People should think for themselves. Peter Hitchens says “Not since the wild frenzy after the death of Princess Diana have I ever met such a wave of ignorant sentiment. Nobody knows anything about Ukraine. Everyone has ferocious opinions about it.” See “Can anyone explain to me why this was called evacuation and not surrender?“
I am amazed this article by Viktor Yanukovych has had so little publicity. It’s by the fourth President of Ukraine, who was overthrown in a coup in 2014. It contains a succinct summarily of the problems which led up to the coup, and to the current war Ukraine-Russia war. Yet it has only become available because it was posted on Facebook by Yanukovych’s lawyer. It saw a brief comment from a Polish news outlet (the ex-president did refer to Poland’s interest in territory in western Ukraine) – but that is all I can find.
I followed developments in Ukraine during the crisis in 2013/2014. In my mind Ukrainians had to choose between two different futures:
- Their role as a bridge between West and East. At that time, I thought a future Ukrainian membership of the EU would be consistent with that role.
- A hostile frontier between West and East with the promise of eventual NATO membership for Ukraine
Of course, underlying these two alternatives were the basic ethnic differences in Ukraine with the rise of Ukrainian nationalist forces in the west and the large numbers of ethnic Russians in the East. The crisis partly reflected this ethnic conflict.
“The nationalist forces demanded creation of a mono-ethnic state, from a diverse country, whose indigenous people, due to historical circumstances, belonged to different cultures and ethnic groups. This was a breeding ground for accumulation of internal political contradictions, which ultimately resulted in the political crisis of 2014.”
That programme for a mono-ethic state seems so stupid in this modern day and age. Many countries accommodate diverse populations through sensible language laws and political and regional representation. But this was prevented in Ukraine because of the ascendency, and dominance after the coup, of ultranationalist forces.
Failure of diplomacy and political reason
- In February 2014 the European Union helped broker an agreement on settlement of political crisis in Ukraine. This was signed on 21 February 2014 by the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and the leaders of the parliamentary opposition. It provided for constitutional reform, early presidential election, handing in of illegal weapons and a move away from the confrontation between the government forces and demonstrators. It seemed to be a good start, but it was rejected by the ultranationalist forces which controlled the demonstrations. They carried out a coup – with the support of the US which was clearly opposed to the agreement.
- Later, in an attempt to stop the civil war that resulted from the coup, the Normandy Countries (France, Germany and Russia) brokered agreements for a ceasefire, control of arms in the region and a political settlement based on elections, recognition of a degree of autonomy and constitutional changes. These were the Minsk Agreements which were signed by the Ukrainian president and by leaders of the break-away regions.But they have never been carried out – despite the current president Volodymyr Zelenskyy standing on a peace platform and receiving overwhelming electoral support in the 2019 presidential elections (he received 73 per cent of the vote in the run-off to Poroshenko’s 25 per cent).
The fact that ultranationalist forces were able to prevent any progress in the Minsk agreements or the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the war zone shows they had overwhelming influence despite their apparent poor election results.
- The Minsk Agreements had broad international support – they were endorsed by the UN Security Council (of which New Zealand was a member at the time). Despite this, western politicians simply gave lip service to them and, in effect, supported the Ukrainian refusal to carry them out. This represents a huge diplomatic failure by mainly western countries, and they must bear responsibility for the current war which the agreements could have prevented.
If the Minsk Agreements had been carried out Ukraine’s territorial integrity would have been preserved. That is no longer possible.
Rational advice from high-ranking diplomats and experts
Referring to Henry Kissinger’s recent comments on the Ukraine-Russia war Yanukovych writes in his article:
“But Mr. Kissinger only repeated the thoughts he expressed long before 20122. The former US National Security Advisor and Secretary of State during the presidencies of Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon told me at the time that, based on political realities, he saw no alternative for Ukraine’s role as a bridge between Russia and the West. Attempts to change the status quo would inevitably lead to a conflict with Russia, which potentially carried very serious consequences not only for Ukraine, but for Europe as well.”
These warnings had also been voiced by many academic experts on Russia and Ukraine. One would have thought, then, that there would have been serious diplomatic moves to overcome the serious security problems in Europe caused by the lapse and withdrawal from important arms control and similar security treaties.
But again, diplomacy failed the world. The Russian Federation did make public proposals for the settlement of these problems, but they were not taken seriously by diplomats in NATO and the US. Nor were the Russian warnings that refusal of serious negotiation would lead to Russia taking their own unilateral steps of a “technical-military” nature.
Failure of diplomacy or pursuance of geopolitical interests?
It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the current war was motivated by geopolitical interests. Refusal to carry out agreements reflected the interests of the USA and NATO as well as the nationalist Ukrainian groups. The refusal to carry out serious European security negotiations served the interests of European and US leaders who have promoted hostile policies to the Russian Federation for some time and had been responsible for the withdrawal from previous arms control agreements.
Certainly, the more vocal western opinion formers on social media, people like Bill Browder, Anne Applebaum, Michael McFaul, Anders Åslund, etc., simply could not hold back. They are salivating because all their dreams had come true. The Russian invasion of Ukraine meant that governments would now carry out the extreme economic warfare measure they had been advocating for years. They believe the economic and military war would precipitate regime change in the Russian Federation – even leading to the breakup of that country
In recent years I have lamented the absence of any genuine peace movement anymore. I also lament the lack of rational and honest diplomacy in today’s world – and that is dangerous. In the 1980s we were seriously concerned about the nuclear arms race. The peace movement was large. But there were also sensible political leaders in the East and West who did sit down and negotiate sensible arms control measures.
It would be a lot better today if we had a mass peace movement of people who could think for themselves rather than succumb to the current approved group thinking. It would also be better if we had rational political leaders prepared to negotiate security and arms control treaties rather than seeking to impose their own geopolitical aims on the world.