Sorting Out the Mess in Kyiv

I apologize for the long gap in blog posts. On the upside, I now have hosting for the podcast and I’ll be recording and hopefully releasing a new episode next week. I do plan to speak about the situation in Ukraine for part of that episode, so hopefully between that and this post, readers will have an idea of my stance on this.

I should point out that I’m going to try to keep this as brief and simplified as possible because as long-time readers and friends know, when it comes to Ukrainian politics I tend to get on my soapbox. And since my location prevents me from having a more hands on approach at the moment, I’ll save the stump speeches for another later.

So in case you’ve missed it, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship and who crossed the Ukrainian border illegally earlier this year, has been running around Kyiv trying to raise hell and calling for the impeachment of President Petro Poroshenko. There are arguments over the size of protest crowds and accusations of working for the Russians are flying like bullets at Gallipoli. Pro-Saakashvili people are trying to compare their movement to Maidan, while pro-Poroshenko people are starting to sound a lot like pro-Kremlin voices talking about Yanukovych during the actual Maidan revolution, right down to implying that the protesters are paid or duped without any agency.

vipertoad

A viper and a toad- the best descriptor for the Saakashvili-Poroshenko War of 2017.

Right from the start I must say that observing both sides (and I have friends and acquaintances on both sides of the barricades), I don’t think anyone sticking up for Saakashvili really puts much faith in him or even cares about him at all. Saakashvili seems to have made himself a rallying point around which opponents of the president can concentrate. Unlike the Russia-leaning Opposition Bloc, it’s kind of hard to pretend Saakashvili is really Russian when he, like Poroshenko, basically got into a shooting war with Moscow back in 2008. This means protesters can rally behind him while maintaining that all important “patriotism” that is so essential in Ukrainian politics these days.

For my part, I always felt bringing Saakashvili to Ukraine was a stupid gimmick, a feature of this idiotic idea that every country or individual who has some beef with the Kremlin must be a useful ally for that reason alone. That Saakashvili cleaned up corruption in Georgia and transformed that country is beyond question, something I’ve heard personally from Georgians who otherwise didn’t like the former president. Nonetheless, there was zero reason to believe that he could repeat that in the Odesa oblast or anywhere in Ukraine for that matter. I, like many Ukrainians, also have a problem with the way the Poroshenko government would hand out Ukrainian passports like candy to any semi-celebrity, including Russian Duma deputies who actually voted for the Crimean annexation, while people who have risked their lives fighting for Ukraine find themselves without residency or deported, in some cases back to Russia to face prosecution.

As ridiculous as Saakashvili’s “revolution” is, I’m more dismayed by the reactions coming from defenders of the status quo, be they openly pro-Poroshenko or not. For one thing, Poroshenko brought this on himself by first bringing Saakashvili in and then by stripping him of his citizenship when he became inconvenient.  I wonder how many of the status quo defenders were excited by Poroshenko’s decision to invite Saakashvili in the first place. But never mind that for now. I think the best way to handle this succinctly is to give an approximation of the arguments I’ve been seeing from the status-quo defenders and providing an explanation as to why they are bullshit.

We’re at war! 

No. Sorry, status quo defenders, but you don’t get to use this argument. Remember, you chose Minsk II, not victory. Any time you see this argument, push the person to say what Ukraine should do to end the war. They have no answers whatsoever. UN Peacekeepers? Won’t happen and would probably lead to a solidification of the phony “republics” if it did somehow happen. The West wins the war for Ukraine? Not going to happen. Obama had the perfect chance to crush and humiliate Putin in 2014, but he ruled out any military action from the get-go. Wait until Russia collapses? Forget it. Ukraine would suffer some sort of socio-economic collapse first, and even if it somehow didn’t, a collapse of the Russian Federation would have grave consequences for Ukraine, especially one still run by corrupt oligarchs. This is all fantasy.

Ukraine can in fact win a war against Russia, but the Poroshenko government clearly has no interest in doing so, and I’ve yet to see any of these “We’re at war” people put forth any plan for victory.

And it’s also worth noting that Ukraine has no shot at victory or even a favorable peace if its war effort is undermined by oligarchs and corrupt officials who put their personal luxury above Ukraine. Corruption in Ukraine not only exists in the arms industry, but even within the military itself.

This is helping Russian propagandists!

