Yanis Varoufakis: Ukraine – Three Awkward Questions for Western Liberals and a Comment on the EU’s Role

Yves here. This post is useful because the issues Varoufakis raises are orthogonal to most of the discussion in the English language press over Ukraine.

By Yanis Varoufakis, a professor of economics at the University of Athens. Cross posted from his blog

Let us accept (as I do) the principle that national minorities have the right to self-determination within lopsided multi-ethnic states; e.g. Croats and Kosovars seceding from Yugoslavia, Scots from the UK, Georgians from the Soviet Union etc.

Awkward question no. 1: On what principle can we deny, once Croatia, Kosovo, Scotland and Georgia have come into being, the right of Krajina Serbs, of Mitrovica Serbs, of Shetland Islanders and of Abkhazians to carve out, if they so wish, their own nation-states within the newly independent nation-states in the areas where they constitute a clear majority?

Awkward question no. 2: On what principle does a western liberal deny the right of Chechens to independence from Russia, but is prepared to defend to the hilt the Georgians’ or the Ukrainians’ right to self-determination?

Awkward question no. 3: On what principle is it justifiable that the West acquiesced to the raising to the ground of Grozny (Chechnya’s capital), not to mention the tens of thousands of civilian deaths, but responded fiercely, threatened with global sanctions, and raised the spectre of a major Cold War-like confrontation over the (so far) bloodless deployment of undercover Russian troops in Crimea?

The above three questions are being asked not because I want to challenge the notion that Mr Putin is a dangerous despot. I have no doubt that he is. Indeed, I wear as a badge of honour the fact that I was in a minority of one in the Faculty Board meeting of the University of Athens in 2003, where I voted against the award of an honourary doctoral degree to Mr Putin by the University of Athens (denying the University the opportunity to state that the award had been unanimous, and thus incurring the wrath of most colleagues who had been ‘requested’ politely by the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs to honour Mr Putin during his visit to Athens).

My three awkward questions have two aims: To remind readers of the West’s unprincipled attitude toward ‘other’ people’s struggles and tragedies. And to explain, in part, why such unprincipled behavior by the proponents of democratic principles ends up denigrating not only these very principles but greatly reinforcing the power and influence of the Putins of this world as well.

Europe and the Ukraine

Ukrainians fought pitched battles against the security forces in Kiev’s main square to protest against the former President Yanukovic’s decision to back out of a deal that would seal the country’s partnership with the European Union. Why? Are they blind to the incongruities of the European Union?

No, they are not. However, Ukrainians are facing a different type of problem compared to those we Europeans do. Whatever bone we have to pick with Brussels, with the ECB etc. (and we have many!), the people of Kiev had other priorities. E.g. how to rid themselves of security forces that felt at liberty to torture and to kill; how to travel freely; how to live in a country where courts were not completely run by the same mafia that run the state apparatus. To them, the fact that democracy is on the wane in the Eurozone and Europe’s principles are becoming increasingly hollow, matters little: The EU, however fast it may be descending into democratic illegitimacy, still looks like Heaven through many Ukrainian eyes.

Having said that, the greatest tragedy for Ukrainians is that their highest hopes are resting on weak shoulders: the European Union’s!

‘Europe’s Foreign Policy’ are three words that only need to be stated to cause hilarity. For there is no such thing, in truth. Even the Franco-German axis has been shuttered by Libya, let alone the ambitious idea of a common foreign policy for a United Europe that can act as a bulwark helpful to the Ukraine.

While Libya was of minimal importance to Europe’s security, even if of crucial importance to the Libyans, Ukraine is crucial and Europe ought to tread very carefully. What worries me the most is that the seriousness of the Ukrainian crisis is in inverse proportion to Europe’s competence in the field of foreign policy. Brussels may be keen to expand its ‘authority’ Eastward but it is treading into dangerous territory, ill equipped to deal with the repercussions.

The United States, the IMF, Germany and the Ukraine

The Ukraine is, and was always going to be, the battleground between Russia’s industrial neo-feudalism, the US State Department’s ambitions, and Germany’s neo-Lebensraum policies. Various ‘Eurasianists’ see the crisis in Kiev as a great opportunity to promote a program of full confrontation with Russia, one that is reminiscent of Z. Brzezinski’s 1970s anti-Soviet strategy. Importantly, they also see the Ukraine as an excellent excuse to torpedo America’s role in normalising relations with Iran and minimising the human cost in Syria. At the same time, the IMF cannot wait to enter Russia’s underbelly with a view to imposing another ‘stabilization-and-structural-adjustment program’ that will bring that whole part of the former Soviet Union under its purview. As for Germany, it has its own agenda which pulls its in two different directions at once: securing as much of the former Soviet Union as part of its neo-Lebensraum strategy of expanding its market/industrial space Eastwards; while, at the same time, preserving its privileged access to gas supplies from Gazprom.

As for the White House itself, there is little doubt that both President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry understand the limits of Western power and the danger that too much of a hawkish reaction to the events in the Ukraine will undermine their efforts vis-à-vis Syria and Iran, at a time when Iraq is being increasingly destabilised.

Epilogue: The European Union should stop meddling in the Ukraine

In this geopolitical context, Brussels’ ambitions ought to be curtailed. The European Commission is clueless, regarding the goings on in the Ukraine, and the less involved they get the better for everyone. Indeed, the EU apparatchiks resemble Rome’s last emperors who, foolishly, thought that extending the Empire’s borders was all that mattered, when in reality the problem was that the Empire’s core was rotting.
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135 comments

  1. May

    The good professor knows little about Ukraine. This was not a people’s revolution. It was led by neo Nazi thugs and Oligarchs who thin they will make more $$ with EU connection. The peple have already seen what it means loss of pension for starters!
    EU installed a neo nazi govt and a government of Oligarchs. Are you aware no other Eastern European country has such powerful oligarchs-in-politics links?

    “The oligarchic system,i.e. a system based on links between the newly formed big business and the political class, emerged several years after Ukraine re-gained independence in 1991. Although a similar phenomenon has also de-veloped in other former Soviet republics, first of all in Russia, big business at present does not have such a strong influence on politics in any other Eastern European country as it does in Ukraine.”

    http://www.osw.waw.pl/sites/default/files/prace_42_en.pdf
    THE OLIGARCHIC DEMOCRACY
    THE INFLUENCE OF BUSINESS GROUPS
    ON UKRAINIAN POLITICS

    http://rt.com/news/ukraine-austerity-pensions-halved-174/
    Pensions in Ukraine to be halved – sequestration draft
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37876.htm
    The Looting Of Ukraine Has Begun

    1. Linus Huber

      Well, I do not believe that a few thugs will produce a grassroots uprising but that there is a real dissatisfaction in the population towards the corruption of the government. It represents a worldwide trend that questions increasingly the decision makers who are not really responsible (immunity) but ensure a comfortable lifestyle for themselves while the rest of the people are increasingly struggling. We see corruption left and right and the increasing concentration of power has to reverse so that decisions are again made on the lowest possible level of the hierarchy.

      1. Wayne Reynolds

        As a commenter to Anne Applebaum’s article in todays The Telegraph says, “Understand something Anne, we are not loyal to you any more than you are to us”.

      2. Yassine

        The Svoboda party is not “a few thugs”. In the last polls before the trouble began, it was credited with 29,1% of vote intention for the next presidential election (the highest score). Many things could be said about the neonazi nature of this party, but sometimes one fact says it almost all : Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn, one of Svoboda’s ideologue (and now a MP) founded, in 2005, a think tank called the Joseph Goebbels Political Research Center. That the west is now backing a coup that put in charge such a party (it has four ministers in the new government, including the minister of defence and security forces) needs to be hidden from the public opinion, and so a media campaign based on lies on the scale of those of the Iraq war has once again begun.

    2. Eleni

      I had understood from analysis in the earlier days of the crisis that Ukraine’s oligarchs, while powerful in Ukraine, were not sufficiently wealthy or powerful to compete with EU oligarchs – excuse me! governments & business interests – and were therefore against the EU. At present only 2 have been put in power.

    3. h_rostam

      you could say the same about the tea party in America. It’s not strictly speaking “wrong” to say that it is a popular uprising, even though there are other monied interests etc.

    4. OMF

      While it does look like there are elements of truth to this, the fact remains: The troubles only really began when Yanukovych turned down the EU trade deal.

      However bad Europe is right now, EU trade deals are still a net positive — arguably a bonaza — for almost everyone in countries who join up. Structural funds, job opportunities, etc, etc. And Yanukovych turned it all down — not because of ties to Russia — but because it would require him to tone down the corruption, release Tymoshenko, etc, etc.

      In essence, while the Ukranians were prepared to tolerate some level of corruption, finally the regime crossed the line by placing its own interests so nakedly ahead of the interests of the general population. Other groups have been riding on the resulting wave of discontent, but the bottom line is Yanukovych precipitated unrest and uprising when he snatched the EU sweet cake out of the watering mouths of the Ukrainian public. Very few presidents in could survive such a backlash as naturally resulted.

  2. mmckinl

    Yanis Varoufakis says: “As for the White House itself, there is little doubt that both President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry understand the limits of Western power and the danger that too much of a hawkish reaction to the events in the Ukraine … ”

    That is not in evidence … Quite the contrary, Obama much like his premature calling for the removal of Assad has proclaimed Putin on the wrong side of history. Kerry too has been verbose in his proclamations. Both have boxed themselves in to intensifying the conflict.

    I too make no excuses for Putin but as the Sniper Massacre in Maidan square commenced there was already a deal on the table whereby Yanukovich was ceding much of his power. Clearly a false flag operation by neo Nazis much as the neoNazis in Greece were used against the left.

    The deal with the EU would have impeded trade with Ukraine’s major trading partner Russia (60%) while opening the Ukraine to IMF austerity. The EU deal was a terrible deal, even George Soros said so. Putin then offered a much better deal and even offered to include the EU but to no avail. The Putsch was on irregardless of concessions.

    1. mmckinl

      PS …

      The neo facists/Nazis of the Svobada and Right Sector Parties now control all of Ukraine’s security and legal ministries …. elections anyone ???

      Ihor Tenyukh – interim defense minister and a member of Svoboda’s political council. Formerly commander of Ukraine’s navy, in 2008, during Russia’s war with Georgia, he ordered Ukrainian warships to block the entrance of the Russian Navy to the bay of Sevastopol.

      Andriy Parubiy – National Security Council chief, co-founded Svoboda back when it was the “Social National” (ahem!) party.

