Friday, February 28, 2014

My $0.02 on the situation in Ukraine

I am a long way from the Ukraine and what I know about the situation there is gleaned from three sources, the Internet, history books, and stories told to me in my childhood.

From 4 to 15, I lived in a town that had been settled by German-speaking farmers who had fled Russia between 1874 and 1885 for an assortment of reasons.  There were thousands of such people who settled in western Minnesota and the Dakotas.  In my case, these people were also Mennonites who seriously objected to Tsar Alexander's breaking of the promise that their sons would not be drafted into the Russian imperial army.  This made for an interesting moral dilemma.  On one hand, Mennonites are strict pacifists and have been since 1534 so even during the crazy-time of the Cold War in the 1950s-early 60s, the official teaching was to condemn the extremely prevalent and intrusive war-mongering that was in the air we breathed in USA.  On the other hand, recent historical memory had taught them that the Russians were extremely evil people and the proof lay in their treatment of farmers.  I was in fifth grade (1959) when I heard an old man describe what Stalin had done to Ukrainian agriculture in the name of a madman's crackpot economic theories.  This was a fresh memory for him.

So when Ukrainians claim to me that they have significant historical reasons to hate and mistrust Russians, I hear them—mostly because I first heard those stories as a boy when they truly frightened me.  But the facts on the ground are clear. The Ukrainians and Russians share so many interests that are so important, all the historical hatreds combined are utterly trivial by comparison. Both share weather patterns, for goodness sakes.  I am certain that even without the historical atrocities, both Russians and Ukrainians are damn sick of each other.  Yes, neighbors can be that way.  But there are big fish to fry—example, both countries have to adopt better economic ideas to cope with the requirement of converting their societies to ones that start far fewer fires.

If there is one thing those great farmers that those crazy Russians ran off could tell the angry bomb-throwers during this mess it is this, "The #1 requirement for prosperity is peace!"  To which I would add, it is FAR easier to mend relations with a neighbor that it will be to climb out of whatever economic hole you will fall into if you get involved with the EU or IMF.

​‘Ukrainians to pay extreme price for regime change through austerity’

February 26, 2014

Ukraine needs real economic development, not the US’s approach to aid, which is focused on just paying off the country’s foreign bond holders and does nothing to help ordinary Ukrainians, professor of political science Jeffrey Sommers told RT.

RT: The mayor of Sevastopol says he considers the new regime in Kiev to be illegitimate. Why is the West seemingly recognizing an unelected government that's risen to power on the back of an uprising?

Jeffrey Sommers: Well, because of course they think it will be in line with their interests to do so. So unfortunately what we have seen with the US policy, and it is not unique to the United States, [is that] they will support any group regardless of how they come to power as long as they are in line with US financial interests and they feel that they’ll be in line with them politically. So, for instance, in 1993 Boris Yeltsin sent the tanks against the Russian parliament, a highly undemocratic act, and of course the US supported that. So we see the same thing in Ukraine. If we feel that the government is going to be in line with US interests we’ll support it, if not we won’t. And if a group comes to power and does so even through the rather violent overthrow, through protests, [and] that results in a democratically elected government pushed aside, so be it as long as the US gets the government it wants.

RT: Do you think the current composition of the new government in Ukraine will lead to a viable government?

JS: Well, it is very difficult to say at this point, because the situation is so turbulent and I have to say that the US is not interested in having a fascist government in place. So while we do have these nationalistic extreme elements among some of those in the new Ukrainian government, the US certainly does not want those type of people in power. What is it hoping for is ultimately for it to be displaced and we can get more moderate figures that can be more or less controlled.

RT: We've heard many promises of financial aid from the West for Ukraine. How much do you think Washington is willing to chip in?

JS: Of course, the issue is whether or not they are going to have enough to pay their foreign bond holders. It is in the US’s interest to see that those bond holders get paid off. So my guess is that there will be an IMF-ECB standard stabilization program that will put in place the usual structural adjustment, or what is now called more fashionably austerity. And that there will be sufficient funds to pay off those foreign bond holders. But it is going to come with a rather extreme price for the people of Ukraine.

RT: How much damage has the unrest affected the country’s GDP and what can be done to help Ukraine?

