Publicado em 17/03/2014
US President Barack Obama has ordered that sanctions be applied against 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials, the White House said. Earlier, the EU imposed sanctions against 21 officials after Crimea declared its independence. READ MORE: http://on.rt.com/al3dzv
Democrats and Republicans are at each other’s throats most of the time. There are many reasons why. Fundamental philosophical or ideological differences are not among them.
This is not the accepted view. The conventional wisdom has it that they adhere to different philosophies — that Democrats are liberals and Republicans are conservatives. Maybe something like that was more or less true once upon a time. Nowadays, the contention rings hollow.
For one thing, it gives Democrats and Republicans too much credit. It also insults liberalism and conservatism.
Lately, the idea that Vladimir Putin is one of the “bad guys” has also become conventional wisdom; on this, Democrats and Republicans agree. This is remarkable — not just because it is their custom to disagree, but also because it wasn’t long ago that the opposite was the case.
George W. Bush looked Vladimir Putin in the eye, beheld his soul, and saw that it was good. Only unreconstructed Cold Warriors gainsaid him. Now Hillary Clinton, echoing the media consensus, likens Putin to Hitler. As every kindergartener knows, this is shorthand for evil incarnate.
On this, she speaks for the entire political establishment.
However real liberals and conservatives have no reason to demonize Russia’s leader. Liberals should welcome him in under their capacious tent. Conservatives should embrace him.
Nevertheless, Democrats and Republicans demonize him.
Since philosophical differences don’t explain this, there must be some other reason. Could it be because Russia is the country Putin leads?
Neither Americans nor Europeans are genetically anti-Russian, and neither are they disposed to denigrate Russian culture. But their political and economic elites are sensitive to any and all suggestions that the economic system from which they benefit is not, as it were, a blessing unto the nations.
This makes Russia a problem for them inasmuch as, even today, the conventional wisdom has it that Russia’s relation to capitalism is problematic.
Ironically, conservatism’s is too. Liberalism’s is not.
Indeed, liberalism has been joined to capitalism from Day One.
Intimations of both emerged in the Netherlands and England as early as the sixteenth century, and the two developed almost in tandem — joined, before long, by capitalist centers in Western Europe and North America.
Early liberalism was, in effect, capitalism’s justifying theory.
Political philosophers have been advancing views of what liberalism is ever since, and liberal politics has assumed a wide variety of forms.
Still, in all its varieties, there is a common core. As the name suggests, it has to do with liberty or freedom. More precisely, it has to do with distinctively liberal views of this core value.
The conception of liberty to which liberals are most wedded, historically and conceptually, is individualistic and negative; individuals are free to the extent that they are free from coercive interferences.
This understanding sometimes melded into more positive conceptions, according to which individuals are free to the extent that they are able to do the things they want to do, and it has lately been joined to less individualistic understandings derived from seventeenth and eighteenth century (small-r) republican political theory.
The idea has also lent itself to a wide range of philosophical elaborations, bearing on notions of equality and justice and on other deep problems of moral philosophy.
But as a political doctrine, liberalism’s underlying emphases have remained fairly steady over the years: its focus is and always has been to minimize coercive, state interferences.
Liberalism is therefore a theory of limited government. In earlier times, it opposed absolutist theories according to which the sovereign’s power is in principle unlimited. It won that battle long ago.
It is therefore fair to say that except for a handful of unreconstructed devotees of defunct illiberal ideologies, everyone is a liberal nowadays. Conservatives are liberals too.
In common parlance, illiberalism and “dictatorship” are sometimes conflated. This is understandable, but it can also be misleading.
There are regimes in weak or failed states that have dictatorial characteristics, and there are political leaders who sometimes act “dictatorially.”
That is how our media now portray Vladimir Putin. And it is how some Tea Partiers, exceptionally deluded ones, portray Barack Obama.
But regardless of the merit of these charges, the fact remains: where the sovereign’s power is restricted by enforceable laws, liberalism is all there is. This holds for the United States, and it holds for Russia as well.
The first liberals were mainly concerned with commerce; their goal was to substitute the invisible hand of the market for the visible hand of the state, and to replace feudal property relations with a private property regime.
Liberalism’s old mercantile and feudal enemies are gone, but its doctrinal commitments remain.
“Libertarians” continue to echo positions taken by the first liberals; their faith in free markets and private property is unbounded. Conventional wisdom places them in the conservative camp but, in reality, they are as liberals can be.
Mainstream liberals are less doctrinaire or, as conventional wisdom has it, more “pragmatic.”
That word too has philosophical roots that bear only a vague relation to how it is used in our political culture. There, “pragmatic” just means “open-minded” or “flexible.”
In that sense, mainstream liberals generally are pragmatic. Within the broad limits set by their overriding commitment to liberal principles, they are fine with whatever works.
Partly for this reason, they are not interested in promoting classical liberal economic doctrines. A more important reason is that their main concerns are not economic at all.
They are advocates of tolerance, and all it implies.
This focus is hardly new. It predates the French and American Revolutions.
Many factors combined to turn liberalism into a philosophy of tolerance. The devastation brought on by the wars of religion that followed the Protestant Reformation was perhaps the most important.
The shift in emphasis has been so profound and its consequences so far-reaching that hardly anyone these days, outside libertarian circles, still thinks that economic and political liberties comprise a seamless web.
Indeed, mainstream liberals generally favor regulated markets and restrictions on property rights. But, for them, these are only secondary concerns. Their main interest lies in defending such rights and liberties as are elaborated in, say, the American Constitution’s Bill of Rights and in The Declaration of the Rights of Man.
If only to make their lives easier, political officials are constantly tempted to run roughshod over these protections. But where the rule of law is maintained, there are limits to how far they can go. This is true in Russia, it is true throughout the EU, and it is true in the United States as well.
Is Putin qualitatively worse than ordinary leaders of liberal states? Is he worse than Obama? The answer is of course, or so we are told.
After all, how could a graduate of the Harvard Law School and a teacher of Constitutional law at the University of Chicago be less liberal than a former official of the KGB?
But when the final reckoning comes, the obvious answer may not seem obvious anymore.
What has Putin done that is worse, from a liberal point of view, than putting the entire planet under 24/7 surveillance? Has he ordered assassinations without any semblance of due process, the way Obama has? Has he deported some two million people? Has he protected kidnappers and torturers?
And then there is the Edward Snowden question, where the views of Obama et. al. on transparency and press freedom stand revealed, and where Putin has been on the side of the angels.
It is almost axiomatic that free expression is better protected in Obama’s America than in Russia today. But is it true? Compare America’s corporate media with RT (Russia Today) TV, the television service now derided as Putin’s propaganda network.
The level of commentary and analysis on RT is far superior, and the diversity of views is greater. If that is what a propaganda network is like, then bring it on.
Putin is said to be violating international law in the Crimea. This is surely a mark against his liberalism because support for the rule of law is central to liberal politics.
But, in this too, is he worse than Obama? At least he is not a serial offender.
