The West's Illusions About Ukraine

Western ignorance is leaving Ukraine's problems—and paths to a solution—overlooked.

It has yet to be reported in major western newspapers that the new government installed in Ukraine on February 26, after the deposition and flight of Viktor Yanukovych, includes eight figures associated with Ukraine’s far right. The positions they have filled are not insignificant. They include deputy prime minister, chief prosecutor, defense minister and head of the national-security council, portfolios where the coercive power of the state resides. Svoboda, the main nationalist party, has made some attempt to shed its fascist lineage, but the World Jewish Congress last year asked the EU to consider banning it, and there is much in its history and outlook that should be deeply troubling to westerners. Dmytro Yarosh, head of the “Right Sector,” is Deputy Secretary of National Security in the interim government; among his comrades are men who joined in fighting the Russians in Chechnya, and who see the Chechens as their allies. Right Sector is a paramilitary organization, like Greece’s Golden Dawn; their entry into a European government is an important milestone, and not of the celebratory sort.

The amazing thing is that the composition of the new government has attracted no attention. None of the major newspapers—I checked the FT, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal—had seen fit to report it (as of Saturday, March 8, two weeks after the announcements). On March 5, Justin Raimondo of antiwar.com published a full investigation; Raimando’s column was itself partially based on a March 5 story by Britain’s Channel 4. But it is still not news in mainstream media land.

Incredibly, the Times’ stories of February 26 and 27, reporting the composition of the government, made no mention of the success of Svoboda and Right Sector in gaining key government portfolios; instead, the gist of the stories was on the order of “previously obscure citizens gain government posts, after having led demonstrations.” It was difficult to see the transition as anything other than a wholesome tribute to civil society, with ordinary people seizing control of their own affairs: here a doctor helping out with field hospitals, now made the minister of health, there a protest organizer, now crowned minister of youth and sports. One guy, whom the Times called the Ryan Seacrest of the civic uprising, gets the culture ministry; another, a female journalist, lands the leadership of an anti-corruption bureau that doesn’t yet exist. David Herszenhorn of the Times did mention, at the end of his piece, that “Andrew Parubiy, a member of Parliament and leader of the protest movement, was chosen as the head of the national security council.” But he did not mention that Parubiy, in Channel 4’s summary, was the founder of the Social National Party of Ukraine, a fascist party styled on Hitler's Nazis, with membership restricted to ethnic Ukrainians. The Social National Party would go on to become Svoboda, the far-right nationalist party whose leader Oleh Tyahnybok was one of the three most high profile leaders of the Euromaidan protests—negotiating directly with the Yanukovych regime.

The Economist has also not seen fit to mention the presence of Svoboda and Right Sector in the government. In its latest briefing it writes, cryptically: “Right wing extremists and nationalists did take part in the revolution, but they do not control the government.” In other words, it’s a non-issue and not worth reporting.

Pages