JS: Well unfortunately their GDP was so low that I don’t think it is going to do too much damage in the short run. If you take a look at Ukraine versus Poland, Poland has twice per capita GDP that Ukraine does. So Ukraine’s relatively low level of development means that they are not going to sink too much further than they already are. But that is the real chief issue here that needs to be addressed. Ukraine needs real economic development and just paying off its foreign bond holders does nothing to develop the country. What we really need is an entirely new dialogue on what will be required to develop Ukraine and of course that would be things like ramping up its export of wheat, and seeing that we can do something to identify markets for some of its industrial products from the East. Of course, some of those already go to Russia, but perhaps investment from the EU can result in new industries located to the Western part of Ukraine that would actually purchase industrial products from the East. But unfortunately, again I see a kind of triage measure just designed to ensure that bond holders are paid off and nothing is done to develop Ukraine. more

The Folly of Imperial Meddling

The Crisis in Ukraine


In 2004 Hungary joined the EU, expecting streets of gold. Instead, four years later in 2008 Hungary became indebted to the IMF. The rock video by the Hungarian group, Mouksa Underground sums up the result in Hungary today of falling into the hands of the EU and IMF.

The song is about the disappointing results of leaving socialism for capitalism, and in Hungary the results are certainly not encouraging. The title is “Disappointment with the System Change.” Here are the lyrics:
We’ve been waiting for the good life
For the average citizen
Instead of wealth we have poverty
Unrestrained exploitation
So this is the big system change
So this is what you waited for
No housing No food No work
But that’s what was assured wouldn’t happen
Those on top
Prey upon us
The poor suffer everyday
So this is the big system change
So this is what you waited for
When will real change occur?
When will there be a livable world
The ultimate solution will arise
When this economic system is forever abandoned
So this is the big system change
So this is what you waited for
There is no solution but revolution
Perhaps if the Kiev students had listened to the Hungarian rock group instead of to Washington’s NGOs, they would understand what it means to be looted by the West, and Ukraine would not be in turmoil and headed toward destruction.

As Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland made clear in her speech last December and in the leaked recording of her telephone conversation with the US ambassador in Kiev, Washington spent $5 billion of US taxpayer dollars engineering a coup in Ukraine that overthrew the elected democratic government.

That it was a coup is also underlined by the obvious public lies that Obama has told about the situation, blaming, of course, the overthrown government, and by the total misrepresentation of Ukrainian developments by the US and European presstitute media. The only reason to misrepresent the events is to support the coup and to cover up Washington’s hand.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the coup is a strategic move by Washington to weaken Russia. Washington tried to capture Ukraine in 2004 with the Washington-funded “Orange Revolution,” but failed. Ukraine was part of Russia for 200 years prior to being granted independence in the 1990s. The eastern and southern provinces of Ukraine are Russian areas that were added to Ukraine in the 1950s by the Soviet leadership in order to water down the influence of the nazi elements in the western Ukraine that had fought for Adolf Hitler against the Soviet Union during World War 2.

The loss of Ukraine to the EU and NATO would mean the loss of Russia’s naval base on the Black Sea and the loss of many military industries. If Russia were to accept such strategic defeat, it would mean that Russia had submitted to Washington’s hegemony.

Whatever course the Russian government takes, the Russian population of eastern and southern Ukraine will not accept oppression by Ukrainian ultra-nationalists and neo-nazis.

The hostility already shown toward the Russian population can be seen in the destruction by Ukrainians of the monument to the Russian troops that drove Hitler’s divisions out of Ukraine during World War 2 and the destruction of the monument to Russian General Kutuzov, whose tactics destroyed Napoleon’s Grand Army and resulted in the fall of Napoleon.

The question at the moment is whether Washington miscalculated and lost control of the coup to the neo-nazi elements who seem to have taken control from the Washington-paid moderates in Kiev, or whether the Washington neocons have been working with the neo-nazis for years. Max Blumenthal says the latter.

The moderates have certainly lost control. They cannot protect public monuments, and they are forced to try to pre-empt the neo-nazis by legislating the neo-nazi program. The captive Ukrainian parliament has introduced measures to ban any official use of the Russian language. This, of course, is unacceptable to the Russian provinces.

