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Ukrainians Get IMF’s Bitter Medicine

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By Robert Parry | Consortium News | April 2, 2014

It’s a safe bet that most of the Ukrainians who flooded Maidan Square in Kiev in February did not do so because they wanted the International Monetary Fund to make their lives even more miserable by slashing subsidies for heat, gutting pensions and devaluing the currency to make everyday goods more expensive.

But thanks to the U.S.-backed coup that ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych and replaced him with a regime including far-right parties, super-rich ”oligarchs” and technocrats with little sympathy for the suffering of average people, that’s exactly what happened. Although lacking legitimacy that would come from national elections, the coup regime pushed through the demands of the Washington-based IMF.

The process began just 10 days after the violent Feb. 22 coup that forced Yanukovych to flee for his life. IMF officials landed in Kiev on March 4 to hammer out a deal that acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, himself a chilly bank technocrat, has acknowledged is “very unpopular, very difficult, very tough.”

What is also striking about the IMF plan is that it puts virtually all the pain on average Ukrainians. There is nothing in the economic “reform” package that extracts some of the ill-gotten gains from Ukraine’s ten or so “oligarchs,” the multimillionaires and even billionaires who largely plundered Ukraine’s wealth after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

There is no plan for demanding that these “oligarchs” kick in some percentage of their net worth to help their own country. Instead, hard-pressed citizens of the United States and Europe are expected to carry the financial load.

The U.S. Congress voted by large bipartisan majorities to have the American taxpayers provide $1 billion in aid to Ukraine’s coup regime. Further, the IMF predicts that its $18 billion in loan guarantees could generate up to $27 billion from the international community over the next two years.

Though the IMF plan includes some promises about fighting corruption, there is no requirement that the West’s billions of dollars will go toward government programs that might actually strengthen Ukraine and help the average Ukrainian by putting the jobless to work. Nothing about upgrading the infrastructure or providing improved educational opportunities, better health care and other programs that might reduce some of Ukraine’s social pressures and make it a more viable nation.

For instance, investing in roads and rail could make Ukraine a more attractive investment opportunity for agricultural corporations eying the country’s rich soil which historically has made it the breadbasket for much of Central and Eastern Europe.

Cookie-Cutter Approach

Instead, the IMF has applied its usual cookie-cutter approach toward a troubled nation: reduce public spending, slash social programs, eliminate energy subsidies, devalue the currency, raise taxes, impose triggers for more austerity if inflation rises, etc.

Some economists project that the cumulative impact of the IMF “reforms” could result in a 3 percent contraction of Ukraine’s already depressed economy, which fell into a severe recession after the Wall Street crash of 2008 and has been inching along at almost zero growth the past two years. But Yatsenyuk warned parliament that the drop in the GDP could be more like 10 percent if corrective actions were not taken.

But those actions will inflict more hardship on the Ukrainian people — their “99 percent” — while giving Ukraine’s “1 percent” pretty much a pass. Yet, beyond fairness, there’s also the question of the legitimacy of the coup regime taking on new debt obligations without the consent of the Ukrainian people.

After the violent ouster of elected President Yanukovych on Feb. 22 — after he rejected the IMF’s terms – the post-coup parliament cobbled together a new government which involved handing out four ministries to far-right parties whose armed neo-Nazi militias had spearheaded the coup.

Yatsenyuk was the personal choice of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland to lead the new regime. Weeks before the coup, Nuland was caught discussing with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt who should serve in a new government. Nuland said in a phone call to Pyatt that was intercepted and posted online that “Yats is the guy” — and he was installed as prime minister once Yanukovych was gone. [See Consortiumnews.com’sWhat Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.”]

Ukraine’s parliament has set a presidential election for May 25, and protesters in the Maidan also sought quick parliamentary elections. But Western diplomats have been urging a delay in the parliamentary balloting as well as postponement of the most onerous IMF provisions until after the May 25 vote. That way the election will have come and gone before the beleaguered Ukrainians truly understand how painful the IMF austerity will be.

As the New York Times reported, “Senior Western officials said on [March 26] that the loans from the United States and from the I.M.F. would be structured to get the government through its first few months without undue political upheaval, putting off some of the more difficult changes until after the May election. The West has also chosen not to press for early parliamentary elections, one senior official said, because ‘the priority now is stabilization in Kiev and de-escalation with Moscow.’”

Given such bleak economic prospects — and evidence of Western manipulation of the political process – is it any wonder that more than 90 percent of the voters in Crimea opted to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia?

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

April 2, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Danger of False Narrative

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | March 27, 2014

The American people got a nasty taste of the danger that can come with false narrative when they were suckered into the Iraq War based on bogus claims that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction that he planned to share with al-Qaeda.

Nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers died in the conflict along with hundreds thousands of Iraqis. The war’s total financial cost probably exceeded $1 trillion, a vast sum that siphoned off America’s economic vitality and forced cutbacks in everything from education to road repair. Plus, the war ended up creating an Iraqi base for al-Qaeda terrorists that had not existed before.

But perhaps an even more dangerous problem coming out of the Iraq War was that almost no one in Official Washington who pushed the false narrative – whether in politics or in the press – was held accountable in any meaningful way. Many of the same pols and pundits remain in place today, pushing similar false narratives on new crises, from Ukraine to Syria to Iran.

Those false narratives – and their cumulative effect on policy-making – now represent a clear and present danger to the Republic and, indeed, to the world. The United States, after all, is the preeminent superpower with unprecedented means for delivering death and destruction. But almost nothing is being done to address this enduring American crisis of deception.

Today, Official Washington is marching in lockstep just as it did in 2002-03 when it enforced the misguided consensus on Iraq’s WMD. The latest case is Ukraine where Russian President Vladimir Putin is accused of committing “aggression” to expand Russian territory at the expense of noble ”democratic” reformers in Kiev.

Not only is this the dominant storyline in the U.S. media; it is virtually the only narrative permitted in the mainstream press. But the real narrative is that the United States and the European Union provoked this crisis by trying to take Ukraine out of its traditional sphere of influence, Russia, and put it in to a new association with the EU.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with Ukraine joining with the EU or staying with Russia (or a combination of the two) – depending on the will of the people and their elected representatives – this latest U.S./EU plan was motivated, at least in part, by hostility toward Russia.

That attitude was expressed in a Sept. 26, 2013, op-ed in the Washington Post by Carl Gershman, the neoconservative president of the National Endowment for Democracy, which doles out more than $100 million in U.S. funds a year to help organize “activists,” support “journalists” and finance programs that can be used to destabilize targeted governments.