      Dmytro Yarosh – deputy head of the National Security Council, i.e. the police, and the founder-leader of “Right Sector,” a militant neo-Nazi paramilitary group that took charge of security in the Maiden.

      Oleh Makhnitsky – Svoboda member of parliament, is prosecutor-general.

      Oleksandr Sych – Svoboda parliamentarian and the party’s chief ideologist, is deputy prime minister for economic affairs.

      Serhiy Kvit – a leading member of Svoboda, is to head up the Education Ministry.

      Andriy Moknyk – the new Minister of Ecology, has been Svoboda’s envoy to other European fascist parties. Last year, he met with representatives of Italy’s violent neo-fascist gang, Forza Nuovo.

      Ihor Shvaika – agro-oligarch and a member of Svoboda, has been appointed Minister of Agriculture. One of the richest men in the country, his massive investments in agriculture would seem to indicate a slight conflict of interest.

      http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2014/03/04/a-monster-reawakens-the-rise-of-ukrainian-fascism/

    2. Eleni

      One EU condition was the closure of ALL of Ukraine’s heavy industry. Basically Ukraine was the industry powerhouse in the USSR and where everything from submarines, tanks & all materiel to Sputnik was constructed.
      Both Russia and Ukraine’s industry have suffered since Ukraine left the USSR.
      As part of a Russian compact industry could have revived.

        1. Massinissa

          I think he means Ukraine. It was a slipup on his fault.

          But if Ukraine joins EU, East Ukrainian industry will go down the toilet.

          West Ukrainians (the ones who did the uprising) wont really care so much because they dont have any industry over there anyway. Quite frankly, most of the West Ukrainians are supporting Svoboda and Right Sector because theyre f*cking desperate (things are bad in west Ukraine) and dont think they have anything to lose, more than any actual sympathies for fascism and nazism or Stepan Bandera (ww2 Ukrainian Nazi Collaborator, Svoboda and Right Sector think hes a national hero.) or whatever.

          Of course, the same could be said of most of the early german support for the Nazi’s.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      I didn’t comment on this but I agree with Varoufakis.

      All Obama has announced is wet noodle lashing sanctions.

      My belief is he is trying to mange the optics. He needs to look tough to appease the hawks but he can’t do anything if the UK and Europe won’t play ball. And they won’t because the UK is addicted to Russian flight capital and Europe is addicted to Russian oil and gas.

      That does not mean he might not lose control of the neocons, who really want a fight, or that shooting breaks out (which would be blamed on the Russians regardless of who really was the perp) and events escalate quickly into war, 1914 style.

      1. mmckinl

        It’s all about the rhetoric at this point …

        And Obama and Kerry have been drawing red lines that exclude real dialog sans Russian retreat to their barracks.

  3. middle seaman

    Previous comments miss the essence of Varoufakis’ points. Whether Ukraine’s change of regime is genuine or not makes no difference to the general issue of self-determination, human rights violations and mass destruction.

    The EU, clearly losing its post WWII status, shows inconsistency, blunder and immense weakness in not “abiding” by the three questions. Germany’s neo-Lebensraum, Varoufakis’ Greek frustration but not baseless, sounds quite ominous.

    Self-determination has long been far from self-evident. One would think that democracies implies that any group calling itself Self can determine its lot. That’s not really the case. Most of European left denies self determination to the Jews and the Kurds. A state cannot leave the Union. The list is quite long.

    Regrettably, I don’t share Varoufakis’ interpretation of Obama/Kerry tango. Obama shows as much confusion and bumbling on Ukraine as he has on Syria and almost any other matter. He is steadfast on enriching the rich though.

    1. mmckinl

      Yanis Varoufakis gets the entire situation exactly wrong. It is not the EU that is pushing events towards war … it is the US! England is against sanctions but is being dragged along. Germany is in much the same position. It is only the Frenchman Hollande that is goose stepping with America …

      That Yanis can not see the neo fascist/ nazi parallels between Greece and the Ukraine is astounding. Given his complete lack of understanding on the situation in Ukraine he should have never authored this article …

      1. Eleni

        Au contraire, Germany, backed by Poland, and pursuing a foreign policy independent of the EU, approached Ukraine over EU aid with conditions. Once Ukraine showed interest the EU was brought in to shape the deal.

        A weakness of Yanis’ argument is that while he is correct vis a vis the EU – that they should stay OUT of this conflict – the most powerful country in the EU, Germany, while conducting its own foreign policy initiatives, used the EU in the second stage to shape the EU contract with Ukraine.

        Meanwhile DeGaulle’s “Europe to the Urals” policy has been revived & is circulating on european internet, with the suggestion that Germany – which recently announced a major policy shift to seek a position in the world commensurate with its economic power [including expanding its military] – seeks to create a EU + Russia “pole” to counterbalance US power.

        Just sayin’.

        1. Robert Dudek

          Ukraine is in Europe, last I checked. To imply that Ukrainians are not Europeans ,as Yanis does, is an insult.

          It would be foolhardy to offer EU membership to Ukraine without at the same time offering it its “more stable” neighbor, Russia!

          The “Nato-backed” coup in Kiev has made it possible for Russia to take back Crimea and to partition the country, a result that Russia doesn’t mind and that fits nicely into the neo-Cold War intentions of many in the US.

          Once the far-right is entrenched in West Ukraine, the EU will be happy to work with them as long as they hold up their end of international trade and the EU will decidedly not worry about human rights abuses within Ukraine.

          1. Nathanael

            All of this nonsense about “far right” is just nonsense — propaganda spread by Putin. I start tuning out anyone who claims that “far right” forces are taking over any part of the Ukraine. Bullshit without evidence.

            The far right already took over Hungary, of course.

            1. Massinissa

              Wait just a minute, you think Svoboda and Right Sector are left wing or moderate? Are you serious?

            2. Wayne Reynolds

              I suppose tattooed neo Nazi shirtless young men sporting swastikas during the Maidan protests is just a passing fashion trend?

              1. Massinissa

                Oh yes, havnt you heard? Everyone wears those in Paris now. Its the big trend. Im sure all the big names on the red carpet this year will be sporting fashions inspired by such famous figures as Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler.

                Also, SS thunderbolts, swastikas, and especially the Nazi Bird will be incredibly popular on womens dresses and jewelry. Order your Neo Nazi fashion apparel now!!

        2. Agriculture Boi

          ” Germany – which recently announced a major policy shift to seek a position in the world commensurate with its economic power [including expanding its military]”

          I really wonder where you get your “facts”. In another posting, you’re asserting that Germany, a major exporter of food products, isn’t self-sufficient – and here’s you’re asserting that Germany is expanding its military.

          Reality check: Germany is actually continuing to cut military spending:
          2012 – 31,7 billion Euros
          2013 – 31,4 billion Euros
          2014 – 30,9 billion Euros
          2015 – 30,4 billion Euros

          I’m also curious about the “announcement” you’re referring to. Could you provide a reference?

      2. Banger

        That’s because most people don’t understand politics in Washington. We have a new alliance I will call the “Belligerent Party” made up of neocons like Nuland/Kagan and neoliberals like Kerry–they are now joined at the hip. This party has largely taken over the mainstream media, particularly cable TV which is hungry for conflict and War (almost as a religion). The alternative party are the realists whose views are presented by Henry Kissinger’s op-ed in the Post . Not that I agree with it all but it shows an understanding of the situation as opposed to trying to whip up hysteria to get a reluctant America to meet its imperial destiny. Those that are simply opposed to war or those who just don’t want to get involved in all this nonsense have little voice at this time.

        1. susan the other

          But where else can all that venture capital go now that Africa has been gobbled up? All they want is a minimum 8% return. Please, a little compassion. And talk about difficult political questions. If all ethnic regions became political entities by referendum it would be democratic justice; it would also be divide and conquer – but Varoufakis doesn’t mention this danger. Of course when the question arose in Greece he was adamantly against Greece leaving the EU. The Greeks chose to remain by a very narrow margin. Nobody is telling the truth here. And about Poland, I do seem to recall Poland having interesting ties to the UK which doesn’t want to sanction Russia for fear of losing all the Oligarchs’ UK investments. I think I see the old pattern – gotta have a place to receive all that shadow capital, like laundering money – and now this has become so widespread that if one place is chosen as the place to “invest” and is toppled in a “coup” it blowsback to damage the most recent beneficiary of shadow investment… The world is shrinking.

          1. Nathanael

            “. If all ethnic regions became political entities by referendum it would be democratic justice; it would also be divide and conquer”

            Not necessarily. Once the ethnic-based states are established, they seem remarkably capable of organizing joint-self defence. Good fences make good neighbors and all that. I often think Woodrow Wilson was the wisest geopolitician in the last 150 years, despite being a racist and a liar.

          2. Wayne Reynolds

            And that $1 billion of aid promised by the US government to the new, aka Neo whatever, legitimate government unelected in the Ukraine, will be funneled back to the US banks, gratis of the US taxpayer!

        2. Cynthia

          Washington has a goal of Full Spectrum Dominance. When you look at who was behind the Color Revolutions in the former communist bloc you can clearly see that Washington has created a new cold war which which they have not only changed regimes but have built military bases, listening post and in some drones bases to surround Russia and China. Putin is no fool. He knows the goal of Washington is to cut Russia off from the vast oil and gas fields in the Caspian Sea Basin.To control the routes and the gas and oil pipelines through countries which are under the protection of the western military alliance. These countries are members of the G.U.U.A.M. military alliance. Washington needs Ukraine to join the U.N. as many of the countries have to become under the control of the IMF for loans which the U.S. controls. Washington’s foreign policy is to control the Eurasian corridor of the behalf of the Anglo-American oil and gas giants through militarization and color revolutions.

          1. Banger

            That’s a good point. There are many aspects to this but none of them involve ideas like “democracy” or “freedom” those words mean nothing in today’s climate where every major power is dominated by oligarchies.

  4. squasha

    “The Ukraine is, and was always going to be, the battleground between Russia’s industrial neo-feudalism, the US State Department’s ambitions, and Germany’s neo-Lebensraum policies. ”

    Does this not imply that what Russia is up to is very bad, what the US is up to is the pursuit of its positive, if self-serving aspirations, and what Germany is up to is the fascist takeover of a foreign region in order to provide space for the blonde, aryan children of the fatherland, who will be resettled there in the wake of a murderous cleansing of conquered lands in order to conduct a world domination scheme based on bunk theories of “race”?

