Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Posturing and pretense in Ukraine, at the expense of the Ukrainian people

Finger-pointing is an exercise from the earliest grades in elementary school.
"He started it!"
"No, he started it!"
"Alright, both of you go to the principal's office, and find out who started the fight!"
Were there individuals among the street protestors who were radicals of various stripes, prior to the 'expulsion' of former Ukrainian president Yanukovich? Probably.
Were there also legitimate grievances among the Ukrainian people calling for the removal of the former president? Of course.
Was there pressure from the EU for Ukraine to move closer to the west, prior to the removal of Yanukovich? Certainly.
Was the United States both aware of and supportive of the move to bring Ukraine closer to the EU, with possible membership in the offing? Undoubtedly.
Was Putin waiting until immediately after the Sochi Olympics before moving into Crimea? Most likely.
Is Putin's claim that the U.S. is responsible for what is occurring in eastern Ukrainian cities where a majority of the population has a Russian heritage and language legitimate? Somewhat.
However even with all of that being said, it is U.S. Vice-president Joe Biden who carries the freight for the White House in to Kiev yesterday, calling on the Russian leadership to "stop talking and start acting" in what could be termed one of the most hollow and most blatantly ironic public statement by a world leader in decades.
Acting is precisely what Putin is doing!
Talking, on the other hand, is precisely what the 'west' is doing!
Kiev: US Vice-President Joe Biden warned Russia on Tuesday that “it’s time to stop talking and start acting” to reduce tension in Ukraine.
Standing alongside acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Biden called on Moscow to encourage pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine to vacate government buildings and checkpoints, accept amnesty and “address their grievances politically.”
Biden said Russia needs to act “without delay,” adding, “We will not allow this to become an open-ended process.”
Yatsenyuk was harsher in his characterisation of Russia. “No country should be able to behave like an armed bandit,” he said. “Russia should stick to its international commitments and obligations. They should not behave as gangsters in the modern century.” (By AP, Biden: Russia must ‘stop talking and start acting,’ in, April 22, 2014)
There is a real and present danger in this situation that another proxy conflict actually does break out, with the Ukrainian people being the pawns in the strategy on both sides, neither of whom see the people first, and see the abstract political ambitions as foremost.
For the Kremlin, the restoration of Russian "pride and grandeur" on the world stage seems to be a driving motive.
For the west, enhancing the range and scope of the European Union and "freedom and democracy" trump the interests of the people on the streets of Ukrainian towns and cities.
And yet, both sides are trumpeting the "freedom of the Ukrainian people" to decide their own fate.
When we were kids, one of the most fake 'sports' to come to town was the circus of wrestling, in which everyone knew the bodies blows were "acted" and the falls and pins were also the result of considerable rehearsal by actors whose bodies, not their voices, were the instruments of the show.
No one took the charade seriously, really, and yet, there were people in the hundreds who paid good money to watch people from outside the town set up the stage (ring), put on the costumes (shorts and high boots),  submit to the make-up and hair-dressing professionals to preserve and enhance the image, and then, flail away in melodramatic gestures of combat, huffing and puffing and "blowing your house down" with a winner and a loser in each bout. The referee was there to carry out his part in the staged drama, yet his influence over events was less than a footnote, more like the asterisk that denotes the footnote.
Today, on the world stage, there is a more than faint odor of the former wrestling matches to the struggle for Ukraine, if it were not for the underlying implications of the potential results.
If, for example, as many suspect, Putin's masked "persons of no country of origin" continue their march into and over the legitimate government buildings and into the mayor's chairs, and the council chambers of individual cities, and generate "plebiscites" that re-shape the country's borders and the allegiances of the people, while both the 'west' and the fledgling government in Kiev remain sidelined, or perhaps even scratched as "unhealthy" for this encounter, then the future of many satellite 'countries' could be un doubt, since the rules of the game will be so altered that international commitments and norms no longer matter.
Sanctions against individuals, and even against the Russian corporations that generate income from exports of energy, could turn the lights and the industrial engines off in Europe, such as they are. Since the world has turned its eyes, face and mind over to the pursuit of money, as the international Olympics for governments, it would seem more than both ironic and inevitable that economics would eventually become the 'ring' for international tensions and emerging conflicts, (in addition to the rampant and quickly spreading terrorism that spills blood of innocents whenever and wherever it can!)
Peacocks and wrestlers are known for their strutting. "Strutting" does not become Putin, or any other world leader, no matter the motive driving such pretense. And Biden, for all of his worthy service in the Senate foreign relations committee prior to the election of 2008, risks a similar fate of the hollow man, and would drag the United States along if he were to continue to utter hollow and highly ironic headlines just because 'he can'. Rejecting military intervention does not and must not mean that the only or even primary vehicle for the 'west', and especially the United States, is rhetoric underscored with a few sanctions, even though they may be as strong or stronger as those that many argue have brought Iran to the negotiating table on the future of her nuclear ambitions.
Public lectures against "talking" while calling for "acting" do not become a world leader, especially when that leader is attempting to embolden and support the Ukrainian government and their people and when those very words describe his own government's stance.
And, like the wrestling referee, the United Nations makes hardly an entrance into this conflict, given Putin's ignoring all overtures to draw back.


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