Although the now more than twelve-year misadventure by the United States in Afghanistan may finally be reaching an end-point (for the Americans at least), the war profiteers who have a vested interest in this country’s trillion dollar War Industry are becoming increasingly desperate in their blatant attempts to keep their ever-thriving enterprise growing, despite the fact that their own pocketbooks are far from hurting. The weapons-manufacturers, the military-contractors, the oil tycoons – all of them fear relinquishing even an ounce of what has been the primary driver of their huge profits in the 21st century. The evidence lies in the fact that, as the U.S. combat wars in Iraq and Afghanistan draw closer to an end, every single overseas conflict draws calls from the neo-cons for U.S. military intervention. The most striking example of this came last year in the reaction to the escalating crisis in Syria. Had it not been for the surprisingly unpersuasive attitude of the American public-at-large, the U.S. would have succeeded in its quest to launch missiles at the internally-warring nation. That the ceaseless barrage of pro-war propaganda ran its course in all of the major news outlets yet still was unable to convince the American people to overcome their war-fatigue must have come as a personal blow for high-level officials in the White House and Pentagon. Likewise, an on-the-ground war with either Iran or North Korea is equally unattainable at this time, and so the war-mongers have fallen back on the U.S.’s age-old rival from the Cold-War era, Russia, to play the part of national bogey-man. The Ukrainian crisis has been being waved around as potential red-meat in the latest headlines, with politicians even drawing ridiculous comparisons between Russian President Vladimir Putin and WWII-era German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, as former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton did recently. In fact, if one were to get their news solely by way of big-name American media corporations, they’d undoubtedly have the impression that the Russian Federation under Vladimir Putin just invaded Ukraine, intent on “taking over” the whole country and incorporating it into a new 21st century Russian empire! As is to be expected by now, however, truth in reality and truth as seen through the eyes of the U.S. State Department aren’t exactly on the same page.
In contrast to what’s been so widely-propagated, when Russian troops entered the Crimean peninsula on March 1st, they were not trying to “take over” all of Ukraine, nor did they ever intend to. The truth of the matter is that officials in Crimea welcomed their arrival, as it was they who sought out Russia’s protection in the first place. The call for help came in response to the uncertainty being caused by the rapid changes occurring on Ukraine’s national scene after a coup in the country’s western region ousted the democratically-elected Ukrainian president. Russia and Ukraine have a very long and somewhat complicated history with each other, and at times Ukraine’s fate has been existentially tied with Russia’s. Leading up to World War I, the region known as Ukraine (which didn’t include Crimea at the time) was divided between two warring imperial nations of Europe, the western area aligned with Imperial Germany’s monarchist rule as opposed to the eastern side which was aligned with the monarchy of Imperial Russia. But when Germany suffered a major defeat in the war and was forced to give up its Imperialist ambitions (for the time being anyway), it relinquished its hold on Ukraine’s western territory in 1917 which was annexed to the newly-independent state of Poland. Ukraine’s eastern territory, though remaining aligned with Russia, also underwent major changes as a result of several simultaneous Revolutions in Russia, revolutions ultimately leading to Vladimir Lenin and the Bolshevik Party rising to power.
In 1922 Ukraine officially became one of fifteen blocs under the Soviet Union. Now known as the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic, it was the second largest and second most prominent overall republic of the Soviet Union after Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Unfortunately German nationalism was not defeated as a result of the First World War. In fact the 1930s saw the country swept up in fervor of fascism. Under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, who single-handedly spearheaded the rise of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party, Germany reemerged as a global power. From the outset Poland (and thus the western Ukraine) was a target for Third Reich imperialist expansion. (*) When the Germans annexed Poland and its territories in 1939, Hitler’s armies found support in the western Ukraine, including Kiev, where armed fascists such as the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists had been conducting guerilla-warfare against Poles since the close of WWI. Though the organization’s main aim was the eventual creation of a Ukrainian national state, they ideologically identified with Hitler’s fascist doctrine and had no trouble forming an alliance with Nazis. (**) They, along with the newly-formed Ukrainian (Galician) division of the Nazi S.S. Corps, joined with German fighters to form the insurgent army which, in 1941, invaded the Soviet Union and slaughtered an untold amount of civilians in eastern Ukraine. Tens of thousands of Soviet troops lost their lives fighting the Nazis in the town of Sevastopol alone. Eventually the Allies emerged victorious in WWII, the Axis was defeated, and Russia and now the entire Ukraine returned to the Soviet Union. It wasn’t until 1954, however, that the Crimean Peninsula, upon the action of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, was transferred from Russia’s territorial boundary to that of the Ukrainian Republic. At the time this action was taken it undoubtedly seemed like a move of little historical or even political significance. No one at the time could have predicted that the Soviet Union, whose strength in 1954 was rivaled only by that of the United States, would ultimately collapse in 1991.