    1. Eleni

      Probably he is being polite and not spelling things out re US ambitions since he is presently working in Texas. US ambitions are well understood globally, and need little explanation.

      As for Germany, a very basic fact about Germany is that it is not self-sufficient in food – and especially grains, while it consumes more bread than any other country. Since the beginning of the 20th century Germany has conducted an eastward foreign policy in the effort to feed itself, including a longstandng relationship with Roumania as Europe’s ‘breadbasket’ and Turkey as a source of wheat & legumes. Add to this Germany’s mercantilist trade policy and its present over-reliance on exports and the term “neo-lebensraum’ is – I hope – demystified.

      1. squasha

        no, you cannot plunk the prefix ‘neo’ in front of a word without evoking the connotations of the modified noun, i.e. neo-feudalism, neo-fascism, neo-colonialism. In some cases the ‘neo’ in front acts to branch out from or contrast with the stem word, i.e. neoconservatism, and neoliberalism, which are arguably still connected, at the very least historically, to working concepts of conservatism & liberalism respectively. The connection to the National Socialist concept of Lebensraum, or living space, would have only orthogonal relation to exported food production you describe, even less so because he is referring to Germany. It’s a bit like claiming Arbeit Macht Frei has to do with wig production. It’s one of those hyper-charged terms that Germans don’t throw around lightly to make trivial comparisons. You may be forgiven for not knowing the historical connotations of the word, but as a presumably hyper-educated European, the author is certainly well aware of them.

        1. Massinissa

          I just want to mention that the concept of Lebensraum predates Nazism… The term dates back to Friedrich von Bernhardts 1912 book about Germany needing to expand into eastern europe.

          So Lebensraum was not originally associated with Nazism, so much as german nationalism. Like many other things, such as the swastika or even antisemitism, the Nazis just adopted it rather than creating it.

          So you can say ‘neo-lebensraum’ and not be saying Merkel is a nazi. Do you feel better now?

          1. squasha

            it is rather kind of you to be concerned about my feelings, since you asked, I actually don’t feel better than I did before reading your comment. I feel about the same. How do you feel? My guess is somewhat self-satisfied, and fed up with seeing my comments here, judging from the way your last sentence is typically said aloud, am I right? It is so easy to misread tones on the internet, so I thought since we’re taking the time to express our concern for each other, I’d ask.

            It’s interesting what you wrote though–I wasn’t aware of the full history of the word, nor I did I get the impression the author was calling Merkel a nazi, although plenty of Greeks do seem to walz around with swastika-d placards of her. Since the 20th century lived and died experience of the word has greater resonance and present day meaning for many, I think the philisophical roots are less important, if still interesting, much as one can learn alot about the Holocaust from antisemitical documents dating back to the same period.

      2. Wayne Reynolds

        Ukraine, long known as the food basket of Russia and the Soviet Union, has now been identified as a possible bonanza of shale oil gas extraction. Just ask the farmers of eastern Colorado and North Dakota where THAT solution lies. “Let them drink hydro-carbons, makes Marie Antoinette a veritable human rights activist. Yeah, I know she never said it!

      3. Agriculture Boi

        “As for Germany, a very basic fact about Germany is that it is not self-sufficient in food – and especially grains, while it consumes more bread than any other country.”

        This is ridiculous. Germany has a massive agricultural overproduction. It’s producing close to 45 millions tons of grain every year, while consumption is less than 100kg per head. Do the math. The same applies to dairy products and meats.

        German EXPORTS more than 30 billion euros in food products every year.

        I thought that Varoufakis’ use of the term “neo-Lebensraum” was kind of stupid, but I didn’t take long to find the first commenter outdoing him. You other posts are, by the way, just as wrong on the basic facts.

  5. guest

    The more I see how events are unfolding in Ukraine, the more I am convinced that the “Maidan revolution” that took place there is of the same texture as the “tamarrod revolution” in Egypt:

    Exasperated crowds protesting against a through and through corrupt political class and a rotten economic system;
    Unfortunately for those crowds, they easily slipped into the mood of achieving their aims via extreme means (deposing a regularly elected government) instead of relying upon democratic processes;
    Which allowed jubilant behind-the-scenes powers (USA and EU-orientated oligarchs) to seize power with their extremist Svoboda minions and run roughshod over even the pretense of respecting institutional formalities (deposing president and government, arbitrarily nominating oligarchs to replace elected local representatives, cancelling the language law, etc).

    In six months, those protesters who longed for the end of the kleptocracy will see the true face of what they helped to bring about: an oligarchy that will fill its own pockets with the FMI-required privatization of the remaining Ukrainian industry, rigged elections (again), austerity and more unemployment for the common folk, renewed clubbing by berkouts for those protesting the lack of democracy, and perhaps even Crimean regionalists dubbed terrorists.

    At the very, very best, Ukraine can hope to end up like Bulgaria — where the streets have been awash with protests (which the mainstream press does not write about, of course).

    1. hehaw

      Naw, the people in that part of Eastern Europe are the most juvenile, putreile in politics. Having been ruled by Polish and German Junkers, they yearn to be idtenified with the “West” no matter that it will only use them as labor fodder and DFI consumers.
      I once didn’t get laid with a hot Polish chick because I couldn’t stomach the right-wing politics, as she dismissed the large unemployment of Poland as “lazy people”. The rehabilitation of the seedy collaboration of West Ukraine during the war is a function of this odd uncle Tom psychology.

    1. Wayne Reynolds

      Wow, I just posted a similar comment above about this same perspective ! You did better with URLs. Sometimes I think though that we are going to URL and footnote our species into oblivion.

  6. Banger

    I like Yannis and contributions here–I think he’s a little Jesuitical in his commentaries but let’s start with what is really going on here. The Ukrainians are split into different groups and are ripe for destabilization. There are all kinds of grievances I’m sure–if you are in an “out” position in a neo-fedual society you are going to be irritated but, frankly, the alternative is neo-feudalism with other faces. There is no evidence that the main thrust of the demonstrations were towards creating a Western European state–that simply is not going to happen nor should it. However, the critical facts are that this was a country that was gradually moving in a Western direction and had free elections. The demonstrators proved that Ukraine cannot be a democracy because they sought to reject the will of the people in the streets with wild scenes of hooliganism chiefly fueled by right-wing youth. Yannis ignores this.

    The action of NED is ignored by Yannis–he may not even know that is or how it is constructed and what it’s agenda is. It is made up of four sections, one Republican headed by John McCain, the other Democrat, headed by Madeleine Allbright, one Chamber of Commerce and one Labor (mainly AFL-CIO) I don’t know who heads these right now. It’s agenda was to promote U.S. interests in the way that the CIA did (overthrow governments the current faction in the foreign policy establishment didn’t like). It seems that neoliberals and neoconservatives have come together to form an alliance. Both factions are belligerent in the sense they favor a U.S. based Imperial system guaranteed by U.S. military, “soft”, and covert power. Most of the mainstream media are on board and are enamored of Victoria (Torry) Nuland wife of Robert Kagan one of the chief ideologues of neoconservative policies.

    Let me explain what this alliance wants. They want “full-spectrum dominance” in all areas of geopolitics such that any power outside of the U.S. cannot even think about challenging the U.S. thus its main targets are Russia and China. Neoliberals now have signed on to the neoconservative strategy of chaos, first in the Middle East and central Asia, now in Eastern Europe. Why do they want this? They believe that without the “mission” of world dominance the U.S. will dissolve into hedonism as well as egional, factional, racial, cultural conflict and fights and “something.” This was noted in neocon writing in the 90s. For awhile the “Ware on Terror” seemed to galvanize public opinion and even brought a sense of euphoria in the U.S. a sens of being united against what I believe was largely a manufactured threat–but that notion, after trillions of dollars thrown in the garbage and untold numbers of dead has run out of steam. This is why when the alleged gas attacks were made in Syria the mainstream media, the Washington establishment rose up, shockingly, with a cry of “War!!” and yet, the people were unmoved. Quickly the so called evil Putin defused the situation and Kerry and his new neocon friends had that haggard look. Then the Ukraine came along–nurtured by NED and other operatives since 2004’s “Orange” revolution now revenge was at hand–money poured in and a coup was set up. Mind you Yanukovych was out of his league and was your average Eastern European/Central Asian despot no particularly bad but not good either. Somewhere along the line the U.S. made the oligarchs that run Ukraine an offer they couldn’t refuse while assuring them they’d keep their power and Yanukovych was out.

    Now, Putin and his friends are considered “bad” because they see the world as it is. They know that if you are weak and too “democratic” and liberal your ass is cooked and you are under the rule of the Empire. Putin sees his job as maintaining Russian power and using balance of power politics acting, on the whole, intelligently in international affairs. He understands that this Ukraine game is part of a larger effort on the part of the U.S. to encircle Russia with military alliances usually with brutal oligarchical leaders always threatening the Russian federation with covert operatives, aiding separtists and so on. That’s the reality of big-power politics nothing, my dear Yannis, in all this has anything to do with “democracy” or all the pious claptrap that comes out of the West. This is, as it always has been, pure power politics both on an international level and within the Washington establishment itself.

    One last thing I urge readers to read Henry Kissinger’s op-ed in the Post . It is a reasonable and peaceful piece probably written by staff that pleads for moderation rather than belligerency. But the belligerent clique has the ear of Kerry and maybe Obama–I don’t know–the politics will be interesting to view. In the final analysis, however, the American public doesn’t really want more war even a new Cold War–I think our disunited state has gone too far to unite about anything at this point. Europe is unimportant in this matter other than a source of funds, I guess–good luck with that. Giving oligarchs more billions is just what the Ukraine needs, right?

    1. TimR

      This all sounds very plausible to me (as your comments often do.) One point I question: Are US power elites really worried about internal dissolution of the underclass?
      Dropping in on NBC TV news a few weeks ago, their story (and I believe it was part of ongoing coverage) about black youths attacking white people for sport — “the knockout game” or something was the branding, just random beatings delivered to people walking along innocently — seemed geared to fan the flames of racial division. To take something of unknown scale, and try to fan it into a major “fad.” (And if there is a “there” there, I wonder who might be synthesizing it on the other side, planting this idea in the media black youth are getting.)
      If US power elites are so worried about internal dissolution, why do many (most?) of their policies seem geared to further it? At least that has been the result over decades, if not centuries, as we are ever more atomized (while power elite families and society have historical continuity and cohesion.) Maybe that “talking point” was either there to rationalize their policy to themselves, or to put a happy face on it for whatever public consumption it might meet with? Rather, the “2 Minutes of Hate” seems to better fit the explanation that it triggers a fear response, and then a powerless fragmented public turns to elites begging them to be its protector.
      I agree the American public doesn’t want more war, but I suspect they are still easy prey for fear of the Unknown Other, and still will fall back on elites for protection, and as a way to lash out with hatred, if told that Enemies threaten the “homeland.” Maybe Syria wasn’t a good enough story for that, but my Red State Contacts (lol) tell me that Obama “looked weak” when he backed down on Syria (even though they agreed attacking Syria was a bad idea!) and that we have enemies in this world, like Putin, who will take advantage of that weakness.

