Ukraine: Here’s Facebooking at You, Kid

By Stan Persky | May 20, 2014

While my ultraleft Facebook acquaintances (you know who you are) have relentlessly continued to post links to simplistic Russian propaganda about the situation in Ukraine, this morning’s report from the dreaded “mainstream” media may be closer to what’s actually happening there. And I ain’t “just sayin’.”

Front-Runner in Ukraine Election May Be Shifting Putin’s Stance

With Ukraine still roiled by separatist violence in the east, the growing air of…The New York Times|By David M. Herszenhorn

              Michael Boughn I wonder how all those people who brought down Yanukovich feel about this . . .

Stan Persky Follow-up to above link:…/putin-orders-russian-troop…

Putin orders Russian troop withdrawal from Ukrainian border

Russian president tells forces on ‘training exercises’ near border to return to their home bases

Michael Price Well, The Economist, hardly the most left-wing newspaper around, is scathing about Putin’s reversion to pre-1945 methods of territorial boundary changes. No-one since Hitler has pulled this kind of thing in Europe.

Kathy Ford Curious about why “ultraleftists” support Russia. The government of that country certainly doesn’t appear to be communist, more of an oligarchy. I am confused…

Stan Persky: It’s because they believe that U.S. imperialism is the main problem/danger/enemy in the world and so anything/anyone who opposes it is a temporary friend of theirs — it’s the old “my enemy’s enemies are therefore my friends.” When pressed, some of the ultras will concede that they don’t trust Putin or idealize Russia, but they tend to ignore homophobic, authoritarian, corrupt Russian practices, and very quickly they’re back to talking about American imperialism and staying on message. Naturally, I don’t object to people criticizing U.S. imperialism, but I object to them oversimplifying complicated topics — in order for the ultras to stay on point, the interim government of Ukraine has to be reduced to a “neo-fascist coup” and the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who participated in protests against the old Russian-supported Ukrainian president have to be erased from the picture. So the ultras provide a steady diet of links to Russia Today, Communist Party of Wherever (Marxist-Leninist), various kooky thinktanks, and the like, plus lots of denunciations of the evil “mainstream” media.

Kathy Ford Thank you for a cogent and helpful explanation.

Bob Mercer To revive a phrase, Putin’s “useful idiots.”

Don Larventz A news story that seems to have gone down the memory hole was that of the inadvertent release by Russian authorities of the actual participation of people in Crimea in the vote to join Russia. These official results showed that less than a third of those able to vote did so and of those voting less than a third of them wanted to join Russia. Has there been follow up on this story that I missed?

Stan Persky The claim appeared on a Russian human rights group website, but was quickly taken down, and I haven’t seen any follow-up. One more riddle wrapped in a mystery wrapped in an enigmatic website.

Don Larventz If the story is true and that’s a big if, then any claim to legitimacy of the takeover of Crimea is gone. That the Russian fleet was based there was a problem that had to be solved one way or another.

Michael Boughn I love you Stan, and by and large agree with you, but in this sinkhole there are no saints and pretty much everybody is a liar. It has gone far beyond some brave souls standing up to a corrupt regime and has fully entered the world international Real Politik (or however you spell it) . . .

Stan Persky Don, as far as I know there’s no real evidence about the Crimean vote (actual participation rates, actual counts), merely claims. The Russians had a secure lease (good until 2042) to use the Crimean naval base. It’s similar to the U.S. lease for Guantanamo, Cuba. The Russians in Crimea weren’t under threat; the seizure of Crimea and the dicey legal ratification of that seizure was, as they say, strictly a “political” event connected to the larger geopolitical issues concerning Ukraine’s moves toward the EU and the “West” generally.

Stan Persky Michael, I’m missing your point (though I gladly get the “love” part). One of the facts of this complicated bit of real politics is that there are 46 million people living in an entity known as Ukraine that has a very brief history as an independent legal state (about 2 decades, even though a Ukrainian “nation” has lived in the territory for centuries). A large portion of that population (especially younger and more educated citizens) are engaged in a popular movement (what is perhaps describable as, to use Timothy Garton Ash’s term, a “refolution”) to reform Ukraine and to move it politically and economically closer to the European Union, and away from its old imperial master, Russia. Some 5-10% of that amorphous movement consists of extreme nationalists, neo-fascists, and thugs, but most of it consists of inexperienced, possibly naive (but aren’t we all?) proto-democrats who want rule of law, non-violence, and an economy not totally controlled by the capitalist oligarchs who “inherited” the remnants of the economic structure left at the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The situation is further complicated by ethnic and religious differences, and of course by the machinations of external institutions other than Russia, namely, the U.S., the EU and their various economic instruments (such as the IMF). That’s the situation, and the problem for those of us interested in it (both Ukrainians and outsiders) is to work with it. I don’t think it’s a sinkhole, nor do I think everyone is a liar, and I suspect there may even be a few secular “saints” on the ground. As you can see from the length of this reply, Facebook probably isn’t the best venue for these conversations, but maybe I’m stuck with Real Digital Communication as much as we’re all stuck with Realpolitik.

Here’s the update:

Nationalist movements across Europe are stressing Russia’s role as a counterweight to American power over the Continent.


  • Stan Persky

    Stan Persky taught philosophy at Capilano University in N. Vancouver, B.C. He received the 2010 B.C. Lieutenant-Governor's Award for Literary Excellence. His most recent books are Reading the 21st Century: Books of the Decade, 2000-2009 (McGill-Queen's, 2011), Post-Communist Stories: About Cities, Politics, Desires (Cormorant, 2014), and Letter from Berlin: Essays 2015-2016 (Dooney's, 2017).

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