The Enemy Of Ukraine’s Protesters Is Not Necessarily The American Right’s Friend

Note: This article stands by itself as an attempt at dispassionate analysis. But I’ve known Roman for several years, and I trust his judgement. SIG

The Enemy Of Ukraine’s Protesters Is Not Necessarily The American Right’s Friend

By Roman Skaskiw on February 21, 2014 at 11:44pm

I am a Ukrainian-descended American software developer, based for the last two years here in Lviv, in western Ukraine, about 300 miles from the capital, Kyiv, where the worst of the recent civil unrest has taken place.

My lead developer travels to Kyiv every time violence flares up. He, like many Ukrainians, considered it his duty. Two days ago, when the latest and most intense fighting flared up, I texted him: “Should I wish you a safe journey?” He texted me back: “You’re late. I’m already on Maidan.”

I pay him well, though he could probably earn even more elsewhere. His enthusiasm for Bitcoin keeps him with me. (I’m particularly interested in Bitcoin—see here and ).

He’s part of Ukraine’s minuscule middle class. He owns an SUV and a three-story home where he lives with his wife and two children. We go skiing together. He is not the type of person who’d be motivate by the thirty Euros a day which Paul Craig Roberts (alas!) claims was sustaining the protests. [US
and EU Are Paying Ukrainian Rioters and Protesters,
17, 2014]

Nor was Yuriy Verbytsky, a seismologist from the Geophysical Institute in Lviv and mountain climber who, after being injured in the protests and hospitalized, was kidnapped from the hospital, severely beaten, and left in the woods where he froze to death. Nor was Bohdan Solchanyk, a university lecturer killed on February 20th.

Today (Friday February 21) reports have been circulating of a deal negotiated between the Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and the Ukrainian opposition parties. The deal would include immediate presidential elections, plus a roll back of presidential powers. (Fluctuating presidential powers are a sign of the volatility of Ukrainian democracy: In 2004, when the Orange Revolution brought Victor Yushchenko to power, the Rada [congress] limited presidential powers, but in 2010, when Victor Yanukovych, the Russian-backed villain of the Orange Revolution, returned to office, they were restored.)

Chances are that the protesters in the streets will allow the opposition politicians to speak for them, though they’ve scorned them in the past. (But there are also reports that the protestors are resisting, and even a rumor that Yanukovych has fled to his power base in the Eastern and proclaimed a separate state).

Personally, I believe the best thing for Ukrainians would be a dismantling of the hyper-centralized, corrupt, ineffective government bureaucracies and the development of local or private solutions. (I am skeptical of the European Union, which I don’t think Ukraine needs, and regret so many Ukrainian nationalists have persuaded themselves that it offers protection against Russia). But both sets of politicians contending for influence want the bureaucracy to remain intact so that they can simply affect the leader.

In this regard, the peace deal could be a lost opportunity. But, on the positive side, the people have shown their strength. The fact that they were able to overthrow a corrupt government will be a restraint on all future regimes and, because of Ukraine’s vertical power structures, there’s going to be a lot of change.

There seems to be unusual awareness in the US Main Stream Media that Ukraine has deep demographic divisions and that the Russian-speaking Donbas in the East, and possibly the Crimea, could secede. (Unusual because the American Establishment and MSM has a bias against secession at home and abroad—remember George Bush’s notorious 1991 “Chicken Kiev” speech urging Ukraine not to leave the Soviet Union).

This map is from Is It Time for Ukraine to Split Up?, by Brian Whitmore,, February 20, 2014. It’s an interview with Rutgers University’s Professor Alexander Motyl, concluding that, while Ukraine probably won’t split up, Western Ukraine—overwhelmingly Ukrainian-speaking—would be better off if it did. I agree—it’s a good and insightful analysis.

Note that this map includes Ukrainian- and Russian-speakers—and also ethnic Ukrainians who speak Russian. This may be a hard concept to grasp. It was strange for me. As the child of Western Ukrainian exiles—my mother’s family fled when the area was seized by the Soviet Union after World War II and a Jewish neighbor warned them of an imminent Communist purge—I had the typical Western Ukrainian prejudice that Russian speakers are the enemy, and everything east of Borispol Airport had been lost to the Muscovites. But after all, many Irish nationalists speak only English.

It’s another reason I would steer readers away from one common misconception—this hasn’t been a simple struggle between “Ukrainians” and “Russians”. It’s a struggle between Ukrainians and their corrupt government with a mixture of sympathy, apathy and skepticism from the Russian parts of Ukraine.