I find this objection rather amusing for several reasons. First of all, we know that Russian propagandists are perfectly content to just make shit up about Ukraine. Such made up stories include putting Hitler on a Ukrainian banknote, claims that the US is using Ukraine as a biological weapons testing site, and about 47 different alternative MH17 conspiracy theories, to cite just a few.

Another reason why this argument is funny is that it seems to be coming from the same side that supports things like the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory’s mission to whitewash the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and transform the Ukrainian Insurgent Army into a diverse, inclusive multi-cultural outfit that killed 12,000 Wehrmacht soldiers and never, ever killed any helpless civilians (but if they did, those people had it coming). When you try to point out that promoting the cult of literal fascists (yes, they fucking were by definition, fascists) like Stepan Bandera or Roman Shukhevych can alienate many Ukrainians, Jews, Poles, Western Europeans, and Americans while at the same time providing excellent propaganda material for the Kremlin’s agitprop mills, these people tend to tell you that they don’t care what anybody says- “Ukraine has a right to its own heroes! And we decide who those heroes will be and what their stories are!”

So in short- fuck people who do that and use this argument about airing dirty laundry in front of the Russians. Either you care about optics and values all the time, or you’re full of shit. And I also have little sympathy for chest-thumping patriots who claim not to give a fuck about what the Western world thinks of Ukraine, but then have their hand out, whining about why the US hasn’t sent them Javelins yet. Hey, partisan, why don’t you just defeat the Russian Federation the way your heroic UPA defeated the Soviet Union? Oh…Wait…That didn’t work out too well, did it? Well there’s no better strategy than glorifying failure and doing the same fucking thing over and over again no matter how many times its been shown not to work, right?

Now to be fair, it is true that Russia’s propaganda machine benefits from Saakashvili’s antics. It helps support their narrative that Ukraine is a chaotic basketcase and protesting never solves anything. On the other hand, however, it also casts doubt on the claim that Ukraine is run by this iron-fisted neo-Nazi junta as well as the claim that it poses some kind of threat to Russia.

Saakashvili’s pseudo-revolution is not the solution to Ukraine’s problems, obviously, but it’s a really bad idea to tailor one’s actions based on what the Russians might say about it. You cannot control what they will put out, so if you let them determine the limits of your discourse you’ve effectively let them control you. People say that Putin misunderstood Ukraine in 2014 and that’s why he failed to achieve all his goals there, but while I think there is some truth to that, the game really hasn’t changed so much that Putin and his strategists couldn’t rely on the bulk of their techniques in order to keep Ukraine pinned down and unable to move forward with progressive change. From cultural policy to Eurovision, we’ve seen how easily Moscow can still press Kyiv’s buttons because the game hasn’t really changed.

Anti-Corruption Activists are Full of Shit!

I’ve seen many variants of this argument, including one recently from a certain diaspora cheerleader so dense I half expect her to one day explode and create another universe. But that individual is just an extreme case. I know far smarter people who also react to the phrase “anti-corruption activist” with this:

reforms

Believe me, I get it. I realize that these people aren’t all angels and they don’t have all the answers to Ukraine’s corruption problems. If anything they’re also victims of an extremely narrow range of political discourse in Ukraine, where it seems you’re always faced with false dilemmas and viper-toad choices. I’ll get into why “anti-corruption” doesn’t work as a political strategy later, but for now let’s just say that if one side is demonstratively corrupt, as Poroshenko and his people appear to be, it’s really hard to go all out against anti-corruption organizations. The government has, in fact, brought a lot of this on themselves.

But there have been changes since Maidan!

Okay. Great. But not all these changes have been great, nor do they all matter to most people. This is a little like Donald Trump talking about how great the stock market is doing. If we just take one issue, such as salaries, you can kind of see where the problem lies.

Things like low salaries and corruption directly undermine the war effort because they support key points of the Russian narrative:

-Protesting does nothing; it only makes things worse

-Ukraine has become worse off after Maidan

-There’s no difference between living in “democratic” Ukraine or under Russian occupation

-Russia may be corrupt and less democratic, but salaries and pensions are higher

Without getting into too much detail here, rest assured that the only way Ukraine can hope to achieve victory or even a favorable peace against Russia is by reaching the people behind enemy lines. Those people would be taking an extreme risk taking part in an insurgency against the Russian occupiers. Would they do that for the promise of an average salary of 190 euros and the opportunity to pay bribes to patriotic Ukrainian officials as opposed to Russian-speaking ones? I doubt it.

