Dollars do not make people into zombies

The influence of the USA on the Maidan protests is grossly overestimated. Mass movements are not so easily bought—and the US has other priorities. BYALICE BOTA, editor for the German weekly Die Zeit. Translated by Charles Kirchofer.
Originally published in German on 21 May 2015 at 07:26 AM CEST
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These days, whenever a people somewhere rises up and a government falls, large sections of the left quickly identify who is responsible: It was the Americans. They were never too good for coup attempts when they were in their own interest, after all. They were willing to use any means, whether in Panama, Chile, Nicaragua, Iran—the list is long. So why should it be any different for theMaidanprotests in Ukraine in 2014? Only that this time, the people were stirred up.
Many then like to point to the book The Grand Chessboardby the former US presidential adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. In it, he refers to Ukraine as the “geopolitical linchpin” that determines the tectonics shifts of all of Europe—as if this were already evidence of American power politics rather than just theory.
The role of the US in Eastern and Central Europe is so overrated and overcharged that a short historical review can help to ground the assessment. This is because, like Ukraine today, one country in particular is familiar with disappointments and disenchantment when it comes to America, namely Poland.
In 1973, the publicist Juliusz Mieroszewski published an article in the Polish exile magazine Kulturaabout American “Ostpolitik” (“eastern policy”). Mieroszewski belonged to the milieu of intellectuals and writers who had to flee from Poland and fought with words from Paris for an independent homeland. Mieroszewski remarked bitterly that, while the Americans spent $120 billion for their anti-communist Vietnam War, the uprising in Hungary, also directed against a repressive communist regime, didn’t even receive $120.
Just like many Ukrainians today, back then, many oppositional Poles were convinced that America was their natural ally and would support them in the struggle against communism. Their hope was understandable, but it was in vain.

For the US, Ukraine Policy is mostly about symbolism

While the “Polish cause” was the Alpha and Omega of all politics for the Poles, Mieroszewski wrote, it does not even exist for the Americans. In the end, the equation was simple for him: The Soviets were both rivals and partners of the United States, so the Americans would never seriously attempt to change the political cartography of Eastern Europe. This informed their policies, not the uprisings in Budapest, Prague, and Gdansk, which were regarded with much sympathy, but nothing more. “Overall, it must be said that the American Ostpolitik on the European stage is purely defensive” Mieroszewski wrote. “This defensive strategy is based on preserving the status quo, not amending it.”
The publicist wrote these sentences in the early seventies, but not much has changed since then. Undoubtedly, Ukraine remains important to America—but it will never be so important to Barack Obama that he would risk a definitive split with Russia. And just as Richard Nixon eventually went to Moscow in 1972 and assured its rulers of their claim to power, so the US Secretary of State John Kerry also traveled to Russia and said things that must have been quite sobering for Ukrainians.
The Americans are convinced that they need Russia for their policies in the Middle East. Their current Ukraine Policy is mainly a bit of symbolism. They would rather the EU did the rest.

Questionable image of human beings on the Left

Those who are convinced that theMaidan uprisingin Kiev was a fake bought by America will be unconvinced by remembering Mieroszewski. Thanks to foundations and organizations like USAID or the National Endowment for Democracy, the Americans have spent millions in Ukraine for decades; they have financed civil society NGOs, trained election observers, and advanced anti-corruption campaigns.
The foundation Renaissance in Ukraine, funded by the billionaire George Soros, has paid for the lawyers of arrested Maidan activists, coordinated civil society meetings,and provided financial support for care for the wounded. But this support is not enough to explain why thousands rose up in the middle of Kiev against their rulers in winter 2014.

The fixation on America’s power, the projection of a superior force, not only reflects a worldview that is often upheld by a portion of the nostalgic left that mourns for the old division of the world into blocs. Above all, it reveals a lot about their image of the human beings: that people are easily bought. That beliefs do not matter, but are the result of perfidious manipulation. That a few million dollars are enough to turn people into zombies who go out onto the streets and put their lives at risk.


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