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Will Zuzak | 23Feb2014 | to Amy Goodman,  Timothy Snyder,
 Nicolai Petro vs. Timothy Snyder
A New Cold War? Ukraine
Violence Escalates, Leaked Tape
Was Plotting Coup
Dear Amy Goodman:
I was appalled by the sickening Ukrainophobia expressed in your 20Feb2014
interview with Stephen Cohen. Have you forgotten the 30Jan2014
debate that you hosted, where Anton Shekhovtsov corrected
many of Stephen Cohen's biased views?
You denigrate the hundreds of thousands of peaceful
demonstrators on Euromaidan, who aspire for freedom and democratic
values. Then you try to legitimize the corrupt Yanukovych regime and
his mentor Vladimir
Putin, who aspire to establish a brutal terroristic dictatorship in
Ukraine. As of today, 23Feb2013, it appears that Mr. Yanukovych may be
gone for good. Surely, you are aware that since his election in 2010,
Yanukovych had been increasing his own dictatorial powers (and wealth)
and had rolled back any democratic progress achieved since Ukraine's
independence in 1991. You must be aware of Mr. Putin's KGB past, his
orchestrated Moscow bombings in 1999 to justify his invasion and
continuing destruction of Chechnya, his assassinations of Anna
Politkovskaya and other journalists, and his poisoning of Alexander
Litvinenko with radioactive polonium. Mr. Putin would have no qualms in
implementing such scenarios in Ukraine.
You call yourself
"Democracy Now" and yet you support dictatorship and corruption. And
you have the gall to ask people to donate to your cause. If you were
truly interested in DEMOCRACY, you would laud the efforts of the people
of Ukraine. You would recognize the concept of the Euromaidan as a
useful mechanism to throw off corrupt dictatorship. You would encourage
people in countries around the world suffering from governmental
tyranny -- including the United States and the Russian Federation -- to
emulate the Euromaidan.
Near the end of the video, the three of
you snicker cynically amongst yourselves at the tragedy unfolding in
Ukraine -- just as Ukrainians are mourning and preparing to bury their
dead heroes. Would any "human" human being snicker as she/he
watches and listens to this video?
enlighten yourselves on the situation in Ukraine, I invite you to click
on the link below, where I have added appropriate comments and video
links in the color fuchsia throughout the text of the
Furthermore, please read the appended article "Fascism, Russia, and
Ukraine" of your co-religionist Timothy Snyder, who obviously
understands the situation in Ukraine much better than you do.
William Zuzak; 2014.02.23
[Archived at http://www.willzuzak.ca/tp/ukrainophobia/zuzak20140223Goodman.html
Democracy Now | 20Feb2014 | Stephen Cohen [37:24]
A New Cold War? Ukraine
Violence Escalates, Leaked Tape
Was Plotting Coup
A short-lived truce has broken down in Ukraine as street battles have
erupted between anti-government protesters and police. Last night the
country’s embattled president and the opposition leaders demanding his
resignation called for a truce and negotiations to try to resolve
Ukraine’s political crisis. But hours later, armed protesters attempted
to retake Independence Square, sparking another day of deadly violence.
At least 50 people have died since Tuesday [18Feb2014]
in the bloodiest period of
Ukraine’s 22-year post-Soviet history. While President Obama has vowed
to "continue to engage all sides," a recently leaked audio recording
between two top U.S. officials reveal the Obama administration has been
secretly plotting with the opposition. We speak to Stephen Cohen,
professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York
University and Princeton University. His most recent book, "Soviet
Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War," is
out in paperback. His latest Nation article is "Distorting Russia: How
the American Media Misrepresent Putin, Sochi and Ukraine."
This is a rush
transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A short-lived truce has broken down in Ukraine as street
battles have erupted between anti-government protesters and police.
Last night, the country’s embattled president and the opposition
leaders demanding his resignation called for a truce and negotiations
to try to resolve Ukraine’s political crisis. But the truce only lasted
a few hours. The last three days have been the bloodiest period of
Ukraine’s 22-year post-Soviet history. Over 50 people have died,
including at least 21 today. The truce ended today when armed
protesters attempted to retake Independence Square. Both sides have
accused the other of using live ammunition. A Ukrainian paramedic
described the chaotic scene.
UKRAINIAN PARAMEDIC: [translated] Some
bodies are at the concert hall. Some are at the barricades. Now there
are maybe around 15 or 20 dead. It is hard to count, as some are
carried away, others are resuscitated. Now, as far as I know, three
dead people are at the city hall, and two more dead are at the main
post office. There are so many at the concert hall that we didn’t even
AMY GOODMAN: The Ukrainian parliament, Rada, and Cabinet buildings have
reportedly been evacuated because of fears they could be stormed by
protesters. The street clashes are occurring while the Ukrainian
president, Viktor Yanukovych, is meeting with the foreign ministers
from Germany, Poland and France.
The Obama administration stepped up pressure on the Ukrainian
government Wednesday by announcing a visa ban on 20 members of the
Ukrainian government. The U.S. is also threatening to place sanctions
on the Ukrainian government.
The protests began in late November [21Nov2013]
after President Yanukovych reversed
his decision to sign a long-awaited trade deal with the European Union,
or EU, to forge stronger ties with Russia instead.
True, and they were completely peaceful until the Berkut forces
brutally attacked the demonstrators at 04:10 AM on 30Nov2013 (see [06:34] and [01:09]
videos within the multiple
file). Immediately, the focus of the demonstrations switched to a
protest against the corruption and brutality of the Yanukovych regime.
As the multiple videos demonstrate, the brutality of the Yanukovych
regime escalated until the deaths of Serhii
and others on 22Jan2014. The final straw was the shootings by
professional snipers on 18/20Feb2014 -- resulting in a death toll of
individuals. On 22Feb2014, Viktor Yanukovych fled and a new
Ukraine was born.]
To talk more about the latest in Ukraine, we’re joined by Stephen
Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York
University and Princeton University. His most recent book, Soviet Fates
and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War,
is now out
in paperback. His latest piece in The
Nation is called "Distorting
Russia: How the American Media Misrepresent Putin, Sochi and Ukraine."
So, talk about the latest, Professor Cohen.
STEPHEN COHEN: Where do you want me to begin? I mean, we are watching
history being made, but history of the worst kind. That’s what I’m
telling my grandchildren: Watch this. What’s happening there, let’s
take the big picture, then we can go to the small picture. The big
picture is, people are dying in the streets every day. The number 50 is
certainly too few. They’re still finding bodies. Ukraine is splitting
apart down the middle, because Ukraine is not one country, contrary to
what the American media, which speaks about the Ukraine and the
Ukrainian people. Historically, ethnically, religiously, culturally,
politically, economically, it’s two countries. One half wants to stay
close to Russia; the other wants to go West. We now have reliable
reports that the anti-government forces in the streets -- and there are
some very nasty people among them -- are seizing weapons in western
Ukrainian military bases. So we have clearly the possibility of a civil
And the longer-term outcome may be -- and I want to emphasize this,
because nobody in the United States seems to want to pay attention to
it -- the outcome may be the construction, the emergence of a new Cold
divide between West and East, not this time, as it was for our
generation, in faraway Berlin, but right on the borders of Russia,
right through the heart of Slavic civilization. And if that happens, if
that’s the new Cold War divide, it’s permanent instability and
permanent potential for real war for decades to come. That’s what’s at
Stephen Cohen is willing to support a brutal dictatorship in Ukraine
(and the Russian Federation) to prevent a "new Cold War". He obviously
does not support the democratic aspirations of Ukrainians.]
One last point, also something that nobody in this country wants to
talk about: The Western authorities, who bear some responsibility for
what’s happened, and who therefore also have blood on their hands, are
taking no responsibility. They’re uttering utterly banal statements,
which, because of their vacuous nature, are encouraging and
rationalizing the people in Ukraine who are throwing Molotov cocktails,
now have weapons, are shooting at police. We wouldn’t permit that in
any Western capital, no matter how righteous the cause, but it’s being
condoned by the European Union and Washington as events unfold.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And when you say the Western countries who bear some
responsibility, in what sense do they bear responsibility? I mean,
clearly, there’s been an effort by the United States and Europe ever
since the collapse of the Soviet Union to pull the former Soviet states
into their economic sphere, but is that what you’re talking about?
