Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ukraine, I kraine...

I have a Croatian friend—for well over 20 years, in fact, meaning I first really got to know him during the collapse of Yugoslavia, when he was pretty militant, as you might be too if you knew Slobodan Milošević was trying to murder your mother along with all her neighbors, and even though one of his best friends was a Serb. But he mellowed to some extent thereafter.

At the beginning of 1993, he caught me mocking the Czechs and the Slovaks over the pathetic character of their national breakup, when they couldn't afford to have [jump]
two separate United Nations missions and had to continue to share one, the way divorced couples used to live in the old Soviet Union, courteously answering one another's phones and no doubt storing their lunches in the same fridge. "They did it without killing anybody," he said. He wasn't being snide, either, he was really angry with me.

And he was right, too, as I realized. People are going to be stupid, you know, and do stupid things, but if they can do it without killing each other it's a lot better. This is the basis of my view on Ukraine right now. I feel that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, for whatever reasons, has decided he prefers that blood not be shed (perhaps because the Ukrainians are Pravoslavnye brothers, unlike, say, Chechens), and that is all to the good.

Meanwhile the Russian economy continues to bleed, of course, and intrepid American journalist Èdvard Snouden has forced Vladimir Vladimirovich to admit that the Russian government is unable to spy on citizens (that, as Richard Nixon memorably explained, would be illegal!). Kerry has negotiated—this is breaking as I type—a series of steps away from violence:
All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions. The participants strongly condemned and rejected all expressions of extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including anti-semitism.

All illegal armed groups must be disarmed; all illegally seized buildings must be returned to legitimate owners; all illegally occupied streets, squares and other public places in Ukrainian cities and towns must be vacated.

Amnesty will be granted to protesters and to those who have left buildings and other public places and surrendered weapons, with the exception of those found guilty of capital crimes.

It was agreed that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission should play a leading role in assisting Ukrainian authorities and local communities in the immediate implementation of these de-escalation measures wherever they are needed most, beginning in the coming days. The U.S., E.U. and Russia commit to support this mission, including by providing monitors.
Again, we'll see.

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