(In one recent amusing incident, Russian television abruptly cut off an interview with a Russian-speaking Crimean politician when he downplayed the protests but started to say Yanukovych’s Party of Regions government had stolen prime real estate in the Black Sea resort province and were simply afraid of retribution.)

I consider myself a libertarian. (Click here to see me speaking at Hans-Herman Hoppe’s Property And Freedom Society conference on June 3, 2011). But in the last two months, I have become painfully aware of the gap between reality and the perception of American libertarian and conservative writers, no doubt reacting out of years spent attempting to limit the power of their own US government. The embarrassing fact is that some MSM reporting has been better.

The enemy of your enemy is not (necessarily) your friend. Ayn Rand’s very reasonable hatred of the Soviet Union led her to make ridiculous claims, like the United States being the “only moral country in the history of the world.” I feel a similar bias has afflicted much of the Alternative media for whom I felt so grateful until just recently.

After Snowden and Syria, Vladimir Putin’s credibility reached a high water mark (which perhaps receded only slightly when Russia become the only country in the world to outlaw Bitcoin). I think many conservatives remain inspired by the Russian President’s embracing Christian identity and declarations of family values. From the comfort of the West, they assume Russia to be a place with Western-style property rights and rule of law—plus a leader championing neglected conservative causes.

But Russia as a symbol in the West is very different from Russia up close and personal. What these commentators, like Pat Buchanan who authored Is Putin One Of Us?, fail to realize is that, in Russia and its satellites, people have a leader who offers conservative rhetoric in exchange for property rights and rule of law.

No, Pat. He’s not one of us.

Paul Craig Roberts describes the protesters as “pawns” who would “place their country in the hands of the IMF so that it can be looted like Latvia.” [Is
Ukraine Drifting Toward Civil War And Great Power
February 20, 2014.]

Does Roberts not realize how dramatically higher the standard of living is in Latvia than in Ukraine? Compare any post-Soviet EU nation (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), to any post-Soviet non-EU nation (Ukraine, Belarus) and the story is the same. (Remember, I speak here as a critic of Ukraine’s joining the EU).

I have no illusions that some protesters weren’t getting paid and that Western intelligence agencies aren’t trying to affect the outcome of this civil unrest. (In fact, late Friday there were reports that Israelis had been among the protestors. Arguably, weakening Russia, which has discouraged the US from war in Syria, is an Israeli foreign policy objective.)

(While we’re on the subject, I hated the suspiciously slick because I think Ukrainians should finding their own solutions rather than appealing for outside help, and I wonder what its creator, the American filmmaker Ben Moses, was doing in Kyiv.

The Viral Heroine Of The Maidan, by Deborah Stambler, The Daily Beast, February 21, 2012).

But outside influences aren’t the driving force. They aren’t “orchestrated” by the west as American-German freelance journalist William Engdahl suggests (US NGO Uncovered in Ukraine Protests, January 7, 2014). Rather, elements in the west are trying to co-opt and direct a homegrown, and genuine ethno-nationalist, protest.

Significantly, opposition candidates favored by the West have no standing with the protesters. The least mistrusted opposition figure, former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitchko, was sprayed in the face with a fire extinguisher when he attempted to speak to them. Oleg Tyagnibok, leader of Ukraine’s most nationalist political party, has zero standing with the protesters. Yet Daniel McAdams deems the protesters as guilty by association, although Tyagnibok has repeatedly cited Israel as a model of nationalism for Ukraine to follow.(Why Does Ukraine Seem So Much Like Syria?,, February 20, 2014),

Far from bolstering or “orchestrating” the protests, Western support and perceptions of Western support actually undermine them by playing into one of the two effective messages of Kremlin propaganda: that the protests are a Western creation and/or the protesters are neo-Nazis.

For seventy years, opponents of the Kremlin have faced accusations of Nazism. Even the Katyn massacre of Polish military officers was blamed on Nazis.

During the Orange revolution, Russian agents are known to have staged explicit Nazi rallies supposedly supporting the Ukrainian opposition candidate Victor Yushchenko (Pro-Russian network behind the anti-Ukrainian defamation campaign, Anton Shekhovtsov’s blog, February 3, 2014).

I feel now about Ukraine the way Libertarians feel when they hear Republicans defining themselves by opposition to Obamacare, or Democrats by opposition to Bush’s war in Iraq.

