A Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Ukraine, 2009-2011), historian, college teacher, and retired nonprofit director, Fran offers a multi-layered perspective on current issues, culture and community. A different voice. A unique perspective. From the bottom up.
Friday, June 5, 2015
"For most of the 20th century, Ukraine was the victim of two equally malevolent empires—Germany and Russia. Germany's contribution to Ukraine's devastation was the two World Wars; Russia's was the imposition of Soviet rule and the concomitant destruction of Ukraine's peasantry and elites. Unsurprisingly, a constant images in 20th-century Ukrainian commentary is that of their country being caught between a hammer and an anvil./ The 21st century may be witnessing a fundamental break with Ukraine's tragic geopolitical position. While Russia is acting according to its historical script, post-Holocaust, post-unification Germany appears to be emerging as Europe's benevolent hegemon." Newsweek, May 30, 2015
This is one of the most succinct descriptions of the 20th-century Ukrainian experience I've seen. Ukraine's modern history in a nutshell. It is a tortuous, conflicted history, between a rock and a hard place.
Putin's relentless aggression against Ukraine, his orchestrated "hybrid war" to destroy and destablize the country, so shocking to the world and most of all to Ukraine itself, is more than the resumption of the Cold War. It's also a return to the geopolitical stage of the early 20th century, the World Wars and their aftermaths. Revanchism and patriarchy together, personified in one man.
In part this history also encompasses the issue of why a Ukrainian national identity has been so fragile. It's something I thought about when I lived in Starobelsk. Ukraine has had a hard time cementing itself together, building on its unique cultural traditions and shared visions. There's wasn't much "E pluribus unum" in Ukraine. I struggled with that.
Today I think this is changing. With the illegal Russian invasion and occupation of Crimea and Putin's criminal aggression in the Donbas, Ukraine has become more unified than ever. War has reinforced the transition.Ukraine has to survive.
This is one of the ironies of luddite Putin's revenge, so backward-looking. Ukraine is finding its unique identity, finding its voice. It's a work in progress, but beyond Putin's relentless Reign of Terror in the east, beyond his lies and cynical propaganda campaign, a new Ukraine is emerging.
I believe president Poroshenko is trying his best to make it happen. He is addressing corruption and the economy. He seems to be honest and commited. I believe it's what the vast majority of people across Ukraine fervently want, peace and prosperity. Not all of Lugansk and not all of Donetsk oblasts are in the hands of Putin's army and terrorist proxies, not yet. The areas now occupied are not free, not autonomous, not strong. They are decimated and destroyed; millions have fled. They are Putin's wastelands.
Sadly, Putin's War continues. Mariupol and the Azov region are in danger. Minsk 2 meant nothing from day one, when the terrorists destroyed Debalteseve and then gloated over it. "Our trophies," they laughed. Minsk 2 is only a hook for politicians to hang their hats on. Nothing more. The war never stopped and Putin is now stepping it up, a tragic pattern of destruction, orchestrated with glee. His criminal gangs, biker gangs, hoodlums, and soldiers (not acknowledged even to their families) are destroying everything in their path.
Only Putin can stop the war, but that's not going to happen. It exposes his paranoia, betrayal, and evil. He is a mad dog. There's only one glimmer of hope on the horizon as far as I can see. The longer Putin's War lasts, the more unified the rest of Ukraine will become. In the long run, Putin will lose, and take Russia down with him, and Ukraine will be victorious.