On the same year that the Soviet Union came to an end, Ukraine officially declared its independence from the faltering union, Crimea included. And while a spirit of national solidarity was more prevalent in Ukraine than it had ever been before, the cultural differences the country’s western region had with its eastern and southern regions were bound to once again morph into ideological divisions. The latter continued to identify more, in terms of politics and culture, with Russia, whereas the former drew closer to its pro-Western, pro-European tendencies. Due to the fact that the eastern region has a larger population, however, it has generally been the more politically dominant. A full 55-60% of the population of Ukraine dwelled in the east and south. Testament to this political reality could be found in the country’s national elections in 2010, in which Party of Regions candidate Viktor Yanukovych and his party emerged victorious over former Prime Minister and rival Yulia Tymoshenko of the right-leaning Fatherland Party. Yanukovych was carried to victory by voters in the country’s eastern and southern regions, where Tymoshenko was the solid choice in the west.
Dissatisfaction with Viktor Yanukovych’s government had been clearly brewing across Ukraine for some time before the ‘Maidan’ protests began in Kiev, not least of which was the result of corruption within his own government. But the issue that sparked widespread violence and calls for international intervention was the President’s decision over whether to accept a trade deal offered by the European Union (E.U.) or a competing aid package offered by Russia. The trade agreement being pushed by the EU included an offer of a mere $1 billion loan to be paid out over a period of seven years through the International Monetary Fund (I.M.F.) on the condition that Ukraine submit to a “raise of gas and heating tariffs for the population by approximately 40%, commitment to freeze base salary, general nominal salary on the current level; significant shortening of expenses for budget purposes; reducing subsidies in energy sector; gradual cessation of the Value Added Tax exemption for agriculture and other branches and other conditions” (^) – or in other words complete and utter submission to more powerful Western nations. In contrast, the competing package put on the table by Russian President Vladimir Putin included an offer to purchase $15 billion in Ukrainian government bonds over a five-year period in addition to a commitment to sale Russian gas to Ukraine for just $268.5 “per cubic metres” as opposed to $400. According to President Putin, Russia’s deal (which was clearly better than the one offered by the EU) was not “tied to any conditions.” This assurance, however, was met (perhaps quite rightly) with more than a little skepticism on the part of many of the Ukrainian people. Despite this, Yanukovych said he still had hopes to one day sign a trade-deal with the EU, under the condition that there would be “at least 20 billion euros a year to pay for the necessary upgrading of Ukraine’s economy.” (After all, Ukraine is more $4 billion in debt.) Apparently this was a condition the EU was unwilling to match, and so Yanukovych chose Russia’s aid package over the IMF loan.
The decision to reject forming a closer alliance with the European Union, and in the eyes of pro-Western Ukrainians the rejection of EU membership, set off a firestorm across Ukraine, not least in the country’s capital of Kiev. The protests which began in November, 2013 eventually grew so large that Ukrainians of all different political stripes and economic backgrounds began to take part in them, voicing their genuine frustrations and grievances against the Yanukovych government, demanding the President’s immediate ouster. However, the fact that this became a popular movement should not cloud the fact that, from the beginning, some of the main forces behind the protests were various elements of Ukrainian nationalist and ultra-fascist groups fueled by their anti-eastern ideology. And while the majority of seats in the current Ukrainian parliament are held by the Party of Regions and the centre-right Fatherland Party (Batkivshchyna), there are other more extreme forces sharply on the rise as a result of the Maidan protests in Kiev. Chief among them are the All Ukrainian Union Freedom Party (Svoboda) and Right Sector.