Yes, your criticism of US involvement in Ukraine is sound. I agree. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t also propaganda and lies from the other side. The titushky—usually Russian-speaking hooligans from eastern Ukraine—don’t hide the fact that they’re also paid for their dirty work. Here is a video of them discussing their pay. Here is a video of them beating protesters.

Yes, criticize anti-Russian propaganda in the American press, but also criticize ridiculous Russian propaganda, which, for the first month of protests claimed they were inspired by a mental condition prevalent during the onset of cold weather . [Russia: Forecaster blames Ukraine protests on chilly weather, December5, 2013).

And consider this historical context: after WWII ended, while Stalin, enjoyed explicit support from his US allies, armed resistance to the Soviet Union in Ukraine lasted another 10 years. It wasn’t until 1955 that armed resistance to arguably the most brutal tyranny ever known was finally extinguished.

Now the inheritors of that legacy are resisting what they perceive as the kleptocracy descended from the Soviet Union which is empowered by a former KGB agent-turned President of Russia.

Ukraine is a culture seeking legitimacy through statehood. Russia, by contrast, is a state seeking legitimacy through culture—an overextended empire that even after the collapse of the USSR still contains too many heterogeneous elements. Moscow simultaneously decries Muslim migration into the city, yet wages war to prevent historically Muslim provinces from seceding.

Demographic trends are not on the side of Russia’s Indo-European Christian majority, any more than demographic trends favor the historic American nation. (But at least Russia inherited its problems—in the U.S., they are the result of government policy).

I agree with Ron Paul. America should stay out of Ukraine. But by staying out, I would include not uncritically parroting Kremlin propaganda.

Roman Skaskiw (email him) is an American of Ukrainian ancestry. He writes and develops software in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, where he also teaches Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. His blog is Roman In Ukraine.

27 responses to “The Enemy Of Ukraine’s Protesters Is Not Necessarily The American Right’s Friend

  1. Here’s a considered solution to the Ukraine’s problems: partition between East and West Ukraine.
    Very well reasoned, taking into account the region’s history pre- and post-Soviet Union.

  2. Roman,
    Are you tryin’ to teach me a lesson? :) ‘Cause I agree with you. You don’t need to.

    I don’t see a split Ukraine. I understand that in a long term debate, that might happen. And that it might be a peaceful solution (Belgium etc). And that it might be a ‘good’ solution.

    But in a crisis, the organizational costs are just too high. The economic costs are too high.

    As for my desire for a strong Russia, (or a strong any-country) Ukraine does not need to split for a strong Russia to form. I’ve outlined my argument a number of times. The problem isn’t administration it’s VISIBLE corruption. If the Russians begin to systematically suppress corruption the Russo-sphere will be a force of gravity. Now it’s just an expense for anyone to join.

    The trade in Ukraine is something like 70% with the ex-soviet republics. And Ukraine has nothing much to trade. So it is more likely that a less corrupt post-soviet sphere will lead to ‘the best of both worlds’ combining eastern trade, and western levels of corruption.

    I understand the great game pretty well, and that there is an economy to “power” that has extremely high sensitivity to opportunity costs. If they try to divide the country it’s a higher chance of civil war. So, given that the east-leaners are over 45 and that the young people are evenly distributed across the country, it’s most likely that the longer Ukraine stays economically viable, the more chance there is of a free and independent Ukraine.

    Now as for Europe, that’s a done deal. Ukraine is too bankrupt NOT to have closer ties with Europe. And in exchange for trade, the Europeans will require systematic suppression of corruption because trade is too difficult without it. But given the problems they’ve already got, and the nationalism around the world, (particularly the negative reaction to Romanians and Turks) I just don’t see the Euro project succeeding in pulling in Ukraine.

    Possible point of escalation is if Putin tries to PUNISH Ukraine. If that happens then it will backfire on him. He only really has one good choice. But he’s russian. He can’t be sure to make a good choice. :)

    As libertarians we should note that this effort was organized and accomplished by the RIGHT. As far as I can tell the right and the left do everything. Libertarians just talk. What does it take to make libertarians, ACT?

    That is why I want to redirect Libertarianism of the cosmopolitan ghetto where it never existed to the libertarianism of aristocratic egalitarians where liberty exclusively came from.

    As ukrainians just demonstrated: the source of liberty is the organized application of violence to create property rights, and the perpetual threat of violence should anyone take to abridge them.


    European Union suppressing corruption. You’re having a laugh surely.

    While they’re out on the streets the should hang all the politicians, bureaucrats, and bankers. That’s what we should be doing.