Of course, Democrats are notoriously spineless, and also reluctant to stand up for liberal values when one of their own is in the White House. So when the call goes out to demonize, they demonize. No surprise there.
Were they better liberals, though, they would surely resist the call. They might not be on Putin’s side in the Crimea, but they would have to regard him, at worst, as one of their own; one who has gone astray. They would regard Obama that way too.
Then there are the conservatives.
At its most fundamental level, conservatism is a frame of mind that accords a high priority to conserving things as they are. In much the way that liberals accord pride of place to the absence of state interference, conservatives value stability and order above all.
They are therefore change-averse, and they are especially loath to tamper with fundamental institutional arrangements. Change is disruptive; the more radical the change, the more disruptive it is likely to be.
No doubt, this temperament is more widespread in Republican than Democratic ranks.
But as a full-fledged political philosophy, conservatism hardly exists in our political culture. How could it when what we have to conserve is inherently destabilizing!
Since the dawn of the Christian era, conservative thinkers throughout Christendom have drawn upon theological notions, like the doctrine of Original Sin, that imply support for institutions that maintain order through political and moral coercion.
Because many of the first settlers in British North America were religious refugees, this strain of conservative thought has been a presence on the American scene from the time the first Europeans arrived. But the situation evolved, and pre-Enlightened ways of thinking waned.
Indeed, the republic established in the aftermath of our War of Independence was liberal from birth, and its founding principles were those of the Enlightenment.
This is one reason why strains of thought that have anti-liberal implications have had a hard time taking hold. Another is that we have no feudal past and therefore no historical memory of non-capitalist ways of life that enhance stability and order.
Capitalism, after all, is a revolutionary economic system; it overthrows and reconstructs everything it encounters. As The Communist Manifesto famously proclaimed, under its aegis, “all that is solid melts into air.”
Conservatives today, real ones, live in capitalist societies and therefore accommodate to its destabilizing consequences. But the tension can never be entirely overcome.
This is why our conservatives are, at best, only risible facsimiles of the genuine article.
Nevertheless, nearly all Republicans and alarmingly many Democrats call themselves “conservatives.”
They are not entirely wrong because there is at least one characteristic of authentic conservatism that they share with the real deal.
Contemporary conservatives are liberals; everyone is. But liberals on the self-identified liberal side of the liberal consensus, the ones who take tolerance more seriously than what the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick called “capitalist acts between consenting adults,” typically want the state to be as neutral as possible — not just towards competing religions and ways of life but towards all conceptions of the good that are in any way contentious.
For them, the state’s role is not to promote particular conceptions of the good, but rather to treat competing conceptions fairly.
Conservatives, on the other hand, genuine ones, are still true, or true as they still can be in modern pluralistic societies, to particular conceptions of the good; conceptions that accord with their underlying philosophical commitments.
Liberals have conceptions of the good too, of course; but they regard them as matters of individual conscience only. Conservatives are inclined to want to use state power to promote the conceptions they favor.
Our self-styled conservatives are like them in this respect.
But is this not what Putin is accused of by those who call him a dictator? And, for that matter, are not the conceptions of the good that Putin is charged with wanting to promote basically the same as the ones his demonizers uphold?
To hear Republicans and Democrats tell it, Putin is running the show for reactionary Russian clerics – either for opportunistic reasons or because he believes their gobbledegook or both. But why is that a problem for American politicians, especially for the self-styled conservatives among them? Apart from theological niceties of no political significance, our home grown theocrats are on the same page.
Real conservatives should therefore embrace Putin, not vilify him; and not just for his purported pre-Enlightenment sympathies.
Being pessimists about human nature, real conservatives tend to favor authoritarian political styles and hardheaded, realist diplomacy. They like strong leaders, and despise floundering, clueless moralizers – like the ones now making foreign policy in the United States.
They have a point: liberal internationalists – humanitarian interventionists especially – are more dangerous.
But, then, why demonize Putin for being the kind of leader real conservatives admire?
It was telling that one of the less fatuous attendees at the recently concluded Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington effectively, though grudgingly, agreed.
Rudolph Giuliani took his turn disparaging Obama by praising Putin’s leadership. Instead of muddling along like Obama from one situation to another, Putin, Giuliani pointed out, knows where he is going.
Like other great conservative leaders of the past – Charles de Gaulle comes immediately to mind – Putin approaches politics and diplomacy like a game of chess, envisioning the larger situation and anticipating the right move several steps ahead.
And so, when it suits his purpose, he will bail Obama out, as he did when he had backed himself into a corner from which, without Putin’s intervention, he would have gotten the United States bogged down in Syria’s civil war – to the detriment of everyone involved.
Or, when doing so is in his interest, he can prevail over the American president, notwithstanding the fact that the United States has a stronger hand to play.
Under the true conservative tent, there is evidently still room for a kind of greatness that is lacking in the liberal wing of the larger liberal fold.
Greatness, but not goodness. On this, as on almost everything else, George W. Bush was wrong. Hillary Clinton is wrong too.
Putin is the closest approximation the world now has to the great conservative leaders of the past. Conservatives should appreciate this about him. But the gap between real conservatives and the self-styled ones around us is extreme; they might as well be different species.
Still, though, the question remains: why is Putin demonized?
I would venture that the fact that Putin is the leader of Russia has more than a little to do with it.
Even in what Gore Vidal aptly called the United States of Amnesia, it registers at some level that, a century ago, Russians moved history forward; that they broke free from the capitalist system.
The Communists who led the Russian Revolution then went on to organize and oversee the construction of a historically unprecedented, ostensibly socialist, order. It was a valiant effort – undertaken in an economically backward country and in the face of the relentless opposition of far stronger enemies.
Tragically, what they concocted turned out to be a mixed blessing at best. Seven decades later, it all fell apart.
But Communism – in Russia, and then in Eastern Europe and China — was a living presence throughout much of the twentieth century; its effects on politics and reflections on politics were profound.
Even in a country and at a time when Republican-leaning states and regions are described as “red,” the memory of Communism lingers at some level.
Putin is no less pro-capitalist than anyone else in the liberal fold, and he is as fine a conservative leader as one can be in today’s world.
The east –the Russian part as much as the Chinese – is no longer even remotely red (except perhaps in the sense that Republicans are), but the memory persists in our collective consciousness.
And so, when a Russian leader becomes an obstacle in America’s way, the empire strikes back. Step one is to vilify the leader. And if there is anything our foreign policy establishment and our compliant corporate media are good at, vilification tops the list.
Demonizing Putin may be useful in the short run to the empire’s “bipartisan” stewards.
But, they are dealing with someone more formidable than themselves, and they are getting in over their heads. It is a cynical and dangerous ploy from which incalculable harm could follow.
ANDREW LEVINE is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).
President Barack Obama has been trying, mostly in secret, to craft a new foreign policy that relies heavily on cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin to tamp down confrontations in hotspots such as Iran and Syria. But Obama’s timidity about publicly explaining this strategy has left it open to attack from powerful elements of Official Washington, including well-placed neocons and people in his own administration.
