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p> Richard Sakwa. Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands . London: I.B. Tauris, 2015. xv, 297 pp. Maps. List of Abbreviations. Notes. Select Bibliography. Index. $28.00, cloth. </p
©"2016"East/West:"Journal"of"Ukrainian"Studies"(ewjus.com)"ISSN"2292-7956"
Volume"III,"No."1"(2016)!
Review&Essay:"Frontline"Ukraine"
Volodymyr"Kravchenko"
Canadian!Institute!of!Ukrainian!Studies,!University!of!Alberta&
Richard"Sakwa." Frontline& Ukraine:& Crisis& in& the& Borderlands." London:"
I.B." Tauris,"2015." xv," 297" pp." Maps." List" of" Abbreviations." Notes." Select"
Bibliography."Index."$28.00,"cloth."
espite"the" war" in" Syria" and"the" migrant" problem" in" the" European"
Union,"the"tense"situation"in"Ukraine"that"began"in"late"2013"continues"
to"be"in" the" spotlight" of" international" politics." The" Euromaidan"
phenomenon"that"led"to"regime"change"in"Kyiv"in"2014;"Russia’s"annexation"
of" Crimea;"and" the" armed" conflict" on" the" Ukrainian-Russian" border"are"
events"that"touch" on" a"broad" spectrum" of" questions" dealing" with"
geopolitics,"international"security,"and"collective" identity." What" is"Europe?"
What"is" Russia?"And" how"do"post-Communist"countries"fit"between"them?"
What"is"the"best"approach"to"describe"events"and"processes"on"the" eastern"
edge" of" Europe," using" the" language"of" western" humanities" and" social"
sciences?"
The" Ukrainian" crisis" continues" to" draw"the" attention" of" an" increasing"
number" of" analysts" and" commentators," including" those" who" have" not"
previously" specialized" in" Ukrainian" issues." One" such" scholar" is" Richard"
Sakwa," a" well-known" specialist" in" the" history" of" the" Soviet" Union" and"
contemporary" Russia." His"new" book," Frontline! Ukraine:! Crisis! in! the!
Borderlands"(2015),"is"a" description" and" analysis" of" the" events" in" and"
around" Ukraine" from"late" 2013" up" to," and" including," the" second" half" of"
2014." Ten"chapters"are"devoted" to" three" basic" problems:" (1)" the"
international"global"order"and"the"European"integration"project;"(2)"Russia"
and" Russian-Ukrainian" relations;" and" (3)" specific" Ukrainian" issues" and"
challenges" connected" with" the" events" of" the" Maidan," the"Crimea," and" the"
Donbas.""
Sakwa’s" book" is" openly" polemical;" the" author" acknowledges" that" it" is"
both" personal" and" political”" (xi)." This" determines" the"general" thrust,"
selection" of" facts,"and" conclusions." Sakwa" wants" to" demonstrate"that" the"
roots"of"today’s"crisis"in"Ukraine"reach"far"back"and"that"its"nature"emerges"
from"a"nexus"of"internal"(“Ukrainian"crisis”)" and"external"factors"(“Ukraine"
crisis”),"the" latter"resulting"from" an"“asymmetrical”" world" order" following"
the" collapse" of" the" USSR." In" his" opinion," the" internal" Ukrainian" crisis" has"
D"
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acquired"an"international" dimension"and" reflects" “the"continuation" in" new"
forms"of" what"used" to" be"called" the"East-West"conflict."." .”" (3)."One"cannot"
but"agree.""
The"author"considers"the"Ukrainian"events"from"the"point"of"view"of"the"
dismaying"prospects"of"a"new"Cold"War"and"a"further"split"between"Europe"
and"Russia."Sakwa"analyzes"the"international"context"of"the"Ukrainian"crisis"
with"the"help"of"a"simplistic"dichotomy:"“Two"Europes”"(chapter"2),"namely,"
the"Wider”"and"“the"Greater”"(26-27)."He"believes"that"the"first,"based"on"a"
“monistic”" model" of" Western" democracy," is" aggressively" expanding"
eastward,"assisted"by" NATO,"and"thus"has"an"anti-Russian"orientation." The"
second" entails" a" concept" of" Europe" that" stretches"“from" Lisbon" to"
Vladivostok,”" a" “common" European" home”" that" was" propounded" by" both"
Charles"de"Gaulle"and"Mikhail"Gorbachev"in"their"time.""
