Ukraine: Setting the Table for a Newer World Order (Gazeta, Russia)
"Now there will be a deliberate series of actions designed
to return Moscow to a place in the international order it found itself in after
the Cold War. Russia isn't prepared to return there. ... Everyone senses that
something has gone wrong, and there is an instinctive desire to return to a
situation when everything was understood and functioned: the salutary 'bullet-free
war' which was cold, eternal, and ours. More time will have to pass before
everyone understands that this isn't possible."
The April 17 four-way meeting of Russia,
the E.U., U.S. and Ukraine is not your average diplomatic negotiation. In
Geneva, the first act of an entirely new play is being performed, with the plot
written along the way.
As befits a modern drama, outright farce
is combined with profound tragedy - and heartfelt suffering with cheap
melodrama. Provincial divas wring their hands and city prima donnas are met
with ovations. Menacing operatic villains stroke fake moustaches, comedians
perform humorous couplets, and thespians deliver poignant monologues with
well-honed inflections in their voices.
The same gun from which everyone fears a
fatal shot will be fired hangs in the background, because in amongst the
cardboard decorations and fake noses, there are real bullets.
A farcical atmosphere hangs over the central
place of action: Ukraine - a country where the same events are repeated century
after century, and political style ultimately overcomes the literary.
It's difficult to perceive what's really
going on when you realize that every turn of events has been second guessed.
And if the spirit and atmosphere of Bulgakov'sThe White Guardis
being recreated in Kiev almost a century later with the farcical Oleh
Tyahnybok in the role of Petliura, in the East
they're already playing Wedding
in Malinovka, afavorite of
generations of Soviets.
The general mood is best summed up by
the immortal words of Popandopolous (from Wedding in Malinovka): “I think that we're
on the edge of a grand panic.”
If all of this has the fragrance of Nikolai Gogol's romanticism
- from the atmosphere of Dikanka
to the pathos of TarasBulba - that is because this is the very dish
the political gourmets are being offered today.
This scenic surroundings, however, are
just a backdrop and catalyst for the real drama, which has rather more serious
players. That Ukraine has become the cause of a political knot between Russia
and the West is both accidental - and logical. It is an event, the prerequisites
of which have been accumulating for over 20 years.
Geneva is the first attempt at serious
talks among the major participants, and as they were a decade ago, Moscow and
Washington have completely antagonistic positions and are absolutely unprepared
Even in the 90s, when Moscow's foreign
policy was at a low ebb and it was financially dependent on Washington,
conflict between the two countries didn't end. But now for the first time, talks
aren't about local issues, however important those may be, but about positions
in the global hierarchy. Russia is gambling big, and isn't prepared to unilaterally
“de-escalate,” since it doesn't recognize the value (or even the reality of
stability) established after the Cold War.
The United States, by contrast, sees the
global order as its own property, repossessed by right - the rightful victor of
the systematic confrontations of the past half century. Any encroachment on the
post-1991 world order (and the West perceives the situation as a new order,
while the rest of the world increasingly treats it as a transitional phase) is immediately
rebuffed. That is only natural, since any revision would be to the detriment of
its current leaders.
Because of the rapidity of events, we
haven't adapted to the changes, as many of the practicalities haven't had time
to manifest themselves. We therefore haven't yet realized that relations between
Russia and the West, primarily the United States, have entered a new phase.
The signs of this will soon begin to be
felt on the level of everyday life, and will result in the systematic
repression of Russia in terms of both military and domestic policy. This won't
be a series of one-off actions, such as when several Russian banks were banished
from Visa and MasterCard in order to set an example for everyone else. Now
there will be a deliberate series of actions designed to return Moscow to a
place in the international order it found itself in after the Cold War. Russia
isn't prepared to return there. On the contrary, it doesn't consider this
long-held idea to be final or logical. As a result, the knot will only worsen.
Of course, there is no talk of military a
confrontation, (although it's no accident that Russia casually reminded
Washington of the radioactive dust it could turn America into), but we can
expect a host of political, economic, and symbolic measures aimed deliberately
at Russia. In the preceding period, much of what we perceived as anti-Russian
flack was actually a result of actions taken by Washington in other areas. It's
just that Washington didn't take Moscow's opinion into account, considering it irrelevant.
Talks are a fork in the road
One path leads toward a new “grand
settlement,” and this is what Russia wants. Calling a spade a spade, Moscow
sees a solution to the Ukraine crisis in terms of how the state will be
arranged going forward. A neutral buffer country organized on the principle of
maximum internal diversity will satisfy Russia far more than its disintegration,
or having it disintegrate, with its constituent parts taken over by other countries.
The intention is for the Geneva
transaction to be a prototype of how to resolve similar disagreements, as no
one doubts that their number will grow.
At the conference, of course, it isn't
the 19th century, and deciding the fate of countries without their
participation is no longer possible. Today's Ukraine is ineffective and not a
fully-fledged state, buts its chaos and ambitions are capable of breaking up
the game for the major players, even if they try and agree on something.
In order to localize the potential destruction
of Ukraine, we need serious cooperation between the United States and Russia,
with the active involvement of Europe, which doesn't possess a coherent
political will but is nevertheless instrumental.
On the table is a set of very different
but interrelated topics: the structure of Ukraine, its neutrality, all of the
complicated issues related to gas (price, debts, transit), and the fate of the
political system, or to be precise, elections. Without linking them all together
knowing that a complicated exchange of interests won'twork, to achieve anything in this confusing equation
will require the greatest diplomatic skill and at least a minimum of mutual
trust, something that has not only been in short supply, but can be expected to
continue to diminish.
Posted By Worldmeets.US
The second fork out of Geneva is a fixed
arrangement and a second Cold War.
This route seems much more likely. On
top of the collision over the global hierarchy described above, which is itself
very hard to resolve, there is a fatal gap in perceptions. In the West, domestic
Ukrainian processes are perceived without the necessary adjustments for local
absurdity. As a result, the picture painted is more dramatic and dangerous.
Russia in turn reacts with elevated drama, triggered by a vicious circle of
All of this is superimposed on the
recent situation with Crimea, which touches on the basic principles of the global
order and the fundamental question of how to preserve and obtain sovereignty. In
other words - problems that were recently considered worthy of investigation only
on a local level have become global, and give additional impetus to the irritation
that gradually accumulated between the major players long before these events.
The post Cold War system didn't bring
the world into balance. Signs of this abound at every level, from the incapacity
of the great powers even to understand the consequences of their actions on
each other to the appearance on the world stage of people resembling Cossack chieftain
from Wedding in Malinovka.]
Everyone senses that something has gone
wrong, and there is an instinctive desire to return to a situation when
everything was understood and functioned: the salutary “bullet-free war” which
was cold, eternal, and ours. More time will have to pass before everyone
understands that this isn't possible.
*Fyodor Lukyanov is Chief Editor for Russia in Global Affairs.