“Has it ever before happened that people associated with Ukrainian, Russian, Belarusian, Armenian, Polish, and Jewish culture have died in a revolution that was started by a Muslim? Can we who pride ourselves in our diversity and tolerance think of anything remotely similar in our own histories?” Timothy Snyder asks in his marvelous recap of the uprising in Ukraine. His article, on the blog of the New York Review of Books, is as fascinating a read about the underpinnings of the uprising as we’ve seen.
Whatever course the Russian intervention may take, it is not an attempt to stop a fascist coup, since nothing of the kind has taken place. What has taken place is a popular revolution, with all of the messiness, confusion, and opposition that entails. The young leaders of the Maidan, some of them radical leftists, have risked their lives to oppose a regime that represented, at an extreme, the inequalities that we criticize at home. They have an experience of revolution that we do not. Part of that experience, unfortunately, is that Westerners are provincial, gullible, and reactionary.
Thus far the new Ukrainian authorities have reacted with remarkable calm. It is entirely possible that a Russian attack on Ukraine will provoke a strong nationalist reaction: indeed, it would be rather surprising if it did not, since invasions have a way of bringing out the worst in people. If this is what does happen, we should see events for what they are: an entirely unprovoked attack by one nation upon the sovereign territory of another.
(h/t: David Brauer)
“Putin is routinely described as a good tactician but poor strategist; his long-term goals are often overshadowed by opportunistic, short-term gains,” Jason Royce Lindsey, an associate professor and chair of the political science department at St. Cloud State University, writes in today’s Star Tribune. “He spent more than $50 billion on the Sochi Olympics to showcase his country and improve its international standing. One week later, that effort is overshadowed by his actions in the Crimea.”
“What Putin hopes to achieve by acquiring Crimea is unclear,” he writes, “not only to us, but to him as well.”
Think we’re back to the Cold War? Here’s something you wouldn’t have seen during the Cold War. On Russia Today today, an anchor for the state-run TV channel spoke out against the state. Then again, she’s from Washington.
Here in the U.S., all of this seems too complicated for major news media to present as context. It wasn’t hard to see where CBS’ Nora O’Donnell was heading when she asked a former Obama official “doesn’t Putin act when he senses weakness?” this morning.
Related: Ukrainians in Fargo disgusted with Russia's invasion of Crimea peninsula (Fargo Forum).