Thursday, May 1, 2014

Is Ukraine a country or a geographical region?

The Austrian master diplomat Metternich commented on the lack of Italian unification by noting to the British Foreign Minister that "Italy is only a geographical expression."  It might be worth pondering if the same applies to Ukraine today.

Before we answer that question though, it should be noted that to date, governments and the media have taken pains to treat Ukraine like a real country.  After all, they have a president (interim) and a parliament and a constitution.  They have police and an Army.  They have a currency and a modern economy.  They have diplomats and a potential IMF deal.  Everything that makes a modern state seems to exist within Ukraine to date.

So how is it that Ukraine says that Militants Won the East.  How did the Crimea detach without a fight?  Why is there so much confusion over who is doing what in eastern and southern Ukraine?
“Inactivity, helplessness and even criminal betrayal” plague the security forces, the acting leader, Oleksandr V. Turchynov, told a meeting of regional governors in Kiev. “It is hard to accept but it’s the truth. The majority of law enforcers in the east are incapable of performing their duties.”
The reality is that the militants and militias arrayed against the Ukrainian government are not a true threat to the government in their ability to project power or do much beyond hold a government building or two in a city.  But the government has shown itself to be non-existent and incapable of even handling that!

It begs the question though, what sort of government is this if it a) can't protect its borders from annexation b) doesn't even fight for its borders c) can't even hold onto the city halls in several provinces and d) has almost zero ability to do much besides issue threats and beg for help.

To me, this makes a lot more sense when you consider that since 2004, there have been two "revolutions" that have ousted the same guy.  The man who got ousted in a revolution ousted the ousters, was ousted again then ousted the ouster once more before having a riot in the capital send him packing.  Seems a bit too complicated for my blood.

In any event, the message to me is pretty clear.  Ukraine has no ability to protect its geographical claims.  Ukraine has no ability to police within its borders.  Ukraine has a crazy political tradition that is punctuated by political crisis and reversion to the status quo.  Ukraine's existence as a country is shorter than that of The Simpsons television show.

If this were Africa, we'd have already declared this to be a part of Africa's instability narrative.  If it was Asia, there'd be talks of ethnic and religious tensions.  But this is Europe and this is related to Russia, so the narrative is getting pitched sort of sideways in a way that seems to ignore the very basic fact that Ukraine is a mess, Period.

Ignoring that fact allows us to be upset that Russia has taken the Crimea.  Ignoring that a country that doesn't have an ability to prevent its dismemberment is not really a country makes this seem much more important.

I don't fully understand why the borders of Ukraine have become so sacrosanct (or the borders of the rest of the world for that matter).  Pretty much every border anywhere that existed in the 1950s is a sacred line that was drawn with great wisdom that must not be disturbed.  I understand that the rationale was to prevent war and to keep conflicts civil.  But the result has been to turn certain areas into conflict vortexs.  Areas that just keep conflict as their status quo and spill outwards in unexpected and negative ways.

This tendency to keep collapsed civil order in a nation and not allow for a larger power to take over brings a lot of benefits.  The problem is that these civil law deserts spread.  Desertification of the political order follows and affects all of a collapsed state's neighbors eventually.

Maybe that's ultimately better than allowing such areas to fall prey to greedy neighbors, but ignoring the very real consequences of a policy that freezes borders where they are and treats geographical countries like political ones has potentially huge ramifications.

*Edited to handle mistake on Metternich's country*

29 comments:

  1. The Ukraine is a sovereign country under low intensity attack by Russia.

    To talk about whether it's a country or not is dangerous talk, for it disrespects sovereignty and can thus prepare the ground for aggressors.

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    1. The alternative is what's happening now. General lawlessness and lack of order. Sovereignty should be respected, but I think we need to recognize that the existence of borders does not grant that. The existence of a president or a government doesn't grant that either if they can't exercise governing authority.

      Russia is definitely stirring the pot, but Ukraine doesn't even know what's happening in their own country and within their territory. How is it any more sovereign than Somalia? Or the "Tribal regions" of Pakistan? Or parts of Yemen? Or Libya or Mali?

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    2. "General lawlessness and lack of order" are typical companions of invasions.
      Besides, order is overrated.

      And AGAIN; please stop the disrespectful talk about a country's sovereignty. You're in very, very bad company with this.

      You're basically saying that once a country has trouble, it's up for grabs. Because that's what it means to dismiss a country's sovereignty; to announce that other countries don't need to respect its sovereignty any more.