STEPHEN COHEN: I mean that. I mean that Moscow -- look at it through
Moscow’s eyes. Since the Clinton administration in the 1990s, the
U.S.-led West has been on a steady march toward post-Soviet Russia,
began with the expansion of NATO in the 1990s under Clinton. Bush then
further expanded NATO all the way to Russia’s borders. Then came the
funding of what are euphemistically called NGOs, but they are political
action groups, funded by the West, operating inside Russia. Then came
the decision to build missile defense installations along Russia’s
borders, allegedly against Iran, a country which has neither nuclear
weapons nor any missiles to deliver them with. Then comes American
military outpost in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, which led to
the war of 2008, and now the West is at the gates of Ukraine. So,
that’s the picture as Moscow sees it. And it’s rational. It’s
reasonable. It’s hard to deny.
But as for the immediate crisis, let’s ask ourselves this: Who
precipitated this crisis? The American media says it was Putin and the
very bad, though democratically elected, president of Ukraine,
Yanukovych. But it was the European Union, backed by Washington, that
said in November to the democratically elected president of a
profoundly divided country, Ukraine, "You must choose between Europe
and Russia." That was an ultimatum to Yanukovych. Remember -- wasn’t
reported here -- at that moment, what did the much-despised Putin say?
said, "Why? Why does Ukraine have to choose? We are prepared to help
Ukraine avoid economic collapse, along with you, the West. Let’s make
it a tripartite package to Ukraine." And it was rejected in Washington
and in Brussels. That precipitated the protests in the streets.
And since then, the dynamic that any of us who have ever witnessed
these kinds of struggles in the streets unfolded, as extremists have
taken control of the movement from the so-called moderate Ukrainian
leaders. I mean, the moderate Ukrainian leaders, with whom the Western
foreign ministers are traveling to Kiev to talk, they’ve lost control
of the situation. By the way, people ask -- excuse me -- is it a
Is it a revolution? A much abused word, but one sign of a revolution is
the first victims of revolution are the moderates. And then it becomes
a struggle between the extreme forces on either side. And that’s what
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to the Ukrainian opposition leader, Arseniy
Yatsenyuk, who admitted earlier today the opposition does not have full
control of protesters in Independence Square.
ARSENIY YATSENYUK: The only chance to do
it is to stop the riot police, to stop the protesters, to impose a DMZ,
like demilitarized zone, and to move this conflict from the streets to
REPORTER 1: Parts of the protesters are
out of control?
ARSENIY YATSENYUK: No one -- I would be
very frank, that the government doesn’t control the riot police, and
it’s very difficult for the opposition to control Maidan. And there are
a number of forces who are uncontrolled. This is the truth.
REPORTER 2: So, Ukraine is in chaos now.
ARSENIY YATSENYUK: Ukraine is in a big
Yes, of course. The Maidan has categorically and repeatedly stated that
they represent the Ukrainian people and not any politicians, political
parties or Oligarchs in the country.]
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Ukrainian opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
STEPHEN COHEN: A moderate.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go --
STEPHEN COHEN: Who wants to be president.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to President Obama. He’s in Mexico for the big
Mexico-Canada-U.S. summit talking about Ukraine.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: With regard to
Ukraine, along with our European partners, we will continue to engage
all sides. And we continue to stress to President Yanukovych and the
Ukrainian government that they have the primary responsibility to
prevent the kind of terrible violence that we’ve seen, to withdraw riot
police, to work with the opposition to restore security and human
dignity, and move the country forward. And this includes progress
towards a multi-party, technical government that can work with the
international community on a support package and adopt reforms
necessary for free and fair elections next year. Ukrainians are a proud
and resilient people who have overcome extraordinary challenges in
their history, and that’s a pride and strength that I hope they draw on
AMY GOODMAN: That’s President Obama in Mexico, Professor Cohen.
STEPHEN COHEN: What are you asking me to comment on?
AMY GOODMAN: Your response to his response.
STEPHEN COHEN: To what he just said? Shame. Shame. He is saying that
the responsibility for restoring peace is on the Ukrainian government,
and it should withdraw its security forces from the streets. But let me
ask you, if in Washington people throwing Molotov cocktails are
marching on Congress -- and these people are headed for the Ukrainian
Congress -- if these people have barricaded entrance to the White House
and are throwing rocks at the White House security guard, would
President Obama withdraw his security forces? This is -- this is -- and
you know what this does? And let’s escape partisanship here. I mean,
lives are at stake. This incites, these kinds of statement that Obama
made. It rationalizes what the killers in the streets are doing. It
gives them Western license, because he’s not saying to the people in
the streets, "Stop this, stop shooting policemen, stop attacking
government buildings, sit down and talk." And the guy you had on just
before, a so-called moderate leader, what did he just tell you? "We
have lost control of the situation." That’s what I just told you. He
just confirmed that.
So what Obama needs to say is, "We deplore what the people in the
streets are doing when they attack the police, the law enforcement
official. And we also don’t like the people who are writing on
buildings 'Jews live here,'" because these forces, these quasi-fascist
forces -- let’s address this issue, because the last time I was on your
broadcast, you found some guy somewhere who said there was none of this
there. All right. What percent are the quasi-fascists of the
opposition? Let’s say they’re 5 percent. I think they’re more, but
let’s give them the break, 5 percent. But we know from history that
when the moderates lose control of the situation, they don’t know what
to do. The country descends in chaos. Five percent of a population
that’s tough, resolute, ruthless, armed, well funded, and knows what it
wants, can make history. We’ve seen it through Europe. We’ve seen it
through Asia. This is reality. And where Washington and Brussels are on
this issue, they won’t step up and take the responsibility.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, even in most recent history, whether you look at
Libya or whether you look at the situation in Syria, where those
presidents warned that there were extremist elements inside a broader
popular movement that were eventually going to gain control, this seems
like a replay in terms of what’s going on here in the Ukraine of a
popular movement, but yet a very, very, as you say, right-wing
movement -- not only a right-wing movement, but a fascist movement with
history. Ukraine has had a history of a fascist movement going back to
the days of Nazi Germany.
Mr. Gonzalez is obviously demonizing the Ukrainian independence
movement of the 1930's and 1940's led by OUN-UPA. To enlighten
themselves on the subject they should listen to or read the
English-language translation of the lectures of Ivan Patrylyak on the Relations
between OUN-UPA and Germany.]
STEPHEN COHEN: Let’s go to real heresy. Let’s ask a question: Who has
been right about interpreting recent events? Let’s go to the Arab
Spring. Obama and Washington said this was about democracy now, this is
great. Russia said, "Wait a minute. If you destabilize, even if they’re
authoritarian leaders in the Middle East, you’re not going to get
Thomas Jefferson in power. You’re going to get jihadists. You’re going
to get very radical people in power all through the Middle East."
Looking back, who was right or wrong about that narrative? Have a look
at Egypt. Have a look at Libya. Who was right? Can Russians ever be
right about anything?
Now what are the Russians saying about Ukraine? They’re saying what you
just said, that the peaceful protesters, as we keep calling them -- I
think a lot of them have gone home. There were many. By the way, at the
beginning, there were hundreds of thousands, tens of thousands, of very
decent, liberal, progressive, honorable people in the streets. But
they’ve lost control of the situation. That’s the point now. And so,
the Russians are saying, "Look, you’re trying to depose Yanukovych,
who’s the elected government." Think. If you overthrow -- and, by the
there’s a presidential election in a year. The Russians are saying wait
'til the next election. If you overthrow him -- and that's what
and Brussels are saying, that he must go -- what are you doing to the
possibility of democracy not only in Ukraine, but throughout this part
of the world? And secondly, who do you think is going to come to power?
