As I began writing this, the city I call home was burning.
It was burning because the protesters in Kyiv whom the West has guardedly endorsed, led by actual, live fascists, were attacking the police, burning political headquarters, and trying to create the television moments they needed to win their propaganda war.
For this, they were rewarded by Western politicians and newsmakers.
For weeks, violence and paramilitary action that any responsible government, West or East, would break in a heartbeat have been rewarded, and the opposition was quick to seize on it. When offered a coalition government, they demanded to form the whole government because they knew the West would back them. Even though they lost the last election, even though the democratically-elected majority party forms the government under Ukraine’s democratically-enacted constitution, they knew they could demand anything and everything because their supporters in Germany and elsewhere would stand behind them.
They enjoyed the best of both worlds: the ability to claim the protesters’ mantle when they gave speeches to the protesters all but calling for open insurrection, and the ability to claim they didn’t control the protesters when Svoboda and other fascists assaulted the police.
In any democracy worth its name, these men would be behind bars for using force to get them what democratic elections did not. Because they have powerful international backers, they were and are able to keep up this façade.
So President Viktor Yanukovych did something brave that almost certainly cost him standing in his party: He offered an amnesty and put it into effect, for the protesters who had attacked and maimed police officers.
Yet no sooner had that started than the stormtrooper protesters decided they didn’t like the pace at which the Verkhovna Rada was working (after rabble-rousing speeches by the opposition) and so just began setting fire to Kyiv. The world treated this as a perfectly understandable response to democratic parliamentary debate, when of course it is not.
Remember when American conservatives were angry about healthcare reform and burned the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Democratic Party? Or how Labour bitter-enders in London attacked Number 10 over austerity measures?
The reason you don’t is because responsible political leaders never loose violence for their ends. It destroys civil society, it necessarily mobilizes government against the opposition to keep the peace, and it shows everyone that any unwelcome policy can be corrected by anarchy. It is madness.
It is Ukraine’s opposition.
Yet Yanukovych, under Western pressure for seeking to end open, violent insurrection against a democratically-elected government, again reached out and offered a truce. Peace broke out for a few hours until, according to CNN, protesters attacked departing police with Molotov cocktails and rocks. Shooting ensued – the protesters claim they have access to arms caches – and once again, Kyiv is on fire.
In speeches to the protesters even as the cease-fire was being negotiated, opposition politicians, members of parliament, compared Yanukovych to fallen Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and called for his violent overthrow. The comparison is so absurd that it could only have been meant to incite violence, and it succeeded.
And of course, Western governments are threatening sanctions against Ukraine’s government.
Beyond the immediate moment, let us look at what an opposition determined to seize power by any means necessary and its Western enablers have accomplished. They have shown the world that they do not care for democratic results save when those results produce leaders they like. They have taught democratically elected governments that to put down violent insurrection is to risk crippling sanctions.
They have taught the people of Ukraine that any disliked policy, by this government or one headed by the opposition (assuming they can stay together long enough to form one) can be undone through violent attacks on government and civilians. They have shown Svoboda and the rest of its umbrella of fascist groups that their proclivity for street violence is a viable path to political power and change.
They have taught Eastern Ukrainians that whatever Vladimir Putin’s many shortcomings, at least he isn’t supporting a mass insurrection.
Whatever happens next, the opposition cannot disown the blood on its hands. Whatever happens next, the governments of the West that have encouraged this violence will always be stained with Ukrainian blood.
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