Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Another Ukraine upset

I’ve been keeping a loose eye on Ukraine ever since liveblogging the Orange Revolution back in November/December 2004 (starting from a position of complete ignorance about the country, let alone the events taking place – but since when did ignorance stop a blogger from having an opinion?).

But, to be honest, the chaos of those uncertain days – with various supporters of rival candidates taking to the streets, rumours of Russian involvement, talk of assassination attempts and threats of military coups – meant that I never really got my head around Ukrainian politics.

The only thing I did come out of the “Orange Revolution” with was a sense that, despite appearances, neither side was quite as it appeared, and that for non-expert commentators to try to simplify the spat as between pro-Western and pro-Russian groupings was as misleading as it was trite. I even started questioning the received wisdom that Orange leader Viktor Yuschenko was some kind of wonderful, democratic hero as the “Revolution” was at its height, so stereotypically perfect a revolutionary did he appear, and so unanimous was his Western support.

Well, in the last couple of years it seems my doubts had some justification, as all the promise of the Orange Revolution seems to have evaporated – although not necessarily for the reasons I first feared. Crisis after crisis has hit Yushchenko’s various coalitions, as the old supporters of the movement that brought him to power have splintered off into opposition, and he’s ended up teaming up with the very people the Orange Revolution was designed to boot out of office, and whom were accused at the revolution’s height of being behind the alleged plot to assassinate him.

Now, once again, coalitions have started to fracture, another crisis is in the offing, and protestors are out on the streets of Kiev.

With the country’s political scene split three ways between Yuschenko loyalists, supporters of fellow former Orange revolutionary Yulia Tymoshenko, and those of the chap the Orange Revolution was launched to get rid of, Viktor Yanukovich (not to mention all the sub-sections and cross-overs between the three main groupings, and all the other parties involved, like parliamentary Chairman Oleksander Moroz’s Socialists), it appears that no one in Ukraine has quite the popular support that is necessary to form a stable government. The outcome is practically impossible to predict.

All that does seem certain is that such instability on the EU’s eastern frontier is a constant worry. With Europe increasingly reliant on Russian energy supplies, and Ukraine being one of the major routes for Russian gas to reach the EU, a stable, sensibly-run Ukraine is essential. If the country goes the route of other unstable, resource-rich former socialist states – like Belarus to its north or the nutty dictatorships of Central Asia – then the EU as a whole could be in serious trouble.

Update: As vaguely suspected, Yushchenko’s dissolved parliament and called a snap election. There have been vague reports of riot police on the streets of Kiev in case the rival groups of supporters get tetchy, but so far – despite discontent all round – there have been no signs of violence.

Interesting to hear BBC News 24 still explaining this as a clash between “pro-Western” and “pro-Russian” groups, though. Just a tad simplistic from Auntie, that…

Tuesday update: Foreign Notes is back with more – including the intriguing news that parliament has threatened the press with prosecution if it prints the president’s pronouncement…


  1. So, we should invade, right?

    Or maybe we should fund a repressive strongman to hold the place together?

  2. Or help them to join the EU as quickly as possible…

    Instability is fine, its when they start doing things like issuing press statements that "israel should be wiped off the map", pursuing nuclear weapons and capturing UK navy men…that military intervention seems sensible.

    Bah. Machiavelli was right, when a country stops fighting it becomes effeminate and weak.

  3. On a side note I take sole credit for Nosemonkey posting this article as I believe it was inspired by my comment on Ukraine in a previous post. And no I don't have any facts whatsoever to back this up.

  4. Epi writes…

    Instability is fine, its when they start doing things like issuing press statements that “israel should be wiped off the map”, pursuing nuclear weapons and capturing UK navy men…that military intervention seems sensible.

    Except, of course, the Iranian government didn't issue a press statement that “israel should be wiped off the map”. That statement is a mistranslation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's citation of Ayatollah Khomeini who called for "the occupation regime over Jerusalem [to] be erased from the page of time".

    Whatever your views about Iran and the religious mentalists who currently run it, there's a very clear difference between the two statements.

    I also find it bizarre that anyone claims to believe that Iran would launch a nuclear strike against the land they call Palestine and the countless Islamic Holy Sites it contains. Iran nuking the Dome of The Rock? I think not.

    None of which is meant to suggest that a nuclear-armed Iran would be A Good Thing. It would most definitely be A Bad Thing. But then again, a nuclear-armed Britain / America / China / Russia / France / Israel / Pakistan / India / North Korea is also A Bad Thing. So whatcha gonna do?

  5. I wasn't aware of the mis-translation, though I suspect the sentiments are the same.

    They show Cartoons were they perpetuate the myth that on passover (I believe) Jews execute Christians in secret. They actively deny the holocaust. The list goes on and on and on…

    Ive calmed down a little, reminded myself that many of the people are not representative of the country's government, but really, something needs to be done, and I'm not convinced that Diplomacy works with this regime. Simply look at the nuclear talks between the EU and Iran.

    ANYWAY, on the topic of Ukraine, its a pity that cold-war politics still reign supreme. Slightly disappointed the EU didn't intervene in anyway.

  6. Pingback: Nosemonkey / Europhobia » Blog Archive » A European periphery roundup

  7. Epi, at the risk of entirely side tracking this debate, the sentiment is quite different. Utterly detroying something ("wiping off the map") is not the same as ending an occupation of a city ("the occupation of Jerusalem etc etc"). I also gather that the "erased from the pages of time" thing is an Arabic saying/phrase that doesn't really translate. Or something.

    Either way, clearly the Iranian President doesn't like Israel or its occupation of Jerusalem very much, but characterising his sentiments as a desire to entirely annihilate Israel is unnecessarily inflammatory.