Sakwa"defends"the"second,"that" is,"“continental”"concept"of"Europe" and"
does" not" skimp"on" words"criticizing" “wider”" or" Atlantic”" Europe." He"
believes"that"the"“merging"of"European"economic"integration"with"the"Euro-
Atlantic" security" partnership." ." ." undermined" the" rationale" of" both”" (xii)."
According" to" the" author," the" conflicts" in" the" post-Soviet" space" are" to" be"
explained" by" the" aggressive" expansion" of" the" Western," “Atlantic”" model"
eastward."This"led"to"increasing"“Russophobia”"and"the"alienation"of"Russia"
from" “Greater" Europe.”" In"his" opinion," the" culmination" of"this" process" has"
been" the" Ukrainian" crisis," which" has" created" a" new" and" irreparable" line"
across"the"heart"of"the"continent”"(233).""
In" response" to" the" classic" Russian" question" “Who’s" to" blame?”" the"
author’s"answer"is"unequivocal:"the"countries" of" the" West,"as"a" whole," and"
the" USA" and" NATO," in" particula r." He"also" identifies" the" Eastern" European"
countries"as"being"responsible"for"anti-Russian"sanctions,"especially"Poland"
and" Lithuania:"“There" is" a" group" of" militantly" revanchist" powers," with"
Lithuania" and" Poland" in" the" vanguard”" (223)." The" author" describes" their"
attitudes" toward"Russia" with"excessively" strong" language," using" phrases"
like" “dangerous" fundamentalism,”" “based" on" an" essentialist" reading" of"
history,”" and" “immune" to"rational" argument”" (229)." Additionally," Georgia"
and"Ukraine"are"considered"by"the"author"to"be"among"a"group"of"countries"
that"are"“poisoning”"the"West"with"their"militant"“Russophobia”"(229,"182).""
Sakwa" argues"against" European" security" becoming" “hostage"to" a"
faraway"country,”"that" is," Ukraine"(172)."This"comment"is"interesting."If,"in"
Sakwa’s"imagined" symbolic" geo graphy" of" Europe," Kyiv"is" the" capital" of" “a"
faraway" country,”" what" then" is" to" be" said" about" Tbilisi"or" Vladivostok?" If"
Ukraine" is" not" worth"arguing" over" with" Russia," why" not" simply" recognize"
Moscow’s"“legitimate”"interests"and"ambitions"in"the"post-Soviet"“space”"so"
as"not"to"further"radicalize"the"Kremlin’s"policies?"(182)."But"in"that"case
with" Ukraine" “a" faraway" country”" and" with" Poland" and"Lithuania" pro-
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Atlanticist" troublemakerswhat" is" left" of"“Greater" Europe”?" It" begins" to"
look"more"like"some"utopia"inherited"from"the"Cold"War"period"rather"than"
a"product"of"recent"geopolitical"realities."
Richard" Sakwa"is" correct" when" he" writes" that" the" “Ukrainian" crisis"
cannot"be"understood"unless"the"evolution"of"Russian"thinking"is"analyzed”"
(30);"and"he"is"fair"when"he"points"out"that"Russian"politics"is"rather"more"
complex"than"the"simple"model"of"‘autocratic’"consolidation"would"suggest”"
(211)."Regrettably,"Sakwa"does"not"do"justice"to"this"complexity"in"his"book."
His"analysis" of" the" Russian" regime" and" its" politics"is" completely"
subordinated" to" his"refusal" to" admit"Russia’s" expansionism" and" new"
imperialisma" view" of" Russia" that," in" his" opinion," is" “wrong-headed" in"
conceptualization" and" dangerous" in" its" consequences”" (5-6)." Sakwa"has" a"
completely"different"perception"of"Putin’s"Russia."
