Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Putin and Ukraine

For about a year we have heard surprisingly little in the Western press about Ukraine. All credit to the New Statesman for addressing that gap in last week's issue which had the front page headline "Putin's War."

Every intelligent resident of Western Europe who takes an interest in foreign affairs and isn't on Vladimir Putin's payroll is worried about him, and is right to be. Because of Putin's almost total control of the media in Russia, most of his people believe that his aggressive attitudes to his neighbours such as Ukraine is a sign of strength.

However, dangerous as he is, Putin is not Superman and Russia's strength is not limitless. We can afford to stand up to him and need to do so.

Elizabeth Pond argues in the New Statesman issue referred to above that Vladimir Putin has lost Ukraine apart from the Crimea.

Her account of the conflict is not flattering either towards Putin or the oligarchs who dominate Ukraine's politics and describes the price both countries have paid for the mistakes of their leaders.

Reading her article would be a useful eye-opener both to anyone who has a rose-tinted view of Putin of Ukrainian politics, and to those who hate the European Union so much that they convinced themselves that  the EU was responsible for the conflicts between Russia and Ukraine and within the latter, or swallowed Russian propaganda to that effect. There were plenty of domestic reasons for the conflict, and the West was not a major player - not, most of us would agree, should we have been.

Pond describes how, in September 2015, Putin opened a new front in Syria and reportedly transferred attention and special forces from Ukraine to Syria. The guns in Ukraine fell silent and have largely remained so. Let's hope is stays that way. If it does, it will not be because Putin has become a man of peace, but because both he and the separatists he backed think they have more to lose than gain by provoking further fighting.

Let's also hope that the people of Ukraine can take their minds from fighting long enough to make democracy in their country real and not allow it to be bought and sold by corrupt robber-barons.

You can read Elizabeth Pond's article here.

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