Monday, May 26, 2014

Why Everything You've Read About Ukraine Is Wrong

This article is by Vladimir Golstein, a professor of Slavic studies at Brown University. He was born in Moscow and emigrated to the United States in 1979.

The mainstream American media has taken a nearsighted view of the Ukrainian crisis by following a script laid out by the State Department. Most reports have either ignored the truth or spun it in a way that paints only a partial picture. Here are seven things you should know about Ukraine.

1. Regardless of claims by some commentators like Forbes contributor Greg Sattell, the divisions in Ukraine are real, and violence unleashed by the Kiev regime is polarizing the nation further. While the differences between the Ukrainian west and the more Russian-facing rest of the country are widely acknowledged, what tends to be overlooked is that the culture, language, and political thinking of western Ukraine have been imposed upon the rest of Ukraine. Ostensibly this is for the sake of “unifying the country,” but in fact the objective has been to put down and humiliate Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population. The radical nationalists of western Ukraine, for whom the rejection of Russia and its culture is an article of faith, intend to force the rest of the country to fit their narrow vision. Western and eastern Ukraine do not understand each other’s preoccupations, just as Cubans in Miami and Cubans in Havana would not understand each other. Ukrainian conflict is not the conflict between the “pro-Russian separatists” and “pro-Ukrainians,” but rather between two Ukrainian groups who do not share each other’s vision of an independent Ukraine. (more)

2. The Western press was wrong about the massacre of Ukrainian citizens in Odessa on May 2, 2014, when as many as 100 (the officially accepted number appears to be 42) unarmed people were burned alive in an Odessa building. When telling the story, the Western press reported on the clashes between pro-Ukrainian soccer hooligans and pro-Russian protesters without any explanation as to why the results of these clashes were so one-sided. (more)

3. The Ukrainian elections scheduled for May 25 would hardly solve the economic problems of Ukraine, since there is a glaring absence of good candidates. Current political contenders in the elections are either Soviet-style oligarchs like Petro Poroshenko, corrupt politicians like former Prime Minister Iulia Timoshenko, or former member of Timoshenko’s cabinet Arseny Iatseniuk. (more)

4. Politicians do not really matter in Ukraine, because Ukraine is the land of oligarchs. For better or for worse, Putin has put an end to oligarch rule in Russia. Members of Putin’s inner circle may be immensely rich, but they know to whom they owe their wealth. By imprisoning Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Putin sent a clear message to the all-powerful oligarchs that controlled Russia during former president Boris Yeltsin’s time: stay out of politics. (more)

5. The Western press, including Forbes, has underestimated the extent of oligarch Igor Kolomoisky’s influence. Taking the concept “corporate raiding” literally, Kolomoisky has employed paramilitary units at his disposal for all kinds of hostile takeovers. Undoubtedly a shrewd businessman, he managed to wrestle various businesses from such powerful competitors as the current president of Tatarstan, and, if we believe Putin, from Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. Kolomoisky’s recent foray into politics has been carried out on the same grand scale. (more)

6. Russia is weak. The country is losing population and shrinking geographically and economically. Russia is clearly overextended. Look at the Russian-Chinese border, where the concentration of population reveals a grim picture for Russia: there are about 100,000 Chinese per square kilometer on the south side of the border vs. 10 Russians on the Russian side. (more)

7. President Putin has been accommodating to Western interests. Despite what you read in the Western press, he didn’t protest about NATO expansion, he gave up on a number of important Russian military bases, and acted aggressively only when he felt that Russia’s back yard was threatened. Annexation of Crimea, while responding to very strong popular demands both in Russia and Crimea, was a limited operation that enabled Putin to save his face after “losing” Ukraine. Since then he has given plenty of indications that he is ready to call it a day. His limited goals are acknowledged in the writings and interviews of such people as former ambassador to Russia Jack Matlock, or former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. But what needs to be stressed is that the next Russian leader might not be that accommodating, especially in light of continuous and needless bullying on the part of the US. (more)

Complete story at - Why Everything You've Read About Ukraine Is Wrong

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