Put simply, Ukraine must provide these people with convincing proof that they would have a better future in Ukraine, and that vision must be so real to them that they would be willing to risk death and torture to attain it. Visa free travel they can’t afford or vague talk about “reforms” just won’t cut it. Unfortunately I’ve seen many examples of the current Ukrainian intelligentsia not caring about this issue in the slightest. It seems only in Ukraine can you find “nationalists” who would happily give away swathes of their territory simply so they can have a safe space to build their fantasy version of Ukraine (even if that Ukraine might need to resemble a Russia-like authoritarian kleptocracy). That these people aren’t immediately dismissed as traitors shows us how much reform Ukrainian politics really needs.

Conclusion

It’s a clusterfuck. That’s about all I can say. Poroshenko and the status-quo defenders won’t defeat Russia if left alone, nor will they do anything about major corruption. Anti-corruption activists aren’t going to defeat it either. The only thing that’s going to have an impact is when you get a militant, well-trained left movement in Ukraine which demonstrates the ability to fight the war against the occupier while at the same time organizing against the corrupt officials and oligarchs. What the centrists, nationalists, and anti-corruption crusaders all lack is a coherent, realistic understanding of why there is corruption in the country in the first place, i.e. capitalism. Just as the American ruling class, perpetually at odds with the vast majority of Americans, is using its influence in government to appropriate a larger share of public wealth, Ukrainian oligarchs and officials use a more direct, less legalized form of doing the same. And for that matter, Russia’s ruling class is doing it as well.

Ukraine’s understanding of class struggle has been stunted by several factors. I’d say the most prominent would be the relatively late formation of Ukrainian statehood and the fact that when the former briefly became a reality, Ukraine had no Ukrainian capitalist class (individual Ukrainian capitalists existed, but they were typically Russified and disconnected from the peasant majority). The other obvious factor is the disdain for socialism that comes not only from the Soviet experience, but the abhorrent behavior of the so-called “Communist Party of Ukraine” since independence in 1991. To this we can also add those well-meaning leftists who still can’t help but regurgitate the Kremlin’s foreign policy goals or talking points about “peace.”

But whatever the popularity or lack thereof when it comes to class struggle, it is very real, and it is shaping the events that we see in Ukraine, from the Russian invasion (an act of neo-colonialism) to Mr. Saakashvili’s aborted “revolution.” The invasion and occupation must necessarily take precedence over all, but the idea that Ukraine could ever hope to defeat such a powerful opponent while it is ruled by criminals or even just self-interested businessmen whose goals clash with that of the majority of Ukrainians is simply ludicrous.

To put it another way, Ukraine can’t win until there’s a force that points out what ought to be obvious by now- not all Ukrainians are on the same side.

 

Damn. There I am on this soap box again. Sorry about that.

 

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19 thoughts on “Sorting Out the Mess in Kyiv

  1. Josh

    Yes, you nailed it on everything:

    1) Saakashvili is definitely being used as a rallying point by people fed up with Poro, but based on his standing in UA polls I doubt he could be elected dog catcher there.

    2) Anti-corruption reforms and activists are under full-scale attack. All three major accomplishments: NABU; Prozorro; and e-declaration. A big impetus behind Euromaidan was people got tired of the corruption, isn’t this behavior arguably a betrayal of what people were fighting for 4 years ago? Yes, civil society is far from perfect, but groups like AntAC have been absolutely invaluable in pushing whatever reforms have taken place.

    3) The diaspora lady you mention. Pretty sure anyone who follows Ukraine knows who that is. Luckily, most Ukrainians seem to believe that fighting the war while also fighting corruption are possible at the same time.

    Reply
  2. DOS_Hacker (@DShK0)

    Well, absence a of a modern left party or movement is indeed a gaping hole in Ukrainian body politic, as I argued first time before even the first Maidan. Anticorruption obviously fills this gap. That’s why Ukrainian (anti)corruption discourse is rather peculiar. Most Western observers fail to recognize this fact, and you are one of the few to come close.

    But if left movement failed to materialize yet, it seems some objective conditions are not there. My feeling is that modern left can exist only above some threshold of minimal living standards, as it (unlike classic social-democracy) addresses mostly upper layers of Maslow pyramid. Thus I don’t expect a left movement to emerge before long period of economic growth.