Gershman, whose job amounts to being a neocon paymaster, expressed antagonism toward Russia in the op-ed and identified Ukraine as “the biggest prize,” the capture of which could ultimately lead to the ouster of Putin, who “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

The NED, which was founded in 1983 to do in relative openness what the CIA had long done in secret, listed 65 projects that it was financing in Ukraine, using U.S. taxpayers’ money. In other words, Gershman’s op-ed reflected U.S. policy – at least inside the State Department’s still-neocon-dominated bureaucracy – which viewed the EU’s snatching of Ukraine from Russia’s embrace as a way to weaken Russia and hurt Putin.

‘European Aspirations’

Later, as the Ukrainian crisis unfolded, another neocon, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, reminded Ukrainian businessmen that the United States had invested $5 billion in their “European aspirations,” implying that the U.S. expected something for all this money.

You might wonder why the American taxpayers should spend $5 billion on the “European aspirations” of Ukraine when there are so many needs at home, but a more relevant question may be: Why is the United States spending that much money to stir up trouble on Russia’s border? The Cold War is over but the hostility continues.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates described this thinking in his memoir, Duty, explaining the view of President George H.W. Bush’s Defense Secretary Dick Cheney: “When the Soviet Union was collapsing in late 1991, Dick wanted to see the dismantlement not only of the Soviet Union and the Russian empire but of Russia itself, so it could never again be a threat to the rest of the world.”

As Vice President, Cheney and the neocons around him pursued a similar strategy during George W. Bush’s presidency, expanding NATO aggressively to the east and backing anti-Russian regimes in the region including the hardline Georgian government, which provoked a military confrontation with Moscow in 2008.

Since President Barack Obama never took full control of his foreign policy apparatus – leaving the Bush Family apparatchik Gates at Defense and naming neocon-leaning Democrat Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State – the bureaucratic momentum toward confronting Russia continued. Indeed, the elevation of operatives like Nuland, the wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan, gave new impetus to the anti-Russian strategy.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who got his “dream job” last year with the considerable help of his neocon chum Sen. John McCain, has acted as a kind of sock puppet for this neocon-dominated State Department bureaucracy.

Either because he is overly focused on his legacy-building initiative of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal or because he has long since sold out his anti-war philosophy from the Vietnam War era, Kerry has repeatedly taken the side of the hawks: on Syria, Iran and now Ukraine.

On Syria and Iran, it was largely the behind-the-scenes cooperation between Obama and Putin that tamped down those crises last year and opened a pathway for diplomacy – much to the chagrin of the neocons who favored heightened confrontations, U.S. military strikes and “regime change.” Thus, it became a neocon priority to divide Obama from Putin. Ukraine became the wedge.

The Crisis

The Ukrainian crisis took a decisive turn on Nov. 21, 2013, when President Viktor Yanukovych rebuffed a deal offered by the EU and the International Monetary Fund because it would have imposed harsh austerity on the already suffering Ukrainian people. Yanukovych opted instead for a more generous aid package of $15 billion from Russia, with few strings attached.

But Yanukovych’s turning away from the EU infuriated the U.S. State Department as well as pro-European demonstrators who filled the Maidan square in Kiev. The protests reflected the more anti-Russian attitudes of western Ukraine, where Kiev is located, but not the more pro-Russian feelings of eastern and southern Ukraine, Yanukovych’s strongholds that accounted for his electoral victory in 2010.

Though the Maidan protests involved hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians simply eager for a better life and a less corrupt government, some of the most militant factions came from far-right parties, like Svoboda, and even neo-Nazi militias from the Right Sektor. When protesters seized City Hall, Nazi symbols and a Confederate battle flag were put on display.

As the protests grew angrier, U.S. officials, including Assistant Secretary Nuland and Sen. McCain, openly sided with the demonstrators despite banners honoring Stepan Bandera, a World War II-era fascist whose paramilitary forces collaborated with the Nazis in the extermination of Poles and Jews. Nuland passed out cookies and McCain stood shoulder to shoulder with right-wing Ukrainian nationalists. [For more on the role of Ukrainian neo-Nazis, watch this report from the BBC.]

On Feb. 20, the violence intensified as mysterious snipers fired on both protesters and police. As police fought back, neo-Nazi militias hurled Molotov cocktails. More than 80 people were killed including more than a dozen police officers, but the U.S. press blamed the Yanukovych government for the violence, portraying the demonstrators as innocent victims.

Official Washington’s narrative was set. Yanukovych, who had been something of a hero when he was moving toward the EU agreement in the early fall, became a villain after he decided that the IMF’s demands were too severe and especially after he accepted the deal from Putin. The Russian president was undergoing his own demonization in the U.S. news media, including an extraordinary denunciation by NBC at the end of the Sochi Winter Olympics.

In the U.S. media’s black-and-white scenario, the “pro-democracy” demonstrators in the Maidan were the good guys who were fired upon by the bad-guy police. The New York Times even stopped reporting that some of those killed were police, instead presenting the more pleasing but phony narrative that “more than 80 protesters were shot to death by the police as an uprising spiraled out of control in mid-February.”

To this day, the identity of the snipers who touched off the conflagration remains in serious doubt. I was told at the time that some U.S. intelligence analysts believed the shooters were associated with the far-right opposition groups, not with the Yanukovych government.

That analysis gained support when a phone call surfaced between Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, Paet reported on a conversation that he had with a doctor in Kiev who said the sniper fire that killed protesters was the same that killed police officers.

As reported by the UK Guardian, “During the conversation, Paet quoted a woman named Olga – who the Russian media identified her as Olga Bogomolets, a doctor – blaming snipers from the opposition shooting the protesters.”

Paet said, “What was quite disturbing, this same Olga told that, well, all the evidence shows that people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides.

“So she also showed me some photos, she said that as medical doctor, she can say it is the same handwriting, the same type of bullets, and it’s really disturbing that now the new coalition, that they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened. … So there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition.”

Ashton replied: “I think we do want to investigate. I didn’t pick that up, that’s interesting. Gosh.”

Though this exchange does not prove that the opposition used snipers to provoke the violence, it is relevant information that could have altered how Americans viewed the worsening crisis in Ukraine. However, except for an on-the-scene report from CNN with the same doctor, the Paet-Ashton phone call disappeared into the U.S. media’s black hole reserved for information that doesn’t fit with a preferred narrative.

Black Hats/White Hats

So, with giant black hats glued onto Yanukovych and Putin and white hats on the protesters, the inspiring but false U.S. narrative played out in heroic fashion, with only passing reference to the efforts by Yanukovych to make concessions and satisfy the protesters’ demands.

On Feb. 21, Yanukovych tried to defuse the violence by signing an agreement with three European countries in which he accepted reduced powers, moved up elections so he could be voted out of office, and pulled back the police. That last step, however, opened the way for the neo-Nazi militias to seize government buildings and force Yanukovych to flee for his life.

