Oleh Tyahnybok, the leader of Svoboda party, shouting at soldiers of Ukrainian National Guard protecting the Verkhovna Rada before the grenade explosion on August 31, 2015 (Image: video capture)
Having failed to find the number of backers for the “Russian world” in Ukraine it expected, Moscow in the opinion of many in Kyiv is seeking to use Ukrainian radicals in the pursuit of its goal of destabilizing Kyiv to the point that Ukraine will fall back into Russia’s orbit, according to Vitaly Portnikov.
But that calculation is based on a fundamental misperception of Ukraine and Ukrainian politics after the Maidan, the Ukrainian commentator says, a misreading that ascribes far too much importance to the radicals who helped make the earlier revolution but have been eclipsed by the more rational leaders who have succeeded them.
Commenting on the violent confrontation yesterday in front of the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian commentator points out, “informed observers in Kyiv are speaking about the beginning of a Russian special operation called ‘Golden Fall,’” one that will pursue the same goals as “the Russian Spring” but with different cadres.
“In the Lubyanka, they have come to understand that there are too few people in Ukraine ready to be backers of this Putin project.” Those who say they are for it are hardly willing to fight for it let alone die. Instead, and “according to the old Russian tradition, they lie on their stoves and wait for others to save them.”
Consequently, in the view of many, Moscow is quite reasonably from its point of view now placing its bets “on the Ukrainian world,” some of whose radical members can be counted on to “rise against ‘the criminal junta’ and make it easier for Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] to gain the return of insubordinate Ukraine,” Portnikov argues.
“Social risings, meetings against the authorities, excesses which claim lives, all of these will be ‘the Golden Fall’ of the Russian return to Ukraine. All this” if it works “would allow the Chekists and also their comrades in the Russian Presidential Administration” to claim victory over Ukraine.
However, Portnikov says, “this isn’t ‘the Golden Fall’” Moscow hopes for or that some Ukrainians fear. Instead, it is “evidence of the most profound lack of understanding by Ukrainian politicians of the psychology of people whom they lead” as well as an equally profound lack of understanding in Moscow of where Ukraine now is.
Oleh Tyahnybok, the leader of Svoboda, did not play the role after the Maidan that some of his followers expected. He didn’t prevent the Russian occupation of Crimea, and “therefore after the Maidan the process of the disappearance of Svoboda from Ukrainian politics began.” His people didn’t get into the Verkhovna Rada, and he is losing positions in western Ukraine.
In order to try to save the situation, Tyahnybok has been trying “to reestablish a miracle – party out of the ruins,” and for him, “the voting on changes in the Constitution is a real gift,” because it allows him to strike a role and present himself on the political stage as someone standing up against “the treason of the authorities.”
“But Tyahnybok isn’t taking one thing into consideration,” Portnikov continues. In his rush to see treason under every bush, “he believes those who say that changes in the Constitution will bury Ukraine,” and thus, “he doesn’t understand why the National Guard is defending the traitors who must be blown up so they will not be able to vote.”
Like some other Ukrainian politicians, the commentator says, the Svoboda leader has been playing at politics over the last two years despite the fact that he is not in a theater as he appears to imagine but in the real world where people die and where “’the Golden Fall’ could turn out to be just as horrific as ‘the Russian Spring.’”
“It is necessary to stop playing,” but he and some others “will not stop. They simply are not able to do otherwise.” Not surprisingly, Moscow will do what it can to encourage them and exploit their actions for its own purpose. But hopefully, Portnikov concludes, the Ukrainian people will see through all this and not vote for those who are merely acting a part.
In another comment on yesterday’s events, this one for Espreso.tv, Portnikov says that “what we are observing in Ukraine unfortunately is nothing new.” Instead, it is a feature of developments “after all successful risings” because “their more radical participants are never satisfied with the result.”
Such radicals “always suspect the more moderate part of society of betraying national interests. They are never in a position to realistically evaluate the potential of their own country and its role in the system of international relations … [and] they are always ready to kill their own” in pursuit of their radical goals.
He cites the examples of Ireland after it gained independence and of Israel, and he points out that “radical politicians always have it easier than do their supporters. For the politician, radicalism is a career. For their supporters, it is a faith. And each dead supporter becomes for the radical politician simply another step toward power.”
What is “most important,” Portnikov says, “is that the ambitions and populism of some and the naïve faith of others not lead to irreparable losses – death, war, and the destruction of the state.” Given what Ukraine is up against and its willingness to exploit anything it can for its purposes, those are real dangers: those who hear the calls of the radicals should remember that.