The Svoboda Party was initially founded in 1991 as the Social-Nationalist Party of Ukraine, basing its name deliberately on the National-Socialist German Workers’ Party that Hitler began to lead in Germany during the 1920s, and choosing as the party symbol a slightly-altered version of the swastika. (It is worth noting that this symbol has been appearing rather frequently in right-wing demonstrations in Kiev.) The party’s founders were Andriy Parubiy and Oleh Tyahnybok. It wasn’t until 2004 that the party changed its name to Svoboda (accompanied by an official change in the party’s symbol) in an apparent attempt to “moderate” its extreme views for public consumption, enabling it to rise from out of the political fringe. This cosmetic change was spearheaded by none other than Andriy Parubiy himself, who in turn seems to have abandoned the party he was co-founder of in favor of political ‘respectability’. For example, as a member of parliament since 2007, he successfully campaigned in the 2012 elections for re-election not as a member of Svoboda, but as a member of the Fatherland Party. But as for the Svoboda Party as a whole, doing away with its neo-Nazi ideology was not a part of their strategy. As Parubiy moved on to parliament, Oleh Tyanhnbock became the party’s de-facto leader, and as late as 2005 he was still signing his name to letters decrying long-since discounted conspiracy theories reminiscent of those peddled in Nazi Germany, one of which warned of an impending mass “genocide of Ukrainian people” being orchestrated by “Organized World Jewry.” In 2004 he delivered a rousing speech before his supporters resulting in wide-spread condemnation when he declared the government was run by “Muscovite-Jewish mafia” intent on “taking away our Ukrainian state.” Why then has this neo-Nazi been openly embraced by several influential U.S. politicians, chief among them Arizona Senator and former Republican Presidential nominee John McCain?! At the height of the protests Senator McCain traveled to Ukraine to wine and dine with Ukrainian fascists like Tyahnybok and Svoboda parliament member Ihor Miroshnychenko, the latter who once declared gay pride parades should be banned from Ukraine on account of their “leading to the spread of AIDs.” Miroshnychenko also referred to Jewish Ukrainian-born actress Mila Kunis as a “dirty Jewess.”
The Svoboda Party’s apparently successful attempt at moderating its image to make it more acceptable to the Ukrainian public has opened the door for Right Sector to pick up the torch of brazen uninhibited fascism and enabled it to form an army of the most extreme elements of post-WWII Europe. During the Maidan protests, members presumably of Right Sector were seen flying the original red-and-black flag of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. Right Sector’s undisputed leader is Dmytro Yarosh, a man who made quite a name for himself during the protests by being photographed and video-taped firebombing government buildings government with workers and civilians in them. He and his party have for years pushed a law that would ban non-Ukrainian languages, in particular Russian, from being used in government offices and buildings. Another prominent party member, Aleksandr Muzycho, has stated openly that he aims to fight against “Communists, Jews and Russians for as long as blood flows in my veins.” (^^)
As is so often the case with right-wing and ultra-fascist rebel forces the world over, the anti-Yanukovych forces were openly welcoming of support from the United States. They received regular visits from Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and received a lot of encouragement from Senator John McCain in the form of appearances and speeches at public anti-government rallies in Kiev. Most sinister of all, however, are the contents of a private telephone conversation had between Victoria Nuland and the United States Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, unknowingly recorded and later leaked by an unknown source. In the conversation Nuland tells Pyatt quite emphatically who the U.S. would like to see (and who it does not want to see) appointed (not elected) as Prime Minister of a new pro-Western Ukrainian government. It should come as little surprise then that her stated choice, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, was indeed appointed as the new Ukrainian Prime Minister on February 23rd. Apparently Yatsenyuk is nothing more than a United States hand-picked puppet whose task it is to further the nation’s imperialist objectives in Ukraine.
[**See the below video in which State Department spokesperson Jan Psaki pathetically tries to dodge questions about the leaked phone conversation.]
What this all demonstrates is that the ouster of the democratically-elected, albeit corrupt, Ukrainian President Yanukovych is yet another Western-backed coup akin to an imperialist overthrow. From the beginning, the U.S. and its European allies have had their fingerprints all over this revolt, working to undermine the legitimate Ukrainian government while encouraging fascist forces to take over and enact their own agenda. The motives for doing this are multiple, not least of which is the desire to provoke conflict with Russia, the unforgivable “enemy” of the Cold War. And, of course, Ukraine has “major deposits of coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel and uranium [and] the largest sulfur and second-largest mercury reserves in the world.” Perhaps most importantly is the rise of the natural gas industry in the U.S., an enterprise which undoubtedly envisions a ‘Ukraine-without-Russia’ as a potentially viable client-state. Fully aware that the vast amount of oil supplied to the Ukraine is purchased from neighboring Russia, severing the ties between the two countries could practically open Ukraine up for American business.
