Ukraine’s opposition Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, decided to stop hiding his strings and all but admit that he is trying to align with and serve US and EU interests claiming that “Ukraine is and will be part of the Western world.” So much for independence. It seems Yatsenyuk is proving the old adage that politics is a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.

Can we stop pretending this about the right to self-determination yet? The Ukraine crisis is undeniably a proxy battle between the “West” (US/EU) and Russia with different factions of Ukraine aligning with different sides for different reasons. Trying to pretend the US/EU faction is independent just makes for a confusing and inaccurate understanding of the situation.

President Obama has now publicly met with Yatsenyuk in an attempt to legitimize him. At the meeting they both called for Russia to remove its forces from Crimea.

In a show of solidarity for the besieged Ukraine, Mr. Obama hosted a White House visit by Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, the country’s pro-Western acting prime minister, and vowed to “stand with Ukraine.” But he also hinted at a formulation that could be the basis for the coming talks between Mr. Kerry and Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, recognizing Moscow’s interest in helping the Russian-speaking population in Crimea while affirming that it is part of Ukraine.


Yatsenuk was noted in an intercepted conversation between state department diplomats as the US’ preferred proxy. Now he is playing his role as hardliner pretending to represent all of Ukraine so Obama can play “peacemaker” while correspondingly attempting to legitimize his own influence.

With Mr. Yatsenyuk at his side, Mr. Obama pledged again to “apply a cost” on Russia if it does not reverse course in Ukraine. “There’s another path available, and we hope that President Putin is willing to seize that path,” he said. “But if he does not, I’m very confident that the international community will stand strongly behind the Ukrainian government.”

Couple of problems there. The US has actually isolated itself with the sanctions threat that no one else seems really interested in at the moment and the Ukrainian “government” is at the moment just a gang backed by force. The elected president is long gone.

Both sides frame their positions as a contest of principle, but the truth is this is a not-so-covert strife of interests.