      Stop it, please.

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    3. S O,

      Your arguments would have greater weight with me if i wasn't pretty sure that the West is consistently violating sovereignty when it suits their needs. I don't hear anyone complaining about Kenyan troops in Somalia or French troops in Mali or other countries like that.
      For that matter how is this different from Yugoslavia? Where's the difference here?

      Sovereignty is has and always will be a fluid concept. We've defined it very rigidly to suit our political needs, usually not those who would benefit best/most.

      I'm not trying to say that a troubled country should be up for grabs. I think that nations should have a sovereignty that should be respected, but I think we may have gone too far down the path of protecting "sovereignty." There is a limit, IMO, to what is effective and worth respecting.

      In the same way that a house in a neighborhood that is constantly on fire, having corrupt and corrupting individuals hanging around, or involved in illicit activity should be brought to the general attention of its neighbors. A nation that isn't really a nation like the rest doesn't deserve respect like the rest.

      BTW, not saying that Ukraine is like that. It's clearly an unstable creation of post-cold war craziness, but it's not, yet, radiating instability.

      PF Khans

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    4. The French were not violating Malian sovereignty because they came to help the government. Cote d'Ivoire would have been a better example.
      Kenyans in Somalia are there in part for self-defence (after plenty cross-border raids by Somalians) and because there's no recognised Somalian government opposing them.
      The Kosovo Air War and OIF are better examples.

      But your logic is faulty. A couple women in your neighbourhood get raped, so there's no problem with talking disrespectful of women's rights?


      Your thinking is too state-centric. Sovereignty is the people's, not the illusion of a state's. Effective government or not, the people have a right to sovereignty and their rights are not up for grabs.
      Note how Kenya is not in Somalia for offensive purposes as is Russia in the Ukraine.

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  2. Ukraine is becoming essentially an empty shell. The current government is hopelessly divided and how exactly is cracking down on eastern Ukraine going to provide them with any support? Of course the actions/violence of the far Right in Western Ukraine is getting no mention in the Western mass media . . . so the propaganda is on thick and heavy. Kerry's already conflated Ukraine with NATO which of course is not part of NATO, but why worry about such distinctions when the emphasis is beating those war drums? . . . It comes across as a lot of posturing with the dubious assumption that the US can constantly escalate without any danger of this whole mess getting out of control.

    I suspect that the Ukrainian radical nationalists actually wish to break the country up and establish their own regime in the west, so they have every reason to kick start a civil war in the east, in spite of whatever orders they got from the Director of the CIA. They are playing the Cheneyites/neocons as the total fools they are . . .

    Astrategic spasms . . . emanating from a hopelessly corrupt and delusional elite with their various toadies groveling in their wake. A sad spectacle of what the US and EU have become.

    I found this talk quite refreshing. Warning: Russian propaganda, but at least it's rational propaganda . . .

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9674pRBm6g

    Oh, and Metternich was a Rhinelander who served the Austrian crown . . .

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    1. Whoops! you are correct. Misread a source.

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  3. Via SST. Worth a read . . .

    https://wikispooks.com/wiki/Document:Battleground_Ukraine

    Russian view, most likely with an impressive dose of disinformation (I agree with David Habakkuk), but interesting in terms of the perspective and the questions it raises regarding our own assumptions . . .

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  4. I can think of a similar "country", basically an impoverished collection of semi-dependent political, ethnic, and religious communities, recently broken off from the large empire to which it had been no more than a minor border region. Chaotic "government", plagued by massive debt, dysfunctional revenue, internal strife and even open rebellions - one over something as fundamental as the "government's" power to control its own citizens.

    In the western part of this "country" protesters used violence and intimidation to prevent federal officials from collecting the tax. Resistance came to a climax when a government officer arrived in the western part of the region and more than 500 armed men attacked the fortified home of tax inspector. The central government responded by sending peace commissioners to to negotiate with the rebels, while at the same time calling on other regional governors to send a militia force to enforce the tax. Finally the rebels all went home before the arrival of the army, and there was no confrontation. About 20 men were arrested, but all were later acquitted or pardoned.

    And y'know what?

    200 years after the Whiskey Rebellion that shitty little quasi-state is still around.

    C'mon, PFK.

    What the hell is "Nigeria"? How long has Poland been a Westphalian state over the past 300 years? Estonia has been one for a whopping total of 42 years; for the remainder of European history "Estonians" were an ethnic group in one larger polity or another.