And so it was that the violence and destructive chaos commenced. One after the other, monuments dedicated to the memory of the Russian Revolution of the early 20th century were defaced and brought tumbling to the ground, including two-dozen statues previously erected to honor Russia’s Revolutionary Leader Vladimir Lenin as well as several of which had been memorials to the Soviet soldiers who so valiantly fought and died in battle with the Nazis. Elsewhere a newly-constructed Jewish Synagogue was firebombed, and Communist Party offices were torched to the ground. Finally, on February 21st the Ukrainian parliament voted to oust Yanukovych from the presidency, although the legality of this vote is an issue of some contention. Meanwhile Yanukovych himself fled to Moscow citing growing fears over his potential safety, and in his place Oleksandr Turchynov of the Fatherland Party was appointed President on February 23rd. And while Turchynov has been touted as a political moderate, the same cannot be said of many of the other new faces chosen to hold important offices in the new government. Andriy Parubiy is the new Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, and his deputy is none other than Right Sector’s Dmytro Yarosh. Other Svoboda Party members who’ve moved up in the ranks include Ihor Tenyukh (Defense Minister), Oleg Makhnitsky (Prosecutor General), and Oleksandr Synch (vice Prime Minister under Arseniy Yatsenyuk).
Signs of where this new government could potentially lead might be seen in the very first acts the new government took up. Ominous laws were introduced by parliament with the purpose of banning the Communist Party and restricting the usage of some languages. Parliament also voted to remove Russian, Greek, Romanian and other languages from their statuses of officially-recognized minority languages. (*^) Actions such as these came as a grim warning to many in Ukraine’s eastern and southern regions, the memory of WWII not too far from reach in their collective memory. A letter dispatched from President Yanukovych (prior to his fleeing to Moscow) to President Putin gave voice to a sense of urgency. “People are being persecuted for language and political reasons,” wrote Yanukovych. “So in this regard I would call on the President of Russia, Mr. Putin, asking him to use the armed forces of the Russian Federation to establish legitimacy, peace, law and order, stability and defend the people of Ukraine.” Reading between the lines of Yanukovych’s plea, it does appear that he is calling for a full-scale occupation of Ukraine by the Russian military to “restore order.” But no matter how one reads the request, the bottom line is that Mr. Putin did not actually grant his full request, because troops were dispatched only in the Crimea and have gone no further. Incidentally, nary a word has been mentioned in the incessant United States media coverage about the fact that what Putin has been doing is completely within the legal bounds of the bilateral agreement made between Russia and Ukraine in 1994. By law Russia is allowed to station up to 25,000 troops in the Crimean Peninsula; there are currently 16,000. But it’s not surprising that the American propaganda outlets – CNN, Fox “News”, the New York Times, NBC, ABC and CBS included – have failed to supply the public with these crucially important facts. Instead they present the information in such a way as to leave the average American with the impression that President Putin is somehow trying to invade and force his will upon a democratically-elected government. Perhaps that is how neo-liberal hypocrites like U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power can brush all of the aforementioned aside and claim with a straight face that there “is no evidence that ethnic Russians are in danger.” (Russia’s Ambassador to the U.N. hit back at Power by brushing her off and saying that she must have gotten all her information from “U.S. TV” – a statement probably more accurate than any of us would care to admit.)
In spite of everything, the E.U. and the legitimate president Viktor Yanukovych were able to hash out a deal on February 21st which would’ve cleared the way for early elections in December and, until then, a power-sharing government was to be established between the former president and the new government leadership. This deal received a wide array of support, though officials in Moscow viewed it with suspicion due in part to its being crafted by France, Poland and Germany. Regardless, the deal had to be scrapped at the last minute because the neo-Nazis of the far right simply wouldn’t allow it. For them, this so-called “peace” deal was a no-go from the beginning. Instead, at their insistence new elections were called for and will take place as early as May 25th. In response to this sudden change of events members of the Crimean peninsula, under the guard and protection of Russian soldiers, took the giant step of voting for “a declaration of independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea”. This move sent the referendum to the people of Crimea so that they could vote on Sunday, March 16th to decide whether or not they wished to succeed from Ukraine or not. In other words, this is a true case of the “self-determination” that the United States claims to be greatest champion of. Yet not even a full day passed before the U.S. declared that it would oppose the referendum regardless of how the people of Crimea vote.
The U.S. propaganda campaign went into full effect at the behest of the State Department headed by Secretary of State John Kerry, who said just two days before the vote in Crimea that “the referendum is contrary to the constitution of Ukraine, is contrary to international law, [and] is in violation of that law and we believe it is illegitimate… Neither we nor the international community will recognize the results of this referendum.” He also offered vague threats (though he claimed otherwise), saying, “There will be consequences if Russia does not find a way to change course… There will be costs.” (^*) That these words were uttered by a representative of the United States government is absolutely astounding to say the least, and the hypocrisy of it all was not lost on Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a press conference, Putin stated, “Let’s remember what the U.S. did in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Libya. We believe we are completely legitimate in what we are doing.”