    That makes me to side more often than not with “porohobots” or status-quo defenders in your words, despite seeing their many failings. (I don’t think this term is exact enough. They are mostly gradualists, not conservatives). Often thrown against this rationale is an argument about total growth inhibition by corruption. I doesn’t hold against empirical check. Periods of economic growth are often periods of high corruption as well.

    Reply
  3. H2O, too

    Two little points.

    1) It is amazing that Bandera is so controversial among Poles, Jews and Russians(is it them whom you called “alienate many Ukrainians”?), despite not being guilty of anything and dying a free man from the hands of Russian agent, while Bohdan Khmelnytsky, whom one popular book about Jewish culture calls “worse than Hitler”, is not controversial, has a monument in the centre of Kyiv, has his banknote and so on. And no controversy, no scandals, no demands. It is as if rationalizations are just rationalizations and haters hate Bandera for supporting Ukrainian independence and for nothing else. While not being able to hate Khmelnytsky, because Russia doesn’t allow it.

    2) >literal fascists (yes, they fucking were by definition, fascists)

    You’re teating me apart, Lisa.

    You, Jim, need to choose. Either you are with Noam Chomsky, Glenn Greenwald, Seamus Milne etc and their icons Maduro, Kim, Assad and Putin, that is you are like all other superprogressive Western “well-meaning leftists”, woke beyond any and all rationality and laser-focused on being essentially a Russian xenonationalist, and in that case you need to stop constraining your hate to Bandera/OUN/UPA and start hating Ukraine properly as a whole, just like mentioned people; or, you need to understand, that those characters wrong not only about the present, but about the past too.

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      I’m sorry but it appears your knowledge about Bandera, the OUN, and UPA is woefully inadequate, most likely because you rely solely on sources from specific institutions in Ukraine. That’s a really interesting phenomenon- how when you restrict yourselves to ONLY those sources and maybe a few from the emigre movement, Bandera’s an innocent hero and so are the OUN-B, UPA under Shukhevych, etc. And yet when you look at the scholarly literature almost anywhere outside of those Ukrainian institutions- they all tell a consistently different story.

      So that brings us to two possibilities- either there’s this global conspiracy to frame poor Bandera and Shukhevych, a conspiracy that has involved hundreds if not thousands of people and remained more or less consistent for decades- or, there’s the Occam’s Razor answer, which is that Viatrovych and people like him are full of shit.

      Now I’ve heard and debunked pretty much every canned argument in favor of Bandera and none of yours are new, but I’ll indulge you just to show I care.

      “It is amazing that Bandera is so controversial among Poles, Jews and Russians(is it them whom you called “alienate many Ukrainians”?),”

      Believe it or not, there are many Ukrainians that don’t idolize Bandera. Here you excommunicate them and label them Russians, which is NOT AT ALL INDICATIVE OF CULT-LIKE THINKING! NO SIR!

      Most Ukrainians I know don’t give a shit about Bandera either way, and that is fairly understandable given the fact that he had fuck all to do with modern Ukrainian independence anyway. As for Ukrainians opposed to Bandera- there were plenty in his time, from the UNDO to the original UPA under Taras Borovets.

      You claim he was “not guilty of anything.” Well he was in fact guilty nearly all his life of plotting the assassination of his political opponents, including other right-wing nationalists, and sometimes people he’d formerly worked with. He did try to influence the UPA to patch up relations with the Germans while he was in prison as well.

      But to be fair- yes, it’s hard to pin any specific crime on him. The trouble with Bandera was the ideology he preached in those days, which justified such crimes as the liquidation of Jews or the Poles.

      But to a degree I would say that figures like Shukhevych or even Yaroslava Stetsko were worse than Bandera.

      Now like I said I’ve heard every excuse for OUN worship out there, including this one about Khmelnitsky, but I’ll answer it again. First of all it sounds like same-side whataboutism. I mean, are you suggesting that Bohdan Khmelnitsky’s image and name be stricken from Ukrainian banknotes and streets? I wouldn’t.

