Two sightless and one deaf – Russia, Ukraine and the EU

Now even I’ve got something to say about the conflict between Russia, Ukraine and the Europian Union.

First of all, ex-president Viktor Yanukovych’s regime was fully corrupted. That’s all known for sure. Secondly, his governance destroyed the country’s economy and all steps to decent civic society.

Thirdly, opening fire at the Maiden and killing people was an act of a remorseless tyrant. Mr. Yanukovych should have chosen otherwise. Even Crimean Russians want a better leader than Yanukovych. Well, seemingly many favour a certain Mr. Vladimir Putin but he’s a president of another country …

After the Orange Revolution (2004) Ukrainians lost their first chance to develop a new democracy. Everything went wrong – and they can’t blame the Kremlin in Moscow.

It’s possible that Ukrainians can’t compromise with each other this time either. Yet Ukrainian Russians should be equally recognised. I expect them to support the democratic course if only they, too, benefits from the new way.

In our days tyrants always risk to be overthrown. Unfortunately, sometimes they are followed by persons who very soon become tyrants themselves.

Karl Marx said that in history there often are 20-year periods when nothing changes. And then comes a day when everything changes.

That’s all clear. Yet situation in Ukraine is more complex.

According to my view, Russia has genuine security interest in Crimea. Western powers should acknowledge this. As an historian, I’m a bit cynical; you just can’t close your eyes from the worries of other nations and people. What you could do, though, is to develop a mutual understanding and security system that recognises everyone’s interest in a productive and friendly way. That’s the arena of international politics.

And that’s what Finland and the Soviet Union did after World War II. Finland assured the Soviet Union that the Finnish territory will not be given to any power to attack the Soviet Union. It worked rather well, though with some occasional troubles. Finns kept and developed their market economy and western style parliamentary democracy – even though the Soviet Union had a military base in Finnish territory, Porkkala, 60 kilometres from Helsinki, the Capital (1944—56).

Also, the Soviet government was happy with Finns who were not conflict-oriented but recognised the Soviet Union’s worries about security. (Sometimes it all went too far but in the long run Finland’s policy was very succesful.)

I think that Finns possibly acted more tactfully than some persons supporting the nationalistic course in Georgia or in Ukraine. Finns are ultra-patriotic but usually very constructive. Yet extremists were and are found everywhere but you shouldn’t give hand to them.

I’m strongly against the gunboat diplomacy of attacking one’s neighbour or against the sovereignty of any state. The issue is extremely sensitive in Finland – as it is in the Baltic countries (which were forced to ask help from the Soviet Union in 1939—40). Developments in Ukraine 2013—14 make people in many countries to think the case of Hungary 1956 and Czechoslovakia 1968.

For too many, then, Russia is a good cause for anxiety. Russian government itself would benefit greatly from calming down the alarm in the West and among Russia’s neighbours.

Of course, many of us also remember Vietnam, Chile (1973) and, for example, the Falkland Islands (1982). Historians also know that during the previous centuries (1521—1809) the Swedish realm, of which Finland was then a part of, waged war against Denmark more frequently than against Russia. And Sweden started a war more often than her supposed enemies (Russia, for example).

Yes, the world is not only black and white, as adults tell their children. There’s also this grey zone in between, as Swedish singer Eva Dahlgren sarcastically said in her concert in Helsinki many, many years ago. (Her words, though, were directed to the rather conventional middle-aged people in the audience.)

The popular appeal of Russia has already been low. Many of my friends elsewhere feel pity for me, because I “have to” live here. Well, I chose to. I love this country, her cultural riches, the people and – especially! – Moscow.

Possibly things are getting worse here as people seem to think. The war in Ukraine certainly would not help Russians. At the moment I don’t think President Putin is heading to the battle, although he most likely keeps all options open. However, he occupied Crimea and is reinforcing his position – which means he is a step ahead of others.

Mr. Putin knows that the Obama regime in the USA is incapable and weak. He has seen that the European Union has a very weak machinery for foreign policy – if any. And he knows, as anyone else, that there is no security policy in the EU which could function even in theory.

However, President Putin’s ambassadors in Sweden and Finland may have let him know that there was suddenly a lot of talk about the NATO option in the social media in both countries …

In all, I couldn’t say it better than Professor Andrei P. Tsygankov: “Both Russia and the West are responsible for the highly dysfunctional country that Ukraine has become because they pushed it to choose between one side or the other, thereby depriving it of a choice to remain a moderate, neutral territory between two large powers.” (The Moscow Times 28.2.2014.)

He continues: “Now is the time for the West to reach out to the Kremlin and form a comprehensive arrangement under which the two parties will be joint economic donours and joint guarantors of Ukraine’s stability and territorial integrity.”

Indeed, as a Finn I very much appreciate the idea of territorial integrity.

Tsygankov also warns the post-revolutionary hangovers which are extremely painful – and which is again looming Ukraine, second time in her post-soviet history. Hopefully Ukrainians won’t lose their opportunity this time. Missing their chance now would possibly radicalise too many too dangerously and, therefore, destabilise the situation in the area for unseeable future.

President Putin has also a choice: is Russia in better condition after his second term or is it worse? Of course, if he thinks it will be worse anyway, he might need a war to explain that it’s not his fault …