Here’s a brief summary of what I see as the perspective of the Russians I know regarding Ukraine. I should point out that Vladimir Putin is not a very popular figure among these people with whom I conduct my business.
From the Russian perspective, the protesters in Kiev were far more violent than the police, who for the most part acted with restaint that absolutely would not be seen in any other country on Earth. Imagine an armed Occupy protest in Washington, DC – it wouldn’t be permitted for more than a day or two.
The second point, one that everyone seems to be missing, is that an uprising in Kiev and other western cities in no way reflects the wishes of people in the entire country. People in the east want no part of this – if it were voted on, the answer would be a clear no. Most people in the east speak Russian, the overwhelming majority in Crimea speak Russian, and there is simply no way Russia is going to let them be dictated to by a government put in Kiev by way of coup. There is also no way that Russia is going to surrender it’s military base in Crimea. That certainly had to be known from the beginning – neither Russia, nor any other powerful country, including the US, would tolerate the loss of a key military base over a coup.
The third point, what probably troubles the average Russian more than anything else, is the fascist nature of this coup. The uprising in the early stages merely baffled the Russian observer. Why would Ukrainians go to so much trouble distancing themselves politically from Russia when the main objective seemed to be joining the EU, or at least putting themselves on a path to joining some day, when stronger nations such as Greece and Italy have suffered so terribly under European austerity and too-big-to-fail bailouts? This perplexing formula for revolution took a turn for the worse when the most extreme right-wing elements began more and more to dictate the agenda, until now, when it seems unclear whether Ukraine is being led by the West, or by the punch-drunk boxer and similar comic figures, or by outright fascists!
From my perspective, as an American, I find it intolerable that elements within the government, the State Department, the Pentagon, the CIA, and various foundations and NGOs take it upon themselves to act on behalf of the American people to select what sort of government is acceptable in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria, and now Ukraine, and of course the list goes on. I don’t mind, and even cheer for, mass uprisings in every country, as long as it’s not some kind of provocation with billions of dollars behind it so that the US State Dept. can get the leadership THEY choose, and rest assured, Ukrainians will never choose anyone from now on – it will be chosen by Europe and the US, and the closer they get to joining the EU, the more that will be the case. Secondly, Russia does not want Ukraine in NATO, and neither do I. It’s not good for Russia, obviously, but how is it good for the US to have countries like Georgia and Ukraine in NATO. As soon as one of these lunatic leaders gets involved in some kind of major conflict they can’t win, we will be bound by treaty to intervene on their behalf. No thanks!
I wish I could feel hopeful about Ukraine, but I just don’t see much of a future for them in the EU, at least not one that would be much better than that of Greece, or Spain, or Portugal… But if that’s what the protesters want, maybe they should have it and will get it. I’m not sure they understand what they’re signing up for, but I certainly wish them the best. They will soon be under IMF conditionalities and that story NEVER ends well. But if they can make that decision, then why can’t the ethnic Russians of the east also make that decision? Are those stories ever reported on in Europe or America? Those Russians didn’t just move to Crimea last year, you know. And now the Russian language is being banned from official use. I don’t doubt the sincerity of the majority of the protestors, but they only knew what they didn’t want, not what they DO want, and now the groups in Ukraine that have always known what they want are taking power, and it’s not pretty!