Dead Men Left

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Back to the Ukraine

Naturally, other, better-informed bloggers have been publishing articles on the Ukraine. I recommend you take a look at Daniel Brett's recent posts, in the most recent of which he claims

The battle over Ukraine's political future is not simply Clash of Civilisations, between authoritarian Russia in the east and the liberal bureaucracy of the EU in the west. No-one should dismiss Ukraine's geopolitical importance as a strategic transit corridor between the hydrocarbons rich Central Asia and the energy-hungry Western Europe.

This is a world away from the happy liberal view (good West vs. bad East) that can pass for comment otherwise. As a background to the current crisis, the move to create the NATO-aligned GUUAM bloc of countries - Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbijan, Moldova - shortly after the 1999 Kosovo war can be seen as part of the same pattern: the US, through a system of "vassals" and "tributaries", playing on the "chessboard" of the world for an uneven distribution of the spoils, opposed by a potentially threatening coalition of forces in the East, China and Russia. The descriptions here belong to Zbigniew Bzerinski, a senior foreign policy advisor under assorted US Presidents, and a man who is perhaps most famous for remarking of the US's financing and training of the mujahedeen in Afghanistan:

What was more important in the world view of history? The Taliban or the fall of the Soviet Empire? A few stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?

The "war on terror" can be represented as a deliberate attempt to break from the era of "realism" in foreign policy, in favour of a more directly interventionist stance. The unease expressed by no less a Cold Warrior than Henry Kissinger over the invasion of Iraq certainly indicates a shift in US foreign policy.

Of course, the fact that geopolitical bickering is taking place over Ukraine's future - and, most particulary, the future of its natural resources - does not mean that we can wash our hands of the country. Clearly, to stress the point, the past experience of modern revolutions in Eastern Europe provides a guide to what principled socialists should (and should not) be doing; we are with the people against the ruling bureaucracy, whether in Stalinist or plutocratic guise.

DoDo, over here, has numerous posts on the Ukraine. (Scroll down to find them.) One of these reports on a certain material improvement in Ukraine's economic standing of late, after a catastrophic series of years in the 1990s. It would be interesting to hear how this growth has been distributed; much of the protests are motivated, plainly and simply, by economic concerns and the perception that an elite are creaming off the national wealth. If anybody's seen anything on income and wealth distribution in the Ukraine, I'd be interested to know: it would surprise if the country had become far more inegalitarian over the last few years, even as economic growth took off.