Then, on Feb. 22, under the watchful eye of these modern-day storm troopers, a rump parliament – in violation of constitutional procedures – voted to impeach Yanukovych, who reemerged in Russia to denounce the actions as a coup.

Despite this highly irregular process, the U.S. government – following the lead of the State Department bureaucracy – immediately recognized the new leadership as Ukraine’s “legitimate” government. Putin later appealed to Obama in support of the Feb. 21 agreement but was told the ouster of Yanukovych and the installation of the U.S.-backed government were a fait accompli.

The rump parliament in Kiev also accused Yanukovych of mass murder in connection with the shootings in the Maidan — an accusation that got widespread play in the U.S. media – although curiously the new regime also decided not to pursue an investigation into the identity of the mysterious snipers, a point that drew no U.S. media interest.

And, a new law was passed in line with the desires of right-wing Ukrainian nationalists to eliminate Russian as one of the country’s official languages. New government leaders also were dispatched to the Russian-ethnic regions to take charge, moves that, in turn, prompted resistance from Russian-ethnic citizens in the east and south.

It was in this context – and with appeals from Yanukovych and ethnic Russians for help – that Putin got permission from the Duma to intervene militarily if necessary. Russian troops, already stationed in bases in Crimea, moved to block the Kiev regime from asserting its authority in that strategic Black Sea peninsula.

Amidst this political chaos, the Crimean parliament voted to break away from Ukraine and join Russia, putting the question to a popular vote on March 16. Not surprisingly, given the failed Ukrainian state, its inability to pay for basic services, and Crimea’s historic ties to Russia, Crimean voters approved the switch overwhelmingly. Exit polls showed about a 93 percent majority, just three points less than the official results.

Russia then moved to formally reclaim Crimea, which had been part of Russia dating back to the 1700s, while also massing troops along the borders of eastern Ukraine, presumably as a warning to the Kiev regime not to crush popular resistance to the anti-Yanukovych coup.

A Divergent Narrative

So, the factual narrative suggests that the Ukrainian crisis was stoked by elements of the U.S. government, both in the State Department and in Congress, encouraging and exploiting popular resentments in western Ukraine. The goal was to pull Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and put it into the EU’s gravitational pull.

When Yanukovych balked at IMF’s demands, a process of “regime change” was put in motion with the U.S. and EU even turning their backs on the Feb. 21 agreement in which Yanukovych made a series of concessions negotiated by European countries. The deal was cast aside in a matter of hours with no attempt by the West to uphold its terms.

Meanwhile, Putin, who was tied up with the Sochi Olympics and obsessed over fears that it would be targeted by Islamist terrorists, appears to have been caught off-guard by the events in Ukraine. He then reacted to the alarming developments on Russia’s border, including the emergence of neo-Nazis as prominent figures in the coup regime in Kiev.

In other words, a logical – and indeed realistic – way to see the Ukraine-Crimea crisis is that Putin was largely responding to events that were outside his control. And that is important to understand, because that would mean that Putin was not the aggressor spoiling for a fight.

If there was premeditation, it was coming from the West and particularly from the neocons who remain highly influential in Official Washington. The neocons also had motive to go after Putin, since he helped Obama use diplomacy to quiet down dangerous crises with Syria and Iran while the neocons were pushing for more confrontation and U.S. military strikes.

But how did the U.S. news media present the Ukraine story to the American people?

First, there was the simplistic and misleading depiction of the pro-EU demonstrations as “democratic” when they mostly reflected the discontent of the pro-European population of western Ukraine, not the views of the more pro-Russian Ukrainians in the east and south who had pushed Yanukovych to victory in the 2010 election. Last time I checked, “democracy” referred to rule by the majority, not mob rule.

Then, despite the newsworthiness of the neo-Nazi role in the protests, the U.S. news media blacked-out these brown shirts because that ugly reality undercut the pleasing good-guys-vs.-bad-guys storyline. Then, when the snipers opened fire on protesters and policemen, the U.S. news media jumped to the conclusion that the killers were working for Yanukovych because that, too, fit with the desired narrative.

The violent overthrow of the democratically elected Yanukovych was hailed as an expression of “democracy,” again with the crucial role of the neo-Nazi militias largely airbrushed from the picture. The unanimous and near unanimous parliamentary votes that followed – as storm troopers patrolled the halls of government buildings – were further cited as evidence of “democracy” and “reform.”

The anger and fear of Ukrainians in the east and south were dismissed as Russian “propaganda” and Crimea’s move to extract itself from this political chaos was denounced as Russian “aggression.” U.S. news outlets casually denounced Putin as a “thug.” Washington Post columnist George F. Will called Putin “Stalin’s spawn.”

Former Secretary of State Clinton cited the Crimea situation to compare Putin to Hitler and to suggest that Putin was intent on recreating the old Soviet empire, though Crimea is only 10,000 square miles, about one-tenth of one percent the size of the old Soviet Union.

And, it wasn’t just that some or nearly all mainstream U.S. news organizations adopted this one-sided and misguided narrative. It was a consensus throughout all major U.S. news outlets. With a uniformity that one would normally associate with a totalitarian state, no competing narrative was permitted in the Big Media, regardless of the actual facts.

Whenever any of the more complex reality was included in a story, it was presented as Russian claims that were then followed by argumentative challenges. Yet, when U.S. officials made preposterous remarks about how uncivilized it was to violate another country’s sovereignty, the hypocrisy of their points went uncontested.

For instance, Secretary of State Kerry denounced Putin’s intervention in Crimea by declaring, “you just don’t in the 21st Century behave in 19th Century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext.” But you had to look on the Internet to find any writer who dared note Kerry’s breathtaking double standard, since he voted in 2002 to authorize the U.S. invasion of Iraq in pursuit of hidden WMD stockpiles that didn’t exist.

This cognitive dissonance pervaded the U.S. press and the political debate over Ukraine and Crimea. The long history of U.S. interventions in foreign countries – almost always in violation of international law – was forgotten, except for the rare occasion when some Russian “claim” about American hypocrisy was cited and then swatted down. [See Consortiumnews.com’sAmerica’s Staggering Hypocrisy.”]

Careerism Prevails

Having worked many years in the mainstream U.S. news media, I fully understand how this process works and why it happens. Amid the patriotic chest-thumping that usually accompanies a U.S. military operation or American righteous outrage over some other nation’s actions, it is dangerous for your career to go against the flag-waving.

But it’s always been my view that such self-censorship is faux patriotism, as much as the happy story-lines are false narratives. Even if many Americans don’t want the truth, it is still the job of journalists to give them the truth. Otherwise, the U.S. democratic process is distorted and made dangerous.

Propaganda leads to bad policies as politicians – even when they know better – start parroting the errant conventional wisdom. We’ve seen this now with President Obama who – more than anyone – realizes the value of Putin’s cooperation on Syria and Iran but now must join in denouncing the Russian president and demanding sanctions.

