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In the Ukraine Powerplay, the West Has Much to Answer For

03/03/2014 16:55 GMT | Updated 03/05/2014 10:59 BST

It wasn't just Russia that breached the sovereignty of Ukraine. The West did it too. And, in doing so, it set the scene for one of the most precarious international crises for a generation.

It's true that Britain, the United States and the EU didn't sanction the use of troops on the ground or infract recognised territorial borders. But what they did, in actively and unashamedly supporting the overthrow of the legitimate head of state by a violent and undemocratic mob, was no less a violation of Ukrainian sovereignty than Vladimir Putin's decision to mobilise his military in Crimea.

From the moment last November that opponents of the now-ousted President Viktor Yanukovych began fomenting discord, in protest at his decision to abandon a trade agreement with Brussels and throw his lot in with Moscow instead, the West encouraged them.

It didn't matter that Yanukovych was only part-way through a five-year term, having won a free and fair election with 49% of the vote in 2010, nor that the agitators did not speak for a clear majority of Ukrainians and contained within their ranks unsavoury elements from the far-Right. Such subtleties were secondary to the goal of installing in Kiev, by hook or crook, an administration that looked west rather than east.

But whether it was the spectacle of EU foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton and enlargement commissioner Štefan Füle indulging the mob at the barricades in Independence Square, or the application of sanctions, or the cheque-waving George Osborne's wooing of the coup leaders, or the laziness of the Western media in their failure to ask the right questions and hold their leaders to account, or the express support given to Yanukovych's main opponent, the sinister Yulia Tymoshenko, it is little wonder that pro-Russian Ukrainians - indeed, Ukrainians who feel no special affinity towards Moscow too - harbour deep anger at outside interference in their affairs and attempts to subvert their democracy.

In particular, the bullying, cajoling EU has been shown at its worst. But, then, why would we have expected any different? Why would the leaders of a monolithic and arrogant institution, who are disdainful of democracy in their own back yard, give a fig about democracy in Ukraine?

Yanukovych was, like Putin, no saint and no hero to the masses. Tales of his corruption and largesse may well be true (though a country whose parliament went through the ignominy of the expenses scandal is hardly in any position to lecture others about financial rectitude).

But, though dozens of protestors were killed on the streets of Kiev, there is no evidence that the deposed president ordered police officers (thirteen of whom also died and another 130 of whom were injured) to open fire. There is, though, plenty of evidence to show that the mob was armed to the teeth and gave as good as it got.

In any case, this was no people's revolution, and the rabble-rousers were not distributing flowers or chaining themselves to railings. They were setting fire to public buildings and deliberately stopping a legitimate head of state and his government from functioning. What would be the likely response of any Western leader to such tactics?

The idea that the West's approach to Ukraine is driven by some altruistic desire to free a subjugated populace from a brutal and oppressive regime, or to keep in check an expansionist Russian beast that threatens us all, is bilge. There had been no major clampdown on democracy or liberty in the country, no concerted attempt to crush dissent and no widespread strikes or insurrections in response. The Euromaidan was not the Gdansk shipyard or Tiananmen Square.

This isn't mere realpolitik at work on the part of Western leaders; it's blatant neocolonialism. They wanted regime change, and they got it.

But they weren't careful about what they wished for. Maybe they thought grinding Russia's nose in the dirt one more time would be without consequence, that Putin would ignore this latest attempt by the West to importune one of his country's near neighbours - in this case one with which it shares deep and longstanding cultural ties.

If they did, they were wilfully ignorant. And the consequence of their obtuseness is a tinderbox that now threatens to ignite from the tiniest of sparks.

To exacerbate the tensions, Yanukovych's opponents, not satisfied with chasing him out of town, have demanded that he be sent for trial at The Hague. They are not interested in peace and reconciliation. Emboldened by the support of their Western grubstakers, victory isn't enough. They want retribution.

Only this time, they appear to have overplayed their hand and inadvertently made their nation a pawn in a major international powerplay, risking its permanent rupture.

What is clear is that there is a gaping void in Ukraine where the Left should be, and representatives of ordinary workers would be foolish to look to any of the main belligerents in this drama for salvation. That void needs to be filled quickly by organisation and mass protests, which have as their theme the demand that Ukraine does not become a dominion of either Brussels or the Kremlin, but instead is allowed to govern its own affairs democratically, using its rich resources in the interests of its people.

The Eurocrats and oligarchs have failed Ukraine. Its people now need to look to each other in the fight for justice and liberation.