Tuesday, 25 March 2014
Open Letter to David Coburn and Peter Hitchens on UKRAINE
Peter Hitchens recently identified the Ukrainian party SVOBODA as an uncouth fascist group and suggested we do not cooperate with Ukraine.
David Coburn became a willing messenger for the “Russian truth twisting masters” on R-TV, demonstrating a naive, antiquated, cold-war, isolationist attitude that is deeply disappointing as it comes from a party, that pretends to be a fresh appearance on the politically rather rotten scene.
Here are some thoughts for both of you.
It is quite clear that none of you have put your boots on Ukrainian soil and don’t understand the language. It is a little like the climate debate: if you don’t know the facts, all you can apply are your emotions and your political platform.
It doesn’t work.
When you have a large followership (Hitchens) and an aggressive novel political agenda (Coburn), a level of integrity, brains, understanding, diplomacy and flair are required.
Both of you transgressed.
When you immerse yourselves in the Ukrainian/Russian debacle as opinion influencers, you must be totally sure that you have your facts sorted out.
SVOBODA is indeed a nationalist party, but it would be wrong to let it stand for all things Ukrainian, just as it would be wrong to let BNP or EDL sign the UK.
Because we are dealing with a country, that never had a united national heart or a common history within reasonably well defined borders. The rest of us have developed national cohesion in the course of almost 1000 years. The ill defined “Ukraine” has been a ping-pong ball for hundreds of years, with a history that encompasses some of the territory being part of Russia, Poland, the Austrian/Hungarian Empire and Germany and then Russia again, every time with a new set of previously undefined borders.
When Germany and Russia divided Poland between them in 1939, West Ukraine, under Polish administration between the wars, became Russian for 2 years till 1941, a period in which they saw the Bolsheviks massacre intellectuals by the 1000s, followed by German terror against the Russians that hadn’t slipped away. East Ukraine, however, had remained Russian territory. Here Stalin’s collectivisation process in the 1930s caused the death of more than 6 million people during the so called Holodomor..
Hitler’s troops, therefore were received by many Ukrainians as liberators in June 1941, a fact that still has not been forgotten by parts of the population, where Russian suppression has been felt.
This rather violent track record resulted in a politically fragmented landscape with sometimes illogical allegiances. This can be quite difficult to understand for a Western mind, but it is a fact, that several attempts to create a homogeneous state with well defined borders have been attempted many times - all with a conspicuous lack of success and often with a bloody outcome.
SVOBODA is only one of many organisations who have tried to pull this split country together as a national state. If their methods and credo are a little different from what we might expect in our mature and settled western democracies, we only need to consider how various parts of Ukraine have been bullied from all sides, but in particular by the Russians, throughout the centuries.
SVOBODA was the first organisation to shout: “enough is enough” at the recent Maidan demonstrations – but what’s new? History shows that it is always a radical element that takes the lead on change. It was the communists in Denmark in 1940, who for three years made up the resistance. In England it was BNP and EDL, who had had enough of Islam – and the initially 1-programme party UKIP started life with a rather motley blend of nutters and intellectuals, before beginning to come of age and achieve credibility.
The argument that SVOBODA is part of the Ukrainian parliament, while BNP/EDL (or UKIP for that matter!) have no seats in the Commons, is neither here nor there. That is just a result of different election processes and a different history.
We are dealing with a country that since 1991 has started from the bottom, learning to deal with virtually everything from market economy to a democratic process. The soviet misadventure, Stalin’s killing machine, economic breakdown, oligarch asset-grab and Russia’s conscious attempts to dominate are not exactly an ideal spring board!
Beat that for a wooden spoon in the mouth at birth!
It is terribly easy for western couch politicians to criticise and judge a people while using own values as a basis. It doesn’t become easier, when, as for now, the Russian mis-information and frighteningly effective propaganda machine is rolled out while spreading the war-cry about fascists and racists. They have used this tactic against adversaries since 1917. If you haven’t been to Ukraine – and again the experience is widely different if you visit the east or the west of the country – and if you don’t speak the language or are able to follow the screaming debates on Russian or Ukrainian TV channels, then perhaps it is understandable that your judgements are skewed.