      1. Banger

        Well, the American right-wing makes the Ukrainian right wing look sane. There’s nothing more to say–most of these people are just less-intelligent hustlers, carnies and confidence men/women than their more sophisticated Democratic Party opponents.

        As for racial politics–it is encouraged no so much by the government as the entertainment media with flogging the symbol of the potent and angry black male victorious over the cowering whites and so on. The nurture the most exploitative and nasty artists that have made a mockery of the black musical tradition and they do it deliberately to create tension and sales. White males also develop this macho, me-first studly attitude and most black and white males, frankly, don’t have the chops to fulfill that myth–it’s all a social thing.

        The action is in ruling circles in Washington and how various elements of the elites will line up on this–right now, the crazies are in charge, in my view. But it will only get them attention, larger “defense” budgets and in the end peter out. Wall Street does not want nuclear war over pathetic Ukraine–so at some point their big-shots will take Kerry and Obama in hand and tell the to shut the f***k up and keep Mr. Market from having a heart attack. Now I could be wr
        ong here. The Bankers had their coup in 2008–the national security types might be wanting some power from all this–I’m not privy to that info–I just see shadows moving under the covers.

      2. Wayne Reynolds

        Just another black vs. white play by TPTB to diffuse what they really are afraid of, the whole disposessed society arising in “fun” in an asymmetric war on their lives and their property that was covered by Howard Zinn in his “People’s History of the United States”.

    2. Nathanael

      Putin’s an idiot.

      I think you’ve analyzed his behavior correctly, but his behavior comes from a false analysis of the world. The Chinese government does not make such mistakes.

      Ever since Woodrow Wilson, world politics has had a significant moral / self-determination component to it. It is critical for power politicians to stay on the right side of this, or *enough* on the right side of it to get away with the occasional brutal stuff.

      The US nearly completely gave up on trying to be on the right side — sometime in the 1970s — and the result has been repeated US failure in the international arena. Putin is determined to take Russia along the same doomed, stupid path. It reminds me of Kaiser Wilhelm’s doomed, stupid imperial antics.

      Putin is particularly poor with his choice of puppet governments. He seems to be copying American practice, that of choosing awful and unpopular puppet governments, rather than British or Indian practice of choosing relatively good puppet governments.

      The Chinese government knows better than the Russian government and is doing better at dealing with the actual world political situation *as it really is*.

      Who wins from all of these miltaristic antics? China, India, various South American countries, Turkey, Iran… the same countries who win from the economic lunacy taking place in the US, Europe, and Russia. (Yes, Russia & the Second World have the same neoliberal / austerity craziness as the First World.)

      1. Nathanael

        Bluntly, if Putin had found a less awful puppet than Yankovich, none of this would have happened.

        When your puppet governments suck, you’re doing it wrong.

        1. Massinissa

          Yes, he should have found a better puppet than THE ONE THAT WAS ELECTED BY UKRAINIANS. Perfect sense!

          Putin doesnt go around usurping elections like the US does, you know.

          Yanukovych was an idiot, but he was an elected idiot, elected by Ukraine (specifically east ukraine: The west of ukraine voted for other folks like Svoboda neo nazi Oleh Tyahnibok. Yes, Svoboda are neonazis: Before being called the All Ukrainian Union “Svoboda” beginning in 2004, they were the Ukrainian Social National Party… And they all love Ukrainian nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera to death, like most of west ukraine…), not Russia.

          If your puppet government sucks, and youre ‘doing it wrong’, doing it right must mean exactly what the US is doing: Overthrowing the elected president (regardless of whether said president sucks or not), and putting fascist putschists like Svoboda and Right Sector thugs in charge.

          No, I dont want Russia to start overthrowing democracies. If NOT overthrowing democracies is ‘doing it wrong’, I would rather they not do it right, then!

      2. Banger

        Look this “Putin is an idiot” meme promoted in the mainstream particularly in those ass-kissing Comedy Central shows where everything is a joke except the Democratic Party is getting pretty tiresome. He has navigated some pretty rough waters–pulled Kerry’s head out of his ass when the American people overwhelmingly rejected going to some kind of ridiculous adventure in Syria.

        I don’t buy it. What is the “right side”? Nations pursue their interests and Russia seems to be pursuing their interest. Remember, some of us view the U.S. as the dangerous and crazy superpower ready to go to war over anything not Russia which is happy to remain within their narrow sphere of influence as any country of their size and power. All this ideological baying about “international laws big time BS–if there’s anything that’s been well-document in this world it is the United States disregard of international law over decades but particularly since 2001–do I need to list these incidents?

        Read Kissinger’s reasonable article for another approach. Stop buying into the media’s lynch mob mentality–they assert things every day that are demonstrably false. Most of the mainstream takes its foreign policy cues from public officials and now even most academics often for the same reasons–influence, power and money. Both academia and the media have become very competitive and political. You probably will not see any new Chomskys (not that I don’t disagree with him often) but he is a national treasure–nor will you see another Chris Hedges report on the news, not for the mainstream and certainly not for the NYT. This is not a matter for moral crusades but for real statescraft.

        1. Wayne Reynolds

          I will not be swayed to follow “Kissinger’s reasonable approach” by anyone with a brain who remembers the Paris peace talks during the Viet Nam war while that evil bastard was plotting the illegal bombing of the people of Cambodia!

          1. Andrew Watts

            The secret war in Cambodia began under the Johnson Administration. SIGINT collected by the NSA confirmed the presence of Red Chinese units in the Cambodian jungles at this time.

            “An official United States Air Force record of US bombing activity over Indochina from 1964 to 1973 was declassified by US President Bill Clinton in 2000. The report gives details of the extent of the bombing of Cambodia, as well as of Laos and Vietnam. According to the data, the Air Force began bombing the rural regions of Cambodia along its South Vietnam border in 1965 under the Johnson administration. This was four years earlier than previously believed.” Wikipedia: Operation Menu

            The North Vietnamese had no reason to sit down at the peace talks in Paris. They were winning. The United States was all too willing to dismember the only social/political resistance that could repel the North’s total domination of South Vietnam.

            Obama isn’t alone in imitating his predecessor… Oops! I almost forgot that America is a blue-pill nation for a second. Nixon is evil. Freedom and democracy for all. Peace through war.

            1. Wayne Reynolds

              Your comment is an example of why Naked Capitalism is an indispensable website. There are so many well informed people here. It is always a learning experience.

    3. Crazy Horse

      Actually there is a solution to the root cause of America’s meddling in the Ukraine. It’s called the right of democratic self-determination and national independence. I’m not talking about Crimean or Ukrainian separatism. I’m referring to the USA.

      The problem with mega-states like Imperial America, the former Soviet Union that Putin is rebuilding, and the old British Empire is that they have so much power and wealth that they develop the illusion that it is their god-given destiny to control the world. If broken up into smaller entities they will still fight to dominate their neighbors (as long as they behave like tribal animals) but the scale of destruction within their grasp is more limited.

      As a citizen of Cascadia, (the former Oregon, Washington, and Northern California) I do not view as legitimate the power that the federal government exercises in my name, and long for the time when we will be able to control our own economic and political destiny through the will of the people. We Cascadians have no cultural and ethical commonality with citizens of foreign territories like Texas — indeed our values are much closer to those of the citizens of British Colombia, Norway, or Sweden than to Texas or Washington DC.

      The world will indeed be far better off when the USA is broken down into its natural cultural division of nation-states and is no longer able to reign as the supreme imperial military and financial ruler of the planet. We Cascadians would welcome the opportunity to engage in mutually beneficial trade relations with all the other independent nations of North America: BC, OilSandia, and Quebec of the former Canada, —California, Texas, Confederatia, Breadbasket , New England, and the city/state New York of the former USA.

      1. Banger

        I sympathize and I think we could get to that position if we had an international dialogue. But you forget power and force. There are forces who will use armed force to impose their interests whether Russia of the U.S.–if they have real power why would they give it up? There’s also the problem of the propaganda organs (the media) and their ability to preserve and spread wall-to-wall lies. How do you deal with that?

        Still, it is a direction I think people would like–if you can get the idea out there somehow. We would need some kind of security guarantees for our small states. I think it’s all doable but we have to stop listening to Washington or Moscow.

      2. TimR

        I see you Cascadians have given yourselves a somewhat more mellifluous name than those of us here in Confederatia were assigned, or — shudder — the poor benighted citizens of “Breadbasket.”

  7. The Dork of Cork

    Yanis talks about morality as if it was integral to foreign policy objectives……….

    I have thought for a long time that he has been nibbled by British intel during his university years………everytime he opens his gob this is further confirmed.

    IEA policy is very clear. (see its official document )
    They wish to charge Ukrainian Industry many times the current price of gas (which will cause many of the weakest in society to freeze to death)
    The gas not used will flow further west.
    The people who somehow survive euro and american austerity policy will then get credit to buy western valued added toys such as cars and stuff.

    http://teplydim.com.ua/static/storage/files/files/IEA%20report%20on%20Ukraine%20renewables_2012.pdf
    Large PDF document

    This has been euro policy from the very beginning,
    Use these peripheral areas as capital goods dumping grounds.

    However the game may have changed and now perhaps has much deeper objectives.
    A proxy war on the German / Polish border will destroy this entreport and transfer primary goods consumption further west.

  8. Brooklin Bridge

    As for the White House itself, there is little doubt that both President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry understand the limits of Western power and the danger that too much of a hawkish reaction to the events in the Ukraine will undermine their efforts vis-à-vis Syria and Iran, at a time when Iraq is being increasingly destabilised.

    Is this a tweet by Victoria Nuland?

