Ukraine is hopeless, but not serious

Ukraine isn’t a country: it’s a Frankenstein monster composed of pieces of dead empires, stitched together by Stalin. It has never had a government in the Western sense of the term after the collapse of the Soviet Union gave it independence, just the equivalent of the family offices for one predatory oligarch after another–including the “Gas Princess,” Yulia Tymoshenko. It has a per capital income of $3,300 per year, about the same as Egypt and Syria, and less than a tenth of the European average. The whole market capitalization of its stock exchange is worth less than the Disney Company. It’s a basket case that claims to need $35 billion to survive the next two years. Money talks and bullshit walks. Who wants to ask the American taxpayer for $35 billion for Ukraine, one of the most corrupt economies on earth? How about $5 billion? Secretary of State Kerry is talking about $1 billion in loan guarantees, and the Europeans are talking a similar amount. That’s not diplomacy. It’s a clown show…

What should we do (or what should we have done)? It’s obvious that the Ukrainians have no faith in their democratic institutions, having staged a coup against a democratically elected president. In that case, the next step is constitutional reform. The existing system has broken down and the people should choose a new one. But constitutional reform has to take into account the prospect of partition. Lviv and Sevastopol have about as much in common as, say, Bogota and Montreal. The West should encourage the Ukrainians to amend their democratic institutions in order to achieve a national consensus, which might mean a different sort of nation. If Crimea, for example, were to vote for partition, why object? If it voted against partition, that would put Putin on the spot. The West would have come off better by getting in front of the events rather than chasing them.