Tuesday, April 18, 2017

For All Its Problems, Ukraine Now Easternmost of Western Countries Rather Westernmost of Eastern Ones

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 18 – Rudyard Kipling famously observed that “the Russian is a delightful person till he tucks his shirt in. As an Oriental he is charming. It is only when he insists upon being treated as the most easterly of Western peoples, instead of the most westerly of Easterns, that he becomes a racial anomaly extremely difficult to handle.”

Anyone who must deal with a Russian, the English writer said, “never knows which side of his nature is going to turn up next” and therefore is often at a loss as to how to respond.  Some Russians have repeatedly tried to shift from the one civilizational side to the other, but typically they have succeeded only in putting a Western veneer over the Eastern reality.  

That makes what Ukraine has done in the three years since the Maidan so impressive. It truly is, as commentators on the Ukrainian counter-propaganda site argue, “the extreme east of the West” rather than “the most westerly” of the East (defence-line.org/2017/04/ukraina-krajnij-vostok-zapada/).

Since the Maidan, they point out, “Ukraine hasn’t been able to do many things.” It hasn’t rooted out corruption, and it hasn’t transformed its economy.  But Ukraine has done one thing and that is to make a civilizational choice, to be part of the West rather than the East – and that is “the main impulse for changes.” 

“We have made a European choice not in a geographic but in a psychological and civilizational sense. This means that we accept the Western system of values without qualification and exception for any exceptions inevitably deform all the construction and we would return to where we had begun.”

Regular elections, the democratic change of leaders and popular control of the government are “defining conditions of this choice.  The most important thing,” these commentators continues, “is that we understand this from below and are already implementing these principles above.”

Democracy is often at risk, they point out, and can even be destroyed from within as it was in Germany in the 1930s and is now in Turkey if the population forgets the importance of these principles.  That is especially likely if people feel themselves threatened by foreign intervention or domestic enemies.

But “Ukraine, even while conducting a war with a powerful opponent which has set as its goal the destruction of our state as such and even to for further and even with its difficulties in escaping from the economic crisis and having a plethora of other dangers, nonetheless has put democratic values and the freedom of its citizens at the center of its national life.”

“We will unconditionally win the war, and the economy has already begun quietly to improve and will grow, but we will not give birth to a dictatorship and we have no doubt that we don’t need one,” the commentators say. And because that is so, “we are already Europe: we are already the West.”

Ukraine and Ukrainians “will not be Russia or Turkey or South Korea; we were, are and will be Ukraine, part of Europe and the West, an outpost of civilization on the border with wild Asia.”

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