Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Secession wholly a Russian idea? 

Need to run to a meeting with Littlest Scholar's teacher, so not much more until tonight. While you wait (and I have some more things to share), consider this piece by James Sherr, and particular this thought.

President Putin's calculations remain a critical variable. Thus far, his policy has been based upon a combination of deliberation, delusion and guile, all underpinned by compelling geopolitical interest. These interests far outweigh any gains that might be achieved by honest collaboration with third parties. Putin's greatest delusion, endemic to the circles who advise him, is the underestimation of Ukrainian national consciousness and civil society. Deliberation, reflected in the intimate involvement of Russian 'political technologists' in Ukraine's electoral fraud, has run into the buffers of these delusions. Now the Kremlin fears that events are moving out of its control ('we have dropped out of the circle of active players'). To regain control, it is necessary to change the game. Secession, the means to this end, launches a new game.

If this conclusion is correct, then both Kuchma and Putin will shift the ground of discussion from democracy and legality to the right of Ukraine's authorities to 'hold the country together'. Kuchma, a weak but infinitely supple figure, has already done this. On 29 November, he declared secession 'unacceptable under any circumstances': a formula designed (even in the face of a Supreme Court ruling) to provide legitimacy for a forceful solution. Western governments should be wary of adopting this language, thereby giving credence to a largely fabricated scenario and inadvertently providing legitimacy to a course of action that we earnestly seek to

In anything I ever wrote about Kuchma I have never used the words "a weak but infinitely supple figure". As I think more about that, it's an apt description. And it would fit Yanukovych even more.

As things begin to get hot over there, keep your fingers crossed that the supple Kuchma bends to the will of those in Maidan.

Updates here possible before 6pm CT, else new post later tonight.