Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Alan Note: the author tends to present a pro-Russian viewpoint in his articles so read it with that in mind.

By Michael Averko

Since the Soviet breakup, Ukraine has been geo-politically spun in two ways. When Ukraine's less Russia friendly side appears to have enhanced its stature, there is an increased yearning to drive Ukraine away from Russia as much as possible.

When Ukraine's more Russia friendly grouping seems strengthened, there is greater talk of mutual respect for the two Ukrainian ways of viewing Russia. Another Ukrainian perspective falls somewhere in between the two.

On NATO expansion, "the will of the people", takes a back seat for the Russia unfriendly crowd. The Orange Ukrainian government's desire to have Ukraine in NATO has consistently run contrary to the majority of its citizenry. The explanations for this unpopularity include a not so well informed Ukrainian public, caught in a Cold War time warp.

In comparison, there is little second guessing of polls showing that most Ukrainian citizens have a positive attitude on their country joining the European Union (EU). For some, Ukrainians are ignorant when stating apprehension about NATO and knowledgeable upon agreeing with the anti-Russian consensus; albeit for not always the same reason.

Many see the EU as a beneficial sugar daddy of sorts. By and large, Ukrainians have exhibited a reasonable stance on EU membership. Polls indicate that many Ukrainians favor closer economic ties with Russia. The two newest EU members (Bulgaria and Romania) have yet to receive full rights within that union.

There are other countries said to be ahead of Ukraine for EU membership. These other nations might have a bit of a wait. This situation and Russia's economic resurgence has led a good number of Ukrainians to consider closer ties with Russia.

On the criticism of Ukrainian opposition to NATO expansion: the claim of that Ukrainian view being caught in a Cold War time warp is bit ironic. NATO is a Cold War era created military alliance. This relates to how Russia is perceived. Anti-Communism among non-Russians developed two forms. T

here is the anti-Communism that does not view Russia with hostility and the variant which perceived the Soviet Union as a continuation of an inherent Russian threat challenging Western interests (never minding the numerous instances of pre-1917 Russian cooperation with a number of Western powers, coupled with the West often not being unified). The Russia unfriendly consensus is spearheading the effort to include Ukraine and Georgia in NATO, with Russia left out.

There was a time when Russian membership in NATO was a more positively received thought in Russia. Shortly after the failed coup against then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the Russian government of Boris Yeltsin openly inquired about Russia's inclusion in NATO.

The Western reply was one of astonished bemusement. Shortly thereafter, the NATO membership inquiries of non-Russian former Communist bloc states were welcomed by Western officialdom. The lobbying efforts for that NATO expansion included anti-Russian propaganda, which caricatured Russia as an inherently threatening entity, necessitating a strong alliance against it.

In conjunction with the Western anti-Serb policies following Yugoslavia's demise, many Russians felt that the Russia unfriendly side got the upper hand in the West. Anti-Serb advocates tend to be anti-Russian as well. The Cold War's end saw the redevelopment of some prior European alliances. This included the enhancement of Russian sympathy for Serbia and German interest in supporting a vibrantly independent Croatia.

On former Yugoslavia, Ukrainian public opinion is not radically different from Russia's. Moreover, much of Ukraine's citizenry do not view Russia as a threat.

A good deal has been written about the close historic and cultural ties between Russia and much of Ukraine. This reality has existed for a period far exceeding the Soviet Union's existence. It is therefore kind of McCarthyite to suggestively portray pro-Russian sentiment in Ukraine as being exclusively Soviet nostalgic.

Overall, the current French and German governments have been more critical of Russia when compared to their respective predecessors. Despite this harder line, France and Germany have prudently opposed the Bush administration's attempt to actively promote Ukrainian and Georgian inclusion into NATO. Ukraine and Georgia are better served with positive assistance in the socioeconomic areas.

Running contrary to Russia's best interests, some Russian government connected sources have not always presented an accurate overview of Ukraine. Russia Today, the Russian government funded 24/7 English language television news network had a recent (April 1) on-line news item entitled "Bush Supports Ukraine's Dream".

The title incorrectly suggests a mass Ukrainian craving for joining NATO. Scrolling down the contents of that segment, there is contradiction to that suggested popularity, with the citation showing how most Ukrainians oppose NATO membership.

Awhile back, I commented on a 2005 News World International (NWI) feature that included Russian "spin doctor" Sergei Markov, who has been portrayed as a semi-officially approved Russian government source (now defunct NWI was a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television affiliate).

When asked why Ukraine's Orange government is counterproductive, Markov said that its Russia unfriendly elements served to provoke a nationalist backlash in Russia. Relative to the question presented to him, Markov's stated emphasis on Russia conjures up the image of a Russian not concerned with how Ukraine feels; and provides fodder for the faulty notion of Russia being collectively ripe with overly aggressive nationalists.

The better answer to the NWI question would note that the newly inaugurated (at the time) Orange government's Russia unfriendly elements are anathema to many in Ukraine, who do not view Russia with hostility. This political climate in Ukraine increases instability, which does not benefit anyone in the long run.

I am reluctant to use the term "Russophobia" because those accused of being such tend to dislike Russia more than actually fearing it. The term "Russophobia" reflects a soft approach at dealing with the hard core anti-Russian prejudices. "Anti-Russian" and "Russia unfriendly" can thus be considered more accurate (though not always so perfect) alternatives to "Russophobia".

Anti-Russian bias includes the American Congress passing a bigoted anti-Russian "Captive Nations Week Resolution", (in 1959) that recognized every Communist country as "captive" with the exception of Russia. The leading activists behind the Captive Nations Week Resolution were anti-Russian Ukrainian-Americans; whose roots typically came from the Galician region of Western Ukraine. Western Ukraine's lengthy historical experience of non-affiliation with Russia explains why that part of Ukraine does not feel so closely akin to Russia.

Another example of Russia unfriendly bias is shown by the views receiving the nod in American presidential administrations. A case in point is a comparison between Carter administration National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and Clinton administration Undersecretary of State Strobe Talbott.

In some circles, Talbott has been perceived as being soft on Russia. When compared to Brzezinski's hard views on Russia, Talbott is nowhere near as soft. The two of them do not appear to be so politically diverse from each other. Several years ago, I watched Talbott and Brzezinski gleefully bash Russia at a Carnegie Endowment panel discussion, which also featured Vladimir Lukhin and Sergei Rogov.

Andreas Umland is a Ukrainian based (at last notice) academic, who often comments on Russian nationalism. Over the course of time, Umland has exaggerated the extent of Russian nationalist extremism.

Some others besides himself are mum on anti-Russian nationalist extremism. Umland can answer by saying that such matter is not within his realm of expertise. Bingo!

The seemingly well funded likes of Johnson's Russia List and Russia Profile prop Umland's commentary, without providing a detailed analysis on the anti-Russian nationalism that has been significantly downplayed (reference the points made in this article, which are generally not well received by English language mass media folks and those influenced by them).

That politically correct nationalism includes attempts to downplay the close historic and cultural ties between Russians and many Ukrainians.

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