The gravest threat to this Obama-Putin collaboration has now emerged in Ukraine, where a coalition of U.S. neocon operatives and neocon holdovers within the State Department fanned the flames of unrest in Ukraine, contributing to the violent overthrow of democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych and now to a military intervention by Russian troops in the Crimea, a region in southern Ukraine that historically was part of Russia.resident Barack Obama discusses the crisis in Ukraine for 90 minutes on March 1, 2014, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (White House photo/Pete Souza)
Though I’m told the Ukraine crisis caught Obama and Putin by surprise, the neocon determination to drive a wedge between the two leaders has been apparent for months, especially after Putin brokered a deal to head off U.S. military strikes against Syria last summer and helped get Iran to negotiate concessions on its nuclear program, both moves upsetting the neocons who had favored heightened confrontations.
Putin also is reported to have verbally dressed down Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan over what Putin considered their provocative actions regarding the Syrian civil war. So, by disrupting neocon plans and offending Netanyahu and Bandar, the Russian president found himself squarely in the crosshairs of some very powerful people.
If not for Putin, the neocons – along with Israel and Saudi Arabia – had hoped that Obama would launch military strikes on Syria and Iran that could open the door to more “regime change” across the Middle East, a dream at the center of neocon geopolitical strategy since the 1990s. This neocon strategy took shape after the display of U.S. high-tech warfare against Iraq in 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union later that year. U.S. neocons began believing in a new paradigm of a uni-polar world where U.S. edicts were law.
The neocons felt this paradigm shift also meant that Israel would no longer need to put up with frustrating negotiations with the Palestinians. Rather than haggling over a two-state solution, U.S. neocons simply pressed for “regime change” in hostile Muslim countries that were assisting the Palestinians or Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Iraq was first on the neocon hit list, but next came Syria and Iran. The overriding idea was that once the regimes assisting the Palestinians and Hezbollah were removed or neutralized, then Israel could dictate peace terms to the Palestinians who would have no choice but to accept what was on the table.
U.S. neocons working on Netanyahu’s campaign team in 1996, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, even formalized their bold new plan, which they outlined in a strategy paper, called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” The paper argued that only “regime change” in hostile Muslim countries could achieve the necessary “clean break” from the diplomatic standoffs that had followed inconclusive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
In 1998, the neocon Project for the New American Century called for a U.S. invasion of Iraq, but President Bill Clinton refused to go along. The situation changed, however, when President George W. Bush took office and after the 9/11 attacks. Suddenly, the neocons had a Commander in Chief who agreed with the need to eliminate Iraq’s Saddam Hussein — and a stunned and angry U.S. public could be easily persuaded. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]
So, Bush invaded Iraq, ousting Hussein but failing to subdue the country. The U.S. death toll of nearly 4,500 soldiers and the staggering costs, estimated to exceed $1 trillion, made the American people and even Bush unwilling to fulfill the full-scale neocon vision, which was expressed in one of their favorite jokes of 2003 about where to attack next, Iran or Syria, with the punch line: “Real men go to Tehran!”
Though hawks like Vice President Dick Cheney pushed the neocon/Israeli case for having the U.S. military bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities – with the hope that the attacks also might spark a “regime change” in Tehran – Bush decided that he couldn’t risk the move, especially after the U.S. intelligence community assessed in 2007 that Iran had stopped work on a bomb four years earlier.
The Rise of Obama
The neocons were dealt another setback in 2008 when Barack Obama defeated a neocon favorite, Sen. John McCain. But Obama then made one of the fateful decisions of his presidency, deciding to staff key foreign-policy positions with “a team of rivals,” i.e. keeping Republican operative Robert Gates at the Defense Department and recruiting Hillary Clinton, a neocon-lite, to head the State Department.
Obama also retained Bush’s high command, most significantly the media-darling Gen. David Petraeus. That meant that Obama didn’t take control over his own foreign policy.
Gates and Petraeus were themselves deeply influenced by the neocons, particularly Frederick Kagan, who had been a major advocate for the 2007 “surge” escalation in Iraq, which was hailed by the U.S. mainstream media as a great “success” but never achieved its principal goal of a unified Iraq. At the cost of nearly 1,000 U.S. dead, it only bought time for an orderly withdrawal that spared Bush and the neocons the embarrassment of an obvious defeat.
So, instead of a major personnel shakeup in the wake of the catastrophic Iraq War, Obama presided over what looked more like continuity with the Bush war policies, albeit with a firmer commitment to draw down troops in Iraq and eventually in Afghanistan.
From the start, however, Obama was opposed by key elements of his own administration, especially at State and Defense, and by the still-influential neocons of Official Washington. According to various accounts, including Gates’s new memoir Duty, Obama was maneuvered into supporting a troop “surge” in Afghanistan, as advocated by neocon Frederick Kagan and pushed by Gates, Petraeus and Clinton.
Gates wrote that Kagan persuaded him to recommend the Afghan “surge” and that Obama grudgingly went along although Gates concluded that Obama didn’t believe in the “mission” and wanted to reverse course more quickly than Gates, Petraeus and their side wanted.
Faced with this resistance from his own bureaucracy, Obama began to rely on a small inner circle built around Vice President Joe Biden and a few White House advisers with the analytical support of some CIA officials, including CIA Director Leon Panetta.
Obama also found a surprising ally in Putin after he regained the Russian presidency in 2012. A Putin adviser told me that the Russian president personally liked Obama and genuinely wanted to help him resolve dangerous disputes, especially crises with Iran and Syria.
In other words, what evolved out of Obama’s early “team of rivals” misjudgment was an extraordinary presidential foreign policy style, in which Obama developed and implemented much of his approach to the world outside the view of his secretaries of State and Defense (except when Panetta moved briefly to the Pentagon).
Even after the eventual departures of Gates in 2011, Petraeus as CIA director after a sex scandal in late 2012, and Clinton in early 2013, Obama’s peculiar approach didn’t particularly change. I’m told that he has a distant relationship with Secretary of State John Kerry, who never joined Obama’s inner foreign policy circle.
Though Obama’s taciturn protectiveness of his “real” foreign policy may be understandable given the continued neocon “tough-guy-ism” that dominates Official Washington, Obama’s freelancing approach gave space to hawkish elements of his own administration.
For instance, Secretary of State Kerry came close to announcing a U.S. war against Syria in a bellicose speech on Aug. 30, 2013, only to see Obama pull the rug out from under him as the President worked with Putin to defuse the crisis sparked by a disputed chemical weapons attack outside Damascus. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “How War on Syria Lost Its Way.”]
Similarly, Obama and Putin hammered out the structure for an interim deal with Iran on how to constrain its nuclear program. But when Kerry was sent to seal that agreement in Geneva, he instead inserted new demands from the French (who were carrying water for the Saudis) and nearly screwed it all up. After getting called on the carpet by the White House, Kerry returned to Geneva and finalized the arrangements.[See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Saudi-Israel Defeat on Iran Deal.”]
