Regime Change in Ukraine openly on the agenda

This article is a translation of "Regimewisseling in Oekaïne nu openlijk op de agenda"

Just when it appeared as if the amnesty law for jailed demonstrators (as well as rioters) had settled the mood in Ukraine, the government buildings evacuated by the opposition (a precondition for the amnesty) have been occupied again by radical elements. In addition, the German-supported boxer, Vitaly Klitsjko, has declared that his Udar party is ready to take part in a new coalition government.

This comes within a day after conversations with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Klitsjko on that occasion pressed her to impose EU sanctions against President Yanukovych and his supporters. Of course it is difficult to announce sanctions against a government introducing an amnesty law, so the new riots come in usefully. On the 18th of February the British Independent already reported four dead. This morning there were reports of twenty to twenty-five dead on the BBC and on Russia Today, including a number of police officers—the opposition is armed. And let’s be candid about it.—that creates opportunities. 

The Russian foreign ministry has issued a statement arguing that the West has assumed a huge responsibility by encouraging violence against an incumbent government. But then, the new cold war against Russia has been going on for some time now and we don’t listen to Moscow any longer. On the eve of the winter Olympic Games Amnesty International broadcast radio adverts warning us not to let Putin ‘enjoy his party’ undisturbed; the United States has dispatched its first warship armed with anti-missile-defence batteries into the Mediterranean, in spite of Russian protests.

Once again: the West is fundamentally divided over Ukraïne, as it was over Yugoslavia. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union the US according to undersecretary of state Victoria Nuland ("F**k the EU") has spent $ 5 billion on ‘democracy’ in the country (i.e., a civilian infrastructure, NGOs, Chambers of Commerce, and the like), all to serve as transmission belts of American influence. In addition American companies have leased large areas of Ukrainian agricultural land through so-called ‘land grabs’. Yet Ukraine for the US is first of all of strategic importance against Russia. However, the Kremlin will not merely look on when Ukraine is taken over. What would Washington say, asks Pepe Escobar in Asia Times online, if Texas would secede from the United States and became an ally of Russia?

Germany too wants regime change in Ukraine, but for different reasons. Parts of German capital are eying Russia as a raw material base and there exists already an entire network of economic links, in which former Chancellor Schröder, among others, is involved. Ukraine is important because the gas pipelines still to a large extent run through the country. Germany wants to have these under control, and for that reason Yanukovych has to be removed, and not just he. There also has to be a different constitutional structure, no longer a presidential but a parliamentary system, so a weaker leadership. For even if Merkel’s candidate, Klitsjko, would take power by force, Yanukovych could still return in a subsequent election (as happened in the last one). In a parliamentary system government is through coalitions, and that offers better opportunities for influence behind the scenes. The latest violence erupted after the president of the parliament of Ukraine rejected an opposition proposal for constitutional reform along these lines, and after Klitsjko and Yatsenyuk (the man of the Americans) had returned to Kiev.

However, they no longer have control over the rioters any longer, who operate under the banner of Pravy Sektor (Right Sector)—an unsavoury collection of neo-Nazis, football hooligans, and radical nationalists. But that does not mean that the politicians will not exploit the violence when they have a chance.

In 2008 I was in Kiev myself to speak for the Ukrainian Forum, of which former president Leonid Kuchma is the patron. Kuchma (pictured left, next to chairman and minister Seminozhenko) has meanwhile become one of the richest men in the country. A journalist who was investigating the dark side of this enrichment, was found dead under suspect circumstances. Yanukovich again is a protégé of Kuchma’s.

However, the Ukrainian Forum also includes a tendency that hails from the perestroika in the Soviet Union at the time of Gorbachev. Their vision is a mixture of Eurasian ideology and a wish to roll back the speculative capitalism that has only brought social upheaval in the former USSR. Instead a new round of population growth should be kick-started in Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, based on ‘Silicon Valley’-type new urban centres connected by high-speed rail networks along which data traffic and energy transmission run as well. This plan has meanwhile been adopted by the president of the Russian railways, Yakunin, a close ally of Putin’s.

Thus it is hoped to create a new growth pole in the world economy with socialist elements, and based on cooperation between Russian fundamental science and German, Italian, and Japanese technology. Yakunin is also the president of the World Public Forum which annually convenes a conference on the isle of Rhodes under the theme of a ‘Dialogue of Civilisations’. The website of this organisation gives an impression of the evident progressive orientation blended with elements of a religious nature.

The infrastructure built in Sochi for the Winter Olympics would be an example of a qualitatively new living environment as envisaged by Yakunin and his supporters. However, the media in the West preferred to see only corruption (cf. the overview by Stephen Cohen in The Nation); the Times called Sochi a Soviet nightmare. Is that fury perhaps also being fuelled by the mistrust of ideas about a different society lingering in the former USSR?

Of course this project cannot be taken for granted, and whether these plans will be able to avoid becoming entangled in corruption always remains uncertain. Also, there is the question whether the population is willing to continue to live in abject poverty whilst others are enriching themselves.

The US wants to turn Ukraine into a military chess piece against Russia, Germany wants its hands on the gas tap. But I don’t doubt that there is also something else at play in the readiness of the West to abandon all restraint concerning Ukraine.

Kees van der Pijl

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