  9. nah

    ballsy Russians want the industry 2/3 of the coastline and the deepwater port peninsula and legal rights for some of the best waterways in Asia
    .
    not a bad deal unless 36 million Ukrainians make you pay for it, my guess is with modern infantry and heavy losses they can make Russians pay, restore true independence, gain the peninsula, govern and charge what Crimea is really worth (obviously), and learn to manage heavy industry on their own
    .
    Russia will charge a high price either way near as I can tell

    1. JerseyJeffersonian

      Oh, my. So the Far-Famed and Widely-Feared Ukrainian Military Juggernaut is going to teach the Russkies a lesson, eh?

      I think that perhaps it would now be in order to reflect on the down to earth retort of Josef Stalin, said sarcastically to [French Prime Minister] Pierre Laval in 1935, in response to being asked whether he could do anything with Russian Catholics to help Laval win favour with the Pope, to counter the increasing threat of Nazism, “The Pope! How many divisions has he got?”

      Unless, of course, as in all such NeoConservative/NeoLiberal schemes, it is actually the U.S. and its pathetic “Coalition of the Willing” who are to supply the modern military forces, yes? But that is not going to happen. And the heavy industry? After the IMF got through with Ukraine, there wouldn’t be any heavy industry; that would get in the way of the NeoLiberals’ plans to loot and plunder with a free hand.

      Best pick up your game controller and carry on with what you were doing.

  10. Abe, NYC

    On what principle can we deny, once Croatia, Kosovo, Scotland and Georgia have come into being, the right of Krajina Serbs, of Mitrovica Serbs, of Shetland Islanders and of Abkhazians to carve out, if they so wish, their own nation-states within the newly independent nation-states in the areas where they constitute a clear majority?

    One of these is not like the others, and it’s Kosovo. This created a most dangerous precedent, that of redrawing frontiers in postwar Europe. The recognition of Kosovo independence was very different from the dissolution of the USSR or even Yugoslaiva, Abkhazia, Ossetia, and now Crimea are the price Europe is continuing to pay for its recognition of Kosovo independence.

    What I don’t understand, is why the brunt of this fight should be borne by Ukraine. There is absolutely no justification for Russian military occupation on a pretext so bogus, it had to be changed several times (we move in to protect Russians from Kiev fascists… no, we move in because Yanukovych asked us… no, we move in because the people of Crimea have the right to self-determination). In any case, the legitimacy of the referendum under military occupation can hardly be compared with the referendum in Scotland, which was agreed by all sides and preceded by years of negotiations and consultations.
    As for Crimea, its current composition is largely a result of persistent ethnic cleansing, and its claim to the right of self-determination is unadulterated chutzpah.

    1. Robert Dudek

      Where in the region, HASN’T there been ethnic cleansing? That’s one of the things that Stalinism was really good at.

      At this point, facts on the ground count for more than history does (otherwise you would want the bulk of the USA to be turned over to aboriginals, correct?). Crimea returning to Russia is the “least unjust” resolution.

    2. Massinissa

      You could say the same about the current composition of Israel, or even the United States.

      1. Abe, NYC

        Yes you could, and that’s why changing the “facts on the ground” in the West Bank generates so much protest. These policies are perfectly justifiable by this logic: kick out a native people, populate the land with your own, then have a referendum and proclaim the land is yours per the will of the people.

    3. Banger

      So you want to go to war over this? How about compromise? How about getting out of the business of supporting insurrections in unstable and multi-ethnic states as the U.S. has done for some time. Would the coup have succeeded without Western money? Maybe–but the fact of the matter is that the oligarchs were given a offer that they couldn’t refuse from Kerry and his neocon operatives. Missing that part of it is missing a lot. The security forces could have put down the rebellion as the Americans would have–had American protesters ever dared to act the way the Kiev rebels acted. Again there is another approach–read Kissinger’s op-ed on Thursday at the Washingon Post for a reasonable approach to the problem. Forget the posturing, the mewling about “democracy” there will be no democracy–Ukraine will be an oligarchy for some time–those forces aren’t going to simply leave and move to London at least not yet–there’s too much money to be made from the rubes from the West who promise to pour lots of money–probably to go into London real-estate or Bit Coin or Gold.

  11. Dennis Redmond

    Ukraine had a genuine people’s uprising. There were a few extremists in the crowd, but most were ordinary folks who were sick and tired of Ukraine being run into the ground by a criminal bankster mafia (Timothy Snyder has more here: http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2014/mar/01/ukraine-haze-propaganda/). The Ukrainian banksters were headed by former President Yanukovych and a small coterie of insiders, and plundered their country through banking scams. Check out the story here: http://www.bne.eu/storyf5807/Paper_trail_leads_to_massive_corruption_at_heart_of_Ukrainian_banking

    Russia Today and Russia’s state-owned media have completely discredited themselves, by portraying the Ukraine as a hotbed of Nazis and Banderist thugs. All lies. Here’s the real story, from pediatrician Dr. Komarovsky: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FpDiA4o22s

    1. Murky

      Dennis – There are a lot of yahoos here and elsewhere, who are extraordinarily opinionated about what goes on in Ukraine. The people who scream the loudest are generally the most clueless. A lot of people have unwittingly become brainless drones in an ongoing propaganda war. They suck up the most inflammatory content as truth, without any critical thinking. Tar someone as a nazi, and a mob of yahoos is more likely to pile onto the hate rant, than acquire any depth in the issues. RT television and other Russian media are certainly responsible for this campaign to smear the Ukrainian popular uprising as a fascist coup. But alternative media in the West are also loud with anti-Ukrainian hate rhetoric. Rehash of the fascist theme is constant. It’s in evidence here at Naked Capitalism too.

      I read the Timothy Snyder piece when it came out. He’s calm and clear with his evaluations, one of the few strong voices against the propaganda mobsters. I watched the Kamarovsky video too; thanks for that. These are courageous voices opposing the blitz of Russian propaganda. But it’s not at all easy to educate the general public, once the first content they’ve seen is a hate message. Yahoos are a large slice of humanity, and they will never think critically, modify their views, or ever admit they are wrong. Thinking people are still a majority, if slight, and that’s the best hope. They can arrive at their views independently if only there is a well balanced presentation of news. Unfortunately, the news is not well balanced. Sites like the BBC and the Guardian are pretty good, but the alternative media have become opinionated. Getting the truth out about Ukraine, means having to fight against this tide of defamatory propaganda.

        1. Massinissa

          With West Ukrainians being mostly Banderistas.

          The Nazi party was grassroots too you know. Fascists usually are.

          Any Western Ukrainians who were not neo nazis, were duped by them, because guess who is in government right now?

          Svoboda and Right Sector.

          You know, Neon Nazi groups?

          Maybe not all the protesters were nazis, but thats whose in power now. Sort of like how in Egypt most of the protesters were young secularists but a bunch of islamists were put into power, but at least that time there was an election.

            1. Massinissa

              Are you saying Yahoo as in like Yippee or Yay, or yahoo as in an insult?

              If youre just going to use a one word Ad Hominem why even bother responding at all?

                1. Wayne Reynolds

                  It’s more like pornography, you know them when you see them, especially when they sport the fashionable swastika tattooed on their torsos, and emblazoned on their clothes.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Huh? That Snyder piece was one of the most blatant, shameless bits of propaganda I have read on this topic. He completely skips over the critical fact that we have repeatedly provoked Russia and this response was predictable. We are the instigators, not Putin.

        I can’t believe how many times I have to say this:

        Russia allowed the USSR to dissolve peacefully ONLY because it got assurances from the US (Bush Senior) that NATO would not expand into former Warsaw Pact countries.

        This deal was broken under Clinton. Cold warrior George Kennan deemed that to the worst policy mistake the US has ever made. Henry Kissinger, similarly no dove, also has decried our conduct re Ukraine.

        Sadly, this is not about the Ukraine. The Ukraine happens to be in the crosshairs of an imperial struggle, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

        The West provoked Putin. I’m not denying that he is a thug, but the West threw the first punch by pushing its NATO expansion too far and destabilizing the Ukraine. His response was utterly predictable. And this is a very dangerous game we are playing. Mark Ames, who is absolutely no fan of Putin, wrote me:

        Russia will take this all the way to Hell, this is action on their borders, a deep centuries-old existential threat in their minds, if you read your Russian history on how they behave. Remember, Cheney tabled the idea of bombing Russia in the beginning of the Georgia war— Hadley lost his shit, told Bush, and Bush immediately killed the idea. I doubt even Cheney would’ve approved of it if it went from proposal to orders, because the Russians are cornered rats in situations like this, they’d go nuclear if pushed.

        1. H. Alexander Ivey

          And don’t forget what happen to Russian the last time a bunch of Fascists visited in 1941. If you think Southerners get riled up about the Northern Aggression of 1861, multiple that by a few thousand to get what fascism may mean to Russians…

          1. Murky

            And don’t forget that Stalin’s communists murdered 4-6 million Ukrainians in the early 30’s through intentional famine. Some estimates go to 7.5 million. So don’t go light on the history, man. Get a broad view from all sides. Hitler’s Nazis were not a singular evil. Stalin murdered millions of Ukrainians, and that’s got to be a great evil as well. Just google the word ‘Holodomor’ if you don’t believe me. If it makes you feel good to condemn fascism, maybe you’ll feel even better in condemning communism.

        2. Murky

          Yves. I trust you on economics. Not on East European history. Just so you know, I am anti-NATO, and I’ve stated that several times recently. Surrounding Russia with NATO forces is beyond reckless. No disagreement there. Moreover, I’m pro-Russian on the issue of Crimea. I think they have a very strong claim to continued use of Crimea as a naval base. But on issues of Russian propaganda I think you are just plain wrong. And yes, I think the Snyder piece is accurate. I do have some expertise in this area. I am a university archivist by profession. I constantly do historical research with Russian language materials. And I have been following the conflict in Ukraine quite closely. So here is where we differ. I really do trust historians like Conquest, Snyder, and Applebaum. You don’t. You trust this journalist, Mark Ames. I don’t trust him at all. So we can agree to disagree? Or do you want to debate specific issues?

        3. MRW

          I agree absolutely that we provoked Putin. (Who the hell let Nuland loose to commandeer this mess?) And Mark Ames has his pulse on the Russian soul, which was what he was addressing.

      2. Synopticist

        I’m getting flashbacks from 2012, when people were trying really hard to convince me they weren’t any jihadis in Syria, all the opposition wanted was freedom and a secular state. Any claim to the contrary was Russian and Assad propaganda.

        There ARE neo-nazis in the Ukraine, guys, who are now in power. This isn’t Russian propaganda.