President Obama and the European Union both hit back in their own ways. The President announced $1 billion in aid will be given on behalf of the United States to the new Ukrainian government. Additionally he has been imposing sanctions against various Russians who are deemed “a threat to the nation’s sovereignty” and has restricted and banned Visas for individuals said to be “responsible for activities undermining democratic processes of institutions in Ukraine.” (If he were serious about that last part, the President should start by imposing travel bans on Senator John McCain and his own Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland!) Even more interesting were the actions taken by the E.U., who followed the President by offering the new Ukraine a $15 billion aid package to be meted out over two years. (Gee, why does a $15 billion aid package sound so familiar?)
In anticipation of the vote, 300 American troops and 12 F-16 fighter jets were shipped off to Poland and Lithuania for an alleged “training drill.” Never one to mince words, John McCain cut straight to the point, doing away with all pretenses by directly calling for “a long-term military assistance program from the United States” in Ukraine. As a firm representative of the War Industry, McCain has no problem with deploying American military personnel to fight on the ground in places like Syria and Ukraine to serves the interests of the business elite. (+) This was soon followed by an official visit to Washington by newly-appointed Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in which he practically begged President Barack Obama to send additional aid for his puppet-government, saying, “If you do not provide guarantees… then explain how you will persuade Iran or North Korea to give up their status as nuclear states.” In all this time it apparently hasn’t dawned on the P.M. that Ukraine, being that it is not a member of the NATO alliance, has “no automatic claim on the alliance to defend it.”
Whether or not the United States ever intends to acknowledge the will of the people living in Crimea or not, these people showed that they were determined to make their voices heard loud and clear before the entire world. When March 16th arrived, the people of the peninsula turned out in full force, and the end results were anything but ambiguous. The end result was a whopping 97% of the residential population voting to withdraw from Ukraine and become an autonomous republic of Russia. The West was outraged. Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom William Hague called the referendum “a mockery” of “real democracy.” And President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry repeated their earlier contention that the vote was “illegal.”
What will come from this current debacle? Only time knows for certain. In the meantime, the war of words between nations continues to escalate. One can only hope that the United States can show enough restraint when it comes to ratcheting up sanctions against Russia and does not drag its allies in the U.N. into joining its crusade. (Fortunately, Russia, like the U.S., holds veto-power on the U.N. Security Council.) The cruel and mean-spirited decades-long embargo against Cuba was initiated by the U.S. with the intention of devastating the country economically, a punishment imposed on it for daring to bring a government to power which sought to look after their own interests instead of those of the United States. As many have pointed out, sanctions are used as a strategic form of economic warfare. One thing is abundantly clear, however. Anytime the U.S. and its NATO allies are offering to help aid a rebel or opposition group in another country, it is most assuredly not in support of a peoples’ revolution, but instead a counterrevolution.
** Something that should give even the most pro-Western ideologue plenty reason to pause and reevaluate his/her assessment is the fact that many of the protesters in Kiev were carrying signs and icons lionizing the fascist Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera.
^ Although not openly stated as part of the agreement, many of these wicked IMF loans are accepted by countries that are not economic superpowers with the hopes that they will receive membership to the EU, which often turns out to be the case.
^^ Recently he attempted to “clarify” such statements, remarking how “that thing about Jews was said years ago and maybe it was not rightly reported. But sure we are prepared to fight Communists and Russians.”
*^ To his credit it appears that President Turchynov in fact vetoed the language-removal bill. However, the very fact that the parliament succeeded in passing such a bill is cause enough to worry; for were he to not win the upcoming elections and one of his further-right colleagues to gain control of the presidency, such laws would not only be passed but signed into law.
^* John Kerry had some other brilliant lines when delivering his statements, such as when he spoke of a “multi-lateral structure that has guided our actions since World War II and the, uhh, need for all of us to try to resolve this, uhh, challenge… through the inter-lateral, uhh, multi-lateral, uh, legal norms which should guide all of our behavior.” (-: lol
+ If we’re going to be completely honest with ourselves, I think it’s safe to say that U.S. troops would have been fighting in additional wars had John McCain been elected President in the 2008 election. That is not to say Barack Obama has not vastly expanded the U.S. Empire’s reach under his watch, but his strategy has mostly been one of not directly putting American troops in harm’s way. In this way his imperialist policy is more akin to Raegan’s than it is to either Bush. I don’t mean this as a compliment or an insult, just an observation.
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- Front and Center in Ukraine Race, a Leader of the Far Right
- Crimea to Hold Vote on Splitting from Ukraine, Joining Russian Federation
- Cheering a ‘Democratic’ Coup in Ukraine
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