Unorthodox Foreign Policy
Obama’s unorthodox foreign policy – essentially working in tandem with the Russian president and sometimes at odds with his own foreign policy bureaucracy – has forced Obama into faux outrage when he’s faced with some perceived affront from Russia, such as its agreement to give temporary asylum to National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
For the record, Obama had to express strong disapproval of Snowden’s asylum, though in many ways Putin was doing Obama a favor by sparing Obama from having to prosecute Snowden with the attendant complications for U.S. national security and the damaging political repercussions from Obama’s liberal base.
Putin’s unforced errors also complicated the relationship, such as when he defended Russian hostility toward gays and cracked down on dissent before the Sochi Olympics. Putin became an easy target for U.S. commentators and comedians.
But Obama’s hesitancy to explain the degree of his strategic cooperation with Putin has enabled Official Washington’s still influential neocons, including holdovers within the State Department bureaucracy, to drive more substantive wedges between Obama and Putin. The neocons came to recognize that the Obama-Putin tandem had become a major impediment to their strategic vision.
Without doubt, the neocons’ most dramatic – and potentially most dangerous – counter-move has been Ukraine, where they have lent their political and financial support to opposition forces who sought to break Ukraine away from its Russian neighbor.
Though this crisis also stems from the historical division of Ukraine – between its more European-oriented west and the Russian-ethnic east and south – neocon operatives, with financing from the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy and other U.S. sources, played key roles in destabilizing and overthrowing the democratically elected president.
NED, a $100 million-a-year agency created by the Reagan administration in 1983 to promote political action and psychological warfare against targeted states, lists 65 projects that it supports financially inside Ukraine, including training activists, supporting “journalists” and promoting business groups, effectively creating a full-service structure primed and ready to destabilize a government in the name of promoting “democracy.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Shadow US Foreign Policy.”]
State Department neocons also put their shoulders into shoving Ukraine away from Russia. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, the wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan and the sister-in-law of the Gates-Petraeus adviser Frederick Kagan, advocated strenuously for Ukraine’s reorientation toward Europe.
Last December, Nuland reminded Ukrainian business leaders that, to help Ukraine achieve “its European aspirations, we have invested more than $5 billion.” She said the U.S. goal was to take “Ukraine into the future that it deserves,” by which she meant into the West’s orbit and away from Russia’s.
But President Yanukovych rejected a European Union plan that would have imposed harsh austerity on the already impoverished Ukraine. He accepted a more generous $15 billion loan from Russia, which also has propped up Ukraine’s economy with discounted natural gas. Yanukovych’s decision sparked anti-Russian street protests in Kiev, located in the country’s western and more pro-European region.
Nuland was soon at work planning for “regime change,” encouraging disruptive street protests by personally passing out cookies to the anti-government demonstrators. She didn’t seem to notice or mind that the protesters in Kiev’s Maidan square had hoisted a large banner honoring Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist who collaborated with the German Nazis during World War II and whose militias participated in atrocities against Jews and Poles.
By late January, Nuland was discussing with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt who should be allowed in the new government.
“Yats is the guy,” Nuland said in a phone call to Pyatt that was intercepted and posted online. “He’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. He’s the guy you know.” By “Yats,” Nuland was referring to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who had served as head of the central bank, foreign minister and economic minister — and who was committed to harsh austerity.
As Assistant Secretary Nuland and Sen. McCain cheered the demonstrators on, the street protests turned violent. Police clashed with neo-Nazi bands, the ideological descendants of Bandera’s anti-Russian Ukrainians who collaborated with the Nazi SS during World War II.
With the crisis escalating and scores of people killed in the street fighting, Yanukovych agreed to a E.U.-brokered deal that called for moving up scheduled elections and having the police stand down. The neo-Nazi storm troopers then seized the opening to occupy government buildings and force Yanukovych and many of his aides to flee for their lives.
With these neo-Nazis providing “security,” the remaining parliamentarians agreed in a series of unanimous or near unanimous votes to establish a new government and seek Yanukovych’s arrest for mass murder. Nuland’s choice, Yatsenyuk, emerged as interim prime minister.
Yet, the violent ouster of Yanukovych provoked popular resistance to the coup from the Russian-ethnic south and east. After seeking refuge in Russia, Yanukovych appealed to Putin for help. Putin then dispatched Russian troops to secure control of the Crimea. [For more on this history, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Cheering a ‘Democratic’ Coup in Ukraine.”]
Separating Obama from Putin
The Ukraine crisis has given Official Washington’s neocons another wedge to drive between Obama and Putin. For instance, the neocon flagship Washington Post editorialized on Saturday that Obama was responding “with phone calls” when something much more threatening than “condemnation” was needed.
It’s always stunning when the Post, which so energetically lobbied for the U.S. invasion of Iraq under the false pretense of eliminating its (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction, gets its ire up about another country acting in response to a genuine security threat on its own borders, not half a world away.
But the Post’s editors have never been deterred by their own hypocrisy. They wrote, “Mr. Putin’s likely objective was not difficult to figure. He appears to be responding to Ukraine’s overthrow of a pro-Kremlin government last week with an old and ugly Russian tactic: provoking a separatist rebellion in a neighboring state, using its own troops when necessary.”
The reality, however, appears to have been that neocon elements from within the U.S. government encouraged the overthrow of the elected president of Ukraine via a coup spearheaded by neo-Nazi storm troopers who then terrorized lawmakers as the parliament passed draconian laws, including some intended to punish the Russian-oriented regions which favor Yanukovych.
Yet, besides baiting Obama over his tempered words about the crisis, the Post declared that “Mr. Obama and European leaders must act quickly to prevent Ukraine’s dismemberment. Missing from the president’s statement was a necessary first step: a demand that all Russian forces – regular and irregular – be withdrawn … and that Moscow recognize the authority of the new Kiev government. … If Mr. Putin does not comply, Western leaders should make clear that Russia will pay a heavy price.”
The Post editors are fond of calling for ultimatums against various countries, especially Syria and Iran, with the implication that if they don’t comply with some U.S. demand that harsh actions, including military reprisals, will follow.
But now the neocons, in their single-minded pursuit of endless “regime change” in countries that get in their way, have taken their ambitions to a dangerous new level, confronting nuclear-armed Russia with ultimatums.
By Sunday, the Post’s neocon editors were “spelling out the consequences” for Putin and Russia, essentially proposing a new Cold War. The Post mocked Obama for alleged softness toward Russia and suggested that the next “regime change” must come in Moscow.
“Many in the West did not believe Mr. Putin would dare attempt a military intervention in Ukraine because of the steep potential consequences,” the Post wrote. “That the Russian ruler plunged ahead shows that he doubts Western leaders will respond forcefully. If he does not quickly retreat, the United States must prove him wrong.”
