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Caos na Ucrânia: Um Tsunami na Europa

A geopolítica alemã tem desde há muito uma paixão imperial pela Ucrânia que vê como um prolongamento do “espaço” alemão. Esta paixão alemã pode arrastar agora a Europa para um desafio em que só pode perder e mesmo perder-se. Se a política externa alemã já tinha ensaiado uma manobra semelhante nos Balcãs com a desintegração da antiga Jugoslávia, agora a situação é bem diferente. A importância, para Moscovo, da antiga Jugoslávia era muito menor que é a da Ucrânia. Até ou sobretudo no plano afectivo e no cultural mas também no militar. E na Ucrânia não é o fantasma do marechal Tito que vão encontrar, é Putine, esse mestre da geopolítica e das relações de força. E, se na Jugoslávia foi possível contar com a intervenção americana para solucionar os problemas criados pelas manobras “europeias”, que ninguém conte com isso agora na Ucrânia. Por diversas razões (ver aqui), os americanos nem um drone porão nos céus ucranianos… A Europa terá mesmo de resolver os problemas que ali criar. Mark Almont, grande especialista da Ucrânia, avisa no Daily Mail como o caos ucraniano ameaça a Europa e como o desmoronamento do Estado na Ucrânia cria um tsunami imparável.

Why the eruption in Kiev could set off a tsunami that will engulf us all

As Ukraine burns, a stark warning from our most authoritative historian of Eastern Europe

By Mark Almond |

Television pictures of revolutions can make them seem like a spectator sport. Having Vitali Klitschko, the world heavyweight boxing champion, playing a starring role in the events in Kiev reinforces that impression. But the implosion of the Ukrainian state in the last 48 hours is a political earthquake. Chaos in Kiev could set off a tsunami that will toss Western Europe from its moorings too.

Flames of fury: As Kiev burns, outsiders are left pondering whether the Ukraine is just close enough to affect other corners of the EU

Anti-government protesters in a violent clash with police in central Kiev on Tuesday, a day after Moscow moved to cement its influence over Ukraine with $2 billion in cash to shore up the former Soviet state’s heavily indebted economy

It is a mistake to think we are watching from a safe distance.

Maybe Ukraine is as foreign to the British people today as it was when an obscure crisis on its southern coast in Queen Victoria’s reign became the Crimean War.

But not since the 1850s has this country come so close to colliding with Russia.

Ukraine sits on the fault line dividing Eastern Europe between pro-Western and pro-Russian views. Her people are split over attitudes to the old imperial capital, Moscow.

An alleged sniper and member of the pro-government forces is beaten by anti-government protestors. Some of the footage of the protests look more like a warzone, complete with barbaric scenes on both sides of the barricades

Protesters walk below a poster of Yulia Tymoshenko, shortly after there were reports that she had been released from prison

The mood and atmosphere outside the offices of Parliament in Kiev has been largely celebratory, as the President’s guard left and the protesters stormed the buildings

That divide is now opening up as pro-Russian districts in the East such as Kharkov and Crimea refuse to accept the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych celebrated in Kiev. Civil war would be a tragedy for Ukraine’s people. But what makes the crisis so dangerous is the international dimension. Since the collapse of Communism in 1991, the US and its European allies have seen keeping Ukraine independent of Russia as a key result of victory in the Cold War. For Russians, losing Ukraine was a huge blow. 

Protesters drag captured police officer through the streets of…

Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko speaks during a rally shortly after the Ukrainian President was reported to have left the Presidential offices

‘The dictatorship has fallen’: The rousing speech was one that was echoed around the world, but detractors have noted that they may not be learning lessons from history

Ironically, Russian culture and its Orthodox Church were born in Kiev 1,000 years ago. Moscow is a new capital. The Kremlin has always regarded bases in Ukraine, like its naval hub at Sevastopol, as key to security. Now Russia’s military presence could be questioned by the revolutionaries swarming through the abandoned government buildings in Kiev.

