Paul Goble, originally on Window on Eurasia
Staunton, May 11 – Vladimir Putin’s demands for the federalization of Ukraine not only are hypocritical because of the absence of federalism in Russia but dangerous for both countries because it would convert the east of Ukraine into “a Palestine,” according to Ekho Moskvy commentator Yuliya Latynina.
Such a project, she said on her “Access Code” program last evening, is “not in the interests of the Donbas or even in the interests of Russia.” It is rather “exclusively in the personal psychological interests of the Kremlin” in just the same way as the August 2008 war against Georgia was.
At that time, Latynina observed, Putin got revenge on Mikhail Saakashvili, but what did Russia get? “Nothing. What did the Osetins get? Also nothing.” And why? Because that nation fell “into the collapse of Palestinization.” The same thing is happening again in southeastern Ukraine.
The Ekho Moskvy commentator continued: “I am against the annexation of Crimea and the Palestinization of the Donbas not because I have some respect for international law or because the interests of Ukraine are dearer to me than Russia. Just the reverse.” But what Putin is doing is not building “a great empire” but “destroying it, as Khodorkovsky said.”
The Kremlin leader has alienated two countries which had been part of the Russian world: Georgia and Ukraine, she said. “Ukraine is being lost in front of our eyes,” something Russians don’t see because Moscow is using the term Banderivtsi to avoid saying Ukrainian, the latter being something for which Russians had some affection.
But there aren’t any Banderivtsi now, she argued. “This is a myth and a fiction” intended to make people hate Ukrainians. The Kremlin is doing this because of its own fears that it is increasingly in the position of ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, “a standard psychological reaction” or projecting one’s own fears on another.
That is what all this is about, Latynina said, “and not the rebirth of empire.”
“One cannot rebuild an empire with the help of marginal elements,” as Putin is trying to do. With such people, “one can build an Iran, a Zimbabwe or a Venezuela but not a Russian Empire.” That is because the Russian Empire was a European one, at least in the vision of Peter the Great.
But “the current Kremlin in contrast to Peter cannot propose anything positive to the residents of the empire. He cannot offer a flourishing economy [and] it cannot offer European enlightenment. It can only offer salvation from an invented genocide.”
China is demonstrating how one might go about building an empire. It isn’t trying to conquer Taiwan but to boost its economy, and now Beijing has won “half of Africa” and done so without firing a shot. “There is not yet a single Chinese soldier in Africa and Africa is already Chinese.”
“If you want the Donbas to become part of Russia’s sphere of influence, make Russia flourish so that the Russian world will go there to study, so that Ukraine will go there to study.” That would tie the region together; using force will only drive it apart. But the Kremlin, for its own psychological reasons has chosen the latter course, and no new Russian Empire will appear.