UKRAINE AND RUSSIA, WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE
Ukraine needs its ultra-violent extremists removed or neutralised to become a normally functioning state. This is the most vital challenge facing Ukraine and has been since at least 2014, and in fact long before.
This extremely negative factor within Ukrainian society has acted as an effective veto against Ukraine making peace with its own people in the Donbass and against it ironing out the problems that divide the nation in two regarding language and culture.
No nation has quite the split down the middle that Ukraine does. For historical reasons going back centuries and for many that currently manifest themselves going back to the events, loyalties and ambitions generated by World War II and especially the disruption of a unified democracy in 2014 the divide between east and west Ukraine has never been wider with those in the middle region having split loyalties.
In broad terms those Ukrainians who live in the west of the country tend naturally to look west toward the nations of the European Union while those in the east tend naturally to look to the east and their neighbour, Russia. In the west the language tends to be Ukrainian, in the east Russian. There is a sizeable minority in the west that is signed up to the mythology that Hitler and the Nazis were beneficial for the sought for sovereignty of a Ukrainian state during World War II by being virulently opposed to the Soviet Union that through Stalin had so harmed Ukraine. This legacy of honouring that bonding of Ukrainian ultra-nationalism and Nazism continues to this day. Those living in the east and south-east of Ukraine have a completely opposite outlook in general. They look back to the Second World War and honour the memory of those in the red Army who came to liberate them from Hitler’s Nazis. In this brief explanation I think you will easily discern why the demographic distribution and diverse outlook of either side has become problematic.
The problems inherent in the situation described above came to a head in the winter of 2013-14 when the broadly democratically-elected president of Ukraine (and the one most favoured by the eastern Ukrainians) was undecided about whether or not to accept an offer of assistance from the European Union or Russia. He was offered an agreement with the European Union that would have taken Ukraine some way toward joining it, not a full membership but a move in that direction. He hesitated and the protesters on Maidan Square in the capital Kiev began to riot. The result was that the government of Ukraine at the time fell and the president fled the country in fear of his life.
Perhaps consider for a moment how the people in Crimea and eastern Ukraine felt at that moment. Generally neglected by the central government in Kiev you can perhaps understand their dismay that what were in effect their enemies had just taken down both the government and president they had elected. And that there was an American hand linked to the whole process. Imagine their feelings if you can. They knew well that extremely violent men, young men in the main, had used every form of violence imaginable to effect their goal. These men were not knew to them. They recognised them as those who painted swastikas on walls and on Jewish headstones and memorials as well as on memorials dedicated to the liberation of Ukraine by the red Army. They knew also that these man had a name for all of them in the east, this name was ‘Moskals’, meaning Russians. They knew also of the chant that they used when marching, sometimes in torch-lit processions, “Russians on Knives!”.
It was clear to the people of the east and south-east that the balance of cultures and languages was about to be disrupted just as the democratic process was. The predictable calls by the violin ultra-nationalists were soon before the state parliament in laws seeking to ban Russian and make only Ukrainian the global language of Ukraine. The extreme forces that had done all they could to harm or kill the security forces on Maidan Square began to appear both on the Crimean Peninsula and in the main cities of the east and south-east. The expected trouble in the east from those fresh from warring on Maidan Square had begun.
What was to be done? Wait and see what happens? But they knew well in the east what was about to happen, Russian was to become a second and perhaps completely lost language to them, they were to be made second-class Ukrainians, reviled, indeed hated, repressed and totally dominated by those who had assumed power. They then of course, looked for a solution whereby they could be assured neither they nor the children to come would live under the conditions being planned for them.
Crimea asked for help from Russia, held a referendum which gave the go-ahead for reunification with Russia to reverse a decree in the Fifties that had separated them from her. The more mixed but still mostly pro-Russian population of the Donbass in eastern Ukraine sought something similar but their situation was not nearly as clear-cut as that on Crimea.
So it was that two republics announced themselves in the Donbass after a bloodless taking of administrative buildings in the region. It was after only a week or two with no dialogue called for the the new authorities in the capital Kiev sent in the military to forcibly remove those who had taken power in the Donbass.
Eight years and 14,000 deaths later that army is still in place surrounding the two republics and a state of war continues to exist with sporadic deaths reported on a regular basis.
Now to the solutions that may be arrived at through the special operations, Operation Z that Russia mounted some twelve days ago. Before we do so, perhaps a short description of a peace settlement that has already existed for seven long years without implementation, the Minsk Accords. In these accords Kiev promises to talk directly to the leaders of the republics and to pass a law granting the republics special status guaranteeing them a high degree of autonomy whereby they can retain and protect their unique culture, loyalties and language in posterity. Unfortunately Kiev has lived up to neither promise and this is the primary reason why we are where we are with Ukraine at this present moment.
Operation Z as it is called is the Russian response to the failure of Kiev to do several things:
Failure to engage in direct talks with the leaders of the two republics as promised.
Failure to pass a law providing the two republics and the greater Donbass region with the special status providing a high degree of autonomy as promised.
Failure to maintain a neutral status with regard to the security needs of Russia in respect of NATO.
Failure to deal effectively with the ultra-violent minority of militias who have a de facto veto regarding all governmental decision making.
The goals of Operation Z do not extend to a takeover of Ukraine. This is a common misconception. Russia requires a functioning Ukrainian president and government in order to effect the goals above seen as the only way Ukraine can return to being a reasonably normal nation in good relation with all neighbours.
These goals, effecting success in respect of factors 1 to 4, rather than the continuing failure require a functioning Ukrainian president and government, to effect them in any other way would lay Russia open to a world of troubles in years to come.
The object is to have a fully-functioning Ukrainian state with which to have good relations and trading partnerships with where all normal conditions between neighbouring states prevail. A puppet president and government is not sought for. It will take only an agreement with the present placeholders on effecting a successful conclusion to factors 1-4 above for Operation Z to come to an end and the work done to reach a successful conclusion on 1-4 to begin.
When all is said and done a new and normalised Ukraine will result, a good neighbour and willing trading partner becoming ever more successful economically with a population at peace with itself glad to be rid of violent extremism that had been so long in its midst and which had so devastated its desires for a stable and happy life for the Ukrainian people.