Wednesday, April 2, 2014

An American Ukraine Expert, and His Blog

"Dr. Alexander Motyl is a scholar and an artist. By day he is a professor of political science at Rutgers-Newark. A specialist on Ukraine, Russia, and the USSR, and on nationalism, revolutions, empires, and theory, he is the author of 10 books of nonfiction, …"

His Ukraine blog is Ukraine's Orange Blues.


sglover said...

The guy's got credentials, but his obsession with Putin seems to me simultaneously hysterical and pedestrian. "Terrifying" "warmongering"?!?!? This against the brilliant observation that much of Putin's popularity has stemmed from oil revenues. Like that hasn't been a truism for the last decade or so. Motyl spends lots of words on what rotten SOB's Yanukovych and Putin are. I guess that's gratifying to him, but I haven't seen all that many people claiming that either of those guys **isn't** a ruthless SOB.

Meanwhile I see not a word about how Ukrainians are likely to respond to the very harsh austerity measures coming their way. You'd think Motyl might at least devote a phrase to that. From what Yatsenyuk has said about his "blitzkrieg government" I gather that he expects his interim regime to take the blame for the drop in living standards that is sure to come. (Which one of my friends in Ukraine, who's setting up a small business, is already seeing. People are keeping their wallets shut, mostly out of anxiety. But there are folks losing jobs in her city, too.)

Perhaps Yatsenyuk is falling on his sword, taking on blame that the subsequent elected government can deflect. It's arguably shrewd and patriotic. But even with that, the new government will be taking power under very difficult circumstances. And... Where's that "aid" money going to end up? A good chunk of it might go to service Ukraine's obligations to -- Russia. It isn't clear how it's going to be kept out of the hands of Ukrainian oligarchs.

No answers to any of this from Motyl. Look harder for decent sources.

Raven Onthill said...

Oh, he's clearly a partisan of Ukraine. But he does know the language and the issues.

Putin invaded and captured part of a neighboring state. He's also put the power of the Russian state behind people who hate and kill gays. These things are not defensible, no matter how one slices them. So why defend them?

sglover said...

I don't believe I've ever "defended" Putin. Mostly I object to a chorus of contrived outrage on these shores over events that virtually no American knows anything about.

I really mean this as an aside, but the gay rights issue is a pretty good example of what I mean. Suddenly, round about the time of the Sochi Olympics, hip and stylish western liberals are all up in arms about how gays are treated in Russia. I mean, people I know were tut-tutting about how terrible, how uncivilized those Russians are toward gays.

But here's the thing: For DECADES now, ever since the USSR fell apart, people from the 'Stans have been migrating to cities in Russia. They live and work without papers, and they've suffered appallingly in all the ways that poor, ethnically distinct casual laborers do. They are hassled by police, shafted by employers, scorned by everyone. In all these years I have never heard any self-described liberal even mention the situation of these people. (And after all, these day laborers aren't very photogenic, and they probably don't have all the approved attitudes, so there's that.) It all seems a bit.... selective.

Anyway, ranting against villainous Putin doesn't shed a whole helluva lotta light on what's in store for Ukraine. A new gang of oligarchs has supplanted the old one. Ukrainians are in store for some very harsh times. This will not be the doing of Putin or the Russians, but of their new western "partners". You'll hear very little about this in American media. And it seems extremely odd that a "partisan of Ukraine" apparently thinks it unworthy of discussion. So I question how much he really does "know" about the issues.

Are you familiar with the Middle East "scholar" Bernard Lewis, and the utterly fucked-in-the-head, Colonel Blimp-ish horseshit he was spewing to bless our glorious Iraq adventure?

Raven Onthill said...

Motyl wrote about about the Ukrainian oligarchs and the likely hard future of Ukraine back in early 2013, so your objection that he has not engaged these issues is invalid.

I don't think there's a lot of contrivance in the popular response to events in Ukraine and Russia or that the response is only on the left. There are objections to these events across the political spectrum; I previously cited the conservative Applebaum.

My impression is that US political factions, never especially attentive to foreign issues that don't directly affect US interests, were caught flat-footed by the events in Ukraine, and don't have worked-out positions yet. That events in Ukraine and Russia were not previously part of US public consciousness does not make the events less outrageous.

The recent Western attention to the rising tide of Russian homophobia is due to an especially egregious June 2013 Russian law. The passage of the law highlighted a ten-year homophobic backlash in Russia.

Westerners across the political spectrum have been concerned about the failure of democracy and capitalism in Russia for decades. IIRC, I've been seeing articles about migrants in Russia going back for almost as long.

A quick scan of the biographies of Lewis and Motyl seem to me to show many more differences than similarities between their careers and politics.

Take away all the nonsense and what is your position? That Ukraine ought to accept becoming a satellite state of Russia? That Putin, though an autocrat who is scapegoating gays, Muslims, and Jews nonetheless has virtues? What is the reasoning here? Why is it reasonable to ask that Ukraine accept Russian domination when there is so much bad blood between the two countries, when Ukraine broke away from Russia at the first opportunity? And every Russian border state hates Russia. How can we accept the Russian invasion of a border state? Are we to keep silent as Russia oppresses its minorities? Seriously, what are you thinking? What makes sense as a US policy and what makes sense as a moral stance?

The Blog Fodder said...

Raven, I agree with you whole heartedly. Motyl is one blogger I read all the time, and one of many pointing out the problems Ukraine faces, especially because of Putin. His viewpoint is important because he lives in America and because he knows Ukraine well.
I loathe American foreign policy with a passion but loathe equally as much Putin's domestic policy, including his "ingathering of 'Russian' lands"

Raven Onthill said...

Blog Fodder, sorry it took me so long to release your comments; I don't do this full-time, and sometimes it takes me a while to check on the blog.

What you are describing are the problems of being a lesser state caught between great powers. I can only offer sympathy. I would not choose this world order, if I got to choose.