Stephanie Surface analyses Putin’s striving for a new Soviet Union
As most of the British media seems to obsess about new laws limiting homosexuals’ rights in Russia, and showing corruption and cronyism at the Sochi Winter Olympics, a much bigger story is developing in Eastern Europe.
Ever since the old Soviet Union collapsed, many Russians felt that they were deprived of their old empire: it seems that Putin has planned to fill this void to restore Russia’s pride.
After the many diplomatic debacles caused by a blundering Obama, Putin seemed to be the cool head in international diplomacy and finding apparent solutions to major crises. Many in the West secretly admire Putin’s swagger, after Nobel Peace Price winner Obama seems to stumble at every hurdle. But taking a closer look at recent developments in one of the former Soviet states, Ukraine, gives a whole new perspective on Putin’s power play and his desire for another Greater Russia.
After the Soviet Empire broke up, many Ukrainians deeply resent the idea of becoming a new satellite state of Russia and have staged their revolutions: the relative peaceful Orange Revolution and the recent bloody street battles. The population would rather join the rest of the Eastern European States who have successfully rid themselves of Russia’s hegemony and have close ties with the rest of Europe.
Ukrainians, too, are still deeply traumatised from the ‘Holodomer’ (1932-33), the forced starvation of 7 million people, which Stalin unleashed on the Ukraine which, at the time, didn’t accept being swallowed up by the huge Soviet Communist state. Only since the Orange Revolution has ‘Holodomor’ been officially recognised as an act of genocide, and also by the international community. The current president, who is a close ally of Putin’s, has tried to water down Soviet Russia’s guilt by saying that lots of starvation took place also in other parts of Stalin’s Russia.
Therefore much of the Ukrainian population wants to have closer ties to Europe, and escape the dominance of Russia. Politicians from the Opposition have tried to force closer trading links with the EU, but Putin has retaliated with threatened gas price hikes and abandonment of his $15 billion loan unless they stay within Russia’s sphere and trade pacts. Russian officials have bombarded railway-stock and car companies in Eastern Ukraine with messages that they would be forced into bankruptcy, if they went ahead with forming a loose association with the EU.
Finally in September 2013 demonstrators gathered again in Kiev, and the first shots were fired on demonstrators, killing one of them. Ukrainian journalists claimed to have identified the sniper as a Russian national. Since then the situation has hardened, and it now seems there is no going back. Already, Russian State Television has reported with pride that there are now special forces in several neighbouring countries which will defend Russia’s “political and economic interests”. Many observers now suspect that there are many Russian commandos in the uniform of Ukrainian police (” Berkut”) mixing with the rest.
The brutality, since Ukrainians went in masses on the streets, has increased. The Death Squads, which Ukrainians call the undercover operations, pull down national flags, humiliate beaten demonstrators to run naked in the snow and take victorious pictures of their naked bodies with boots on their faces: what’s especially significant about this is that it’s a pose Russian soldiers last time showed in the Chechen wars.
A recently tortured journalist, who escaped, had told of interrogation methods in the tradition of Stalin’s KGB, but which also conform to the current methods of the new Russian secret police. Another man imprisoned with the journalist was found dead, naked, with his head tightly bound in adhesive tape. Now people disappear daily.
Ever since the Bucharest summit, where Georgia and Ukraine were prevented from joining NATO, and Russia’s following invasion of Georgia, the Ukrainians knew they were the next on Putin’s list. It has been easy for the Kremlin to infiltrate the weak and corrupt Ukrainian bureaucracy.
Ukrainian President Yanukovych has now announced that he is taking sick leave, still defiant and denouncing the opposition. Most of the current politicians in power have fulfilled the Kremlin’s wishes to destroy closer links with Europe. The European Union also recently broke off all negotiations with Ukraine to sign the new economic treaty.
The Ukrainian writer Oksana Sabuschko wrote yesterday that she heard that more and more “Ukrainian militia” with Russian accents are entering Kiev, showing that Putin is obviously having his revenge after his defeat by the Orange Revolution. She says : “his secret army is here”. If Kiev falls in a bloody battle, it will be evidence that the European Union looked away when Ukraine was about to enter her final nightmare.