The madness of the neocons has long been indicated by their extraordinary arrogance and their contempt for other nations’ interests. They assume that U.S. military might and other coercive means must be brought to bear on any nation that doesn’t bow before U.S. ultimatums or that resists U.S.-orchestrated coups.
Whenever the neocons meet resistance, they don’t rethink their strategy; they simply take it to the next level. Angered by Russia’s role in heading off U.S. military attacks against Syria and Iran, the neocons escalated their geopolitical conflict by taking it to Russia’s own border, by egging on the violent ouster of Ukraine’s elected president.
The idea was to give Putin an embarrassing black eye as punishment for his interference in the neocons’ dream of “regime change” across the Middle East. Now, with Putin’s countermove, his dispatch of Russian troops to secure control of the Crimea, the neocons want Obama to further escalate the crisis by going after Putin.
Some leading neocons even see ousting Putin as a crucial step toward reestablishing the preeminence of their agenda. NED president Carl Gershman wrote in the Washington Post, “Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents. … Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”
At minimum, the neocons hope that they can neutralize Putin as Obama’s ally in trying to tamp down tensions with Syria and Iran – and thus put American military strikes against those two countries back under active consideration.
As events spin out of control, it appears way past time for President Obama to explain to the American people why he has collaborated with President Putin in trying to resolve some of the world’s thorniest problems.
That, however, would require him to belatedly take control of his own administration, to purge the neocon holdovers who have worked to sabotage his actual foreign policy, and to put an end to neocon-controlled organizations, like the National Endowment for Democracy, that use U.S. taxpayers’ money to stir up trouble abroad. That would require real political courage.
KORI SCHAKE IS A FELLOW AT THE HOOVER INSTITUTION AND CONTRIBUTOR TO FOREIGN POLICY’S SHADOW GOVERNMENT BLOG.
Obama White House cannot resist the temptation to parade its every move in the Ukraine crisis — much to the detriment of its policy succeeding. This is an indiscipline born of self-regard: The White House thinks the president is so compelling and so central to the narrative that his every utterance is advantageous. And, of course, this is an administration in which no national security issue is assessed innocent of domestic political impact. They are failing to understand that by making the crisis so personal, the United States is doing a disservice to the people of Ukraine and making it much more difficult for the Russians to walk back their reckless grab for Crimea.
The White House not only tells reporters when the president talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but then spills the contents of the phone calls. So we know they talked for 90 minutes on Saturday, March 1, and again five days later when President Barack Obama told Putin, according to a White House readout, that “Russia’s actions are in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which has led us to take several steps in response, in coordination with our European partners.” The president himself stepped up to the mic that same day tosay, “We are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders.”
But it is a mystery why this White House thinks any of this will soften Putin’s resolve to see this gambit through. Maybe Obama thinks pious reassertion of Western values will cement European support for economic sanctions on Moscow (that will hit their economies, but not America’s). In any event, the White House seems not to appreciate that the president’s statement is factually untrue, as Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 actually did redraw borders over the head of a democratic leader, and this very administration did precious little to penalize a Russia with which it wanted to “reset” relations on more positive footing.
Moreover, let’s recall just how much moral, if not legal, ambiguity we face in this crisis. The United States has sided with people who just overthrew a democratically elected government — the protests in Kiev overturned a democratic process, just as the protests in Cairo ousted President Mohamed Morsi. So the administration looks to be on pretty thin ice when it touts the unassailability of democratic processes. It not only makes the United States look hypocritical — the country only respects the rules when they produce outcomes it likes — but it also gives credence to the upcoming plebiscite in Crimea. All the White House grandstanding has painted its policy into a corner: The United States is now in the position of arguing against the will of the majority in Crimea to protect the will of the majority in Kiev.
The more the administration makes the crisis in Ukraine about a conflict between the West and Russia, the less likely Moscow is to accede to Washington’s preferred outcome. Secretary of State John Kerry understands this, but the White House keeps interjecting the “President vs. Putin” story line, which only tempts journalists with “can he deliver the West?” articles. What Obama should be doing instead is putting the challenges of Ukraine in the center of the picture. This is a state that struggles to be a nation, with a deeply corrupt leadership that has bankrupted a wealthy country and with low levels of social trust between its eastern and western populations. Moreover, it’s clear the new legislature in Kiev did set off alarms in Crimea that its opening effort to outlaw the speaking of Russian; that doesn’t justify the Kremlin’s aggression, but it does give some context for fears of Ukrainians in the east of the country.
The best way forward in this crisis is to focus our immediate attention on putting Ukraine in a position to elect a legislature broadly representative of the country. That goes both at the national level, where parliamentary elections are scheduled for May 25, and regionally in Crimea, where a snap vote on separation from Ukraine will be held on March 16. In that narrow window of time we should be racing to address legitimate Crimean concerns, flood the zone with international observers of every stripe to provide information and bear witness to events, deeply engage with leaders on all sides to condition their behavior by making clear our responses to a variety of outcomes, and publicly support principled policies that reassure the losers of elections that their rights will still be respected. Rather than declaring, as Obama did, the Crimean plebiscite illegal, we should do what democracies do: win the argument.
Now is the time to unleash Jimmy Carter on Crimea! And not in terms of Obama’s policy, but in a legion of international observers who will inform the world and scold the parties to the conflict to behave consistent with international norms. Where is Code Pink putting daisies in the rifles of Russian soldiers? Where are business reports that Gazprom being an arm of the Russian state should attract more regulatory attention and less investment? We so seldom actually use these tools of free societies to our advantage. Let’s see how the Russians manage when faced with the real power of the West: not governments, but civil society.
Once Ukraine is on more stable footing we can turn our attention to the dish best served cold: retaliation against Putin and his cronies for their bare-knuckled attempt to establish “protection of Russians” as the basis for intimidating neighbors. Putin has already achieved a valuable aim: showing the region what Russia is capable of. As authoritarians understand much better than do those of us who live in secure freedom, once you instill fear in people, it actually doesn’t take much repression to sustain it. By asserting the primacy of Russians’ rights wherever they reside, he has cast a self-censoring shadow into the politics of the Baltic states. The Obama administration is to be commended for moving swiftly to reassure America’s NATO allies that the United States will defend their territorial integrity; more needs to be done to show the country will also protect their domestic politics from Russian interference.
Instead, however, the White House is madly backgrounding reporters about what the United States is privately demanding of the Russians: The White House said Obama told Putin there still was a way to resolve the situation diplomatically, which would include Kiev and Moscow holding direct talks, international monitors, and Russian forces returning to their bases. There was no indication of Putin’s response.
Putin agreeing to those things — all of which are good policy objectives — will seem a climb down and are, frankly, unlikely. Washington’s smarter move would be to allow the Russians to claim credit for things it wants to have happen. But this is a White House that can’t even give credit to allies for their work in Libya and Mali; there’s no chance this White House is able to get past the effrontery of Russian snubs to achieve bigger objectives.
