It is with some trepidation that I can report that Ukraine has not declared war on sub-Saharan Africa. Poland, I believe I can say, has also avoided any sort of aggressive war for over a century.
One might think that this would be non-news, but then, one would not be a regular BBC watcher. In the run-up to the Euro2012 soccer championship, the BBC ran a program titled, subtly, “Stadiums of Hate.” (If you’re in the UK, you can watch it; if you’re abroad and for some reason want to see it, access the site through a proxy.)
As one might infer from the innocuous title, the theme of the program was that the Ukrainians and Poles are so many neo-Nazis and neo-Nazi supporters who would, given even the slightest provocation, brutalize, murder, and/or brutalize and murder non-Ukrainians, but especially darker-skinned ones. The evidence for this was thin from the start, and most long-time observers of the BBC could see that it was part of the Beeb’s usual method of slime-by-insinuation against a despised target. The Guardian and other British rags went on to warn Brits traveling to Ukraine to beware thug cops, uncontrolled violence and street crime, and really ugly looks from elderly women.
The real target here was neither Ukrainian soccer fans nor the police, but rather the government of the country, which has poured millions into infrastructure and transportation improvements in advance of the games, hoping to make them its showcase for the twenty-first century. This was really a war by other means against Ukraine for prosecuting its former Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, for abuse of office. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced her planned boycott, the wolves were set loose.
Poland was merely an innocent victim of this proxy war; but then again, the Brits have a history of abandoning the Poles when the times get tough, so perhaps this was foreseeable.
Unsurprisingly, many of the experts interviewed for the Panorama program claimed they had been taken out of context, and the program set off a diplomatic row between Kyiv and London that need never have happened — not least because as Spain beat Italy for the title, the tournament closed without lynchings, beatings, or race wars. The worst moments of the tournament were between Russian and Polish fans; intra-Slav tensions were not quite what the Beeb was hoping to see.
The British media’s covert war on Ukraine took another hit at the end of June when Henry Kissinger met with President Yanukovych in Kyiv, and went to pains to talk up Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union. As is typical with the old master, gone was any talk of shared European values; instead, he focused on the balance of power between Russia and the EU, and explicitly called for Ukraine’s entry into the European Union while maintaining good relations with Russia.
It was classic Kissinger, especially the notion that openly rejecting Russia’s bid for a Eurasian Union would, in the long run, strengthen ties between Kyiv and Moscow, as well as Kyiv and Brussels. While the old man’s word does not mean as much as it once did to many leaders, his voice still matters in the world’s diplomatic corps, many of whom trained under men who trained under Kissinger. His opinion matters all the more for being essentially correct.
June opened with a shadow war against two former Eastern Bloc hostage nations by the British media and the governments of some EU member states. It closed with a resounding public relations victory and, more importantly, proof that the countries could be and were good citizens of Europe, a vindication marked by one of the great statesmen of the twentieth century.
If this path continues, there is hope for the European project yet.