  4. I can’t help thinking these snipers are awfully fishy. What logic is there in government forces killing enough protestors to create martyrs, but not enough to stop the protests? Very odd.

  5. Western powers will intervene if the Ukrainian government treats violent protesters the same way as America treats peaceful protesters

  6. John Pate.
    1) Humans reduce FREQUENT transaction costs by forming a government that enforces prohibitions on all forms of free riding: criminal, unethical and immoral behavior.
    2) But forming a government as such, exchanges those frequent and visible transaction costs that they cannot avoid, for infrequent and invisible RENT SEEKING and CORRUPTION which they can largely avoid..
    3) However, it is entirely rational, and economically productive, to make this trade. Since you can form an economy with rent seeking and corruption but you cannot form one with criminal, immoral and unethical behavior. Transaction costs are too high.
    4) Some governments not only fail to suppress criminal, unethical and immoral behavior, but conduct it, or facilitate it, as well as engage in rent seeking and corruption. The Ukrainian government does so. The economy is poor because not only does the political class (as always) conduct parasitism on the population, BUT ALSO fails to suppress criminal, unethical, and immoral actions – in particular, they fail to enforce contracts, and provide courts that respect property rights (or rule of law for that matter.)
    5) THEREFORE it is entirely, economically, morally and praxeologically rational for people to choose to REDUCE the transaction costs of visible, and frequent corruption, while NOT reducing systemic rent seeking and systemic corruption. Because it is possible to form an economy as such. And Ukraine is a poor country.
    6) I would PREFER that Ukraine ALSO, (as well as america, uk and Europe) also prohibited RENT SEEKING and CORRUPTION of the systemic kind. I just understand that NO ONE has managed to do this even remotely, and with women in the voting pool it’s just statistically unlikely.
    Curt Doolittle
    The Propertarian Institute

  7. @Curt Doolittle
    I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.

  8. The occasional note of anti Semitism was irritating (especially given the history of the Ukraine going back to the Cossack revolts of the 1600s and so on) – the swipe at Ayn Rand could be justified by her passionate (and very Russian) way of writing (which can be a strain at times). But the rumours of secret Israeli agents creating trouble in the Ukraine as part of a cunning plan to weaken Russia, is a bit much.

    For the record – both sides in the Syrian war hate Jews. And Israel is not an enemy of Russia – it is Mr Putin who makes himself an enemy of Israel by selling military supplies (for his own personal gain – and for that of his Russian FSB Mafia associates) to the Iranian regime and so on. This is depressing as the Islamists Putin supports would exterminate or enslave all Russians (and Ukrainians) if they could. So Mr Putin is letting his greed (supposedly a Jewish fault) blind his judgement. No his indirect aid for the Iranian nuclear scheme will not be forgiven – but that matter has nothing to do with the Ukraine.

    However, I broadly agreed with the article. The Ukraine was ruled by a criminal gang – a subsidiary of Mr Putin’s gang. It is unfortunate that many (although not all) of the opposition are pro E.U. (and the protection the E.U. offers is an illusion) – but that does not alter the fact the Putin’s people must go

    As for the alleged anti-Semitism of some Ukrainian opposition groups – there is a basic reason why it does not actually matter (as odd as that may sound coming from me).

    Dead Jews can not be murdered – what Bogdan Chmielnicki may (or may not – it is disputed, some argue that he did not have a plan of formal genocide) have wanted to do, Hitler actually did do, basically wipe out the Jews in the area (those who survived the murders have mostly left long ago).

    So it is no longer an issue. After all I do not think (whoever is the government of the Ukraine) any Ukrainian soldiers are going to be sent into Syria (to storm down the road from Damascus to attack Castle Nimrod in Israel) or anywhere else.

  9. Ian – do not do the Syrian thing (“they are not being gassed – it is soap suds”) thing again.

    I watched the people being shot down in Kiev (via various television crews – including Indians and Muslim Arabs) and they were being shot down by the police (both with sniper rifles and with AK47s)

    Jericho One.

    I take it you mean the IRS persecution of Tea Party groups?

    Sadly I doubt that is what you do mean

    I suspect you are calling violent “Occupation” (“Occupy”) groups (such as “Occupy Oakland”) “peaceful protestors”. They even rape their own people – not nice.

    Marxism (the ideology of “Occupy”) is something that even Mr Putin does not support – indeed the KGB nickname for Western Marxist (and Western communal “anarchists”) was “Shit Eaters” – due to their habit of believing Soviet propaganda (telling them all problems were caused by “the rich” and “the corporations”).

