How to think about Ukraine & the offer of ties to the EU

The game is moving rapidly in the Ukraine crisis, and will continue to move in the coming days.

But I want to provide some context. You’ve heard how the government leader (or ex-government leader) Yanukovych is bad and pro-Russian. Also how the pro-EU “protesters” are a mixed lot and include many violent neo-Nazi elements. And also how the good people running the E.U. have offered closer ties to the West, about which Ukrainians decidedly disagree.

For the most part, those axes — bad Russia vs. the good E.U., bad government officials vs. equally bad mob-like protesters — are all you hear about in the mainstream media. I want to offer more. In particular, these further elements, or axes of analysis as well:

1. The E.U. (Western) offer of alliance is a deeply neoliberal one.
2. The West is one of the progenitors of the crisis.
3. If Ukraine splits, Russia will be aligned with the more viable half.

Let’s look at these in order.

The Western & E.U. offer is deeply neoliberal

There is no question that keeping Ukraine in the Russian and slavic sphere will have consequences that may not be good. But ties to the West and the E.U are also a mixed bag, a mixed offering. I have this from David Bacon via email, and with his permission, I’m printing it as sent with very few changes.

Bacon analyzes the neoliberal content of the West’s offer of closer ties. About David Bacon, from his bio at Truth-Out:

David Bacon is a writer and photographer. His new book, The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Migration, was published by Beacon Press. His photographs and stories can be found at

Here’s what Mr. Bacon sent (all emphases mine):

It is important to consider what exactly it is that Europe and the U.S. are offering to the Ukraine, especially to its working people. As a result of previous economic reforms, financed and promoted by the World Bank and IMF, the Ukraine has closed 90 of its 280 coal mines, for instance. In one town, Stakhanov, in the industrial region of the Donetsk (one of the most industrialized areas of the former Soviet Union) the closure of all four coal mines led to the loss of a quarter of its entire workforce, and its population dropped by 13,000 people. Sound like Detroit?

In the World Bank’s sanitized language, “Stakhanov has been particularly hard-hit by the closure of uneconomic mines, with all four of the mines operating in the city having been closed almost at the same time. Given the scope and timing of the mine closure, the downstream impact on other industries was particularly severe.” (Link:

On top of these earlier reforms, the U.S. and Europe are now “offering” the Ukraine a free trade agreement and an accompanying set of austerity proposals. We know what the consequences of free trade agreements are — higher profits for investors, especially foreign ones, and harder living conditions, with displacement and forced migration, for workers and farmers. The industry of the Donetsk has largely been sold off already in the economic “reforms” that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union. Further austerity, in the interest of privatizing what’s left, and increasing the profitability of Ukrainian industry by lowering living standards, to make it more attractive to foreign investors, can’t be an attractive prospect for its workers. When they look at the price Greece and Spain have paid for austerity, or Mexican workers and farmers have paid for NAFTA, I can only imagine the unpopularity of these proposals.

The support given by the U.S. and western European governments to the “opposition” as it fights for “closer ties with the west” (I’m using quotes because these are the words the New York Times and Washington Post use in describing events there) has little to do with democracy or protecting the welfare of Ukrainian working people. As progressive people in the U.S. we have learned to decode the language of our government and media when they talk (or refuse to talk) about NAFTA, CAFTA, TPP and the economic reforms they promote in other countries. We should use that skill in decoding the coverage we’re getting from them about the Ukraine too.

So, the first point — this isn’t about “freedom” vs. Russia. It’s about bringing Ukraine into the E.U. neoliberal sphere and away from an autocratic and corrupt Russian one.

The West is one of the progenitors of the crisis

Whatever you think of the thugs on either side of the conflict, a case can be made that the West precipitated it. Amy Goodman at Democracy Now (interview date: Friday, February 21), from the transcript (again, my emphasis and some reparagraphing):

AMY GOODMAN: The Ukrainian parliament, Rada, and Cabinet buildings have reportedly been evacuated because of fears they could be stormed by protesters. The street clashes are occurring while the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, is meeting with the foreign ministers from Germany, Poland and France.

The Obama administration stepped up pressure on the Ukrainian government Wednesday by announcing a visa ban on 20 members of the Ukrainian government. The U.S. is also threatening to place sanctions on the Ukrainian government.

The protests began in late November after President Yanukovych reversed his decision to sign a long-awaited trade deal with the European Union, or EU, to forge stronger ties with Russia instead.

To talk more about the latest in Ukraine, we’re joined by Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University. His most recent book, Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War, is now out in paperback. His latest piece in The Nation is called “Distorting Russia: How the American Media Misrepresent Putin, Sochi and Ukraine.”

So, talk about the latest, Professor Cohen.