Please tell us. And we’re silent.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to the famous leaked tape right now. The top
State Department official has apologized to her European counterparts
after she was caught cursing the European Union, the EU, in a leaked
audio recording that was posted to YouTube. The recording captured an
intercepted phone conversation between the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine,
Geoffrey Pyatt, and Victoria Nuland, the top U.S. diplomat for Europe.
Nuland expresses frustration over Europe’s response to the political
crisis in Ukraine, using frank terms.
VICTORIA NULAND: So that would be great,
I think, to help glue this thing and have the U.N. help glue it. And,
you know, [bleep] the EU.
AMY GOODMAN: While Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland’s
comment about the EU dominated the news headlines because she used a
curse, there were several other very interesting parts of her
conversation with the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
GEOFFREY PYATT: Let me work on
Klitschko, and if you can just keep -- I think we want to try to get
somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to
midwife this thing. Then the other issue is some kind of outreach to
Yanukovych, but we can probably regroup on that tomorrow as we see how
things start to fall into place.
VICTORIA NULAND: So, on that piece,
Geoff, when I wrote the note, Sullivan’s come back to me VFR saying,
"You need Biden?" And I said, "Probably tomorrow for an attaboy and to
get the deets to stick." So Biden’s willing.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Pyatt, speaking
with Victoria Nuland. The significance of what she is saying? She also
had gone to Ukraine and was feeding protesters on the front line.
STEPHEN COHEN: Cookies, cookies. Well, here again, the American
political media establishment, including the right and the left and the
center -- because they’re all complicit in this nonsense -- focused on
too sensational, they thought, aspect of that leaked conversation. She
said, "F— the European Union," and everybody said, "Oh, my god! She
said the word." The other thing was, who leaked it? "Oh, it was the
Russians. Those dirty Russians leaked this conversation." But the
significance is what you just played. What are they doing? The
highest-ranking State Department official, who presumably represents
the Obama administration, and the American ambassador in Kiev are, to
put it in blunt terms, plotting a coup d’état against the elected
president of Ukraine.
Now, that said, Amy, Juan, you may say to me -- neither of you would,
hypothetically -- "That’s a good thing. We don’t like -- we don’t care
was elected democratically. He’s a rat. He’s corrupt." And he is all
those things. He is. "Let’s depose him. That’s what the United States
should do. Then the United States should stand up and say, ’That’s what
we do: We get rid of bad guys. We assassinate them, and we overthrow
them.’" But in Washington and in Brussels, they lie: They’re talking
about democracy now. They’re not talking about democracy now; they’re
talking about a coup now.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, this is more from --
STEPHEN COHEN: And we -- excuse me -- and we should -- we, American
should be allowed to choose which policy we want. But they conceal it
from us. And I’m extremely angry that the people in this country who
say they deplore this sort of thing have fallen silent.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Let’s listen to little bit more of the leaked
conversation between the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt,
and Victoria Nuland, the top U.S. diplomat for Europe.
VICTORIA NULAND: Good. So, I don’t think
Klitsch should go into the government. I don’t think it’s necessary. I
don’t think it’s a good idea.
GEOFFREY PYATT: Yeah. I mean, I guess,
you think—in terms of him not going into the government, just let him
sort of stay out and do his political homework and stuff. I’m just
thinking, in terms of sort of the process moving ahead, we want to keep
the moderate democrats together. The problem is going to be Tyahnybok
and his guys. And, you know, I’m sure that’s part of what Yanukovych is
calculating on all of this. I kind of—
VICTORIA NULAND: I think—I think Yats is
the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience.
He’s the guy—you know, what he needs is Klitsch and Tyahnybok on the
outside. He needs to be talking to them four times a week. You know, I
just think Klitsch going in, he’s going to be at that level working for
Yatsenyuk. It’s just not going to work.
Goodman/Gonzalez/Cohen are making a mountain out of a mole hill. What
do they expect Nulan/Pyatt to talk about? They are simply doing their
job -- discussing the situation in Ukraine and expressing how the
United States should react should Yanukovych be deposed. It seems that
they would prefer to deal with Arseniy Yatseniuk; whereas European
politicians prefer Vitali Klychko. So what?]
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Victoria Nuland, the top U.S. diplomat for
Europe, speaking with Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to the
Ukraine. Stephen Cohen, this -- this chess game --
STEPHEN COHEN: You don’t need me here. What do you need me for?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: -- this chess game that they’re conducting
STEPHEN COHEN: There it is. There it is.
AMY GOODMAN: But explain the names. Who is Klitsch, Yats?
STEPHEN COHEN: All right. And notice the intimacy with which the
Americans deal with the two leading so-called "moderate" -- and these
big shots, they both want to be president -- Ukrainian opposition.
Klitschko is Vitali Klitschko, a six-foot-eight former -- he resigned
title two months ago to enter politics -- heavyweight champion of the
world. His residence has been Ukraine -- I mean, Germany. He plays --
taxes in Germany. He’s a project of Merkel. He represents German
interests. I’m sure he’s also faithful to Ukraine, but he’s got a
problem. Yatsenyuk, however -- not Yatsenyuk, but the other guy she
"Yats" is a representative of the Fatherland Party. It’s a big party in
Parliament. But Washington likes him a lot. They think he’ll be our
man. So you could see what they’re saying. We don’t quite trust
Klitschko. Now, if you want to get esoteric, that’s the tug between
Washington and Berlin. They’re not happy with Merkel, the chancellor of
Germany. They don’t like the role Merkel is playing, generally. They
think Germany has gotten too big for its britches. They want to cut
Merkel down. So you noticed Klitschko, the boxer, is Merkel’s proxy, or
at least she’s backing him. You notice that they say, "He’s not ready
for prime time. Let him do his homework."
Now, this guy -- I’m bad on Ukrainian names. Tyagnybok, that they say
got to play a role, he’s the leader of the Freedom Party, the Svoboda
Party, but a large element of that party, to put it candidly, is
quasi-fascist. And they’re prepared to embrace this guy. This is the
guy, by the way, that Senator John McCain in November or December went
to Kiev and embraced. Either McCain didn’t know who he was, or he
didn’t care. The United States is prepared to embrace that guy,
too -- anything to get rid of Yanukovych, because they think this is
Putin. That’s all they really got on their mind.
Once more, these three gossipers are demonizing Oleh Tyahnybok and the
Svoboda Party as being fascist, Judeophobic, etc. They should
listen to (or read the English-language translation of) the speech of
Tyahnybok on 29Dec2013 to the Maidan demonstrators titled Solidarity
AMY GOODMAN: And yet, here you have President Obama, again, speaking
yesterday in Mexico.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Our approach as
the United States is not to see these as some Cold War chessboard in
which we’re in competition with Russia. Our goal is to make sure that
the people of Ukraine are able to make decisions for themselves about
their future, that the people of Syria are able to make decisions
without having bombs going off and killing women and children, or
chemical weapons, or towns being starved, because a despot wants to
cling to power.
AMY GOODMAN: Who benefits from the instability, Professor Cohen, in
Ukraine? And what does it mean for Putin? Is he concerned about this?
STEPHEN COHEN: Of course he’s concerned. It’s right on his borders, and
it’s all tainting him. I mean, The
Washington Post wrote an editorial
yesterday. Putin is happy that the violence has broken out in the
streets. Everybody understands, even The Washington Post
which understands almost nothing about Russia, but they got this, that
during the Sochi Olympics, the last thing Putin wants is violence in
Ukraine. So why is he happy about it? He deplores it. He’s unhappy.
He’s furious at the president of Ukraine. He read him the Riot Act on
the phone last night, that why doesn’t he get control of the situation?
What is he doing? So Putin is not responsible for this. Can we speak
AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly.
STEPHEN COHEN: Very quickly. I grew up in the segregated South. I voted
for him twice, as historical justice. That’s not leadership. That’s a
falsification of what’s happening in Ukraine, and it’s making the
situation worse, what he says, is that we deplore the violence and call
upon Ukrainian government to withdraw its forces and stop the violence.