      But the reason for the difference OUGHT to be obvious to anyone with a minimum ability for critical thinking (i.e. not you). Bohdan Khmelnitsky lived in the 17th century, far beyond anyone’s living memory. Another issue is that in the 17th century, people believed in and did all kinds of horrible shit. Witch burnings still took place in Western Europe of that era. The slave trade would start as well, and in the US slavery would last until 1865. We tend to give more leeway to people the further back into history we go.

      I should also say that there is another reason for scrutinizing Bandera, and that was his ideology. Khmelnitsky’s vision of society really isn’t relevant to us today, but Bandera lived in the modern world. If Ukraine is to be a democracy, a free country with rule of law, then Bandera’s political values matter, and what we do know about Bandera is that he was, till the end of his life, vehemently opposed to liberal democracy. He tried to have political opponents assassinated even after the war. When we look at the mess of Ukrainian politics today, are those the values we want to inject into the mix?

      ” It is as if rationalizations are just rationalizations and haters hate Bandera for supporting Ukrainian independence and for nothing else. While not being able to hate Khmelnytsky, because Russia doesn’t allow it.”

      Some people certainly do, but then again others just know the truth about Bandera and his movement, and they have a set of ethics, unlike Bandera cultists such as yourself. And you speak about what Russia supposedly allows you. I’m sorry I thought Ukraine was independent from Russia. This just goes to prove that so many of you think that in lionizing Bandera and the UPA, you’re somehow angering Moscow or, to use our American right-wing terminology, “owning the Moskalei.” In reality Russians and more importantly the Russian government is not even remotely afraid of your Bandera or OUN worship, and in fact they encourage it and like it because it let’s them perpetually slander Ukraine in the media.

      Why would Moscow ever fear the UPA? They defeated it once and they can defeat it again.

      “You, Jim, need to choose. Either you are with Noam Chomsky, Glenn Greenwald, Seamus Milne etc and their icons Maduro, Kim, Assad and Putin, that is you are like all other superprogressive Western “well-meaning leftists”, woke beyond any and all rationality and laser-focused on being essentially a Russian xenonationalist, and in that case you need to stop constraining your hate to Bandera/OUN/UPA and start hating Ukraine properly as a whole, just like mentioned people; or, you need to understand, that those characters wrong not only about the present, but about the past too.”

      I’m sorry but this is the dumbest false dilemma I’ve ever seen. Think REALLY hard about what you’re saying. You’re telling me to throw critical thinking and ethics out the window and either adopt what I know based on concrete evidence to be untrue as true, or vice versa. You’re saying that I should adopt an ANTI-UKRAINIAN position on the present so I can easily fit on one team, or I can just ignore tons of internationally peer-reviewed evidence and bow to your bizarre little Galician cult in order to remain on Team Ukraine.

      Well I’ve got news for you- forget it. Maybe this is all a big football match to you, but I don’t join teams. I have these things called ethics (I know, you’ve probably never heard of them), and I also have critical thinking, which means that I weigh EACH claim based on the weight of evidence presented for it.

      What I say about Bandera or Shukhevych is backed up by peer-reviewed scholars from around the globe, many of them open supporters of Maidan and Ukrainian independence (unless you think Timothy Snyder is a Kremlin agent, for example).

      I will not apologize and I will not bow to your bizarre little cult, and I will not join some team and ignore what I know to be true just so I can project a false consistency and be part of a tribe.

      Sorry but your choice is a false dilemma, and I choose a different option- the right one.

      Reply
      1. H2O, too

        Okay, I understood that you hate Bandera. But do you also hate Hetman Skoropadsky and other UNR people? Because he also tried to be friends with Germans. And for the same reason – they were the only ones who proposed to save Ukraine from Poland and Russia. After he lost, he lived in Germany, was friend of high-ranking German officials of Hitler era and tried to help Ukraine in any way he could. I bet peer-reviewed consensus of Russian, Polish and Jewish historians is that he was also a fucking son of a Satan, just like Bandera. Do you hate him too?

