Putin Has Lost Kiev – That’s Not a Win

The note below is a contribution to Linked In’s Friends of EU discussion group which I find very interesting.

Don’t really want to plunge into this as we are all drowning in comments on Russia and they provide little real guidance.
It is worth look at Timothy Snyder’s NYRB article dated 19 Feb on who is who in Maidan and what is means.
I went down as UK minister to Kiev a lot in 2004 and saw Putin standing, small and not very significant beside the much bigger Yanukovich.
That was Putin’s first humiliation – when Ukraine rejected his nominee.
He got his revenge with the truly dreadful Orange Rev government besotted by corruption and personal rivalries.
His man Yanukovich won in 2010 but then to Putin’s despair made every mistake in the playbook.
The EU and US were utterly uninterested in getting Ukraine into the “western orbit” whatever that means. Is Germany any longer an ally of the US or a loyal economic partner of the EU (see Philippe Legrain in today’s NYT).
The EU could not make a serious financial, visa, or trade offer to Ukraine given its inward looking focus on the sheer incompetence of the EU leadership to rise to the 2008 financial crisis challenge.
Yanukovich in best Lukashenko style flung his chief rival into prison like a replay of Fidelio and then tried to enact absurd repressive denials of core freedoms that enraged a cross sector of the population who were not anti-Russian but like all the Russians I meet in London think west is best and EU is for me as well as you.
Ukrainians took the matter into their own hands at least in Kiev.
Again Yanukovich went mad and opened fire on his own people.
Bloody repression either works by cowering people into retreat or fusing individuals into a mass determined on overthrowing the régime that killed their children.
The latter happened. The oligarchs fled. Azerov left for his schloss and Euros in Austria and Yanukovich had to flee or face the fate on Pinochet or Ceaucescu.
There was no coup and no Robespierre or Cromwell has emerged.
Now Putin is the first Voshd in Russian history to have lost Kiev.
Taking over Crimea or organising stupid provocations in east Ukraine is no substitute for his place in history as the first Russian chief to detach Kiev permanently from Russia – unless as in 1968 he sends tanks in.
To be sure the EU and US do not know what to do just as we did not know what to do in Tunisia or Egypt.
Essays on the character, innate or otherwise, of Russia are little help.
Britain is no different from Germany in not wanting to cut off the BP-Rosneft connection or the billions that transit through London from Russia’s nouveau riche. Last time I check France was cancelling its Mistral ship contracts with Russia.
Neo-cons in Washington long for a return to the cold war realities but in truth they have no real policy on Russia and are worried about a permanent BRIC foreign policy and UN alliance against the US.
What is interesting is that the commentariat in Russia all seem to say the same thing whereas the commentariat in Europe and the US all say different things – as can be seen in the above thread.
We shouldn’t worry about this as democracy’s diversity and permanent contradictions are its strength in contrast to the pensée unique on offer from Moscow intelligentsia who seem to think saying the same thing means they are intelligent.
Enough on Easter Monday but thank you for fascinating reads and if I have time I might offer some views on how to get the EU better engaged without a lose-lose debate on sanction and how we can show better solidarity with Ukrainians than has been on offer so far.

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