STEPHEN COHEN: Where do you want me to begin? I mean, we are watching history being made, but history of the worst kind. That’s what I’m telling my grandchildren: Watch this. What’s happening there, let’s take the big picture, then we can go to the small picture. The big picture is, people are dying in the streets every day. The number 50 is certainly too few. They’re still finding bodies.

Ukraine is splitting apart down the middle, because Ukraine is not one country, contrary to what the American media, which speaks about the Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. Historically, ethnically, religiously, culturally, politically, economically, it’s two countries. One half wants to stay close to Russia; the other wants to go West. We now have reliable reports that the anti-government forces in the streets—and there are some very nasty people among them—are seizing weapons in western Ukrainian military bases. So we have clearly the possibility of a civil war.

And the longer-term outcome may be—and I want to emphasize this, because nobody in the United States seems to want to pay attention to it—the outcome may be the construction, the emergence of a new Cold War divide between West and East, not this time, as it was for our generation, in faraway Berlin, but right on the borders of Russia, right through the heart of Slavic civilization. And if that happens, if that’s the new Cold War divide, it’s permanent instability and permanent potential for real war for decades to come. That’s what’s at stake.

One last point, also something that nobody in this country wants to talk about: The Western authorities, who bear some responsibility for what’s happened, and who therefore also have blood on their hands, are taking no responsibility. They’re uttering utterly banal statements, which, because of their vacuous nature, are encouraging and rationalizing the people in Ukraine who are throwing Molotov cocktails, now have weapons, are shooting at police. We wouldn’t permit that in any Western capital, no matter how righteous the cause, but it’s being condoned by the European Union and Washington as events unfold.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And when you say the Western countries who bear some responsibility, in what sense do they bear responsibility? I mean, clearly, there’s been an effort by the United States and Europe ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union to pull the former Soviet states into their economic sphere, but is that what you’re talking about?

STEPHEN COHEN: I mean that. I mean that Moscow—look at it through Moscow’s eyes. Since the Clinton administration in the 1990s, the U.S.-led West has been on a steady march toward post-Soviet Russia, began with the expansion ofNATO in the 1990s under Clinton. Bush then further expanded NATO all the way to Russia’s borders. Then came the funding of what are euphemistically called NGOs, but they are political action groups, funded by the West, operating inside Russia. Then came the decision to build missile defense installations along Russia’s borders, allegedly against Iran, a country which has neither nuclear weapons nor any missiles to deliver them with. Then comes American military outpost in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, which led to the war of 2008, and now the West is at the gates of Ukraine. So, that’s the picture as Moscow sees it. And it’s rational. It’s reasonable. It’s hard to deny.

But as for the immediate crisis, let’s ask ourselves this: Who precipitated this crisis? The American media says it was Putin and the very bad, though democratically elected, president of Ukraine, Yanukovych. But it was the European Union, backed by Washington, that said in November to the democratically elected president of a profoundly divided country, Ukraine, “You must choose between Europe and Russia.” That was an ultimatum to Yanukovych.

Remember—wasn’t reported here—at that moment, what did the much-despised Putin say? He said, “Why? Why does Ukraine have to choose? We are prepared to help Ukraine avoid economic collapse, along with you, the West. Let’s make it a tripartite package to Ukraine.” And it was rejected in Washington and in Brussels. That precipitated the protests in the streets.

And since then, the dynamic that any of us who have ever witnessed these kinds of struggles in the streets unfolded, as extremists have taken control of the movement from the so-called moderate Ukrainian leaders. I mean, the moderate Ukrainian leaders, with whom the Western foreign ministers are traveling to Kiev to talk, they’ve lost control of the situation. By the way, people ask—excuse me—is it a revolution? Is it a revolution? A much abused word, but one sign of a revolution is the first victims of revolution are the moderates. And then it becomes a struggle between the extreme forces on either side. And that’s what we’re witnessing.

And also this, about the leaked tape:

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to the famous leaked tape right now. The top State Department official has apologized to her European counterparts after she was caught cursing the European Union, the EU, in a leaked audio recording that was posted to YouTube. The recording captured an intercepted phone conversation between the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, and Victoria Nuland, the top U.S. diplomat for Europe. Nuland expresses frustration over Europe’s response to the political crisis in Ukraine, using frank terms.

VICTORIA NULAND: So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and have the U.N. help glue it. And, you know, [bleep] the EU.

AMY GOODMAN: While Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland’s comment about the EU dominated the news headlines because she used a curse [word], there were several other very interesting parts of her conversation with the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

GEOFFREY PYATT: Let me work on Klitschko, and if you can just keep—I think we want to try to get somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing. Then the other issue is some kind of outreach to Yanukovych, but we can probably regroup on that tomorrow as we see how things start to fall into place.

