It seems that there has been some kind of solution to what has been going on in the Ukraine. I found some of the goings-on there rather surprising – I still don’t understand how a decision of the president to reject negotiations with the EU could turn into dozens of people dead – and so I found it very welcome that Stratfor commented on it today in their typically nuanced manner.
The first point that struck me was:
What is interesting is that the Polish, French and German foreign ministers negotiated an outcome that, for practical purposes, ignored the Constitution of Ukraine. It sets an interesting precedent. But for Ukraine, the constitution didn’t have the patina of tradition that a true constitution requires, and few will miss Yanukovich.
[An] issue is what will happen the next time crowds storm government buildings. The precedent has been set — or rather, it was set during the 2004 Orange Revolution — that governments and regimes can be changed by a legalistic sleight of hand. At some point a large crowd will gather and occupy buildings. If the government opens fire, it is run by monsters. I don’t mean that ironically; I mean it literally. But if the government allows itself to be paralyzed by demonstrators, then how can it carry out its constitutional responsibilities? I don’t mean that ironically either. The Ukrainian Constitution, new or old, is meaningless because Ukrainians will not endure the pain of following it — and because foreign powers will pressure them to deviate from constitutional democracy in order to create a new one.
It seemed to me that the change in the Ukraine was more rule-based than most, with the parliament making decisions and dismissing government officials, even though
It isn’t clear whether the parliament can fire the sitting president without impeachment and trial[.]
But it is true that this happened after sustained pressure outside of the defined political process, pressure the development of which I still don’t fully understand as mentioned above. I find this a particularly relevant question given that we’re seeing similar developments in Venezuela (where the grievances are arguably more understandable and fewer people have died), Thailand, Bosnia, and have seen a similar one in Egypt, when the Muslim brotherhood was pushed out of power.
The second thing that has become rather clear from past events in Ukraine and the reporting (particularly Stratfor’s) from there is:
Parts of Ukraine are bitterly angry about the outcome in Kiev. A Russian flag was raised over the city hall of Sevastopol, located in Crimea in the south, over the weekend. Crimea has historically belonged to Russia. In 1954, Nikita Khrushchev took it away from Russia and gave it to Ukraine. The Russians in Crimea have never really liked being part of Ukraine and the demonstrators didn’t represent them. Nor did they represent all those who live in the eastern part of the country, where Russian is commonly spoken and where being close to Russia is both an economic and cultural desire.
The Ukraine is arguably different in that these differences are not ignored anymore in the MSM (although the reporting still tends to be biased). I write different because those mechanics existed in all the (pre-)”arab spring” developments, where they played out to varying degrees (Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iran). Similar trends hold for Venezuela – there’s a reason why Chavistas have stayed in power for 15 years, for Thailand – as Naked Capitalism has laid out recently, but also Turkey, where the AKP came to power on the rural, religious, conservative vote (if I understood this correctly) and has been opposed from early on by urban, secular, more modern circles.
For the Ukraine this means concretely:
The […] question is whether Ukraine can remain united. The distinctions between the region oriented toward the West and that oriented toward Russia have been there from the beginning. In the past, governments have tried to balance between these two camps. Our three foreign ministers and the leaders of the demonstration have signaled that the days of taking Crimea and the east into account are over. At the very least their interests weren’t represented at the talks. Those interests could be rebalanced in the parliament, or they could be dismissed. If the latter were to happen, will Ukraine split in two? And if it does, what will be the economic and social consequences? If parliament takes to accommodating the two sides and their respective oligarchs, then how does it avoid winding up with a more photogenic and sympathetic Yanukovich?
Finally, my personal Stratfor statement of the year:
The IMF’s approach to such problems is best compared to surgery without anesthesia. The patient may survive and be better for it, but the agony will be intense.