        The fact is, there is a huge industry for demonizing everybody who was allied with Germany in first half of 20 century, just like after Napoleonic wars they demonized Napoleon and his pals, so of course there is a lot of anti-Ukrainian circlejerking among Russian, Polish and Western historians. I mean, he Ukrainians fought against Russia, who was their literal war ally at the time. And yes, Timothy Snyder is one of those people. He almost certainly doesn’t have anything personal against Ukraine, but pro-Polish, anti-German and Russia-is-a-son-of-a-bitch-but-our-son-of-a-bitch narrative of Anglo-American historical tradition, of which he is a part, demands demonization, so that’s it. “Peer-reviewed”, “weight of evidence”, LOL. History is a social construct and a mirror of power relations. You yourself see today how people are able to withstand overwhelming evidence simply because they’re winning on the ground. Syria, Tribunal of Former Yugoslavia. (You can read what The Guardian columnists write about that. How they defend genocidal dictators they like.) Or, you know, even the whole TRUMP PRESIDENCY. Do you think in earlier times it was harder? No, it was even easier to do this. Cherry-picking, shifting accents, tactically omitting things, breaking context and outright lying and forging stuff then was much more easier. Especially lying against somebody defeated and unable to defend themselves, like Ukrainians.

        Btw, is Kovpak your real surname or a nickname? Because if it’s the latter, then you need to know that Sydir Kovpak was a Russian puppet from a Russified part of Sumy region. He was like Motorola or Givi. Also, maybe in 100 years some well-meaning guy like you with a nickname “Mike Motorola” will say: “No, today of course I support Ukraine against Russia, but your cultism about early 21th century Ukraine is disgusting. Those Ukrainians were neoliberal NATO fascists, while Russia was valiant anti-imperialist power and Motorola was good, because he fought against literal Nazis crucifying children(see, there is a video from VICE showing a guy with swastika, ha! HA!), just look at all this weight of peer-reviewed evidence from Russian and Polish academies of sciences and Marxist professors from Quebec, who interviewed inspector Carlos by email. What do you mean they’re biased, lying and crazy, and exaggerating and twisting reality? So what that they invaded Ukraine from two sides at the time? You’re just a bitter loser, just like that early 21th century Ukrainians, those NATO pro-EU Nazis. Just admit that Putin was a holy savior, just like Stalin, or at least a lesser evil, and then maybe you will have some credibility!”

        Anyway, if you don’t want to choose the team, then it will be chosen for you at the most inappropriate moment. And maybe that’s for the best, because you don’t seem to be ready to make a good choice. Reading history is good, but only if you really read history, that is the whole complex of it, from popular narratives for housewives to historiography to sources and back, while surfing through philosophy of science in parallel. If you stop at the first step, it’s probably worse than not reading it at all, which you demonstrate.

        tl;dr Stay woke! *red rose emoji*

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Instead of writing a textwall of incoherent gibberish, you could have just said that yes, you believe there’s a global conspiracy to frame Bandera and Shukhevych, because we all know Ukraine is the center of the universe.

        It is simply hilarious how you would insinuate that a man like Timothy Snyder, whose anti-Soviet tone is painfully obvious, could somehow become totally unable to distinguish between Soviet propaganda and reality on this ONE, very specific issue.

        “so that’s it. “Peer-reviewed”, “weight of evidence”, LOL. History is a social construct and a mirror of power relations. ”

        Sounding just like a Russian vatnik there. But that’s no surprise. There’s no difference between them and you.

        To answer the one coherent question you made, about Skoropadsky, I personally don’t care. I don’t really care about Bandera or Shukhevych much either. They are but a speck in Ukrainian history as a whole, including in the history of the independence movement. I have a problem with people like you who DEMAND that we all bow to your fairy tales and hero cults. If it weren’t for people engaging in this behavior I wouldn’t have any reason to complain about the OUN cult.

        I also think it’s funny that you discount peer review and historical consensus and talk about social constructs and power dynamics, because if that’s the case you’ve just ADMITTED that the fairy tales the UINP are themselves constructs and the product of power dynamics (and they are, because Viatrovych was appointed as head of the UINP and allowed to bring in a lot of his buddies).

        Or are you going to stupidly insist that YOUR socially constructed history, which gets shot to pieces once it leaves Ukraine, is somehow truth while all else is not?

        Again, this is the same kind of thinking peddled by Putin’s regime and now the Trump admin as well- you can’t really know what’s real!

        Your bizarre rant about 100 years later is nothing but fan-fiction from a bizarre mind. I should also point out that Sydir Kovpak was ethnically Ukrainian, from Ukraine, whereas Motorola was a Russian citizen. Kovpak’s movement also had popular support, whereas the Russian project’s support ends where their gun barrels do.

