Ukraine feels nervous as big powers debate fate

Apr 09 2014, 00:44 IST
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SummaryAs top diplomats from Russia and the United States have met in Europe's capitals to decide Ukraine's fate in recent weeks, there's been a conspicuous absence: a representative from Ukraine.

Cold War, U.S. secretaries of state and Soviet foreign ministers routinely negotiated the outcome of crises and the fate of countries. It has been a long time since such talks have occurred, but last week a feeling of deja vu overcame me,'' George Freedman of Stratfor, a U.S. global intelligence think tank, wrote recently.

''Americans and Russians negotiated over everyone's head to find a way to defuse the crisis in Ukraine and, in the course of that, shape its fate.''

But Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who is now an analyst at the Brookings Institution, contests that view. He says that the United States, under Secretary of State John Kerry's diplomacy, wants to ensure that Ukraine is an active partner in talks.

''I think Mr. Lavrov would like to make this a U.S.-Russia negotiation on Ukraine's fate ... I don't think secretary Kerry plans to go there,'' said Pifer. He cast Kerry as telling the Russians: ''You have to have this conversation with Ukraine.''

In Kiev, political scientist Volodymyr Fesenko said that the international community needs to abandon the mentality that it's others who will decide Ukraine's fate, while also stressing that the West is key to a successful future - and that, ultimately, anything is better than war.

''We don't live in the 19th century and Ukraine must decide on its own what its foreign and internal policy should be,'' Fesenko said, but added: ''Let Putin negotiate with the West on the Ukrainian matter rather than go to war with Ukraine.''

In Kiev, the threat of a war is on everybody's mind.

''I feel anxious for our Ukraine, for the future of our children. I don't want our fears to come true,'' said Oleksandr Osadchy, 50, a construction entrepreneur, who helped his 4-year-old daughter Anya to a slide in a playground in central Kiev one recent afternoon. ''War is horror, blood and dirt. God forbid.''

Over recent weeks, Russia has skillfully waged psychological warfare against Ukraine.

First, Russia's parliament authorized the government to use military force in Ukraine. Then, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia reserves the right to use ''any means at our disposal'' to protect Russian speakers. Soon, the Russian Foreign Ministry was saying that it was considering requests for such protection.

Even children and their parents became victims of the campaign of fear: A popular Russian bedtime TV show, called ''Good night Kids,'' featured Filya the

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