Obama also surely knows that Yanukovych’s ouster violated both Ukraine’s constitution and principles of democracy, but he pretends otherwise. And, he knows that Crimea’s secession reflected the will of the people, but he must insist that their vote was illegitimate.

At a March 25 news conference in the Netherlands, Obama toed the line of the hypocritical false narrative. He declared, “we have said consistently throughout this process is that it is up to the Ukrainian people to make their own decisions about how they organize themselves and who they interact with.” He then added that the Crimean referendum was “sloppily organized over the course of two weeks” and thus a sham.

If Obama were telling the truth, he would have noted that Yanukovych – for all his faults – was democratically elected in a process that was deemed fair by international observers. Obama would have acknowledged that Yanukovych agreed on Feb. 21 to a process that would have allowed for an orderly and legal process for his replacement.

Obama would have admitted, too, that the violent coup and the actions of the rump parliament in Kiev were both illegal and, indeed, “sloppily organized” – and that the U.S. government acted hastily in recognizing this coup regime. But double standards seem to be the only standards these days in Official Washington.

What is perhaps tragic about Obama is that he does know better. He is not a stupid man. But he doesn’t dare go against the grain for fear of being denounced as “naïve” about Putin or “weak” in not facing down “Russian aggression.” So, he reads the lines that have been, in effect, dictated by neocons within his own administration.

I’m told that Obama, like Putin, was caught off-guard by the Ukraine crisis. But Obama’s unwillingness or inability to recast the false narrative left him with no political choice but to join in the Putin-bashing. That, in turn, means that Putin won’t be there to help Obama navigate around future U.S. war plans that the neocons have in mind for Syria and Iran.

Indeed, neutralizing the Obama-Putin relationship may have been the chief reason why the neocons were so eager to stoke the Ukrainian fires — and it shows how false narratives can get people killed.

March 28, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Washington’s Hysteria Towards Russia Hides US Regime Change

By Finian Cunningham  |  Strategic Culture Foundation | March 6, 2014

Legally, Washington and its European allies haven’t a leg to stand on. Both can be rightly accused of violating international law from their gross interference in Ukrainian sovereign affairs – from the instigation of violent street protests that led to the sacking of an elected president and government, to the subsequent climate of lawlessness and fear sweeping across Ukraine and felt in particular by the majority Russian ethnic population in the east and south of the country.

The latest revelations that killings in Kiev’s Maidan Square among protesters and police were covertly carried out by snipers working for the Western-backed agitators are further proof that a coup d’état was orchestrated. A leaked phone call between EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Paet, dated February 25, indicates that snipers were used as provocateurs during the demonstrations, with the intention of heightening violence and blaming it on the government of President Viktor Yanukovych.

In the phone call, reported by Russia Today, Paet is heard to say: «There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovych, but it was somebody from the new [Western-backed] coalition».

Ashton replied: «I think we do want to investigate. I mean, I didn’t pick that up, that’s interesting. Gosh».

The evidence for Western-sponsored subversion in Ukraine is so glaring – from the parade of American and European politicians over the past four months whipping up protesters in Kiev, to documented infiltration of civic organizations by the CIA, USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, the Adenauer Foundation, among others, to their own words of admission from the likes of State Department official Victoria Nuland on the desired formation of a new governing administration in Kiev – that in order to distract from this mountain of damning evidence, the Western governments and their servile media are trying to shift the terrain of discourse away from the panoramic obvious.

The latest revelation of snipers used as provocateurs adds a new sinister twist.

However, against all the evidence, it is not the West that is in violation over Ukraine; it is Russia – so they claim.

More than this, the Western leaders and media have gone into hysterical mode, accusing Russia of «brazen aggression» and «bringing the region to the brink of war». Ironically, given the astounding denial of reality by the West, it is now turning around and accusing Russia of peddling propaganda over recent events in Ukraine. One France 24 headline read: «The fanciful claims of Russian propaganda».

Never mind fanciful claims, how about just some hard facts – facts that Western media are in abject denial of?

Apart from the above litany of outrageous Western interference in Ukrainian politics, the fact is that President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in a violent putsch at the end of last month.

Yanukovych was elected in 2010; and in a constitutional democracy his removal from office requires a vote by the electorate, not the diktats of a bunch of gun-wielding paramilitaries. We may not have liked Yanukovych’s alleged authoritarian style of governance or accusations of cronyism, but the only legal way to correct that would have been for an orderly constitutional process of elections or some other form of due process.

Yanukovych signed a national unity deal with political opponents on February 21, which European Union ministers had been involved in brokering. But his opponents immediately trashed the deal with threats of violence unless Yanukovych stood down.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is therefore correct when he told a press conference this week that what has happened in Kiev is «an unconstitutional coup» and «an armed seizure of power».

Legally speaking, and even under the terms of the EU-brokered national unity accord signed on February 21, Viktor Yanukovych is still the lawful president of Ukraine. When Yanukovych subsequently sent a formal letter to Putin requesting military assistance in the light of unconstitutional and violent upheaval, the Russian Federation had a legal and moral mandate to enter into Ukrainian territory.

The differing responses to the February 21 «event» are instructive. Both Washington and Brussels immediately recognized the new office holders in Kiev as the «legitimate government» of Ukraine with its self-declared president Oleksandr Torchynov and prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The new cabinet, comprising members of the fascist Svoboda party who had been previously waging street war, was also conferred with official Western recognition. The Western media have since gone on to use euphemisms like Kiev’s «fledgling government».

A more accurate definition of the new administration in Kiev is an unelected, self-imposed junta. But the violent, unconstitutional means of taking political power has not stopped British foreign secretary William Hague coming to Kiev this week, followed by US secretary of state John Kerry, to shake hands with the junta. Brussels also invited the mob rulers in Kiev to a ministerial summit this week.

By contrast, Russia is calling for a return to the national unity deal signed on February 21 – a deal which recognizes Yanukovych as the president in office until mutually agreed constitutional reforms are worked out and mandated by the entire electorate of Ukraine – as the legal starting point for any future political settlement. This is the most reasonable and constitutionally legal way forward. Let the people decide whom they want in government by voting, that is by democracy, which, pointedly, Western leaders do not seem able or willing to countenance. The latter prefer imposing governance by force according to their diktat because the real agenda is the economic pillaging of Ukraine by Western capital, an outcome that the Ukrainian people would not vote for if they truly had a democratic choice in the matter.

Given the self-publicized threats of aggression towards ethnic Russians in Ukraine and other perceived political opponents issued by Svoboda and its Right Sector paramilitaries, together with documented acts of recent violence in Kiev, it is was eminently legal and appropriate that Moscow embarked on defensive security measures in Ukraine. Securing military bases and a majority Russian-speaking population in the autonomous southern republic of Crimea this week – at the written requests of President Yanukovych and the Crimean regional prime minister Sergei Aksyonov, as well as under the legal terms of a long-standing bilateral agreement with Ukraine – all that gives Moscow an irrefutable mandate to do so.

