Last week’s scenes in Kiev, capital of Ukraine, gave us a strong sense of deja vu, reminiscent as they were of so many similar ‘revolutions’ played out since 1989 in many counties across eastern Europe and more recently the Middle East.
There was the permanent occupation of the capital’s main square by thousands of demonstrators demanding freedom and democracy, so reminiscent of what happened in Egypt’s capital Cairo during the downfall of both the Mubarak and more recently the Morsi regimes.
There was the brutal sniping of civilians in the streets by mystery sharpshooters, so similar to what happened in Ukraine’s neighbour Romania after the downfall of the Communist Ceausescu regime, one of the last dominoes of the Soviet Empire to collapse at the end of the 1980s.
And there was the revelation of the corruption (and bad taste) of the departed dictator Viktor Yanukovych, when his luxurious Presidential compound, complete with its palace, opulent fleets of cars, exotic animals, vast cellars of alcohol and other trappings, were displayed to the wondering eyes of his former subjects, just like in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Now, it is all too likely that what followed the short-lived euphoria of the popular risings which deposed the regimes of both Communism’s ‘evil empire’ and the autocracies around the Middle East will also follow in Ukraine too: viz. a collapse into economic chaos, robber baron capitalism, and the eventual imposition of yet another authoritarian regime. Freedom and democracy, I would hazard a strong guess, will not be on offer for some time to come.
Ukraine, the traditional ‘bread-basket of the Soviet Union’ is today more of a basket case, economically speaking. Politically, ethnically and even religiously divided between a backward looking, often Russian speaking, and Russian-sympathising east, and a nationalist, more modern-minded, Ukrainian west, the country is torn almost exactly in half.
Many of the protesters who have overthrown the old, corrupt Yankovych regime seem to see their salvation in Ukraine’s early adherence to the European Union. This desire has been eagerly encouraged by the envoys sent by the EU to fan the flames of the crisis such as the ludicrous ‘Lady’ Catharene Ashton, and Poland’s Foreign Minister Sikorski.
And yet I fear that if they do succeed in exchanging Yankovych for the tender embrace of Brussels, the poor Ukrainians will find that they have merely exchanged a frying pan for a fire.
The motives of the EU for meddling in Ukraine’s murky affairs are clear: it believes its own propaganda and thinks it is living up to its pretensions, by making its mark on the world stage as a global superpower playing on equal terms with Russia and the US.
Moreover, it sees the people of the Ukraine (all 46 million of them) as yet another pool of cheap labour to be pushed across Europe like so many poor little pawns on a chessboard, just like the peoples of Poland, Bulgaria and Romania before them.
Needless to say our own Government, in the shape of the Chancellor George Osborne, has added his (borrowed) hap’orth of encouragement to Ukraine — offering to splurge more British millions on helping them re-build their country. Before making this generous offer shouldn’t George have at least they asked the British people whether they think this would be money wisely spent? It is, after all, our taxes (along with the cash of the bankers who will lend it) that he is offering to spend.
As with so many ill-thought out foreign adventures that this Government has leapt into, meddling in the Ukraine could bring a host of unwanted consequences. However sympathetic we feel towards the abused and misgoverned people of the Ukraine and their aspirations for freedom, we should certainly not be propping up the EU as it attempts to spread its slimy, quasi-imperial tentacles to embrace yet another impoverished East European failed state.