    “We produce the shit – and the idiots eat it”.

  10. As for American social conservatives seeing Mr Putin as a kindred spirit (because he does not like homosexuals – or whatever).

    They are being very foolish – indeed they might as well put up a statue to Al Capone.

  11. Well Paul, I have no idea of what is actually occurring, but then none of us do. It is certainly possible that Israeli and other Western-aligned spooks might be active there. It doesn’t mean they are, but we cannot just dismiss the possibility. Acting as agents provacteur is the standard practise of such government agencies.

    They certainly have a potential motive; Israel’s drive to drag the US, UK et al into Syria was spannered by the Russians, and Israel is not a country that takes the frustration of its plans lying down. So they would certainly want revenge of some sort. That doesn’t mean they are doing so in this case, but they may be.

  12. Ian – you have the same opportunity that I do. You could also have watched (on a different television stations – most of them non-western) and seen the police shooting the people (with sniper riles and AK47s – I watched the police fire and I watched the people die, people even refusing to give ground even after they had been shot).

    So I will not accept “we do not know what is going on”. As Harry Marks said to the Young Communist League in the 1930s (as he used their own conference table as a club on them – thus indicating his resignation from the organisation) “you do not WANT to know what is going on” (he was referring to their pretence that millions of people were not being murdered in the Soviet Union – including in the Ukraine).

    Now Harry Marks had no television – and I do. So how can I (without the risk of his ghost coming back to accuse me) say I do not know what is happening in the Ukraine – when I WATCHED IT HAPPEN.

    As for the-Jews-are-behind-it (by the way Ian – I know you are NOT saying that, you are simply repeating the Putin propaganda machine thing, for comment).

    I agree (absolutely) that this is “possible”.

    It is also “possible” that the thing was organised by Elves and Pixies.

  13. By the way large numbers of people were gassed to death in Syria (it was not “soap suds”).

    As for the thing being an Israeli plot to “drag the U.S. and Britain into the war” (a war where BOTH sides hate Jews)……

    I choose not to examine this idea further.

  14. All we have are propaganda machines. All I pointed out was that “the Jews” have motive and a long history of the pursuit of naked self interest, which is why Mossad are so widely feared. Israeli policy begins and ends with what is in the interests of Israel, which these days mostly involves dragging Western armies in to destabilise neighbouring countries. We know they want Iran destroyed (by American forces, basically) so weakening Russia, who dare to trade with Iran without asking permission from Jerusalem, would be conducive to that policy goal.

    So all I said was that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Israeli agents provocateur in place, if that does turn out to have been the case.

    My basic position is that if Israel wants less criticism, they might care to try a policy of a bit less shit stirring.

  15. Ian – I repeat what I have already said.

    As for Iran – the reform movement in Iran (the real reform movement – not the present fake one which is under the control of the Supreme Leader, who is a “Hastener”) was let down by Barack Obama back in 2009.

    Had that movement been supported (not betrayed) then war with Iran could have been avoided.

    As for your last paragraph.

    Israel is not concerned about “criticism” Israelis are concerned about plans (both Shia and Sunni) for genocide.

    And on the idea that the problems of the Middle East (and elsewhere) are caused by Jew “shit stirring”.

    Well you posted that on the correct site Ian.

  16. I am baffled by the idea that Barack Obama was supposed to in some way fix Iran. Iran is in the current mess due to two previous interventions by western powers- one to unseat Mossadegh, the second to replace the worse Shah by the even worse Ayatollahs. I fail to see how a third intervention was supposed to improve matters. Or why it would be America’s job to do whatever you think they were supposed to do. Another invasion? Haven’t we had enough of those?

  17. Sean

    It might be an idea to see if Lew Rockwell would publish this on his site.
    He often takes the whole “enemy of my enemy” thing too far. To the point of putting shite by Pilger up. It would be interesting to see if he would be willing to put another POV.

    Of course Lew is right about what scum the US Federal Tyranny are.

  18. Ian – if you can not remember how Barack Obama helped (unintentionally I hope) helped undermine the Iranian resistance in 2009 (by going along with regime) then look it up.

    It was not just a matter of not helping – his actions (especially his language) actually helped the other side (again I hope unintentionally).

    As for Paul Craig Roberts – that would be the 9/11 “Truther”.

    Ian I know when you are kidding around (for example – I have already said that I know what you have repeated about the Jews is NOT your position, you just want to promote comment by passing on the rumours).

    However, other people may take this stuff (including the PCR “truther” stuff) literally.