They whisper still, the injured stones, the blunted mountains weep
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make things cheap
And say the Mea Culpa, which you’ve gradually forgot
Year by year
Month by month
Day by day
Thought by thought
-Leonard Cohen, from “Steer Your Way”
A comment on the previous post reminded me of how informative it can be, particularly in the (mine)field of geopolitical analysis, to go back a year or two from the present, following a significant event, and enjoy the confident predictions of kingmakers and hacks – which could now not be much further from the situation which actually prevails.
In that spirit, let’s roll the counters back to September 18, 2013 – almost exactly three years ago. Just before, of course, the glorious Maidan which freed Ukrainians from the oppressive yoke of Russia. At that moment in history, western analysts were trembling with eagerness to vilify Yanukovych, but were still hopeful that he would stick his head out of his shell long enough to sign the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the European Union. Washington maintains a kind of ongoing paternal affection for revolution – which is always less painful and noisy when it’s a continent or two away – but is practical enough to accept an easy victory if that’s the way it plays out.
It didn’t play out like that, of course, and an American-backed coup ensued in which Yanukovych offered to give the revolutionary political figures everything they had asked for – early elections, a provisional coalition government with the egghead among the revolutionaries as Prime Minister, the works. They were a little taken aback at how easy it was, and then decided it wasn’t enough – Yanukovych must be holding back something if he gave in that easily, and therefore he must be tricking them, since the script called for the dictator-president to cower in fear and to be flung into the street in disgrace. So they went ahead with the traditional revolution, gaining nothing at all thereby except the ushering-in of a self-appointed revolutionary junta, and the empowerment of fervent fascist nationalists who had previously had to keep their admiration for the Nazis on the down-low.
It is worth mentioning here – because whenever it is brought up, the response ranges from amnesia to outright denial it ever happened – that the pre-revolutionary government went into it with its eyes wide open and a good working awareness of the probable consequences. Yanukovych and Azarov, at least, were briefed that cutting off trade with Russia, which Brussels and Washington insisted upon, would likely be disastrous for the Ukrainian economy. Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Boiko announced that Ukraine was not blowing off the deal entirely; it was just suspending it until the state could be sure that increased trade with Europe would compensate for the loss of the Russian market. Before that, Yanukovych and Azarov tried energetically to broker a triumvirate coalition of Ukraine, Russia and the EU, to sort out the trade issues that Brussels insisted made such an arrangement impossible. Not to put too fine a point on it, Russia and Ukraine proposed a tripartite forum which would see Ukraine as a bridge between the Eurasian Economic Union and the European Union. Brussels emphatically rejected it, confident that it could pry Ukraine away from Russia, because the initiative was always strategic rather than economic. Continue reading