Russia has broken international law and violated Ukraine’s national sovereignty by moving troops into Crimea. Does this mean we have to side with Nazis? Of course not – but people who should know better are doing just that. Timothy Snyder, in The New Republic:
Russian authorities claim that their invasion of Ukraine is justified by the fascist threat posed by the new authorities in Kiev … The Ukrainian revolution involved people from all walks of life and all political orientations. The far right was overrepresented in the people who fought the riot police in its final weeks … Members of the right-wing party Svoboda hold a handful of portfolios in the new government, although far more are held by conventional political parties and people of different views. This spring, elections should demonstrate the limited popularity of the far right within Ukrainian society.
Most of this is true, but misleading. The revolution may represent a relatively diverse coalition, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has the same agenda. And the right may only hold a few positions in the interim government, but those positions are significant: Prime Minister, Vice Prime Minister, Prosecutor General, Minister of Defense, and the top two offices in the National Defense and Security Council. The electoral prospects for the Ukrainian right may be grim, but elections aren’t their only route to power.
The immediate danger is that the Ukrainian right will use its temporary, disproportionate influence to ratchet forward its agenda in ways that will be difficult to reverse. It has already pushed a raft of illiberal legislation in Ukraine’s Parliament, and is actively purging dissent from the military and even the media. Moreover, participation in Ukraine’s “moderate” coalition grants the right legitimacy and public exposure that it can’t win on its own.
The nightmare scenario, though less likely, isn’t unrealistic. Radicals have always had a knack for using economic depression, domestic turmoil and international conflict as opportunities to seize powerful . And the West has always had a knack for letting it happen – and even facilitating it – if it’s in their economic interest.
There’s probably little that the United States can do to constrain Russia’s ambitions in Ukraine. For that matter there probably isn’t much we can do to stop Ukraine’s fascists, either, though we can certainly refrain from propping them up diplomatically and economically. But either way, there’s simply no point in downplaying the fascist threat in Ukraine.
Lead picture: Ukrainian fascists assault the country’s head of public television and force him to resign.
Carl Beijer is a writer who focuses on the Left, linguistics, and international affairs.