David Calling

How Will Russia Punish Ukraine?

Viktor Yanukovych evidently prepared his getaway from Kiev. Cars, a helicopter, a private plane, perhaps a yacht, were ready for him to make a run for it to Russia. Frustrated purely by chance, he has gone to ground in some safe house in the Crimea, the eastern part of Ukraine where Russian expatriates are the majority. He may well try to put himself at the head of these Russian nationalists.

The Hungarian revolution of 1956 offers quite a close precedent. The center of the capital, Budapest, was filled at that time with loyal Hungarians demanding reform, just as the center of Kiev these last days overflowed with loyal Ukrainians. New men came into power. Then suddenly Janos Kadar disappeared. He had slipped over the border in order to betray his country, bringing in Russian forces that maintained a hold over Hungary for the next three decades.

The Kremlin is thinking along those lines today. Dmitri Medvedev, the sinister Russian prime minister, calls the rejection of Yanukovych an “armed mutiny.” He goes on, “I see no legitimate Ukrainian partner for dialogue.” The general will has never been of much concern in Russia. Vladimir Putin has such contempt for Barack Obama that he might risk the Janos Kadar tactic of instigating Yanukovych to overthrow the protesters, and providing them the means for it. Perhaps the punishment meted out by Russia will be less than that, but it is a cultural and political certainty that there will be punishment. I wish I thought anyone in high office on the American or European side has any idea what to do about it.


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