I arrived in Geneva yesterday morning to give a couple of talks, and I pulled up Twitter on my phone to see events in the Ukraine exploding. I can’t say I fully understand what’s going on and the implications. Reflexively, I’m supportive of the protesters and their desire for tighter ties to the European Union. But, as one person said on Twitter, the Ukrainian president may be taking a page from Assad on this one. All I know is that this could get even more nasty without some diplomacy to negotiate a softer landing. I’m curious what Erica Chenoweth might have to say about this. Increased radicalization by the opposition threatens to remove the glow of legitimacy that non-violent protest often confers, but a determined autocrat may be able to use force to crush the protest if he really wants to. What tilts the balance might be the calculations of the cost of violent reprisals. It’s unclear if the West’s sanctions are enough to alter Yanukovych’s perspective on this.
It’s kind of amazing that this is all happening in the shadow of the nearby Olympics. Kind of casts a pall over the proceedings…In any case, here are some fragments of news that I followed to try to make sense of this, but mostly the imagery was what struck me.
Here are the top hits from my Twitter feed from when I got off the plane:
While attention is focused on Kiev, protesters in western Ukraine have seized army bases, police and intel HQs. Not just Molotovs anymore.
— Yaroslav Trofimov (@yarotrof) February 19, 2014
RT @yarotrof: Yanukovych’s use of deadly force turning Ukraine’s peaceful opposition into armed one. Learning survival tactics from Assad?
— Laura Rozen (@lrozen) February 19, 2014
— Meredith Frost (@MeredithFrost) February 19, 2014
— Mark MacKinnon (@markmackinnon) February 19, 2014
Making Sense of It
- Perhaps the most useful article on what can be done is a re-up of this January op-ed from four former U.S. Ambassadors to the Ukraine who argue that the West has to use its leverage now before it’s too late
- George Will wonders whether this is the last shot on ending the Cold War, with George W. Bush pilloried for his knowing Putin’s soul and Obama villified for being pusillanimous. Kind of typical curmudgeon Will, maybe not that useful
- James Trindle explains that the crisis has finally triggered unity by US and Europe over sanctioning the Ukranian leadership including visa ban for top 20 officials
- The New York Times reports on the emergent East West split on how to interpret these events, Russia not taking the protesters side obviously
- Also reports on radicalization of the opposition and seizure of government facilities and police in western part of the country
- Max Fisher explains the resurgent violence, as protesters had gathered to support a bill intended to reduce the president’s powers’
- CFR provides an issue round-up
Appears that there are also big events afoot these days in Venezuela.