Cold War Still Frosty
We learned in school that the Ukraine was the breadbasket of the USSR. One of my high school friends – a smart, hard-working kid from a large Catholic family – was of Ukrainian extraction. That’s about the extent of my expertise on the current Ukrainian situation. When I heard that protestors had chased Yanukovych – a corrupt authoritarian – out of his Kiev palace, it felt like good news.
But on Press the Meet last weekend, it seemed as though the Cold War had never ended. Obamanaut and National Security Adviser Susan Rice was pleased with the rebuke to pro-Russian elements:
The United States is on the side of the Ukrainian people. And the Ukrainian people have indicated from the outset, three months ago, when this began, that President Yanukovych, at the time, his decision to turn away from Europe, was not the choice of the Ukrainian people. The Ukrainian people expressed themselves peacefully. They were met with violence. And that did not — end well for Yanukovych.
Of course the US is not even on the side of a lot of American people, but they are certainly in opposition to anyone that wants to get closer to Vlad Putin. More on that later.
At the roundtable, Chris Matthews invoked the Cold War. Judy Woodruff invoked the Cold War. David Brooks talked about Putin’s reaction. Host David Gregory was struck by Josh Marshall saying on TPM that Russia doesn’t matter. But Helene Cooper switched it back to asking how Putin will react. Brooks wondered if Putin would bring troops into the Ukraine, and Matthews thought the Ukrainian revolutionaries were still wearing ski masks so Putin couldn’t round them up when he came in. So clearly a lot of folk think Russia does matter.
Dmitry Orlov was clearly on the side of Russia during the Georgia & Ossetia beat downs, so it was no surprise that in Shock Over Ukraine, he was dubious about a pro-Euro Ukraine. Orlov’s guest poster suggested that vastly unfavorable IMF terms were the real reason behind Yanukovych’s decision to go with Putin instead of the Eastern Partnership:
Gazing down from their lofty diplomatic perch, these [EU] experts were blindsided when the barbarous dictator [Yanukovych] suddenly decided to do a bit of arithmetic, spotted a flaw in the deal (Ukrainian national bankruptcy) and swiftly decided to take his 46 million slaves away from the EU and give them to Moscow instead. And then, due to their ridiculous bureaucracy and complete lack of understanding of Ukrainian reality, they allowed an initially peaceful protest to develop into something like civil war.
Apparently Yanukovych could follow the money even while he was misappropriating it.
In a Feb 22nd Electric Politics podcast, The Ukraine Blues (h/t to CMaukonen), retired NYU prof and Russia scholar Dr Stephen F Cohen thought the sticking point was that Ukraine would have had to hew to NATO protocols even though in Russia’s shadow. He also spoke at length about how Putin could be an important partner for the US, if only they would allow it. Cohen feels that the US is intent on bringing former Russian territories into the US sphere of influence despite the risks of a hot war.