Two things come to mind within my overly pessimistic brain on this issue:
1) The opposition reached out with hate and rage instead of reconciliation
I always tend to put the caution lights on when the new rulers in town sound angry, very angry. If you just shed a great deal of blood, souls, and lives to overthrow a murdering asshole dictator, would you:
a) Make it a point to talk like an asshole
b) Make it a point to talk rather different
Madam Tymoshenko (not everybody’s squeaky clean all-star) riddled her Maidan speech with fire, revenge, and a call to arms. Now if anybody has just cause to get pissed off it’s her, and she’s also been sick for a long time. But in these circumstances she needed to understand the context of the moment.
If you are a true leader (and not a closet kleptocrat as I think she is [see my previous post on ‘new’ opposition leaders]), there are times you must be above your emotions and the events that surround you. This is what makes the likes of Washington & Mandela so special. It’s not that they’re saints, though they mostly were, it’s that they had the power to understand the context of their moments. Then they responded accordingly when the vast, vast majority of their counterparts wanted to go a different way. Madam Tymoshenko is giving the crowd what they want to hear. A Washington or Mandela knew better. Sometimes the crowd needs to hear the thing they hate the most.
Washington and Mandela’s real weapons were an emphasis upon reconciliation, restraint, and generally (here’s the kicker) not acting like complete assholes. From Ukraine we now hear of charges for Cousin Viktor, the blood of martyrs, and justice. Folks, justice and blood can come later, or not. But right now you need to strive for peace, rebuild destroyed institutions, and oh yeah, run a very large, broke country.
2) Russia wants it more
Why is point (1) a problem? It’s not just because I think those who fight hard for freedom and democracy should be the better humans; it’s because they have a big problem; an Uncle Vladimir problem. Tymoshenko and her allies have severely miscalculated. They think they are safe given the power of the Ukrainian street. They don’t understand how the world works.
I remain very ashamed to admit this, but sooner or later the non-free peoples of the planet are going to realize the modern West is populated with cowards. The free peoples of the world are not interested in fighting for the non-free peoples of the world. Sorry.
Don’t believe me, ask your Syrian, Zimbabwean, or Bahraini neighbor. The Ukrainian opposition (or, I guess, national leadership?) has cast their lot with the West, or more chiefly the EU. But, the problem is Russia and the EU see this situation very differently.
As an example, can you picture Russian tanks rolling down the streets of Kiev in six weeks? Well friends, that’s a little extreme, but it’s certainly possible under many circumstances. I’m sure you could at least imagine it? Ask your Georgian neighbor.
Well, how about NATO tanks? No, never, not in a million years. The simple fact is for Uncle Vladimir, Ukraine is a matter of vital national interest. It is not so for the EU. Thus, the situation calls for a level of caution not on display by Ukraine’s new leadership.
They have handed Uncle Vladimir the one thing he needs to run over the country; a divided Ukraine; with an eastern ethnic Russian population crying out for a savior. Uncle Vladimir is only too happy to oblige.
Better to work together with the ethnic Russians of Ukraine to attempt an actual country. Will this fail? Probably. But without the attempt, the savior is thus born. The alternative is to increase the ethnic Russian population of Ukraine by however many conscripts compose a modern motorized armored division.
“The coaxial will work a lot better than tear gas. Let’s go with that to start.”