Lessons from the Russian Revolutions and Modern Ukraine
With Kiev in shambles and Russia scrambling to sneak pieces of the broken state into their own strong correlations appear between the revolution in Kiev today and the Revolution in Russia in 1917. The West needs to look to their failed policies during the First World War to prevent them from re-occurring today.
So here is a bit of backstory that most people are not aware of. After Nicholas II abdicated the throne in March, 1917 a new government was set up. This was called the Provisional Government and was headed mostly by center-left leaning old nobility with Prince Georgy Lvov at the head. The purpose of this government was to stabilize the war-torn nation, preserve its territorial integrity, and set up elections for the new government. The Provisional Government failed at all of these tasks and the Bolshevik Party (a little known extremist faction) took power in October 1917, started a brutal civil war (which the United States, Great Britain, Italy and Japan all took part in) and gave birth to the USSR. So why did this happen? How did the actions of some of the most powerful nations in the world fail to bring the democracy that Russia wanted and instead facilitated the creation of one of the most oppressive regimes in modern history? The answer is pretty simple, the West failed to provide the support Russia needed and relied instead on rhetoric and hope that Russia would turn out how the West wanted it to turn out.
The Provisional Government needed two things, money and manpower. The Russian Empire had racked up huge debts during the war and need capitol to rebuild its country and its economy. America had the money to help but would only give money to Russia if it stayed in the war. This would be the proverbial final nail in the coffin for the Provisional Government. The war weary citizens were ultimately swayed by Lenin and the Bolshevik’s enticing rally of “bread and peace” and the Provisional Government was forced out leading to a civil war between the White (anti-Bolshevik/communist forces) and the Reds (Bolsheviks). The Reds were well organized but few in numbers. They had to their advantage control of key economic and communication facilities that allowed them to strangle the nation. Many Western leaders asked America to intervene and protect the democracy the Russian people wanted. Instead they got a half-hearted attempt by Wilson who sent troops but ordered them to strict neutrality. America had to watch as the Bolsheviks became stronger and drove out the White forces that were begging for assistance. This lead to development of the USSR and many of the problems that could have been avoided then have come back to haunt us now. But, we can learn from these past errors and make a better outcome for Ukraine.
Think of Ukraine’s current interim government as the Provisional Government. They need two things right now, money and manpower. Money is needed to stabilize their falling economy now that Russia has withdrawn financial aid and manpower is needed to preserve the territorial integrity of the nation. The West has to be willing to pay the bill for democracy. If not, then Ukraine will fall many of the radical parties that helped facilitate this revolution will go unchecked and take over the nation. Also, Ukraine needs manpower to preserve its territorial integrity. Ukraine has something that the Provisional Government in 1918 did no, a United Nations. Remember, Wilson’s dream of a League of Nations came directly out of the First World War. If possible the UN can mobilize forces in Ukraine to stabilize the region and to allow democratic elections to take place than Ukraine would be able to keep much if not all of its territory. Revolutions can be costly for a nation, and if the West wants Ukraine’s to be successful then it must be willing to pick up the check.