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27 Nov, 2014 17:43

#Euromaidan 1st birthday: Nothing happens, twice

#Euromaidan 1st birthday: Nothing happens, twice

"Ever Tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail Again. Fail Better" - Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho. No writer ever quantified failure as well as Samuel Beckett.

The Dubliner made a literary career out of it and created a genre. His influence is seen in things as disparate as the lyrics of Bob Dylan and motivational speeches. Its specter also hovers, probably inadvertently, over Ukraine. Kiev has gone the full Beckett. Like Estragon and Vladimir in the seminal Waiting For Godot, it's been reduced to rags and waits for a savior to come. But the heralded salvager never appears.

Petro Poroshenko is Lucky (the character, not the adjective), mumbling nonsense in a stream of consciousness, willfully imprisoned by Joe Biden as Pozzo. Meanwhile the Ukrainian public earnestly hopes that Biden will throw them a bone, but there's no meat on it.

The Orange Revolution, of winter 2004-05, was the first failure in the quest of nationalist elements to change the state’s direction. Over the last 12 months, they've tried again, and failed again. Whether they've failed better depends on your view, but there is no doubt they have failed spectacularly. "There have always been two fools, among others, one asking nothing better than to stay where he is and the other imagining that life might be slightly less horrible a little further on." (Molloy)

Nothing is more real than nothing

Continuing a series on the anniversary of Euromaidan's inception, I wish to look at what we've learned from the Ukraine crisis. The final part will focus on where Ukraine is headed next.

"Vladimir: That passed the time.

Estragon: It would have passed in any case.

Vladimir: Yes, but not so rapidly." - Waiting for Godot.

A notable feature of the Maidan coup was that almost all the - initial - protestors were peaceful. They took to the square hoping for a better life. However, these sincere intentions were exploited by a small, but powerful, element of neo-Nazis who used the situation to launch a violent revolution. This suggests that other genuine mass movements across the European continent can be similarly taken advantage of. Even “causes” that don’t have the support of a nation’s vast majority can cause chaos. There are major consequences for stability in his assumption.

Support for Euromaidan was only about 50-50 in Ukraine, according to polls taken at the time. Outside actors created the impression that it was a universally popular cause. In reality, it was heavily backed in west Ukraine and by a small majority in Kiev and the central regions. However, most citizens of the south and east opposed it (almost all in some oblasts).

Participants of the march in Kiev protesting against political repressions and the arrest of opposition leaders. (RIA Novosti/Alexei Furman)

This simply mirrored Ukrainian election maps since independence, a constant battle between east and west for control of the levers of power. Had there been no Euromaidan, it’s not certain that west Ukrainian elements would have taken power at the next election, which wasn’t far off. This probably increased their desire to overthrow Yanukovich - if he’d formed the next government, their movement was buried.

Can there be misery loftier than mine?

The media spotlight on Ukraine has created some worrying illusions in the state. Many Ukrainians have the impression they are much more important than they actually are. There's a collective delusion that they are seen as “defenders of liberty” or an example to other nations. Let's be clear, the media is using them. When the news agenda moves onto a new political crisis in Europe, they will be dropped like a stone. The reality is that Ukraine's GDP is less than half that of Austria, which has only 8 million people and is not a major geopolitical player.

They won't admit this, but surely many in Kiev are secretly delighted that Crimea and, maybe, Lugansk and Donbass are gone? Since 1991, the country has been completely divided along geographical lines. Under its new borders of control - should they become permanent - western Ukraine and Kiev will have the upper hand for the foreseeable future. It's also possible that, for this same reason, Russia could ultimately come to regret any moves to help the eastern provinces secede.

The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new

After the tumult of the winter, Ukraine needed a huge injection of aid. Instead, it got strict IMF loans, which must be repaid. Following the summer’s conflict, it required a Marshall plan-type strategy - huge transfers from its notional “allies.” This hasn't happened and even the latest installment from the IMF is delayed. Such practice nails the illusion that joining the US-led camp will result in an immediate improvement in living standards. In fact, in Ukraine’s case national wealth - meager as it was - has been destroyed in 2014. This will doubtless be of concern to countries like Moldova and Serbia who are wrestling with similar issues to those Kiev faced in recent years.

Since 2007, Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned that Russia won’t tolerate any more NATO expansion. In 2008, the interregnum President Dmitry Medvedev sent Russian soldiers into Georgia in response to provocations from Tbilisi which was flirting with the alliance.

