What’s going on in Ukraine? The recent chaos started on November 21st as a protest over President (now Ex-) Viktor Yanukovych’s take-back of his decision to join a free-trade and association agreement with the EU. The agreements would have put Ukraine on the path to joining the EU, but Yanukovych reconsidered and pulled out, in favor of maintaining the country’s relationship with Russia. Things have really heated up in the past couple weeks, with protesters murdered by police, Yanukovych and his cabinet being ousted, and Russia landing troops in Crimea, Ukraine’s southern peninsula.
What you’ve probably heard about is the deadly protests, and now Russia stepping in to preserve its interests. This is important news, so it’s good that we know at least this much. But there’s some more stuff we should be aware of! Among Russia’s excuses for moving troops into a sovereign nation are that the protests, and the newly-minted Ukrainian government, were run by fascists. If you read the linked article, you’ll see that this idea is considered so ridiculous that the author makes the issue about Russia using the word “fascist,” rather than addressing the claim.
Such a dismissal is natural. Russia is evil! Ukraine needed a new government! The protesters just want to join us in the shining west! Traditional American news has the most naked agenda, and it’s the story most people are getting, since it’s the easiest to spread and digest. Protesters in Ukraine pushed out their repressive government, because they wanted democracy, and now Russia is invading the country to bring them back under control. There’s definitely a lot of truth to that, but there’s truth also in Russian claims about fascists making a power play.
American media is focusing on the biggest news items, here. But that doesn’t make them responsible journalists. What they choose to leave out, and how they choose to report on their facts is crucial to recognize. So let’s talk about fascism.
The fascism issue is hard to ignore once you actually delve into the story. It’s been there since the beginning, it’s just that the average American didn’t know what Ukraine was until a couple months ago, and the media narrative has been pointedly ignoring this element pretty much the whole time.
When the government was still solvent, Svoboda held 36 out of 450 seats in Ukrainian parliament. Now, under the US-backed transitional government, neo-Nazi organizations Svoboda and Right Sector have been handed positions in ministries of Defense, Law Enforcement, Education and Economic Affairs.
Svoboda reveres Ukrainian Nazi collaborators because they fought alongside the SS against Russian communists, which is kind of like giving a holiday to Christopher Columbus because let’s not go there. That was a little joke, they also revere Ukrainian Nazi collaborators because they hate Jews, too. Svoboda and Right Sector’s politics are undeniable, and their new power is a troubling thought. Say what you will about Russia (really, go ahead, they probably deserve it), but I’d be just as keen not to have Nazis on my border.
White supremacist banners and Confederate flags were draped inside Kiev’s occupied City Hall, and demonstrators have hoisted Nazi SS and white power symbols over a toppled memorial to V.I. Lenin. After Yanukovich fled his palatial estate by helicopter, EuroMaidan protesters destroyed a memorial to Ukrainians who died battling German occupation during World War II.
This has been a pattern in US foreign policy, lately. Faced with enormous popular revolt in Syria, Ukraine, and Venezuela, America has thrown its support behind “democratic freedom fighters,” who also happen to be affiliated with Al-Qaeda and fascist movements.
Democracy is America’s favorite thing, but it’s not exactly a fair system. Everyone gets their one vote that they can spend however they like, but a lot of those votes mean nothing, as the minority side never gets their way. The majority is given great power over smaller, more vulnerable groups. It’s also entirely possible for people to democratically decide to do something horrible. Suffice it to say, democracy is far from perfect, and it isn’t the one “right” choice. But people wanting representation is a very common gripe during protests and upheaval, and an awful lot of democratic societies happen to be powerful countries that have their people convinced that democracy is an inherent good.
In the end, it isn’t really about representation. It’s about excuses. If democracy is an inherent good, if it’s vital that people get to put in their vote and know it counts, then it’s completely justified to come down on the side of the people and help dismantle a regime that is less than beneficial to your own country’s interests, regardless of how functional the new country would be. Maybe you noticed that I got a little cynical at the end there!
I wouldn’t presume to guess how Ukraine will turn out. I don’t know very much about Ukraine, or how much of an effect these ultra-nationalist government officials will have. What I do know is that far too many people around me have no idea what’s going on, outside of what they’re “supposed to know.” What I know is that the new government and the so-called “flowering of democracy” in Ukraine are tainted by racist, anti-semitic fascists, and it’s being swept under the rug. Yakunovych’s Ukraine committed monstrous acts, was marked by corruption and inequality. The presence of neo-Nazis doesn’t change that. Russia is invading Ukraine, and the presence of neo-Nazis doesn’t change that, either. I would guess that it’s simply a convenient fact, for Russia. But for America, it’s inconvenient, and we should think about why that is.