Today's Opinions, Tomorrow's Reality
Ukraine's Long Path
By David G. Young
Kiev, October 21, 2017 --
Russian aggression has alienated Ukrainians for generations to come.
The 10 1/2 hour flight from Bangkok to Kiev is long. Passing over India and Afghanistan, its gentle arc then takes a left-hand turn over the Caspian Sea, taking care to steer clear of Russian territory where Ukrainian aircraft are not welcome.
To add insult to injury, the plane has to waste extra time and fuel on its unusual southerly route over the Black Sea, making an abrupt right hand turn north only once it clears the Crimean peninsula illegally occupied by Russia. It can't even fly over its own airspace under military occupation of its huge and aggressive neighbor.
It's hardly surprising that Ukraine and Russia ban each others' planes from their respective airspace. After seizing the Crimea peninsula in 2014 and invading Ukraine's east in a grinding three year war, Russia gave its ham-fisted proxy thugs access to anti-aircraft missiles, which they incompetently used to shoot down a passenger airliner that happened to pass by.
Ukraine banned Russia's airlines from flying over its territory, and Russia retaliated by banning Ukrainian ones. Now the flight from Bangkok takes much longer.
Kiev offers plenty of reminders of the war in Ukraine's east. The recruitment posters for the military are ubiquitous. Memorials for fallen soldiers line the main square. And displays of historic Ukrainian military uniforms -- including those of partisans who fought the Soviets into the 1950s, are on display at points across town.
But the city appears steady despite the economic blows and a large decline in the value of its currency since the war began. Ample cranes build new residential towers in Eastern Kiev. Residents of the capital are smartly dressed and fill the ubiquitous cafes. Obvious signs of the pervasive corruption that experts say have stunted the country are few.
Whatever path Ukraine finds out of its current troubles, it will most certainly not be in the arms of its Russian neighbor. Russia has thoroughly alienated Ukrainians with its bullying. The country is rapidly scrubbing remaining Russian language and old Soviet symbols from its cityscapes, replacing them with Ukrainian symbols dating to the founding of the Kiev in the 11th century, an event that served as the founding of both Ukraine and Russia.
That Russia has effectively made an enemy of its older brother shows just how isolated the nation has become. Life for Ukraine will go on without Russia, a thought Ukrainians can ponder during their longer flight times to the east.