The agreement reached between President Viktor Yanukovych and Ukrainian opposition leaders is about as good as the anti-government forces can possibly hope to get.
It calls, inter alia, for a power-sharing arrangement with the opposition to be followed by a new presidential election no later than December. It also commits the government not to impose a state of emergency–meaning martial law–and to allow outside monitors from Europe and the opposition to monitor all investigations “into recent acts of violence.”
A sign of just how favorable this agreement is to the opposition: while it was signed by the foreign ministers of Poland, France, and Germany, all of whom are in Kiev, the Russian delegate pointedly refused to sign it.
Yet, many protesters in the streets are not prepared to accept what is largely a victory. Many of them refuse to disperse from Independence Square until Yanukovych resigns. Their position is understandable but misguided. As Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski reportedly told demonstrators: “If you don’t support this [deal] you’ll have martial law, you’ll have the army. You will all be dead.”
Sikorski should know what he is talking about, having spent a good part of his life as a refugee from Poland, which saw the imposition of martial law in 1981.
It remains an open question, however, whether many of the people on the streets of Kiev will heed Sikorski’s wisdom and that of their own leaders. They should, because all too many revolutions have gone off the rails when the revolutionaries pushed for an absolutist agenda and refused to accept a compromise that would have given them 75 percent of what they wanted. The classic example is, of course, the French Revolution, which started off as a moderate, liberal movement in 1789 and soon thereafter was drenched in blood from one round of “terror” after another.
The most successful and revered revolutionaries are those, like Michael Collins and Nelson Mandela, who are willing to accept a negotiated outcome to avoid an all-out war. That is an example the people of Ukraine would be wise to heed.