Sunday, 2 March 2014

Sorting out the Ukraine narratives

Here’s an edited reader comment from a blog on economic and finance news:

Two sides of the tale about the situation in Ukraine:

1) A freedom-loving, democratic people instigated a genuine Peaceful Revolution against a totally corrupt oligarchy who were then beaten down and massacred until their will prevailed and the green-clawed Oligarch fled in shame to join the supreme evil – Putin. Whereupon Russia riposted by invading the country (Crimea)! The free world has to defend the Revolution! (Budapest agreement, etc. etc.) Help us, oh free world, with your arms!

2) A provoked and paid for Color Revolution, organized and instigated mostly by the US [via AID and neocons masquerading as NGOs] with the EU in cahoots, featuring paid students, prime-time videographers, and fascist-led armed groups hungry for domination and power. Putin remains hands off, careful, finally within his rights to send troops under xyz agreements, etc.

That’s a pretty good sum-up of the competing story lines about what is happening in the Ukraine, and it illustrates the heavy-handed ideologizing that underlies the jaundiced, even tendentious reports. I am rarely accused of being middle of the road about such things, but my lay reading of these events brings me to conclusions that incorporate elements from both 1) and 2). Hey, suddenly I’m a Christian Democrat, so shoot me! But as Ian Welsh aptly says, “This isn’t about choosing sides, this is about understanding them.”

That there are fascist groups and nazi sympathizers pululating in the Ukraine is undeniable and should hardly come as a surprise given that these entities are popping up and thriving all over Europe, most notoriously in the Greek case where Golden Dawn now has members in parliament. It’s the sort of thing that happens when youth unemployment creeps above the 50% mark and stays there. The only curiosity to date is that similar formations haven’t made much headway in Spain, Italy and elsewhere in Europe—yet. Given that the Ukraine has had Greek-like economic conditions of complete dysfunction, a kleptocratic state, and generalized misery since the fall of the USSR, the fascistic seeds have had lots more time to germinate.

That doesn’t mean that people who take to the streets to demand an end to their shitty lives are all blackshirts and stormtroopers. Nor does it mean that they need the U.S. State Department to manipulate them into doing so through nefarious transparency and citizenship programs financed by foundations that are considered suspect due to their home addresses. On the other hand, it doesn’t preclude the misuse of NGO assistance to further the interests of foreign powers (especially if the $5 billion figure turns out to be accurate). But the crazy railings of some African presidents about western colonialism via AIDS-related support to gay groups should alert us to the demagoguery that surrounds this type of accusation.

Far more damaging, dangerous and short-sighted IMHO was the U.S./European decision to push all of eastern Europe into the NATO alliance, which militarized the entire tug-of-war about influence unnecessarily. How much different would the Ukrainian internal instability look if there were no likelihood of the country’s eastern border becoming the forward line of western military power? At the end of the Soviet era, there was a fairly explicit agreement, as I recall, not to pull Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary into the military planning arm of Russia’s historical adversaries, which sounded like good sense at the time. But triumphant neocons in both parties quickly kaboshed that, and now the Ukraine is a geopolitical billiard ball.

Speaking of bipartisanship, the State Dept poobah Victoria Nuland, notorious for her bugged “Fuck the EU” call to the U.S. ambassador, is married to Bush neocon favorite Robert Kagan. So no one gets off the hook—this is U.S. national policy. Did the geniuses in D.C. really think the Russians would stand by and permit the rise of a hostile regime in Ukraine that might want their navy out of the Crimea? Or to put it another way, would the U.S. be okay with a Russian-backed overthrow of the president of Mexico?

We should have seen this coming when people like John McCain appeared in the streets of Kiev to propel further attacks against the Yanukovych government. Whatever healthy, reasonable, homegrown demands were involved in the popular uprising could then easily be obscured by people quick to detect the hand of the enemy—or was this the intention all along? We can safely assume that neither side has any particular interest in whether the Ukrainians live in a secure, prosperous country. But the rest of us can think about that and leave our Manichean certainties aside.

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