He needs to talk about what’s happening in the streets.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And is it conceivable, if Ukraine descends into a
further civil war, that Russia might intervene?
STEPHEN COHEN: It’s conceivable. It’s conceivable. Here -- I mean,
Yanukovych -- you might say, as an adviser to Yanukovych, the president
Ukraine, "Impose martial law now, because you’ve got bad PR in the West
anyway, and you’re not in control of the situation." The problem is,
Yanukovych isn’t sure he controls the army.
AMY GOODMAN: He just fired the head of the army yesterday.
STEPHEN COHEN: Yeah, we don’t know what it means, but it indicates he’s
not too sure about the army. But, by the way, you asked, would Russia
intervene? Would NATO intervene? NATO is all over the place. NATO was
in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Ask yourself that: Would NATO
send troops in? Is that, yes, you think they would?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I --
STEPHEN COHEN: We don’t know.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We don’t know, yeah.
STEPHEN COHEN: And we’re not going to be told, just like we’re not
being told what’s going on in these private conversations about
deposing the president of Ukraine. If they depose—
AMY GOODMAN: Unless they’re leaked again.
STEPHEN COHEN: Yeah, and if the Russians leak them, it doesn’t count.
Is that right?
AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. can hardly protest, given the whole scandal with
the NSA recording conversations.
STEPHEN COHEN: Yeah, well, you know what they said. They said -- they
said, when this got leaked, that this is a low point in statecraft.
After Snowden? After Snowden? I mean, what did Tennessee Williams used
to say? Mendacity? Mendacity? The mendacity of it all? Don’t they trust
us, our government, to tell us a little bit of the truth at last?
AMY GOODMAN: Stephen Cohen, I want to thank you for being with us.
We’re going to move onto Venezuela. Stephen Cohen is professor emeritus
of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton
University. His most recent book, Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives:
From Stalinism to the New Cold War, it’s just out in paperback. His
latest piece in The Nation is "Distorting Russia: How the American
Media Misrepresent [Putin], Sochi and Ukraine." This is Democracy Now!
Back in a minute.
Near the end of the video, Goodman/Gonzalez/Cohen laugh cynically at
the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine -- just as Ukrainians are mourning and
preparing to bury
their dead heroes.]
New York Review | 19Feb2014 | Timothy Snyder
Fascism, Russia, and
This article will appear
in the coming March 20, 2014 issue of
New York Review.
The students were the first to protest against the regime of President
Viktor Yanukovych on the Maidan, the central square in Kiev, last
November. These were the Ukrainians with the most to lose, the young
people who unreflectively thought of themselves as Europeans and who
wished for themselves a life, and a Ukrainian homeland, that were
European. Many of them were politically on the left, some of them
radically so. After years of negotiation and months of promises, their
government, under President Yanukovych, had at the last moment failed
to sign a major trade agreement with the European Union.
When the riot police came and beat the students in late November, a new
group, the Afghan veterans, came to the Maidan. These men of middle
age, former soldiers and officers of the Red Army, many of them bearing
the scars of battlefield wounds, came to protect “their children,” as
they put it. They didn’t mean their own sons and daughters: they meant
the best of the youth, the pride and future of the country. After the
Afghan veterans came many others, tens of thousands, then hundreds of
thousands, now not so much in favor of Europe but in defense of decency.
What does it mean to come to the Maidan? The square is located close to
some of the major buildings of government, and is now a traditional
site of protest. Interestingly, the word maidan exists in Ukrainian but
not in Russian, but even people speaking Russian use it because of its
special implications. In origin it is just the Arabic word for
“square,” a public place. But a maidan now means in Ukrainian what the
Greek word agora means in English: not just a marketplace where people
happen to meet, but a place where they deliberately meet, precisely in
order to deliberate, to speak, and to create a political society.
During the protests the word maidan has come to mean the act of public
politics itself, so that for example people who use their cars to
organize public actions and protect other protestors are called the
The protesters represent every group of Ukrainian citizens: Russian
speakers and Ukrainian speakers (although most Ukrainians are
bilingual), people from the cities and the countryside, people from all
regions of the country, members of all political parties, the young and
the old, Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Every major Christian
denomination is represented by believers and most of them by clergy.
The Crimean Tatars march in impressive numbers, and Jewish leaders have
made a point of supporting the movement. The diversity of the Maidan is
impressive: the group that monitors hospitals so that the regime cannot
kidnap the wounded is run by young feminists. An important hotline that
protesters call when they need help is staffed by LGBT activists.
On January 16, the Ukrainian government, headed by President
Yanukovych, tried to put an end to Ukrainian civil society. A series of
laws passed hastily and without following normal procedure did away
with freedom of speech and assembly, and removed the few remaining
checks on executive authority. This was intended to turn Ukraine into a
dictatorship and to make all participants in the Maidan, by then
probably numbering in the low millions, into criminals. The result was
that the protests, until then entirely peaceful, became violent.
Yanukovych lost support, even in his political base in the southeast,
near the Russian border.
After weeks of responding peacefully to arrests and beatings by the
riot police, many Ukrainians had had enough. A fraction of the
protesters, some but by no means all representatives of the political
right and far right, decided to take the fight to the police. Among
them were members of the far-right party Svoboda and a new
conglomeration of nationalists who call themselves the Right Sector
(Pravyi Sektor). Young men, some of them from right-wing groups and
others not, tried to take by force the public spaces claimed by the
riot police. Young Jewish men formed their own combat group, or sotnia,
to take the fight to the authorities.
Although Yanukovych rescinded most of the dictatorship laws, lawless
violence by the regime, which started in November, continued into
February. Members of the opposition were shot and killed, or hosed down
in freezing temperatures to die of hypothermia. Others were tortured
and left in the woods to die.
During the first two weeks of February, the Yanukovych regime sought to
restore some of the dictatorship laws through decrees, bureaucratic
shortcuts, and new legislation. On February 18, an announced
parliamentary debate on constitutional reform was abruptly canceled.
Instead, the government sent thousands of riot police against the
protesters of Kiev. Hundreds of people were wounded by rubber bullets,
tear gas, and truncheons. Dozens were killed.
The future of this protest movement will be decided by Ukrainians. And
yet it began with the hope that Ukraine could one day join the European
Union, an aspiration that for many Ukrainians means something like the
rule of law, the absence of fear, the end of corruption, the social
welfare state, and free markets without intimidation from syndicates
controlled by the president.
The course of the protest has very much been influenced by the presence
of a rival project, based in Moscow, called the Eurasian Union. This is
an international commercial and political union that does not yet exist
but that is to come into being in January 2015. The Eurasian Union,
unlike the European Union, is not based on the principles of the
equality and democracy of member states, the rule of law, or human
On the contrary, it is a hierarchical organization, which by its nature
seems unlikely to admit any members that are democracies with the rule
of law and human rights. Any democracy within the Eurasian Union would
pose a threat to Putin’s rule in Russia. Putin wants Ukraine in his
Eurasian Union, which means that Ukraine must be authoritarian, which
means that the Maidan must be crushed.
The dictatorship laws of January 16 were obviously based on Russian
models, and were proposed by Ukrainian legislators with close ties to
Moscow. They seem to have been Russia’s condition for financial support
of the Yanukovych regime. Before they were announced, Putin offered
Ukraine a large loan and promised reductions in the price of Russian
natural gas. But in January the result was not a capitulation to
Russia. The people of the Maidan defended themselves, and the protests
continue. Where this will lead is anyone’s guess; only the Kremlin
expresses certainty about what it all means.
The protests in the Maidan, we are told again and again by Russian
propaganda and by the Kremlin’s friends in Ukraine, mean the return of
National Socialism to Europe. The Russian foreign minister, in Munich,
lectured the Germans about their support of people who salute Hitler.
