The Second ‘Orange Revolution’?

They called it ‘Orange Revolution’ in 2004 when a democritically elected leadership of Ukraine was destablised and replaced by leaders better suited to the West and America. Maybe this is the second edition of ‘Orange Revolution’. The present Ukrainian crisis has its roots in November’s failed two-day summit—‘Eastern Partnership’ in Vilnius. In truth Ukraine’s decision to hold back for the moment on signing up to what has been billed as a ‘historic’ agreement to expand a free trade zone between Ukraine and EU surprised the heads of state of all 28 EU member countries. The Vilnius meet ended not with a bang but a whimper, with no agreement signed. They saw in it a resurrection of Russian ghost in Ukrainian theatre. Initially what looked for them as easy cake walk became tough and President Yanukovych otherwise described as a Russian puppet in western media was targeted for action, rather street violence. In reality Russia, the Russians and the Russian speaking Ukrainians were the real target of the so-called nationalists who with the active help of the West created a storm. Energy is the core issue in the current Ukrainian conflict and it will remain so for decades to come. This carnival of second ‘Orange Revolution’ was originally planned, as some media reports suggest, to get geared up in 2015, timed to coincide with general elections. But the failure notice from the Vilnius conclave advanced the time schedule and triggered the present turmoil.

The demise of Soviet Union was the beginning of the rise of Capitalist Russia. America and its western allies celebrated the ‘end of history’ too early without realising the hard fact that the new czars in the Kremlin would bounce back so soon and that too by openly defying the monopoly of the lone super-power. Even in the Soviet era there was a sub-terranean Ukrainian nationalist under-current as the Ukrainians were not in favour of swelling of Russian population in their territory but they could not resist the official demographic policy of Moscow because of overwhelming Russian presence in administration and military. Russians were a privileged lot in all the former Soviet republics, not excluding Ukraine. The case of Ukraine was somewhat specific because of strategic importance of Cremia that has all along been a sphere of all-out Russian dominance. And it cannot be otherwise even in the absence of Soviet power. Nor can independent Ukraine as it is today take any measure to exercise full control over this Russian military outpost. Even the present Kiev dispensation that is totally committed to protect Western and American interests cannot take back the Black Sea peninsula from Russian troops who moved into Ukrainian territory after the 22 February ouster of pro-Moscow President Victor Yanukovych. And now Crimea’s parliament declared the region an independent state after a referendum held on March 16.

Russia has no option but to retain Crimea to thwart the NATO move to encircle it. No doubt the West has its limitations. What is more EU and America don’t see eye to eye in resolving the Ukrainian crisis. They are concerned over Moscow’s aggressive postures but they cannot think of military adventure at this juncture. What all they did was imposing sanctions on some Russian officials. After all Europe’s engine of growth largely depends on Russian oil and Ukraine being the conduit remains important to both parties. With the Iranian crisis not showing any early resolution despite hectic diplomatic activity, EU can hardly please America by jeopardising their life-line. They have already softened their stance, by looking for diplomatic solution, in place of confrontation. The American proposal for a negotiated settlement banking on Russian withdrawal of troops from Ukraine and halt the referendum move in Crimea to secede and join Russian Federation failed. But Russia is now in a position to dismember Ukraine by annexing Crimea inhabited mainly by Russian-speaking people. And Ukraine’s present pro-western rulers can avert a split only by agreeing not to deny Russia unwritten authority over a large swathe of Ukraine even in the absence of Soviet regime. By moving a compromise formula Washington can at best urge Moscow to accept the ‘fait accompli’ of the present pro-western government.

Things are changing very fast in favour of Russia, with the return of cold war. But the Chinese continue to derive comfort from their pet theory that they live in a multi-polar world, not a bi-polar one as it was during the Soviet era. The Ukrainian crisis demonstrates among other things that it is still a bi-polar world with new rising stars trying to skip the orbit. It’s not that easy to disown and dismantle Soviet legacy and in many ways it is more so for Ukraine. Despite being free from Soviet control Ukraine’s continuing close economic relations with Russia are in some respects a hangover of the economic integration policy which prevailed across former Soviet republics when production was organised according to central plan, with different units tasked with serving different aspects of the overall economy.

As for the mass upheaval at Maiden Square many think and, not without reason that initially it all started against the government without the active participation of Nazis and right-wing forces, albeit Moscow all along maintained that it was EU and America backed right-wing coup. Then pro-western forces said it was a backlash stemmed from Russian manoeuvring and secret funding of some pro-Russian groups. In both allegations and counter-allegations there are some grains of truth.

No doubt the West has already overplayed its hand in Ukraine, using the crassest economic blackmail but in the end money will talk. Right now Ukraine has run up a natural gas bill for $882 bn with Russian state-run Gazprom and without Russia-Ukraine bilateral trade agreement in place fears of renewed knock-on power cuts in EU are very real.       19-03-2014


Vol. 46, No. 38, Mar30 - Apr 5, 2014