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    BRAMA News and Community Press

    BRAMA, June 23, 2010, 9:00 AM ET

    Op-ed

    It is the Economy, Professor.
    By Boris Danik

    This is about the doubts, voiced recently, that question the ability of the Ukrainian people to stand as a nation and as an independent state. The accession of the Party of Regions to power in Kyiv was cited as evidence of the shortcomings and a fuzzy national identity problem of the Ukrainian people.

    Some in the Diaspora and in Ukraine – with the academic credentials no less – posit that the Ukrainians are "the people" and not a nation, and that there are two and perhaps even more different places that can be called Ukraine.

    Leaving aside the philosophical obstacles, one can say that the evidence of a dual Ukraine has been clear as a day for a long time (perhaps one of them should be prefixed by "pseudo"}. Call it a divide between the East and West, if you will, or more to the point the pro-Russian south-east and the pro-Ukrainian north-west.

    This division, down the middle, is as hard as a rock and it shows each time in the nearly 50/50 election outcomes.

    Can Ukraine exist as an independent state when one-half of it looks like another planet? The betting so far has been that it can. But it is far from unanimous.

    It probably can exist, with two major caveats: Given the right circumstances and wise leadership. Unfortunately, both are hard to come by.

    For instance, Boris Yeltsin's pro-democracy action in Russia made it easy for Ukraine to secede from the Soviet Union. As for the wise leadership, hold on to your chair.

    Ukraine is fragile in many ways. That's why the global recession that crippled Ukraine's economy had the decisive impact on the outcome of the presidential election this year.

    The numbers were close, but the consequences pose a disproportional threat to Ukraine.

    One historian has just discovered that only the Ukrainians are to blame "for what happened in Ukraine" (the election of Viktor Yanukovych as president). It sounds like saying that the centuries of rule by foreign overlords had (or should have had) no impact on the drop-off and mortality rate of Ukrainian consciousness – despite the genocide, the mass deportations, and decapitation of the national elite.

    For academia, "the revisiting of assumptions" would not make fortune telling any easier. Predictions are difficult, especially of the future, as Yogi put it. The Orange Revolution had been declared irreversible. No one described the Ukrainians as a deficient populace at that time. Exultation was overflowing. "A Nation is Born", headlined the Financial Times. A political science specialist wrote about "the orangesation of Yanukovych".

    Four years ago, Russia was described by experts as "a third-rate power headed for a crash, its army is a joke", and that its oil and gas based economy is pits. Two years later Russia was in Georgia. With Americans hobbled in Iraq and Afghanistan, "President Bush is a spectator as his policy unraveled" (Financial Times, August 13, 2008). With no U.S. boots on the ground in Europe to keep Russia at bay, the deliberations about NATO/Ukraine changed from farcical to moribund.

    Soon after, a long-negotiated formal agreement between Washington and Moscow was announced to send the US troop supplies to Afghanistan through Russia by land (The New York Times, January 21, 2009). That event redefined, as a concession to Russia, the spheres of influence in eastern Europe, albeit not in the official record (The New York Times, February 4, 2009). That was a sellout. Oddly, this about-face by Washington seems to have gone unnoticed in the Diaspora, perhaps because an extremely disingenuous logic would be needed to square it with the usual Ukrainian-American conservative stance of supporting any and all US military entanglements, such as the Afghan fiasco.

    At this time, the 30 percent discount in the price of Russian gas is well liked in Ukraine, where most people survive on meager incomes. The conventional wisdom tells them that Russia will not give up the naval base in Sevastopol anyway; therefore an extension of the lease is a good face-saving bargain.

    Concerning the doubts whether or not the Ukrainians are a nation, one may ask: Is the United States a nation? Despite the ostentatious cultivation of national symbols in the USA (such as the playing of the national anthem each time at baseball games), the US is a country but not a nation, according to Princeton University economics professor Uwe Reinhart. No other than David Brooks, prima facie conservative columnist at The New York Times recently characterized the US as "a commercial republic".

    As to making the wrong choice at the polls, the Americans elected George W. Bush twice, who promptly bankrupted the country with his little wars and unsustainable tax cuts. With a deregulation passion, he paved the road to the financial crash on Wall Street in 2008, the worldwide Great Recession, and the oil industry jungle that drowned the Gulf of Mexico in the ongoing oil spill catastrophe of epic proportions.

    George W. Bush, more than anyone else, is the enabler of the takeover of power in Ukraine by the pro-Russian Party – with the crash of Ukraine's economy as part of the global recession of his making. Also, President Bush has abandoned eastern Europe to the growing Russian appetite, in favor of his entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan (now the two albatrosses on the new president's neck). It leaves Ukraine on its own.. Poland, for a consolation, was promised a phantom missile shield, now consisting of a battery of ornamental Patriot missiles, proven ineffective during the Gulf (the one in Asia) war.

    Dr. Boris Danik
    North Caldwell, NJ
    June 18, 2010

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