I thought President Poroshenko could no longer surprise me. I was wrong. Following his desperate performance in Davos, Switzerland, in January, where he presented a chunk of metal from the Volnovakha bus* and his Munich security conference speech on February 7, in which the handful of Russian passports he held up in the air were supposed to prove that Russian troops were in Ukraine, he delivered the following masterpiece at the commemoration of the first anniversary of Euromaidan in Kiev: “Ukrainians, who were not born for war, peaceful Ukrainians, took up arms and stopped a well-trained army, one of the most powerful in the world and on the continent . . . “
I am not a military expert; I know close to nothing about armies, weapons, and war. But I have been reading articles by NATO experts confirming at least one aspect of Poroshenko’s statement. Global Firepower places Russia second after the United States as the most powerful military force, in terms of “conventional war-making capabilities across land, sea and air.” One does not need West Point Academy training to understand that if Putin really wanted to have Ukraine, the Ukrainian army would be finished in a matter of days. I honestly cannot believe that Poroshenko is that stupid. However, in the same speech, he stated that “a newly created Ukrainian army with nationwide support from volunteers stopped the enemy at the far-Eastern frontiers.” What far-East frontiers? Is Poroshenko day-dreaming about the Russian Far-East? Ukraine has never had a “Far-East frontier.”
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I also learned from Poroshenko’s speech that Putin had been planning to attack Ukraine for years. He has been preparing the Russian military for just that. At the same time, the Evil Genius was creating a “fifth” column in Ukraine. I guess Poroshenko learned all of this while he was busy opening his chocolate and confectionary business in Russia. This is entirely logical for a president of a country where almost every channel of communication talks about Russian aggression and where Russian television channels are banned as propaganda outlets. Well, how about the propaganda that flows without end from the Ukrainian media? They tell ridiculous lies about “a planned retreat” of Ukrainian troops from Debaltsevo, while, in fact, Ukrainian soldiers were escaping encirclement by the insurgent Donetsk and Luhansk armies after their officers “heroically” left the battlefield.
I cannot believe that people who listen to Poroshenko absorb such lies without thinking. Facts remain facts. The problem is how the Ukrainian media relates them. There is a big discrepancy between what you hear on TV and what you see in real life. According to recent sociological research conducted by Research Branding Group, 41 percent of Ukrainians think that the Ukrainian mass media do not provide full and straight information about the military operation in the East. But how could they, when even the Ukrainian president does not tell the truth, to put it euphemistically?
To Europe, he promises he will hold a referendum on decentralization of Ukraine; in Ukraine, he says Ukraine will remain united and monolingual and no referendum will ever be organized. He proclaims himself to be a president of peace, while the militarization of the Ukrainian economy continues apace against a background of the population’s increasing impoverishment and the rising cost of essentials. Ukrainian minds have been constantly bombarded by patriotic messages from the Ukrainian media, while no alternative view is allowed. The Russian media are outlawed, and Russian movies are banned. How long before Poroshenko declares the Russian language illegal as the language of a “foreign occupier?”
The same sociological research found that 52 percent of Ukrainians think that the situation will deteriorate in the immediate future. There is growing anxiety and fear within society. Yet the majority of Ukrainians (59 percent) still wants to continue fighting in Donetsk, although 72 percent believe there is no winner in a civil war, and 61 percent prefer negotiations to military action to resolve the Donbas conflict. Even Kopatko, the director of the agency that conducted the research, believes these contradictions indicate a serious social schizophrenia developing in Ukrainian society.
The president of Ukraine is a telling example of this cognitive dissonance. Or, he is playing a less-than-cunning political game. He is desperate for Western military aid to fight “pro-Russian terrorists.” But this aid is long in coming – the West, and especially Europe, does not want a full-blown war with Russia. So in spite of all of Ukraine’s new rulers’ efforts to prove that Ukraine is European, Europe is in no hurry to welcome impoverished, socially unstable Ukraine into the family of European nations.
Yet Ukrainian politicians are so very European – in his Davos speech, Poroshenko boasted that all but one member of the Ukrainian Parliament now speak English, while a year before the Euromaidan revolution, only one member spoke English. Mr. Poroshenko, I presume? Leaving aside the fact that this is plainly not true, a simple question emerges: What happened to the Ukrainian economy since the victory of the Revolution of Dignity in February 2014? It is in a disastrous state, and no foreseeable language will get it back to where it was in 2013.
Keep practicing your English, Mr. Poroshenko. You need it to beg for money from your Western masters while you destroy Ukrainian industry in the East with Ukrainian weapons. And do not forget to blame the war in Donbas, which you yourself provoked, for all of Ukraine’s economic and political problems.
Unfortunately, I see no end to Ukraine’s troubles until the bulk of the Ukrainian population sobers up and sees the reality for what it is: The Euromaidan revolution did not destroy the old regime; rather, it propelled a different set of oligarchs to power, one with none of the independent thinking and leadership qualities that Ukraine needs right now.
Since Poroshenko has promised constitutional reforms and decentralization of power in Ukraine, why not deliver on these promises? Why not let Donetsk and Luhansk judge the sincerity and seriousness of these declarations? Even if you prefer calling them terrorists, which they are not, they have the support of the local population. No number of bombs and no degree of cutting natural gas supplies and social payments will ever persuade them that Ukraine is their “mother.” You should talk to these people directly, Mr. Poroshenko.
Neither the West nor Russia will ever help Ukraine find a long-term solution to this war. If you consider Donbas to be part of Ukraine, then listen to the people of Donbas, Mr. President. Listen to them because they are your people too, like Ukrainians from Halychyna and Kiev. They are no better and no worse than the others. And they want to be heard. Stop wriggling, Mr. President, and decide once and for all whether you are a president of peace or a president of war.
*On January 13, 2015, a bus near the town Volnovakha in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine was hit by shrapnel from rocket shelling. Eleven people were killed and 13 were injured. The attack served as a pretext for the military offensive the Ukraine army and militias launched several days later, beginning with a renewed drive to take the shattered airport at Donetsk. That offensive ended ignominiously with a shattering defeat of the Ukrainian army at Debaltseve and a new ceasefire agreement reached during the night of Feb. 11/12. Volnovakha is located in Ukraine army-controlled territory. At the time of the bus tragedy, Donetsk self-defense forces say it was well beyond the range of their artillery.