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‘Ukrainian protests don’t have much to do with Ukraine itself’

Published time: January 21, 2014 17:37
Ukrainian opposition activists build barricades with burned bus after violent clashes in central Kiev January 21, 2014.(AFP Photo / Vasily Maximov)

The main target of Ukrainian protests is Russia; the clash doesn’t have much to do with Ukraine itself, Nebojsa Malic, Serbian historian and an expert on foreign policy and Ukrainian affairs, told RT.

RT: From what we've seen from Kiev so far, it's seems the protesters are out of control. The Former Ukrainian president has already warned that it might lead to a civil war - do you believe there's a real danger of that?

Nebojsa Malic: It’s always a distinct possibility. I think at this stage the protesters are getting desperate and they’re trying to figure out what they can do to either get their demands met (if they can figure out what those demands are), because if they don’t they will have spent the last couple of months basically occupying the Assembly for nothing. This is a very dangerous stage for both the protesters and the government, and I think there are a lot of possibilities here and what happens in the next couple of days will close off some avenues and open up others.

RT: The US and the EU are blaming the authorities for responding to the protests violently - but the images we're seeing tell a different story, with protesters beating policemen? How do Brussels and Washington expect the police to act?

NM: Ask yourself what any western government, confronted with the same exact problem – or even something a lot milder – how would they respond? Would there be automated weapons deployed? Actual bullets as opposed to rubber ones? I think the default response from the West is that the Ukrainian government can do no right, so whatever they do they’re going to be condemned for it. So they might as well, I’m figuring, and I’m guessing from their behavior they’re figuring it as well, they may as well do everything they can in their power to secure the rule of law, to suppress the violent protesters and to make sure this does not boil over into a civil war. I think a modicum of force is appropriate when you’re facing violent protesters. You have to send a message that this will not be tolerated. You have to send a message that you stand firm and the law breakers will not be allowed to run rampant. And I think, from what I’ve seen, they’ve acted with remarkable restraint, especially, again, compared to what western law enforcement would do in such circumstances.

Ukrainian opposition activists stand next to burned police vehicles after violent clashes in central Kiev January 21, 2014.(AFP Photo / Vasily Maximov )

RT: The US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the new anti-protest laws stripped Ukrainians of their future. Is that accurate or is he overstating the case?

NM: That’s a bit of a harsh statement on the part of Secretary Kerry. Does being stripped of your future mean banning foreign-funded NGOs from influencing your elections, because if that’s the case let’s just review the entire American electoral process for that matter. I think there are some objections to the way that the laws were passed. A little bit of a rush and under the circumstances when the legislators couldn’t properly debate because the legislature is under siege, by these violent protesters. But I think the main thrust of them is that you have to control your electoral process and control who gets to influence it through the media, through contributions, through brute force in the final extent of it. Any sovereign country should have the right to do that. If the United States has the right to pass the foreign agents act and demand that every penny in every electoral campaign in this country be accounted for, and ban foreign contributions to it, then why shouldn’t the same apply to Ukraine, Russia or anybody else?

RT: In December we saw some EU politicians on Kiev's Independence Square as well as American diplomats - surely that goes beyond the international norms of how lawmakers and diplomats operate?

NM: I wouldn’t be so sure. The commissars of the EU are generally very good about leading from the back; they’re very good at photo ops; I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of them on the actual barricades, or whenever there was actual gunfire. They will send messages, they will feign concern on television, but I honestly believe that if we do see them in Kiev, it will mean that the immediate danger of violence has passed.

RT: The US is demanding the police leave central Kiev and saying once again they're considering sanctions. Would Washington go as far as sanctions?

NM: They can pretty much impose sanctions at anybody at a whim. The whole notion of US foreign policy is that it is exempt from international law and any kind of constraints, say from the will of the American government, and has been this way for years if not explicably states, I think what is happening at this point is more of a test of ideology. The reason the US government and the EU are so adamant about having a regime in Kiev that serves their interest is that the notion of a government not wanting to follow the lead of Brussels and Washington is anathema to the circles of power in the West. The mere suggestion that an alternative to the ‘end of history liberal capitalism,’ call it what you will, parliamentary democracy, again, whatever they choose to call the system that’s crumbling around us, the mere suggestion that there may be an alternative to it is heresy. And you fight heresy with inquisition. So, any sort of dissent has to be crushed. This is why they’re funding all these non-governmental organizations; this is why they’re supporting all these protest movements they don’t necessarily have anything in common with. The only intersection is that these people are prepared at this point in time to serve their interests in making sure that Kiev remains a client state of the EU or Washington or NATO, call it what you will. And I think this is a clash that doesn’t have much to do with Ukraine itself; the main price, the main target in the entire process is Russia.

A protester sits on a chair on a burned bus during clashing break of the opposition and the police in Kiev on January 21, 2014. (AFP Photo / Sergei Supinsky)

RT: The opposition leaders want the president to step down and call for early elections. Are they ready to assume control of the country if there were elections?

NM: I don’t think so, not based on their behavior so far. In fact everything they’ve done screams of petulant entitlement. In a truly mature democracy you have the government that acts within its legal authority, which Yanukovich whatever the criticism against him has done, and you have the opposition which challenges the government again within the legal order and democratic procedures, which the opposition has not done in fact. And rather than run for election they demanded that they be given power through street protests. This is not democracy, this is hooliganism.