The prominent S-shaped Dnieper River Valley almost perfectly corresponds to the cultural, religious and linguistic divisions in Ukraine
The world's mainstream media headlines are nearly identical - "What Will Putin Do? The articles that follow similarly mirror each other in both content and lack of depth. They all revolve around Ukraine's cultural, religious and linguistic divisions. They all agree with the obvious fact that west and north are predominantly Ukrainian-speaking, the east and south predominantly Russian-speaking. Facts that barely scratch the surface of, or explain the reasons why, for instance, the Russian speakers refer to the Ukrainian speakers as fascists while the Ukrainian speakers refer to the Russian speakers as communists.
The long standing east-west divide has bedeviled Ukraine since it first emerged as an independent state after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. In each election since, voters have split along a line running roughly along the Dnieper River Valley , unsurprisingly, almost exactly as the cultural, religious and linguistic ones with some bleed-out here and there that most fellow Canadians will recognize as similar to the French-English divide here.
The underlying depth of hatred and distrust in Ukraine is far more intense than here in fair Canuckistan though. For instance it was only in 1941 that Nazi Germany with its allies invaded the Soviet Union. Many Ukrainians and Polish people, particularly in the west of those countries, where they had experienced years of harsh Soviet rule, initially regarded the Wehrmacht soldiers as liberators. Not all of them, some western Ukrainians utterly resisted the Nazi onslaught from its start and a partisan movement immediately spread over the occupied territory. Some elements of the Ukrainian nationalist underground formed a Ukrainian Insurgent Army that fought both Soviet and Nazi forces. In some western regions of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army survived underground and continued the resistance against the Soviet authorities well into the 1950s.
Every present day Ukrainian on either side of the current divide have been told that story, from different perspectives, since they were babies. So it's not hard to understand the fascist/communist name calling and hatred still evident today. Without understanding the history behind the current headlines it's nearly impossible to see the situation from any perspective other than a false Hollywood style dichotomy.
Putin, of course, understands all this and much more. Putin, a long time KGB officer, understands that the US's approach to foreign policy hasn't changed much since WW11. He remembers how consistently the US has used internal cultural divisions in counties who have had the audacity to disagree with 'American exceptionalism' to undermine them. He remembers what happened in Iran when they nationalized their oil fields, what happened in Chile when they nationalized their Copper resources, what the US tried to do when Castro nationalized US's 'interests' there, he remembers Vietnam, Nicaragua, even tiny Granada...it's a long list. Putin sees what's happening right now in Venezuela and Ukraine, he knows they are basically the same story. Divide and conquer.
Putin understands why the Americans and their western allies do it too. He knows that after the conquer part comes the loans that will be so inviting as a quick fix to the huge long-term problems, though different in each case, underlying each situation. Putin knows a lot because Russia too has always faced internal nationalistic divides like it does right now in the Caucuses. Putin knows, because Russia and the Soviets were part of the problem, that most of these divisions were caused when at the end of WW1 'the winners' met in Malta and re-defined the globe's political boundaries in accordance with their own prerogatives and disregard for the the ethnic realities 'on the ground'.
The short-term security and political cohesion of Ukraine now depend on how Putin reacts in the next few days. If he does not act firmly Russia's much repressed opposition will be encouraged to emulate the Kiev street revolution. As it stands, what Moscow views as a western-backed 'coup' is a personal humiliation for Russia's pugnacious leader. He will not take it lightly.
So what will Putin do? He won't blink, that i'm sure of. As he already has said earlier today, he'll question the authority of the interim rulers. He'll make Ukraine another generous financial offer with little or no strings attached unlike the IMF-EU-US who will attach a noose to whatever they offer. He'll rattle his sword and if pushed by the US, who was embarrassed a few months ago by Putin in Syria, he'll move to 'protect' ethnic Russians and Russian speakers you've already petitioned him for protection. Russia used a similar appeal as a pretext for the land invasion of South Ossetia, a breakaway region of Georgia, in 2008. So i suspect the US cabal won't push very hard.
The closing ceremony of the Sochi Olympics is behind us, Putin has not yet commented publicly on the violence of the past week. But he will and whatever he says at first will be prompted by the fact that Russia will lose both prestige and big money if Ukraine defaults on its sovereign debt and as Interim President’ Oleksandr Turchynov said to the Ukrainian parliament, “There is no money in Ukraine’s Treasury account, the Ukrainian economy is in a catastrophic state."
Putin will play for time hoping that the coming May 25th elections will allow the steam to escape from the pressure cooker, that time will heal all the wounds. But the odds of that are slim. In the meantime Putin will be planning a post-partition strategy. IMO a 'velvet divorce', as it was in Czechoslovakia would be the best long-term outcome as it would avoid a bloody division like what happened in Yugoslavia where mixed towns became battlefields.
Default too, isn't such a terrible outcome for either of Ukraine's solitudes. Though for opposite reasons, i agree with Victoria Nuland - Fuck the EU. But i'd add Fuck the IMF and the US too. Current Russian bond holdings would be nearly worthless as well. But Putin's Russia, like Chavez did when he bought up Argentina's junk bonds, could buy more bonds for peanuts, then by helping both sides of the newly partitioned Ukraine with energy bartering deals, again like Chavez did with oil for Argentina, watch and wait while the 'market' value of both the pile of Ukraine bonds they now own and those he buys up as 'junk', to appreciate. Chavez made billions for Venezuela with his counter vulture capitalism strategy, Putin can and, i predict, will too.
Tomorrow, more on the long winding road that put Ukraine at their present historic crossroads, more on which turn i predict they'll take and why.