Thursday, February 20, 2014

A short follow-up to my post about the urban armed insurrection in Kiev

I have just finished watching a very interesting panel discussion on the First Russian TV channel about the events in the Ukraine.  The participants were a rather diverse mix of Russian and Ukrainian experts, all very strongly opposed to the nationalist insurgents but otherwise with a wide spectrum of opinions.  The majority of the panelists, both from Russia and the Ukraine, were extremely critical of Yanukovich whom they blamed for the current situation.  All the participants pretty much agreed that a key factor for the current passivity of the vast majority of Ukrainians (who are opposed to the insurgents) is that they do not trust Yanukovich, that they don't feel that they ought to fight for him or even with him, that he and his family are generally considered as notoriously corrupt and that basically there is no inspiring or even trustworthy figure in this regime who could mobilize people.  Most participants agreed that this state of affairs resulted in a tragic contradiction:

1) Victor Yanukovich is the only legally legitimate authority in the Ukraine, the only person who has a popular mandate and who therefore cannot be bypassed or removed.
2) Victor Yanukovich is weak, corrupt, cowardly and indecisive and nobody wants to follow his lead.

In essence, one man is basically holding the Ukrainian people hostage.

Very interesting comments were made about the security and armed forces of the Ukraine.  According to the participants:

1) The SBU (state security service) is completely incompetent.  For years it was only used for political intrigues and machinations and it has basically lost the capability to do its job as the main state security agency.
2) The Ukrainian army is basically a paper army.  In theory it has about 90'000 soldiers but in reality the only ones more or less combat capable are the Airmobile Forces.  According to one Ukrainian participant, the 500 paratroopers sent to defend the weapons depots today are "the entire Ukrainian army".
3) The Berkut riot police is the only engagement capable and motivated security force let (and considering how often they have been sacrificed and back-stabbed by Yanukovich I have to wonder how much longer they are going to be willing to sacrifice their lives and risk their families - who get attacked by the nationalist gangs - for this President?).

The local authorities in Crimea and Kharkov have officially declared that they will never recognized a non-elected regime in Kiev.  The governor of Kharkov, in particular, looks like a sharp and smart man.

Lastly - this paradox: the West is throwing huge efforts to try to "punish" Putin by throwing the Ukraine into a bloody chaos.  And yet, paradoxically, Putin's popularity is soaring to new heights because the Russian people can compare how a strong and determined head of state like Putin dealt with the color-coded revolution in Moscow with the never ending disaster of a weak and indecisive President like Yanukovich.  With every day of chaos, bloody mayhem and rioting passing more and more Russians think "this could have been us".  This is ironical, but true: the West's arrogant intervention in the Ukraine is actually further strengthening Putin.  As for the previously loud-mouthed Russian liberals - they are hiding somewhere, not seen not heard.  Finally!

The Saker