In Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko gets released from prison and is randomly offered the vacated throne and refuses the offer. The question is, did she do so out of a belated access of idealism or out of a foreboding sense of inevitable disaster looming – and she doesn’t want to be blamed when it happens. One can thank her, at least, for not stirring the pot any further, no more than what she did, which was dodgy enough: appearing at Euromaidan in a wheelchair and making a pointlessly incendiary speech. As other commentators have pointed out, she profited more than most from the corrupt era of business merging with politics, an era that Viktor Yanukovich tried to institutionalize, tried to lure the EU into subsidizing, before finally realized that Putin was his best bet. Let’s not forget, corruption was the original primary trigger for the Euromaidan riots.
But all that is now in the past. What’s next now that the opposition has triumphed? Several scenarios loom. The most scary, the most probable unless an antidote is found, would be the post-Tahrir syndrome. As I write, the security forces in Kiev and some other places have either vacated their premises or joined the opposition. We have seen this playbook enacted before, in Cairo. Here’s how it goes: the security forces support elections; said elections end uneasy, with no clear victory for any side. After much agonizing a compromise candidate emerges as chaos slowly engulfs the streets. The compromise leader finds it impossible to control the streets, to impose law and order, and the country drifts towards a complete standstill. Another maidan begins to take shape in reaction against the chaos and the old order returns with a new face but with far greater popular support. And who do you think would back the tough new iron-fist approach? Not the EU or the U.S., that’s for sure..
The scenario isn’t inevitable but if enough hidden forces push for it, very little can be done. Meaning, if the police and security forces stay off the streets, if they themselves quietly provoke crime and disorder, they can dictate a self-fulfilling narrative. In today’s Ukraine, enough support exists for that direction, or against Euromaidan, for one half of the country to push the other half into this endgame. And a second endgame follows – civil war and the division of the country. Euromaidan itself gave enough examples of internal anarchy that one wonders what institutional group of stakeholders will have the sagacity or toughness to return life to normal. That is, without further bloodshed. If I were in Putin’s shoes now, I would regard the current developments as a kind of pawn sacrifice in chess. The situation still trends towards his schemes in the medium term. At the very least, he has played himself into the game and will likely need to be consulted on achieving stability – not least because he stands able to destabilize anything that he doesn’t like