The Washington Obkom’s Diplomatic ‘Maidan’*

Imagine that you open the website — let’s say — of the Ukrainian Embassy in the United States, and the first thing you see is the following: “Lee Harvey Oswald, fighter against the capitalist regime: a historical essay,” followed by the quote from U.S. President Jefferson, “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms,” with explanations that, under the Constitution, every free American is obliged to defend his rights from tyrants with these very arms.

And, next, there are — for example — articles about how it is no coincidence that the U.S. president is named Barack Hussein Obama, since his father was a Muslim, and, also, about how the much talked about “Obamacare” is purely extortion for money for the president’s beloved marginal bums, who live on welfare. And, just so, all these texts bring the reader — as if by accident — to the unspoken but plain conclusion that it is time for a change of administration in the U.S. because the people have a right, if not to say, an obligation, to demand it. …

How did Martin Luther King Jr. put it? “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws … Any law that degrades human personality is unjust … An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself.”

No, sorry. I do not know King’s letter by heart. I simply discovered the very fittingly placed quotes — part of which is given above — on the home page of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine. In the text, dedicated to the events in Kiev, Dr. King is amply quoted, talking about civil disobedience, about reasons why a decent person is obliged to break the law and about why, in principle, it is good and right to break some laws. And, by the way, it is impossible not to agree with him, but that these very quotes from King appear on the diplomatic mission’s site at precisely this time — during a period when the events in Ukraine’s capital point to both the beginning of a civil war and revolution, all at once — attracts a certain interest, if not to say a kind of surprise that is difficult to describe without using invective.

I will say it again, so that you understand: The diplomatic office of a foreign government has put texts on its website in English and Ukrainian that encourage civil disobedience and insurrection against the country’s as yet legitimate government. At the same time, various condemnations by several high-ranking U.S. officials are posted there. For example, Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the Department of State, is quoted in a long discourse about just how undemocratic a set of laws passed by the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada are.

Or, for example, it publishes a statement by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry about just how outrageous it was how the Ukrainian authorities responded to the country’s citizens’ peaceful protest in Independence Square.

Now I am not proposing discussing as a whole the legitimacy or validity of the protests in Ukraine. I want to emphasize that the U.S. is clearly interfering in the affairs of a sovereign state and, moreover, very obviously expressing support for one of the sides of the conflict — a side which, by a strange coincidence, is not the legitimate authority at this juncture.

That is, in addition to the role of “worldwide policeman,” the U.S. has begun to try on for size the suit of a “worldwide meta-government” that can raise up civil unrest in the event that, for some reason, the White House does not like the authorities in a particular country. What is more, the U.S. does not want to do the filthy dirty work in Independence Square, so, posted on the site, alongside the thinly veiled appeals for unrest, are important instructions for U.S. citizens in Ukraine, whose very first lines recommended that they carefully avoid all places where clashes, demonstrations and any other instances of civil unrest are taking place. U.S. citizens should also subscribe to the embassy’s informational bulletins, which will make them aware of the level of danger overall and specific places they should avoid visiting at all costs — where, I wonder, would the State Department find out about these places? Yeah, did it seem strange to you, too?

And, here, to put it mildly, we arrive at a certain unpleasant dichotomy. On the one hand, citizens of a sovereign government are being spurred on, with hints of varying degrees of subtlety, to wrongful acts by the official voice of a diplomatic mission. However, its own citizens, as first-class creatures, are cautioned against being in places where these acts take place. I would not be surprised if, before long, the U.S. State Department calls on its citizens not to visit such a dangerous East European state — well, of course, as long as these troublesome guys that the White House does not like are in power there.

In fact, the question is just when this incitement by means of hints will grow into something else: for example, appeals to the international community to send troops and help in every possible way the Ukrainian insurgents who are fighting against an undemocratic regime. Well, roughly speaking, like in Syria. And when will they send mortars to replace the homemade catapults?

*Translator’s note: The article’s title is rather dense. Obkom is an abbreviation for “oblastnoy komitet,” or regional committee, a Soviet body tasked with advising Communist Party officials of a particular province in accordance with the party line. The pejorative phrase “Washington Obkom” refers to the notion of the existence of an analogous committee in the U.S. capital that supposedly provides pro-American ideological guidance to leaders in the post-Soviet space, in this instance, Ukraine. “Maidan” of course refers to Kiev’s Independence Square and/or the ongoing protests taking place there.

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About Jeffrey Fredrich 199 Articles
Jeffrey studied Russian language at Northwestern University and at the Russian State University for the Humanities. He spent one year in Moscow doing independent research as a Fulbright fellow from 2007 to 2008.

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