VICTORIA NULAND: So, on that piece, Geoff, when I wrote the note, Sullivan’s come back to me VFR saying, “You need Biden?” And I said, “Probably tomorrow for an attaboy and to get the deets to stick.” So Biden’s willing.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Pyatt, speaking with Victoria Nuland. The significance of what she is saying? She also had gone to Ukraine and was feeding protesters on the front line.

STEPHEN COHEN: Cookies, cookies. Well, here again, the American political media establishment, including the right and the left and the center—because they’re all complicit in this nonsense—focused on the too sensational, they thought, aspect of that leaked conversation. She said, “F— the European Union,” and everybody said, “Oh, my god! She said the word.” The other thing was, who leaked it? “Oh, it was the Russians. Those dirty Russians leaked this conversation.” But the significance is what you just played. What are they doing? The highest-ranking State Department official, who presumably represents the Obama administration, and the American ambassador in Kiev are, to put it in blunt terms, plotting a coup d’état against the elected president of Ukraine.

Who’d have thought it? There’s a lot in this interview that’s worth your thought and attention. I’ve embedded the whole thing as a video below.

If Ukraine splits in two, Russia will be aligned with the more viable half

Even at the level of conscienceless diplomacy, if you just consider the game, it looks like the West may have badly misplayed its hand. Paul Craig Roberts with the analysis (my emphasis):

So far, in Washington’s attempt at regime change in Ukraine[,] large numbers of Americans are not being killed and maimed. Only Ukrainians are dying, all the better for Washington as the deaths are blamed on the Ukrainian government that the US has targeted for overthrow.

The problem with Washington’s plot to overthrow the elected government of Ukraine and install its minions is twofold: The chosen US puppets have lost control of the protests to armed radical elements with historical links to nazism, and Russia regards an EU/NATO takeover of Ukraine as a strategic threat to Russian independence.

Washington overlooked that the financially viable part of today’s Ukraine consists of historical Russian provinces in the east and south that the Soviet leadership merged into Ukraine in order to dilute the fascist elements in western Ukraine that fought for Adolf Hitler against the Soviet Union. It is these ultra-nationalist elements with nazi roots, not Washington’s chosen puppets, who are now in charge of the armed rebellion in Western Ukraine.

If the democratically elected Ukraine government is overthrown, the eastern and southern parts would rejoin Russia. The western part would be looted by Western bankers and corporations, and the NATO Ukraine bases would be targeted by Russian Iskander missiles.

It would be a defeat for Washington and their gullible Ukrainian dupes to see half of the country return to Russia. To save face, Washington might provoke a great power confrontation, which could be the end of all of us.

The rest of Mr. Roberts’ piece is comment on the reaction to his earlier piece, but do click through if you want to read more.

To put a picture to it, here’s the electoral results of the 2004 election in Ukraine. It’s a decent proxy for the divisions Mr. Roberts discusses above:

2004 Election results in Ukraine (source)

2004 election results in Ukraine (source)

Food for thought.

I’m not sure about Robert’s dire warning of a new cold war, with the border down the middle of Ukraine instead of Germany, but the situation is certainly fluid, and this wouldn’t be the first time that the neoliberal West has fomented a revolt it thought it could profit from, and failed to see an obvious bad outcome (as in Egypt). So the jury is definitely out on the consequences of this semi-provoked revolution.

Dr. Stephen Cohen on the Ukraine crisis

For your information, here’s the full Amy Goodman interview with Stephen Cohen. (If the video doesn’t queue it up, the Ukraine segment starts at 11:36.)

It looks like two of us here (Myrddin and myself) have our eyes on the Ukraine crisis. Stay tuned for more.


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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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53 Responses to “How to think about Ukraine & the offer of ties to the EU”

  1. kwd says:

    The march of American imperialism continues no matter which party occupies our White House. The NeoCons use military might and force to inflict their will on other countries. The NeoLiberals use the tools of finance: The World Bank and the IMF.

  2. Bill_Perdue says:

    Reap the whirlwind.

  3. Ford Prefect says:

    Odds are the fantasists in DC are going to have their plates full for a while on this. The Neos really want Crimea and they’re almost certainly not going to get it. Chances are they’ll realize they can’t compete and will abandon Ukraine and concentrate more on Latin American coups instead. But being the stubborn asshats they are, it will take a while. I’m sure the Poles will be very happy to have an unstable, violent rump state–as you probably correctly put it– on their border. Their terrible economy is only going to get worse. I’m sure Brussels is busily preparing for the refugee problem coming their way, right?