    Frankly, a "country" is one that can successfully define itself and defend itself as such. One way a "country" does that is by securing powerful allies, as the Ukrainians are trying to do in the West. If they can, and they do, they are a "country".

    If your point here is - and, frankly, I'm not sure WHAT your point here is - that there is some sort of mystery about why "the borders of Ukraine have become so sacrosanct (or the borders of the rest of the world for that matter)" you already answered your own question;" Pretty much every border anywhere that existed in the 1950s is a sacred line that was drawn with great wisdom that must not be disturbed. I understand that the rationale was to prevent war and to keep conflicts civil."

    Yep.

    Why does the OAS make such a big deal about keeping the old colonial boundaries in Africa when they often make little or no sense in ethnic or social senses? Because once you make borders fungible you get fucking Bosnia and the rule of the strongest.

    That's kind of the point here; the Russians know perfectly well that they are the strongest power in eastern Europe. No Briton or American is going to die to keep Donetsk "Ukrainian".

    Your point is essentially the same one the Russians are making: "This isn't a "nation", it's not a "state", so we can't really be "attacking" it or carving off pieces. Sven has a point; that's not good company to be in. The Russian argument is one of the ones that every other invader has used to justify their aggression.

    Frankly, I am quite surprised to hear someone I consider as politically savvy as you are making it.

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    1. Chief,

      "Frankly, a "country" is one that can successfully define itself and defend itself as such. One way a "country" does that is by securing powerful allies, as the Ukrainians are trying to do in the West. If they can, and they do, they are a "country"."

      I suppose that this is where I disagree, Ukraine hasn't defended itself well at all. If they had, then this would be a completely different case.

      There's a reason that the US is an independent state, though, and its because while it could be unstable from time to time, when Britain and France trampled on US rights and priveleges, the US government was able to do something about it.

      The CSA had all sorts of allied sympathies from Europe for a while. Didn't help them much.

      Obviously, Ukraine isn't a moral monstrosity like the CSA, but neither is it the USA.

      "Your point is essentially the same one the Russians are making: "This isn't a "nation", it's not a "state", so we can't really be "attacking" it or carving off pieces. Sven has a point; that's not good company to be in. The Russian argument is one of the ones that every other invader has used to justify their aggression. "

      I'll agree that I think the Russian position is illegitimate at best and evil at worst. But this looks to me like more US blind adventurism than Stalinism. We're backing leaders who had been either jailed or out of power out of a revolution just a few short years ago after the ousted guy got re-elected and then booted and then re-elected again. What the hell kind of ally is this? Russian pressure should hopefully help them get their shit together or else the whole country will fall apart. Sink or swim applies here too.

      I'm trying to be savvy but I think the US is doing something stupid. This is not a slam dunk. The best case scenario would have been for everyone (west and russi) at the outset of this to denounce the coup, make sure an interim coalition government was put in place and that elections were called immediately. That didn't happen because WE backed someone who said "democracy and freedom" and we didn't do any homework into Ukraine or history and now the country is liable to fall apart.

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    2. I think the interventionist faction in the U.S. hoped that by backing the coup - and note that being jailed by an authoritarian is not the same as being jailed for child molesting by Dade County - they could short-circuit the Ukraine being pulled back into Russia's orbit. I agree that it was doomed - Russia will ALWAYS control Ukraine and we should be willing to accept that - but given the loathsomeness of the Putin regime I'm not surprised that the Ukraine coupsters got some support here; the whole "breaking away from Russia" theme has resonance, and in a sentimental republic that thinks of itself as the City on the Hill of democracy it wasn't hard to sell (and that fact that 99.9% of the U.S. public isn't paying attention and wouldn't give a shit if it was...).

      It's hard to remember the hard lessons of Hungary in '56 and Czechoslovakia in '68 and easy to remember the feel-good stories of Poland in the Eighties.

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    3. And I'd add that the "country" was ALWAYS liable to fall apart if given a hard-enough shove - see my reply to seydlitz below.

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  5. In 1914 it was said to be all about "deterring aggression" and "wee scraps of paper", whereas the actual motivations, say the economic ones were better left unmentioned. In the West we still buy off on that same old bs, since it allows us to avoid uncomfortable questions as to the nature of our political systems and the elites who run them, both then and now.

