I have been following news of the violent crackdown on Ukrainian protestors with dismay. While the departure of Viktor Yanukovych from Kiev may be a positive development, the situation on the ground remains touch-and-go in my estimation. On a happy note, Orange Revolution organizer and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko (widely viewed during her ministerial tenure as the world's best looking head of state) may be freed from prison.
Back in 2005, I worked as an equipment operator for The Gates project in Central Park, a vast outdoor art installation in which over 7,000 orange banners (Christo and Jean-Claude insisted they were saffron-colored) were erected in Central Park. One of my co-workers on the project was a Ukrainian artist who took great pleasure in the project as the orange banners flapping in the wind reminded her of the revolution taking place in her homeland. Eight years later, would she have anticipated the bloodshed in the streets of Kiev?
To a large extent, the unrest in the Ukraine represents the failure of late 20th/early 21st Century American foreign policy. I was about to type that I believe the United States should have given the Ukraine more aid in the aftermath of the Orange Revolution, but I came to the realization that the problem encompasses more than the Ukraine. The United States totally blew a great opportunity by not implementing a program similar to the Marshall Plan in the former Soviet Union and its breakaway republics. After the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union dissolved, the United States government basically "spiked the football" and walked away. There was no attempt to rebuild the nation's economy or to create the institutions necessary for democratic governance. Of course, with the creeps from the Chicago School of Economics having inordinate sway over the contemporaneous regime, this was doubtless a feature, not a bug. In the absence of a civil society, the mineral wealth of the world's largest country by landmass could be looted. Of course, the long-standing problem posed by the Iranian regime is also rooted in a bid to loot the natural resources of a nation.
The current problem spots in the world, with the exception of North Korea (which is merely the playground of a mad cult of personality), are all places where the United States has failed to live up to its stated ideals, all in the interests of oligarchs. I sure hope that the Ukraine can recover from the violence that has shaken it this week, but I have to hang my head for a moment when considering the last century's lost opportunities to foster healthy societies throughout Eastern Europe.