Monday, March 3, 2014

This isn't a war against Ukraine. It's a war against Euromaydan

This isn't a war against Ukraine. Sounds silly, doesn't it? But still it's true. Putin and his clique aren't waging a war against Ukraine. Their target is Euromaydan. All this talk about the legitimate right of protecting Russian interests, and ethnic Russians is just a cliché for hiding what destabilizing Crimea is really all about: that Euromaydan in the end won. Not definitely. Euromaydan rejected, or better, amended the agreement between 'the opposition' and Yanukovych. Yanukovych lost the support of the army, the oligarchs and his own Party of the Regions. The constitution of 2004 was reinstated. The parliamentarian balance of power shifted. Exit Yanukovych.
 What Euromaydan, with the soft support - may I stress this? - of the European Union achieved, was a civic, democratic 'revolution'. Actually rather peaceful, especially when historians in 2050 will look back at this civic miracle. Just by being there, by staying there, by not letting go, by stubbornly repeating again and again: 'We are fed up with corruption. We are fed up with this cynical self-enrichment. We want a decent government and civil administration. We go the European way. And therefore, mr. Yanukovych, you should go.' Just by being there and defying the power of the criminal state, Euromaydan won - for the moment.

It is this victory of the democratic, civic Euromaydan, this victory of the call for a decent state, that really frightens Putin. Yes, trust me, Putin is afraid. He is afraid that this could happen in his Russia. Time's up for Victor Yanukovych. But maybe, time's also up for Vladimir Putin. Just ask yourself: Why would Putin take such an enormous risk of occupying Crimea? Of violating every international law? Of risking a conflict with almost the rest of the world? Why are his stakes so high? He could have developed normal relations with Ukraine that protected Russian interests and ethnic Russians. (And by the way: which ethnic Russian would really feel protected by Putin?) It would have made him popular in Ukraine. He would be seen as 'a slavic brother'. It would definitely have been far less costly. The only answer is that Euromaydan challenges Putin. What can happen in Kyiv, can happen in St. Petersburg and in Moscow or in Wladivostoc.

So the target is not Ukraine. The target is Euromaydan. Putin wants to make clear to his fellow Russians, to the Moldavians, to the Georgians: 'Just think twice if you think that a democratic movement of citizens can actually achieve a decent government and state.' It's not Ukraine that should be protected, but Euromaydan: the right of citizens to determine their own future in a democratic way. The right of citizens on a decent state. Therefore we should avoid the pitfalls and boobytraps that Putin invented. This is not a war between the east and west in Ukraine. Nor is this a war between Russia and the West. If this is a war at all, it's a war between civilized citizens and the civilized world against a powerful criminal state, lead by a ruthless quasi dictator.

How do you engage in this struggle in a civilized way? Fortunately Euromaydan showed us this way: just by being there, persistently building up soft power. Avoiding violence, building coalitions. Signing the Association Agreement. Becoming a member of NATO, blocking banking accounts, diplomatically isolating Putin (just imagine Putin only able to confer with Assad), making fun of Putin (like what's happening  now on Facebook), mobilize the army (but don't fight), keep repeating that 'you are very concerned'. And in the meantime, do what is most important now in Ukraine: build trust and respect between every Ukrainian, in a way the mayor of L'viv, mr. Andryi Sadovyi showed today.

The irony is that Putins' War wil make Euromaydan stronger in the same way as the authoritarian and violent answer to Euromaydan by Yanukovych made it stronger. For one thing every civilized country in the world now knows about Euromaydan, and supports it. To be honest: we don't know what will happen the next days, weeks or months. It really can become a disaster. But it also can be the other way around: it could be the Waterloo of Putin. Then Euromaydan will be remembered as the historical movement which not only changed Ukraine, but which changed the world.

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