In Background, Feature Articles, Ukraine

By New Cold War.org editors, August 22, 2015

Writer and analyst Andrew Korybko has written a hopeful commentary in which he sees possibilities that the civil war in eastern Ukraine might end and an overall improvement to the political situation in Ukraine opens up. He writes in a commentary published on Vineyard of the Saker on August 19, 2015: “Ukraine might finally be on the verge of a legitimate people’s uprising against the government.”  The commentary is headlined, ‘Is Ukraine on the cusp of a real uprising?’

'Save Donbas' protestKorybko explains, “Three recent developments indicate that the country is a lot closer to a real revolution than most observers might believe, and if the people take the initiative in seizing the opportunity in front of them, they might have a chance at reversing some of the regime’s most disastrous policies before it’s ultimately too late.”

Two of those developments are the potential for popular opposition to the recent banning of books by the Kyiv government and to the likelihood that agricultural exports by Ukraine to Russia will be sharply reduced next year. On the latter point, in 2016, clauses pertaining to agriculture in the economic association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union take effect. These might compel Russia to act to restrict imports from Ukraine in order to protect its domestic producers from the “free trade” deal between Ukraine and the EU.

The third development, says Korybko, is the recent formation of the Committee for Salvation of Ukraine (CSU). The committee is seen by its supporters as an alternative government of Ukraine in waiting (assuming that the next presidential election will be fair and democratic). The project is headed by officials of the former, governing Party of Regions of Ukraine, including former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. It is based in Moscow.

Korybko writes, “… the organization isn’t perfect (and much of its makeup and activity is still mysterious and undeclared), but it symbolically stands as the first, realistic form of opposition to the Maidan government, and it’s helped by the fact that it’s based abroad and is thus safe from Kiev’s clutches. Most importantly at this point of time, however, is that the organization is likely building a network of supportive cells inside of Ukraine in order to construct a unified anti-government platform from which to challenge the state.”

A Ukrainian correspondent replies

A correspondent of New Cold War.org in Ukraine has written the following note concerning Korybko’s commentary, respectfully disagreeing:

Unfortunately, I don’t see Korybko’s commentary as accurate. It reads as wishful thinking.

Ukraine was on the cusp of an uprising immediately after the Maidan victory in February 2014. Many cities had really mass protests against the overthrow of the elected government. But these protests were brutally suppressed in cities such as Odessa [massacre of May 2, 2014], Mariupol [massacre of May 9, 2014], Kharkiv and others. Only Donetsk and Lugansk succeeded in resisting the new, right-wing government, and even this was only partially successful and it came with many, many sacrifices.

Today, the average Ukrainian realizes that peaceful protests will be routinely assaulted by far-right nationalists or by police. And failing that, the government will deploy the army with tanks and artillery against them, as it is doing in Donbas.

This has disappointed or intimidated many people who would otherwise protest. Many of them have chosen to flee the country or formally migrate. The fact of war (the so-called anti-terrorist operation) as well as the lawlessness of Right Sector and other extreme-right parties and battalions intimidate most people. Moreover, the people first affected are those who are most vulnerable– the elderly, families with children, disabled persons, and so on. When people protest, they are either ignored or they are easily dispersed by far-right paramilitaries (who are almost never restrained by police).

At the same time, young men who come out to protest will immediately be slapped with military conscription call-up notices. As in Tsarist times, conscription is being used as a punitive measure.

The factor of media and government blaming Vladimir Putin for all of Ukraine’s ills still works. So, organizing really significant protests, distinct from the rhetoric-filled events of rival oligarchs or dissatisfied far-right extremists, will take time. Democratic forces in Ukraine are facing difficult and lengthy work among the popular classes, where disappointment, disorganisation and disorientation run deep as a result of Euromaidan.

As for the Committee for Salvation of Ukraine, as I have said before, I don’t expect any significant steps from them. To complicate matters further, these former officials in exile are seen in Ukraine as failed leaders, even by their former supporters. It is common to hear or read people in Ukraine saying, “What’s the use of (former president Victor) Yanukovych’s team? When we first voted for them in 2004, their opponents launched the Orange Revolution and Yanukovych and his people bowed to them. When we voted for them a second time, in 2010, after a few months of Maidan protests in 2013 and 2014, they fled the country, leaving their supporters to be hunted down and lynched by Maidan crowds.”

The former officials of Yanukovych’s government and the Party of Regions are not trusted, neither by their former supporters nor by their former adversaries.

By way of example, here is an article by a Ukrainian analyst from the town of Sumy. He is the blogger Yurasumy, a well-known critic of Maidan who had to flee Ukraine after his house was searched by police and he was subjected to interrogation. A recent posting on his blog reports on a tiny rally in Moscow in front of the Italian embassy in response to the detention several weeks ago by Italy of Igor Markov, a leading figure of the CSU. Italy is threatening to extradite Markov to Ukraine to stand trial for a trumped-up charge dating from 2007.

Yurasumy’s article is titled ‘A sorry sight’. Only a handful of people turned up for the rally, including Victor Oliynyk and his bodyguards. Oliynyk is a former mayor of Cherkassy and is the named, presidential candidate of the CSU in the future presidential election in Ukraine. The tiny size of the rally signals that the CSU officials are not trusted even by those tens of thousands of Ukrainian migrants who are now living in exile in Moscow.