    2. Banger

      I would look closer. The same oligarchs will come back–yes, they were bad but that’s pretty normal in the region. Remember that the writers at the NYRB are not what they used to be–no more Gore Vidals there–they are orthodox to the core–their jobs depend on it.

      But because Ukraine is an oligarchy (what society isn’t these days) doesn’t mean that the West has to react in a belligerent manner–besides I’m not sure that without Western threats to the oligarchs or as well as money and moral support that the coup would have succeeded. We have no business meddling in this place. This is an effort to re-animate the Cold-War by Washington as a way to bring a radically divided country (the U.S.) together.

      1. Cynthia

        Our Hawks are especially disturbed because all of this is their fault. They are desperate to escape from the consequences of what they did.

        Putin has a red line, a very reasonable and very clear red line. Nuland and her ilk danced gleefully and recklessly across that red line, and suddenly found out that it was a real red line. Now they must blame someone, anyone, everyone, and make us “fight back” to cover their blunder.

        Russia fought for the Crimea with our own John Paul Jones as their Admiral in 1783, and they fought for it again and again after that, losing and regaining it with our help in both World Wars. They now have the same sort of long term lease we have on Guantanamo and had on the Panama Canal Zone. Their thinking on it is clear.

        Nuland and her neocon cronies reigniting the Cold War were arrogant fools.

  12. Jackrabbit

    Yanis writes:

    . . . there is little doubt that both President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry understand the limits of Western power . . . Brussels’ ambitions ought to be curtailed . . .

    What is going on here? What part of “fuck the EU” doesn’t Yanis understand?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      That was before Putin moved more troops into Crimea (as permitted in its treaty, although they are supposed to stay on the naval base, and their location is, to put it politely, a matter under dispute). I believe Yanis thinks that Obama and Kerry realize they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. I’d hazard that might be true for Obama, who so far has barked a lot but only put in place very weak sanctions. Kerry is a loose cannon but Obama has reined him in before.

  13. avg john

    For an identical set of circumstances and events, people certainly have a very different take on this Ukrainian crisis. My own opinion is it is none of our business. Period. Neither am I convinced Putin is a thug. He is doing what is expected of the leader of a nation experiencing an aggressive group of global competitors banging on his door and threatening to steal his resources .

  14. ltr

    Mr. Varoufakis knows and teaches many important things about economics, but obviously foreign policy is not a strength. I suggest he pay attention to Stephen Cohen and stop vilifying President Putin as opposed to trying to understand that Russia was placed in a situation where the response of Putin was all that any Russian President could have been expected to do.

    1. Cynthia

      If Putin takes the eastern half of Ukraine, he’ll just be salvaging the best he can out of a bad situation. Yes, he will damage his relations with Kiev and the West. However, if he does nothing and all of Ukraine eventually joins the EU and NATO, that is even worse for Russia. Joining the EU probably means economic depression for the Russian majority in Eastern Ukraine because they need to export to Russia and don’t produce much the EU would want to buy. Also, after bombing Serbia based on lies and unilaterally canceling the ABM Treaty, Russia has good reasons to regard NATO as a long-term threat. Finally, Crimea and Eastern Ukraine are historically Russian lands. Only imperialistic western politicians and their puppets abroad regard arbitrary republic borders imposed by dead communist dictators as sacrosanct.

  15. allcoppedout

    It’s so difficult for anyone to say anything on these matters we can believe. My own thinking is more conspiratorial than Dork’s ‘intelligence service nibbling’ and I struggle with the demonology of my own interpretations and sanity. I was in Eastern Europe before and after wall-fall. People clearly lived with an understanding of Soviet terror and appreciation of the West as just another ideology in the hands of an elite. One often heard ‘the apparatchiks are becoming the entrepreneurchiks’ and some of the paranoia ran very deep, with many past traumas more or less unspeakable.

    My guess is that real history is so disgusting it has to be pushed away from mannered consideration (Norbert Elias), but always remains in interpretive context. We end up with competing fantasies. ‘The West’ (itself a fiction) wants to bring freedom, the Russians only Putin’s jackboot or freedom and protection to ethnic Russians abroad. “Money” (surplus capital – whatever) wants to get in to make its returns. It’s not that long since “money” was so morally corrupt that its returns in this area came from slavery. Let in thrusting, dynamic, market deregulated capitalism and you get poverty, unemployment, the modern slavery trafficking represents, the chance to be an organ donor and oligarchs buying soccer teams and mansions in London. When I worked for the World Bank I was expected to promise this would all be over in 500 then 150 days, a Ponzi promise if ever there was one. Half-a-million women had been trafficked in the 150 days.

    It’s hard to see how we can discuss this factually. Let’s have an awfully polite dinner party instead and chat about MMT tautologies as relevant as E = mc2 to who owns the oil and its distribution channels or the happiness of Eastern European dancing girls in Bahrain. I don’t suppose we could bring freedom, security, decent housing, food and water instead of promises? We are being had a surely as the poor trafficked people. I suspect the answers lie in a money-trail they will not let us understand and the model is criminal, with the ethnic issues connected with exploiting the same fears as a protection racket.

    1. TimR

      Thanks for a fascinating, but too vague, comment, copped! Please, more specifics if you can in future….

  16. Nathanael

    I think that those of us who are not within or close to the borders of these countries should simply act principled:

    State that free and fair plebiscites should determine the future states of territories — with no armies except entirely neutral armies allowed to be present during the plebiscite.

    Just keep reiterating the general principle and criticise anyone who violates it.

    If you’re not a neighbor, that’s really the most you can ever do. This should be the foreign policy of almost every country in the world.

  17. Nathanael

    Putin is most certainly a thug and a dictator. Do your research.

    The Ukrainian revolution was a genuine people’s revolution. *Nobody* supports Yankovich and his gold-plated toilets any more.

    Now, the Crimean secessionists… may *also* be a genuine people’s movement. Or it may not. Hard to tell when Putin has sent in his NKVD/KGB/Special Forces buddies, to make everyone afraid to say anything other than what Putin wants to say.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Nathaniel,

      The thread got broken somehow, so I am having to respond to you here.

      You really are not up to speed on this. Yankovich was democratically elected, whether you like the results or not. The country is fabulously corrupt. We funded neo-Nazis who destabilized the regime. Ukraine is undergoing a painful cultural shift —to the far-right of the 1930s. The Bandera-ite fascists control most of the security, law enforcement and defense portfolios.

      You really need to read the Kissinger piece that Banger linked to above:

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/henry-kissinger-to-settle-the-ukraine-crisis-start-at-the-end/2014/03/05/46dad868-a496-11e3-8466-d34c451760b9_story.html

      Key sentence: “For the West, the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one.”

      1. nowhere

        I love the related stories that come up with the Kissenger article: “Condoleeza Rice: US Must Lead Again” Yeah, things worked out SO wonderfully under her guidance. Then there’s good old Zbigniew Brzenski weighing it. After the fallout from what that genius accomplished in Afghanistan I can certainly see why his suggestions are valuable ones to follow.

        When Kissenger manages to sound relatively reasonable and responsible (and he does) it really shows just how nuts most of the opinions judged acceptable for mass consumption in newspapers and TV are.

      2. vlade

        Yves,

        I’m afraid you’re falling into a common trap of commenting outside of your area of expertise (I do it too, so can’t blame you, but will try to point out some things). Bandera was first and foremost ukrainian nationalist. In fact, on more than one occasion Banderites fought Germans too, and when they did work together it was a marriage of convenience out of common foe – Soviets – as happened across all the conequred Europe. But of course, when you fought Soviets around WW2, you were automatically labeled as a Nazi. Despite the fact that all the way until 1941, literally hours before they themselves were invaded USSR was the biggest friend the Nazi Germany had (the last train with stuff USSR sold to Germany passed the border literally hours before Germans invaded), that they split Poland with Germany (and murdered thousands of Poles in the process, later on blaming it on Nazis).

        Note that I’m not saying Bandera was a nice guy, attrocities he commited are well documented. But that doesn’t make him a facist/nazi, just a fanatical nationalist. And the world saw way too many of those from each side of the political spectrum.

        Re the line that Yanukovich was democratically elected – well, so were number of other not-so nice people, we could start with the all popular Hitler.
        The line of neo-nazis destabilizing the regime – there are extreme right (including NN) parties that are very very visible in the overturning. But the fact remains that even a vast majority of the demonstrators were not nazis or even extreme-right (I have this from people I know in Kiev who were there. So not a third or fourth hand information). Let’s wait and see how much they get in elections (and to be honest, I’m more afraid of Klitchko’s UDAR than these) before we claim that Ukraine is now neo-nazi.

        There’s a whole lot of spurious reporting on Ukraine going on, with items being shown from one side and information witheld. Say the language law repeal (that would repeal the right to use minority languages – not just Russian – as official languages with more than 10% of the minority)- it was immediately vetoed by the interim president, and the repeal was widely condemned across all the Ukraine (_except_ from the far right groups). But it often gets presented as “Russians can’t speak Russian anymore”. Which a) fails to understand what an official language is (say, can Hispanic use Spanish as the only communication language with any and all government offices in the US? I don’t know) b) ignores the fact that’s it was a failed attempt to do so.

        On the other hand, you have the current Ukraininan government stealthily setting the agenda in Western media, which allows them to ignore/gloss over other numerous problems (such as the corruption, connections with oligarchs etc. etc.)

        That said, I have to say that the Russia side here is more ham-fisted and Ukraininan more subtle.

        1. vlade

          A bit more on the “democratically elected” – one reasons why Hitler managed to get to power in 1933 was because German Social Democrats (who had still very large support in Germany, and with Communist more than Nazis or even Nazi/Nationalists) didn’t want to go to the streets, even though the local organizations were ready to do so, as they wanted to keep things legal and inside Reichstag. If they did, the army – which was conservative but not under too much of Nazi influence yet – would have stepped in as the last thing they wanted was civil war.
          I’m not saying the same situation was in Ukraine, it wasn’t, but the “democratically elected” can’t be wielded as the ultimate argument stopper either.

        2. Vatch

          Thanks for pointing out that Bandera wasn’t a Nazi. Yesterday evening, I posted a message about a portion of the Wikipedia entry on Stepan Bandera, but my message appears to have been lost. Here’s the quote from Wikipedia:

          The OUN [Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists] intended to take advantage of the retreat of Soviet forces from Ukraine. Some members thought that they had found a new powerful ally in Nazi Germany to aid them in their struggle against the Soviet Union. However, just days after the proclamation and the Nazi invasion of Lviv, the leadership of the newly formed government was arrested and sent to concentration camps in Germany, and on July 6, 1941 for his refusal to rescind the declaration, Bandera was arrested and imprisoned by the Nazis and not released until September 1944. Also, within two years of the declaration, the Nazis had imprisoned or killed 80% of OUN-B leadership.

