Situated between Middle and Eastern Europe on the north shore of the Black Sea, Ukraine is a geographically strategic state. But Ukraine is not a monolithic state. The north-west is predominantly Ukrainian-speaking, pro-Europe (largely anti-Russian) and Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic. The south-east is predominantly Russian-speaking, pro-Russia and Russian Orthodox. So while Ukraine might be highly strategic, it is also extremely delicate.
This one map helps explain Ukraine’s protests (below)
By Max Fisher, 9 Dec 2013, Washington Post
|click on map to enlarge|
Protests erupted in Kiev on 21 November 2013, after the government of Viktor Yanukovich chose not to sign a comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union in preference for closer economic ties with Russia. Initially the protests in Maidan Square -- which quickly came to be known as "Euromaidan" -- were focused primarily on the protesters' desire to be more European and less under the influence of Russia (something they associate with government corruption). When the government introduced anti-protest laws in January the protests turned violent and strongly anti-government, with elements declaring their intention to fight until they achieve regime change in Kiev. [NOTE: the anti-protest laws have since been repealed.]
President Yanukovich does not face a political threat, as his Party of Regions has a comfortable majority in parliament. However, the situation on the streets has turned very ugly indeed, with many warning that Ukraine could be lurching towards civil war. Despite the clear and present danger, Germany and the US have publically thrown their support behind the anti-government protesters.
If external powers continue to fan the flames of revolution, then Ukraine could tear apart with the north-west coming under the protection of Europe, the south-east coming under the protection of Russia, and a massive and bloody war for Crimea.
NEO-NAZIS, ULTRA-NATIONALISM and ANTI-SEMITISM -- Church beware!
The mood of the protesters changed in early December when Ukraine's three main opposition parties -- Fatherland, UDAR and Svoboda -- began to take control of Euromaidan.
Formerly known as the Social National Party of Ukraine, Svoboda (Freedom) is a neo-Nazi, ultra-nationalist, anti-Semitic party (official website). According to Svoboda, a nation is a community bound by blood and spirit. Therefore, only those belonging to the traditional Ukrainian [blood] nation may be members. Svoboda supports the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and deems atheists and former Communist party members ineligible for party membership.
President of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee (UJC) and member of the parliament of Ukraine, Oleksandr Feldman warns: "Ever since the breakthrough success of Svoboda in the 2010 elections, leaders of Fatherland and UDAR repeatedly have declined entreaties from myself and many other supporters of democracy in Ukraine to break their electoral alliance with Svoboda, apparently seeing the party and its leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, as essential partners in the coalition to topple President Viktor Yanukovych."
As evident by this photograph, elements of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church also see Svoboda as an essential ally against all things Russian. A "covenant with death" indeed (Isaiah 28:14-22)
According to Feldman, Svoboda is fanning the flames of anti-Semitism in Kiev. He describes a skit that was performed on the main stage at Euromaidan on New Year's Eve. "The lead role," says Feldman, "was played by a Svoboda parliamentarian named Bogdan Benyuk, who donned black garb and sidelocks to play a stereotypical Orthodox Jewish wheeler-dealer character called Zhyd (Kike)."
Feldman explains that Zhyd -- established as a banker, stock broker and loan shark -- represents the stereotypical "Jewish oligarch". He sing, "East and West belong to me; our people are everywhere." According to Feldman the skit drew parallels between the birth of Jesus and contemporary Ukrainian politics, linking Yanukovych with King Herod and establishing the Jews as powerful, greedy, self-interested and treacherous.
The very next day 15,000 opposition members marched in a Svoboda-sponsored torchlight parade "down Central Kiev's Kreshatik Boulevard in commemoration of the 105th anniversary of the birth of World War II-era nationalist leader Stepan Bandera, an ally of Nazi Germany whose followers participated in massacres of Ukrainian Jews. Marchers carried red and black nationalist banners and shouted nationalist slogans as they cheered Tyahnybok and expressed their undying love for Bandera." [NOTE: On 22 January 2010, at a ceremony to mark Ukrainian Unity Day, Ukraine's then US-backed president Viktor Yushchenko controversially pronounced Stepan Bandera a "Hero of Ukraine". (RFE/RL 22 Jan 2010).]
