Tuesday 12 August 2014

Whataboutery: what about Ukraine?

Ukrainian drone from the 70's.

The EU has done everything it can to snatch Ukraine out of the Russian sphere of influence. Since provoking Russia into protecting its strategic military interests in the Crimea there has been a slowly unfolding civil war, and there is a deathly silence about it when more fashionable causes have our full attention. And here's why... 

Half the problem is that we can see who the bad guys are in the Gaza conflict. Both Hamas and the IDF, who have seemingly abandoned any concerted effort to minimise casualties and displacement of peoples. In Iraq, we know that ISIS are the bad guys and we all know who the victims and villains are. But with Ukraine, all the players involved are of varying degrees of awfulness - and there's not much in the way of reliable information coming out. 

Before passing any moral judgements there are questions to consider. Do we know for a fact Russia is not pushing its own counter-agenda? Do we even know how many Russian separatists there are, and whether this is a genuine movement for Eastern self-determination? Does the existing Ukrainian government have democratic consent to retake Ukrainian territory? Does it have the moral right? How much popular support do the separatists have? What dirty tricks are they up to? Is anyone on any side telling anything like the truth? And how do we even begin to verify it?

The issues are more transparent in the Gazan conflict. At the risk of boring you, I keep droning on about UAVs and the other alternative technology Israel has to conduct a security operation - (and remember that is not a war for territory), but here it doesn't look like Ukraine has that level of military sophistication - so it's having to fight a conventional civil war by conventional means. It is a conflict where the West has to be very careful about how much material support they give to Ukraine else we further provoke Russia. Nobody wants that.

There is also a small matter of either outcome being satisfactory so long as it is resolved quickly. The sooner it is over the sooner Russia and the West can find ways to de-escalate the tension. This isn't just a spat. This is a proxy cold war between old adversaries, and the fighting is a microcosm of much larger games. How do you even begin to define the parameters in order to start making moral demands?

Furthermore, it's a situation we as individuals have very little influence in - and very little cultural knowledge of. We have always considered Ukraine as being under the Soviet umbrella and collectively our thinking has never fully adapted to post-cold war dynamics. The EU is driving its own agenda which is different to the US agenda, and we have no major influence in what our EU elites do. Not forgetting this is being handled mostly by German diplomacy, where to some extent Germany has to act in its own national and security interests. I'm not making excuses for anyone, but straightforward this ain't.

And there it is. People in the main are simpletons. They like easily digestible narratives - and they like clear definitions of who is who and what is what. The bottom line is that most people can't even begin to comprehend the mess we have made in Ukraine. I've been following it since the start - and I'm buggered if I know what's really going on!

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