Thursday, February 06, 2014

Deja vu in Ukraine

What is happening now in Ukraine reminds me of what happened in Yugoslavia around 1990. Then too the West demonized the leader of that country (Milosevic - Yanukovich). Then too it supported parts of the opposition that were deemed "reasonable" while in fact their wishes were deeply destabilizing. Just as the push for independence of Croatia and Slovenia blew up Yugoslavia so the attempt of the protesters in Ukraine to overthrow their democratically elected government destabilizes Ukraine.

Similar is also Western propaganda that highlights the mistakes of those leaders. Never mind that most people would make mistakes in such unusual circumstances. Then it was Milosevic's handling of minority questions. Now it Yanukovich's handling of the protests. Yet both were more reasonable than it seems. In the communist era minorities had in theory self rule while below the surface the communist party held the country together. So Milosevic was right that something had to be done when the communist party fell away. Similarly the communist party maintained order with a few very general laws about state security. With the end of communism these fell away but those countries didn't introduce the detailed Western laws that regulate protest. In no Western country would it be possible that protesters held the central square and the city hall of the capital occupied for months. So Yanukovich was right to introduce new laws. He overdid it a bit but no one is perfect.

Of course there is nothing wrong with democratic protests against such measures. And it is only good when that leads to improvements. But democratic protest assumes that the monopoly on violence of the government is respected. What happens in Ukraine looks more like a kind of coup than democratic protest.

The problem for the Ukrainian government is that its police does not have the skills to deal with the kind of highly sophisticated opposition that it is facing now. The situation requires a kind of controlled violence. But the badly trained and disciplined police is bound to use more violence than is strictly necessary. And even then it faces a significant chance that it will loose the battle. And to augment the problem the Western countries are bound to magnify any real or imaginary mistake that they will make.

Yanukovich is corrupt. But so was Berlusconi. Yet no one ever suggested to attack him with the kind of protests that are now happening in Ukraine. Neither is it likely that a victory of the protests in Ukraine will lead to a decrease of corruption. If anything, it will likely lead to an increase, as any oligarch will add organizing protests to his arsenal of tactics to force the government to do his liking.

The intercepted telephone call between US diplomats shows once more what makes US diplomacy so harmful: the "winner" mentality that refuses to understand that democracy is about dialogue and compromise.

The most important thing now in Ukraine is that order is restored. Even if that takes drastic police action. There are things that are more important than democracy.

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