        You have chosen the dead OUN and its leaders over the living Ukraine and its future. It’s that simple. I’m not really interesting in carrying on a “debate” with an irrational conspiracy theorist. You’ve had ample opportunity to make your case, and you’ve failed miserably.

        PS- While Skoropadsky did a lot for Ukrainian state-forming, he did basically transform Ukraine into a temporary colony and seriously hurt the nationalist movement. Perhaps Ukraine could have maintained its independence had the UNR not been overthrown.

      3. Jim Kovpak Post author

        The gallery should also be reminded that this post wasn’t even about Bandera, the OUN, or Ukrainian history, but rather I used one issue as an analogy. That this individual chose to ignore the actual topic of this piece in order to get into an argument about Bandera in which he denies the idea of scholarship and objective truth in history is testimony to my assertion that the OUN is associated with a cult.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      The answer could easily fill a whole book, but the short answer is the same way other smaller countries have defeated larger opponents- irregular warfare and bigger ideas. It may take time and a lot of sacrifice, but that’s the price of independence.

      Reply
      1. misha

        Sounds a bit overly pious to me. Who ever won using irregular warfare on the steppe?

        And big ideas don’t matter unless you are putting them into practice. How on Earth would Ukraine (under Poroshenko, no less), escalate a protracted war while also ending corruption, reforming the state apparatus and growing the economy? Everything would have to happen at once.

        And three years after Slavyansk fell, with Trump in power, what does Putin really have to fear when it comes to the decision of finally using airpower to defend DNR/LNR?

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Russia’s not nearly as strong as people think it is. Going to war early caused some serious problems with their modernization.

        Also if you think the steppe is bad for guerrilla warfare, look at central Iraq or Syria- that’s even worse.

        As for airpower, I doubt Putin wants to lose it. Ukraine has pretty good air defense. Also, what’s the point of using planes against insignificant targets you can barely hope to pinpoint?

      3. Jim Kovpak Post author

        I should also point out that any attempt to do this is going to be tricky because the movement that leads the effort will inevitably have to defend against the corrupt state as well as the Russians. It will be a constant see-saw until the movement is powerful enough to either overthrow or neutralize the corrupt state. I think by that time the Kremlin will be really scared.

      4. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Here’s something new: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJEr6SgHmeg&feature=youtu.be

        Around minute seven, Galeotti talks about the successful modernization of the Ukrainian army and how an offensive push by Moscow would be too bloody for Russia’s tastes, at least at the moment.

        It’s not hard to extrapolate from this that if the Russian side were provoked by a slap in the face, forced to respond, and then bloodied even further, Russia would be forced to contemplate a long, bloody, unpopular war or sue for peace and drop the phony republics.

        Putin’s built his system on propaganda narratives. Humiliation also plays a huge role in that society. If his approval ratings soared when he annexed the Crimea, just imagine how embarrassing it would be when his big strong imperial army is routed by people from the country his media’s been calling a failed state since 2014.

  4. misha

    What was Obama supposed to have done to humiliate Putin in 2014?
    Cut Russia off from Swift? Apply meaningless sanctions to Putin personally?

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Quite simple really- call Putin’s bluff. They insisted those forces in Donbas weren’t Russians but rather local rebels. So if that’s the case, what’s wrong with the US and other NATO allies sending a couple brigades to help an ally deal with a local uprising, right? Putin would be backed into a corner- either he stands and fights, which seems too unpalatable to him, or he turns tail and runs, which would have been humiliating. He most likely would have chosen the latter.

      Reply
      1. Josh

        A professor I know who studies this stuff closely once made an interesting point to me. Between Feb 22 2014 and first week in March when Putin’s troops were already in control of Crimea Obama never spoke to Putin to warn him off. What if Obama had called him as the storm was gathering and warned him that annexing Crimea would result in sanctions and other punishments? Would Putin have still gone forward? Quite possibly, but maybe he would have backed off. Obama could have even promised Putin that the US would be willing to ensure the new Government in Kyiv wouldn’t cancel the Russians’ Black Sea base, or maybe something like that. Some kind of carrot and stick approach. Just amazing Obama never made that call.

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Obama and other Western leaders also told the Ukrainian side not to resist. If the account of the annexation given in Brothers Armed is accurate (and there’s good reason to believe it is), then we know the Russians were being extremely cautious about occupying the peninsula, waiting only until they’d achieved full superiority to being talking about annexation. Warnings from the West, pledges of support for Ukraine, plus a recommendation that Ukrainian troops resist may very well have convinced Putin to back down.

