Tuesday, March 4, 2014

From Our Ukrainian Correspondent

Our man in Ukraine, Taras Bubba
From "The Glaswegian Observer":

Our correspondent in Ukraine, Taras Bubba, sends us this report:

An old military friend asked me this weekend, “You have had your boots on the ground, what is going on in Ukraine?” I have a few observations:

Russian/Ukrainian speakers both have voiced their concerns with the lack of rule of law in the country being a grave concern. It is a country where the President owned both the courts and police. No hope of bringing corruption charges against him. I have observed the traffic police at work, very interesting to say the least. Both ethnic groups like to tell this joke:

Q. What do you do when you see the police?

A. Walk the other way.

Russian speakers were as a whole concerned that Maidan would destabilize an already near bankrupt country. Supporters believed that Maidan was the only way to end a corrupt regime that had plundered the country. Both believed Yanukovych needed to go. Yanukovych tended to run the country as a Mafia Don. After gaining support from business in the 2010 election, he eliminated them as advisors. It gave him free reign of corruption.

There are few in Kiev with clean hands, but supporters of Maidan believed there would be more accountability for EU funds. Russian speakers feel they wouldn’t be included in the government of the country, as well a fear of losing their historic ties with Russia.

In the past elections I have been told that there was voter intimidation depending on what part of the country you were located. For instance it was implied or directly threatened you will vote the “correct way” to keep your job. The question of democratic elections is a matter of who and where you are voting.

Both sides don’t want Russians intervening in internal affairs. The folks from Donetsk/Kharkov may disagree, but Ukrainians that I have spoken to prefer an internal dialogue. Invasion would destroy what is left of their economy.

The youth seem to look to Poland, and how much opportunity the Poles seem to enjoy. Many have studied, and visited Europe. The Soviets put little industry in the western part of the country, so jobs are scarce. The country as a whole suffers from a huge Soviet hangover.

The current administration should seek direct talks with Putin. I understand his desire to secure Russia’s only warm water port. We would do the same. I am afraid they will push Putin into a corner that causes further expansion. Beware Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. We have the Russian playbook.

On second thought, Kerry needs to stay away from Putin. Getting our Secretary of State
depantsed, and put on a plane west would be a national embarrassment.

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