    The Russians of course do not share this history or attitude; Svechin was writing clearly as to the dominate economic and political causes of the Great War in the 1920s, as did of course JFC Fuller . . . basically the Russians have a very different narrative of the last 100 years, and especially of their history since 1991 . . .

    It would behoove us in the West to take this into consideration in our dealings with Russia, but that would require us to leave our own cocoon of dubious yet comfortable and self-referencing assumptions. This of course collides with the dominate "value" in the West today, which is feeling good about oneself and whatever one does. Questioning causes discomfort, which is the only "sin" in the West today . . .

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  6. I am very impressed with the citizens of Ukraine. They seem keen on avoiding a civil war, even though their leadership and the rest of the world is pushing them in that direction.

    I wish the rest of the world would behave as maturely.

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  7. I may have spoken too soon.

    Alas.

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  8. "This of course collides with the dominate "value" in the West today, which is feeling good about oneself and whatever one does."

    WTF? This may perhaps be the silliest thing I've every heard you say, seydlitz, and you NEVER say silly things. I blame Bill Bennett - have you been reading his stuff lately?

    I'll agree that most Western societies have devolved from the degree of enforcement of some sort of social norm that was common before the electronic era. I don't see that as "feeling good about oneself" any more than I see that having an effect on Western politics and policies. If anything the emergence of minorities and outside-the-dominant-sociotype groups has brought the cultural and political scolds out of the woodwork.

    If you mean that Western politics is dominated by sentimental claptrap...well, I'm not sure that this is that much different now than when the U.S. public indulged itself in jingoistic imperial adventures abroad and bizarre indulgences (Prohibition, anyone?) at home...

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  9. Seydlitz may be on to something. Certainly there was a sea change between Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” and the rise of consumerism, mood-altering medications, New Age religiosity, Positive Psychology and self-help gurus.

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    1. You know that "American Gothic" was a satric comment on an American myth, right?

      I agree that the U.S. is more riven and less unified socially today than since 1859. But I think that has a LOT more to do with the attempts by minority groups to aquire mainstream presence, increased political polarity and the rise of the Radical Right, and the return of Gilded Age economics than Ambien and yoge. Please...

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    2. There are multiple interpretations of “American Gothic,’ but if it was satire, the targets were alive and walking about in 1930 when Grant Wood painted the picture.

      I agree that the drivers behind efforts to bring back 19th century capitalism are economic and ideological. There are, however, other aspects to the campaign, not the least of which is the cult of contentment, maturity, and adjustment. Be happy and, of course, stay off the streets.

      On a related subject, when visiting this country, one is struck by the wide-screen HD televisions that dominate attention in what were formerly living rooms. On the screen one drives, or has the illusion of driving, luxury automobiles that fly above traffic, sees and almost tastes meals prepared by world-famous chefs and comes to believe in the magic of pharmaceuticals. Of course, we can toy with the idea of buying, but the fact is that most of us cannot afford these luxuries. The beautifully crafted images suffice in the same way that pornography pinch hits for sex among the unattractive. One might say that vicarious consumerism is the opiate of the dispossessed.

      The emphasis the Third Reich put on vicarious consumer goods 1936 forward is instructive. Rather than produce Volkswagens for civilian consumption, it was enough to provide images of the automobile and its busy factory. As the war economy absorbed more resources, shopkeepers were instructed to fill their show windows with goods to give the illusion of normalcy. The artists’ collective Kunst-Dienst, known for its modernistic tableware, was most active during the war. The group held more than 25 exhibitions in Germany and occupied territories between 1939 and 1943.

      According to data collected by the East German government, citizens who watched West German television were more satisfied than those who did not. Why protest streets, when you could vicariously move to the West? The 1989 revolution began in Dresden, which was out of range of West German television.

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    3. Paul-

      Actually the revolution in 1989 began in Leipzig . . .

      Still I thoroughly agree with your comment. The image of gourmet meals produced by world-class chefs preparing these "dinners", while in reality the mass watch as they eat unhealthy (even poisonous?) plastic food . . . I don't think my grandparents would recognize "agriculture" today for one thing . . .

      Howard K Smith wrote about what you mention in Germany after the Nazi takeover . . . declining living standards combined with the appearance of abundance . . . the massive propaganda wurlitzer playing constantly . . .

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  10. I call em the way I see em Chief. Of course I left the country 30 years ago to serve in the Cold War and never moved back, so what do I know?