He"believes"that"Russia"under"Putin"is"not"a"land-grabbing"state,"it"is"a"
profoundly"conservative"power"and"its"actions"are"designed"to"maintain"the"
status" quo.”"Russia" “makes" no" claim" to" revise" the" existing" international"
order,"but"to"make"it" more"inclusive"and" universal”"(34-35)."Russia"refuses"
“to" submit" itself" to" Atlanticist" hegemony" and" global" dominance”" (234)."In"
Sakwa’s"opinion," Russia"is"kept" busy" constantly"defending"itself"against"an"
aggressive"West."The"Russo-Georgian"war"of"August"2008"was"in"effect"the"
first"of"the"‘wars"to"stop"NATO"enlargement’;"the"Ukrainian"crisis"of"2014"is"
the"second”"(55)." The" two" Chechnya" wars" are" an" obvious"omission"on"this"
listbut" even" without" them," Sakwa’s" vision" of" Russia’s" “peace-loving”"
stance"reminds"us"of"an"old"Soviet"anecdote:""
Question" on" “Armenian" Radio:”" “Will" there" be" a" Third" World" War?”" The"
answer"is:"“No,"but"there"will"be"such"a"struggle" for"peace"that" nothing"will"
be"left"standing.”"(Adams"18)"
Sakwa’s" analysis" of" Russia’s" foreign" policy" does" not" sufficiently" take"
into" account" the" influence" of" domestic" policy," especially" growing" Russian"
nationalism," combined" with"anti-Western" hysteria" and" antidemocratic"
policies," all" of" which" characterize"Putin’s" regime." At" the" time" of" writing,"
Sakwa" was" not" yet" aware" of" the" killing" of" Boris" Nemtsov," a" Russian"
opposition"leader,"in"Moscow."Nevertheless,"surely"he"was"familiar"with"the"
democratic" “Russian" spring”" of" 2011-13" directed" against" a" corrupt"and"
highly" conservative" political" regime." It" is" strange" that" the" author" uses" a"
binary" opposition" to" frame" European-Ukrainian" relations," but" does" not"
extend"it"to"Russia—even"though"the"phenomenon"of"“two"Russias”"is"well-
known" to" practically" all" experts."In" short," Sakwa"fails" to" consider"internal"
Russian"problems"in"parallel"with"the"external"challenges,"an"approach"that"
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would"have" provided"a" more" balanced" analysis" of" the" Crimean" and" the"
Donbas"events.""
This" one-sided" treatment" of" contemporary" Russian" politics" and" of"
Putin’s"regime"leads"the"author"down"a"path"of"many"contradictions."On"the"
one"hand,"he"tries"to"convince"the"reader"that"the"Russian"president"is"not"a"
nationalist"like"Aleksandr"Dugin"or"Aleksandr"Prokhanov:"“Putin"is"rational"
and" pragmatic”;" he" simply" manoeuvres" among" various" political" interest"
groups"and"is"well"practiced"in"the"art" of"societal"management”" (213-14)."
On" the" other" hand," Sakwa" admits"that" Putin" veered" towards" the"
ethnicisation"of" Russian" foreign" policy." ." ." which"represented"a" shift"from"a"
realist" and" pragmatic" foreign" policy" to" a" more" romantic-nationalist"
inflexion”" (106)." One" might" forgive" the" reader"for" being" confused." Who" is"
Mr."Putin,"really?"A"cynic"or"a"romantic”?"
All"of"this"illustrates,"in"our"opinion," the" contradictions"also"in" Sakwa’s"
presentation"of" Russia’s"policy"toward"Ukraine."In"this"part" of" his" book," he"
cites" publications" mostly" of" Russian" writers," including" Aleksandr"
Solzhenitsyn." In" typical" fashion," he" declares," that" “Ukraine" mattered" to"
Russia" more" than" any" other" country”" (79)," because" “Ukraine" matters" to"
Russia"as"an"issue"of"survival,"quite"apart"from"a"thousand"years"of" shared"
history" and" civilization." ." .”" (75)." Unfortunately," Sakwa’s" analysis" of" the"
relationship"between"these"two"factors"in"Russia’s"Ukraine"policysecurity"
and" identity," pragmatism" and" irrationalismis" not" balanced." On" these"
pages," the" historian" (that" is," the" analyst)" struggles" constantly" with" the"
publicistand"loses."
