[Marxism] Boris Kargalitsky on the Ukraine

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Dec 15 16:08:51 MST 2004

Moscow Times, Thursday, December 16, 2004. Page 11.

The Ukraine Reality Show
By Boris Kagarlitsky

The state-run television channels were in hysterics reminiscent of the Cold 
War. Bewildered viewers discovered that next door in Ukraine, a coup was 
under way, allegedly planned by foreign secret service agents. The goal of 
these enemies, state television reported, was to bring a pro-Western 
president, Viktor Yushchenko, to power instead of pro-Russian Viktor 
Yanukovych. At the same time, liberals in Russia dreamed of repeating 
Kiev's Orange Revolution at home.

Average Russians are taking a far more cynical view of events. They don't 
really buy the propaganda but are watching their neighbors to the south 
closely. The Ukrainian elections have become a kind of reality show for 
many Muscovites, complete with a cast of millions and unprecedented prizes.

The theories that a pro-American opposition is battling with a pro-Moscow 
political elite do not hold water. Yushchenko is without a doubt 
pro-American. But the same can be said for all the current leaders in 
Ukraine. After all, it was current Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and 
his prime minister, Yanukovych, who sent troops to Iraq. They created an 
absurd crisis in Russian-Ukrainian relations over a dam near the tiny 
island of Tuzla in straits between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. In 
contrast, right at the height of the confrontation in Kiev, the Verkhovnaya 
Rada resolved to withdraw Ukraine's troops from Iraq. Communists and 
socialists were joined in their support of the measure by a significant 
number of Yushchenko supporters.

The attempts to divide Ukrainian society along language lines have also 
failed. Kiev, where Russian reigns supreme, is the backbone of the 
opposition's strength. Protests were held in Kharkiv, the center of Russian 
culture in Ukraine. The events in favor of the current authorities held in 
Donetsk and other industrial cities resembled the Soviet rallies where 
attendance was mandatory. Most of the speakers were labor union 
functionaries and civil servants, while the workers did their best to get 
home as quickly as possible. The ruling oligarchy still has the ability to 
control the industrial regions of eastern Ukraine using Soviet methods, but 
it cannot mobilize mass public support.

It is difficult to call Russia's leadership anti-American or anti-Western. 
None other than President Vladimir Putin himself publicly announced his 
support of George W. Bush during the recent U.S. presidential elections. 
And while the Moscow television channels were condemning American 
involvement in Ukraine, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told journalists 
about possible plans to arm local forces in Iraq under U.S. control, as 
well as to send military specialists to Iraq.

The Cold War was a confrontation of two economic and political systems. But 
now Russia and the West share the same system, capitalism. The real axis of 
confrontation in world politics is no longer the standoff between NATO and 
the long-defunct Eastern Bloc, but the standoff between the dollar and the 
euro blocs. The Kremlin can't seem to make up its mind which side to take 
in this rivalry, dodging back and forth between Brussels and Washington and 
dooming itself to a whole string of unilateral concessions to both 
competing sides.

If the whole point was to undermine Russia's position in Ukraine, it is 
hard to imagine a more successful move than the Kremlin collaboration with 
Yanukovych. The Kremlin not only shocked everyone with its crude tactics 
and open meddling in the affairs of a sovereign state; most importantly, it 
also managed to do so effectively and to its own detriment.

The stakes in the political battle in Ukraine are indeed high for the 
Kremlin. But they do not have anything in common with national interests or 
the long-gone conflict between the communist East and the bourgeois West. 
Privatization in Ukraine is being rolled back. Oligarch clans, both Russian 
and Ukrainian, are locked into a battle for assets. Everyone understands 
that political influence is the main collateral needed to conclude 
privatization deals and the best guarantee they will not be overturned later.

Whoever does win in the end, Putin will remain one of the main victims of 
the Ukraine crisis. Even if Yanukovych wins, his main concern will be 
improving relations with the West. Putin will lose the last remnants of his 
political authority. He will have demonstrated his weakness once again to 
Russia, to his people and to the siloviki. And in Russia, this is a very 
dangerous thing indeed.

Boris Kagarlitsky is director of the Institute for Globalization Studies.

Louis Proyect
Marxism list: www.marxmail.org 

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