    My comment that you think "silly" regards the debasement of values that has been centered in the US, but hardly confined to it. It's where "the liberals" and "the conservatives" in the US actually share the same perspective, that of the radical empowerment of the individual. The death of community in effect and the single-minded focus on individual achievement, "fulfillment", self-satisfaction . . . The worst thing you can do to someone is inflict "pain" however abstract, that is making them feel bad, or guilty, or remorseful, or doubtful . . . given the extensive nature of the total propaganda, people have been conditioned to believe that the system provides all the answers, that it is democratic, representative, fair . . . symbols and myths to make the atomized pulp passive or agitated depending on the necessity.

    So whatever reports trickle through the the Ministry of Truth's dark curtain from Odessa of the brownshirts we support conducting a massacre are to be discounted . . . otherwise it might make some American feel bad and doubt our own inherent US "goodness" . . .

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  11. "The death of community in effect and the single-minded focus on individual achievement, "fulfillment", self-satisfaction . . . The worst thing you can do to someone is inflict "pain" however abstract, that is making them feel bad, or guilty, or remorseful, or doubtful . . ."

    That you see the deconstruction of the modern Era of Good Feelings as the result of woo-woo New Age-ism and sensitivity training does point out the degree to which you're not hooked into U.S. society. Sorry.

    The U.S. has become, if anything, meaner, smaller, nastier, and more contentious since the 1980's. The pushback against civil rights, the fracturing of the middle class, the rise of the new oligarchy and the Radical Right's burning desire to inflict pain on transgressors against the American Ideal by being poor, brown, non-Christian, and generally not the sort of people acceptable at the country club or the NASCAR track has a lot more to do with what's happened to the U.S. than excess niceness and civility.

    The result is a population that doesn't so much believe in the inherent "goodness" of the U.S. as 1) doesn't pay attention and 2) feels like they have no say one way or the other. There is an immense cynicism here, seydlitz. I'll bet you all the money in my pocket against all the money in yours that this entire Ukraine business has engaged no more than a tiny fraction of the U.S. public and even that small percentage doesn't see this as more than a minor curiousity.

    As for the business itself, well, Kiev is fucked. If they don't move against their rebels they've effectively conceded that their writ doesn't run in the east - Russia win, and eventually Russia quietly reabsorbs the portion of Ukraine east of the Donets. If they do and give Russia a casus belli the Russian troops move in, smack the Ukraine's rabble back across the Donetsk and take over - Russia win.

    And for all this talk about how this is some sort of gross U.S. strategic error, what the hell has the U.S. actually "done"? Engaged in some rhetoric, applied some sanctions...not exactly Operation Barbarossa. The Western powers pretty much have to put up SOME sort of political protest here or be seen as greenlighting Russia's reunification of the old Soviet Union, which then becomes a potential WW3 scenario when Putin uses this same tactic in the Baltics, which ARE NATO members and thus forces a Munich moment on the EU and the U.S.

    And...brownshirts? Brownshirts? Kiev is a goatfuck, but the OUN it ain't. If we're going to throw Ministry of Truth stones taking the glass out of the walls is a fairly high prioroty...

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    1. One of the things that bothers me about the disinformation campaign surrounding the Ukrainian situation is the similarity in comments to the conservative right here in the US. I scan through some of the comments and the common thread is that the protesters were fascists, nazis, jews, or any number of other negative connotations. While there may be socialist or communist or other left wing ideals expressed among the protesters, none of them was the guiding force behind the Maidan protests. As I said, my concern is the similarity to the vitriol spouted here in the US. There are no holds barred when launching epithets at liberals, democrats or President Obama. I'll agree with you, Chief, the average American doesn't know or care about Ukraine, so I ask why do those who comment level such nasty commentary at the Ukrainian people.

      With that noted, one naturally assumes that the same people are commenting about Obamacare as well as Ukraine. My worry is that they are the same commenters, but that they are not driven by domestic concerns, but by foreign interests. What's the possibility that all of this hatred, vitriol and spite is some foreign country's attempt to destabilize the US? Am I totally out of my gourd? Am I stepping too far into the conspiracy theorist realm?

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  12. Chief-

    You don't seem to understand my argument at all, but then nobody says ya have to. The "goodness" refers to the attitude/assumptions of the elite, to what Plattsburg has become. Consider the RT discussion I linked to above. My argument has been that effectively there is no democracy (nor rule of law) and that the mass feels this at some level, but due to the (ideological) emphasis on the individual at the cost of any communal feeling, they are able to focus on their own situations or rather distractions at the cost of everything else.

