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Ukraine torn by East and West

For those who haven’t been following events in the former Soviet Republic of Ukraine, a brief summation is in order.

The situation is this — supporters of defeated presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko have taken to the streets of Kiev to demand an investigation into what they and many international observers have called vote fraud. The official winner, at least at this moment, is the current prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, who won by 3 percent of the vote.

For over a week now, the country has been in controlled anarchy. Though no blood has been shed, the walkout of Yushchenko from talks with Yanukovych has made this fissure even wider.

The situation has also been intensified by threats from some in the heavily pro-Yanukovych east to secede from the Ukraine and join up with their fellow Orthodox believers in Russia.

The real story, behind the battle between the orange-clad Yushchenko supporters and blue banner-waving partisans of Yanukovych, is that of foreign influence and old divisions.

Neither the West nor Russia have made secret of their support for Yushchenko or Yanukovych respectively. Though the West, with its usual tact, has limited itself to public pronouncements repeating the need for open and fair elections, in reality; behind the scenes their role has been much greater.

According to the Guardian in London, the United States has funneled $14 million to the Ukrainian student and anti-government forces.

The European Union and the United States would be more than happy to see a peaceful revolution by Yushchenko’s forces, which would move the Slavic nation of nearly 50 million into Western hands and bring the West to the borders of southwest Russia.

Of course, the Russians support Yanukovych for the exact opposite reasons. Underneath it all, the Russians under Putin desire to reassert themselves as a major world power through consolidation of the non-aligned Slavic countries.

With Poland and the Baltic countries departed to the EU, the Russians are left with the southwest, which already includes one strong ally in Belarus and the second largest former European Soviet state.

The situation, which remains tight even as I write, will most likely be resolved by an accidental gunshot or an enraged protester throwing a molotov cocktail.

Perhaps the best solution would simply be a peaceful divorce, with the industrial eastern, Russian– speaking half joining Russia, with the rest joining up with Western Europe.

Though this solution is unpalatable to both sides — though certainly less so to the Slavophile eastern-half — I believe it is the only way to avoid bloodshed that won’t leave a bitter taste in either side’s mouth.

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