As"for"Russia’s" annexation"of"the" Crimea," one" gets"the" impression" that"
Sakwa’s"attitude"is"one"of"understanding,"if"not"complete"justification,"given"
the"description"of"this"act"as"“the"return"of"Crimea"to"Russia"in"March"2014”"
(13)." Does" this" mean" that" Sakwa" supports" the" annexation?" He" provides" a"
series"of"arguments"to"show"how"important"the"Crimea"is"for"Russia."These"
range" from"historical1"to" the" necessity" of" defending" ethnic" Russians" from"
aggressive" Ukrainian" nationalists." Speaking" of" the" infamous" “referendum”"
hastily"organized"by"Moscow"to" legitimize" the" annexation," the"author"only"
heightens" the" contradictions." On" the" one" hand," he"believes" that" “even" in"
perfect" conditions" a" majority" of" Crimea"w ould"have" voted" for" union" with"
Russia”" (105," 109)." On" the" other" hand,"he" stresses" that" in" reality" “in" the"
peninsula" as" a" whole," only" between" 15" and" 30" percent" of" the" total"
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1"Sakwa"believes"that"Khrushchev"transferred"the"Crimea"to"Ukraine"because"he"was"
“up"to"his"elbows"in"blood”;"and"“the"transferthat"remains"mired"in"controversy—"
was"seen"as" a" form" of"expiation”"(100-01)."There" is" no"discussion"of" the" possibility"
that"Khrushchev’s"decision"might"have"been"dictated"by"common" sense" and" logical"
considerations."
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population" voted" to"join" Russia”" (104-05)."Nothing" is" said"as" to" why" a"
proper"referendum"could"not"have"been"organized"in"a"civilized"manner,"to"
avoid"this"confusion."
The"book"uses"similar"“logic”"to"describe"all"other"inconsistent"episodes"
and" problems" in" current" Russian-Ukrainian" relations." For" example," there"
was"the" Budapest" Memorandum"of" 1994," under" which" Russia" became" a"
guarantor"of"the"inviolability"of"Ukraine’s"borders"and"territorial"integrity."
Sakwa" believes" that" the" Budapest" Memorandum"was" not" binding" for" the"
signatory" states"(68-69)." What" about" the" “Novorossiia”" political" project,"
aimed" at" breaking" off" Ukraine’s" southeastern" regions?" “There" were"
fantasies" like" that" in" the" Russian" media," but" they" didn’t"gain" official"
support”" (209)."What" about" the" arming" and" directing" of" pro-Russian"
separatists"in"the"Donbas?" “Evidence" for" this" was" not" always" forthcoming”"
(185)."And" what" about" the"Malaysia"Airlines"Flight"17" (MH"17)"passenger"
jet"that"was"shot"down"over"the"Donbas?"Well,"perhaps,"in"this"case"Russia"
was"indiscriminate"and" irresponsible"in" giving"high-tech" weapons" to" local"
separatists"(168)." However," this" “does" not" exclude" the" possibility" that" an"
air-to-air" missile" was" used”" (171)in" other" words,"that" the" Boeing" 777"
might"have"been"shot"down"by"a"Ukrainian!military"jet."
