A game of nations

A general view shows anti-government protesters gathering around tents and barricades near Independence Square in central Kiev February 20, 2014. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)

With dozens dead in the streets of Kiev and the violence showing no signs of abating, the Cold War hangover and inadequate response from the U.S., already evidenced in Syria, are on show yet again.

Ukraine’s crisis, while sparked by President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision not to sign a trade pact with the EU in December, has been the result of long-held leanings either toward Russia or the West. And each representative superpower has played into the unfolding drama as if it were a game of nations.

This situation is, of course, not a phenomenon unknown to the Middle East, where such Cold War behavior has never really disappeared, with the once-arch enemies increasingly vying for influence, markets and oil. Western officials and Russian mediators alike are meeting with key Ukrainian players, each hoping the crisis ends with different outcomes, just as in Syria.

And the U.S. response has so far been as unsatisfactory and meaningless as it was in the early days of Syria’s uprising. The White House said Thursday it was “outraged” by images of security forces firing on their own people, and those responsible would be held “accountable.”

But what do these words even mean? The U.S. insisted it was outraged as soon as Syrian security forces started shooting civilians, and that the government would be held accountable. Now the government has stopped shooting civilians, but only because it has started dropping bombs from the sky.

Until the superpowers stop playing politics with the lives of people in countries far away, the bloodshed will persist: in Syria and in Ukraine.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 21, 2014, on page 7.




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