  4. Bill_Perdue says:

    Heres some new information from today’s Guardian “Ukraine: Sevastopol installs pro-Russian mayor as separatism fears grow – Moscow shows its influence in Crimean city amid fears the whole peninsula could seek deeper ties with Russia”

    If separatist sentiments grows the Ukrainian rump state will be landlocked, the RF will get southern and eastern Ukraine including Odessa and a big chunk of the Dnieper hydroelectric infrastructure and Germany and Obama will get … Chernobyl and a lot of new fascist friends.

  5. Bill_Perdue says:

    That depends. She’s extremely right wing and will remind people of what Obama was in real life as opposed to all his right BS. And if Jeb Bush wins we’ll have another example of a Dixiecrat vs a Southern Republican. (I know shes from Illinois but she became a Dixiecrat when she moved right, a story very common in Dixiecrat ranks.)

  6. Anonymous says:

    Very well put, on all counts.

  7. tsuki says:

    I listened to the Nuland tapes. More than the dirty word. What I got was that the US wants to install Yatsenyuk as their puppet, and Germany/eu wants Klitschko. To Hell with what the people of the Ukraine want. Nuland was on a mission to see that her puppet was installed.

    The US is on a mission to destabilize Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Bolivia, Ecuador and any government that may show signs of aligning with the BRICS. Which of the BRICS nations can we poke the most, try to destabilize and have a complicit media cheer the US on?

    The BRICS Bank and Monetary Fund is closer than anyone in the west really knows, and the dollar will soon lose its special place as the world’s reserve currency unless the US acts. The BRICS are 28% of the world’s GDP and 40% of the world’s population.

    As for the Ukraine, it does not matter whose heel comes down on their necks. They are toast.

  8. Anonymous says:

    It’s all a matter of personal bias. The right wing favors Russia, left wing (supposedly) favors the EU. Really, both are swooping in to take advantage of the situation. It’s only people wearing political blinders that don’t understand that. Ask Bill_Perdue.

  9. quax says:

    A point of contention: Poland fared pretty well as EU member and association is usually the first step in this direction.

  10. Olterigo says:

    Where do you think Russian money is going in the end? The money of Putin’s yes-men. It’s going into the bank accounts in Cyprus and Switzerland, UK and USA. It buys apartments in NYC, London, and Miami. It buys estates in UK countryside, along French Riviera, around Florida. It pays for the same henchmen’s children’s education in private boarding schools in Europe and for the higher education in the world’s best universities. And it drips, drips, drips into American and European bank accounts, where it will be out of the reach of Russian government, present or future, so that these politicians and their kids will have one day a safe nest egg in Europe. If anything happens.

  11. Olterigo says:

    I wonder what do these experts think Russia is planning to do with the Eastern Ukraine? Does anyone seriously think Russia will behave in a markedly different manner from the EU? Look at Chechnya, look at Abkhazia and South Ossetia, look at Transnistria – all of them economic basket cases. If anything, the remaining properties will be expropriated through corruption and jailing of regime opponents. So, regular Ukrainians will not only lose in income, etc., but will also lose in civil liberties. (Which looking at the EU is a lot less likely.)

    (I also find it amusing that people who turn a blind eye to Islamic anti-Semitism and incitement suddenly remember about it when Ukraine is concerned. Just so you know, the Jewish community is not strongly on the pro-Russian side but is divided as well, including being on Kiev’s Independence Square. Not to mention, Russian pro-Kremlin sources aren’t squeamish about anti-Semitism when it suits their needs.)

  12. cole3244 says:

    agreed but we need to be careful and not put putin in a position where he looks like he is losing or backing down on the ukraine situation, if he gets desperate he may force a confrontation we aren’t prepared to make and that’s the way political negotiations can turn into a much worse development.

    its his backyard not ours and is vastly more important to him than us.

  13. nicho says:

    That left me scratching my head too. Totally minimized the anti-gay legislation, defended the shoddy construction, etc.

  14. Anonymous says:

    And the politicians will still be corrupt, just with EU bloodsuckers added to the mix

  15. Anonymous says:

    The only reason we cared about Russia was because of the threats to American tourists during the Olympics. I would actually be surprised if Russia made the news again at all. We have no real interest in them. Do we give a shit about Beijing either? Not at all. America makes fake “friends” during opportune times. I’m just glad the media was focused on Ukraine during the Olympics. If the conflict had happened days later, it probably wouldn’t even be a headline.

  16. Anonymous says:

    What do you expect? He worked for the KGB. It’s all he knows and has been trained to do. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

  17. Anonymous says:

    Greece is actually a very corrupt country. I’m surprised that their social issues make the news rather than their bumbling government. They have no IRS equivalent, people get jobs and political positions through bribes and favors. They also pilfer government money and rarely complete infrastructure projects on time. It’s a mess. I guess there is no economic interest in actually helping these people, so they’re left high and dry.

    The EU has failed to improve an already crappy system there. Frankly, it’s always been a mess, the only difference is that more money is fed into their corruption.

