While disdain for the source may be fully justified, the truth of Chairman Mao’s statement that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” is playing itself out worldwide today. As the people of Ukraine find themselves pawns in geopolitical chess game between Russia on one side and the NATO countries on the other, political forces have them facing external force no matter where they turn.
Corrupt management following the collapse of the Soviet Union did little to strengthen the internal resilience of this once “breadbasket of Europe” and with an underfunded military in disarray, accession to NATO and the European Union may have appeared attractive for economic and security concerns. No matter how well intended the overtures of Western nations may have been, with loan promises and aid packages to sweeten the road to EU & NATO club membership, geopolitical reality soon returned to sober any hopes of a deal too good to be true.
Russia’s full cognizance of the need to secure its near abroad, along with the none-too-subtle overtures of “democratizing” institutions sponsored by the US, triggered a response that has pitted the people of the Ukrainian territory against themselves. A divide and rule strategy is playing out with the question of who will actually rule left undetermined. Ukrainian political institutions, such as military units, police departments and bureaucratic administrations are revealing deep fissures in loyalty toward state governance as defections and allegiance shifts add to the chaos daily.
An unexamined factor in the Ukrainian political equation is the self-determination of the people. Rather than being hemmed into a false dichotomy of choosing between the hammer of US/EU backed IMF/World Bank fiscal traps on one side and Russian hegemony on the other, the people living in the territory currently known as Ukraine might elect a path unmentioned in the current rhetoric. The current political borders for the Ukrainian state were “inherited” from the Soviet Border Patrol Service and were drawn to support Joseph Stalin’s divide and rule strategy of placing divergent ethnicities into strategic tension so as to direct their animosities towards each other and away from the expropriations of the central authority. The current Ukrainian state is a political fiction contending with territorial claims designed to create conflict. Should anyone be surprised by the level of chaos manifesting from deliberate agitation?
As long as the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state remains prized above the political will of the constituent populations, conflict is inevitable and subject to volatility from outside provocation. While Ukraine may have shed its former Soviet masters, the people of Ukraine inherited a political system of little improvement, vis-à-vis the quality of security for the rights to life, liberty and property. Particularly, the Ukrainian state is failing to provide the requisite security necessary for political self-determination in the fate of outside aggression. Why?
Firearms ownership in Ukraine is restrictive and regulated by the Ministry of Interior. While a plethora of militia groups have sprung up since internal hostilities erupted, prior to the crisis the status of chartered citizen-based security groups at arms remained informal in Ukraine. Licensing procedures made accessing the means of self-defense prohibitive and even the carry of common pocket knives was subject to restrictive legislation. The existence of notoriously and “outrageously corrupt, bloated, ineffective, hyper-centralized bureaucracies” makes the opportunity cost of licensing beyond what most citizens are able expend.
When central governments control the source of political power, in a truly Maoist sense, it should come as no surprise when their populations are unable to withstand outside encroachment.