After"reading"statements"like"these,"the"author’s"general"assessment"of"
Russian" policy" toward"Ukraine" becomes"entirely" predictable." He" believes"
that" Russia" has" not" “sought" to" place" Ukraine" under" its" direct" control”;"
rather,"it"is"“merely"trying"to"influence"its"decisions”"(206)."One"is"hard"put"
to" discern" the" difference" between" these" two" concepts." “A" free" and"
prosperous" Ukraine" was" certainly" not" something" opposed" by" Russia," but"
Moscow" simply" did" not" understand" why" this" had" to" be" couched" in" anti-
Russian" terms" and" threaten" its" economic" interests”" (210)." Readers" are"
asked" to"countenance" the" possibility" that" naïve" and" benevolent" Kremlin"
politiciansincluding"such"“doves”"as"Prime"Minister" Medvedev,"Patriarch"
Kirill,"and"Presidential"Attaché"Surkov"(who"was"responsible"for"Ukraine)—
might"have" supported" “a" successful" and" prosperous" Ukraine" as" long" as" it"
respect[ed]"Russia’s" legitimate" concerns”" (211)." Unfortunately," there" is"
little"in"the"book"itself"to"support"this"thesis."
The" chapters" focusing" on" Ukraine" do" provide"a" lot" of" factual" material"
borrowed" from" various" published" sources." Sakwa" delves"into" the" history,"
economics,"as" well" as" domestic" and" foreign"policy"of"Ukraine;"he"describes"
the" Maidan" phenomenon" and" the" events" that" unfolded" after" President"
Yanukovych"decamped"from"Kyiv."Sakwa"is"correct"when"he"points"out"that"
the"crisis"had"internal"roots"and"did"not"develop"out"of"thin"air."The"Maidan"
originated" from" a" fatal" geopolitical" straddle," from" critical" problems" of"
administration," from" corruption," from" a" weak" democracy," as" well" as"from"
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the" country’s" cultural," regional," and" ethnic" diversity—all" problems" that"
Ukrainian"political"elites"had"failed"to"resolve"thus"far."
Given" that" Sakwa" is"a" historian" who" specialized" in"the" multinational"
USSR,"one"might"have"expected"a"more"substantial"elucidation"of"Ukraine’s"
history,"which"would" have" helped"the" reader"to" place"at"least" some" of"the"
current" events" within" a" broader"context." Unfortunately,"Sakwa’s"
presentation"of"Ukraine’s"pastderived"mostly"from"Andrew"Wilson’s"The!
Ukrainians:! Unexpected! Nationis"quite" fragmented." The" substantial"
intellectual"output"of"other"western"Ukrainianists,"which"has"encompassed"
the"past"and"modern" times," is" recapped"in"this" book" only"superficially" and"
unsystematically."Clearly,"most" works"published" in" Ukrainian"by"Ukrainian"
authors"are"unknown"to"Sakwa."His"analysis"of"Ukrainian"problems"is"based"
largely"on" works" written" by" Russian" authors," which" casts" doubt" on" the"
objectivity"of"his"approach."
What"is"Sakwa’s"view" of" Ukraine?"It" comes" down"to"the" stereotype" of"
“two" Ukraines.”" There" is" a"bad"Ukraine," which"is" called" “monistic,”" and" a"
good" Ukraine," which" is" pluralistic.”" “Monistic" Ukraine”" is" orange" (that" is,"
reminiscent"of"the"first" Maidan" of"2004),"nationalist," and"Russophobicin"
short," intolerant" and" insensitive" to" cultural" and" national" diversity;" the"
“monistic"Ukraine,”"moreover,"inherited"from"Western"Ukraine"some"of"the"
hues"of"the"integral"nationalism"of"the"interwar"years”"and"seeks"to"impose"
its" model" on" the" rest" of" Ukraine"(25,"213)." The" “monistic" Ukraine”" in" fact"
appears"to"be"the"good" old" nationalistic" Western" Ukraine"as" perceived"by"
Russians."This"view"also"shapes"Sakwa’s"vision"of" the" main"political" event,"
the"Maidan"revolution"of"2013-14."
