Why the Ukrainian crisis was a turning point

I have often been asked: why do you care so much about Ukraine? After all I don’t live in Ukraine, and I was not there except for a few times on short visits to relatives and friends. “Ukraine is none of your business” I was told by Ukrainian patriots (real Ukrainians or just moral champions of the abstract right of a nation to fight with all means for its “freedom”), when I expressed points of view that they were not ready to accept. In fact, the argument “it is not your damn country”, seemed to be a pretty powerful one and I did not always know how to respond to it. And probably yes, I could, like most people, get on with my life very well without caring too much about the whole Ukraine thing.

The problem is, the Ukraine crisis has never been just about Ukraine. Ever since the protest on the Maidan started, Western governments were heavily involved in the developments taking place in those “glorious” days of revolution, if not organizationally, at least morally. After all, how could it possibly not be a good thing if Ukraine became more European, more Western, more modern, more like us? Andrew Wilson, a journalist specialized on Ukraine, wrote more or less: “While many people in Europe are getting disenchanted with the European project, there are some people at the borders of Europe who are ready to fight and die for the European values”. I could not possibly have come up with more poetic words. And honestly I don’t know many Westerners, who, in spite of all the problems there might be in the West, would voluntarily give up the comforts and the freedoms they feel they are granted by the so-called “Western civilization”. After all the West is still the light of global civilization … or is it not? Who in his right mind would choose to be together with Russia, if they had the chance to be in a union with France, Germany, England and Italy, with Europe, the cradle of the modern world? Well, all these abstract proclamations about freedom, prosperity, democracy and European values sound all very beautiful. Young hopeful souls, like many of those who were jumping on the Maidan Square, could not possibly resist them.

The thing is, Germany, France, England and other leading European countries were hardly offering Ukraine to become more like them. While from a material point of view living in Copenhagen or even Madrid is certainly easier than living in Kiev or Kharkiv, in terms of pure economics, beyond the surface of a vague prospect of integration into the European community of values, the European Union was asking Ukraine to open its domestic market to European goods (as if they were not already omnipresent in Ukraine) and offering the mirage of foreign investment in the Ukrainian economy. Well, the Free Trade Agreement with the European Union has been signed, after being temporary stalled, but after more than two years the results for the Ukrainian economy are still waiting to be seen. Of course this could all be blamed on Russia, on the “annexation” of Crimea and on the conflict in the Donbass. I understand the legitimate aspirations of the Ukrainian people to end the rule of corruption made many very angry, but the violation of the Ukrainian constitutional order that brought down Yanukovich (certainly a corrupted politician, but no more than those who succeeded him) factually dissolved the legitimacy of Ukrainian state and its territorial integrity. Without Yanukovich’s violent removal from office, there would have been no referendum in Crimea, there would have been no uprising in the Donbass, and no “war with Russia”.

And here the Ukrainian patriots come again, accusing Europe and the West at large of behaving cowardly for its “unwillingness” to defend the just cause of Ukraine’s freedom and independence and engage in open conflict with Russia the invader. Well, this is why I care about Ukraine, as a European, even if it is not my country, dear Ukrainian patriot. You made a mess of your country, which now lives much worse than it was under the “tyrannical” regime of “dictator” Yanukovich, and engaged in war actions against your own people under the pretext of fighting the Russian army. It is your war now. And if you wanted to be more like us in Europe, you should have understood that war is not a very European value these days.

And finally the unconditional support given to the post-Maidan Ukrainian state by the European government bodies one more time proved that the ruling class had lost touch with the priorities of the European people. I understand that posing as the defenders of European freedoms is very seductive for many politicians. The “war with Russia” certainly gave a new sense of unity and purpose to an otherwise senile organization. But the oversimplification of the interpretation of the Ukrainian crisis and its instrumentalization show that the European Union is morally bankrupt and does not have the interests of its people at heart anymore. Europe looks a lot better as an ideal democratic utopia from the barricades of Kiev than from the streets of Berlin or Paris.

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