by Michael Hammerschlag
KYIV WEEKLY - May 27
Kiev: President Yanukovich resisted Putin-Medvedev’s (bear in Russian) pressure for the Gazprom-Naftogaz merger in their 7th leaders meeting, but signed agreements in nuclear power plant production, the use of the Glavnos GPS satellites, cooperation in aviation production and banking, sharing textbooks and demarking borders in the Kerch Strait (another source of opposition rage).
President Medvedev, having achieved most of his agenda, was able to be magnanimous in a violent thunderstorm that caused a wreath to attack Yanukovich: “I hope the rain will wash away everything negative [in the relations] … to start developing good neighborly relations…. Russia has no desire to impose any particular schemes on Ukraine…. viewers throughout practically all of Russia will be able to watch one of your country's main channels-.. it will give everyone in Russia the chance to get information in Ukrainian” He even visited the Holodomor Memorial to show he wasn’t the other maximum ruler, even as Victor Yanukovich had recently shamefully convinced the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to not declare the Holodomor a genocide. The fact that the world’s greatest monster also slaughtered millions of other Soviets doesn’t negate the savage effects of the deliberate starvation of a nation.
Even as there is a deep fear among many Ukrainians that Russia’s control will grow indefinitely, there is another feeling- of comfort and contentment- that the linguistic war is over. If there was one overreaching flaw in Yushchenko’s policy, it was the denigration of the Russian language in favor of Ukrainian. It’s a classic problem: when there was colonial domination and cultural suppression- whether it was the American takeover of Hawaii, or the Chinese subsumation of Tibet with millions of Han immigrants- a rectification and revival of the native culture requires discriminating against the former masters, who are now largely innocent descendents bewildered by their new status. In a country so evenly divided, that was reckless and ultimately foolish. It also left many Ukrainians deeply psychologically distressed (even some who spoke Ukrainian first) to be at loggerheads with Mother Russia* in an extended family fight.
Addressing students at Taras Shevchenko Univ., Medvedev sounded reasonable- “…but NATO is nonetheless a military alliance, an alliance in which Russia is not a member, and the closer it comes to our borders the more discomfort we feel. Russia therefore has clear reasons to want to keep the Black Sea base… If we start to marginalize ourselves within the international community we would inevitably feel the consequences. We are all grown ups and do not want to return to the Soviet past.” But Ursa Minor faltered at a tough question: “Let's put things in frank terms and ask: what are the guarantees that Russia will not use its Black Sea Fleet to attack neighboring countries? Russia will not do any such thing. Russia is a peaceful country.” Georgia, though they started it, may disagree. “The BSF agreement obligates us to pay Ukraine the equivalent of almost $40 billion… a huge sum.” But a largely fictitious one, since the real price of gas is actually close to the new deal price.
mother nature attacking Yanukovich
Ukraines’s desperate need for fiscal sustenance was acknowledged by Medvedev: “Our priority is the economy, the economy, and again the economy… Our trade has risen by a half in the first four months of the year, we are heading towards a figure beyond $35 billion for this year…(For the people is) there is a change for the better or not? (That’s) based on a variety of facts- arrival of investment, increased trade, creating jobs, increasing their salaries, normal payment of pensions and social benefits.”
But Russian editor Fedor Lukyanov was harsher: “In this situation, Ukraine has nowhere to go. Before the Kharkiv agreements reached about a month ago, Ukraine had no budget. If there is no budget, you can not approach the IMF… When the whole world is in crisis, Ukraine is not anyone's priority, except Russia.”
And Medvedev, in a fascinating Oligarch’s Picnic with all Ukraine’s potentates and tamed Kremlin ally Deripaska, was curt in dismissing appeals to abandon the alternative gas routes North and SouthStream that threaten Ukraine’s transit fees, “Decisions were made. They are being acted on.”
Ukraine has hundreds of years practice at managing Russian domination, but inevitably, it seems, brusque orders will again emanate from Moscow. “Simply, I think that the closeness of our cultures and our mutual understanding of each other's development makes it easier to develop our humanitarian ties, and at the same time, this is what people want overall,” declared Russia’s Little Big Man. Well, many of them.
* Yes, I know Kievian Rus is the mother of Russia, but for 250 odd years, it has been the dominated by its northern colossus
Michael Hammerschlag’s (Hammernews.com) articles have appeared in the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Seattle Times, Providence Journal, and many others.