Jewish leaders have been expressing concern since mid December over the prominent role being played by the Svoboda party, noting that Svoboda's leader, Oleg Tyagnibok, supports European integration primarily because he is opposed to being controlled by "Russian-Jewish mafia". [NOTE: several of Russia's richest oligarchs happen to be Jewish; of these Boris Berezovsky and Mikhail Khodorkovsky are but two.]
According to the Ukraine Jewish Committee's (UJC's) Director, Eduard Dolinsky, the slogan, "Glory to the nation, death to its enemies," is being popularised once again despite the fact that this slogan was once used by nationalist insurgents known for killing Jews. Dolinsky believes that while some protesters would have no idea about the background of the slogan, some certainly do, "especially the leaders of the opposition, [they] understand perfectly what it means and where it comes from".
It must not be forgotten that Ukraine has history. In what has become known as a "Holocaust by bullets", some 1.7 million Jews were shot in Ukraine during WWII under supervision of the Nazis. As Deidre Berger, the head of the American Jewish Committee in Berlin told a recent conference in Krakow, Poland, "more Jews were killed by shooting in Ukraine than murdered in Auschwitz in the crematoria."
JANUARY KILLINGS: ANTI-SEMITISM TURNS VIOLENT -- great fear in the Jewish community
On 11 January 2014, an Orthodox Hebrew scholar named Hillel Wertheimer was ambushed and beaten by a mob of protesters that followed him home from the synagogue.
Only days later, on 17 Jan, Dov Baar Glickman was beaten and stabbed by three assailants while walking home from a Shabbat meal.
On 28 Jan, Christians 4 Israel (C4I) issued an urgent call for prayer and support, noting that there is "great fear in the Jewish community". An 84-year old survivor of the Holocaust expressed his fears to Koen Carlier (C4I leader in Ukraine), "This is not going to end well," he said.
FANNING THE FLAMES -- Church beware!
Considering how delicate Ukraine is; and considering the fact that Neo-Nazis have hijacked the protest movement, it is appalling the Germany and the US are prepared to fan the flames of revolution supposedly to advance their own interests.
At this point I would just like to leave readers with some material that I hope will encourage pause for thought.
FROM Stratfor Global Intelligence, Geopolitical Weekly
Perspectives on the Ukrainian Protests
by George Friedman, 28 January 2014
Some protesters wanted Ukraine to have a European orientation rather than a Russian one. Others felt that the government was corrupt and should thus be replaced. These kinds of demonstrations occur in many countries. Sometimes they're successful; sometimes they're not. In most cases, the outcome matters only to the country's citizens or to the citizens of neighboring states. But Ukraine is exceptional because it is enormously important. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has had to pursue a delicate balance between the tenuous promises of a liberal, wealthy and somewhat aloof Europe and the fact that its very existence and independence can be a source of strategic vulnerability for Russia.
. . . Ukraine is central to Russia's defensibility. . . Moreover, Ukraine is home to two critical ports, Odessa and Sevastopol . . .
From the Russian point of view, therefore, tighter Ukrainian-EU integration represented a potentially mortal threat to Russian national security. After the Orange Revolution, which brought a short-lived pro-EU administration to power in the mid-2000s, Russian President Vladimir Putin made clear that he regarded Ukraine as essential to Russian security, alleging that the nongovernmental organizations that were fomenting unrest there were fronts for the U.S. State Department, the CIA and MI6. Whether the charges were true or not, Putin believed the course in which Ukraine was headed would be disastrous for Russia, and so he used economic pressure and state intelligence services to prevent Ukraine from taking that course. . .
