Ukraine has a long way to go

When the Euromaidan protests began several months ago, I kept a keen eye on the happenings with our friends in the former Eastern Bloc nation.

When the defecation hit the rotary oscillator last week, I was quick to educate the rest of our community about what was happening and how it was impacting our friends in Ukraine. But, because it wasn’t the appropriate time to comment on the goings-on, I chose to keep my opinions to myself.

Until now.

The arithmetic changed substantially with the impeachment of Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko and the release of his archrival and former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, from prison. Many of the fly-by types in the mainstream media have hailed this a major victory, suggesting the end of the violence in Ukraine is near.

And, as usual, they couldn’t be more wrong.

No doubt, Yushchenko was a Soviet-era throwback with a desire to return Ukraine to “satellite of Moscow” status. But, he was democratically elected in accordance with his nation’s constitution. and, he’s calling today’s activity a coup.

Tymoshchenko is pro-West and more inclined to support more freedom for the people of Ukraine. But, there are questions about corruption that happened under her watch, and she was the loser in the last runoff election. Her incarceration was the result of a kangaroo court, but the media on the street is already seeing a lack of support for her taking up anything resembling the mantle of leadership.

Those aren’t the only players in this game, either.

Euromaidan was a national protest, taking place in large urban centers throughout the nation of about 46 million. But, it was led by a coalition of factions, many of which have widely divergent goals for the future of Ukraine.

But, arguably, the leading movement within the opposition wasn’t Tymoshchenko’s Fatherland party, but rather Oleh Tyahnybok’s Svoboda (Freedom) party. It’s a relative minority party in Ukrainian politics, having garnered just 10.5 percent in the 2012 election, giving it 37 of the 450 seats in the Ukrainian Parliament.

But, one need look no farther than the Orange Revolution to see how the leaders of that movement were suddenly catapult into leadership positions. If that were to happen again this time around, I really fear what could happen next.

You see, while Svoboda’s name means “Freedom,” the party stands for anything but. Svoboda is the new face of nationalist fascism in Europe.

Fascism. When we say it, even today, we immediately conjure up images of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, Roman salutes and goose-stepping paramilitary units marching in the streets. To be clear, yes, we’re talking about Nazis.

Today’s neo-fascists project a well-manicured image of success. The perfect example: Tyahnybok.

The former medical doctor always projects a clean-cut Hollywood actor’s appearance in designer suits. There’s no shouting to large auditoriums, pounding on the podium. Instead, you see him speaking to university political students, and schmoozing with Western diplomats.

And that’s the really dangerous part.

The world has become a very dangerous place, and far too complicated for any one person to fully comprehend.

So, it’s easy for someone like Tyahnybok to develop “street cred” with big-name politicians in the West — like U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the former GOP presidential nominee, who visited the Maidan in mid-December and shared the stage with Tyahnybok — gaining credibility not just back home, but on the larger world stage, as well.

Should Svoboda take over in Ukraine, there is little doubt the former Soviet spymaster, Russian president Vladimir Putin, would be inclined to “defend” the neighboring country from the fascists. The brief “war” with Georgia in 2008 will seem like child’s play by comparison.

Would NATO or the U.S. attempt to intervene on Ukraine’s behalf? Who knows?

The end is far from near for our friends in Ukraine. And, I fear it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

• • •

If you’re reading this, thank a teacher. If you’re reading this in English, thank a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.