By Roger Annis, New Cold War.org, July 12, 2017
Writing from federal Germany, which is an ally of the federal United States and federal Canada, a writer in the left-wing online publication CounterPunch on July 12 pens an essay arguing that a decentralized, federal Ukraine is a doomed project. The writer cites failed states in Africa as his argument.
The article is titled, ‘Postcolonial Ukraine: Why federalization is not an option for Kiev’.
Ukraine borders the Russian Federation, which, like Canada and the United States, has stable political rule thanks in part to its federal system of government. (I leave aside the deep economic inequalities which mark all three countries–that’s a different problem.)
The writer argues that all federal states based on “colonial borders” fail. He uses Africa as proof. But the argument quickly falls flat.
For one, conveniently for his argument, the writer fails to mention the long history of imperialist intervention in Africa aiming to subvert political sovereignty. That intervention showed no particular favoritism for centralized or less-centralized post-colonial states and it’s by far the main reason why the African continent has so many governments and states that fail to meet to human needs of their populations.
As regards Ukraine’s “colonial” history, the writer’s argument is utterly false and inaccurate. He writes, “Ukraine is the result of imperial rivalries of the 19th century and the Soviet expansion [sic] after the two world wars.” But Ukraine’s modern independence dates from 1917-18. The country was born of the intertwined Russian-Ukrainian revolutions of those years. It became a multilingual and multinational entity in its own right and joined the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics upon the USSR’s founding in 1922. The writer’s contrary description is wildly inaccurate.
The writer voices sympathy for Ukraine’s right-wing rulers, explaining that they “fear the centrifugal forces” of federalization because they are too weak to “contain” it. Contain it from what? We are left in the dark. Presumably he is referring to something that was not ‘contained’ in Africa and led to the downfall of sovereign states there. It’s a bizarre construct.
The writer concludes with some right-wing advice of his own for the Ukrainian government: “To share this resource of power [federal state power] would be political and economic suicide for Poroshenko.”
The essay opened with “Ukraine shares many similarities with Africa’s post-colonial states.” He might just as well have argued that because the Earth and the Moon consist of rocks, “Ukraine shares many similarities with the Moon.”
Back in the real world, the people of eastern Ukraine (Donbass) as well as Crimea argued in post-1991 independent Ukraine for a more democratic and less centralized constitution and system of government. That would include equal language rights for the many languages of the country. But those demands went unheeded. The Russian language remained prominent during this time due to simple economic and political realities and thanks to the open and tolerant views of most Ukrainian citizens.
The intransigence not to speak of violence of the new right-wing government in Kyiv that came into power in February 2014 made Crimea’s secession from Ukraine all but inevitable. This is also why a federal outcome for the conflict in Donbass is becoming less and less likely. That leaves the people there in limbo because due to extreme pressure from the imperialist countries and their NATO military alliance, the Russia government is hard-pressed to accept what would otherwise be a very acceptable outcome for most Donbass resident–integration into the Russian Federation.
This state of limbo in Donbass is a tragedy for the people living there because for the past three years, they have suffered relentless, NATO-encouraged military aggression from Ukraine. It’s a double tragedy because there are periods of Ukraine’s post-1917 history which provide positive examples of cooperation among peoples of different languages and national backgrounds. The world needs more, not less, of that. Perhaps CounterPunch editors can use such sentiment to guide their choices of future articles on Ukraine.
Roger Annis is an editor of New Cold War.org.
 Coincidentally, the new French president, Emmanuel Macron, has offered his own opinion of why there is so much poverty in Africa and why governments don’t seem to help. In his case, his view is racist and sexist to the core: African women have too many babies, he says.