  18. dula says:

    We’ll see if that holds true in the next election for Hillary Clinton.

  19. Bill_Perdue says:

    Data on Arizona bill compiled from JMG

  20. 2karmanot says:

    Gaius, you might want to check out this article by Michael Hudson on Sochi : I have been reading Hudson for years and was shocked by this pro Russian fluff piece.

  21. Bill_Perdue says:

    Maybe they’re committing the same mistake made by Hindenburg and Von Papen in ’33.

  22. Bill_Perdue says:

    That’s no longer totally true.

    Democrats lost in 2010 when some 30 million of Obama’s 2008 vote disappeared – people stayed home in droves.

    In Seattle and SeaTac, Wa., socialists, centering their campaign on getting a better minimum wage than the miserable $10.10 proposed by Democrats and the zero increase proposed by Republicans won a referendum in SeaTac (a town of about 27,000) for a $15.00 minimum wage. In Seattle, a socialist beat a Democrat with nearly 100,000 votes. Sweetness, especially for those who’ll get a real increase in their wages.

    Separately, in Ohio dozens of union leaders broke with Democrats and moved left, running independently and defeating the Democrats. More sweetness.

  23. Bill_Perdue says:

    “The massive switch of ruling party parliamentarians to the opposition party seems to support Ames’ assertions.”

    That and the kind of rancid opportunism that leads to rebranding on marriage equality by both parties and in relation to the somewhat surprising heavy attack by Republicans against the Arizona bill sanctioning discrimination. In addition to our own communities it’s opponents also include the three state reps who help pass it and both US senators from Arizona, McCain and Flake. No one likes to be a loser, even if it means switching sides.

    US and EU meddling in the internal political life of other nations to accomplish ‘regime change’ is as bad as that of Putin, and much more widespread. Chile. Libya. Lebanon (twice). Palestine. Uruguay. Venezuela (currently). Panama. Iraq. Afghanistan. Pakistan. The list goes on and on.

  24. Diogo says:

    Basically this entire analysis is based on the perspective offered by Stephen Cohen to Amy Goodman – which is essentially flawed and in conflict with more informed readings of the situation (see Timothy Snyder at DemocracyNow today, for example).

  25. dula says:

    Much of what the right wants Obama to do, he does…like putting SS and Medicare on the chopping block, and why shouldn’t he when he knows that the Dem electorate will always vote for the lesser of two evils NO MATTER HOW FAR THEY MOVE TO THE RIGHT.

  26. Indigo says:

    Going running with the E.U. is a very bad idea under all circumstances. Greece stands as an example of how bad that can be. But I’m not with the “Slavic Civilization” story by a long shot. The Polish are Slavic and they’ve made it very clear that a dalliance with Russia is out of the question. It seems the Western Ukrainians, just south of Poland, feel the same way. Sorry, but waving the “Slavic Civilization” card around as trump isn’t in the deck. Nope!

  27. Ford Prefect says:

    I just read this piece by Mark Ames, which has the ring of truth to it:

    3. Everything you think you know about Ukraine is wrong.

    Everyone looking for a proxy side to support or oppose in the Ukraine political dynamic will be disappointed. Ukraine politics go by their own rules. Today’s neoliberal ultranationalist could be tomorrow’s Kremlin ally, and visa-versa. Just look at what happened to the Orange Revolution—nothing. To wit:

    a) One Orange Revolution leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, wound up turning against her partner Viktor Yushchenko and allying with Yanukovych to strip Yushchenko of presidential powers; later, Tymoshenko allied with the Kremlin against Yushchenko; now she’s free from jail and thepresumptive leader of the anti-Yanukovych forces.

    b) The other Orange leader—the pro-EU, anti-Kremlin Viktor Yushchenko—wound up allying with pro-Kremlin Yanukovych to jail Yulia Tymoshenko.

    c) John McCain has been the big driving force for regime change against Yanukovych, but McCain’s 2008 campaign chief’s lobby firm, Davis Manafort, managed Yanukovych’s political campaigns and his lobbying efforts in the US.

    d) Anthony Podesta, brother of President Obama’s senior advisor John Podesta, is anotherYanukovych lobbyist; John Podesta was the chief of Obama’s 2008 transition team.

    All this underscores the silliness in much of the propaganda. I don’t think much of anyone driving this conflict from Washington has the slightest clue what they are doing. The massive switch of ruling party parliamentarians to the opposition party seems to support Ames’ assertions.

  28. nicho says:

    Now, there will be a chance for Merkel and her gang of fascists to impose “austerity” on the Ukraine — driving down wages, increasing unemployment, selling off the infrastructure, driving working people into poverty — and probably forcing them to sell valuable farmland to corporatist ventures. They can do to them what they’ve already done to Greece, Cyprus, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Latvia.