Sakwa"is"right"to"point"out"that"the"Maidan"was"a"complex,"multilayered"
phenomenon." The" Maidan" did" unite"broad" cross-sections" of" society."The"
movement"of"popular"mobilization"against" a" corrupt" regime" represented"a"
moment" of" national" unity"and" the" fusion"of"two" traditions" of" nation-
building," based" on" the" ideal" of" civic" renewal" for" all" (90)." Despite"
acknowledging" such"facts," Sakwa" chooses" to" focus"on" the" contradictory"
nature"of"the"Maidan:"“Although"the"revolution"was"undoubtedly"a"complex"
and" contradictory" phenomenon," at" its" heart" it" was" a" monist" vision" of"
Ukrainian" statehood" that" denied" the" pluralist" alternative”" (125)," Sakwa"
summarizes"unconvincingly."
Step" by" step," the" Maidan’s" complexity" gives" way" in" the" book" to" the"
simplistic" stereotype" of" Ukrainian" nationalists" seizing" power" by" force,"
forming"a" government" of" “Ukrainisers”" (135)," and" imposing"their"
Russophobic" model"on"all" of" Ukraine." Sakwa’s"image"of" a" post-Maidan"
government"composed"of" Ukrainian" nationalist" Russophobes"ignores"the"
presence"of"Interior"Minister"Arsen"Avakov,"a"Russophone"Armenian;"of"the"
Odesa"oblast"governor" and"former"Georgian" president,"Mikheil"Saakashvili;"
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and" of" Russophone" Georgian"and"Lithuanian" public" servants" and"
consultants."As"if"being"labelled"“nationalist"Russophobes”"was"not"enough,"
Sakwa"also"writes"that"“the"new"administration"was"given"an"appearance"of"
being"little"more"than"an"American"project”"(95)."
Turning"to"the" Maidan"defenders,"Sakwa" argues"that"they"became"part"
of" the" coercive" apparatus" of" the" monist" state" and" were" unleashed" against"
the" pluralists"(188)." This" is" followed" by" the" insinuation"that" the" snipers"
firing"at"the"demonstrators"on"the"Maidan"could"have"been"provoked"by"the"
Maidan"activists"themselves"(88)."There"is"also"a"suggestion"that"the"street"
violence" in" Odesa" in" May"2014" (descriptions" of" which" are"copied" from"
Russian"sources" [cf." 98])," could" have" been" the" brutality" of" Ukrainian"
nationalists."Sakwa" also" cites" testimony" regarding"“untold" cruelties”" of" the"
Ukrainian" army" during" the" war" in" the" Donbas" (181)." The" author" sternly"
points"out"that"“in"due"course"the"Kiev"regime"would"have"to"answer"for"its"
actions"to"international"war"crimes"tribunals”"(167)."There"is"no"mention"if"
other"regimes," for" example,"the"Moscow"or"the"Donetsk"and"Luhansk"ones,"
might"be"equally"accountable."
Sakwa’s"“monistic"Ukraine”"contains"nothing"new"for"informed"readers."
But"does"the" author’s" portrait"of" the" “pluralistic" Ukraine”" fare" better?" In"
trying"to"identify"Ukrainian"“pluralists,”"the"author" hits" upon"the"historical"
Malorossiia,"or" Little" Russia" (38)." For" Sakwa,"the" Malorussian" tendency"
stresses" the" centrality" of" Russian" influence”" (51)" and" “insists"that" the"
retention"of"traditional"economic"and" personal"links"[with"Russia]"is"one"of"
the" conditions" of" building" sovereign" nation" states" in" the" region”" (38)." It"
seems" that"Sakwa" misunderstands"this" ancient" historical" terminology,"
because,"in"fact,"the"pre-modern"Little"Russian"identity"does"not"necessarily"
contradict"the"modern"Ukrainian"one;"the"two"are"partially"intertwined"and"
interdependent."Ironically,"according"to"the"ideology"of"Little"Russianism,"it"
was" Kyivan"Little" Russia" that" was" the" historical" heartland" of" Rus'," and" as"
such"it" unquestionably"predates" the" Muscovite" project" of" Great" Russia."
There" are"many" specialized" works" devoted" to" the" subject" of" Little"
Russianism"as"well"as"its"current"incarnations"(I"would"recommend"texts"by"
Zenon" Kohut," Mykola"Riabchuk," Iaroslav"Hrytsak," Volodymyr" Kulyk,"
Stephen"Shulman,"and" Taras" Kuzio)," but" they"are"never"even"mentioned"in"
Sakwa’s"book."