    Essentially this goes back to the same ole argument we've been having for years. My view being that we are in radically new territory and yours being that it's "same ole, same ole". I can not but think that my grandparents would find this America unrecognizable and I'm not talking about technological change . . .

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  13. Here is an interesting graphic on the prices of things needed to climb out of poverty.

    And also on the prices of circuses.

    Bringing the topic back to Ukraine, does USA/Europe now *own* Ukraine? Are they willing to pay for it?

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  14. Ukraine is an interesting creature. Back in 1999-2005, when what the Russian Orthodox in the US called the immigration of "New Russians" took place, I met quite a few second and third generation residents of the geographic area called "Ukraine" that identified themselves as "Russians". That they happened to have been born in and lived in Ukraine was pure accident of circumstances. That their next door neighbors would call themselves "Ukrainians" was a totally different issue. The "Russian" immigrants from Kiev, for example, would seek out a Russian Orthodox parish, and the "Ukrainian" immigrants from Kiev would seek out a Ukrainian Orthodox parish. In short, when called upon to identify themselves, ethnicity rather than geography was the definition. Even next door neighbors would choose a parish in the US on ethnicity. There is a long standing difference in identity between Ukrainians and Russians who happen to live in Ukraine.

    Along similar lines, we just spent a week vacationing with some old friends from WA state - all card carrying conservatives. Eastern WA (GOP stronghold) would love to split from Western WA (even more populous Dem stronghold). Our friends oppose this, only because they live in Western WA and "would be even more outnumbered by liberals". Unfortunately (for them), the county isn't strongly GOP nor contiguous to a GOP county, and the proposed "dividing line" would fall east of them. However, just as Russia diddles in Eastern Ukraine, some out of state GOP money has flowed into WA to keep the "separatist" movement, however doomed, alive. Similar to the out of state millions that flowed into Calif to support anti gay marriage movements. Funny how supporters of "States' Rights", a form of sovereignty within the US feel free to cross borders to impose ideology as they see fit.

    When it comes to people, individual or ethnic identity often trumps more "noble" notions, such as democracy and sovereignty. Some try to "buy" the outcomes of other "sovereigns", as Ael notes, and others use other forms of "power". Same church, different pew. Consider the status of the "Volksdeutsche" during, and then after, Nazi rule.

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  15. Compare the coup/revolution/protest in Ukraine to Syria, Libya or Egypt. Ukrainians are peaceful people. Putin's stooge, Yanukovich, didn't keep control of the people and they threw him out. If it were any other country, Putin wouldn't have cared and would have left them to their own devices. Ukraine's proximity, its wealth (natural resources and industry), and its strategic importance were too much for Putin to ignore. He sees his opportunity and is taking advantage of it. If he can't have Ukraine by proxy via its leader, he'll take it piecemeal, territory by territory.
    One of the things I find hard to believe is the disinformation and propaganda surrounding the parties trying to take leadership in Ukraine right now. No, there is no Nazi significant party presence in Ukraine, no Mossad operatives running amok nor any radical Islamic influence either. Ukrainians have been trying to step out of the Russian influence since the wall fell. Putin is trying his best not to let that happen. Unfortunately, the people of eastern Ukraine are falling for his propaganda.
    This is not about Ukraine as a nation, it is solely about Putin's power grab. When you look at the iron fist with which he rules Russia, it seems plain as day to me.
    I do think that eventually someone will knock Putin off of his pedestal. It will start from inside his own country. The tighter he clamps down on the people the more they will strive to get free. Call me a dreamer or a hopeless romantic, but it's happened before and will happen again.

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  16. wourm-

    I would suggest that there is more to the nationalism exhibited by my Ukrainian cousins, and that violence is not so foreign to them as you suggest. Perhaps you might find Keith Lowe's book, Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of WWII enlightening. Ukrainian nationalists participated quite freely and directly in the massacre of Jews during the Nazi occupation, and more significantly, in the "ethnic cleansing" (extermination) of Poles in the western Ukraine shortly thereafter. These nationalist excesses have been made a major part of the cultural identity of subsequent generations, on both sides of all competing ethnic groups. Grandchildren of those oppressed, finally released from Soviet oppression, are now seeking retribution for perceived wrongs, many of which have risen to mythical proportions, and it ain't a healthy picture.

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