I have been patiently silent on the situation developing in the Ukraine. Now I believe is the time to give my views. There is a great and global danger and we are all involved.
Much of my novel, The Masterful Manipulation of George Cove is set in the Ukraine and is about the rise of Ukrainian nationalism in the 1970’s when they were last under Soviet rule and as I watch the plot unfold I see that history is repeating itself. I have been to the Ukraine and I have many Ukrainian friends. So let me say first up I have a great respect for the Slavic and Russian people and they are the ones that are suffering the most and that suffering is likely to increase.
Let’s get a bit of historical perspective. In nineteen sixty-four when Brezhnev (incidentally born in the Ukraine) took over from Khrushchev for an 18 year period of control, second only to that on Stalin. He implemented the ‘Brezhnev Doctrine’. Basically it meant that he could intervene in any country that was not on the ‘correct’ path of socialism. So in short, Moscow had Poland, Byelorussia (as it was then known) and Ukraine by the economic balls. And how did they enforce it? They did it by shipping Russians into those countries under the pretext of manning the industrial development. Warsaw, Minsk and Kiev were Russian. Don’t ever believe they aren’t.
So Putin is now re-implementing the ‘Brezhnev Doctrine’ knowing that in the east of Ukraine there are significant numbers of ‘ethnic’ Russians shipped there by Brezhnev; it is in the east of Ukraine that the heavy industry is based.
But that is getting ahead of the story. The initial cause of the unrest in current Ukraine was twofold. First was the scandalous corruption of the ex-President Viktor Yanukovych. If you live in the west you cannot imagine the scale of the political corruption. If you want an example just search the internet for pictures of the mansion he built for himself and his son (also with his finger in the pie). Secondly was Yanukovych changing allegiance in December from a trade arrangement with the EC back to Russian support. Not proven but probably for personal gain as well as threats from Russian President, Putin.
The people of Ukraine had had enough and staged their protest in Kiev’s Independence Square (the Maidan) which finally led to the death of nearly 100 Ukrainians – from across the country.
During this period Alexandra was writing to me daily from Kiev and at the height of the problems these are her words written to me, contemporaneously.
You know with all these events in Ukraine I do feel so pessimistic.
Yes I am at work but to tell the truth I do not feel like working at all. Yesterday I was watching the news with my parents and we are shocked about the things going on here. More and more people are killed and the President does not want to reach the peace. He was planning to have a meeting with European politicians but I am not sure if that will help.
People all over Ukraine try to come to Kiev to take part in the riots but they cancel most of the trains from other parts of Ukraine. There is so much police in the streets and they block the streets and high ways.
So as you see the situation in Ukraine is very dangerous and all that is left to us is to hope that things will be solved soon. People say that our President has his hands in blood but as you know he does not care and he will not leave the power for any price.
Do you think the President can reach the agreement with the Ukrainian people?
Do you think there is any chance that this situation will be over soon?
There was another fight yesterday and since then 20 people were killed. The President is not going to stop and I guess he does not really care how many people are killed. This is sort of civil war and I am not sure when that is going to be over. The age of people that were killed is 2-40 years old.
Today morning the President and the leaders of opposition were going to meet but at the last moment the President has cancelled that and his demand is that people left the Maidan and went home.
So do you think that will stop soon?
What do you hear in the news about things that are going on in Ukraine?
The situation in Kiev is getting extreme again and more people were killed. I try not to come to the city and today. I plan to finish my work earlier. My mother and I decided to spend the whole evening in the kitchen. And we will cook for father tonight.
I feel so sorry for those young people that were killed by their own government. I still cannot believe all those things happened in Ukraine and my parents and I are praying for all these things finish soon and coming back to normal life.
Everybody here is in shock about the bad things going on here and we try to support each other.
Today morning my mother and I were in the city and we came to bring products and medicine to the poor people. I still feel like crying. People are hiding in the churches and in the cathedrals that used to be places for sightseeing.
There is a very big risk there will be a Civil war in Ukraine if people separate into two parts. That will be a disaster. In total 78 people were killed for the last 2 days, can you believe this?
Do you think that Ukrainian president will resign soon and that he will stop killing his own folk?
Well Yanukovych did run away and he wasn’t over thrown and the legitimate parliament of Ukraine elected a new Government. That does seem to me be legitimate.
But the Russian’s were influential in the unrest. There are strong rumours, again unsubstantiated, that the snipers that killed so many were in fact Russian military. Putin was already inciting unrest as he saw his opportunity which presumably is to rebuild the Russian Empire and influence lost when Yeltsin took over.
And that is the policy he has followed in the Crimea. Inciting unrest, claiming he is supporting ethnic Russians and annexing part of a country.
Although it is likely and almost probable that if there had been a properly managed referendum, with the option of a no vote, then Crimea might still have voted for greater independence from the centre; but that is not the point. The actions Putin has taken have ensured that we will never know but worse it has increased the tensions in all the eastern cities. With troops still massed on Ukraine’s eastern borders there is no guarantee that we have seen the end of the incursions.
So why is this so important and why are the western politicians right in their response?
A world war was started when Hitler invaded Poland and this is potentially is every bit as serious although thankfully the west has so far ruled out any military response in favour of economic actions. We can make many arguments for and against the effectiveness of democracy but one seemingly universally accepted precept is that each citizen has the right to determine their own future – and that is the right Putin is removing from the people of the Ukraine.
That is what we should be working towards.
If Putin was a real world leader he would be working with the EC and the USA to help Ukraine build a real and prosperous society with trade links to both sides.
But we have to be careful with what we hear; it isn’t only Moscow that are experts in misinformation. So while the west is being sanctimonious with its response we should also point out that there are very large oil shale fields in the east of the Ukraine capable of meeting many of Europe’s long term needs. Maybe both sides are taking a longer energy economic perspective?
Similarly not everything in the Ukraine is perfect. There are ultra-right wing nationalist groups but they are a minority and they have been at the forefront of much of the unrest. But they are a very small minority and there are of course similar groups in most western democracies including the UK, France and the USA.
But we deal with them through a democratic process that drowns out their voice and gives them little support; but we don’t have agitators in our midst building them up and giving them cause. At the moment this looks like the start of a new cold war. There is still plenty of room for manoeuvre and compromises but will either side take advantage of the time that is left.
The very large majority of people in Ukraine, Belarus (still headed by a dictator of the old Russian style) and even Russia are fine people struggling for a good life. They are being let down by the political classes.
We need to be concerned and we need to support the people of the Ukraine. We need to support western governments with their economic sanctions. Russia may retaliate with oil price rises but they also need the revenue. It is difficult to guess which way that will pan out. But we can not just sit back and watch disinterestedly.
My once very best friend, Sviatlana is from Belarus and my current love, Alexandra is Ukrainian. I like Slavic people a great deal. I commemorate each year the enormous sacrifices they made during the Second World War when their casualties were almost 20 times that of the Allies. I have great respect for them.
We should all show solidarity with their cause. Now is not the time to let them down.