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Chris Ford: The Ukraine Crisis - a bunch of thugs facing off another bunch of thugs

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

The Ukraine Crisis, in my view, is one bunch of thugs (the new Ukrainian Government) facing off against another bunch of thugs (Vladimir Putin's Russia).

While this may sound to some an overly simplistic statement, let me expand a little.

The Western-backed Ukrainian Revolution, which overthrew former President Viktor Yanukovych last week, initially started as a genuine people's movement to free the country from a repressive and autocratic leadership which had been impoverishing it's people. Very slowly, though, the West (in the form of the United States and the European Union) saw their chance to influence events in Ukraine in order to spite Russia. After all, Ukraine (being the largest nation in terms of land mass in Europe) has long been contested between the world's great powers due to its strategic value. Thus, in order to influence events, the West began backing the Maidan People's Union, a coalition led by right-wing conservative, nationalist and liberal parties which sought the downfall of the old regime.

Accordingly, the new regime (led by Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov) has come to power backed by not only free-market, pro-Western, liberal political parties but also those of a more nationalist and/or neo-fascist bent such as, for example, Svoboda (a party which essentially champions far-right nationalism in Ukraine). These parties have effectively hijacked the revolution for their own ends given that they now constitute part of the new post-revolutionary government. This is the case as the new government has requested that great friend of democracy and economic justice, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to send a mission to Ukraine so that they can impose their own peculiar brand of free market-based austerity on an already barely surviving populace. Furthermore, this IMF intervention will enable Ukraine to integrate with the European Union, therefore taking the country out of the Russian sphere of influence and into the United States/European Union/NATO sphere.

And given that the West wants to take Ukraine out of the Russian sphere for its own ends, it's not surprising that the equally thugocratic regime of Vladimir Putin has responded with a show of brute Russian military force in Crimea. Russia has exercised full control over this strategically vital peninsula for the last 200 years. During this whole time, the peninsula has served as home to the Russian Black Sea fleet which has enabled the country to exercise its influence over this vital region. In fact, access to the Black Sea has been historically important for Russia which has traditionally lacked access to warm water ports for much of the year (a factor which could become redundant anyway with climate change sadly melting the northern polar ice caps). Nonetheless, Russia does not want to lose what it sees as one of the last remaining strategic buffers between itself and the West either - hence, the furiousness of the struggle being waged over Ukraine.

And, indeed, the Crimean region has been a strategically contested piece of turf for much of its history. Long before the Russians came, the Mongols, Romans and  Greeks have been among the many nations and peoples who have controlled this prize piece of strategic real estate.

But it is sad that, for one thing, the thugocrats who have hijacked the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution have now caused the equally thugocratic Russians to intervene out of fear that they will lose the Crimea. And, for this reason, it is the ordinary people of the Ukraine (both Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian) who will be the long-term losers from this conflict. In my view, their revolution will not only turn out to be short-lived but also used by external powers to further their own selfish strategic interests. The Ukrainian people should have the right to determine their own future, free of super power influence, and in a genuinely peaceful, democratic way. However, modern geopolitical realities and the demands of global capital (both Russian-based and American/European-based) mean that the Ukrainian people will be denied even this much freedom - and that is a tragedy that will affect us all in the weeks ahead.

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