I have refrained from commenting on the Ukraine situation for a while now because it's really far more complex internally than it first appears, and it serves nobody's interest to render commentary that's half-baked.
But now, it appears, it's time.
First, let's not bury the lede and get to the bottom line: Once again we have a demonstration that government exists only with the consent of the governed, and when that falls the government either modifies its position or it is replaced.
The only question that remains at that point is how it is replaced. One would hope that happens peacefully. Sadly, that is unfortunately too often not the case.
Ukraine is a major energy pipeline route both for itself and into eastern Europe for natural gas originating in Russia. There have been many spats over threats to turn off the gas, particularly into Ukraine, over payment and pricing disputes over the years. While most in the West have ignored this you can be certain that a freezing Ukranian in the middle of winter isn't going to ignore that sort of thing at all. That's one contributing factor here, but hardly the whole story. It's complicated by the fact that natural gas, unlike oil, cannot be easily shipped by other than pipeline and as such supplies and prices are inherently a regional thing.
Obama, for his part, is rattling his saber, but that's immaterial and I'm sure the Ukranians know that. The United States not only has no skin in this game it has no means of exerting influence of materiality. This is really about a government that lost the confidence of its people, who in turn demanded that the government change -- now.
Note carefully that until Friday Parliament supported Yanukovych. Then the President fled Kiev for an Eastern city, and last night his plane was denied departure clearance, presumably intending to leave the country. Yanukovych has since disappeared and it's not hard to figure out why.
Parliament, in a full 180-degree about face, has changed its mind and both voted to remove him and set new elections for May. Simply put the members of Parliament recognized (correctly-so) that they were about to lose consent of the governed and be held personally accountable by the people -- who were not going to stand down.
As with many nations there are divided desires. The Eastern part of the country is closely tied to Russia. The Western areas want closer integration with the EU. In the end the attempt to force one side to accede to the other's desires led to the people saying "nuts!" and deciding that government was going to leave one way or another in the immediate sense.
What do we take from this nation of 46 million people? The same thing we should have recognized from the start, and that every government should always keep in mind: Government only exists with the consent of the governed, and when that consent is lost government will change.
The only remaining question at that instant in time is whether the change will be peaceful, and that is under the exclusive control of the existing government apparatus. It can either choose to bow to the will of the people through peaceful process or it will be excised through less-than-peaceful means.
Ukraine's government decided to employ snipers to try to "put down" the protests in an attempt to deny the demanded change by force of arms. What they got instead was emboldened protests, despite shooting a fair number of protesters. Yanukovych correctly surmised that he was going to be held personally to account for each of those sniped protesters, and now we have a Parliament that undoubtedly switched sides largely in an attempt to keep it from being held personally responsible as well.
The former Prime Minster, who had previously been jailed in what certainly looked like a political prosecution at the time, has emerged as having apparent public support and is further evidence that what was desired in Ukraine by the people was not anarchy, as so many propose to be the case -- it was change in the government.
Are the United States and Russia involved in stoking the fire over there? Probably. Can I prove it? No, but I don't need to, and neither does anyone else. The simple fact of the matter is that both of our nations have a history of interference in places we don't belong, but the Russians at least have the plausible argument of a neighboring nation that could generate a refugee crisis or threaten their energy sales. Never mind that Russia's view of a "peace deal" means surrendering arms, which no free people should ever do under any circumstance. Put them down, yes, but surrender them no, for those arms are the only guarantee that whatever got the people mad enough to rise in the first place will not be repeated. In this regard Russia's interference has little excuse other than trying to suppress the people in favor of policies their government likes.
The United States, on the other hand, has no excuse for interference at all.
It would be nice if governments around the world recognized that when consent fails this is the inevitable outcome, and that such conflicts always resolve in the people. Recognition of this fact, incidentally, was explicitly laid forth in The Declaration of Independence.
Cessation of pushing people beyond the point that they choose to risk death, whether by taxation and privation or simple raw abuse of power, would be nice but history says that governments in general are incapable of accepting this reality. Governmental blindness in this regard tends to continue right up until the noose is in front of them, at which point those in power scamper in a puerile attempt to avoid having it put around their necks. Parliament's abrupt reversal is just the latest exhibit in this sad saga of governments writ large through the centuries.
Will both our government in the United States and others around the world learn from this rather than have to repeat it?
I can and will pray for that, but I doubt my prayers will be answered.