COMMENTARY | Within a day or so of a deal that was supposed to end the protests in the Ukraine, that country’s president, Viktor Yanukovich, was obliged to flee Kiev, leaving the capital in the hands of the opposition.
As of those writing things are in an extreme state of flux, with the police, which had been shooting protestors with abandon, having switched sides. The military has vowed not to intervene. The governor of the Kharkiv region and the mayor of the city of Kharkiv in the eastern part of the Ukraine, said to be more pro Russian than the rest of the country, are said to have fled to Russia. The main opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, has been freed from prison. Parliament has called for new elections by May 25.
Even though Yanukovich, who sparked the uprising by refusing closer ties between the Ukraine and the European Union in preference to an alliance with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, still maintains that he is the legal president of the Ukraine, he appears to have been effectively overthrown by the popular uprising.
What is going to happen next? Will there be a civil war between the pro Russian east and the pro European west? Will Putin try to intervene, must like the old Soviet Union used to do? Will there be a new birth of freedom in the Ukraine with a pro western government being elected and perhaps the country joining the EU?
Whatever happens, there are two major losers.
The first loser is Vladimir Putin. Putin has been desirous of reconstituting the Soviet Union ever since he rose to power. The first step was grabbing the Ukraine. It looks like it will not fall into his lap. An invasion would be tough and would have every potential to backfire on Russia, diplomatically certainly, militarily likely.
The second loser in Barack Obama. Things are happening in the Ukraine despite and not because of any policies that he is pursuing. If the people of the Ukraine succeed, they will have done it all by themselves, without any help from the United States. Ronald Reagan is rightly seen as being the liberator of Eastern Europe, thanks to his efforts to dismantle the Soviet Empire. While the president will likely try to take credit, if things go right, it will be a hollow gesture.
Of course if things go up in flames, Obama, by his impotence and inaction, will share a lot of the blame.