Friday, May 16, 2014

Sorry America, Ukraine isn’t all about you | PandoDaily

As the Ukraine crisis tips further into full-scale bloodbath and civil war, we seem to be getting more clueless than we were before this crisis started. That’s a pretty low bar to measure against, and the consequences of our cluelessness about what’s driving the various sides could be catastrophic for everyone.

One of the biggest problems is that everyone who riffs on Putin and Ukraine frames their analysis through a very narrow, Americanized lens, as if the only thing on everyone’s minds out there is us, America. Either Putin is behaving evilly because he fears America’s empire of liberty and freedom; or Putin is behaving perfectly rationally because the evil American empire has bullied Putin into a corner, forcing him to annex Crimea and support pro-Russian separatists.

Other Anglo-American “experts” frame Putin’s actions as if we’re all playing a sophisticated version of Risk. In this framing either Putin is driven by some genetic need to revive old Russian imperialism, conquering lost territory because he’s been so pained all these years, like a man reaching for a missing limb; or conversely, Putin apologists say he’s legitimately securing a buffer region to protect Russian interests from American-Western encroachment.

All of these versions have truth to them, but they all share one huge blind spot: What role does domestic Russian politics play in Putin’s policies in Ukraine? For that matter, how does domestic Ukrainian politics inform interim leader Turchynov’s or Yarosh’s moves?


The important thing to remember is this: Russia’s liberal intelligentsia and its big city yuppie class is small in numbers, outsized in influence and importance…. and hated by the rest of Russia. And there’s a lot to hate: intelligentsia liberals and Moscow yuppies are elitist snobs on a scale that would turn anyone into a Bolshevik. They even named their go-to glossy “Snob”— and they meant it. It’s not just the new rich who are elitist snobs — liberal journalist-dissident Elena Tregubova’s memoir on press censorship interweaves her contempt for Putin with her Muscovite contempt for what she called “aborigines,” those provincial Russian multitudes who occupy the rest of Russia’s eleven time zones. Tregubova flaunted her contempt for Russia’s “aborigines,” whom she mocked for being too poor and uncivilized to tell the difference between processed orange juice and her beloved fresh-squeezed orange juice. I’m not making that up either.


Most living Russians still remember the Soviet era, when wealth inequality was so minute it was measured in perks rather than yachts. That’s what the Russians mean when they tell pollsters they preferred the Soviet Union days and rue its collapse. Lazy hacks interpret those polls as proof that Russians are still evil empirelings, for the sheer evil joy of having a Warsaw Pact to boast about. Rather than the obvious: Russians lived longer and easier under Soviet rule, then started dying off by the millions as soon as capitalism was introduced, when poverty exploded and they found themselves in the most unequal country on earth.

[And it’s not just Russians: In a Gallup poll late last year, a majority of Ukrainians said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was more harmful (56 percent) for Ukraine than beneficial (23 percent).]

Complete story at - Sorry America, Ukraine isn’t all about you | PandoDaily

CC Photo Google Image Search Source is upload wikimedia org  Subject is Simplified historical map of Ukrainian borders 1654 2014

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