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Ukraine Has Gotten Over Russia, But Russia Hasn’t Gotten Over Ukraine – OpEd

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Russians have been so obsessed with Ukraine for five years to the point of forgetting about their own country’s problems, Liliya Shevtsova says; and Moscow has done what it can to keep Russia at the center of Ukraine’s reality.  But as the election of Vladimir Zelensky shows Ukraine has gotten over Russia. The question is: can Russia get over Ukraine?

Russia’s obsession with Ukraine over the last five years says an awful lot about Russia, the political analyst says.  It shows that Russia has no idea about how to consolidate itself, and it shows that hostility to Ukraine has become “an instrument for the legitimation of the authorities” (echo.msk.ru/blog/shevtsova/2412371-echo/).

Moreover, she continues, the excessive focus on Ukraine to the exclusion of Russian realities highlights the cowardice of the Russian elites who would like to attack America but won’t because they fear the consequences and thus attack Ukraine. And it shows that the positions Russians take on Ukraine “has become a criterion of loyalty to the Russian elite.”

The fixation Russians have about Ukraine “cries out about our complexes and inabilities” to cope with the current situation in and around Russia, Shevtsova says. “Having made Ukraine an internal (and in fact the key!) question of Russian politics, we admit that we have not been able to find out own stimuli of development and unity.”

As a result, “Russia has turned out to be unprepared for Ukraine’s flight” from it.  And now that Ukraine has made it clear that it intends to continue that flight, Russia suffers from “a phantom pain” just as someone who has lost a leg or arm but continues to feel pain from something that is no longer there.

Russians are constantly trying to come up with something that will force Ukraine to turn back, but all of their ideas – be it giving passports to people in the Donbass or cutting off oil – only have the effect of reinforcing the desire of Ukraine’s to pursue their drive to separate themselves from Russia and join Europe.

Russians don’t understand this in large measure because there has arisen “a class of politicians and experts whose profession is to get angry about Ukraine. Even liberally thinking people speak about Ukraine condescendingly, telling Ukrainians what they need to do because they “aren’t ready to say what Russia must do.”

These people evaluate Ukraine in terms of Russian realities and thus do not understand what is going on. They can’t imagine a country in which “someone can throw challenges at the leader and the leader will respond by arguing with him as an equal.” That is unthinkable in Russia and so Ukraine must be a failure because it isn’t Russia.

“Poroshenko’s defeat is described by Kremlin interpreters as a systemic failure,” Shevtsova says. They cannot understand that the exit of one leader and the entrance of another as a result of elections speaks to the vitality of the system: Ukrainians have won the right to choose leaders, they have the right to make errors and to correct them again through elections.”

These Russian commentators can’t understand “how Ukrainians can live without a harsh ‘vertical’ telling them how to live” – just as Ukrainians can’t understand how Russians are willing to live under its diktat. Nonetheless, Ukraine works: its economy is growing and Europe will take it in.

Despite all its problems, Shevtsova says, “Europe understand that its security requires the incorporation of Ukraine and not leaving it in a dead zone as a failed state and source of tension with Russia.”

Russian experts want to convince everyone that Ukraine is on the world’s “periphery,” but “precisely this ‘periphery’ has called forth the confrontation of the West with Russia.”  Ukraine has problems but it would be far more effective to help it solve them than try to exploit and exacerbate them to leave it ever more hostile at Russia.

Today, Russian analysts are obsessed with what kind of president Vladimir Zelensky will be, forgetting that he “will not be the single center of power in Ukraine which has been able to establish a system of checks and balances.  It is possible that more important than Zelensky will be the new balance of forces in the Rada and the new prime minister.”

This is something Russians cannot understand, Shevtsova stresses.

One curious aspect of the situation in Ukraine is that Ukrainians are beginning to have more positive feelings toward Russia, but Russians do not understand why this is so. “It isn’t because Ukrainians have suddenly felt sympathy for Russia but because Russia has ceased to be the main problem for them.”

