Government is a shared pretense. We imagine governments into existence. Blatant puppetry can puncture the illusion.
One of the armored columns stopped when a crowd of people, many of whom were drinking or yelling taunts, gathered on the road before them. Later in the day its commander agreed to hand over the soldiers’ assault rifles to the very separatists they were sent to fight.
Another column from the same unit, the 25th Dnipropetrovsk paratrooper brigade, surrendered not only its weapons but also the tracked and armored vehicles it had arrived in, letting militants park them as trophies, under a Russian flag, in a central square.
A pro-Russian militant climbed into the driver’s seat of one of the vehicles and spun it around on its tracks, screeching and roaring, to please the watching crowd.
The events on Wednesday underscored the weakness of the new Ukrainian government as it begins critical talks about the country’s future with the United States, Russia and the European Union in Geneva on Thursday. Officials unable to exercise authority over their own military seem increasingly powerless to contain a growing rebellion by pro-Russian militants.
The core function of government is to enable the army and the police to act as one. An army needs something outside itself to give it cohesion – the gods, the spirits of real or mythical common ancestors, the man born to rule, the mandate of heaven. Failing that, the will of the people. What has the Ukraine government got?