Ukraine’s Suicidal Nationalism

By Alexander G. Markovsky | June 18, 2024

Image: Ukrainian flag by ???? ???????. CC BY-SA 2.0.

In a speech delivered on August 1, 1991, in Kiev, President George H.W. Bush urged Ukraine to consider risks associated with independence. He delivered a clear warning to Ukraine, stating that “…. freedom is not the same as independence. Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based upon ethnic hatred.”

The President’s warnings fell on deaf ears. Ukrainian leaders were not pursuing national interests. Instead, they were motivated by unfounded hostility toward Russia. The outcome proved catastrophic.

On August 24, 1991, Ukraine, driven by “suicidal nationalism,” seized the opportunity presented by the impending collapse of the Soviet Union to proclaim its independence. Once the excitement and promises of democracy and prosperity faded, the Ukrainian people, who had never experienced self-governance, were confronted with the harsh realities of governing a nation. Subsequently, despite impressive resources, Ukraine failed economically and politically.

Ukraine inherited one of the world’s largest agricultural and industrial bases from the Soviet Union. It used to be called a breadbasket of Europe. Its economy produced airplanes, ships, locomotives, turbines for hydropower plants, electrical motors and transformers, and a vast assortment of consumer goods. Donbas coal mines were a major supplier of the Soviet Union’s steel mills and power plants. Additionally, Ukraine manufactured various military hardware, such as tanks, missiles, and jet fighters. With a well-educated population, Ukraine could have become one of Europe’s economic powerhouses.

Unfortunately, Ukrainian leaders either failed to grasp or intentionally ignored that the Ukrainian economy was closely intertwined with the Soviet Union’s economy. Therefore, Russia was a natural, or rather the only, market for Ukrainian goods and services. Despite this, Ukraine abandoned Russian markets and aligned with the European Union. It was an absurd idea, as it would necessitate a significant overhaul of the Ukrainian economy to comply with European regulations and standards. Such a massive endeavor would require both time and substantial financial resources.

In the end, the EU displayed no interest in Ukrainian products. Consequently, Ukraine lost the Russian market, and the economy crumbled. Ukraine was no longer able to sustain itself, and its entire existence relied on foreign aid, ultimately resulting in Ukraine losing sovereignty and becoming a pawn of foreign interests.

In no other area did “suicidal nationalism” manifest itself as severely as in the realm of domestic policy, which eventually contributed to the ongoing conflict.

After the chaotic collapse of the Soviet Union, Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, where most residents were Russians, fell under Ukrainian jurisdiction. The sentiments towards Russia in these regions, varying from acknowledging Russian as an official language to seeking complete autonomy from Ukraine, have been ingrained in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. These emotions were further solidified by the removal of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow, democratically elected president Yanukovych in a coup d’état that the United States sponsored in 2014.

Kiev could accept a limited autonomy for the belligerent East, similar to the American states, which it demanded from the outset, and avoid a bloody conflict altogether. But newly elected president Petro Poroshenko ignored President Bush’s warning not to “… seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism.” Instead, it elected to use military force to subdue the Russian population of Eastern Ukraine. It has been shelling Donbas, including the use of artillery supplied by America, destroying the cities, and killing thousands of civilians indiscriminately for years (something the Western media ignores entirely). This “suicidal nationalism” was one of the reasons behind Russia’s eventual annexation of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

In foreign affairs, “suicidal nationalism” also overrode national interests. Ukraine’s pursuit of NATO membership, ostensibly for security reasons, disregarded Russia’s repeated warnings over the past three decades about the existential threat of NATO’s eastward expansion. The push for Ukraine to become a member of NATO would not and could not ensure Ukraine’s security. Instead, the effort has put Ukraine in mortal danger for breaching the terms of the 1997 Treaty on Friendship between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, which explicitly stipulated Ukrainian neutrality (section 6, page 148).

Ukraine’s unwavering pursuit of NATO membership, fueled by political inexperience, recklessness, and a heavy reliance on foreign aid, was an illusory goal that served no national purpose and tragically led to a preventable war. By now, it is self-evident that the pursuit of NATO membership resembles chasing a mechanical rabbit (video here). Yet Zelensky and Co. still do not realize that their tireless endeavors and sacrifices have been in vain, as NATO membership has never been an attainable reality. For obvious reasons, NATO members, unlike Ukraine, want to avoid direct confrontation with Russia.

Indeed, even Ukraine’s strongest supporters cannot escape the fact that during the thirty years after declaring independence, it has failed to produce any notable accomplishments. On the contrary, inept Ukrainian leaders have plundered most of the resources they inherited from the Soviet Union, exacerbated internal incompatibilities, and incited an unnecessary war with Russia, the ravages of which continue to erode the remaining fragments of its once-thriving heritage.

In the annals of history, it would be difficult to name another instance where a nation consistently made decisions detrimental to its own national interest, ultimately leading to self-destructive outcomes. As this dysfunctional and corrupt failed state crumbles, there is a haunting fear that Ukraine will be left a wasteland for future generations. Konrad Adenauer’s words, “History is the sum of things that could have been avoided,” ring so especially true for Ukraine.

Alexander G. Markovsky is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, a conservative think tank that examines national security, energy, risk analysis, and other public policy issues. He is the author of “Anatomy of a Bolshevik” and “Liberal Bolshevism: America Did Not Defeat Communism, She Adopted It.” Mr. Markovsky is the owner and CEO of Litwin Management Services, LLC. He can be reached at

June 19, 2024 | 52 Comments »

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  1. @Felix

    When the Nazis barked Zelensky was like streaked lightning

    And herein lies the real power of the Nazi’s in Ukraine. The critics who blindly claim that Ukraine does not have a Nazi problem ignore the role which the Nazi’s have played in many aspects of Ukraine’s recent history. This is how the Maidan was won. This is how Odessa was overthrown. This is how Poroshenko was quickly turned towards war after his election, and this is how Zel’s long promised peace process with Russia came to a sudden and irreversible end, soon to be replaced with a growing desperation to poke the Russian Bear with ever greater pokes.

    The reach of the Nazi’s within Ukraine extends even more deeply than this as the innumerable celebrations and monuments raised to the Nazi butchers of WWII, to men and women who participated in the Holocaust. This is why the recent celebration of a Ukrainian Nazi in Canada brought down the Speaker, but in Ukraine there was not even a word of condemnation following the Ukrainian tributary awarded to this same Waffen SS soldier.

    Ukraine has a Nazi problem, and like all problems, unless it is ultimately addressed, this problem will grow ever greater. Also, I find it to be unlikely that the Nazi problem will actually be addressed in this war, given Russia’s continued interest in pursuing a negotiated settlement, as the Nazi problem can not be negotiated out of existence anymore than it might be wished away.

  2. Peloni that’s a very good point. An extremely good point.

    When the Nazis barked Zelensky was like streaked lightning

    The organisation did not go away

    Why would it?