Plan B: Did the thousands of Ukrainian revolutionaries who cheered her at the Maidan realise that Yulia Tymoshenko, no less than her great political rival, Victor Yanukovych, is a person the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, can "do business with". If Tymoshenko cannot be leveraged into a regime acceptable to both the EU and the Russian Federation, then the territorial integrity of Ukraine will become a live issue.
WHEN THE RIOT POLICE abandoned their posts and the protesters entered the hurriedly vacated offices of President Victor Yanukovych, Ukraine passed from mass protest to revolution. When the Ukrainian armed forces declared their unwillingness to defend its deposed government, revolution took a further critical step towards consolidation and success.
What happens next will depend on how Ukraine’s neighbours respond to the fast-moving situation the revolution has unleashed. The Russian Federation, which describes Ukraine as a “brother state” and “strategic partner” will be asking itself whether a virulently anti-Russian government in Kiev is tolerable. If the answer is “No”, then Moscow may have to swallow its pride and swing in behind a new Ukrainian leader – one both sides can live with.
The European Union, has a different problem. While achieving most of its short-term goals vis-à-vis removing the government of President Yanukovych, it must consider the long-term ramifications of being seen to endorse the violent overthrow of a democratically-elected government. (Ukraine was scheduled to go to the polls in March 2015.)
The EU also needs to consider the implications of its loud condemnation of President Yanukovych’s use of deadly force to defend his government from armed extremist groups intent upon its overthrow.
Confronted with anything like the same challenges, what would the leaders of Sweden, Poland and the United Kingdom, President Yanukovych’s harshest critics, have done?
Would the right-wing Swedish prime minister, Carl Bildt, have denied himself the resources of the Swedish armed forces if far-Left extremists demanding his resignation had broken into regional Police armouries, seized firearms and started ferrying them to demonstrators attacking and killing police officers in the heart of Stockholm?
Would the spirit of the 1980s protest movement Solidarity have been strong enough to keep the Polish army in its barracks in the face of a violent attack upon the democratically-elected government of Donald Tusk?
Would the same David Cameron who, in 2011, demanded the ruthless repression of the youthful urban rioters in London, Birmingham, Liverpool and other British cities, have urged the Metropolitan Police to “pull back” in the face of shotgun-wielding demonstrators in Trafalgar Square? With the smoke of burning barricades wafting over the Houses of Parliament, would the same political system that gave us “Bloody Sunday” and Blair Peach have unilaterally foresworn all recourse to deadly force?
Certainly, Messrs Bildt, Tusk and Cameron seem unlikely converts to the revolutionary ideas of the Founding Fathers of the United States who, on 4 July 1776, put their signatures to Thomas Jefferson’s celebrated Declaration of Independence.
“[W]hen a long train of abuses and usurpations,” wrote Jefferson, “pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce [the people] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
Well, there’s no disputing the fact that Ukraine has provided herself with “new guards”, but whether her “future security” can safely be left to the young, hard-core nationalists of the far-right “Pravy Sektor” only time will tell.
The triumph of Pravy Sektor is perplexing. In just about any other jurisdiction the appearance on the barricades of such a heavily armed group would have been the signal for the declaration of a State of Emergency or, more likely, Martial Law. Why this didn’t happen in Ukraine, especially after the exhausted Riot Police started losing men to small arms fire, is baffling.
In the famous Sherlock Holmes case “Silver Blaze”, Inspector Gregory from Scotland Yard asks: “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?” Holmes replies: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” The puzzled Gregory retorts: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.” Says Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”
In danger of becoming lost in the kaleidoscopic tumble of events of the past few days was President Yanukovych’s dismissal of the Commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Col. General Zamana, and his replacement by the Naval Commander, Admiral Yuriy Ilyin. With hindsight this can be seen as the Ukrainian President’s last throw of the dice. That it failed is almost certainly due to the intervention of both the USA and the Russian Federation.
The Obama Administration had warned repeatedly that the use of the army against the protesters would escalate the crisis to a new and dangerous level. Vladimir Putin, clearly unwilling to raise the stakes that high, appears to have abandoned President Yanukovych in favour of a “Plan B”.
How brave and fragile she looked, wheelchair-bound and bundled against the cold, speaking tearfully of a New Ukraine born of the blood spilled in the “Maidan” – Kiev’s Independence Square.
How many of those cheering thousands understood that Yulia Tymoshenko is someone Vladimir Putin can do business with?
Pawns take Knight. Check. Queen takes pawns. Checkmate.
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, February 25, 2014.