Ukrainian manoeuvres—Provoking violence, ideally a Russian intervention

The Americans have caused some commotion by providing ‘evidence’ that Russia is intervening in Ukraine. The materials in question consist of photos of a man with a huge beard in camouflage fatigues, who has been spotted both in Georgia in 2008 and this time, in eastern Ukraine. To make things even more convincing, another photo has been supplied, of an obviously different person, but one equally sporting… a beard! So who would now dare not to believe them! 

It is obvious that one’s own ways colour the perception of what others do. The US has spent, by its own estimate, $5 billion in Ukraine to ‘construct a civil society’—read, regime change. 

Now there need not be the slightest doubt that Russia too is keeping a close watch on what is happening in eastern Ukraine. The simple reason is that Moscow has everything to fear from further violence there. The Russian economy already has suffered a severe blow as a consequence of tensions in Ukraine and the Crimea’s rejoining Russia. The ruble has lost value, the stock exchange likewise, and economic growth is back to zero percent. In the longer run that implies inflation and social unrest.

In spite of repeated accusations that ‘Putin’ had long planned to incorporate former Soviet areas, in fact a lot appears to be going wrong in the Crimea—there are no rubles coming out of cash machines because they have not yet arrived in the quantities needed, the Ukrainian hvrynia is coming back into use, and there are shortages of every kind. And that is only the Crimea. Spreading violence in the Donbass, the industrial core of Ukraine (and of the former USSR) will hit Russia especially because of the many links that continue to exist with that region. The figures from a Gallup-poll of 2013, which found that 56 percent of the Ukrainian population regrets the disintegration of the USSR, against only 23 percent applauding it, obviously must come from somewhere.

An anti-Russian policy cannot therefore count on a majority, not by peaceful means, that is. Instead everything points at an intention on the part of the interim government in Kiev to opt for violence (this government after all would not even exist if following the EU agreement with Yanukovych in February, there had not been renewed violence)—and what else to expect from this bunch. The Amerikaanse network, NBC, established that in no other country today neo-Nazis are so prominently represented in the government. The neo-Nazi party, Svoboda, and Right Sector, hold key posts in the security sector: a vice-premier, the secretary of defence, and the public prosecutor, hail from Svoboda, whilst the commander (‘secretary’) of the crucial Security and National Defence Committee, Andriy Parubiy, was a co-founder of Svoboda, although he meanwhile has formally switched to another, conservative party.

The neo-Nazis of Right Sector have established a headquarters in Dnepropetrovsk and created a unit of an estimated 800 paramilitaries which, as Right Sector head and presidential candidate Yarosh puts it, will contain ‘further spreading of the Kremlin virus’. The new governor of Dnepropetrovsk, the oligarch, Ihor Kolomoyskyi, appointed by Kiev, likewise has formed a ‘Donbass batallion’ composed of ‘Ukrainian patriots’. The shooting that scuttled the Geneva agreement of 20 April last, is a reminder that these are significant developments.

NATO, finally, also wants violence and preferably, a Russian intervention, let’s be clear about it. After the Yugoslav drama and the fiasco in Libya, the alliance has lost its raison d’être; only ‘Putin’ can save it. NATO after all is the key lever for the US to influence European affairs. The hatred of a Russia that no longer is the passive victim it was under Yeltsin (witness Syria, or Ukraine) is palpable. The media dutifully assist in spreading it, here too.

Yet time and again the question arises, how it is possible that the EU countries allow themselves being wrong-footed so consistently? In an interview with Russia Today, Richard Sakwa, professor of Russian and European Politics at the University of Kent, argues that this is because the ‘benign’ expansion of the EU has run aground now that it has become entangled with NATO expansion. Sakwa’s family suffered heavily under Soviet repression in Poland during the pact with Hitler, as he once told me himself. Yet this does not prevent him from making a comparison with the role played by the Balkans in igniting World War One—once again we are playing with fire by provoking Russia.

Kees van der Pijl

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