Yet, with frothing hysteria, the Western governments and their media have turned reality upside down. There is not a mention of the unlawful Western interference and subversion in the Ukraine or of its hand-in-fist association with neo-Nazi street mobs in executing a violent putsch in Kiev. US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power brazenly denied reality earlier this week when she accused Moscow of citing «imaginary threats» in Ukraine. The bitter irony of that is that Samantha Power is one of the cheerleaders for the so-called «responsibility to protect» which has given her country the fictitious cover to illegally intervene and militarily overthrow governments in former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and anywhere else the US deems desirable for regime change.

In a feat of sheer doublethink, the West has accused Russia of «illegal invasion» in Ukraine and of using «pretexts for acts of aggression». This hysterical rhetoric is being used to cover up the West’s own glaring transgressions in Ukraine and to shift the blame for the turmoil.

Unabashed by its unequivocal involvement in engineering regime change in Ukraine, American and European leaders are demanding that Russia withdraw troops from Crimea or face sanctions. Washington’s top diplomat John Kerry said the US would isolate Russia «economically, politically and diplomatically» if it did not reverse security measures, or as Kerry put it «aggression».

Meanwhile, there is not a scintilla of indication that the Americans and Europeans have any intention of reversing their unlawful interference in Ukraine. Far from it, Kerry on his visit to the junta in Kiev this week said that the US was offering $1 billion in loan guarantees. The New York Times explained: «The purpose of the loan guarantees is to support Ukraine’s efforts to integrate with the West».

European Union ministers this week somehow found reserves of €11 billion for the new «Western friendly» administration in Kiev – against the backdrop of millions of EU citizens suffering from unemployment and deprivation. The International Monetary Fund is also drawing up a lure (loan) of $2 billion.

With pro-Western, pro-capitalist Yatsenyuk now at the helm in Kiev (as Nuland prescribed), Ukraine is being steered inexorably into debt bondage by the West. This bondage, facilitated by an unelected junta, will entail an austerity assault on Ukrainian workers, beginning with swingeing cuts in public spending, wages and subsidies on fuel. It will also lead to privatization of Ukrainian oil and gas industries and the full take over of other prodigious Ukrainian natural resources, such as its wheat agriculture, by Western capital. Yatsenyuk, who talks with pride about being willing to commit political suicide for the sake of pro-Western reforms, that is Western subjugation, is exactly the kind of ideologue the West want and need in Kiev, as Nuland duly recognized.

Interestingly, this week the new Ukrainian ambassador to Belarus, Mykhailo Yeshel, admitted in a media interview that loans (lures) from Washington were being offered on condition of the Ukraine permitting the deployment of American missile systems on its territory – right on the border with Russia.

The emerging picture is clear. Despite all the hysterical nonsense being spouted by Western leaders and their media propaganda machine, demanding Russia to «back off» from Ukraine, the Western regime-change operation in that country is not just being consolidated – it is being ramped up.

March 6, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kiev snipers hired by Maidan leaders – leaked EU’s Ashton phone tape

Update: Estonian Foreign Ministry confirms authenticity of leaked call on Kiev snipers

RT | March 5, 2014

The snipers who shot at protesters and police in Kiev were allegedly hired by Maidan leaders, according to a leaked phone conversation between the EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian foreign affairs minister, which has emerged online.

“There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovich, but it was somebody from the new coalition,” Paet said during the conversation.

“I think we do want to investigate. I mean, I didn’t pick that up, that’s interesting. Gosh,” Ashton answered.

The call took place after Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet visited Kiev on February 25 at the peak of clashes between the pro-EU protesters and security forces in the Ukrainian capital.

Paet also recalled his conversation with a doctor who treated those shot by snipers in Kiev. She said that both protesters and police were shot at by the same people.

“And second, what was quite disturbing, this same Olga [Bogomolets] told as well that all the evidence shows that the people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and then people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides,” the Estonian FM stressed.

Ashton reacted to the information by saying: “Well, yeah…that’s, that’s terrible.”

“So that she then also showed me some photos she said that as a medical doctor she can say that it is the same handwriting, the same type of bullets, and it’s really disturbing that now the new coalition, that they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened,” Paet said.

The Estonian FM has described the whole sniper issue as “disturbing” and added, “it already discredits from the very beginning” the new Ukrainian power.

His overall impressions of what he saw during his one-day trip to Kiev are “sad,” Paet said during the conversation.

He stressed that the Ukrainian people don’t trust the Maidan leaders, with all the opposition politicians slated to join the new government “having dirty past.”

The file was reportedly uploaded to the web by officers of Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) loyal to ousted President Viktor Yanukovich who hacked Paet’s and Ashton’s phones.

94 people were killed and another 900 injured during the standoff between police and protesters at Maidan Saquare in Kiev last month.

March 5, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Video, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Costs which Obama is about to pay for Ukraine

By Andre Fomine | Oriental Review | March 1, 2014

Yesterday the United States lost the propaganda war on Ukraine. President Obama made a reluctant and senseless statement which Washington Post entitled “There will be costs”.

He pronounced standard phrases like “the Ukrainian people deserve the opportunity to determine their own future”, proposed that Russia be a “part of an international community’s effort to support the stability and success of a united Ukraine”, lamented over the alleged “violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and assured that “the United States supports his government’s efforts and stands for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and democratic future of Ukraine”.

It looks like the United States administration was not mentally prepared for the development of the Ukrainian crisis. The synchronized actions of the new Crimean authorities and the press-conference of the expelled president Victor Yanukovych in Rostov-on-Don gave undeniable judicial advantage to the opposite side in Ukraine who are not ready to acknowledge the illegitimate “government” elected by the rowdy Euro-mob in Kiev three days ago. The United States has no tangible tools to destabilize Crimea, de facto controlled by the Ukrainian anti-putschist resistance forces, while the judicial status of Victor Yanukovych (whatever we think about him as a person and political figure) is indubitable.

Since the very beginning of the crisis in Ukraine it was clear that the US goal was not imposing a pro-American government in Kiev, but rather making Ukraine a sticking point for Russia-European relations. The bloody events on Independence Square were organized in order to pull Russia into the vortex of the chaos in Ukraine. The Washington strategists thought that Moscow would become recklessly involved in the dirty games with Poland, Hungary and Romania over “federalization of Ukraine” and the street battles against the fascist thugs in Kiev.

