Friday, March 21, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Ukraine Still has a Chance to Be a European Country, But Russia has Lost that Opportunity, Belkovsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 21 – Despite the patriotic fervor in Russia, much of it state-sponsored and likely to dissipate quickly, over the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea, many Russians including those who identify themselves as nationalists and patriots are appalled by what Vladimir Putin has done because they already see clearly the damages arising from his policy.

            An instructive example of such views as expressedin literally hundreds of articles and blog posts which have appeared over the last several days is a moving cri de coeur from Stanislav Belkovsky  on entitled “Why I am Asking for Ukrainian citizenship” (

            Having lived in Putin’s Russia for quite a long time, Belkovsky begins, he knows all too well “what kind of country this is” – one of “total corruption, government vulgarity, money laundering, and disdain for the individual.”  Consequently, “the unification of Crimea with Russia is a defeat for Crimea and not a victory,” whatever the propagandists say.

            “The dead are devouring the living dying, Russia with its dead hand is still trying to seie a crust of bread.” If one looks down the road, it is clear that what is ahead is “a colossal defeat.” And while Belkovsky says he can understand Putin’s need for “psychological compensation” for his slighting treatment by the West, he, Belkovsky is “far from certain” that Russia or Putin either needs what is coming.

            Indeed, he suggests, it is far from clear that “Ukraine has lost.” That is because even after the Crimean events, “Ukraine has the chance to become a European country, but Russia has lost it, despite the fact that Russia and Ukraine are ethnically and mentally very close” to one another.

            Because of what Putin has done, the Russians and Ukrainians “have ceased to be one people: With one stroke, Putin has destroyed the unity of these countries.” And as Zbigniew Brzezinski has pointed out, “Russia with Ukraine is an empire, but Russia without Ukraine isn’t.”

            Consequently, those who are talking about and celebrating the return of an empire have gotten it exactly backwards, Belkovsky says. What Putin has done is destroy that possibility. Now is the time to have done with an imperial model of development and replace it with a national state – and in Russia as has now happened in Ukraine.

            Belkovsky says he has long believed that it is “necessary to liquidate the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate” because of that institution’s imperial approach. That is “now happening before our eyes.”  After all this, the Ukrainian church will separate, and Russians will have to face up to the reality that “the baptism of Rus took place, to put it mildly, not in Moscow.”

Belkovsky says he doesn’t know whether Kyiv would give him Ukrainian citizenship although he speaks Ukrainian and has a Ukrainian background because he has “many enemies” among Ukrainian politicians.” But he says that as a result of what Putin has done, he is going to apply for it.

By so doing, he continues, he will create “an important precedent: the active part of Russians who are positively inclined toward Ukraine can now transfer from the Russian side to the Ukrainian one.”  Belkovsky says he has no illusions about his personal status but “if the Ukrainians give him citizenship, the number who want to receive it will immediately grow by ten orders of magnitude.”

The current euphoria of Putin and many Russians, Belkovsky says, changes nothing in a positive way in Russia. Just the reverse: the basis of that euphoria, the seizure of the territory of another country, reinforces Russia’s status as “a second class country” and gives Ukraine a chance to join Europe at least in the second tier of countries.

What he is saying, Belkovsky concedes, may seem extreme or even insane, but that is the fate of all prophets, to be attacked before being proved right.  And he ends with the prediction that residents of the Russian Federation will soon face “a choice between Russia and Ukraine much like the one between North Korea and South Korea.”

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