Amidst Thanksgiving weekend festivities (which for me included visiting with family, eating copious amounts of food, shopping for books, and watching the Rockets beat the Nets and Spurs), I kept seeing reports of unrest in Ukraine pop up on my Twitter feed.
Ukraine’s current president, Viktor Yanukovych, is a toady for Putin’s Moscow, and in that role he rejected a trade deal with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia. Ukrainians, tired of centuries of Russian domination, were naturally pissed, and took to the streets to protest. Those protests continued to grow during the weekend, with the attendant clashes with police and volleys of tear gas, and even some members of the ruling coalition quitting in protest. Even John Kerry’s ineffectual State Department was forced to issue one of its toothless, pro-forma protests.
What it boils down to is the latest incarnation of a very old struggle of Ukrainians trying to throw off the yoke of Moscow’s rule. It looked like they had succeeded in the Orange Revolution in 2004-2005, but then Putin’s catspaws managed to slither their way back into power, all part of Russia’s attempt to assert control in its “Near Abroad” (i.e., the other states of the former Soviet Union). Then there’s that little issue of the Soviet Union killing between 4 million and 14 million people in the Holodomor.
Will Democracy succeed? Never underestimate the willingness of authoritarians (or totalitarians) to murder their own people when push comes to shove. But Yanukovych can only do so much. There’s no love lost between Ukraine’s armed forces and their Russian counterparts, so I sincerely doubt they would back Yanukovych in an actual revolution or civil war.
Would Russia intervene militarily in Ukraine? I never put anything past Vladamir Putin (remember, he’s almost certainly the guy who ordered the poisoning of Yanukovych’s rival Viktor Yushchenko with dioxin), but invading the Ukraine would probably be a bridge too far for even the squishy EU.
Recent reports have troops moving in toward the protestors.
Russia Today has regular updates on the situation. (Note that’s Russia Today, not Ukraine Today, and adjust for bias accordingly.)