The protesters in Independence Square suffered a long train of abuses and usurpations from a succession of presumably democratically elected governments that consistently have sunk into the depths of corruption and arbitrary, illegal, and despotic actions, forcing the people to oppose them and unify for the salvation of Ukraine. They did not initially ask for President Viktor Yanukovych's removal, only that he honor the European Union -- Ukraine Association Agreement. But, several hundred wounded and over eighty dead, at Yanukovych's orders and Putin's direction, changed everything .
The ouster of Yanukovych from office by the Ukrainian Parliament was no more a coup than was U.S. President Richard Nixon's resignation over Watergate. Yanukovych was abandoned by his own Regions Party and accused of embezzling $40 billion over three years and betraying Ukraine. Assertions by Russian media and Putin that this was a "fascist coup" are outright Stalinist propaganda tactics, and pundits, such as Phil Valentine (Cumulus Radio), repeatedly calling this a "coup" are ignorant of the East-West dynamics, the ongoing trade war between the EU and Russia, and parliamentary procedures and "votes of no confidence."
For months the protesters of Maidan held Berkut anti-riot police at bay. They treated their wounded, prayed over their dead, and they fought for their right to form a new state governed, hopefully, by moral leaders, free from corruption. And now, they have been stunned by a new sense of betrayal, a new group of oligarchs, driving Mercedes and BMWs, form the interim government in the name of Ukraine's people.
Betrayals came one after another, once Yanukovych appeared in Russia. Putin violated several international treaties by invading Crimea, as the European Union wrung their collective hands over Putin's threats to raise gas prices from Gazprom and Obama frantically floundered, giving empty lip-service to sanctions no one will honor. Don't look for Russia's removal from the G-8 either, since Chancellor Angela Merkel is pursuing angles for Germany during this internationally clustered imbroglio.
Ukrainians have long sought closer ties with the EU and the U.S. and their markedly freer cultures and political systems, not Putin and Russia. Five hundred thousand dollars annually have gone towards this goal since 2011 through the U.S. Agency for International Development, because many influential Ukrainians, such as Vitali Klitshko, a member of Ukraine Parliament, feared Yanukovych's growing subservience to Putin; Putin's $15 billion bribe was intended to coax Ukraine into his Eurasian Union, and, in appealing to Yanukovych's corrupt nature, it effectively sabotaged the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement: So an East-West confrontation emerged, which is based on Putin's desire to keep Russian hegemony in the region and enhance his own power.
The new interim president of Ukraine, Oleksandr Tuchynov, is a Baptist pastor and the one-time head of the SBU (Ukraine's secret service), which was essentially an extension of the KGB during the old USSR days. He is also Yulia Tymoshenko's right-hand man, and while she holds no official post in the new government, she is directing government affairs through him.
Elections are scheduled for May throughout Ukraine, and should Tymoshenko get elected, it will signal the continued reign of oligarchs and communists, along the lines of Leonid Kuchma, Ukrainian president (1994-2005), who ordered the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze in 2000. Many of Tymoshenko's countrymen refer to her as "Putin in a skirt."
A separate referendum is being called for in Crimea in order to decide if Crimea stays with Ukraine or joins Russia. Even though Putin stated he would ensure Ukraine's territorial integrity last month, he has exacerbated the situation, and he is using this as leverage against the interim government in Kiev, because he can. He can because Obama has failed to offer global leadership and clarity of vision, offering instead meaningless warnings and weak statements that invited this aggression.
Currently, even if some older ethnic Russian pensioners, the old communist apparatchiks, want to return Crimea to the Russian state, the majority of the Russian-speaking easterners, while Russo-sympathetic, are not so indoctrinated by Russian propaganda that they would accept slavery in Putin's totalitarian state over membership in NATO or the EU. At different times during recent history, Crimea has voted to be independent of the Soviet Union (December 1991) and Ukraine (May 1992 -- rescinded then reconsidered 1994), so Crimea will do what it will. But, all the signatories of the 1975 (non-intervention) Helsinki Final Act and the Budapest Memorandum, which includes the U.S. and the Soviet Union (Russia affirmed 1994) assured Ukraine's security and territorial integrity.
To imagine Germany today occupying western Poland under a pretext of protecting ethnic Germans living there conveys a strong analogy of the historical offense Putin committed against Ukraine, and it explains the fear that many other nations with Russian minorities and dire memories of Moscow are now experiencing.
George W. Bush attempted to gain NATO membership for both Georgia and Ukraine in 2008, but Europe refused their membership out of fear of Russia's reaction, and four months later Putin entered Ossetia, claiming then, as now, that he was protecting ethnic Russians. This precise sort of weakness and policy must be rejected by both Europe and future U.S. administrations, not in favor of war but in the name of peace.
If Europe and the U.S. do not help Ukraine resist Russia successfully, who is next? Belarus? Poland?
On March 1, 2014, Jim Demint, former U.S. Senator from South Carolina, said, "The Ukrainians who rose to demand freedom need to be comforted by our words and intentions, and the thugs in the Kremlin need to fear them" (Heritage Foundation).
Obama will likely not negotiate this crisis well, and this will be a severe geopolitical blow to the U.S., in many respects, and those patriotic activists in Maidan and across Ukraine, who understand that democratic Ukraine is on the frontline of the struggle against authoritarianism. Let us resolve, despite Obama, to see Ukraine enter the EU and NATO under the next administration, if that is truly their desire. Let us immediately erect a tactical nuclear shield, across the European fault lines and aimed directly at Moscow, as was planned for by Ronald Reagan, and only then worry with making Putin pay an economic price. Let us move forward unwilling to permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed and more determined than ever to not tempt our adversaries with weakness, as we prevent one tyranny, once removed, from being replaced by a far more iron tyranny.