The Ukrainian revolution has seemed amazingly swift and even more perplexing to those of us watching from afar. It has been particularly interesting to see self-styled political realists pen op eds that now seem totally backwards: notice the original title and attempted editorial explanation here, as well as this short essay. And I feel a little of the same pinch as these writers, because their cui bono explanations make a lot of sense. The big problem is that their predictions have now been shown to be false.
The one thing that is certain is that things are very uncertain. It doesn’t seem that anyone has a comprehensive understanding of the situation, and one very real possibility is that Putin is puzzling semi-sympathetic western journalists precisely because he seems to be making a big mistake, letting short term factors get the best of him. In other words, he’s being very un-Putin.
But what if there simply is no good decision? This presentation, given nearly a month ago, by Rostislav Ischenko puts things into perspective. Especially important are these observations:
On the other hand, the difficult situation in Ukraine and the overthrow of the current government will affect Russia’s reputation. Putin’s authority would be seriously undermined and destabilisation will automatically be transferred to the territory of the Russian Federation.
If Russia does not intervene in the Ukrainian conflict, the possible outcomes are:
- A full-scale war near its borders (this is most likely to happen)
- A mass slaughter of seven million Russians in Ukraine or a mass slaughter of the Russian-speaking population which comprises 60 percent of the total population of Ukraine
Taking into account the huge number of personal and family roots, as well as the fact that many believe that the Russian and Ukrainian people are related, it will be difficult for the Russian leadership to stand by on the sidelines and watch Ukraine descend into chaos. The Russian authorities will either be forced to intervene or to resign. Thus, the Maidan events represent a geopolitical trap for Russia, as both of the solutions mentioned above will result in a loss. Russia cannot legitimately intervene in the conflict without a legal request for aid from the Ukrainian government. If it does intervene after Ukraine has experienced a serious humanitarian catastrophe and the collapse of the current government, this intervention will be too late.
In conclusion I would like to say that for the first time in my life I have experienced a situation where I understand the political goals but do not understand how they can be achieved without a major military confrontation. It is obvious to me that the current situation in Ukraine (regardless of the cause and who will become the winner) represents an offensive interference in the sovereign affairs of Ukraine. Military confrontation is practically unavoidable as the current government has proved unable to resolve the conflict on its own.
Mr. Ischenko has now been proven correct about what was inevitable. The revolution happened, and Russia has made its move. If his other observations are correct, then the explanation for Russia’s recent aggression is that they simply had no choice.
The lesson for Putin sympathizers, or at least for those who have been reluctant to join the dominant anti-Putin sentiment, is that the man is as human as any other world leader, for good or for bad.
And it would seem that the lesson for America is to try to avoid being forced into no-win situations.