The White House is still trying to outrun its self-characterization of “leading from behind” by showing the president to be an active, forceful presence in the Ukraine crisis. It’s still trying to dig him out of the embarrassment of his unwillingness to enforce his red line on Syria. In other words, the White House is fighting the last war. This political solipsism is actually making this potential war more likely and making less likely an outcome consistent with U.S. interests and those of the people of Ukraine. The president needs to discipline himself to stop talking and start doing the small things that can be done.
O professor e pesquisador Fabiano Mielniczuk analisa a crise na Ucrânia.
Fabiano é Doutor em Relações Internacionais pelo IRI/PUC-Rio, Diretor da Audiplo: Educação e Relações Internacionais, professor da Uniritter (Porto Alegre) e pesquisador do Grupo de Pesquisa sobre Potências Médias (GPPM).
Anatomia da crise Ucraniana: entender as causas, propor soluções
As causas da crise
A situação da Ucrânia é séria. Muitos falam do risco de uma guerra civil que leve à divisão do país entre as áreas ocidentais e a parte leste, habitada por russos. Esse risco agora é mais iminente, com a ocupação da Criméia por grupos paramilitares pró-Russia e a realização de um plebiscito para que a população decida se a região deseja ser anexada pela Rússia ou não.
Os analistas que apóiam a aproximação da Ucrânia à UE afirmam que o pano de fundo para os protestos que levaram ao Golpe que derrubou Yanokovich foi a situação econômica do país. Com uma mentalidade dos anos 1990, reiteram que a única alternativa à Ucrânia seria a de aprofundar os laços econômicos com a UE, liberalizando (ou melhor, modernizando, no discurso oficial) sua economia e promovendo maior interdependência com a Europa como forma de fugir das chantagens econômicas russas. Entretanto, após o colapso econômico de 2009, quando a economia recuou 19% em razão da crise mundial de 2008, a Ucrânia tem tido níveis de crescimento compatíveis com os dos demais países europeus. Por outro lado, parece pouco provável que depois do vergonhoso resultado eleitoral de 2010, no qual o candidato à reeleição e líder da Revolução Laranja, o pró-ocidental Victor Yushenko, obteve aprox. 5% de votos no primeiro turno, a população da Ucrânia fosse optar por uma ruptura institucional violenta que colocasse no poder líderes que vêem o FMI como salvação para a economia do país (o mesmo FMI que rompeu um acordo de empréstimo de 15 bilhões de dólares com a Ucrânia, em 2010, após Yushenko aumentar o salário e as pensões dos ucranianos).
Parece que as causas para a crise ucraniana são mais complexas. Deve-se considerar, pelo menos, três fatores. Em primeiro lugar, a incapacidade do governo Yanukovich de resolver os problemas de transição para uma economia capitalista que o país enfrenta desde sua independência, em 1991, e que foi agravado pelas promessas de ganhos econômicos não cumpridas do período pós-revolução laranja de 2004. A falta de transparência na gestão do país e um ambiente corrupto para os negócios também entram nesse cenário de problemas não resolvidos. A segunda causa diz respeito à uma tendência em toda a Europa, a ascensão de movimentos nacionalistas, com feições nazi-fascistas. Na Ucrânia essa tendência se materializou no partido Svoboda, que alcançou em torno de 10% do apoio da população nas últimas eleições parlamentares. Com um discurso baseado na xenofobia e na pureza nacional, contra russos e contra judeus, os adeptos desse partido fizeram parte de uma facção chamada “setor de direita”, que esteve na vanguarda violenta dos movimentos na praça Euromaiden. Por último, deve-se ressaltar o papel da UE, que estimulou a população da Ucrânia a tomar as ruas após o fracasso das negociações de adesão do país a um acordo de livre-comércio com a Europa. Essa postura de ingerência externa da UE nos assuntos ucranianos, explícitos nas inúmeras declarações de Durão Barroso, acendeu o pavio para a explosão de uma bomba.
EUA e UE x Rússia, e a Ucrânia no meio…
Depois de ter acendido o pavio, a UE foi ingênua (ou cínica) ao negociar com opositores que não tinham legitimidade frente aos extremistas. Durante as manifestações, a extrema direita tomou conta da situação e passou a expulsar manifestantes pacíficos dos prédios ocupados. A facção chamada “setor de direita” foi fundamental para isso. Existem, inclusive, laços dos nacionalistas ucranianos com grupos paramilitares que lutaram na Chechênia contra os russos, e a confirmação de que muitos “manifestantes” são paramilitares treinados. Esses grupos não tinham outro objetivo senão a derrubada do presidente.
Ademais, a União Européia e os Estados Unidos agiram de maneira precipitada ao reconhecerem um governo que derrubou um presidente democraticamente eleito e que é formado, em boa parte, por esses extremistas. A justificativa para tal posição se fundava na alegação de que o governo de Yanukovich havia sido responsável pela morte dos manifestantes em Kiev. No dia 05 de Março, o vazamento de uma gravação telefônica entre o Ministro das Relações Exteriores da Estônia, Sr. Urmas Paet, e a chefe das Relações Exteriores da UE, Sra. Catherine Asthon, deixa claro que os Europeus sabiam que o início dos tiros feitos por snippers partiram de grupos relacionados às milícias ultra-nacionalistas, os quais buscavam como alvo tanto as forças policiais quanto os manifestantes. Esses mesmos grupos fazem parte do governo provisório na Ucrânia. Isso reforça a alegação dos russos de que os acontecimentos de Kiev foram protagonizados por grupos que ameaçam a segurança dos russos no país e justificaria, portanto, a ocupação da Criméia. Em outras regiões da Ucrânia com maioria russa, como Donetsk e Kharkiv, já ocorrem manifestações populares pró-Rússia e, caso haja reação ucraniana, a possibilidade de uma intervenção russa em outras partes do país bastante real.
Os europeus e norte-americanos acusam os russos de serem incoerentes, de defenderem o princípio da não-intervenção em outros casos e de o desrespeitarem no caso da Ucrânia. Todavia, as comparações são qualitativamente desmedidas. Vejamos as últimas três intervenções condenadas pelos russos e lideradas pelos ocidentais.
A primeira foi baseada em mentiras – supostas ligações de Saddam com a Al Qaida e a existência de armas de destruição em massa foram comprovadamente fabricadas por setores do governo norte-americano para legitimar a invasão do Iraque, em 2003. A segunda, na Líbia, decorreu de uma divergência na interpretação de uma resolução do Conselho de Segurança das Nações Unidas que, segundo os russos, não autorizava a intervenção, mas mesmo assim ela foi levada adiante. O próprio fato de haver uma resolução com apoio da Rússia indica um certo grau de cooperação entre as potências para a resolução da Crise na Líbia. Na visão dos russos, sua boa vontade foi retribuída com traição por parte do Ocidente. Por último, a intervenção da Síria não ocorreu por conta da oposição russa e da proposição de um plano para a retirada das armas químicas do território sírio (posteriormente, a justificativa utilizada pelo presidente Obama para que houvesse uma intervenção armada, de que o governo de Bashar Al Assad havia utilizado armas químicas contra os rebeldes, foi comprovada falsa por um estudo de especialistas do MIT). De todo modo, nesses três casos, não existia um número significativo de cidadãos, sejam europeus, sejam norte-americanos, que estivessem em risco e pudessem justificar uma atitude belicosa contra um Estado soberano. Por trás da defesa de valores universais que legitimassem intervenções humanitárias, existiam também interesses econômicos bastante palpáveis, relacionados a fontes de energia (petróleo e gás).