Participants of the May Day demonstration in Simferopol with a poster "Our choice - Russia". (RIA Novosti/Taras Litvinenko)

When Ukraine seemed destined to enter the US-led camp, Russia quickly facilitated Crimean citizens to reunify with Moscow. Of course, this was in response to a strong desire within the peninsula who had actually first voted to leave Ukraine over 20 years ago. Nevertheless, it was also a strategic move. Under no circumstances was the Kremlin willing to countenance the loss of its naval bases in Crimea - never mind allowing NATO to establish its own.

We are all born mad. Some remain so

The image of John McCain, the failed US presidential candidate who wields significant influence in the Senate, standing shoulder to shoulder with Svoboda activists in Kiev is extremely telling. Svoboda would be a prohibited organization in most of the Western world.

If they were Slovakian or Hungarian, for example, there would be absolute uproar. Yet, in the name of giving Russia a jab, McCain and the US establishment can stomach supporting Svoboda. Not to mention, failing to censor the Ukrainian loony fringe, Pravy Sektor (Right Sector).

This suggests that Washington will get into bed with any form of extremists if it weakens Russia. The problem with such a policy? If you lie down with the dogs, you wake up with the fleas.

US Senator John McCain, center, at the Dignity Day rally held by supporters of eurointegration on Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kiev. (RIA Novosti/Iliya Pitalev)

There are only two countries in the world that the USA fears - Russia and China. Russia because it is the only nation that can destroy the American homeland. China, due to its sheer volume of people and economic heft. While Moscow is not a huge economic power (only 4-5% of global GDP), the military hardware it inherited from the USSR can wipe out the US. Of course, the US can also remove Russia from the map. However, both outcomes are entirely pointless. Hence, the world would be a much safer place if the Kremlin and the White House negotiated new “rules” and the neocons were put out to pasture.

In China’s case, any conflict is unthinkable. Any violent engagement between Beijing and the US (or Russia) would result in unimaginable loss of life.

When I fall I'll weep for happiness

There is a powerful lobby in the Kremlin - lead by Medvedev - who desire closer relations with the West. Indeed, there are even some who might like to join the EU or (shock! horror!) NATO if it were possible. Contrary to western media projections, Russia is not some totalitarian state where dissenters are taken out the back and shot. Instead, Moscow’s politics are full of debate on policy. Putin himself attempted to integrate Russia with the West in his first term. His advances were rebuffed by extremists in Washington and some EU members who distrusted the Kremlin.

Now, due to Western actions, Putin has been forced to quickly ally with China. This should be Europe’s worst nightmare as it creates two distinct global power-blocks, leaving the EU even more subordinate to Washington, and strengthens Beijing’s chances of replacing the US as the world’s leading actor. The fact that nobody is debating it in Brussels is beyond comprehension. Not to mention that Europe is extremely dependent on Russia’s resources - and Moscow on EU cash. What should be a natural alliance is becoming a rivalry. This doesn’t make any logical sense.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping (RIA Novosti/Sergey Guneev)

Europe is in big trouble. Germany is increasingly dominating the union economically - at the expense of other members. The south and east are economically banjaxed and only Ireland and France have positive birth rates. Even with immigration, Germany’s population is forecast to fall in the coming decades. Only Ireland’s is expected to rise significantly. Ireland has only 5 million people so the efforts of its women are not going to save the continent.

The scale of the looming demographic crisis is exemplified by Lithuania, which has lost 27% of its population since 1990.Essentially, the only thing keeping population figures from decline in the Western countries is the mass migration of the east’s youth. The same has been true of Russia for the past two decades - except the migration has largely come from the former USSR. Although the birth rate has finally passed the death rate in Russia, it needs to raise further to undo the damage done since 1991.

Furthermore, the EU’s second biggest military power and third strongest economy, the United Kingdom, appears to want out. France’s position is also becoming volatile as the nationalist Front National threatens to take power in coming elections.

Despite all this negativity, the fact remains that the EU is the richest “place” in the world. Its total GDP is higher than that of both China and the US. However, it has been incapable of translating this fiscal might into political or martial influence. Due to the after effects of WW2, the most powerful member, Germany, is basically a US military colony. Meanwhile, Britain’s global influence has waned to the point of irrelevancy and France, while stronger than the UK, seems disinterested in asserting itself.

The obvious solution is an independent EU foreign policy and federal EU armed forces. However, the chances of this happening remind one of an old joke. “There’s 2 hopes, Bob Hope and no hope."

"Spend the years of learning squandering

Courage for the years of wandering

Through a world politely turning

From the loutishness of learning."

- Samuel Beckett, Dublin magazine.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.