The Russian media continually make the claim that the Ukrainians who
protest are Nazis. Naturally, it is important to be attentive to the
far right in Ukrainian politics and history. It is still a serious
presence today, although less important than the far right in France,
Austria, or the Netherlands. Yet it is the Ukrainian regime rather than
its opponents that resorts to anti-Semitism, instructing its riot
police that the opposition is led by Jews. In other words, the
Ukrainian government is telling itself that its opponents are Jews and
us that its opponents are Nazis.
The strange thing about the claim from Moscow is the political ideology
of those who make it. The Eurasian Union is the enemy of the European
Union, not just in strategy but in ideology. The European Union is
based on a historical lesson: that the wars of the twentieth century
were based on false and dangerous ideas, National Socialism and
Stalinism, which must be rejected and indeed overcome in a system
guaranteeing free markets, free movement of people, and the welfare
state. Eurasianism, by contrast, is presented by its advocates as the
opposite of liberal democracy.
The Eurasian ideology draws an entirely different lesson from the
twentieth century. Founded around 2001 by the Russian political
scientist Aleksandr Dugin, it proposes the realization of National
Bolshevism. Rather than rejecting totalitarian ideologies, Eurasianism
calls upon politicians of the twenty-first century to draw what is
useful from both fascism and Stalinism. Dugin’s major work, The
Foundations of Geopolitics, published in 1997, follows closely the
ideas of Carl Schmitt, the leading Nazi political theorist. Eurasianism
is not only the ideological source of the Eurasian Union, it is also
the creed of a number of people in the Putin administration, and the
moving force of a rather active far-right Russian youth movement. For
years Dugin has openly supported the division and colonization of
The point man for Eurasian and Ukrainian policy in the Kremlin is
Sergei Glazyev, an economist who like Dugin tends to combine radical
nationalism with nostalgia for Bolshevism. He was a member of the
Communist Party and a Communist deputy in the Russian parliament before
cofounding a far-right party called Rodina, or Motherland. In 2005 some
of its deputies signed a petition to the Russian prosecutor general
asking that all Jewish organizations be banned from Russia.
Later that year Motherland was banned from taking part in further
elections after complaints that its advertisements incited racial
hatred. The most notorious showed dark-skinned people eating watermelon
and throwing the rinds to the ground, then called for Russians to clean
up their cities. Glazyev’s book Genocide: Russia and the New World
Order claims that the sinister forces of the “new world order”
conspired against Russia in the 1990s to bring about economic policies
that amounted to “genocide.” This book was published in English by
Lyndon LaRouche’s magazine Executive Intelligence Review with a preface
by LaRouche. Today Executive Intelligence Review echoes Kremlin
propaganda, spreading the word in English that Ukrainian protesters
have carried out a Nazi coup and started a civil war.
The populist media campaign for the Eurasian Union is now in the hands
of Dmitry Kiselyov, the host of the most important talk show in Russia,
and since December also the director of the state-run Russian media
conglomerate designed to form national public opinion. Best known for
saying that gays who die in car accidents should have their hearts cut
from their bodies and incinerated, Kiselyov has taken Putin’s campaign
against gay rights and transformed it into a weapon against European
integration. Thus when the then German foreign minister, who is gay,
visited Kiev in December and met with Vitali Klitschko, the heavyweight
champion and opposition politician, Kiselyov dismissed Klitschko as a
gay icon. According to the Russian foreign minister, the exploitation
of sexual politics is now to be an open weapon in the struggle against
the “decadence” of the European Union.
Following the same strategy, Yanukovych’s government claimed, entirely
falsely, that the price of closer relations with the European Union was
the recognition of gay marriage in Ukraine. Kiselyov is quite open
about the Russian media strategy toward the Maidan: to “apply the
correct political technology,” then “bring it to the point of
overheating” and bring to bear “the magnifying glass of TV and the
Why exactly do people with such views think they can call other people
fascists? And why does anyone on the Western left take them seriously?
One line of reasoning seems to run like this: the Russians won World
War II, and therefore can be trusted to spot Nazis. Much is wrong with
this. World War II on the eastern front was fought chiefly in what was
then Soviet Ukraine and Soviet Belarus, not in Soviet Russia. Five
percent of Russia was occupied by the Germans; all of Ukraine was
occupied by the Germans. Apart from the Jews, whose suffering was by
far the worst, the main victims of Nazi policies were not Russians but
Ukrainians and Belarusians. There was no Russian army fighting in World
War II, but rather a Soviet Red Army. Its soldiers were
disproportionately Ukrainian, since it took so many losses in Ukraine
and recruited from the local population. The army group that liberated
Auschwitz was called the First Ukrainian Front.
The other source of purported Eurasian moral legitimacy seems to be
this: since the representatives of the Putin regime only very
selectively distanced themselves from Stalinism, they are therefore
reliable inheritors of Soviet history, and should be seen as the
automatic opposite of Nazis, and therefore to be trusted to oppose the
Again, much is wrong about this. World War II began with an alliance
between Hitler and Stalin in 1939. It ended with the Soviet Union
expelling surviving Jews across its own border into Poland. After the
founding of the State of Israel, Stalin began associating Soviet Jews
with a world capitalist conspiracy, and undertook a campaign of
arrests, deportations, and murders of leading Jewish writers. When he
died in 1953 he was preparing a larger campaign against Jews.
After Stalin’s death communism took on a more and more ethnic
coloration, with people who wished to revive its glories claiming that
its problem was that it had been spoiled by Jews. The ethnic
purification of the communist legacy is precisely the logic of National
Bolshevism, which is the foundational ideology of Eurasianism today.
Putin himself is an admirer of the philosopher Ivan Ilin, who wanted
Russia to be a nationalist dictatorship.
What does it mean when the wolf cries wolf? Most obviously,
propagandists in Moscow and Kiev take us for fools—which by many
indications is quite justified.
More subtly, what this campaign does is attempt to reduce the social
tensions in a complex country to a battle of symbols about the past.
Ukraine is not a theater for the historical propaganda of others or a
puzzle from which pieces can be removed. It is a major European country
whose citizens have important cultural and economic ties with both the
European Union and Russia. To set its own course, Ukraine needs normal
public debate, the restoration of parliamentary democracy, and workable
relations with all of its neighbors. Ukraine is full of sophisticated
and ambitious people. If people in the West become caught up in the
question of whether they are largely Nazis or not, then they may miss
the central issues in the present crisis.
In fact, Ukrainians are in a struggle against both the concentration of
wealth and the concentration of armed force in the hands of Viktor
Yanukovych and his close allies. The protesters might be seen as
setting an example of courage for Americans of both the left and the
right. Ukrainians make real sacrifices for the hope of joining the
European Union. Might there be something to be learned from that among
Euroskeptics in London or elsewhere? This is a dialogue that is not
The history of the Holocaust is part of our own public discourse, our
agora, or maidan. The current Russian attempt to manipulate the memory
of the Holocaust is so blatant and cynical that those who are so
foolish to fall for it will one day have to ask themselves just how,
and in the service of what, they have been taken in. If fascists take
over the mantle of antifascism, the memory of the Holocaust will itself
be altered. It will be more difficult in the future to refer to the
Holocaust in the service of any good cause, be it the particular one of
Jewish history or the general one of human rights.
-- February 19, 2014
Democracy Now | 24Feb2014 | Nicolai Petro vs. Tymothy Snyder [48:36]
A Coup or a
Revolution? Ukraine Seeks Arrest of Ousted President Following Deadly
Ukraine is in a state of crisis two days after the country’s
democratically elected president was ousted following months of street
protests that left at least 82 people dead. On Saturday [22Feb2014], Ukraine’s
Parliament voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovych, a move
Yanukovych described as a coup. Earlier today, Ukraine’s new leaders
announced the ousted president was wanted for mass murder of peaceful
protesters. Russia condemned the move to oust Yanukovych and recalled
its ambassador to Ukraine. Meanwhile, Europe has embraced the new
government. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is
traveling to Ukraine today to discuss measures to shore up Ukraine’s
ailing economy. One of Yanukovych’s main rivals, former Prime Minister
Yulia Tymoshenko, was released from custody. We speak to Timothy
Snyder, professor of history at Yale University. His latest article for
The New York Review of Books is "Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine." We also
speak to University of Rhode Island professor Nicolai Petro, who is in
This is a rush
transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
Ukraine is in a state of crisis two days after the country’s
democratically elected president was ousted following months of street
protests that left at least 82 people dead. On Saturday [22Feb2014], Ukraine’s
Parliament voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovych, a move
Yanukovych described as a coup.
