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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Britain... between Ukraine and Russia

European countries are concerned about democracy in Kyiv, but support it in words
7 August, 2012 - 00:00

The fact that a Ukrainian boxer was unfairly judged at the London Olympics for the whole world to see has not become a point of heated debates in society or an occasion for protests against the obvious blunders of judges, even though many were outraged at what they saw. On the other hand, this is a good opportunity for us to look in a broader context at the Britain – Ukraine – Russia geopolitical line.

Yan Lepetun, a Ukrainian journalist in London, is obviously right to say that if Ukraine were a strong state, the Olympic umpires would not have allowed themselves to make this decision in the Khitrov-Ogogo bout. We will add to this: in this case the renowned BBC would have hardly shown a film on “racist Uk­raine” on the eve of Euro- 2012.

At the same time, Foggy Albion still holds a place for an entirely different attitude to Ukraine.

In the 20th century Europe had a vague idea about Ukraine, more often than not viewing it through the eyes of Russia, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. For quite some time a number of European politicians and intellectuals did not even consider the existence of the Ukrainian people. Even the Holodomor was regarded by Europe as part of the Soviet Union’s famine. This attitude was facilitated by communist propaganda and the NKVD that built Potemkin villages in the form of thriving collective farms, kolkhozes, in Ukraine. They looked so convincing even Lady Astor believed them despite her outspoken anti-Sovietism. The British clandestine agencies did not even have a Ukrai­nian department until the second half of the 1940s, largely owing to double agent Kim Philby’s efforts.

True, there were honest individuals in the West, particularly in Great Britain, who tried to convey to the public the truth about the situation in Ukraine.

Special mention ought to be made of Lancelot Lawton, a British journalist who delivered a speech during a sitting of the Anglo-Ukrainian Committee at the House of Commons on May 29, 1935. He explained that there was a large people in Europe, denied independence due to unfavorable historical circumstances, which was then divided between four countries. Lawton urged Great Britain to change its stand toward Ukraine, and that this stand should be the same as that of the Ukrainians. Great Britain should side with them, just as it should side with any country that was prepared to help Ukraine on terms and conditions acceptable to it. Great Britain should seek the same solution to the problem that Ukraine sought. He was convinced that this would serve the British and Ukrainian interests.

In his second speech (February 1939), Lawton predicted a very difficult period in the life of the continent, particularly in Ukraine, and assured those present that the Ukrai­nian issue would be the pivot of European politics. Owing to the dedicated efforts of people like Lancelot Lawton and Dr. James Mace, the world began to learn the truth about Ukraine and its tragic history, even though the process was very difficult, with large deviations, and fierce resistance from great-power Moscow.

The world recognized Ukraine after 1991. What has changed since then? A lot, on the one hand. Not coincidentally, Zbigniew Brzezinski recognizes Ukraine’s place on the world arena in his book The Grand Chessboard. Unfortunately, not all of his predictions have come true, primarily because of the Ukrainian ruling class that has proved unable to cope with historical problems. Nor has Europe done enough to help solve these problems, for a number of reasons.

There is still Russo-centric CIS-targeted inertia in the major European capitals. The policy of appeasement of Moscow is conti­nuing, albeit in a narrowed format. The Baltic states and Eastern European countries have rid themselves of Moscow’s domination, and so Moscow is resolved to keep what the Kremlin considers to be its area of special interest, with Ukraine and the South Caucasus topping the list.

On the one hand, the West realizes that any re-integration of Great Russia (appellations and pseudonyms notwithstanding) is impossible without Ukraine, and the West does not want this. On the other hand, there is no potential for serious resistance to Moscow’s imperial aspirations. Conversely, they continue walking into energy and other traps.

Conjuncture reigns in the European corridors of power. A lot is being spoken about the danger of Moscow’s imperial course along the European borders and nothing is being done about it, while excuses are always easily found. At one time French Prime Minister Dala­dier and his British counterpart Chamberlain flew to Munich for a good purpose, to preserve peace in Europe, but received the most destructive war instead. After the Munich conspiracy democratic Europe watched with indifference as Nazi Germany invaded Czechoslovakia and Horthy’s Hungary did Carpathian Ukraine, to the great joy of the leader of all peoples, Comrade Stalin.

President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation visited Great Britain in conjunction with the London Olympics. He had talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron, relating to energy issues and the situation in Syria. The parties failed to reach an agreement, as was well to be expected, although there were certain peculiarities.

Before his visit London witnessed a rally under the motto “Stop Putin!” The demonstrators urged the British government to ban the Russian president entry, the way they had done in regard to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. British public and political figures addressed Putin through The Times, urging him to free Russia’s prisoners of conscience.

The meeting between Putin and Cameron was apparently a protocol thing, considering that neither party had anything to agree upon or even discuss. The initial positions were clear and no talks or meetings could change them, with each keeping his stand.

Naturally, meetings and talks are the statesman’s duty provided there is an opportunity of rapprochement. Not in this case and this is proof of the fundamental inferiority of Western diplomacy. Russia has always understood statements made in no uncertain words, so an agreement could be reached with it only from a position of strength.

Under the circumstances, different options should be sought. Working in the Ukrainian direction and carefully studying the situation could provide such options. For so long as Russia remains an imperial great power, where freedom of speech is suppressed, no arrangements with Moscow will last long or remain stable. To this end, support of democratic reforms in Ukraine, its progress aimed at adop­ting the European standards would be a tangible contribution to the democratization of Russia. History offers enough examples of progressive trends emerging in Kyiv and moving toward Moscow. Regrettably, there are no — or very few — examples to the contrary.

Great Britain is an old and stable democracy and it has often served as an example for many countries. This makes the current pro-Russian British policy in the east of the continent look especially strange. This policy isn’t likely to bring London tangible political dividends. The sooner the British government realizes this, the better for Europe, Ukraine, and Russia.