Notably, Putin's strategy toward the Russian periphery differs from those of his Soviet and czarist predecessors, who took direct responsibility for the various territories subordinate to them. Putin considers this a flawed strategy. It drained Moscow's resources, even as the government could not hold the territories together.
Putin's strategy toward Ukraine, and indeed most of the former Soviet Union, entails less direct influence. He is not interested in governing Ukraine. He is not even all that interested in its foreign relationships. His goal is to have negative control, to prevent Ukraine from doing the things Russia doesn't want it to do. Ukraine can be sovereign except in matters of fundamental importance to Russia. As far as Russia was concerned, the Ukrainian regime is free to be as liberal and democratic as it wants to be. But even the idea of further EU integration was a clear provocation. It was the actions of the European Union and the Germans -- supporting opponents of Yanukovich openly, apart from interfering in the internal affairs of another country -- that were detrimental to Russian national interests. (emphasis mine)
Ukraine is not quite as strategically significant to Europe as it is to Russia. Europe never wanted to add Ukraine to its ranks; it merely wanted to open the door to the possibility. The European Union is in shambles. Given the horrific economic problems of Southern Europe, the idea of adding a country as weak and disorganized as Ukraine to the bloc is preposterous. The European Union has a cultural imperative among its elite toward expansion, an imperative that led them to include countries such as Cyprus. Cultural imperatives are hard to change, and so an invitation went out with no serious intentions behind it. . .
The Germans are playing a complex game. They understood that Ukrainian membership in the European Union was unlikely to happen anytime soon. They also had important dealings with Russia, with which they had mutual energy and investment interests. It was odd that Berlin would support the demonstrators so publicly. . .
The Russians have remained relatively calm -- and quiet -- throughout Ukraine's protests. They understood that their power in Ukraine rested on more than simply one man or his party, so they allowed the crisis to stew. Given Russia's current strategy in Ukraine, the Russians didn't need to act, at least not publicly. Any government in Ukraine would face the same constraints as Yanukovich: little real hope of EU inclusion, a dependence on Moscow for energy and an integrated economy with Russia. Certainly, the Russians didn't want a confrontation just before Sochi.
The Russians also knew that the more tightly pro-Western forces controlled Kiev, the more fractious Ukraine could become. In general, eastern Ukraine is more oriented toward Russia: Its residents speak Russian, are Russian Orthodox and are loyal to the Moscow Patriarchy. Western Ukraine is oriented more toward Europe; its residents are Catholic or are loyal to the Kiev Patriarchy. These generalities belie a much more complex situation, of course. There are Moscow Orthodox members and Russian speakers in the west and Catholics and Kiev Orthodox in the east. Nevertheless, the tension between the regions is real, and heavy pro-EU pressure could split the country. If that were to happen, the bloc would find itself operating in chaos, but then the European Union did not have the wherewithal to operate meaningfully in Ukraine in the first place. The pro-EU government would encounter conflict and paralysis. For the time being that would suit the Russians, as unlikely as such a scenario might be. (emphasis mine)
Russian behavior in the Snowden affair [not to mention the Syria affair - ed.] has angered Washington and opened the possibility that the United States might be happy to create some problems for Moscow ahead of the Sochi Olympics. The U.S. government may not be supporting nongovernmental organizations as much as its counterparts in Europe are, but it is still involved somewhat. In fact, Washington may even have enjoyed putting Russia on the defensive after having been put on the defensive by Russia in recent months. . .
FROM Spiegel online (Germany)
Foreign Policy Rethink: Germany Weighs Stronger Military Role
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen want Germany to assume a greater role in world affairs, including military missions abroad. Their stance marks a break with Angela Merkel's policy of restraint.
By Ralf Neukirch and Gordon Repinski, Spiegle, 28 Jan 2014
Overseas Role: Germany Must Back Words With Deeds
German politicians have won applause abroad for promising a beefier role in international crisis management in the future. But does Chancellor Merkel support the new line? Berlin's behavior in Syria and Ukraine will prove how serious it is about the rethink.