No caso da Rússia, também existem interesses econômicos (gás) e geopolíticos (base de Sevastopol) em jogo, mas os termos nos quais essas questões tinham sido resolvidas nos últimos anos foram altamente favoráveis à Rússia, e não serviriam de motivação para uma ação militar. Aqui, ao que parece, as justificativas de intervenção humanitária não são vagas: existem quase 9 milhões de russos em território ucraniano, que viram sua língua ser rebaixada do status de idioma oficial do país pelo parlamento do pós-golpe, e que temem a presença de nacionalistas anti-russos no governo provisório. A atitude russa é a materialização da promessa de que nenhum russo fora do território do seu país depois do fim da URSS seria tratado como cidadão de segunda classe. De fato, existiam em torno de 25 milhões de russos fora da Rússia depois do colapso da União Soviética, e a maioria deles foram desprovidos de seus direitos básicos (propriedade, idioma, emprego, voto, etc…) durante uma boa parte desse período. Na época, a fraqueza do governo de Ieltsin e seu alinhamento incondicional com o Ocidente impossibilitaram qualquer atitude proativa de Moscou para garantir esses direitos. Embora tenha sido bastante lenta, a incorporação dos países do leste na união Européia contribuiu para atenuar essa discriminação, mas não para terminar definitivamente com ela. Pelo contrário, a UE aceitou a aberração jurídica criada pela Letônia e Estônia de chamar os russos que viviam nesses países desde a II Guerra Mundial de “não-cidadãos”, ou seja, pessoas que possuem todos os direitos dos cidadãos, mas que não possuem direito de votar ou de ocuparem cargos públicos (sim, esse é o status no passaporte dessas pessoas). Por conta desse precedente, a UE não tem legitimidade para garantir o respeito às minorias russas na Ucrânia, na visão da Rússia. Por esses motivos, uma possível intervenção russa na Ucrânia não pode ser comparada às intervenções ocidentais em outros países.
E agora, o que fazer?
Tendo em vista o que foi exposto, a afirmação que Kissinger de que a demonização de Putin por parte dos Estados Unidos serve, na verdade, como um álibi para a inexistência de uma política externa para a Rússia está correta. De fato, os interesses russos (e dos russos que habitam a Ucrânia) não foram levados em consideração pelos ocidentais. Os russos reagiram de maneira previsível para aqueles que acompanham a vida política do país e enxergam a Rússia como ela é. Já aqueles que tendem a olhar para a Rússia e enxergar “o expansionismo da antiga União Soviética,” paradoxalmente, não conseguiram vislumbrar que a possibilidade de expansão da Rússia no caso da Ucrânia era real. Um primeiro passo necessário para a resolução da crise, nesse sentido, seria o de colocar em diálogo interlocutores ocidentais que saibam enxergar uma realidade diferente e reconhecer que os interesses da Rússia são legítimos, bem como os dos russos que vivem em território ucraniano.
Um segundo passo seria o de negociar um governo de transição na Ucrânia, que não tenha a participação de partidos vinculados aos atos de violência cometidos por paramilitares armados e que desencadearam a resposta armada das forças de policiais ucranianas. Para tanto, a UE deve reconhecer o erro de ter promovido a versão de que a derrubada de Yanukovich foi legítima por se tratar de um presidente que havia utilizado a força contra os manifestantes. Isso implicaria a retirada do Svoboda do governo de transição (que, aliás, está a frente do ministério de defesa) e o ingresso de alguns dos antigos governadores das regiões russas do país no governo. Obviamente, essa medida deve ser seguida da anulação da lei que retira do russo o status de segunda língua oficial do país.
O terceiro passo é mais delicado, e consistiria em um acordo para adiar tanto o plebiscito da região autônoma da Criméia, previsto para o dia 16 de Março, quando as eleições para a presidência da Ucrânia, previstas para o dia 25 de maio. Caso os russos da Criméia optem pela anexação à Rússia, será praticamente impossível evitar a formalização da ocupação russa. Em contrapartida, esse evento levará ao crescimento eleitoral do Svoboda na disputa presidencial. Nesse cenário, a posterior anexação militar pela Rússia das outras regiões habitadas por russos será concretizada, e a reação do governo nacionalista levará o pais à guerra com a Rússia. Para evitar que isso ocorra, é necessário que haja tempo para que os ânimos se acalmem e espaço para que os EUA, a UE e a Rússia tomem medidas conjuntas para evitar o colapso econômico do país. Evidentemente, a imposição de condições aos empréstimos feitos à Ucrânia, tais como a aceitação de políticas econômicas preconizadas pelo FMI, não se aplicariam. Os recursos poderiam vir de doações de Rússia, EUA e UE, e seriam administrados em comum acordo até a situação do país se estabilizar.
Nesse ínterim, um quarto passo consistiria em autorizar, via Conselho de Segurança, o envio de Forças de Paz compostas por tropas majoritariamente russas, mas com a participação menor da OTAN, para garantir a segurança da população russa no país. Os moldes seriam os mesmos da KFOR, de atuação no Kosovo e que contou, inicialmente, com participação russa. A administração dessa força estaria sob responsabilidade do Conselho OTAN-Rússia, órgão dentro da OTAN que trata da cooperação entre eles. Isso reativaria o órgão e evitaria que anos de cooperação entre as partes fossem perdidos caso haja uma ruptura em sua relação.
Embora não sejam de fácil implementação, essas medidas podem oferecer uma alternativa pacífica à resolução da crise, sem que a soberania territorial da Ucrânia seja violada e sem que os russos que habitam o país sejam vítimas de práticas discriminatórias. Além disso, o dialogo entre a Rússia e seus parceiros Ocidentais seria mantido, e haveria tempo para que a situação da Ucrânia se normalizasse e os elementos mais extremistas dessa crise perdessem o prestígio adquirido junto a seus simpatizantes. Se medidas nessa direção não forem adotadas, os problemas em breve serão bem mais complicados e, infelizmente, apenas o diálogo não será suficiente para resolvê-los.
 Esse trabalho foi escrito com base em entrevistas que tenho dado sobre os acontecimentos recentes na Ucrânia e debates que tenho participado sobre o assunto em programas de rádio e televisão. Caso haja interesse em fontes sobre as afirmações desse artigo, favor encaminhar um email para: email@example.com
Fascists/neo-nazis Will Never Allow Real Elections In Ukraine
C’mon baby, light my (Crimean) fire
By Pepe Escobar
March 08, 2014 “Information Clearing House – “Asia Times” - March 16 is C Day. The Crimean parliament – by 78 votes with 8 abstentions – decided this is the day when Crimean voters will choose between joining the Russian Federation or to remain part of Ukraine as an autonomous region with very strong powers, according to the 1992 constitution.
