I’ve been reading everything I could find about Ukraine’s situation. Some are astounding and not found in most of the popular articles like AP and NY Times and Yahoo News.
First thing to know is that Ukraine is in deep financial trouble. It happened when the populist politicians decided that everyone should have a livable fuel bill. So they bought natural gas from Russia and sell it to the people for 1/5 that price. It’s kind of the Russian equivalent of food stamps, a big government giveaway for a cold country. Trouble is, it runs up a huge deficit and has put the national debt in similar shape as Greece. So with the fiscal crisis, Prez (now former) Yanukovych worked out a deal with Russia. Only it is a Putin gun-to-the-head deal: Ukraine gets $15 B to cover the deficit, but they have to drop application for EU membership. Yanukovych (pronounced Yeah-nuke-a-vych. Don’t know if vyches like being nuked or not.) took it, although the parliament had previously voted to apply for the EU.
This ticked off the Ukrainians, especially those in the West. Ukraine is about the size of Texas, originally grasslands, until the Slavs began to settle it down, first under Cossacks who raided and harassed the nomadic tribes who once ruled the roost (former Mongols and Huns mostly). They were originally Russians, but spoke a different language. By WW I, the area was ruled by Russia (East and South), Poland and Austria (West). The Russian area was heavily industrialized during communism and infiltrated by Russians. So the East speaks Russian and the West, Ukrainian. This matters much. The Westerners watched as Poland and Hungary westernized and drew in investment after 1992 while Ukraine did nothing. Poland now has three times the GDP per person as Ukraine, so the West says, Hey! That could have been us! On the other hand the East is run like Russia with former apparatchiks taking control of industries, changing little but enriching themselves like kings. This corruption is the real sore spot among the opposition guys who protested.
Yeah-nuke-a-vych is the kind of guy who thinks if he wins an election, he gets to be dictator now, not president. So in basic ways he is Obama II—giving away cheap gas and running up the deficit, changing laws at will—but also a dangerous thug. He tried to steal the election in 2004. There were protests in what is called the Orange Revolution, and they got him thrown out of office. But the opposition did just as many giveaways and got the economy in trouble. Vanny got elected for real the second time around and then strong-armed parliament into changing the constitution giving him lots of powers. So what happened in the protests was originally they were about the EU, then people got mad when the police fired upon them and said, hey! We want a republic again! Yanny stalled around by pretending to negotiate with spineless opposition leaders in Parliament which are like Mitch McConnell. He promised free stuff for the people. Then he unleashed an offensive against the protestors which killed nearly 100 of them. Suddenly the public was up in arms. Yanukovych may not have cared a fig about this, but the MPs finally fearing for their own political lives, decided to oust/impeach him. He had jailed Tymoshenko, his main opponent on trumped up charges. They put out an arrest warrant for Yanny who was forced to flee. They re-instated the 2004 republican constitution. Tymo came to tell the protestors not to let up. They have now taken over most of the government buildings. They demand a right for all citizens to bear arms.
But Yanukovych is reportedly in hiding in the Crimea where his big base of support is, and the place where the Russians dearly want as their own. He is likely to make them a deal to give over Crimea in exchange for their army to put down his opposition. Trouble for Putin is this. Does he want the revolution, because to act at this point would certainly bring the ire of just about everyone in Ukraine. He’ll probably go back to blackmailing Ukraine with gas and bail outs.
It is for this reason that the West and Europe must act quickly and with a lot of money in support of the Ukrainians. If we pussy foot, which is the standard lead-from-behind technique of Obama, we will lose. Next is dominos. Russia and Putin are set to pressure all the old republics into joining a new Russian “federation” somewhat like the old USSR. What Ukraine does will make or break Putin’s thuggery.
Maybe Ukraine will split into East and West Ukraine. So what holds Ukraine together? Kiev, the magnificent old original capital of Russia which all Ukrainians love and the feeling that they are a people apart from the Russians. A desire for modernization instead of Russian mafia-run big businesses. Solidarity with Poles/Czechs/Serbs and other Slavs other than the Russians. Will that trump Russian meddling and leftist populism? Stay tuned.