Those of us, who have been there many times in the last 15 years and who have been able to follow the discussions on local TV have a completely different experience of a population that is bullied by Russians – and who has had enough of it.
It is true that Ukraine has shot many holes in their own feet. Rampant corruption, economic drainage by the oligarchs and a failure to lift the population out of poverty – like in Russia itself, mind you – is the reality, while perhaps 10 mill of a population of 55 mill have drifted as homeless workers towards a better life in Western Europe. The greedy MPs of the RADA and the Russian orientated Yanukovych, an East Ukrainian convicted criminal, have slowly but surely incapacitated the country, sucking it dry.
Yeltsin’s Foreign Secretary Andrei Kozyrev, in a conversation with USA’s ex Foreign Secretary Talbot, recently said: “Stop talking about what Putin will do next. He has already done it through Yanukovych”. With this he meant slowly brought Ukraine to its knees, so that it would have difficulty operating as a normal autonomous state, i.e. dance to Russia’s whip.
But both of you should be clever enough to understand the outline of this story and the game being played, in particular as Russia today is led by a KGB general and because the shenanigans of the Orange revolution in 2004-5 were reasonably well reported and understood.
To knock Ukraine as being equal to SVOBODA or to turn up and play Russia’s game on the RT Eng. TV channel, being led into a mire of leading, damning questions while supporting the Russian misinformation machine, is naive at best – unforgivably stupid at worst.
And to talk about a “Russian sphere of influence” is old cold-war hat straight out of the Cuba crisis – completely irrelevant. In that case Poland and the Baltic states would also be in the direct “Russian sphere of interest” and beyond Western interest.
Is that what you mean, Mr. Coburn, and should we accept Putin’s next aggressive step?
Knocking EU on the RT channel was also a bad idea.
You are totally right, though; Ashton, Baroso, Schulz and the rest of the gang are a useless, incompetent lot – but right now it seems more important to stand together against Putin the bully and his dangerous game. You became a willing pawn in the theatre RT put up – classic divide and rule.
But still: it was EU countries who willingly received and treated many hundred of wounded from the Maidan protests!
But worst of all: no, it was not the EU that started the Maidan revolution, although surely they have fished in rich waters.
It was the ordinary people, who had grown sick and tired of corruption, being sucked dry and now seeing an opportunity, after the failed Orange Revolution, to obtain a reasonable standard of living and a future for their children through turning towards Western Europe.
You should try experiencing the abject rural poverty in both Ukraine and Russia. A visit would make you understand, that if Ukraine’s future lays with Russia, as Yanukovych suddenly claimed, all hope for the future would be left behind.
That was simply too much for a people, who has the same right as the rest of us to see their aspirations become reality. We know: it was our friends and their children on the barricades for 3 months – a sacrifice you will probably never understand.
Does it not mirror some of the thoughts UKIP have in terms of the UK, manacled by the EU and with a deep desire to get out while pursuing a better life?
You should be the first to understand, Mr. Coburn. The world has changed; the people are taking over from the politicians in Ukraine and here as in other countries, but it seems to me that UKIP has a long way to go in terms of understanding the international political game-play. Lack of knowledge is dangerous and not an excuse, lack of learning from the past is unforgivable and isolating ourselves is not an option.
It may well be that SVOBODA has the wrong colour at the moment – and suddenly it is OK what the EU says? But with time this will change, as the Ukrainians learn the democratic game. I am fully aware that Eastern Europe is rather racist, but that goes for e.g. France and Austria as well! The West has turned anti Jewish, judged from the huge number of resolutions against Israel, the only near-east democratic state, as compared to the number of anti-Palestinian resolutions (none!)
Many Ukrainians – like the rest of us – dream of a prosperous freedom, self determination, one law of the land and peace. Most East Ukrainians have no idea what the West has to offer – they even stand gawping when they look at the progress in Lviv.
Don’t you think the tumultuous events around Ukraine deserve our attention and support and concerted effort in rejecting the many ghosts from the past that suddenly have arisen to haunt us these days?
Yes to Europe – no to EU – and welcome to the freedom searching Ukrainians, if they are willing to take the responsibility. (God help them if they manage to enter the EU-union!).
But do stay clear of R TV in the future.