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Battle for Ukraine
The Lessons of Kiev

The seismic shift in Ukraine was achieved by its people—not by outside forces, and not by its politicians.

Published on: February 24, 2014
Andrew Wood is associate fellow with the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House, and served in the British Embassy in Moscow from 1964–66, 1979–82 and 1995–2000, the last as Ambassador.
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  • Practically speaking, would this be able to happen in Washington DC? The indigenous population is either on the gubmint dole and indoctrinated into the cult of victimhood or they are the elite who are generously served by the gubmint with little sense of obligation to the “people”. Would there be enough real patriots that would come from outside the city?

  • PKCasimir

    I would suggest that Mr. Wood take his head out of the clouds. He now expects that Putin and Russia will react to their defeat in the Ukraine with reason and accept their defeat graciously. This is the kind of upper class British liberal stupidity that led to Munich. For someone who served a number of tours in the British Embassy in Moscow he certainly doesn’t know Russian history or Russians. Putin will be back. he will look for an opening and then exploit. With an incompetent Obama in the White House and a bunch of buffoons running EU foreign policy, don’t count him out.

    • Tom of the Missouri

      “This is the kind of upper class British liberal stupidity that led to Munich.”, my thoughts exactly as I read the article. I could though subsitute upper and upper middle class elite educated ruling class Liberals in the USA. My only difference with you is your characterization of Obama as incompetent. Obama is not incompetent. He is getting exactly what he wants according to his plan and in perfect fit with his background. To assume his incompetence is to way underestimate him. He has been getting away with that assumption for 5 years in the USA and he gets everything he wants from his foolish cowardly opposition. His opposition is truly incompetent.

      From news reports I have read Putin already has troops on their way to the Ukraine to take it back as part of his poorly hidden plan to re-constitute the Soviet Union. Who is there left to stop him except the Ukrainians themselves? When did people in the streets ever stop the old pre Gorbachev) Soviet Union? Putin sent troops to Georgia recently didn’t he as the west sat on their hands and watched? Why will the Ukraine be different? Obama aided the Iranians in putting down their revolution by remaining silent and by allowing their nuclear plans to continue. I expect the same inaction or lack of words here. In case no one has noticed Obama usually only comes to the aid of people that are either Marxist or totalitarians. think medeival clerics in Iran, Al Queada terrorist in Lybia and Syria, Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Chavez or Kirchner in South America, Union thugs, ACORN and Black Panthers in America, etc. To him the words oppressed Caucasians is an oxymoron. Good luck and God speed to you Ukrainians in dealing with Putin on your own.

      • caap02

        Well then maybe there is hope. Because the first victims of the Russian invasion will be the Crimean tatars (who are vociferously anti-Russia).

  • Tom

    “the refusal of the Ukrainians to accept that their rulers have the right to compel them to obedience, and the lesson that, on the contrary, Ukraine’s rulers must govern in the interests of the people, as their servants not their masters. It will be some considerable time before the implications of this decisive change sink in.”

    What change? The Ukraine was originally settled by a passel of ex-slaves, frontiersmen, and other assorted undesirables who wanted to get away from their masters. The Tsars basically allied with the Cossacks–they did not subjugate them. The Ukrainian peasants fought both Red and White during the Russian Civil War. The Communists only managed to sort of break them with the Holodomor, and even then, Ukrainians still fought against them and the Nazis during World War Two. In the western portions, the people there never did take to being ruled by Poland.
    If the West attempts to prevent Ukraine from being ruled by Ukrainians, for Ukrainians, it will learn this lesson as well.

    • Jim__L

      That would be more convincing if the Ukraine had ever been an independent country.

      As it is, when’s the last time they weren’t someone’s client? The Kievan Rus’?

      We’re not talking Vietnam, here.

      • Tom

        For a while, the Dnieper basin–aka Cossack country–was independent, before they signed on with the Tsars. Also, the Ukraine lacks certain seminal Vietnamese terrain features–like jungles, mountains, and jungle-covered mountains.

      • free_agent

        You write, “That would be more convincing if the Ukraine had ever been an independent country.”

        They’re doing OK so far…

        • Jim__L

          If this is OK, I’d hate to see what you call social disorder.

  • Pete

    A split of the Ukraine still can be in the cards.