          So Bandera was arrested by the Nazis shortly after they invaded, and was kept in prison for more than 3 years. If he was a Nazi collaborator, he wasn’t doing it right.

  18. Hugh

    I note the level of pure unadulterated Russian hasbara in this thread. If you want to criticize the role of the US, Europe, and the IMF in Ukraine, fine. If you want to criticize elements of the Ukrainian political spectrum too, fine. If you then fail to criticize the Russian role in events in the Ukraine which mirrors that of these other actors, that’s hypocrisy. You are engaging in the very same selective, “I agree with it only if it furthers my narrative”, arrangement of self-serving, self-validating facts that the right does, and which many here routinely criticize.

    As for Putin, isn’t this the guy who just blew $50 billion of a poor country’s money so a few hundred athletes on skis, skates, and sleds could be on TV for a couple of weeks? The Olympics are a vast nationalistic propaganda exercise that would be way, way too expensive at even a tenth that amount. Think of it this way if 2500 athletes participated in the Games, they cost $20 million per athlete. Putin of course gloried in them.

    1. Cynthia

      What we have here in Ukraine is a case of Western oligarchs trying to take valuable customers away from the Eastern oligarchs. The Eastern oligarchs resent this intrusion into their customer base and will do whatever it takes to keep its customers from going with another brand. Not that the brands are all that different, they’re both selling the same thing: slavery defined as freedom, serfdom defined as self reliance, one party oligarchy defined as democracy. In the end, one set of oligarchs will be pissed that they couldn’t cement a binding contract on the people of Ukraine, who will be left the losers no matter the outcome.

      1. Massinissa

        At least under the indigenous Ukrainian oligarchs the Ukrainians in east Ukraine will still have jobs. If Ukraine joins europe, they will have to immigrate to Germany or UK because Ukraine will have no jobs…

        Both sides are bad but the ‘eastern oligarchs’ are clearly the lesser evil for Ukraine.

        Its hardly ideal, rather, its a crappy situation, but theres crap and theres more crap.

    2. Massinissa

      Greece is what, a tiny fraction of Russias GDP, and they spent 21 billion on their olympics. Thats less than half, but Greece has 260 billion GDP when Russia has 2.6 TRILLION gdp. They have 10 times as much GDP but only spend twice as much, so whats the big deal? Why are you complaining about Olympics anyway?

      You complain about people trying to further their own narratives, and then you do it yourself. Why are you not also complaining about Greeces 2004 games, or ANY Olympic games?

      Anyway, you say ‘poor country’, but its not THAT poor. The economy has been improving very much since the 90s. If anything Russia is doing better than most of Europe in terms of economic growth, though thats more because Europe is sucking terribly than because Russia is doing great.

      1. Hugh

        Why is it that when we are talking about the US, we have no problem stating that GDP has little to do with the 99% and their wellbeing? But when it comes to Russia, GDP is the measure to trump all measures?

        Actually, I have thought for years that the Olympics held in Athens had quite a bit to do with their present bankruptcy.

        But in both cases, the Russian and the Greek is the overarching problem of kleptocracy. Hosting the Olympics is a con game, a way for emerging countries or strong men to show they have arrived as players on the world scene. What gets lost in this is the generally wretched conditions and lives of millions of their citizens. If every Russian had the wherewithal for a good and decent life, and they wished to spend some of their excess wealth on an Olympics although hopefully one not so bloated as what has become the standard, then more power to them. But a Russia lost in kleptocracy and pursuit of empire by its powers that be is not in the same universe as this.

        How is your uncritical cheerleading of this or that group different than what the right has been doing for years?

        1. Wayne Reynolds

          Folderol. If anything the Olympics gave the West’s interest a diversion for action against Russia. Perhaps you missed the covert animosity of American media against the Sochi games?

          1. Hugh

            Some people can be reached by reason. Some like yourself can not. In this you are very much like the right which you no doubt feel superior to and, other than your particular tribal preferences, in no way differ from.

              1. Tom W Harris

                Having called out the Jews and the Russkies, Hugh now turns his attention to the Anglo-Saxon enemies of the Reich.

    3. Banger

      Tut tut, Hugh. Really? Russia is what it is–and Putin is not Jeffereson. The point we are making is that the U.S./EU was involved in promoting this coup d’etat of a democratically elected government as a part of a general policy of destabilization in multi-ethnic countries in critical regions of the world. Did the U.S. establish the notion of “full-spectrum dominance” or not? Isn’t it a fact that the same ideologues that fueled the follies of Bush are back in the saddle and their aim is Empire, for the good of the world of course. I’m a citizen of the United States and an anti-imperialist who has, like Henry Kissinger, observed a half-century of conflicts that only made a lot of money for military contractors. I don’t want these guys to have more power so I care about who is in power here not Ukraine and I don’t give half a damn about Crimea. And why, pray should I? What has Putin done on the international stage that is even remotely comparable to U.S. actions? He at least pulled off a lowering of tensions in Syria. Russia is not much of an imperial power. I’m not sure Putin acted wisely in the Crimea but I do know that he believes that right wing revanchists are in power in Kiev. Imagine Mexico being ruled by Hugo Chavez–that would never have been allowed even if the Mexican people had voted for him. Imagine the Russian Foreign Minister stirring up violent demonstrators in Washington and calling for the overthrow of the Obama government. How can you justify your stance? Because Russia and Putin are “bad”? Are we children here–who, in this fiasco is “good”? And don’t say “the Ukrainian people” because that is a hard thing to describe–isn’t it?

      1. Hugh

        I do care about the Crimeans, the Ukrainians, the Russians, the Europeans, and us Americans. I care how we are set against each other while those pulling the strings make their billions off our work and our misery.

        Ukraine has been a semi-failed state since its inception. In such an environmen, “democratically elected” has virtually no meaning. Dictators across the globe get “democratically elected” all the time. Yet when convenient, “democratically elected” gets waved around like some sort of talisman to ward off evil and confer legitimacy. If we can talk about the Tweedledum (Republicans)-Tweedledee (Democrats) elections in the US where we only have the choice of who is to loot us, how does this become off limits when we are talking about the infinitely more dubious political processes in Ukraine.

        1. John Jones

          I agree with the things you say Hugh
          But do you think that Nato surrounding Russia poses a threat to Russia?
          And if it does what is one to do about it?

    4. Jackrabbit

      Firstly, Yanis displayed a fundamental misunderstanding of the US role. So some comments simply respond to that.

      That Putin is a bad guy is almost universally acknowledged in the West. But the degree to which Western propaganda/media + security services + oligarchs operate in concert (circle jerking at our expense) and the DumbThings(tm) they do from time to time is not.

      On top of that, I just don’t think many Russians are reading NC so addressing Russian political failings isn’t much of a priority.

      With that said, I think you’ve made good points regarding Putin’s villainy and Russian imperial ambitions.

    5. Tom W Harris

      “the level of pure unadulterated Russian hasbara”

      English translation: “OMIGOD, the Reds and the Jews have infiltrated.”

      Your disinfo would go over better in Europa.

  19. Calgacus

    As for Putin, isn’t this the guy who just blew $50 billion of a poor country’s money so a few hundred athletes on skis, skates, and sleds could be on TV for a couple of weeks?

    Bad economic analysis. From wikipedia: “In preparation, organizers focused on modernizing the telecommunications, electric power, and transportation infrastructures of the region. While originally budgeted at US$12 billion, various factors caused the budget to expand to over US$51 billion, surpassing the estimated $44 billion cost of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing as the most expensive Olympics in history.”

    Unless this $50 billion was scarce foreign exchange spent on imports – and it wasn’t – or somehow the spending caused inflation to increase or the exchange value of the ruble to nosedive, and afaik it didn’t – then it has no real negatives and in fact was probably was just the kind of spending Russia needs to do and hasn’t been doing -as Michael Hudson suggested here a while back. It was rubles that Russia can blow an infinite quantity of, and in all likelihood better spent than most, and should have a multiplier effect too.

    1. Hugh

      Hard as it is for MMTers to imagine, money does at some point intersect with resources. It is the general medium which gives access to resources. So its distribution is important. If half the money spent on the Sochi Olympics was simply stolen by the oligarchs, there is no “multiplier” effect. That money is off in the City of London by now. Of the money that actually went to building things, there is the question of misallocation. For me, building schools and hospitals trumps vanity projects like the Olympics. YMMV

      1. Wayne Reynolds

        An American lecturing another country for misplaced and misdirected spending of the people’s money is truly something rich to behold.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          You have a point, though some things are universal, and one criticize them as human folly, not as national folly.

      2. F. Beard

        Hard as it is for MMTers to imagine, money does at some point intersect with resources. Hugh

        Your PC is made mostly of cheap plastic, sand (silicon), a small amount of copper and other metals. Technology is thus our greatest resource but it grows rusty and forgotten if not used. It is beyond absurd and borders on criminal that an economy should stagnate because of a lack of mere money tokens.

        But how should money be created then? Ethically, of course.

      3. Calgacus

        Hugh:Hard as it is for MMTers to imagine, money does at some point intersect with resources.
        Yes, of course it does. MMT, good economics, sane Earthlings do not deny the existence of “resources”, physical goods, services. But money exists too, and one way or another, (neo)classical, marginalist, mainstream and unfortunately your “resource-based view” so far, denies the reality of money, debt, finance. E.g. here or mistakenly asserting that targeted Keynesian full employment spending like a JG will necessarily direct resources away from elites – rather than using and creating resources to direct to the poor. The true crime of the 1% is not stealing from the 99%’s fixed pie – but preventing the 99% from building a utopia for the 100%.

        It is the general medium which gives access to resources.
        No, it isn’t. Money is not a medium of exchange. “There is no medium of exchange” (Mitchell-Innes). And there never was. Money is a relation between two “persons”, not a commodity, not a thing, not a medium or something using a medium to mediate between the two persons involved.