The Ukrainians “want to forget about us and think about their own worthy life. Without us!” Being rejected by someone is insulting, but “encountering indifference is still more offensive.  But if Russia wants to return its dignity and vision of the future, it is going to have to get over Ukraine and occupy itself with its own affairs.”

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Paul Goble

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

4 thoughts on “Ukraine Has Gotten Over Russia, But Russia Hasn’t Gotten Over Ukraine – OpEd

  • Avatar
    April 23, 2019 at 4:40 pm
    Permalink

    Russia &, Ukraine have been united for the past 1,000 years and will reunite for the next 1,000 years. Small places like Estonia do not count.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    April 25, 2019 at 8:40 pm
    Permalink

    Ukraine has been a large part of Russia’s food supply since the days of Kiev-Russ. That’s what Sweden was after; that’s what Napoleon was after; that’s what Hitler was after – their food supply. The Russians fought the Swedes; they fought the French; they fought the Germans. We’re over there now threatening their food supply. The Russians are not going to hand control of their food supply over to Paul Goble and the CIA! They’re going to fight.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    April 26, 2019 at 2:55 am
    Permalink

    Paul Goble has such a distaste of Russia that it is difficult for him to provide reasonable insight into our relations with Russia a country that has many nuclear weapons as does the U.S.A.

    Reply
  • Misha
    April 26, 2019 at 8:58 pm
    Permalink

    I appreciate that Eurasia Review runs diverse commentary on the same subject matter. The above linked article by Paul Goble is on par with the kind of denial evident at MSNBC and CNN, regarding “Russiagate”.

    Take this excerpt from Mr. Goble’s piece:

    “Russians have been so obsessed with Ukraine for five years to the point of forgetting about their own country’s problems, Liliya Shevtsova says; and Moscow has done what it can to keep Russia at the center of Ukraine’s reality. But as the election of Vladimir Zelensky shows Ukraine has gotten over Russia. The question is: can Russia get over Ukraine?”

    ****

    To be expected from Ms. Shevtsova, who has spun a Ukrainian nationalist and anti-Russian leaning line for a good few years. In actuality, the Russian government has listed a number of foreign policy priorities which don’t involve Ukraine. Russia reasonably sees Ukraine as an important neighbor, with millions of people in Russia having roots to the latter and vice versa.

    When compared to Russia at large, the behavior of Ukraine’s outgoing President Petro Poroshenko, is more indicative of an obsessively compulsive manner that conflict with reality. Poroshenko is by no means alone, as is evident in this Ukrainian nationalist and anti-Russian leaning article:

    https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/04/01/ukraines-tv-president-is-dangerously-pro-russian/

    Some other excerpts from Goble’s above Eurasia Review article:

    “Moreover, she continues, the excessive focus on Ukraine to the exclusion of Russian realities highlights the cowardice of the Russian elites who would like to attack America but won’t because they fear the consequences and thus attack Ukraine.”

    &

    “Russians are constantly trying to come up with something that will force Ukraine to turn back, but all of their ideas – be it giving passports to people in the Donbass or cutting off oil – only have the effect of reinforcing the desire of Ukraine’s to pursue their drive to separate themselves from Russia and join Europe.”

    ****

    Appears to be on par with stating that the US has cowardly bombed some other countries, but not Russia. Contrary to Shevtsova, the Russian government hasn’t simply “given” passports to residents of the rebel held Donbass areas. Rather, the Russian government has offered that option to these residents. Post-Yanukovych Kiev regime controlled Ukraine has withheld benefits to the citizens of these rebel held territories. If Russia is such a negative force, then there’s no reason to worry about the Donbass residents en masse accepting Russian passports.

    A counter to the Goble/Shevtsova slant:

    https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2019/04/24/gauging-ukraine-with-russia-and-belarus/

    https://www.eurasiareview.com/25042019-gauging-ukraine-with-russia-and-belarus-oped/

    Providing top quality analysis on a range of key foreign policy, historical, media and sports issues.

    Reply

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