Our correspondent writes further:

Russia wishes Donbas to remain in Ukraine. There are many complex reasons for this. One is Russia’s desire to have a counterbalance in Ukraine to the hostile, governing authorities in Kyiv.

For their part, Kyiv authorities recognize that they face a dilemma in Donbas. They do not want a re-integration of Donbas with full rights to the local people. On the contrary, they insist on a complete surrender by the people of the region, which means denial of their linguistic, cultural and political rights—in a word, denial of their past and present identity. The goal is to eliminate their political influence throughout Ukraine.

Actually, Kiev would like to follow the ‘democratic’ policy of the Baltic countries which deny part of their population (Russians) the right to vote and to run for office. I refer to the so called non-citizens in Latvia and Lithuania. [Background on that story here.] Official Kyiv policy for now is to isolate Donbas and deprive it of the means to survive.

As for Russia, its policy in Ukraine is still the same – the regime in Kyiv will pay a heavy price for its continued hostility while friends will be rewarded.

Such is the balance in which the future of Donbas rests.

Andrew KorybkoAndrew Korybko is a political analyst and regular contributor to online journals, including Russia Insider and Sputnik News. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he is currently completing graduate studies in international relations at Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO). There, he is a member of the expert council for the Institute of Strategic Research and Predictions. He has just published his first book, ‘Hybrid Wars: The Indirect Adaptive Approach To Regime Change’, 127 pages. It analyzes the situations in Syria and Ukraine, saying they represent a new model of strategic warfare being waged by the United States. The book can be read online here or you can open it here as an attachment.

Readers of Vineyard of the Saker debate

Andrew Korybko’s analysis is not shared by many commenters to Vineyard of the Saker. Here are comments posted by two readers:

1. Pity that these wishful thinking posts appear with such predictable regularity. At the moment, there is not the slightest chance of an anti-government rebellion in Ukraine because the current government and security forces, unlike the previous government, have taken care to make it very clear that their response to any kind of dissidence will be brutal.

Grassroots is a pretty word, and it may work to an extent in a place where democratic institutions have not been totally destroyed. But that is not the case in Ukraine. You cannot fight revolutions and rebellions with “grassroots” convictions. I have no doubt that many Ukrainians realize the plight they are in, and realize the utter fraud that Maidan turned out to be. But that doesn’t mean they are anywhere near ready to risk their lives to confront a thuggish regime. These kinds of regimes grow in strength, especially under extraordinary circumstances like ongoing armed conflict, and especially if they are propped by deep pockets. The Franco regime n Spain was said to be in its last legs in the 40s after the end of WW2. Nobody was supporting them. There was an international economic blockade. There was little food to bring to the table. Some people were still trying to resist and organize, more and more timidly. To no avail. The regime ruthlessly crushed all its opponents and lasted until the dictator died of old age in bed, with great funerary fanfare.

There seems to be very little real understanding of how these fascist regimes work and how they exercise power. They exercise power by instilling real fear. No, sir. Ukraine is not at the brink of any rebellion or revolution, and it won’t be for as long as its western minders keep nourishing it. The only real hope of real “de-nazification” is through armed revolution, which, at this point, can only come from a combination of NAF and RF [Russian Federation]. Everything else is poppycock.

2. Andrew, we appreciate your work, but the answer to your question is “no”. Uprisings, revolutions, coups and such are based on power. If there were a power split in Kiev, sure, but we don’t see it. If power were to collapse, sure, but we don’t see that, either. That would happen if the NAF [Novorossiya Armed Forces] or Russian green men managed to smash the authorities in Kiev, but you have to smash things first.

… it is entirely likely that the Ukraine was on the verge of an uprising [following the Maidan cop of February 2014], but the Kremlin didn’t want to support that early on, and now it is too late. A brutal government is now established, and was hardly functional after the coup. Lots of people pointed this issue out at the time, such as Glazyev. A few relatively small groups of retired green men and proper bribes could have led to an uprising, as long as the people thought the Kremlin would back them. That is why things played out the way they did in the Donbass. They thought Russia had their back. Who in Odessa would be crazy enough to rebel at this point? Almost all the rebels are in prison or moved to Russia or are in the NAF I bet.

And governments-in-exile are supposed to have an army to take them to power. The NAF seems to be too small for that. Besides, they [the CSU] are not figures that people can really get behind, so the main motive to support them is that they are going to be put in power. That is why someone would back them. But this gets us back to the issue that you have to use force.

Also, a big question is if the public is more, or less, anti-Russian now than a couple of years ago. Some commentators from Russia seem to think that Ukrainians are less anti-Russian, but that is not obvious to some of us. The media are more anti-Russian than before, and a large percentage of people believe the TV. Yes, they may come to hate Poroshenko, but that doesn’t necessarily lead to the kind of result the Kremlin seems to be hoping for.

There is a better chance of getting people to hate the war. OK, but that might just lead to the Donbas leaving, with the rest of the Ukraine as a very anti-Russian zone. So now we are back to the issue of force. Russia didn’t want to use force, didn’t even want to make a big propaganda push in a way that would break through the info blockade, and was even hesitant to use economic leverage, perhaps due to blackmail over the Crimea. Well, if you want to wait for a rebellion to defeat a U.S.-backed regime, you may be waiting a long time indeed. Besides, the U.S. would probably decide to just blow things up if it looked like they would lose peacefully.

Read also:
South-East Ukraine is the real target of Kyiv’s Donbas blockade, by Marko Marjanovic, Russia Insider, Aug. 21, 2015

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