        So its distribution is important. If half the money spent on the Sochi Olympics was simply stolen by the oligarchs, there is no “multiplier” effect. That money is off in the City of London by now.
        Implicitly treated above when I talked about foreign exchange. Suppose it was stolen – it was spent in the form of rubles. If it was taken to the City of London in rubles – then so what? Less of a multiplier, but until it is spent – with a multiplier effect – it is just a gift of the oligarch thieves to Sochi. Domestic infrastructure building is not the easiest enabler of capital flight – unlike skimming off foreign currency proceeds of tradeable natural resources. So it is unlikely that it didn’t do a great deal of good – directly by the infrastructure, and indirectly by the multiplier, before it is taxed away by the state or by oligarchs.

        Of the money that actually went to building things, there is the question of misallocation. For me, building schools and hospitals trumps vanity projects like the Olympics.
        Schools and hospitals use buildings, clean water, transportation, communication and electric power – which were what most of the money went to. Somebody has to do the allocation – and I think Russians like Putin have more right to do it than foreign critics. Construction everywhere has corruption. This is not a good argument to never build. See Hudson/Sommers: Western Media Predictably Minimizes Russia’s Sochi Accomplishments – I trust their judgment that Sochi was an example of especially good and needed development, not the reverse.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Sochi accomplishments versus Sochi Non- accomplishments.

          That’s one way.

          Another is this

          Sochi accomplishments vs. Non-Sochi (as in, spending the money by giving the money, in equal amount, to Russian citizens) accomplishments.

          1. Calgacus

            I don’t think that there are many better ways of spending money than constructing buildings (Hudson & Sommers say there has been too little construction in Russia – since the Revolution of almost 100 years ago!) , systems for clean water, transportation, communication, electric power etc. Just giving the money is comparatively inflationary, ineffective and non-targetted. Less bang for the ruble. And it misses the multiplier – the fact that it is giving money to Russian citizens. Who do people think that the money went to? Martians? Mostly, local businesses, institutions and workers.

            Money has to be spent somewhere. New things have to start somewhere. Sochi happened to be lucky. Hudson & Sommers point is that there should be more Sochis all over Russia – which answers equality concerns. And which (JG vs BIG) is a LOT smarter and more effective than giving money away for nothing.

      4. JerseyJeffersonian

        Well, if the prospect of stupid sanctions against Russia killing the goose that laid the golden egg (namely, capital inflows from Russian oligarchs) has sobered up the City of London, and as a result cooled the jets of Cameron and his merry bunch of Putin haters, then I’d have to view this as a form of protection money, and probably worth it by way of contrast with the universally ruinous effects of war.

        And hey, international trade and the free movement of capital is a NeoLiberal value, eh?

        Ya know, this whole Ukrainian $5 billion destabilization/coup thing, coupled with the destruction of Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc. has to have been a real eyeopener for all of the BRICS, not just Russia. It is now crystal clear that this is how the NeoConservatives/NeoLiberals roll. This shit is what happens when the US “pivots” toward you. China must be all ears. All of the US/EU talk about liberty, freedom? Just that. Not only is there money to made through destabilization, but it also keeps other nations from getting their feet under them and having to be taken seriously.

        For my part, I am hoping that this latest atrocity will provoke some real pushback from the world at large. We US citizens can’t stop this stuff alone. Remember what a shock it was when the rush to war against Syria had sand thrown into the gears by the oppositional stance of the British Parliament? We the People didn’t want to go to war; the polls clearly reflected this; but we consumer units here in the US don’t have the power to stop our misleaders when they have some hateful project in mind. We need help in stopping wars, and also in reining in the Empire’s invidious projects through the undermining of dollar hegemony.

  20. Mickey Hickey

    Article 5 of NATO binds all signatories (no exception for the USA) to come to the aid of any member that is attacked by a non NATO country. It is similar to the Austria/German agreement in place when Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by Serbian nationalists in 1914. Austria declared it was attacked and requested Germany to honour their agreement resulting in WW1.

    Luckily the Ukraine is not in NATO so no country is compelled to declare war on Russia.
    The provisional government took power with the barrel of a gun. No sooner were they out of the starting gate than they enacted legislation denying Russians second language rights in the Ukraine. The men with guns were in the gallery and corridors of the Parliament Buildings as the legislation was enacted. Clearly stick it to the Russian speakers without delay and this was just the opening salvo. The Russian Ukrainians now spooked immediately sought relief from that old reliable Mother Russia who is closely related to Mother Machree of Irish lore. Putin did the natural thing, saddled up and rode to the rescue. I ask you what did you expect he would do.

    By far the most important issue now are the Russian minorities in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. This being Europe the urge to stick it to minorities is never far below the surface. When it happens will NATO risk a full blown war with Russia?

    NATO Article 5 needs watching.

  21. Veri

    Answer to Number Two,

    Do people even realise that Ukraine had previously possessed special status by The USSR? Ukraine is even a founding member of The UN. Something no other former Soviet Republic, such as Georgia, is.

    As such, Ukraine has a more firm right to independence, in the context of Question 2, that is possessed that no other former Soviet Republic can attest to.

  22. andrew cullen

    1/ Will there be a war between Russia and NATO/US ?
    NO, it is not probable so long as there is not a Sarajevo “Archduke Ferdinand killing” -type event in Ukraine. However, that “no” is conditional on:
    1a/ both the EU and US correcting their failure to take seriously the positions publicly enunciated by President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov that the new interim government in Kiev is unconstitutional because the ousting of Yanukovich did not comply to the Constitution (Article 111);
    1b/ a negotiated crisis resolution that recognises Russia’s refusal to accept that Ukraine allows US missile bases on Ukrainian territory;
    1c/ how the US and EU interact with Kiev in what is now a destabilised internal political situation. The West has been supporting the Opposition. This is, in effect, the old government alliance based around former Prime Minister Tymoshenko. The West’s uncritical political support of these people is highly risky. Their past is clouded by untransparent connections between government and business interests. A stable unity government will unlikely be found in Ukraine in circumstances where the West continues blithely to preference these interests. In its 2012 “Doing Business Survey”, the World Bank ranked Ukraine 152nd in a list of 189 countries.

    2/ Will there be a new “Cold War” between Russia and the West (US and EU) ?
    If the US persists with military/political/diplomatic/economic sanctions against Russia, Russia will continue to adopt the playbook of old style inter-state relations with retaliatory actions. This action/reaction process could become long and harden into a new “Cold War”, even if it is “irrational” from the viewpoint of each’s respective fundamental economic interests. Russia perceives the West’s pronouncements as an aggressive posture to Russia’s own strategic national interests. But Russia has already stated that military conflict can and should be avoided.
    As concerns Europe, some individual countries’ economic interests vis a vis Russia are far from homogeneous with the EU’s currently adopted statements. Germany and Poland both have major existing and prospective trade and investment interests in Russia and Ukraine. Germany and several Eastern and Central European countries are heavily dependent on Russian natural gas supplies to meet their energy consumption needs.
    It is highly probable that these considerations will play a major part in the EU’s degree of commitment to any extended period of US belligerence (sanctions). Expect therefore to see Germany take the lead in looking for pragmatic, diplomatic negotiated solutions. Their Foreign Minister, Steinmeier, has already initiated intense talks with his Russian counterpart. These discussions are more likely to yield practical outcomes than the efforts of US Secretary of State, John Kerry.
    If the US government understands that Germany (which is leading the EU policy) is intent on a negotiated solution to protect and secure its interests, this should give it (the US) pause for thought on its own apparent Russian military encirclement ambitions. Thus a Cold War II can and will be avoided.

    3/ Will the Autonomous Region of Crimea re-join the Russian Federation ?
    The Crimea region will proceed with a vote and the outcome will probably be to secede. The Russian Parliament is already drafting a law to render joining the Russian Federation easier (with the intent, precisely, to help Crimea return to Russia). Putin will leverage this outcome first, to ensure the security of the Sevastopol Russian naval base. Thereafter, he may or may not accede to Crimean secession from Ukraine to join Russia. The outcome of that decision will depend on the wider negotiated settlement with the US/EU about the future of Ukraine.

    4/ Will Ukraine become integrated into the EU ?
    No. The pro-EU enlargement faction in Brussels had been making all the running up till before this crisis broke. It had backed the signing of an EU Association Agreement with Ukraine, but put it on hold as political leverage against the Yanukovich regime in Kiev for the jailing of former Prime Minister Tymoshenko. The ( largely unspoken) aim of the pro EU enlargement faction is to make Ukraine an EU member. Its’ (uncritical) support for the political Opposition (and Tymoshenko) was echoed by Washington. Indeed, evidence is now in the public domain that the US Administration was actively financing the Ukrainian Opposition to the tune of $4 billion.
    This dynamic of US and EU political support for the Opposition fundamentally miscalculated Russia’s interests in Ukraine: notably, military (Sevastopol naval base) and strategic (gas pipelines cross Ukraine to eastern and central Europe).
    The Russian government’s offer of a loan to the Yanukovich regime was explicitly to counter the perceived political “buying” of Ukrainian influence and interest. Russia understands that, should Ukraine become an EU member, then it would be able to join NATO. That would enhance further the US strategy to contain/surround Russia militarily (as it has done with China).
    The eventual negotiated conflict resolution will have to entail a resumption of diplomatic co-operation between NATO and Russia. Plus, at least, a postponement of NATO and EU proposals to upgrade the Ukrainian military.

    5/ Will the territorial integrity of Ukraine be maintained ?
    The default positions of the Superpowers is to maintain the territorial integrity of third countries. In the case of Ukraine, that principle is enshrined in the 1994 Treaty of Budapest, signed by Russia, the US and Britain.
    However in the current Ukraine crisis the political terrain has shifted. Russia no longer recognises the interim government in Kiev. That position allows them – in their view – to ignore the persons claiming political authority in Kiev and not negotiate with them. At the same time, they await the outcome later this month of a self-determination referendum in Crimea.
    Russia will then likely play the “territorial integrity” card with the EU and US, claiming that it cannot be sustained unless “constitutionality” is restored in Kiev.
    Likely that will be through new national elections ? But, bearing in mind other calls for secession from Ukraine extant in the major regions of Kharkiv and Donetsk, Russia may call for more stringent autonomy concessions for these Russian speaking regions as well as the exclusion of “internationalisation” crisis resolution proposals from the West.
    The likely outcomes ?
    Russia and the West will agree on the secession of Crimea from Ukraine and “impose” this decision on Ukraine as bottom line component of the “crisis resolution”. Russia will obtain clear possession of its military-strategic Sevastopol naval base.
    Russia and the US/EU will agree on means to “re-constitutionalise” the government in Ukraine. As a part of this, Russia will obtain confirmation that Ukraine will not join NATO until/unless all strategic co-operation between NATO and Russia are re-established.

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