As I noted in a previous column, the Ukrainian parliament itself is responsible for the destruction of democracy in Ukraine. Its unconstitutional and undemocratic actions have paved the way for the neo-nazis who now have the precedent to treat the moderates the same way that the moderates treated the elected government and to cover up their illegality with accusations of crimes and arrest warrants. Today the illegally deposed President Yanukovych is on the run. Tomorrow will the current president, Oleksander Turchinov, put in office by the moderates, not by the people, be on the run? If a democratic election did not convey legitimacy to President Yanukovych, how does selection by a rump parliament convey legitimacy to Turchinov?

What can Turchinov answer if the neo-nazis put to him Lenin’s question to Kerensky: “Who chose you?”

If Washington has lost control of the coup and is unable to restore control to the moderates whom it has aligned with the EU and NATO, war would seem to be unavoidable. There is no doubt that the Russian provinces would seek and be granted Russia’s protection. Whether Russia would go further and overthrow the neo-nazis in western Ukraine is unknown. Whether Washington, which seems to have positioned military forces in the region, would provide the military might for the moderates to defeat the neo-nazis is also an open question, as is Russia’s response.

In a previous column I described the situation as “Sleepwalking Again,” an analogy to how miscalculations resulted in World War 1.

The entire world should be alarmed at the reckless and irresponsible interference by Washington in Ukraine. By bringing a direct strategic threat to Russia, the crazed Washington hegemon has engineered a Great Power confrontation and created the risk of world destruction. more

EU, US unlikely to intervene in Crimea

Author Spencer Kimball  26.02.2014

With the immediate threat of a civil conflict in Kyiv averted, Ukraine's crisis has now shifted to the Russian-majority region of Crimea. The region could become a flashpoint between Moscow and the West.

President Vladimir Putin placed combat troops in western Russia on alert Wednesday (26.02.2014), amid rising tensions between pro- and anti-Kremlin protesters in Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, where Moscow stations its Black Sea naval fleet.

Meanwhile, NATO defense ministers have reiterated their commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and independence.

"NATO allies will continue to support Ukrainian sovereignty and independence, territorial integrity, democratic development, and the principle of inviolability of frontiers, as key factors of stability and security in central and eastern Europe and on the continent as a whole," the defense ministers said in a joint statement after their meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US did not view the volatile political situation in Ukraine as a Cold War-style confrontation with Russia.

"This is not a zero-sum game, it is not a West versus East...," Kerry said after meeting with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in Washington. "This is about the people of Ukraine and Ukrainians making their choice about their future," Kerry added.

But there's very little that the US and EU can actually do to help maintain Ukraine's territorial integrity, according to Joerg Forbrig, an Eastern Europe expert with the German Marshall Fund. He cites the war between Georgia and Russia in 2008, in which Moscow's military intervention led to the secession of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Tbilisi's control. While the West engaged diplomatically, it was unable to prevent the division of Georgia.

"The West has very limited means of enforcing this message," Forbrig told DW. "What we can clearly rule out is that the West would rush to the help of the Ukrainian government to safeguard this integrity."

Protests in Simferopol

Demonstrations by thousands of pro- and anti-Russian protesters descended into fist fights outside Crimea's regional parliament in Simferopol on Wednesday, according to news agency reports. On Tuesday, the Associated Press had reported that dozens of protesters chanted, "Russia, save us," while calling Ukraine's interim government "bandits."

"There have been visits by Russian officials, members of parliament, to encourage these separatist Russian longings by promising passports, support, even an incorporation with Russia proper," Forbrig told DW.

According to Moscow, Wednesday's military drill - which involved 150,000 troops - was unrelated to the political developments in Eastern Ukraine. But Russian expert Jeffrey Mankoff said the maneuvers were likely intended to send a political signal to Kyiv.

"By holding up the prospect of intervention of one kind or another, it's a way for Moscow to signal to the Ukrainian elite that it should be cautious in terms of how it moves forward with setting up a government," Mankoff told DW, adding that actual military intervention is highly unlikely due to the risks associated with sparking confrontation with the West.

Nevertheless, Mankoff said that for too long leaders in the EU and US have believed that Kyiv would inevitably integrate into the West.

"There was a tendency to assume that Ukraine's European future was a foregone conclusion even though, looking at opinion polling in Ukraine, there's clearly a split," Mankoff said. "There are a lot of Ukrainians who are at least cautious about moving toward the EU." more

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