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Watson Institute | 24Feb2015 | Timothy Snyder [01:41:53]
Ukraine: Democracy at the
Published on 24 Feb 2015
- In this lecture on 20Feb2015, Professor Timothy Snyder examines the origins,
significance, and implications of the Ukrainian crisis. He argues that
the roots of the crisis lie not in Russia's fears of NATO expansion,
but in Putin's desire to undermine the European Union as a single
political and economic entity with --among other things-- a common
energy policy. The crisis has become increasingly dangerous because at
each stage of its development Putin's tactical decisions have failed to
achieve their immediate objectives while making it ever more difficult
for Russia to stand down. In an ominous turn of events, Russia is now
characterizing the Union as weak and decadent and actively financing
many of the right parties that are pushing for their countries to
withdraw from the European project.
[00:00 -- 03:08] Anthony Levitas -- Introduction
[03:09 -- 59:25] Timothy Snyder -- Lecture
[04:00] -- Defining Ukraine and Russia. 988 Christianity, 1241
destruction of Kyiv by Mongols, Khazars converted to Judaism engaged
with Vikings, 1569 Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Muscovy remains
outside, vacillitate between Europe and Asia, 1922 Soviet Union, 1933
Five year plan (famine 3 million die), 1945 myth that united Ukrainians
and Russia (WW2 starts on 22Jun1941), what is happening now is decisive.
[16:20] -- Ukrainians no longer believe WW2 myth, because of Maidan and Russian invasion.
-- Moscow protests in 2011-2012, blame U.S. for these protests.
Eurasianism turns against Europeean Union, which is decadent.
Yanukovych had decided to sign association agreement with Europe but
was dissuaded by Putin. University students were first protesters.
30Nov2013 beating of students.
[25:30] -- Russian was main language on Maidan, Kyiv is completely bilingual. Yanukovyh wanted to become the main Oligarch. 16Jan2014 dictatorship laws, shootings started (5 Jews were killed)
-- Russian invasion was a distinct event. Crimea and Donbas are not the
main event, destroying European Union is the main event. (Lukashenko
suggested to give Russia over to Tatars, rather than Crimea to the
Russians.) War is reverse asymmetry, as if Russia is weak. Russia grounds Ukrainian airforce, shoot from Russian territory.
-- Dugin proposes ending Ukrainian state. Ethnic rights of Russians,
Ukrainian state is illegitimate. Tyrants never admit mistakes. Putin
has made a whole series of mistakes. Most important is the European
Union. Russia cultivates Hungary, etc., everything to undermine the
European Union. Flat-out Nazi Right came out to legitimize Crimea and
[42:00] -- shale gas in Crimea and
off-shore. Need civil society to have a state; need a state to join EU;
re-inforce rule of law.
[43:30] -- Another idea. You can
intervene from outside to "break" civil society and rule of law, which
Russia is doing. A form of civil society does exist in Ukraine.
Destroy it by labelling it as a conspiracy. There is traditional
propaganda; liberation from context (distorting); political marketing
-- telling stories that people want to hear -- geopolitics, America is
orchestrating things. Gay-fascism.
[51:10] -- Calculated
cacophany -- throw out a series of alternate (ridiculous) theories
about an event. Example of shooting down MH17. We knew immediately that
Russia had shot it down, since all Russian tanks are accompanied by BUK
[55:00] -- Truth. There is a lack of
logical consistancy. There is no Ukrainian state; the Ukrainian state
is oppressive. There is no Ukrainian nation; all Ukrainians are
nationalists. There is no Ukrainian language; Russians are forced to
speak the Ukrainian language. Legal inconsistancies -- citizenship has
responsibilities, but Rusky mir (Novorussia), ethnicity concepts cloud
the legal understanding. Existential truth. Social truth depends on
trust. Very difficult to decide truth all by yourself.
[59:26 -- 01:41:53] Timothy Snyder -- Q&A
-- NATO question. Decision to admit Poland was made in 1994. Ukraine
was not about to be admitted to NATO -- complete red herring. Before
Russian invasion few Ukrainians wanted to be in NATO.No chronological connection between NATO and Russian policy. It is much easier to rally the Russian people about NATO and the Americans, than about the EU.
-- Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons question. Ukraine, Kazakhstan and
the Russian Federation legally inherited the nuclear weapons on their
soil. In 1994 Ukraine agreeed to give up its nuclear weapons in
exchange for loans and a promise of Russia, Britain and the U.S. to
guarantee sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. (Budapest Memorandum) This is now a nightmare scenario for non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
[01:08:00] -- Russian invasion of Georgia question. Ukraine situation is similar to Georgia, but with new twists. Russia tries to balance between EU and China.
-- Historians are natural defenders against myth. The myth of 988
Vladimir's christianization may be true, but he did so (maybe twice)
for strategic rather than religious reasons. (Russian leaders are
reading the 1920-1930 writings of Russian exiles.) For the last five
years, Snyder has been obsessing about the Holocaust. Parallel between the German evolution during 1930s and Russian doctrine to justify the invasion of Ukraine.
-- Question about U.S. constraints. There is a whole series of things
that we can do short of military intervention Iraq-style in Ukraine.
Russians understand our soft spots better than we do. We are supposed
to think "Oh, this is too bad for Ukraine", but we can't do anything
about it. That is the thought that will kill us -- and its meant to kill us. Ukraine is a way of getting at us.
Russia, the ceasefires in Minsk are consumer foreign policy. The
question of arming Ukraine is a red herring, the real question is how
do you counter the Russian "attack" on the European Union over the long
run. The Russians are out-thinking us.
[01:24:20] -- Russia is
sponsoring far-right parties, are we supposed to sponsor the far-left
parties? The Russians cover both sides. Young Ukrainians ask Snyder
"Should we have a propaganda machine to counter Russian propaganda?"
Snyder always answers "No". "Can't fight fire with fire here."
-- Maybe Russia should go into Estonia to resolve the NATO problem?
Cannot predict the future. Cannot say "We have no interest." "Ukraine
is completely winnable."
[01:33:00] -- Budapest Memorandum? U.S. and Britain should keep referring to Budapest Memorandum.
-- What is your advice to Ukrainians? The Ukrainian state is weak --
there is no predictability. Decentralization is required to build up
competence across all of Ukraine.
[01:41:53] -- END
Two minute extract: "How are Ukrainians and Russians Different"