        Of course it also might have woken him up to the fact that he had far better ways to maintain influence in Ukraine than military options, but I don’t want to come off sounding like this war was a good thing. It would be far better if those 10,000 were still alive and the millions displaced were home, even if it meant continuing Russian influence over Ukraine for several more years.

  5. h2o, two

    (Answering hear, because no “reply” button in other thread. Also have problems posting even here. Am I banned? Okay, one last attempt)

    Countries support their allies and hurt their enemies – both materially and informationally. That includes writing propagandistic history about them. Is this such a hard thing to grasp? Such an amazing conspiracy to believe? And Ukraine was enemy of both Poland and Russia, nations Timothy Snyder sympathizes with in WW2. Is this really that incomprehensible? Looks very transparent to me.

    >YOUR socially constructed history, which gets shot to pieces once it leaves Ukraine

    Ukraine is an underdeveloped ex-colony and its exports are uncompetitive, yes. Is this supposed to be an argument?

    >Sydir Kovpak was ethnically Ukrainian, from Ukraine, whereas Motorola was a Russian citizen

    If you don’t like comparison with Motorola, there are Givi, Zakharchenko, other Russified idiots of somewhere-Ukrainian ethnic extraction. Kovpak’s base of operations was Russified district in Sumy, near Russian border. He was a puppet and had no Ukrainian support, just like all other invading Russians and their collaborationists.

    On the other hand, “OUN and its leaders” and other fighters for Ukrainian independence like UNR and Skoropadsky were real. They were fighting against overwhelming odds, in terms of both material supplies and ability to manufacture propaganda, but that’s, like, the most Ukrainian thing to do. And of course it’s a false dilemma to choose between them and the living, because living Ukrainian politics and history without them is not a Ukrainian history, but Little Polish and Little Russian one. But Ukrainians are not going to become helots again. Not without a fight, at least.

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      So you’re implying that America, Canada, and other Western European countries aren’t allies of Ukraine and you’re also insinuating that these governments somehow control the output of academia? You really do have the vatnik mentality it seems.

      “Ukraine is an underdeveloped ex-colony and its exports are uncompetitive, yes. Is this supposed to be an argument?”

      There is no reason why Ukraine can’t produce research that passes peer review. There ARE scholars who produce such research all the time. Viatrovych and his pals aren’t among them, though.

      “f you don’t like comparison with Motorola, there are Givi, Zakharchenko, other Russified idiots of somewhere-Ukrainian ethnic extraction. Kovpak’s base of operations was Russified district in Sumy, near Russian border. He was a puppet and had no Ukrainian support, just like all other invading Russians and their collaborationists.”

      Collaboration with Russians = bad and not Ukrainian

      Collaboration with Germans = Fine and totally excusable.

      Thanks, got it. That’s idiotic.

      “They were fighting against overwhelming odds, in terms of both material supplies and ability to manufacture propaganda, but that’s, like, the most Ukrainian thing to do. And of course it’s a false dilemma to choose between them and the living, because living Ukrainian politics and history without them is not a Ukrainian history, but Little Polish and Little Russian one. But Ukrainians are not going to become helots again. Not without a fight, at least.”

      This is nonsensical. You can just as well claim that Skoropadsky was a traitor for selling out to the Germans and Petliura to the Poles. Hell- the UNR had an agreement with the Bolsheviks as well. It was the latter who started the war, not the UNR side.

      You keep selectively deciding who is a real Ukrainian (apparently you want to give Sumy oblast to the Russians- real patriotic of you) and who isn’t with this idiotically arbitrary system.

      And yet why even take you seriously? You JUST said that history’s just a social construct, a function of power, and peer review doesn’t matter. So how can you make ANY assertions about Bandera, the OUN, or anything for that matter? Who are you to call anything propaganda when you’ve already established that you don’t actually care about objective reality.

      This is why I call you a vatnik and this is why I ban you- because I can see that even you don’t fully believe in the veracity of any of this. That’s what I hate most about the vatnik mentality- saying things even though you half-acknowledge they’re not true or unproven. I won’t tolerate it from the pro-Kremlin side and I won’t tolerate it from the Ukrainian side either.

      Reply

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