Thursday, February 20, 2014

Delayed Posting of the Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review, Given the Ukraine Crisis

Dear Readers,

Your compiler of the PDPBR has been immersed in the news from Ukraine in the past few tragic days in that country, hence his inability to produce the PDPBR in a timely fashion.

Personal note: I had the privilege of serving as a U.S. diplomat in Kyiv, 93-95, and helping to open an "America House" there (subsequently closed for lack for USG funding).

I think that much (but not all) Western commentary about Ukraine -- am speaking as someone who lived there in very difficult years for that country, granted in the privileged position of a U.S. diplomat -- is well-intentioned, but somewhat naive and parochial.

There have been for years enormous social/political/ethnic fault-lines in "Ukrainian" society that go beyond explanatory (and granted all-important) categories such as the need for democracy (American-Euro style) and human rights as defined by well-off countries (which Ukraine is not). Such categories are much favored by some USA journalists whose exposure to the outside world is limited.

As much as I admire the people who live in Ukraine, that important part of the world -- a link between East and West -- I have strong doubts, based on granted my limited in-the field-experience, about the viability of a "democracic" Ukrainian nation/state, as originally geographically configured by the USSR (let's face it, that's what it was) and controlled by the current and previous, more "liberal" regimes, who failed to provide the opportunity for its suffering and hard-working population to be prosperous and global citizens in our 21st century.

Ukraine is an all-too-neglected part of Europe (except in times of crisis) whose population is admirable for not only for the artistic geniuses it produced (think Shevchenko and Gogol' -- and don't forget Jack Palance!) -- but for the tough, resilient, ability of persons living there in great hardship to, bluntly put, survive.

Indeed, they managed (at enormous human losses) to live through the horrors of 20th-century totalitarianism -- which we Americans, thanks to our democracy, experienced from a safe distance, if we were aware about such horrors at all.

But, as I tried to show in a 2005 piece, Ukraine as a state/nation it is a very fragile geographic expression.

May I suggest that policy-makers from all countries involved in the current Ukrainian crisis take this above comment -- by no means original -- about the fragility of the Ukrainian state in mind as they deal with a very complicated foreign-affairs problem.

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