On Saturday the Kremlin unexpectedly broke its skillful political pause after last night’s attempted assault on the Crimea Interior Ministry in Simferopol by unidentified special units sent from Kiev. Until that moment the Russian ‘inaction’ was much more powerful than thousands of nervous actions in Kiev and statements from Washington. The Russian move is going to be even more impressive.

Among all “interested parties” in the Ukrainian crisis, Russia is the only global power that has demonstrated its ability to act within the framework of international law and to take responsible and sovereign decisions.

Ironically, today’s Crimea is probably the only region where the Constitution of Ukraine is still strictly implemented. The referendum on the issue of the wide autonomy, announced to be held on March 30, 2014, was initiated in full compliance with the national law. The Russian military presence in Crimea is also regulated by the 1997 Russian-Ukrainian agreement on the Russian Navy base in Sevastopol. The new Crimean government, unlike the central one in Kiev, was appointed by the local legislative body as a result of a properly performed legal procedure.

So Moscow’s message to President Obama is simple. We are the real guarantors of Ukrainian sovereignty. We are protecting the life of its incumbent president, elected by the people of Ukraine at the free and competitive poll in 2010, from the direct personal threat from illegitimate “new authorities”. For the last three months, unlike you, we were not interfering in the internal political process in Ukraine while your Assistant Secretary of State was handing buns to the “peaceful protesters” in Kiev and talking smut about your European dialogue partners. We followed the letter and spirit of the international law whether we liked it or not. And today we are giving hope to millions of the Russian Ukrainians who categorically reject banderist authorities in Kiev. We are defending their right to determine their future. Therefore you will be brought to account for the billions of dollars invested for years long into the chimera project of the Orange revolution in Ukraine, which in its second incarnation turned Brown. You will be charged for months of explicit incitements for riots and civilian disobedience to legitimate authorities in Ukraine, committed by your officials and congressmen. And you will be responsible for the recognition of the shady Kiev “cabinet”, not only lacking any public support in Ukraine, but also any real resources to secure minimal level of life and the rule of law in this 45-million strong nation, lost in a non-existent “transition”, invented by your insolvent foreign policy consultants. These are the costs you are about to pay in Ukraine, President Obama.

March 1, 2014 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | 1 Comment

Ukrainian Democracy: A Barrier to Washington’s Goals

What Do Ukrainians Really Want?

By Nick Alexandrov | CounterPunch | February 28, 2014

When Ukraine is the topic, the major U.S. media outlets agree: “Europe and the United States have made a priority of fostering democracy in the former Soviet republics,” David M. Herszenhorn wrote in the New York Times.  The Washington Post asserted that Ukraine is “a country that has been struggling to become a genuine democracy” with help from Western powers, who keep it “from becoming an autocratic Kremlin colony, like neighboring Belarus.”  “Ukraine is the crossroads between a free and an authoritarian Europe,” the Wall Street Journal concurred, while Yale professor Timothy Snyder urged, in a CNN piece, Europe and America to back the Ukrainian protesters—“a chance to support democracy,” he emphasized.  Marvelous.  But in the real world, Ukrainian democracy is not merely something Washington has failed to support, but is actually incompatible with U.S. governmental aims.

U.S. officials are quite open about their opposition to Ukrainian self-determination and well-aware how unpopular Washington’s preferred policies are.  Nearly a decade ago, for example, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Europe met for a hearing on “Ukraine’s Future and U.S. Interests.”  Rep. Doug Bereuter (R-NE) opened the session, noting that “a recent survey conducted by a center for economic and political research suggests that up to 40 percent of Ukrainians believe that relations with Russia should be a priority.”  Meanwhile, “28 percent gave preference to the EU,” and “2 percent said that relations with the U.S. should be a foreign policy priority.  Another survey suggested that almost two-thirds of the population would consider supporting a political union with Russia,” Bereuter concluded.  “So,” he went on, “I think that United States policy must remain focused” on incorporating Ukraine “into European and Euro-Atlantic structures.”  Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) spoke next, reiterating that U.S. policy should “further Ukraine’s integration in Euro-Atlantic institutions;” Steven Pifer, the former Ambassador to Ukraine, drove the point home, outlining “the United States Government’s vision for Ukraine”: “increasingly close ties to Europe and Euro-Atlantic institutions.”  This vision persisted over the following decade.  The Atlantic Council’s Damon Wilson, speaking before the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on European Affairs—the topic was “Ukraine at a Crossroads”—in February 2012, explained that “Ukraine’s genuine European integration” remained a major objective.

And recent commentary and news coverage depicts European integration as something most Ukrainians desire.  In early February, Secretary of State Kerry, at the Munich Security Conference, remarked that Ukrainians should be permitted “to associate with partners who will help them realize their aspirations”—Europe and the U.S. obviously being the partners, integration to be deepened via what the Times’ Herszenhorn referred to as “sweeping political and trade agreements” that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych “refused to sign” last November, resulting in “a broken promise between a leader and his citizens,” and then the uprisings.  Now Al Jazeera reports that the acting president, Oleksander Turchinov, has “made clear that Kiev’s European integration would be a priority,” thereby giving Ukrainians what we’re told they want.

But British and U.S. governmental studies reveal the Ukrainian public is ambivalent about European integration.  Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, for example, funded a “scoping study” through the British Embassy in Kyiv a year ago, titled “A blueprint for enhancing understanding of and support for the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement [AA] including DCFTA [Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area] in Ukraine.”  The AA was one of the key “sweeping political and trade agreements” Yanukovych refused to sign.  British officials, in their report, stressed that “support for the AA is not overwhelming amongst the population at large,” observing that “opinion polls show that about 30% of respondents are in favour of European integration, 30% for the Customs Union [Moscow-led integration], and about 30% are undecided.”  This bleak situation called for a propaganda offensive, or “a national public awareness ‘Campaign of Arguments,’” as the British dubbed it, which was to “be aimed at the general public as its primary target audience.”  British advisers urged PR teams “to formulate advertising slogans, global and targeted messages,” and to play up “the European civilizational model” and other benefits the AA allegedly would bring.  This “civilizational model” today entails “massive attacks on public services, wages, pensions, trade unions, and social rights” under imposed “draconian austerity policies,” Asbjørn Wahl wrote in January’s Monthly Review—a reality the British indoctrination scheme’s outline studiously avoided, it’s hardly worth mentioning.