Civil war would undoubtedly be a crisis for Ukraine, but what makes this crisis so dangerous is how it could affect the international community

Nato has never wanted Russia’s forces in the Crimea, but nor does Washington want to see any violent effort to force them out. Bill Clinton famously declared that keeping Crimea in Ukraine and away from Russia was in America’s national interest. But he hoped that over time Russia would accept an independent Ukraine and withdraw its fleet. Today, when ethnic Russians are rallying in Crimea and other parts of Eastern Ukraine, the risk of a clash between radicals on both sides is rising.

The fall of Lenin: Protestors angry over the Ukraine’s close associate to Russia attempt to rid themselves of the pro-communist iconography

Ukrainian nationalists, for instance, shoot at Russian soldiers in the south, local civil disorder could drag the Kremlin in as it did five years ago across the Black Sea in Georgia. Already the West has been sparring with Putin’s Russia over everything from energy prices to gay rights, but a good old-fashioned tug of war over territory is now under way. This crisis began when Yanukovych backed out of a deal to associate his country with the EU last November. Putin saw this as a back door to getting Ukraine into Nato and turning a neutral neighbour into a US ally.

Despite anger towards Russia, Mark Almond believes both Moscow and Washington must urge bothy sides to stop the violence

Pro-Western Ukrainians hoped that would be the case, confirming the Kremlin’s worst fears. Given Ukraine’s desperate economic mess, meeting the EU’s requirements was not really an option. Worse still, Kiev needed billions of dollars to service its huge debt to Western banks. But the West wasn’t willing, or able, to lend any more. Putin’s huge oil and gas revenues seemed to give Russia the trump card. The Kremlin offered Ukraine a soft loan but on condition it stopped associating with the EU. This was a red rag to the pro-Western Ukrainians. But what complicates matters and makes them so dangerous now is that the most militant pro-Western protesters are violently anti-Russian. Many Ukrainians want to join the EU and Nato – not for reconciliation but to recruit allies against their old enemy. This combination of a looming Ukrainian default threatening West European banks and a potential conflict with the EU’s major energy supplier, Russia, means that Ukraine’s troubles are not only on our doorstep but threatening to flow across it.

Vladmir Putin has had numerous struggles with the West in recent years, but is a new struggle over territory on the cards with Ukraine?

The violence in Kiev and inflammatory rhetoric of the hard core of the Ukrainian demonstrators now met by pro-Russian groups in the East shows that no one has things under control. Putin had hoped to manipulate events through backing the ousted president, but the West has a problem with its vocal supporters too. The paramilitaries who toppled Yanukovych pay lip-service to the new European values of integration but they mask loyalty to the older European demons of nationalism and anti-Semitism. Sadly, Ukraine’s peaceful protesters are being marginalised by the reality that in a revolution, political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.  When Klitschko tried to persuade them to accept the EU-brokered compromise deal, he was booed off the stage in Kiev.

The West might have hopes that the release of ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko will restore her status as the people’s darling that she enjoyed during the Orange Revolution a decade ago. Her dramatic re-appearance in a wheelchair in front of the crowds fresh from prison recalled her firebrand role back then. She lashed Yanukovich’s record but also tried to reach out to Ukrainians who feel that the heroes of 2004 wasted their opportunity then. Timoshenko’s apology for the political class’s poor performance since then might gain her support. But it was painfully obvious that none of her potential rivals for the presidency from the opposition were on the platform with her.

Worse still her former ally, Viktor Yushchenko who defeated Yanukovich in 2005, is now a bitter enemy.

After all, he was the star witness against her at her trial in 2011. Uniting the opposition will be a tricky task. The capacity of Ukrainians to flout their Western well-wishers was shown when the protesters ignored that EU-sponsored deal to seize control of Kiev. The radicals might ignore the West, but the West cannot ignore the consequences of letting them run riot into a conflict with local Russians or the Kremlin itself.

If political and economic chaos leads to civil war in the country lying between Nato and Russia, Yugoslavia’s break-up would seem like a vicarage tea party.

But as disaster looms, there is a glimmer of hope. Russia and  the West have a common interest in avoiding a geo-political fight. Both Moscow and Washington should make it clear they will not tolerate either side causing more violence. Nor will they stand by their self-proclaimed friends if they do. Otherwise, East and West could find themselves dragged on to the slippery slope of confrontation for causes that are not their own.

Mark Almond’s Post-Communist Ukraine – A Short History will appear in the summer.


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