Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Neither Putin nor Obama Wants to Be Known as the One Who ‘Lost’ Ukraine, Mirsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 9 – A major reason the crisis in Ukraine is now so dangerous, Georgy Mirsky says, is that “neither [Russian President Vladimir] Putin nor [US President Barack] Obama wants to go into history as the politician who ‘lost’ Ukraine, although [that country] does not belong to either the one or the other.”

            Crimea for all that has been said about it was “only a small piece in a big game,” the Moscow commentator says.  But Ukraine is “another matter,” although “few seem to be reflecting” about the meaning of this “conscious and intentional destruction of a whole state in the center of Europe in the 21st century” will mean (

            What is going on in Donetsk and Kharkhiv, he continues, is “a Maidan in reverse,” backed by a powerful neighboring state that is interested in destroying Ukraine.  Local support for these “people’s republics” is not that great, but the Ukrainian authorities are “afraid” to use force lest they “provoke the introduction of Russian forces” as Putin has promised to do.

            Given this fear, it may also be the case that “perhaps in the depth of their souls,” some in Kyiv may “prefer to lose several unstable and hostile eastern oblasts” in order to “keep firm control over a ‘mini-Ukraine,’ including Kyiv, Lviv, and so on.” 

            If that is so, then a repeat of the Crimean scenario is possible, although in any referendum there, support for joining Russia will be 60 percent at most and not 97 percent as it was on the peninsula, Mirsky suggests.  Because Moscow won’t have introduced troops, “the West will again swallow everything.”  After all, “what is left for it to do?

            Russian commentators and television have gone to enormous lengths to distort the situation and to play up hostilities that were much less great in the past. This is produced “the most genuine, base, and shameful Ukrainophobia” among Russians, and that opens a Pandora’s box, as Vladimir Zhirinovsky already has with his talk of a partition of Ukraine.

            Many other Russian writers are just as bad or worse, Mirsky continues, and they now should “Holy Russia” and “Mother Russia” the way the White Guards did even as they ban Muslims from declaring “Allah is Great.”  Just what one would expect, he says, given the “cultivation” in the Russian media of an image of Ukraine as “a traitor nation.”

            The same thing happened often enough in Soviet times, the Moscow commentator says.  In 1968, a taxi driver carrying him in the Kuban said that “the Czechs are all traitors. They should all be shot.”  And he made that statement, Mirsky points out, “even though he had never seen a single Czech in his life.”

            “Evil-intended and false propaganda, disinformation, and demagogy” all were raised to a high level in Soviet times.  What is truly tragic, Mirsky concludes is “how tenacious [such things] have turned out to be” in Russia today.

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