The propaganda barrage may have been successful to some extent.  But as the year progressed, the U.S. government had a hard time finding evidence of overwhelming Ukrainian support for European integration.  The International Republican Institute (IRI), for example, polled Ukrainians last September: “If Ukraine was able to enter only one international economic union, with whom should it be?”  Forty-two percent of respondents chose the EU, while 37% preferred the Russian Customs Union.  IRI then asked, “How would you evaluate your attitude towards the following entities?”  Fifty percent of respondents felt “warm” towards Russia; 41% felt “warm” towards Europe—and just 26% were fond of the U.S.  IRI figures resembled those USAID published in a December 2013 report.  Its authors found it “interesting to note that Ukrainians are split on whether the country should join the European Union or the Customs Union.  Thirty-seven percent would like Ukraine to take steps to join the European Union, 33% prefer the Customs Union and 15% say Ukraine should join neither of these blocs.”  Furthermore, “34% say that Ukraine should have closer economic relations with Russia, 35% say it should have closer economic relations with Europe and 17% say it should have good relations with both.”  A Kyiv International Institute of Sociology poll reinforced these findings: “Ukraine is split practically 50/50 over the accession to the European Union or the Customs Union,” Interfax-Ukraine summarized the study’s conclusions.

Reviewing this data forces us to ask: Who is Washington’s chief enemy in Ukraine?  Is it Russia, bent on killing Ukraine’s budding democracy?  Is it the tyrant Yanukovych?  The U.S. policy record points to a different conclusion, one a Johns Hopkins Center for Transatlantic Relations study—included in the official transcription of the Senate’s 2012 “Ukraine at a Crossroads” hearing—discusses in the context of Ukraine’s potential NATO membership.  “The main obstacle” to Ukraine’s joining the organization “is not Russian opposition,” its authors emphasized, “but low public support for membership in Ukraine itself.”  Again: on this and other issues, the Ukrainian people are “the main obstacle” to U.S. foreign policy aims.  We should bear this fact in mind as the crisis deepens in Eastern Europe.

Nick Alexandrov lives in Washington, DC.

March 1, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Moscow blames radicals for deadly clashes in Ukraine, EU leaders ponder sanctions against government

RT | February 19, 2014

Moscow believes the deadly clashes in Kiev were an attempt at a coup by radicalized protesters. EU leaders have quite an opposite view, calling for sanctions against Ukrainian government officials.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry described the violence in Ukraine as an attempt at a coup d’etat and a “brown” revolution, accusing European politicians and institutions of “refusing to admit that all of the responsibility for the actions of radical forces in Ukraine rests with the opposition.”

“The Russian side is demanding the leaders on the streets to stop the violence in their country, immediately resume dialogue with the lawful government without threats and ultimatums,” the statement reads.

The Kremlin has also interpreted the violence in Ukraine as a coup attempt. President Putin’s spokesman said that “from the point of view of the Russian leadership”, all of the responsibility for the bloodshed could be laid at the door of “the extremist forces.”

Twenty-six people were killed overnight in the most violent clashes yet to have occurred between security forces and protesters since the opposition took to the streets of Kiev in November 2013. Ten of the casualties are Ukrainian police officers, who died of gunshot wounds, as did the rest of the victims, the Interior Ministry reported.

It added that up to 700 people were injured, more than 70 of those being policemen.

The Ukrainian Health Ministry officially confirmed that a journalist from the local Vesti newspaper, Vyacheslav Veremey, died in Kiev after a gunshot wound.

The Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior believes the casualties in the clashes could have been killed by the radicals, because the police do not use fire arms.

“Taking into consideration the nature of the dead civilians’ wounds and also the nature of the weapons, which have been confiscated, we can assume that these wounds were inflicted by violent protesters,” a statement at the Ministry’s website says. “Police officers and interior troops do not use fire arms. Law enforcers are only using non-lethal weapons.”

Some of the European leaders have not been convinced and have been quick to lay the blame for the violence on the Ukrainian president. The Swedish Foreign Minister said on Twitter that blood was on Yanukovich’s hands.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague was less emotional, but also accused the government of allowing the bloodshed to happen.

Several EU leaders have already spoken of introducing sanctions against the Ukrainian leadership, who they view as responsible for the crisis.

Germany, which previously refused to back Washington’s calls for sanctions against Ukraine’s government, could soon have a change of heart, according to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier .

“Whoever is responsible for decisions that lead to bloodshed in the center of Kiev or elsewhere in Ukraine will need to consider that Europe’s previous reluctance for personal sanctions must be rethought,” he said, according to AP.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Wednesday he would be pressing European Union leaders to impose sanctions on Ukraine’s government.

“I will today hold talks with the leaders of the biggest EU countries and institutions, and persuade them to impose sanctions – personal and financial,” Tusk told a special session of the Polish parliament, Reuters reports. “I hope that such a stance from Poland will help the EU as a whole in taking fast decisions.”

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders has also supported sanctions against the Ukrainian government, according to Itar-Tass.

Earlier, US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey R. Pyatt blamed Viktor Yanukovich for the escalation of the crisis.

“From this moment on, the USA holds Yanukovich responsible for everything that happens in Ukraine,” he told the Zerkalo Nedeli newspaper, following a meeting with Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara.

Moscow believes that this accusatory position of the US could have, in fact, contributed to the escalation of violence Kiev has been witnessing, and, holding the president solely responsible for the crisis, is giving carte blanche to extremist radical forces out on the streets.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it considered the crisis “a direct result of the permissive policy exercised by those western politicians and European structures, who from the very beginning turned a blind eye to the aggressive actions of the radical forces in Ukraine.”

February 19, 2014 Posted by | Video | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US focused on destabilizing Ukraine: Ex-US official

Press TV – February 8, 2014

Having long displayed a “habit” of attempting to overthrow democratic governments, the United States now seems focused on destabilizing Ukraine, says a former US official, Press TV reports.

“The control freaks in Washington think that only the decisions that Washington makes and imposes on other sovereign countries are democratic,” wrote Paul Craig Roberts, who is a former assistant secretary of the US Treasury for economic policy, in an article on Press TV’s website on Friday.

“The world has witnessed this American self-righteousness for eons as Washington overthrows one democratic government after the other and imposes its puppet,” Roberts said, adding that “for the moment, Washington is focused on destabilizing Ukraine.”

Ukraine has been seeing anti-government protests since about two months ago. The unrest began after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych refrained from signing a political and trade deal with the European Union (EU).

Clashes erupted several times between Ukrainian protesters and police forces during anti-government demonstrations. Arrests were made in the course of the protests as well.

In an effort to calm the political unrest, President Yanukovych invited all parties, including the opposition, to engage in dialog. However, the Ukrainian opposition leaders turned down his offer of negotiations.

He also offered top government positions to the opposition leaders, which they rejected. Yanukovych also pledged to change the constitution to reduce the president’s powers, following another decision to scrap an anti-protest law.

The unrest, nevertheless, continues unabated in Ukraine.

“Of all the violent protests that we have been witness to, the Ukrainian one is the most orchestrated,” Roberts said. “Ukraine has a democratically-elected government, but Washington doesn’t like it because Washington didn’t pick it.”