A Commentary by Christiane Hoffmann, Spiegel, 3 Feb 2014
Excerpt: lead paragraph
When German politicians pledged a more active international role at the Munich Security Conference last weekend, the reaction they got was almost euphoric. President Joachim Gauck, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen appeared to be vying with each other to present their vision of a new Germany to the gathering of security experts and senior politicians. . .
FROM Stratfor Global Intelligence, Geopolitical Weekly
A More Assertive German Foreign Policy
By George Friedman and Marc Lanthemann, 4 February 2014
The Ukrainian crisis is important in itself, but the behavior it has elicited from Germany is perhaps more important. Berlin directly challenged Ukraine's elected president for refusing to tighten relations with the European Union and for mistreating Ukrainians who protested his decision. In challenging President Viktor Yanukovich, Berlin also challenged Russia, a reflection of Germany's recent brazen foreign policy.
Since the end of World War II, Germany has pursued a relatively tame foreign policy. But over the past week, Berlin appeared to have acknowledged the need for a fairly dramatic change. German leaders, including the chancellor, the president, the foreign minister and the defense minister, have called for a new framework that contravenes the restraint Germany has practiced for so long. They want Germany to assume a greater international role by becoming more involved outside its borders politically and militarily. . .
The timing of the announcement, as Ukraine's strategic position between Russia and Europe continues to make headlines, was not coincidental. . .
The European Union is an economic entity, but economics has turned from being the binding element to being a centrifugal force. Either something new must be introduced into the European experiment, or it might come undone.
Berlin believes that holding the European Union together requires adding another dimension that it heretofore has withheld in its dealing with the bloc: military-political relations. Standing up to a weakening Russia will appeal to Central European nations, and taking a more active role overseas would endear Berlin to Paris. . .
Of course, Germany is in no position to take military action. It is in a position to posit the possibility in some vague way, thereby generating political forces that can temporarily hold things together. . .
At first, Germany's actions seemed confusing and uncharacteristic. But they become more sensible when you consider that that Berlin is looking for other tools to hold the European Union together as it re-evaluates Russia.
* Strategically speaking, Russia cannot afford to ever let Ukraine slip out of its sphere of influence.
* In truth, Ukraine will not be joining the EU anytime soon for the EU doesn't actually want another crippled economy in its ranks.
* Is the West backing a Neo-Nazi-led revolutionary movement in Ukraine just to annoy Russia?
* Is Germany backing a Neo-Nazi-led revolutionary movement in Ukraine, fanning the flames of revolution and making an enemy of Russia just so it can rally the EU?
* Ukraine is not monolithic -- it is extremely delicate (think Syria).
* If it is torn apart, the resultant conflict and bloodshed will be horrific (think Syria).
* The protests have been thoroughly hijacked by ultra-nationalist, anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi fascist groups (think Syria, except in that case the protests were hijacked by Islamists).
* Not caring about consequences, the US and EU are fanning the flames just to further their own interests (again, think Syria).
* The empowerment of anti-Semitic neo-Nazis will not bode well for the Jewish community or the Church (think Dietrich Bonheoffer).
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Jesus, Matthew 5:9 ESV)
Ukraine Churches Seek Peace and Reconciliation
Slavic Gospel Association: Prayer Alert
Pray for them!
 See Turn back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today by Elizabeth Kendal (Deror Books, Dec 2012). Chapter 9: Christian security: not in a 'covenant with death'.
 In my book, Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Dec 2012), I make the case that like the UN, the EU is little more than a modern-day "Tower of Babel" -- a human project designed to forge social cohesion without recourse to God (i.e. social transformation without spiritual transformation). For all its good intentions, despite all the good will in the mix, it is an act of spiritual rebellion that leads to death. Because God loves humanity and wants men and women to live, he will not permit such rebellion to be successful. Such projects will be cursed with confusion. (See Chapter 8: Christian security: not in 'City of Man'.)