A glance through the annals of history tells us that the Golden Age of Ukraine occurred just as western Europe was emerging from its long, dark, post-Roman coma around the 10th and 11th centuries, A.D. After that, it was a kind of polo field for sundry sweeping hordes of mounted hell-bringers: Tatars, Turks, Cossacks, Bulgars, Napoleon’s grand army. In modern times, its population was divided between allegiance to Russia or to the Germanic states of the west. The Russian soviet regime treated it very badly. As many Ukrainians starved to death under Stalin’s “terror famine” of 1932-1933 as Jews and others were killed later in Hitler’s death camps. Stalin went on to try and totally erase Ukraine’s ethnic identity.
The Nazis wanted to go even further: to erase the Slavic population altogether so that the great fertile “breadbasket” of Ukraine could provide lebensraum for German colonizers. Stalin foolishly signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler in 1939 — had he not read Mein Kampf? Less than two years later, Germany turned around and invaded Russia, using Ukraine as doormat and mud-room for a horrific struggle that left Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine, a virtual ashtray, and 28,000 villages destroyed.
Culture, as we know, is resilient. But given that history, one wonders what the current disposition of all these historical tides portends. The few thousand Americans not completely distracted by tweeting the content of their breakfasts or shooting naked selfies or texting behind the wheel — yea, even the gallant minority not mentally colonized by the slave-masters of Silicon Valley — must wonder what the heck happened in the streets of Kiev last week. Or, as Sir Mick Jagger famously said at the deadly Altamont Speedway festival, “Who’s fighting, and what for?” By the way, don’t count the editors of The New York Times among the aforementioned gallant minority of digital idiocy resisters. Today’s front page contained this rich nugget:
KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s acting interior minister issued a warrant on Monday for the arrest of former President Viktor F. Yanukovych, accusing him of mass killing of civilian protesters in demonstrations last week…. Arsen Avakov, the acting official, made the announcement on his official Facebook page Monday.
Perhaps there’s a trend in this: all government information around the world will henceforth be transmitted by Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg will come to lead a New World Order of universal friendship. Remind me to send a friend request to Arsen Avakov and de-friend Victor F. Yanukovych.
I suppose the geopolitical bottom-line in all this is that the Ukrainians must feel more comfortable tilting toward a de-Nazified Germany than submitting to the attentions of a de-sovietized Russia. Both would-be patrons are dangling money before a rather cash-strapped Ukraine, which is faced by bond interest payouts that it can’t possibly come up with, not to mention some scratch to just keep the streetcars running. (Forgive me for pointing out that Ukraine at least has streetcars, unlike the USA, which just has cars on streets.)
Given the International Monetary Fund’s record as the West’s official loan shark, would a Ukraine government be wise to turn there for a handout? Meanwhile, is everybody pretending that the Ukraine is not crisscrossed by a great web of natural gas pipelines? And is it not obvious that the gas flows in one direction: from Russia to Europe. So, how exactly would it benefit western Europe if Ukraine got more cuddly with them? Russia could still shut down the gas valve at the source? If the Europeans had any common sense, you’d think they would just butt out of this struggle and quit dangling money and offers of friendship to a nation whose greatest potential is to be a perpetual battleground in yet another unnecessary dreadful conflict.
Let’s hope the American government is just grandstanding in the background because we have less business in this feud than in the doings of Middle Earth. National Security Advisor Susan Rice was flogging ultimatums around on “Meet the Press” yesterday — some blather about right of the Ukrainian people “to fulfill their aspirations and be democratic and be part of Europe, which they choose to be.”
If anything, the uprising in Kiev last week should remind us that Europe’s history is long and deep in bloodshed and that one particular Ukrainian politician who employs snipers to shoot through the hearts of his adversaries is not the only person or party across that broad region capable of reawakening the hell-bringers. There are quite a few other countries over there that could disintegrate politically in the months ahead, nations faced with insurmountable financial and economic troubles. The USA has enough problems of its own. Maybe it should tweet a message to itself.
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