  29. Bill_Perdue says:

    Information is just coming in on ABC regarding the extent of the wealth of the former president, Yanukovych. I’s not as much as Putins but he’s in the same league.

    His plundering of the economy will be nothing compared to what we’ll see when the Deutsche Bundesbank, the IMF and Obama’s buddies at Goldman Sachs get their bloody hands around the neck of the Ukraine. It’s going to be terrible for quite a long while.

    Asn as I’ve said before, anyone who takes the side of western banksters in this case is someone who has abandoned reason. They and their fascist allies are going to do a number on the Ukraine. In the meantime, what Ukrainian workers need is what we need here, workers parties capable of being the engine that drives a revolutionary socialist solution to their crises.

  30. Ford Prefect says:

    Right. The EU, currently inflicting terrible pain through austerity on southern EUROPE, is going to expand to Tunisia and Libya–both of which are enjoying a great deal of instability and violence (not to mention warlord-variety corruption)–even though it won’t even consider Turkey. Of course it will have no problem ponying up the hundreds of billions needed to stabilize and democratize their socio-economic conditions! I can just see how Libyans and Tunisians will be made able to travel to Europe without a passport.

    So too, it can go to other third world economies like Ukraine. Right. That’s definitely gonna happen. Also, NATO will have their base and the Russian naval base at Sevastapol will go bye bye. That is the Neo-Con/Neo-Lib fantasy, at any rate. It would be nice if our vaunted elites would stop to consider their hubris just once. It could save thousands of lives!

    If I were a betting humanoid, I would just pass on this bet. Western arrogance may very well hit the wall this time. Russia isn’t going to give up Syria and the Assad regime is winning on the ground. That means the US will have to launch a major regional war to get what it wants there. So Russia isn’t losing there.

    I’ll not take bets on who wins here. The Russkies have the advantage in Ukraine, for numerous reasons. If it were just about old Pootie, that would be one thing. But there are economic, miltary and strategic interests that the US wants to spoil, while not gaining anything in return. How committed will the US be, once a civil war breaks out? Probably about as dedicated as we were to the Iraqi Kurds, after Poppy Bush convinced them to revolt.

    You do realize the potential for war between major powers, do you not?

  31. FLL says:

    No, of course the EU is not some global power that controls an evil “Neo-Con/Neo-Liberal Axis” (as Ford Prefect puts it). This European bogyman has been non-existent since 1945, as you pointed out. So if this is just a pretext, then what is Ford Prefect’s real objection to the EU vis-a-vis Russia? The danger, as Putin and his supporters see it, is the dreaded cultural influence of civil liberties by way of western, central and now even eastern European countries. If ideas like freedom of speech infiltrate Russia via Poland and now Ukraine, Putin’s dictatorship is doomed, which is a catastrophe that Putin’s fanboys would be loathe to see. Putin’s dictatorship cannot long survive democracy and civil liberties in Ukraine. Don’t believe me? Do you think that’s being overly alarmist from Putin’s point of view? Just look at how Putin’s supporters are freaking out about the events in Ukraine on this blog. LOL.

  32. MyrddinWilt says:

    The problem in US politics is that ever since the GOP started going insane under Reagan, moderate right-wingers have only had the Democrats to turn to. So the Democrats have moved further and further right as well. Today they are so crazy the party has no room for David ‘Axis of Evil’ Frum because he is too left wing for them.

    Right now it does not matter very much because most of what the left wants Obama to do but Obama does not are things that Obama can’t do anyway.

  33. MyrddinWilt says:

    No, neoCon thinking is unique to hegemonic powers and so it is very much unique to the US, Russia and China. NeoCon thinking is all about slamming a small country up against the wall every few years just to show that they can.

    Putin is a neo-con, pure and simple. The only difference is that he doesn’t have the same sort of military at his command.

    What drives the generals and their politicians is the fear of not being in control. As Europeans we haven’t been in control since 1914 and have known that since 1945.

    The EU could have easily moved southwards into Libya and Tunisia had it wanted to, Turkey would very much like to join. But the EU didn’t want to do that. Right now the last thing the EU wants is a crisis in Ukraine. But far worse would be if it turned into another Yugoslav crisis and the country falls into civil war.

    Putin can’t afford a civil war either, he is already occupying the Northern part of Georgia, fighting independence movements in the South and bankrolling Assad in Syria. Unlike the US where there is a Carter or and Obama comes along every so often to wind down the neo-con wars of their predecessors, the Russians just keep collecting unwinnable stalemates. At the moment Putin still has his naval base in Sevastopol and that is not at risk. But it would be at risk if he tries a counter-coup. And it seems unlikely a counter-coup could succeed with the pictures of the President’s looting all over television.