Whatever “diplomatic” tantrums Washington and Brussels will keep pulling, and they will be incandescent, facts on the ground speak for themselves. The city council of Sevastopol – the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea fleet – has already voted to join Russia. And next week the Duma in Moscow will study a bill to simplify the mechanism of adhesion.
Quick recap: this is a direct result of Washington spending US$5 billion – a Victoria “F**k the EU” Nuland official figure – to promote regime change in Ukraine. On the horizon, Crimea may be incorporated into Russia for free, while the “West” absorbs that bankrupt back-of-beyond (Western Ukraine) that an Asia Times Online reader indelibly described as the “Khaganate of Nulands” (an amalgam of khanate, Victoria’s notorious neo-con husband Robert Kagan, and no man’s land).
What Moscow regards as an illegal, neo-nazi infiltrated government in Kiev, led by Prime Minister Arseniy “Yats” Yatsenyuk – an Ukrainian Jewish banker playing the role of Western puppet – insists Crimea must remain part of Ukraine. And it’s not only Moscow; half of Ukraine itself does not recognize the Yats gang as a legitimate government, now boasting a number of oligarchs imposed as provincial governors.
Yet this “government” – supported by the US and the European Union – has already declared the referendum illegal. Proving its impeccable “democratic” credentials, it has already moved to ban the official use of the Russian language in Ukraine; get rid of the communist party, which amassed 13% of the votes in the last election, more, incidentally, than the neo-nazi-infested Svoboda (“Freedom”) party, now ensconced in key government security posts; and ban a Russian TV station, which happens to be the most popular on Ukrainian cable.
Amid all the hysteria from Washington and certain European capitals, what’s not explained to puzzled public opinion is that these fascists/neo-nazis who got to power through a coup will never allow real elections to take place in Ukraine; after all they would most certainly be sent packing.
This implies that “Yats” and his gang – on top of it reveling at their red carpet welcome at a pompous yet innocuous EU summit in Brussels – won’t budge. For instance, they used heavy muscle to send pro-Russian protesters in front of the Donetsk government building running. Heavily industrialized Donetsk is very much linked commercially to Russia.
Then there’s an even more sinister possible scenario looming in the horizon; an instrumentalization of the lunatic jihadi fringe of the 10% of Tatars in Crimea, from false flags to suicide bombings. The House of Saud, according to a solid Saudi source, is immensely interested in Ukraine, and may be tempted to do a few favors for Western intelligence.
Will our love become a funeral pyre?
Arguably, for Moscow, keeping Crimea inside the Ukraine, with large autonomous powers plus the current signed agreement to keep the base in Sevastopol, is a much better deal than annexing it. It’s as if Russia was annexing what for all practical purposes was already a Russian province.
Yet the Kremlin may always decide not to annex, and use the all but certain result of the referendum as a key pawn in a complex negotiation with, not the EU, but fundamentally Germany. The EU is a mess. The “government” in Kiev is a mess. What matters is what Vladimir Putin is discussing over the phone with Angela Merkel.
Much has to do with Pipelineistan – as in the 9 billion euro (US$12.4 billion) Nord Stream, the steel umbilical cord between Russia and Germany via the Baltic Sea. Merkel, the then Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, and former German chancellor and now Nord Stream chairman Gerhard Schroeder were very close when the pipeline project carrying Russian gas to Germany went online in 2011. The project was initially proposed in 2005 when Schroeder was chancellor and Putin was Russia’s president, first time round. Schroeder, earlier this week, said that NATO should shut up.
Moreover, two-way trade between Russia and the EU was around a whopping US$370 billion in 2012 (no 2013 data yet), with Russia exporting mostly oil, gas and cereals, and the EU exporting mostly cars, medicine, machine parts. Forget about sanctions, that sacrosanct Washington mantra; they are really bad for business.
Moscow, though, has a real, tangible and very serious red line. It does not even have to bother about Ukraine in the EU because the overwhelming majority of Europeans don’t want it as part of their club. The red line is North Atlantic Treaty Organization bases in Ukraine. Moscow might even compromise on Ukraine remaining a sort of Finland between Russia and Europe. With Crimea still inside the Ukraine, a NATO base side by side with the Russian base in Sevastopol would be nothing short of psychedelic.
So a resolution in Crimea – whichever way it goes – does send a very clear message from Moscow to the “West”. Watch our red line. And unlike others, we mean it, and we back it up with all we got.
No time to wallow in the mire
First US President Barack Obama solemnly declared that the referendum in Crimea would “violate international law” (Kosovo, though, could merrily secede from Serbia in 2008, to wild Washington fanfare.)
And this after he declared Crimea to be an “extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the US”. What next – Crimean nationalists invading Iowa? No, just a ploy for the White House to deploy the usual financial war.
All that when the brilliant “strategy” of Team Obama – keep demonizing Putin to Kingdom Come – was reaching its apex.
But then Obama – noticing Angela Merkel was stealing the spotlight – called Putin and stayed on the phone for nearly a full hour trying to “engage” him. Why the change of heart?
A possible response may be supplied by the inescapable Dr Zbigniew “The Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski, former national security advisor to that Hamlet hick Jimmy Carter; the man who gave the Soviets “their Vietnam”; the man who always dreamed that the US should rule over Eurasia; and Obama’s “invisible” top foreign policy mentor.
As Dr Zbig told WorldPost’s Nathan Gardels, “The strategy of the West at this moment should be to complicate Vladimir Putin’s planning.” Well, that didn’t work so well, did it? Then Dr Zbig advances that “NATO should invite the Russians to participate in its ongoing discussions”. It’s not happening.
Dr Zbig is adamant “we have to formally recognize the new government in Ukraine, which I believe expresses the will of the people there”. In fact, the will of perhaps half of the nation, at best. “Interference in Ukrainian affairs should be considered a hostile act by a foreign power.” That was Obama’s rationale until his phone call to Putin.
Dr Zbig got even more apocalyptic, stressing, “We should put NATO contingency plans into operation, deploying forces in Central Europe so we are in a position to respond if war should break out and spread.” No wonder US corporate media went bananas.
But then Dr Zbig falls back into sanity; “The best solution for Ukraine would be to become as Finland has been to Russia.” So in the end he may have suggested to Obama “a compromise solution that is acceptable for Russia as well as the West”. And that will involve “serious economic aid and investment”. And guess who should take the lead, as in footing the bill? “Germany, the most prosperous and strongest economy in the EU.”
So in the end we fall back, once again, on what Angela and Vlad have been discussing. Is it Finlandization? Or is it about who’s trying to set the night on fire?
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). – He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2014 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved.
Fonte: Information Clearing House