The peace deal, and what made it possible
Since Thursday there has been a sense that this was inevitable. The government was clearly losing the fight. Not only had the protesters actually gained territory in downtown Kiev, pushing back the Berkut (special police), but the mayor of Kiev had quit the ruling party in protest against the government's shutting down of the city metro (this was an effort to stop more people from reaching Independence Square to join the protests), and other prominent party members followed his example. The uprising was spreading, not only in the west, but in the more Russian-leaning east and south (see map above), and people from all over the country were heading to Kiev to join the main fight. And as I noted in the previous post, given the size and military power of Ukraine, military intervention by Russia was not a realistic possibility. Yanukovych had run out of options. Still, he deserves credit for recognizing this quickly and not prolonging the fighting.
The most important factor was that the protesters were willing to fight and had the weapons to do so effectively. Many had guns, and they quickly began making gasoline bombs. I note that in the link above profiling individual rebels, several were veterans of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, familiar with weapons and tactics and able to train others. Thanks to all this, the protesters were able to inflict significant casualties on the regime's enforcers, though of course they suffered a greater number themselves. They seem not to have been distracted by concerns about losing the moral high ground, and rightly so. If they had been unarmed, most likely the initial government assault on Tuesday would have crushed them, followed by a week or two of useless hand-wringing in the West, and that would have been the end of that.
There's a lesson there for others who may find themselves in a similar position someday. If the extremely unlikely but not impossible nightmare scenario of an authoritarian theocracy (still the de facto goal of a significant element of the Republican party) does actually become a reality at some point in the future, then our country's tradition of widespread private gun ownership could be essential to restoring freedom -- exactly as the founders imagined.
Most of all, though, I'm haunted by another thought: If the 2009 mass uprising in Iran had been armed, that country might be free today.