[Marxism] Kagarlitsky on "The Ukraine Reality Show"

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Fri Dec 17 08:25:26 MST 2004


The introductory note, which makes a good point, was added by Michael
Karadjis of the Green Left list.
Fred Feldman


I think Boris Kagarlitsky's article here is a useful reality check to
some of the 'West versus mother Russia' stuff we've tended to see in
much left analysis of the events in the Ukraine (almost to the point
that one might think Russia was still a 'socialist' country or
something).T MK 

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. 

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