Ukraine at the time, switching alliances, forging new ones, splitting into factions, then recombining… but pretty much all of them did some nasty things (even folks like the anarchist Makhno).

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roy belmont 02.26.14 at 6:00 am

I mistakenly posted this at the other Ukraine thread. So confusing, all this East-European arcana.
Anyway:
Well the good news is, if they can hang on for a couple years, and she gets the Dem. nod and electoral victory – big if’s, but hey, look on the bright side, think good thoughts – Pres. Hilary Clinton and Viktor Pinchuk can redesign the entirety of Ukrainian-ness, from geo-political boundaries to language dominance, and also of course, how much stuff costs.
Neoliberalism is the salvation of the world!

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jwl 02.26.14 at 11:31 pm

Jeff,

Ultimately, then language death is OK for you then. If no coercive efforts (otherwise known as compulsory education) is possible, then for many languages death is inevitable.

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Jeff Martin 02.27.14 at 1:44 am

Ultimately, then language death is OK for you then.

Well, no, not really. I don’t see how that follows. I think that there is something to the Herderian argument in re: a language being a little world, although I think those worlds are more open than Herder and nationalists may allow; and it’s a sad thing to see such a world extinguished.

If no coercive efforts (otherwise known as compulsory education) is possible, then for many languages death is inevitable.

I have no problem with Russians in Ukraine being taught Ukrainian as a second language, to stick with the current example; what I object to is the aspiration of some nationalists to make Russophones ‘return to their true language’ (see the Wilson stuff I quote in the other thread), to make Russians speak Ukrainian in certain circumstances, and so forth. It would be more effective, as a means of preserving the language, IMO, if the Ukrainians were to get their TFR back to replacement level, and to ensure that everyone learns it as at least a second language; doing that isn’t going to require moralistic hectoring (which just doesn’t work), but a solution to the kleptocracy problem (Ukrainian nationalists, by and large, seem to be fairly traditional in the family department; if they’re not reproducing above replacement level, it’s probably because they cannot afford to form families.).

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jwl 02.27.14 at 3:13 am

Everyone in Ukraine takes both Russian and Ukrainian language classes. But if the language of the cities is Russian and the language of modernity is Russian and every time the Party of the Regions takes power it closes Ukrainian language schools, then eventually one ends up in 1960s Soviet Ukraine.

There is no constituency in Ukraine for a stable national bilingualism and no country in the world with two distinct languages in parity. I have trouble even seeing how that happens unless it is a fallback position for onegroup that is obviously losing.

This is distinct from Crimean Tatar which the Crimean government is trying to kill.

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jwl 02.27.14 at 3:17 am

There is also asymmetric power in play here. Russian speakers in Ukraine assume everyone of consequence (educated) will speak Russian. Go to any city in Ukraine and you can get around in Russian. You can’t do this in Ukrainian. So to take your example, if Russian speakers never have to speak Ukrainian, then Russian has a privileged position relative to Ukrainian which will endure.

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Alex K. 02.27.14 at 7:59 am

“Hmm, the way I remember it, though it’s been awhile, in Bulgakov’s White Guard the bad guy is the German supported Skoropadsky Hetman, not Petlura” – notsneaky

Skoropadsky is depicted as merely despicable and Petlura as a murderer.

“the language of modernity is Russian” -jwl

And that’s the core problem for the Ukrainizers.

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Sasha Clarkson 02.27.14 at 11:40 am

Petlura’s true intentions have always been a matter of debate: I incline towards the view that he was simply unable to control his soldiers, the vast majority of whom were extremely angry peasants who, for very good reasons, trusted nobody.

In particular, the antisemitism of the Petlura troops has to be understood in the wider context of class and cultural differences, and the extreme poverty of the countryside compared with the towns. Jews were in an unfortunate position: their first language was Yiddish, and their second was likely to have been Russian or Polish rather than Ukrainian. However, within the Pale of Settlement, because of their high rate of literacy, they comprised a significant proportion of the educated middle class (and of course the Bolsheviks). Thus, they were often employed as agents by big landowners who had no interest in the peasants apart from the rent/labour which they could extract. So, as well as the (alas) natural antipathy that people have towards those perceived as “different”, Jews were seen by the Ukrainian peasants in particular as agents of their exploiters and enemies. This was undoubtedly encouraged by others who wished to deflect attention from themselves. Cultural inertia probably helps explain the continued strong antisemitism amongst Western Ukrainians today.

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Sasha Clarkson 02.27.14 at 11:51 am

PS – please don’t anyone accuse me of “justifying” anything in @180, I’m not. Evil behaviour by human beings occurs not because most people are fundamentally evil, but because they are swept along by historical and economic forces which they don’t understand and can’t control. The minority who are genuinely evil then exploit and encourage hatred for their own purposes.

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