John Collier San Francisco, Monday morning after Pearl Harbor 1941
John Kerry made me laugh yesterday. Not that he seems to be a very amusing man, but then I don’t think he was looking to entertain. And there’s not a lot of funny material to be found in the Ukraine situation to begin with, obviously. But John still found an angle. Kerry, in his quest to appear muscular in his use of language and make Russia look like a nation filled with demons, said this on Sunday’s Face The Nation:
“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text … “
That was exactly what I had been thinking, only not with Russia as the character stuck in the past, but the US. Reading through a whole bunch of background pieces, the impression arises of American government employees acting as kingmakers, and botching it in awful fashion, because they behave as the British or French would have in the 1800s. And that simply no longer fits. I guess that if you overestimate yourself long, wide and deep enough, it doesn’t seem to make any difference, because you think that if you’re sufficiently strong, you can push that square peg through that round hole no matter what. Well, guess what …
This idea is displayed probably most prominently by US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. Who rose into the limelight when a tape was leaked recently in which she said “F*ck the EU”. She made that remark with regards to what she was busy trying to do in Ukraine. She thought the EU wasn’t acting rapidly enough in the process of toppling the Ukrainian government and replacing it with one that would better serve American and European interests.
There’s a video in which Nuland states that the US have invested $5 billion in developing Ukraine “democratic institutions”. In light of the evidence that Nuland and others were actively involved in regime change, one must wonder what those $5 billion were spent on, how much the EU added, and what Putin thought hearing about it.
While there can be no doubt that ousted president Yanukovych was a corrupt pr*ck, he was still democratically elected. And considering that, instigating regime change on Russia’s doorstep would have to be a step so risky that perhaps only a somewhat 18th century megalomaniac mind would attempt it. Victoria Nuland and US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt had been negotiating their goals for quite some time with the Ukraine opposition, so much so that Nuland calls new PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk “Yats” and leader of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform Vitali Klitschko “Klitsch” in her conversations with Pyatt. These people know each other. Well.
“Yats” is now the PM of what should probably be called a technocrat government (illegal as it may be), he’s a former – central – banker, a pattern that has a familiar sound to it, most recently observed in southern Europe. For some reason Nuland and Pyatt didn’t want heavyweight boxing champ “Klitsch” to have a prominent cabinet post, though they apparently met many times. Too much of a conscience? Whatever the reasoning, they got what they wanted, and if anything shows their grip on the regime change process, it may be that: keeping out “Klitsch”.
Nuland wasn’t just impatient with the EU, she wanted the whole process to move faster. And that’s where she made here biggest kingmaker mistake: she got into cahoots with various highly shady and questionable right wing groups, who, since they were armed and willing, seemed the ideal partners for the US to speed up events. And it’s the influence of these right wing groups, often ultra-nationalist and with a deep hatred of everything Russian, Jewish, gay, dark colored, you name it, that Russia uses as justification for its present actions, which Kerry labeled an ‘incredible act of aggression’.
One of the first things the new government did was to revoke a 2012 law that allowed regions to use a second official language if more than 10% of its people spoke it as their native tongue. That measure smacks of these right wing groups. After all, why do it in the first place if you’re “Yats”, and why as one of your first acts? What’s the justification? Did “Yats” have an interest in antagonizing ethnic Russians? When protests got too loud, the measure was quickly withdrawn, but it was too little too late, because “Yats” and his buddies had lost what was left of the people’s trust.
Native Russians, the by far largest group affected by the language law, started thinking about seeking protection from Putin. The strong involvement on the coup and the new regime of the All-Ukrainian union “Svoboda” and the “Right Sector” group of semi-nazi militias, all of whom detest Russia and Russians, made them think a little stronger still. If you don’t feel that your government protects you, who are you going to turn to?
Putin’s claim that Russia’s troop movements to date are meant primarily to prevent fighting, not to instigate it, may not be all that wild a suggestion. There can be no doubt that at least some elements of the Kiev right wing, legitimized by the US Assistant Secretary of State, were, and are, more than willing to prolong their victorious mindsets with a move east to do a bit more “cleaning up”.
To understand Victoria Nuland a little better, it’s useful to know that she is married to Robert Kagan, co-counder and former director of the – now defunct – Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a neo-conservative American organization with a pretty much 19th century set of ideas.
Not only is Nuland closely familiar with right wing ideas in general, which perhaps makes it more normal for her to associate with “Svoboda” and the “Right Sector” than it would be for most Americans, she’s also deeply affected by the – outdated – notions of American dominance and world government her husband and his cronies have. Why president Obama kept her on is a bit of a mystery perhaps, but since he’s already “her 3rd president”, maybe we shouldn’t let that baffle us.
If, just hypothetically since it won’t happen, but if Russia were to withdraw its troops from the Crimea and possible other strategic points it may have “secured”, and that would mean nationalist militia feel free to roam the country, what would the west do? Would America send troops into Ukraine? Would the UN gather another peacecorps together and station it in 100 different places through the large country? Are people such as Victoria Nuland, Geoffrey Pyatt and John Kerry sufficiently aware of these matters, of the chequered history of the region? And even if they do, do they care enough, or are their eyes mainly on the prize of Russian pipelines, oil and gas supplies and political dominance in the region?
Yes, Yanukovych was a piece of sh*t, but he was democratically elected, which means that the US and EU have been instrumental in toppling a legitimate government, while the legal status of “Yats” and “Klitsch” (to the extent he’s still involved) is not at all clear. Who elected them? Plenty of stories of parliamentarians voting with right wing guns to their heads.
Or, to frame the question a little differently, who’s the aggressor here? And maybe we can take it a step further still, and ask: what are the odds that Putin is busy saving America from a Bosnian-like quagmire?
This article addresses just one of the many issues discussed in Nicole Foss’ new video presentation, Facing the Future, co-presented with Laurence Boomert and available from the Automatic Earth Store. Get your copy now, be much better prepared for 2014, and support The Automatic Earth in the process!