Monday, December 27, 2004

Perils of Pretending

So Putin's man went down in flames in the Ukrainian elections and the Kremlin's dream of rebuilding the empire went with him.

Putin is reaping the seed planted 60 years ago. When Russia was riding high after ejecting the Nazis from the USSR and conquering Eastern Europe, it seemed like a jolly good idea to demand that Ukraine have a UN seat. What fun! The Ukrainians were beaten down from war, Moscow-induced famine, and post-war purges to boot! Like they were even close to pretending to be an independent state! But we all pretended that the Ukraine was a real country with its own seat.

But then came 1989 and the outer empire collapsed. And in 1991, the USSR went down. The Ukrainians, who had the UN seat of a real country, demanded a country. Who could say that somebody with a UN seat was not a real country? So the Ukraine is independent. Russia never liked that and this year tried their old tricks to pull the wayward "independent" Ukraine back into Moscow's orbit.

But Putin was busted and the special forces boys didn't get the chance to finish the job started by the botched poisoning of Yushchenko. And now the Ukraine will move westward, possibly joining other members of the former empire moving into NATO and/or the EU.

Ah, the perils of pretending something is real when it is not. After pretending so long it was tough to deny it was real.

Not that we don't have our own problems with pretend policy. We have long pretended that the UN represented some ideal of the glorious international community of nations that would look to the greater good of all of us. We have pretended this was true for so long that we hardly notice the rampant corruption, the raping of women by UN troops, the infiltration of thug nations into the watchdog groups that protect human rights, the denial that some democracies are real and the assertion that kleptocracies are nations, and the ruthless pursuit of national interests by those that spout international brotherhood the loudest. And some here and many abroad now think that the pretend reality we propped up for so long is real and demand we act as if it is real.

Russia has paid the price for its pretend diplomacy. We are still paying the price for ours.