Monday, April 14, 2014

A Relic of the Past: Revanchism and Putin in Ukraine

AP story, April 13, 2014 (Yahoo). 
Yahoo images
The news coming out of eastern Ukraine gets worse and worse.  I asked my friend Yuliya, who is from Starobelsk, what she thought.  She worked with an outstanding Lugansk NGO when I was in Ukraine and is now studying in Boston, a lucky thing. “Looks like the Crimea scenario,” she said.  Russia will occupy, invade, and hold referendums to annex. There are armed men and thugs in government buildings, on rooftops, hoisting the Russian flag. Now there is violence and murder, and it will increase.    

I feel more and more hopeless, which is driving me to become more and more stoic, just like Ukrainians in the face of disaster.  What can you do?  The unrest is too deep.  The failures of the national government since independence in 1991 to serve the needs of the people too mired in corruption.  The intrusions, provocations and violence sponsored by Russia too damaging, insistent, and becoming entrenched. Russia has mastered the art of covert disruption and intervention and Putin’s 12-step program is working.  The Crimea Scenario.

The War has begun, and there’s nothing anyone, any nation, can do about it.   Who wants another war? How can the EU impose the kinds of economic sanctions needed against Russia when they go against Europe’s own self-interest? How will US saber-rattling, such as re-positioning the navy, change anything? So western nations at the UN line up to condemn Putin's actions. So what? They finally see what's really going on, and can do nothing.   Putin knows this, delights in it, and will keep on implementing his 12-step program for the greater good of the Motherland. 

Russia will take over Ukraine bit by bit, town by town, oblast (county) by oblast.  My closest Ukrainian friends will be my new Russian friends.

That’s  how it looks now. The only positive thing to which I cling is that I don’t think the younger generations will stand for it forever.  But "forever" is a long time.

The Russian-induced and orchestrated crisis in Ukraine will play out, maybe past my time.  One day, some day, the dreams of a United Ukraine might emerge from the ashes of Russian imperialist intervention and the dustbin of Russian history.    

And it is the dustbin of Russian history that Putin is stirring up.  It’s odd. Putin’s language, posturing and behavior, his way of thinking, is from another time, another era. My sister Andy pointed this out.  Maybe a 19th century “law of the jungle” attitude, as German chancellor Angela Merkel put it.  Or a Post-World War II and 1950s Cold War mentality. All hail to Russia's "Sphere of Influence."  No matter that "spheres of influence" have changed and continue to change drastically in a super-interconnected, wired world dominated by economic inter-relationships. 

Even George W. Bush wondered about a man who made fun of his little dog and insisted his  dog was bigger, better and stronger, a stance, Bush said, that motivated his very fine portrait of Putin. "Mine is bigger than yours." 

Putin is just not “with it," not open or tolerant; not contemporary in his thinking and not wise in the ways of a changing world;  not fully cognizant of the role of technology in opening up and uniting the planet; unable to reform the economic system he created and that is failing;  incapable of seizing opportunities for economic growth, civil society, and modernization.    

Putin’s vision is dated, like that of the old apparatchiks  that now surround him and want to try Gorbachev for treason.  Putin’s vision stands on military might, not economic might for the 21st century, a concept that China grasps instinctively and that is powering its economic growth. 

Putin has an old and clouded vision, shrouded in ancient and past illusions, in perceived slights and historic offenses.  He wants some form of retaliation, revenge, redress for past wrongs.  Revanchism, as Robin Niblett called it in a special report to CNN (April 12, 2014). 

Putin is not a man of his times.  He’s a man from another time. Someone who has not grown in the largest meaning of the word.  A Luddite and naysayer.   A relic of the past.

No wonder a much younger president Obama, a man of the 21st century, doesn’t understand him.  

Meanwhile, the tragedy unfolds. 

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