[translated] I am absolutely confident that this is an example, which
our country and the whole world has seen, an example of a coup. I’m not
going to leave Ukraine or go anywhere. I’m not going to resign. I’m a
legitimately elected president. I was given guarantees by all
international mediators who I worked with that they are giving me
security guarantees. I will see how they will fulfill that role.
Viktor Yanukovych speaking Saturday. He has not been seen publicly
since then. Earlier today, Ukraine’s new leaders announced the ousted
president was wanted for mass murder of peaceful protesters. Meanwhile,
one of Yanukovych’s main rivals, former Prime Minister Yulia
Tymoshenko, was released from custody on Saturday. Russia condemned the
move to oust Yanukovych and recalled its ambassador to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Europe has embraced the new government. European
Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is traveling to Ukraine
today to discuss measures to shore up Ukraine’s ailing economy. On
Sunday, Ukraine’s interim president, Oleksandr Turchynov, said he would
focus on closer integration with the European Union.
[translated] Another priority is returning to the European integration
course, the fight for which Maidan started with. We must return to the
family of European countries. We also understand the importance of our
relations with Russia, to build relations with this country on a new,
just, equal and goodwill basis which recognizes and takes into account
the European choice of the country. I hope that it is this choice that
will be confirmed in the presidential elections on the 25th of May of
this year. We guarantee that they will fully subscribe to the highest
European standards. They will be liberal and fair.
To talk more about the crisis in Ukraine, we’re joined by two guests.
Timothy Snyder is professor of history at Yale University, author of Bloodlands:
Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. His latest piece
for The New York Review of Books is headlined
"Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine." He joins us from Vienna, Austria. And
with us in the Ukrainian city of Odessa is Nicolai Petro, professor of
politics at the University of Rhode Island. He has been in Odessa since
July 2013 as a Fulbright research scholar.
Nicolai Petro, let’s begin with
you in Ukraine. Do you agree with what the president, or now the former
president, Yanukovych, said, that this is a coup?
Yes, it’s pretty much a classical coup, because under the current
constitution the president may be -- may resign or be impeached, but
only after the case is reviewed by the Constitutional Court and then
voted by a three-fourth majority of the Parliament. And then, either
case, either the prime minister or the speaker of the Parliament must
become the president. Instead, that’s not what happened at all. There
was an extraordinary session of Parliament, after -- it was held after
most members were told there would be no session and many had left
town. And then, under the chairmanship of the radical party, Svoboda,
this rump Parliament declared that the president had self-removed
himself from the presidency.
And what are the forces that brought this about? And what’s happening
right now in Ukraine? You’re not in Kiev; you’re in Odessa. What is
even happening there?
The situation here in Odessa is pretty quiet. I would say that what led
up to this is a coalition of three distinct forces. One is the group
that started at the end of November of last year, genuine civic
frustration with the government’s decision to delay the signing of the
EU Association Agreement. This was then seized upon by the
parliamentary opposition, who joined belatedly and pressed the
government for further concessions. And finally, the actual coup was
accomplished thanks to the armed intervention of extreme nationalists,
led by the Right Sector. And the fact that they were so instrumental in
accomplishing this change of power has put them in the driver’s seat.
From now on, whatever political decisions are arrived at will really be
at the sufferance of the Right Sector.
Professor Timothy Snyder, would you agree with this assessment of
what’s taking place in Ukraine right now?
I think parts of it are exactly right. I think I would disagree with
certain parts of it. For one thing, when it comes to the question of
how these changes came about, it’s a little bit reductionist just to
mention opposition politicians, the right wing in Europe. The movement
-- the protest movement at the Maidan included millions of people in
Kiev and all around the country. It included people from all walks of
life, both genders. It included people from -- included Muslims. It
included Jews. It included professionals. It included working-class
people. And the main demand of the movement the entire time was
something like normality, the rule of law. And the reason why this
demand could bring together such people of different political
orientations, such different regional backgrounds, is that they were
faced up against someone, the previous president, Yanukovych, whose
game was to monopolize both financial and political as well as violent
power in one place. The constitution, the legitimacy of which is now
contested, was violated by him multiple times, and most of the
protesters agree to that.
The second thing that I would
modify a bit would be this idea that what happened is a coup, where now
somehow everything is determined by the right. The Parliament does not
-- is not represented. Nobody from the Right Sector is in Parliament.
The people who are making the decisions in Parliament come from the
conventional political parties. If you look at the people who are on
top, who are they? The acting president is from the southeast. He’s a
Russian speaker. He’s a Baptist pastor, by the way. The two candidates
for president -- Klitschko and Tymoshenko -- are both Russian speakers.
Klitschko studied in Kiev. Tymoshenko is from the southeast. Let’s look
at the power ministries. If you were a right-wing revolutionary, this
is the first thing you go for. Who now occupies the power ministries?
The defense minister is a Russian speaker who is actually of Roma
origin, of Gypsy origin. The interior minister is half-Russian,
half-Armenian. And the minister of internal affairs is a Russian
speaker from the far southeast, from Zaporizhia. So, it seems extremely
unlikely to me that this government is something which could possibly
have been dictated by nationalists from western Ukraine. This
government, if anything, is tilted towards the south and towards the
Do you think this could lead to a split between East and West Ukraine,
No, on the contrary. The one thing which could lead to a split --
sorry, the one thing that could lead to a split between East and West
Ukraine would be some kind of intervention from the outside. We have --
we have good polling data, taken over the course of the last 20 years,
from all regions of Ukraine. In no region of Ukraine do more than 4
percent of the population express a wish to leave the country. I’m
pretty sure in most states of the United States the percentage would be
much higher than that. The normal response is about 1 percent.
Ukraine is a diverse country,
but diversity is supposed to be a good thing. It’s a multinational
state in which both this revolution and the people who oppose this
revolution have various kinds of ethnic identifications, various kinds
of political commitments. The person who started the demonstrations in
November was a Muslim. The first people who came were university
students from Kiev. The next people who came were Red Army veterans.
When the regime started to kill people, the first person who was killed
was an Armenian. The second person who was killed was a Bielorussian.
In the sniper massacre of last week, which is what led to the change of
power, which is what directly led to the change of power, one of the
people who was killed was a left-wing ecologist Russian speaker from
Kharkiv, Yevhen Kotlyar. Another was a Pole. The people who took part
in this protest represent the variety of the country. The people who
oppose these protests also come from various parts of the country. This
is an essentially political dispute.
And I think the good news is
that once Yanukovych was removed, violence ceased, and now we are on a
political track in which power is no longer in the hands of an interior
minister who is killing people and instead is within the chambers of
Parliament. Parliament has renewed the 2004 constitution, which makes
the system a parliamentary system, and has called for elections in May.
And in those elections, people from all over the country will be able
to express themselves in a normal post-revolutionary way. And then
we’ll see where things stand.
Last week, Democracy Now! spoke to Russia scholar
Cohen, who said Ukraine is essentially two different
Ukraine is splitting apart down the middle, because Ukraine is not one
country, contrary to what the American media, which speaks about the
Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. Historically,
ethnically, religiously, culturally, politically, economically, it’s
two countries. One half wants to stay close to Russia; the other wants
to go West. We now have reliable reports that the anti-government
forces in the streets -- and there are some very nasty people among
them -- are seizing weapons in western Ukrainian military bases. So we
have clearly the possibility of a civil war.