  • qet

    If I understand Mr. Wood correctly, it is the people of Ukraine who have been solely responsible for this event, and it was necessary that it be so. I agree with such a view, which makes all prior scoldings by Via Meadia of the lack of a US policy on Ukraine perplexing. The whole policies-of-other-governments issue seems to me decisively answered in Mr. Wood’s last sentence. Now that the West-leaning Ukrainians have accomplished what they and they only could have accomplished, the West might in the way of policy come forward with economic assistance, to enable the Ukrainians to solidify their own achievement and not to try to buy Ukrainian assets on the cheap from a still-unstable government desperate for cash. But I have no experience in such matters so really I don’t know. I just know that talk of Western policy sounded hollow to me while the event awaited resolution by the Ukrainians themselves in what looks/ed like a fundamental political struggle of a people..

    • bff426

      I would say that WRM has been scolding the US and the EU on their lack of recognition that for Putin, this was a prize to be seized, while we were Issuing proclamations about democracy. It still applies – witness today’s announcement of Russian military maneuvers that coincidently only apply to the military district bordering the Ukraine. It may not be a piece of meat, but Putin hasn’t finished eating yet.

  • MarkE

    I like these guys! We should send foreign aid.

  • FrederickR

    Unfortunately for the West and any Demonstrators supporting freedom, the ultra right wing group, The Right Sector has gained the upper hand. It was ‘The ‘Right Sector’ supporters, basically neo-Nazi’s, who were doing the shooting back at the Police and drove them off in Keiv.

    They have now instituted a coup against the democratically elected President Yanukovych and his government. They don’t support freedom and any western ideals, they are merely the right hand of Socialism.

  • free_agent

    You write, “first, that Ukrainians themselves understood that Yanukovych’s November
    choice implied that he was moving towards the Russian model of
    centralized authoritarian governance and accepting the dominance of
    Moscow; and second, Yanukovych’s brutal incompetence in an increasingly
    desperate attempt to shore up his rule”

    It does look like Yanukovych was abandoned by his faction. He thought he was fighting a grand political battle but discovered that he was a general without an army. It reminds me of what my bother was taught as an army officer, “Authority is given to those who command by those who are commanded.” Displaying too much brutal incompetence is a good way to get your supporters to change sides.

  • Pingback: Wood: The Lessons of Kiev (5) | Jack's Newswatch()

  • Kavanna

    So we learned that Ukraine was not evenly divided, but in fact, dominated by a large majority disgust at Yanukovych, and a desire to not become another Putin-esque authoritarian kleptocracy. Ukrainians I know want to have good relations with both the EU and with Russia, but not at the expense of undermining self-rule at home.

    The EU did play a small but important role in the resolution. That’s a good sign, that Europeans can start solving their own problems, and even make Putin blink. Let’s hope the lesson sticks.

    Meanwhile, the Middle East lacks anything like the political level of Europe, and the US role is still essential. A silly, narcissistic administration is sitting on a corpse of a foreign policy, and the rot is beginning to stink ….

  • “The outside world should, lastly, fully accept that Ukraine has earned the right to defend and determine its own future. It is a state, not a piece of meat for jackals to dispute.”

    Uh-huh. Any recommendations suitable for implementation on Planet Earth?

    I wish Wood’s sentence was a possibility, but it isn’t. He *is* correct that this situation evolved in the streets, which outlines an important reality: neither the Ukraine nor Russia can survive a total “victory.” The Ukrainians can’t hold the Russified east, and Russia will have a massive resource suck on their hands if they try to occupy western Ukraine. Partition into 2 states, with capitols in Kiev and Kharkov, and Russian ownership of the Crimea/ Sevastopol, strikes me as a realistic result that each side can hold & defend.

    The gas and trade problems will still be huge issues. The natural gas issue can be solved over the course of several years by fracking. The real difficulty for any future Ukrainian state will be trade links and transport, which doesn’t solve as easily. Russia’s leverage over trade ties won’t go away, and even if you flip the Ukraine to become a net exporter of natural gas, it will be very hard to replace their major trade partner if Russia continues to choke Ukrainian exports. Nobody with a brain can expect that even a partitioned Ukraine would mean the end of Russian mischief.

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