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Several contributors here wrote diaries about neocon involvement in the events in Ukraine. These diaries share two common misconceptions, and both of these misconceptions are glaringly conspiracy-minded, Americo-centric, and anti-progressive:
1. Everything that happens in the world happens because some force in the US made it happen.
2. Reading a popular article (or several) in the US or (at best) English press makes you an expert on a mad rat's nest of regional conflicts that predates the US by several centuries.

Rant below the fold.

The biggest load of bullshit is that the US neocons somehow made the events in Ukraine happen the way they happened. This view completely denies agency to the denizens of the region, and it is incredibly blinkered by American exceptionalism.

The current situation in Ukraine is the result of centuries of very complicated history, alliances, wars, rebellions, massacres, and pogroms. Strife over Crimea, for example, goes back at least то 1571, when the host of Crimean Khan Devlet Geray sacked Moscow, killing or enslaving several hundred thousand of people. The parasitic slave state of Crimean Khanate was a scourge on the lands of Ukraine and southern Russia until 1783, raping, murdering, pillaging, and enslaving.

The Crimean Tatar society was based on raiding the neighbouring Slavic and Caucasian sedentary societies and selling the captives into the slave markets of Eurasia. Approximately 75 percent of the Crimean population consisted of slaves or freedmen, and much of the free population was highly predatory, engaged either in the gathering of slaves or in the selling of them. It is known that for every slave the Crimeans sold in the market, they killed outright several other people during their raids, and a couple more died on the way to the slave market.
(From Encyclopedia Britannica, for crying out loud)

You say, this was long ago? People have long memories! And people still sing songs about Cossacks defending their people against the Khanate...

Same remark about long memories applies to brotherly and contentious relationship between Kyiv, Moscow, and Warsaw, and the centuries of alliances, betrayal, and take-no-prisoners war, made more horrific by the fact that brother was killing brother.

Crimean Tartars have their own grievances, with Stalin's exile of an entire people likely topping the list. There is a whole bunch of stuff I don't even discuss in this diary, like the historical fates of Germans (lots of them!), Jews (ever heard "blood libel?" "pale of settlement?" "pogrom?" - it's all from this area!), Greeks, and so on. Add Stalin's decimation of the peasants, followed by brutal purges, throw in two world wars, one civil war - all of this in the last century...

Writing anything serious about the region without visceral awareness of this history is an attempt doomed to fail.

Now, to modern times. The country is ethnically and culturally diverse. In Soviet times, the territory of Ukrainian Soviet republic was changed several times, with only six provinces originally constituting its territory (and the capital was in Kharkiv). By fiat, several regions were taken from Ukraine, and several more were added, including parts of what was formerly Romania and Poland. Crimea was attached to Ukraine in 1954 by Khruschev. The arbitrary boundary was strictly administrative in the Soviet times, but after Ukraine became independent, this arbitrary boundary suddenly defined a homeland for a very inhomogeneous people.

Ukraine is the only European post-Soviet state where the economy has shrunk after 1991, and still has not recovered to reach its Soviet level, even after a period of rapid growth in the early 2000s. The environmental situation is a mess, the population has decreased by nearly 12% due to high death rates, suicide, and mass migration. Corruption is rampant, what is even worse, the rule of law has failed, with the local news headlines frequently describing horrific crimes committed by the law enforcement or the ruling elite, like the rape-murder of Oksana Makar (trigger warning - the story is bloodcurdling) in 2012, or the more recent gang-rape in Vradiyivka, where the perpetrators were the local law enforcers, whose involvement in several more rapes and murders is now being investigated - but it took a full-blown riot with the local police headquarters being stormed by an angry mob for anybody in Kyiv even to start an investigation.

Add to that the fact that the most recent president "privatized" the state residence and made it into a compound of his family clan, that the same president subverted the constitution to give himself more power, and the question you should start asking is not why the revolution happened - it's why had the Ukrainians put up with him for so long. Did the neocons play a role? Chances are, they tried to, and maybe they even think they did, but any role they could have played determining the immediate course of a country of 45 million well educated, politically active, and seriously pissed off people would have been minuscule. (Here I am not even discussing the role IMF, EU, RF loans, etc. or lack of such thereof played - because that further complicates things, rather than reveals some simple answer).

What isn't helping the situation is that most of the English-language reporting on the events presently unfolding in the region is either hopelessly out of date, hopelessly naive, or parroting the Russian- or Ukrainian-language reporting (while being late). As for the latter, it is more timely, but seriously diluted with half-truths, spin, propaganda, and outright lies. Effectiveness of Putin's propaganda must be specially noted, although the channels his government controls are not the only entities lying their collective asses off. It's only getting more brazen with more exposure - to the point when one of the RT anchors couldn't take it any more and quit on air.

My bottom line:

If somebody posts yet another article saying "I know what's happening in Ukraine, how it conforms with my pet theory, and how [...] is responsible, and how we (the US) can fix it" - you can pretty reliably guess that this article is a load of bunk.

And, most importantly.

Dear America, not all that happens in the world is about you.

As somebody who has ancestors in the region with traceable history that goes back all the way to the sixteenth century, let me assure you that one thing for which neither Russians nor Ukrainians nor Crimean Tartars need any outside help is fucking shit up.


4:51 PM PT: I want to thank everybody for participating in the discussion and for keeping it intense but civil. Special thanks to Assaf, whose remarks prompted me to add a paragraph to the diary.

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