That’s Stephen Cohen. Nicolai Petro, would you agree?
Professor Cohen is right that there are very serious differences
between the regions, and they go deep to the historical memory of not
just what World War II was about, but what the end of the Russian
Empire was about, what the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Poland, the
parts of Ukraine that were under it, were about. Professor Snyder is,
however, also correct on the fact that much of the country does not
want to dissolve. There is a commitment to being Ukrainian. And it
would be indeed to everyone’s advantage here if the country -- if the
Parliament really did reach out to the segments of the population that
are not -- that have been, effectively, disenfranchised by the last
coup. And, however, I would tend to disagree, because the first steps,
within 24 hours, that they’ve taken are exactly the opposite.
Let me give you an example. The
repeal of the law allowing Russian to be used locally, that’s the main
irritant in east-west relations within the Ukraine; the introduction of
a resolution to outlaw the Communist Party of the Ukraine, which
effectively is the only remaining opposition party in Parliament; the
consolidation of the powers of the speaker of the Parliament and the
acting president in a single individual, giving him greater powers than
allowed under any Ukrainian constitution; of course, the call for the
arrest of the president. Now we have, effectively, a Parliament that
rules without any representation from the majority party, since most of
the deputies of the east and the south of the country are afraid to set
foot in Parliament. Meanwhile, all across the country, headquarters of
parties are being sacked by their opponents. This is the stage which we
have for the elections for May 25th. Will they be fair? There’s no
money, according to the prime -- the acting president and speaker.
Vigilante militias routinely attack and disperse public gatherings they
disapprove of. News broadcasts -- yesterday Inter was interrupted by
forces claiming to speak for the people. What do you think?
We’re going break and then come back to this discussion and talk about
the significance of the release of the former prime minister, who was
imprisoned and brought back in a wheelchair to Independence Square,
where she made her re-emergence, this as the current president -- the
past president was fleeing Kiev. We’re talking to Nicolai Petro,
professor of politics, University of Rhode Island, speaking to us from
Odessa in Ukraine. We’re also speaking with Timothy Snyder, professor
of history at Yale University. He’s today in Vienna, Austria. Stay with
Yes, it is Democracy Now!'s 18th birthday. We are
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Well, I’m Amy Goodman. This is Democracy
Now! And we’re talking about the crisis in the Ukraine.
We’re still with Professor Timothy Snyder of Yale University. He is in
Vienna, Austria. His latest piece
for The New York Review of Books is titled
"Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine." And with us from Odessa, Ukraine, is
Nicolai Petro, professor of politics at University of Rhode Island.
I want to turn to comments made
by the former prime minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, following
her release from jail on Saturday. She was addressing Maidan protesters
[translated] I know that all together we will be able to do it, and I
personally will never allow anyone to let you down. I will never allow
not a single politician, not a single official, to even touch nor even
lay one of their fingers on your honor, on your life. Know that nothing
in my life will be more important. May God give you good health. May
you be happy in your country, and then all these sacrifices will not be
in vain. Glory to Ukraine!
That’s the former Ukrainian prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko. Timothy
Snyder, the significance of her release, how long she was held in
prison, what she represents?
Well, she was a political prisoner. She was the head of the major
opposition party to Yanukovych’s party. She lost the last presidential
elections to Yanukovych by a relatively narrow margin. For many years,
she and Yanukovych were the two dominant figures in Ukrainian political
life. So, obviously, most human rights observers, most governments in
the West have been calling for her release for quite a long time. It’s
a good thing that she was released. It’s a step towards the return of
the rule of law in Ukraine.
What it means in political
terms, I think, is rather more complicated. She has not been a part of
these revolutionary events. She came to them at the very end. And what
she said to the protesters in the passage you played is rather curious
and, in a way, pre-revolutionary and anachronistic. I think the sense
of the Maidan is that there is this -- there is a civil society. They’re
self-organizing people who can stay and occupy a place in the middle of
the winter for weeks upon end, which means soup kitchens. It means
people cleaning up. It means people in hospitals. It means doctors. It
means journalists. It means a movement in which millions of people took
part. They’re not asking for someone to take care of them. In a way,
that’s the old-style politics. And I think many people rightly
associate Tymoshenko with Yanukovych and with politics of an old style.
So it’s not clear to me that her return will be as significant
politically as it might seem at the very beginning. This, of course,
remains to be seen. I would stress, of course, that Tymoshenko, like
everyone -- virtually everyone else we’re talking about, is a Russian
speaker from the southeast of the country, so, again there, it’s not a
matter of west versus east.
Speaking on Sunday, National Security Adviser Susan Rice warned Russia
against sending in troops to Ukraine.
That would be a grave mistake. It’s not in the interest of Ukraine or
of Russia or of Europe or the United States to see the country split.
It’s in nobody’s interest to see violence return and the situation
escalate. There is not an inherent contradiction, David, between a
Ukraine that has long-standing historic and cultural ties to Russia and
a modern Ukraine that wants to integrate more closely with Europe.
These need not be mutually exclusive.
That’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Nicolai Petro, your
Well, she’s right, but I don’t see what -- the discussion of the armed
forces seems cavalier. I mean, no one’s even thinking or talking about
that. I’d like to chime in, if I may, on the Tymoshenko question that
you asked, and agree with Professor Snyder’s assessment. At least in
this area of Ukraine, the south, she seems to not have any resonance.
And the perspective is that this is very much -- her appearance is very
much a blast from the past, if you will, sort of things that have --
we’ve all gone through that before. And the hope is that there can be
more dramatic changes. A little bit of a disconcerting element to this
is her usage of the familiar Svoboda refrain now from World War II,
"Hail to Ukraine," which is becoming sort of the routine greeting for
the revolutionaries now.
What is -- right now the Olympics are ending. How does Putin see the
situation? They’ve pulled the ambassador back from Ukraine, the Russian
ambassador to Ukraine back. Professor Petro, what would you say Putin
sees in what has taken place? Is he concerned this will happen next in
Oh, no, no, I don’t think that at all. What I think is, when people
watch what’s happening here in Ukraine, in the former Soviet Union,
they’re saying, "There but for the grace of God, you know, go we." This
is a very -- a cautionary tale, if you will, against chaos and
corruption, as well, leading to these sorts of extremes. Whether --
President Putin has already declared the government’s willingness to
support Ukraine, to see the country prosper, and so far the only
monetary -- and it’s worth pointing out, the only monetary contribution
on the table right now is the $15 billion that have been offered in
bonds and, in addition, even more significantly, the reduction in the
price of natural gas that Ukraine is buying from Russia right now.
Whether or not Europe or the United States or the International
Monetary Fund will come up with anything comparable is much to be hoped
for, but right now there’s a lot of dithering on the part of the West.
Professor Timothy Snyder, your assessment of what this means for Putin
Yeah, I would agree completely that he has no immediate reason to worry
that this will repeat itself in Russia. Russia is not Ukraine. But in a
way, the fact that Russia is not Ukraine has been the problem for
Russian foreign policy. The Russian money which was offered to Ukraine
was offered as an alternative to the trade deal with the European
Union, but it seems very likely that there was a price. The major
package of $15 billion, which was referred to, preceded -- and I think
it’s no coincidence -- the laws on the Russian model, for example,
forcing non-governmental civil society organizations to register
themselves as foreign agents, laws which ban freedom of expression,
laws which turn people who manifested on the streets into extremists,
which of course paves the way for martial law and such things. The
whole package of laws on the 16th of January was the result. That
failed. That made the protests much more aggressive and much larger.
Then, when the Russians finally did release $2 billion of that, it was
just a matter of days before the sniper attacks last week, which led to
the political change that we’re talking about. So, the Russians did put
money on the table, but there was a price. The price was to try to make
Ukraine more like Russia. That has now failed, it seems, so the
Russians have something to contemplate.
