Something similar happened in Syria. First there were peaceful protests against the oppressive dictatorship (although in Ukraine the president is democratically elected). The regime used violence to suppress the opposition. The western governments realized that there was an opportunity to wrestle Syria back from the spheres of Iran and Russia, and so backed the opposition. The opposition turned violent and the west, via Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, provided militarily, financial and media support. As a result, fanatics took over and sidelined the democratically oriented opposition. The result is an ongoing disaster.
It seems we are seeing signs of a similar process in Ukraine. Initially, the ultra-nationalists and fascists were on the margins of the opposition while the majority of protestors were demanding democracy and a government free of corruption. The west, enjoying supporting the spontaneous pro-west demonstrations as part of an undeclared cold war with Russia, saw this as potential for a trophy for the west, which could weaken Russia’s power within its historical domain of influence. However, more and more we are observing that as the response to state violence itself becomes more violent, then, like in Syria, the fanatics are moving to center stage. If the is trend continues, they may soon occupy it. If such a thing happens (which it can), then Europe will once again shows its short- sightedness at extreme cost to the Ukrainian people and the EU itself, as the flood of Ukrainian refugees to the EU will further strengthen the ultra-right wing political movements there too at the expense of mainstream politics.
It is not too late now. There is a need for a bit of wisdom from the west, recognition of the rise of fascism within the opposition, and a will to stop supporting it. But the main responsibility lies with the Ukrainian people. The democratically oriented opposition needs to realize that the more they condone violence and even use it as the main method of struggle, the more distant they become from their democratic goals. In any political violence, radicals will always take over and sideline the democrats. So instead of joining the armed groups they should disown them and develop methods of struggle which are based on de-violentisation (which is different from pacifism) which means not just avoiding violence but reducing the possibility of violence from the other side, and eventually eliminating it. In my view this is the way forward and a way which can bring back Ukraine from the brink of disaster.
Here are excerpts from a New York Times article:
“The Ukrainian authorities and their allies in the Kremlin identify the source of the increase in violence as extremists and terrorists, the young militants of sometimes sinister, far-right political affiliations with ideologies formed in the struggle against Polish and Soviet domination. They have provided much of the front-line muscle in increasingly bloody clashes with the police.”
“What have humanism and pacifism ever brought to any nation?” he asked, clutching a battered metal shield and a metal rod, his soot-blackened face covered by a brown balaclava. “Revolutions are violent.”
“Nonetheless, the murky nature of the opposition gathered in Independence Square, at least on its fringes, is causing problems for the United States and the European Union, which would prefer a neat apposition of peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrators versus the thuggish kleptocracy of President Viktor F. Yanukovych. But that line of thinking often blurs in the streets.”
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