Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Only Reinforced Ukrainians’ Desire to Look Away from Moscow, Tsipko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 12 – Many Russians think that had Moscow not annexed Crimea and begun its military interference in Ukraine in 2014, Ukrainians and Russians could have remained fraternal peoples, Aleksandr Tsipko says; but these actions only reinforced the longstanding desire of Ukrainians to escape Moscow’s orbit and ally with those who oppose Russia.

            Russian have begun to think about how it happened that those they called “’brother Ukrainians’” had turned into “a hostile nation.,” the Moscow scholar says. To be sure, now at least, Russian media aren’t calling them fascists any longer; but they are now treated as “a tribe lost by us, the allies of hostile America” (mk.ru/politics/2019/03/12/zabyt-ob-imperii-pochemu-molodye-ukraincy-ne-khotyat-druzhit-s-rossiey.html).

            Moreover and not unimportantly, Moscow television is now speaking about “two generations of young Ukrainians who ‘don’t want to look towards Russia.”  But beneath such propagandist treatment, Tsipko says, there is now “something new: a desire to recognize our own guilt in the destruction of the Russian world and in Kyiv’s flight from Moscow.”

            “In my view,” the philosophic commentator continues, there is something missing in the analysis of many. Too often, Russians today blame the exit of Ukraine from the Russian orbit on the machinations of the United States without asking whether the US did so by telling the Ukrainians exactly what they wanted to hear.

            It has turned out, he says, that “the spirit of the Ukrainian in fact always was open to the lure of the West which it has lost with its specific forms of behavior and freedom.”  One reason that Russians can’t face up to that reality is that “we can in no way ever agree” to what the Ukrainians have always wanted.

            Almost 60 years ago, émigré Russian historian Nikolay Ulyanov, in his book The Origins of Ukrainian Separatism, argued that the core of the national consciousness of Ukrainians is being anti-Russian and has been at least from the 17th century. Thus, Ukrainian interest in moving away from Russia need not ever be explained by the actions of outside powers.

             Already at the start of the 1990s, Tsipko says, “it was obvious that if the Ukrainian SSR left the USSR, it would never be pro-Russian” because Ukrainians would always be worried about Muscovite revanchism.  And because that is the case, it was also obvious that Ukraine would seek to ally itself with “the main enemy of Russia,” now the US but in the past other powers as well such as Germany in 1918.

            Russia’s actions in 2014 and since that time have exacerbated such feelings among Ukrainians, but they did not create them.  And recognition of that reality is the beginning of wisdom for Russians who hope to fashion some modus vivendi with Ukraine at some point in the future.

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