With the European Union, it has
to be much more complicated. The European Union is not a petrol state
which can just offer money here and there where it wants, the way that
-- the way that Russian is. The European Union has to have guarantees
that the money that’s spent will be in exchange for constitutional
reform, in exchange for free elections -- I completely agree about the
significance of that, including the importance of the participation of
electoral observers -- and in exchange for thoroughgoing local reform
which would make corruption -- and I also agree about the significance
of corruption in Ukraine -- that will make corruption much less likely.
Those discussions, however, are already underway. The European Union is
about to announce its package. The IMF
has already expressed its willingness. I completely agree that those
things are essential.
Ukraine has been brought to a --
by its president, to a state of near bankruptcy. Yanukovych literally
sat on gold toilets in his ridiculously extravagant residence. This is
a country which needs to have not only political change, but financial
backing for that political exchange -- for that political change.
Otherwise, it’s not going to be able to happen. I would also stress
that only financial backing of parliamentary democracy is the thing
which can keep the extremes from making their way towards the center,
but I think people in the West understand that now.
Nicolai Petro, there is an interesting picture in The New
York Times today, the headline,
"Fresh From Prison, a Former Prime Minister Returns to the Political
Stage," and it is a picture of Tymoshenko, and she is flanked by both
the American ambassador, Geoffrey Pyatt, and the European Union’s Jan
Tombinski. Talk about the United States in all of this. We have played
the clips of Victoria Nuland talking about who she wants in government
and not, top diplomatic official in charge of this area that includes
Ukraine, that these -- this taped conversation that somehow made it to
YouTube. What about U.S.’s role? Of course, she was giving out cookies
to the protesters on the front lines a while ago.
Well, I must say that the United States, in my -- from my perspective,
tried to play a role in the reconciliation process but was not terribly
effective, because it does not have the necessary leverage. That is in
-- the only country that has the leverage and the resources and knows
the situation well is Russia. So, if there is a country with deep
knowledge of this area, I would say it would be Russia, and I would
hope that we would listen to the advice of our Russian partners in this.
But I do also believe there was
an error in the assessment of one of the more significant, I think, and
ultimately determinant groups in accomplishing the revolution. I
clearly have to disagree with Professor Snyder. I ascribe a much
greater role to the Right Sector, as they call themselves, the
spearhead of the revolution. And given the hope of many in the West
regarding this revolution, I think it’s especially important to note
that this group is critical of party politics in principle. It is
skeptical of what it calls imperial ambitions of both Moscow and the
West to the Ukraine. The former are easier to understand. The latter
try to sap the Ukrainian national spirit with all this talk of dialogue
and compromise. So what they hope to see emerge out of this turmoil is
a new Ukraine, as they put it, quote, "burnished by the flames of
national revolution," able to stand up in opposition to the
democratizers and their local lackeys. And I think there has been a
strong underestimation of the influence of this right nationalist
movement, not in terms of numbers, but in terms of street cred, in
terms of the vision that they can offer which can inspire young people,
really, especially in the West, but throughout the country, in terms
of, you know, maybe we don’t even need a parliamentary system; let’s
just do something that is more decisive and dramatic and can actually
maybe move the country forward in a way, because it’s been stagnating
for 20 years now.
Professor Petro, when you talk about the right, who exactly do you
mean, for an American audience who knows very little about Ukraine?
There is a parliamentary party now, which could be called a right-wing
party, and that is the Svoboda party. They’re the ones who, as I
mentioned, convened the extraordinary session of Parliament that led to
the ouster of the president. Now, how to exactly describe them, I will
leave that to Professor Snyder. But I would simply note that there was
an EU Parliament resolution of December 13, 2012, that drew attention
specifically to the Svoboda party and called it racist, anti-Semitic
and xenophobic. Now, compared to Svoboda, the Right Sector, which has
been active in all of the violence in the streets, is more radical,
more militarily organized and more willing to use violence.
Final words, Professor Timothy Snyder, in understanding this, and who
the right is and -- both opposed to Russia and opposed to the West?
Thanks. Yeah, I mean, as Professor Petro probably knows, that’s the
subject of my specialization. And, of course, I share his concern.
Svoboda takes its example from the history of the Organization of
Ukrainian Nationalists, an interwar, extreme-right party which I would
not hesitate to call fascist. The Pravi sector also refers to the same
historical symbolism. Both of them speak of the necessity for a
national revolution, especially Pravi sector. They are significant.
They are less significant than the far right in Austria, where I am
now. They’re less significant than the far right in France. They’re
less significant than the far right in the Netherlands. But they matter.
And I think the crucial thing is
to understand that they become more important when the system becomes a
dictatorship. When the leader of the center-right -- that’s Tymoshenko
-- is put in prison, then the far right of course is going to benefit
as a protest party. When the situation is revolutionary, and these are
the people who are willing to risk their lives, of course they’re going
to become more important, which means that for all of us who are
concerned about the return of normality, stability, the rule of law,
it’s very important that this -- that the revolutionary character of
this situation pass now into a normal political process, where we can
agree or disagree about who should rule and who shouldn’t rule, but
where decisions are made in Parliament, where decisions are made in the
ballot box, and where decisions are not made in the streets.
In Kiev today, the metros are
running. In Kiev today, there is no looting. The place is remarkably
peaceful. The presidential residences are being visited peacefully,
rather than looter-sacked as in other revolutions, or even the United
States when we have a weather problem. The country is in an orderly
position. If we want to keep both extremes at bay -- the extreme from
the right, which I am indeed worried about, as well as extremists on
the other side, with their support from Russia -- the most important
thing to do is to back parliamentary democracy, back early elections,
do the small things that we in the West can do to make sure that that’s
the outcome -- a restoration of the rule of law, restoration of a
parliamentary constitution, restoration of democracy. These are things
that we can help achieve, and the Ukrainians themselves have already
done the hard part. That’s where I would end.
Timothy Snyder, I want to thank you for being with us, professor of
history at Yale University, speaking to us from Vienna, Austria. His
book, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin;
his latest piece
in The New York Review of Books, "Fascism,
Russia, and Ukraine." And Nicolai Petro, thanks for joining us from the
Ukrainian city of Odessa. He’s a professor of politics at the
University of Rhode Island.
This is Democracy Now!
When we come back, we go to Britain to speak with Luke Harding. He says
he has been surveilled as he wrote the book about Edward Snowden, The
Snowden Files. We’ll find out what happened. Stay with us.
According to Wikipedia, Nicolai N. Petro (born 1958) is an
academic specializing in Russian Affairs, currently Professor of
Political Science at the University of Rhode Island, in the United
States. He also served as the US State Department's special assistant
for policy on the Soviet Union under President George HW Bush. He
appears to be very pro-Russian and hostile to Ukraine as the following
“As Power Shifts, Examining Ukraine’s Uncertain Future,” The Takeaway with John Hockenberry (NPR), February 24, 2012.
"A Coup or a Revolution? Ukraine Seeks Arrest of Ousted President Following Deadly Street Protests," Democracy Now! February 24, 2014.
"The Battle for Kiev," The Nation, February 21, 2014.
“Crisis in Ukraine: The View from Beyond Kiev,” an interview with David C. Speedie of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, February 21, 2014.
Interviewed on Uptown Radio (Columbia University School of Journalism), February 21, 2014.
"From Ukraine: URI professor comments on country’s deadly protests," URI News, February 20, 2014.
"Ukraine's Political Violence Spurred by Cultural Divide," The Real News Network, February 19, 2014. (en Nederlands).
"Memory Management in Ukraine," electricpolitics.com, February 14, 2014.
"Ukraine's Culture War," the National Interest, February 7, 2014.
“What’s behind the street protests in Ukraine?” Global Journalist Radio, produced by the University of Missouri School of Journalism for KBIA, January 30, 2014.
"Defending Ukraine's Tough New Protest Law," the National Interest, January 22, 2014.
"How the EU Can Bring Ukraine into Europe," European Leadership Network, January 7, 2014.
"How the E.U. Pushed Ukraine East," International New York Times, December 4, 2013. (en français, po Polsku).