    There is absolutely no reason that Ukraine should not be as rich as Poland. They have abundant natural resources and a highly educated population.

    Charles de Gaul may not have been far off when he proposed ‘Europe to the Urals’. But the driving force here is Putin. He lost Georgia six years ago, he has just lost Ukraine. It is likely he will lose Syria in the end. Belarus might well be next.

  34. Ford Prefect says:

    They all know perfectly well who and what they are supporting. Someone in power had to sign off on the checks being written to these groups. Diplomats and intel people met them in person many times. Ignorance is not a defense here. Hell, the WH let McCain and Murphy give Svoboda a rousing speech in public. Some day that will look bad.

  35. Bill_Perdue says:

    Maybe, but the Germans have to have known about the Ukrainian fascists. They cultivated and utilized them during WWII until it became clear that the Germans were going to enslave and eventually kill all Slavs.

  36. Ford Prefect says:

    FWIW, I don’t get the impression Brussels and Berlin thought things would get this bad. I can’t imagine why they would think that given their choice of “partners,” but they seem rather gobsmacked at the severity of the situation. Washington, of course, doesn’t give a tinkers cuss about all the bloodshed.

  37. Bill_Perdue says:

    There’s more documentation now on the role of fascists in this bankster putsch. “As the Euromaidan protests in the Ukrainian capitol of Kiev culminated this week, displays of open fascism and neo-Nazi extremism became too glaring to ignore. Since demonstrators filled the downtown square to battle Ukrainian riot police and demand the ouster of the corruption-stained, pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich, it has been filled with far-right streetfighting men pledging to defend their country’s ethnic purity.

    White supremacist banners and Confederate flags were draped inside Kiev’s occupied City Hall, and demonstrators have hoisted Nazi SS and white power symbols over a toppled memorial to V.I. Lenin. After Yanukovich fled his palatial estate by helicopter, EuroMaidan protesters destroyed a memorial to Ukrainians who died battling German occupation during World War II. Sieg heil salutes and the Nazi Wolfsangel symbol have become an increasingly common site in Maidan Square, and neo-Nazi forces have established “autonomous zones” in and around Kiev.”

    More information is available at

    The whole article is important because it shines a light on the role of the US government in working with and encouraging fascists and the role of the right in this country, who are open in their support of Ukrainian fascism.

  38. Bill_Perdue says:

    Exactly correct. This is a fight between the looting class, the banksters and their fascist friends on the one hand and the needs of workers in the Ukraine on the other hand.

  39. Bill_Perdue says:

    Ukraine that will be inherited by the Deutsche Bundesbank, the IMF and Goldman Sachs, who gave Obama close to a million dollars for his first election, is going to be very unstable for a long time.

    Last weeks putsch by neo-Nazis will make it very hard to control them.

    The Ukraine faces bankruptcy (and has for years). “Ukraine’s political crisis has brought the country to the edge of the abyss. And worse yet, the standoff between the government and demonstrators has reduced the economy to a shambles. The latest setback came over the weekend, when the ratings agency Standard and Poor’s (S&P) cut Kyiv’s credit worthiness to CCC, just a few notches away from being classified as insolvent.” Deutsche Welle

    While there is some possibility of splitting as the Czech Republic and Slovakia did in 1993 the deep divisions among Ukrainians are soon going to be expressed as class divisions rather than national divisions.

    This victory by the banksters and their fascist friends will make the world much less safe because it exacerbates the growing antagonisms between the aggressive looter banksters of NATO/EU/US grouping and the aggressiveness of the Putin regime.

    In the meantime, what Ukrainian workers need is what we need here, workers parties capable of being the engine that drives a revolutionary and socialist solution to their crises.

    Anyone who takes the side of the banksters in this case is someone who has abandoned the left.

  40. Bill_Perdue says:

    Most people like you will move steadily left under the impact of the global economic crisis.

  41. cole3244 says:

    i guess the easy answer is we can deal with russia on this now or in the future but they will have to be dealt with one way or another.
    my guess is the decision will be put off for future pols since that’s the way politicians think in america if not everywhere.

  42. Russ says:

    I hardly consider our Democratic president liberal. I do consider myself liberal – not “liberal” (with the quotes)… I am not a follower of whatever letter comes after someones name in Washington. I’ve watched for too long what happens people are voted for simply on that basis(usually because there’s an “r” after their names).

  43. Ford Prefect says:

    The EU has its Neo-Con/Neo-Liberal Axis, just like we do. NATO has been desperately searching for a new raison d’etre since the Iron Curtain came down. They probably figure this will do the trick. A new cold war to keep things rolling along will help provide the rationale for larger-than-needed defense budgets and justify the US bases in Germany.

    Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova are essentially third world economies. The only reasons the EU would admit them (their economies are simply not compatible) would be for the purpose of looting natural resources, exploiting cheap labor and looting their financial systems. Any such membership would be temporary and would destabilize the EU as a result. Chances are they’ll hold out membership as a carrot to encourage destabiliziing forces while never coming through on it.

  44. Bill_Perdue says:

    And Libya. And support for zionist ethnic cleansing. And etc,. etc., etc.

  45. Ford Prefect says:

    Well done, GP! Finally, a recognition of the stupidity emanating from the western side of this.

    Dmitry Orlov put this up yesterday on his blog. It’s mostly an account from a resident of Kiev, which describes some of what’s happening. The US (meaning the administration) was stupid to back the same people that fought along side the Nazis in WW2. I’m not sure how Berlin and Brussels are going to deal with the blowback associated with their poor choice of “friends.”

    Ukraine will not be integrated into the EU, except to the extent the TBTF banks can loot their country before it collapses altogether. I wonder what will become of their five nuclear power stations. Amidst the chaos, it would be nice if someone were paying special attention to those.

  46. emjayay says:

    “As a result of previous economic reforms, financed and promoted
    by the World Bank and IMF, the Ukraine has closed 90 of its 280 coal
    mines, for instance. In one town, Stakhanov, in the industrial
    region of the Donetsk (one of the most industrialized areas of the
    former Soviet Union) the closure of all four coal mines led to the loss
    of a quarter of its entire workforce, and its population dropped by
    13,000 people.”

    I’m just guessing, but was the IMF reform one of forcing them to stop subsidizing the coal mines which were feeding electrical generation or whatever instead of using natural gas which is far less polluting and much lower in CO2 emissions and actually cheaper if not subsidized? Kind of like what happened in Britain a few decades ago? Or maybe the removal of subsidies for coal leads to more conservation and more renewable energy sources.

    Of course this kind of change causes unemployment because the mines or whatever have drawn workers to the area over the decades. So, moving subsidies, training, other industries etc. are called for to help the transition. All the things we don’t do either.

  47. FLL says:

    Putin already has Belarus and Kazakhstan in Russia’s customs union. It is very well documented that Putin was heavily counting on Yanukovych to bring Ukraine into Russia’s customs union.

  48. Bookbinder says:

    Putin is a reactionary who seems to want to rebuild the Soviet Union with its enforced loyalty to the Empire and total despotism…or maybe he wants to rebuild the Russian empire of the Czars and the Czar.

  49. FLL says:

    If you really were keen to formulate conspiracy theory, I think the weight of evidence would point to Putin’s near obsession, since 2011, with reconstituting as much as the old Soviet Union as possible in the form of his customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. There is an avalanche of documentation to show that Putin was really counting on Yanukovych steering Ukraine into joining Russia’s customs union. There is no documentation showing that the EU was actively courting Ukrainian membership during the same time period (2011 through 2014).

  50. Bookbinder says:

    Totally agree. Not buying the Cohen stuff at all.

  51. FLL says:

    Your recent posts about the Democratic primary field for 2016 were informative and a very good read. However, your highlighting Stephen Cohen in this post is a disappointment. I don’t think I need to waste my time listening to Cohen tell me to “look at things from Russia’s point of view,” which is what he’s been saying for 20 years. Cohen’s advice is particularly nauseating today with Putin in charge. I look forward to reading more of your posts on other topics. No Stephen Cohen for me, thank you.

  52. MyrddinWilt says:

    The reason I don’t expect Ukraine to split is Vladimir Putin.

    There is certainly a large pro-Russian group. But that doesn’t mean they like Putin. Yanukovych’s corruption is a carbon copy of Putin’s own corruption, only the palaces are rather smaller and a little less opulent than Putin’s.

    Another reason that a split is less likely is that Yanukovych was abandoned by his own party which still has a major presence in parliament. So there are domestic political pressures on the government to be fair and reasonable. There are also pressures from the EU and the US.

    A split would not be a good move for the Russian population either because the Russian empire is still in a state of decline. There are more internal groups wanting to break away than external groups wanting to join.

    This certainly isn’t part of some EU masterplan though. Its an unwanted problem for Europe which is already stretched due to the idiotic Eurozone scheme and the cost of rebuilding the Warsaw pact. Five years ago the big EU question was whether to admit Turkey to the union. Now it looks like room is going to have to be made for Moldova as well as Ukraine and quite possibly Georgia.

    The driving force here isn’t EU ambition, its Putin closing his fist tighter and the star systems falling through his fingers.

  53. dula says:

    Oh dear, you can’t criticize neoliberal policy around “liberals.” Remember the significant Dem support for an invasion of Syria because our Democratic President wanted it.

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