by Gordon M. Hahn
On Saturday, Ukraine’s neofascist Right Sector (Praviy Sektor or PS) militia movement attacked police in the western, Transcarpathian town of Mukachevo. Taking place far from the Donbass front, this was another case of the PS marauding across Ukraine’s countryside trying to raise money in order to boost its hopes of building a totalitarian, xenophobic, and exclusivist greater Ukraine; one ‘superior to Europe’ and antagonistic towards Russia.
In particular, PS was involved in a settling of scores between two Transcarpatian criminal ‘authorities’ who are simultaneously deputies in the Supreme Rada – the parliament of the ‘new democratic Ukraine’. One of kingpin-deputies, Viktor Baloga, is said to finance PS. A relationship PS struck up an in order to help finance its recruiting, propaganda, political, and military efforts. In the battle that ensued – with PS using machine guns and a grenade launcher – several police and several civilians were killed and wounded, with up to 14 casualties, according to some reports. Security forces flooded in but instead of attacking and arresting the PS fighters, negotiations ensued; some of them involving directly or indirectly Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko himself and his Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, who implemented the policy of forming volunteer battalions to include a large component of neofascists, given their ‘patriotic enthusiasm.’ The PS continues to refuse to disarm and convened demonstrations in Kiev at the presidential administration and some ten provincial capitols, and other neofascist groups and their battalions are backing PS.
Even the recently fired head of Ukraine’s intelligence service, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Valentin Nalyvaichenko, backed PS against the Porosehnko-led factions of the Maidan regime (http://anons.uz.ua/news/politics/21855-valentin-nalivaychenko-podderzhal-rebyat-iz-pravogo-sektora-zakarpatya.html). For in post-Orange Revolution Ukraine, ‘patriotism,’ which often morphs into ultra-nationalism and neofascism, trumps everything – from criminality to rule of law to democratic procedure.
It is now clear that the Maidan regime’s policy of allowing PS and like-minded elements to enter the corridors of power, the halls of parliament, and staffs of the army and National Guard and arming tens of neofascist-dominated battalions to the teeth in order to avoid negotiating with the Donbass rebels has been proved a catastrophic failure.
Ukraine is now faced with even greater political instability than before.
President Poroshenko is now faced with the Hobson’s choice of either disarming PS and other armed neo-fascist groups and their ‘battalions’ in order to establish the Maidan regime’s monopoly over the means of coercion or fashioning yet another compromise with neofascism.
In the event he chooses the former, there is a risk of a second civil war on Ukrainian territory and the rise of a neo-fascist insurgency.
In the event he chooses the latter, he will only increase the likelihood of a neofascist-led coup or revolt down the road.
Either way, Poroshenko’s life and that of the Maidan regime are now at grave risk.
Indeed, there is some reason to conclude that the conflict in Mukachevo and its broadening could lead to a regime split. For now, the split is contained within the legislative branch, with the Petro Poroshenko Bloc (PPB) backing a crackdown on PS, Prime Minister Arsen Yatsenyuk’s National Front taking an ambiguous position, calling for personnel changes in Transcarpathia and the Customs Police, and the three smaller factions (the ultra-nationalist Radical Party, the moderately nationalist party Self-Help, and the Yulia Tymoshenko’s national chauvinist Fatherland party) backing PS’s call for MVD chief Arsen Avakov’s resignation (http://vesti-ukr.com/lvov/107123-pojdut-li-radikaly-na-kiev). The questions are whether the National Front will abandon the coalition with the PPB and three small factions and whether the split will extend into the executive branch. Finally, will the conflict spark high-ranking defections to the ultra-nationalist opposition camp led by PS and other ultra-nationalist groups outside parliament like the Svoboda Party, the Social-National Assembly, the Black Committee, Revansh and others.
As I have tried to warn for years, Ukraine and all other post-Soviet states (with the exception of the Baltic states on some parameters) are not very different from each other, suffering from excess of nationalism, intolerance, corruption, criminality, conflictive political cultures, and authoritarianism. In such countries, when the regimes falter, coups and revolutions follow close behind. Where coups and revolutions come, often so do political chaos, economic dislocation, civil war and state failure.
Thus, the EU’s haste to maneuver Ukraine into an association agreement in November 2013 with strong American backing along the West’s encouragement of the Maidan revolution instead of a negotiated transition in Kiev have been nothing short of catastrophic for Ukraine and the EU. Relations with their most powerful neighbor – Russia – are strained to the breaking point and fraught with the risk of war. Moreover, the instability wrought in Ukraine rather than complicating matters just on Russia’s borders is now reaching the EU’s borders. The contraband cigarette trade that was the object of the dispute between two Rada deputies/Transcarpathian criminal kingpins in ‘democratic Ukraine’ went across state borders into Hungary and perhaps Romania. The town of Mukachevo, where the fatal gun battle took place and where PS fighters disappeared into the hills is close to Ukraine’s borders with Hungary, Romania, Poland, and Slovakia.
In closing, I would suggest that the American, Canadian, Polish and other military trainers and advisors walking the lands of the neo-fascists in Lviv, Volyn, Ternopol and other places in western (and elsewhere in) Ukraine start aggressively weeding out the neo-fascists among their charges and begin training Ukraine’s army and government to do battle with their real enemy – Ukrainian ultra-nationalism – before it is too late, if it is not already.
I would also suggest to those focused exclusively on expanding American power, especially when it comes at Russia’s expense – to people like Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland – that they resign and repent before the ‘mothers, children, and grandmothers’ of ‘the Maidan’ – where, like in the rest of Ukraine, in her incompetent view, neo-fascists have never been.
Gordon M. Hahn is an Analyst and Advisory Board Member of the Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation, Chicago, Illinois; Senior Researcher, Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California Analyst/Consultant, Russia Other Points of View – Russia Media Watch; and Senior Researcher and Adjunct Professor, MonTREP, Monterey, California. Dr Hahn is author of three well-received books, Russia’s Revolution From Above (Transaction, 2002), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), which was named an outstanding title of 2007 by Choice magazine, and The ‘Caucasus Emirate’ Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014). He also has authored hundreds of articles in scholarly journals and other publications on Russian, Eurasian and international politics and wrote, edited and published the Islam, Islamism, and Politics in Eurasia Report at CSIS from 2010-2013. Dr. Hahn has been a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (2011-2013) and a Visiting Scholar at both the Hoover Institution and the Kennan Institute.