Sakwa’s" wanderings" in" the" Uk rainian" political" wilderness" in" search" of"
pluralists”"lead" him"first" to"Viacheslav"Chornovil,"a" Soviet-era" intellectual"
dissident" and" one" of" the" political" leaders" of" the" movement" for" Ukraine’s"
independence," who" died" in" 1999" (23)," and" then" to" Sergey"Kivalov," a"
nomenklatura-like"political"boss"who"engineered"the"electoral"fraud"in"2004"
(137)."Ultimately,"the"author"arrives"exactly"where"the"logic"and"conception"
of" this" book" dictate" that" he" must" go," namely," in"the" “blue”" camp" of"
162"" Volodymyr"Kravchenko"
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©"2016"East/West:"Journal"of"Ukrainian"Studies"(ewjus.com)"ISSN"2292-7956"
Volume"III,"No."1"(2016)!
Yanukovych’s"supporters"and" followers."“The" pluralists" in"the" Donbas"and"
other" Russophone" regions" seized" the" opportunity" to" institutionalize" their"
long-term"aspirations" for" Russian"to" be" made"a" second" state"language" and"
for" genuine" power-sharing" of" the" regions" in" a" more" federal" state”" (155)."
Such" a" conclusion" openly" contradicts" the" author’s" statement" that" he" does"
not"consider"either"the"Party"of"Regions"or"former"president"Yanukovych"as"
opponents"of"the"“monists”"(x)."Sakwa"notes"that"these"“pluralists”"adopted"
the"St."George" ribbon" as" their"symbol"(93,"99),"that"they" are" imbued"with"
Soviet" values”" (149)," and"that"they" lacked" democratic" and" civil-society"
organizational" capacity." ." .”" (155)." One" of" the" leaders" of" the" Donbas"
separatists"is"identified"as"Pavel"Gubarev," an" extreme"Russian"nationalist”"
(165)." Russian" citizens" were" in" the" forefront" of" the" self-declared" Donbas"
“republics”"from"the"very"beginning."The"organizer"of"the"Donbas"separatist"
armed"forces"was"Igor"Strelkov,"a"lieutenant-colonel"of"the"Russian"GRU."In"
short," the" Donetsk" and" Luhansk" “pluralists”" really" look" like" regular"
Russian" nationalists." Instead" of" introducing" artificial" terminology," one"
wonders"why"the"author"could"not"simply"have"called"a"spade"a"spade?"
One" can" understandand" even" acknowledgemany" of" the" author’s"
views." Who" can"oppose," for" example,"his" desire" to" see" Europe" united,"
instead"of"divided?"Who"would"disagree"that"it"is"necessary"to"dial"down"the"
threat"of"a"new"“Cold"War”?" The" idea" that" Ukraine" needs" to"find"a"formula"
for"its"existence,"one"that"would" combine" effective" administration" with"the"
actual" diversity" of"the" country," is" certainly" something"I"understand" and"
sympathize" with." The" threat" of" radical" nationalism" in" Ukraineas"
everywhere" in" Europe"and" Russiais" real" and" must" be" monitored" and"
curbed"at"the"state"level." Sakwa’s"criticism"of"Ukraine’s"present"situation"is"
justified." But" does" this" book" offer"solutions" to" these" and" other" issues?"
Unfortunately," the" answer" is"no."A" display"of" one’s" personal" views" is" one"
thing;"an" expert" assessment" of" the" situation" at" Europe’s" eastern" edge" is"
quite"another."
This" is" Sakwa’s"first" book" on" a" Ukrainian" topic," and" it" contains" many"
facts"and"reflections" on" the"current"Ukrainian-Russian"crisis."However,"the"
book"loses"a"significant"degree"of"value"for"several"reasons."Firstly,"the"facts"
that" Sakwa"presents"are" not" organized"systematically," and," secondly," they"
are" subordinated" to" a" questionable" methodology"and" a" highly" partisan"
ideology."Sakwa"does"not"hesitate"to" deliver" final" judgements"about"events"
that"are"still"ongoing."Future"developments"are"likely"to"change"the"minds"of"
contemporaries"and" historians" on" many"issues." In" this" respect," Sakwa’s"
book"became"outdated"almost"as"soon"as"it"was"published."
