Edge of Chaos is a political podcast starring Joe Ryan and Neurotoxin. Its aim is to have a free-flowing discussion of news and current events that also examines the empirical outcomes of public policy, avoiding biases based on ideology and policy intentions. Listener discretion is both advised and encouraged.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ukraine: The Tragedy's Final Act?

Here's the mandatory mainstream news source story (AP this time) with its milquetoast coverage.

Now, here is MY inconvenient interpretation of everything they refuse to cover:

1. Why the sudden crackdown?

Because Putin said Monday he was putting Ukraine's foreign aid on hold until Yanukovich "deals with the situation", a fact Western media reported but somehow didn't connect the dots.

These protests have been going on for months, and the opposition hasn't budged on any negotiations or government demands. Yet somehow Yanukovich suddenly became concerned that the protesters were dangerous and seeking a violent coup; and it coincided with the Putin ultimatum and the globally distracting Olympics. I call bullshit.

2. Why did he call a truce on Thursday?

Because the crackdown failed, plain and simple. The protesters stood their ground and their calls for reinforcements via social media brought 10,000s of people from Western cities. Meanwhile, only one agency - the Bekmut, Ukraine's special Federal police - participated. The protesters' numbers stretched this agency so thin that they were down to blocking roads with abandoned trucks because they couldn't spare live units. A few more hours and the overwhelmed Bekmut would have scattered, allowing enraged protesters to lynch Yanukovich and his immediate entourage like they deserve and claim Ukraine.

It wasn't a 'truce', it was a desperate retreat. He was smart to do it while the Bekmut still had enough left to defend him from a counter-offensive.

3. Why not throw in more forces, like the military?

Because he doesn't have any. Contrary to the media's coverage of his and Putin's bullshit speculation as if it were reliable evidence - NOBODY likes him. The Bekmut is closely aligned with the government and their officers are neck-deep in the government's crimes, but hardly anyone else is on board.

- Virtually every city government in West Urkaine has openly sided with the protesters, ordered their police to protect the protesters from Fed crackdowns, and forcibly expelled Federal regents.

- In East Ukraine, where our media claims Yanukovich "enjoys strong support" - the population is at best neutral. There aren't mass protests and forceful expulsion of Federal bureaucrats, but no one is demonstrating in his support or sending reinforcements to fight on his behalf. They're sitting on the sidelines waiting for the West to lynch him. If that's "strong support" I hope I never have any.

- Within the Federal government and in Kiev, the crackdown brought a wave of resignations and party defections by officials that do not wish to be affiliated with this activity; culminating in Yanukovich firing his Army Chief and appointing a strong loyalist in his place. Presumably, the Army Chief refused an order to participate in the crackdown; and this indicates the military is highly unlikely to obey such an order from its new Chief.

4. So, what now?

Yanukovich is finished, and if he hasn't prepared an exit strategy - he's dead. I stand by my prediction that this will be his final week in office. His post-crackdown moves are nothing but empty bluffs and he has nothing else to throw at the opposition. The opposition clearly sees through this as evidenced by them breaking the 'truce' to sack Bekmut lines and take Bekmut members prisoner. If he doesn't resign or find some unlikely source of reinforcements like a foreign military within the next few hours - the mobs will overwhelm what's left of his defenses and physically overthrow him.

Also notable - there will be no East-West break-up. Regional divides will be at the forefront of deciding what to do with the country afterwards; but these will be political and decided with voting and Constitutional debate, NOT violence. Ukraine is not Libya nor Syria and doesn't have centuries of history of tribal wars. The East-West divide has existed since the days of the Russian Empire, but it has always been limited to politics and NEVER caused violence nor war. That's not about to change now.


Yanukovich is getting exactly what he deserves. The people rebelled rightfully because he and his elite are crooks who repressed dissenting opinions for their personal gain. Despite his and Putin's cronies peddling uncorroborated bullshit, there is 0 reason to believe the protests warranted violent repression in any way, shape, or form. Hence, his crackdowns constitute violent and unwarranted aggression, and counter-aggression that neutralizes the threat is perfectly justified. Should he gets lynched - I will merrily dance on his grave the way I did on Ghadhafi's. There is NOTHING they could do to him that would elicit my sympathy.

As for Western governments, I appreciate that they don't condone his crimes. But they're wary of a sudden popular transition because it uproots their own ties and interests in the country, and hence do what they can to stall the regime change while they manipulate which opposition leader takes charge. This is going on while innocent people are being killed on the ground, and that places some culpability for prolonging the violence on our own asinine politicians and diplomats. THIS is why Hillary Clinton had her car pelted with eggs in Egypt after Mubarak's ouster; and she deserved it.

Our media would do well not to treat their and our governments' speculation as fact in trying to divide the blame. The popular discontent resulting from accurate reporting might force Western governments to pressure Yanukovich and others like him to step down sooner, saving lives.


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