Notwithstanding the impact of climate change, few would expect to see an ostrich in Ukraine. And, yet, there it was. The sight represented a peaceful interlude from the violent images that came thick and fast from the divided country.
The flightless bird appeared startled by the hordes of visitors that flocked to the private zoo inside the official residence, an ersatz Roman villa, of the country’s fugitive president, Viktor Yanukovych. The protesters who stormed the country estate got a first-hand look at the opulent lifestyle of a leader who made a fortune while claiming to save the people from his corrupt predecessors, who now appear to be making a comeback in order to, once again, save the country and its people.
It would be unfair to say that history is stagnant, or even stubbornly cyclical. Some progress, if small, is possible in Ukraine and any other country that managed to free itself from the Russian yoke. The problem is that, like in Russia, you will not see democracy at work in these nations more than you will see an ostrich wandering around in the cold North. For they are held ransom to a corrupt political system which is busy producing one populist savior after another.
The joy in the eyes of Ukrainians (not all of them, of course) was reminiscent of the Orange Revolution. Also, it was reminiscent of the Arab Spring uprisings, where democracy barely took its baby steps – perhaps because different forces are competing over introducing their own democratic model, i.e. the model that is best suited to their own interests.
What we saw in Ukraine was more than a popular uprising or a manifestation of the casual antagonism between Moscow and Washington years after the end of the Cold War. Europe also sought to flex its muscle and dispatched a delegation of three foreign ministers, which, however, did not include Evangelos Venizelos of the country currently at the helm of the EU’s presidency.
Cynicism trumps institutions.
It became evident once more in the abusive language of the top US diplomat for European and Eurasian affairs,Victoria Nuland, a neocon wedge in the Obama administration. And we can only wonder what pushed the Europeans and the Americans to side with the extreme right-wing Svoboda party and the neo-Nazi Right Sector.
It is an oversimplification to merely draw a line between the pro-European and pro-Russian folk in fragmented, bankrupt Ukraine. Sure, nothing would be greater than if ordinary Ukrainians could keep that smile of their faces. But they should be the first to know that history does not usually keep such pleasant surprises in store.