In"the"end,"one"has"the"impression" that" the" author" had" no"intention"of"
delving" into" the" Ukrainian" material"comprehensively." He" apparently" only"
needed" Ukraine"to" illustrate" his"thesis" of" the" “two" Europes,”" to" criticize"
Review"Essay:"Frontline"Ukraine""163"
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©"2016"East/West:"Journal"of"Ukrainian"Studies"(ewjus.com)"ISSN"2292-7956"
Volume"III,"No."1"(2016)!
Atlantism"and" Ukrainian"nationalism,"to" justify"cancelling"the" anti-Russian"
sanctions,"and"to" question"the"policies"of"western"countries"toward"Russia."
It"also"seems"that"his"new-found"acquaintance"with"Ukrainian"issues"had"no"
impact"on" his" preconceived" notions"and" interpretation" of" Russia," Eastern"
Europe,"and"the" world"order."Instead"of"a"thoughtful"analysis"of"a"complex"
Ukraine," readers" are" given"the" stereotypical" “two" Ukraines.”"Instead" of" a"
nuanced"exploration" of" the"“borderland”" promised" in" the" title," they"are"
given" yet" another" simplistic" “front"line”" that" delineates" a" black-and-white"
ideology."In"terms"of"theory," Sakwa’s"book" contains"nothing" new." In" terms"
of"Ukrainian"studies,"its"significance"is"even"smaller."
Frontline!Ukraine:!Crisis!in!the!Borderlands"may"not"be"very"interesting"
in"its"own"right"but"it"is"a"noteworthy"instance"of"the"rift"that"the"Ukrainian"
crisis"has"caused"among"western"experts"who"study"the"region."The" binary"
“two" Europes”" and" “two" Ukraines”" reflects" the" division"into"“two" camps”"
that"exists" in" the" academy;" some" observers"are"pro-Ukrainian"while"others"
are"anti-Ukrainian." Some" condemn" Ukrainian" nationalism" while" others"
concentrate" on" Russian" imperialism." For" many" western" critics," “Ukraine”"
remains" synonymous" with" “nationalism”" and" Ukrainianists" are" little" more"
than" Russophobes" whose" theses" cannot" possibly" be" considered" as" an"
objective"alternative.""
With"a"tinge"of"irony,"Richard"Sakwa"declares"allegiance"to"the"principle"
of"“bourgeois"objectivity.”"If"one" was" to" follow"in"the"footsteps"of"this"type"
of"jargon"scrupulously,"his" book" might"well"be"called"an"example"of"“Party"
literature.”"Conflict" over" Ukraine" in" the" academy" is," in" fact,"political" rather"
than" methodological" and" factual." Sakwa" represents" those" Western"
intellectuals"and" politicians"who" are" pro-Russian"and" anti-American."Their"
voices" should" be" heard" and" taken" into" account," naturally." However," a"
dialogue"between"those"who" are" “for”"and"“against”"Ukraine" hardly" seems"
possible"at" this" time." Is" this" state" of" affairs" not" an" unresolved" legacy" of" the"
Cold"War?"Does"it"not"testify"to" a" need"to"update"East"European"studies"in"
the"West"and"restore"the"very"status"of"expert"knowledge"so"deeply"affected"
by"postmodern"relativism?"
!
Works"Cited"
Bruce" Adams." Tiny! Revolutions! in! Russia:! Twentieth! Century! Soviet! and! Russian!
History!in!Anecdotes!and!Jokes."New"York:"Routledge,"2005."Print.""
©"2016"East/West:"Journal"of"Ukrainian"Studies"(ewjus.com)"ISSN"2292-7956"
Volume"III,"No."1"(2016)!
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