“Ukraine – or the western part of it – is full of Washington-funded NGOs, whose purpose is to deliver Ukraine into the clutches of the EU, where US and European banks can loot the country, as they looted, for example, Latvia,” he said, adding that, “The NGOs financed by Washington are committed to delivering Ukraine into Washington’s hands, where Ukrainians can become American serfs.”

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s economic advisor Sergey Glazyev described the situation in Ukraine as an attempted coup.

“According to our information, American sources spend $20 million a week on financing the [Ukrainian] opposition and rebels, including on weapons,” Glazyev told the Ukrainian edition of Russian newspaper Kommersant.

February 8, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , | 1 Comment

Ukrainian president intends to sign EU deal: Ashton

Press TV | December 12, 2013

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton says Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych “intends to sign” an agreement with the European Union to enhance economic and political relations with the bloc.

Ashton said on arrival for a meeting in Brussels on Thursday after her visit to Kiev that Yanukovych “made it clear to me that he intends to sign the association agreement.”

She added that the short-term economic and financial issues Ukraine faces could be “addressed by the support that not only comes from the EU institutions, but actually by showing that he has a serious economic plan in signing the association agreement.”

Ashton also said that the signature of the deal would help to bring in the kind of investment that the Ukrainian president is in need of.

The executive body of the European Union had said on December 9 that Ashton would travel to Ukraine on December 10 on a two-day visit, with a European Commission spokesperson noting that the visit aims to “support a way out of the political crisis in Ukraine.”

Last month, Kiev refused to sign the agreement with the bloc in a move that triggered major street protests by the opposition supporters, who want Ukraine to become closer to the EU and distance itself from Russia.

Clashes erupted several times between the anti-government protesters and police forces during the demonstrations. Several arrests were made in the course of the protests as well.

In an effort to calm the political unrest, President Yanukovych invited all parties, including the opposition, to engage in dialog. However, Ukrainian opposition leaders on Wednesday turned down his offer of negotiations, calling for dismissal of his government and release of the detained protesters.

On the same day, the US State Department said it is considering sanctions against Ukraine if security forces intensify the crackdown on anti-government protesters in the country.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko had vowed earlier that police would not act against peaceful protesters.

December 12, 2013 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ukraine: Europe’s Partner or Puppet?

By Christine Stone | Ron Paul Institute | October 20, 2013

As the second most populous former Soviet republic, Ukraine has seemed uncomfortable with its independence since 1991 and less than committed to making it work. The fundamental issue has always been, does the country remain entwined with its larger neighbour Russia, or does it succumb to the blandishments of the West and distance itself completely from a country with which it was co-joined for over 1000 years?

Within the USSR Ukraine was an economic power house with a large heavy industrial sector and flourishing agriculture based on its excellent ‘black soil’. To Western eyes, the typical Ukrainian was Nikita Khrushchev — a plump, jolly fellow; a bit crude, perhaps, but a good, stolid Soviet citizen. When Gorbachev arranged a referendum on preserving a reformed Soviet Union in March 1991, 76 percent of voters in Ukraine supported remaining in the USSR. Yet only eight months later 90 percent of them voted for independence. Some might say, how capricious! Could things have changed so quickly? They obviously did, meaning that the Communist apparatchiki jumped the sinking ship and the sheep followed.

Since then, the country has been ruled by a mixture of ex-Soviet officials and Komsomolski joined by a growing band of oligarchs, some who have grown rich from the oil and gas transportation business. Typical of this genre is Yulia Timoshenko, the former prime minister, now serving a prison sentence for embezzlement and therefore regarded as a saintly martyr by the EU oligarchs who regard ripping off the peasantry as far less of a sin than being imprisoned for it.

Making matters worse is the fact that Washington and its European allies have repeatedly involved themselves in Kiev’s dysfunctional politics for their own purposes not the country’s well-being. The country is a strategic linchpin mainly because of its Black Sea coast where the Russians still maintain an important military base in the Crimea, rented from Ukraine.

The Curse of Orange

In 2004, large sums of Western money were poured into Kiev to overturn the results of the country’s presidential election which had been won by Viktor Yanukovich, a mundane but competent bureaucrat from the more Russian-leaning eastern Ukraine. Fears were that he might be less amenable to the ‘reform agenda’ pushed by Brussels and Washington. For several weeks hordes of young people camped in a tent city in central Kiev alleging fraud and claiming that their chosen candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, was the real winner of the poll. They were joined by members of the European Parliament and supported by the U.S. embassy mainly in the form of orange paraphernalia – scarves, flags, T-shirts – which gave the movement its name: the Orange Revolution. At the time, Western-sponsored, allegedly spontaneous ‘colour revolutions’ were all the rage in the former USSR.

By fair means (and certainly foul) the Oranges prevailed. A repeat election was held and Viktor Yushchenko – inevitably – was the winner. He became president and Mrs Timoshenko, also a heroine of the Orange Revolution, was appointed his prime minister. The youth melted away from Kiev now that the free food and drink, provided by the revolution’s western funders, had disappeared. But, soon, all was not well. Yushchenko and his prime minster fell out and she was dismissed a year later, in 2005.

The falling out inside the Orange camp was a symptom of the fractious and feuding nature of Ukraine’s post-Communist elite. The Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada) was another woeful example of institutional failure. Increasingly dominated by supporters of the defeated (or deposed) President Yanokovich, as the Orange factions fell out and lost support in fresh parliamentary elections, it was the scene of regular fisticuffs and brawls between different factions – all shown on television. Mrs Timoshenko’s supporters were usually the first to throw the punches. It seemed that the Orange team’s promise of Western-style, cutting edge politics was a forlorn dream.

In 2010 the reviled Yanukovich was elected president – again. Allegations of his 2004 election fraud were forgotten. The U.S. and its European friends had made little attempt to rescue their Orange protégées, still, the fear lurked that the new president would lurch perilously towards Moscow. But, surprisingly, his first post-election visit was to Brussels and he seemed keen to pursue closer ties with the EU. However, relations with Russia did improve and Yanukovich began to contemplate Ukraine’s possible participation in the Russian-Belarusian-Kazakh Customs Union, a rival organisation to the EU – certainly when it came to seducing former Soviet republics into the fold. It is at this point that the latest Ukrainian drama – potentially, its most consequential – begins to unfold.

Enter Salvation: the EU beckons

The European Union aware that its members were enlargement weary came up with the idea of a ‘Union Lite’ –  the Eastern Partnership – to ease the remaining post-Soviet orphans into the club but, sort of, through the back door. Unveiled in 2009, the idea was heavily promoted by Poland, whose Foreign Minister, Radislav Sikorski, promised all sorts of free trade and other economic benefits to the six potential ‘partners’, including Ukraine – the main one being closer contact with the economic paradise inhabited by their neighbours, the Poles. In truth, any ‘economic benefits’ that did emerge would go to the West rather than the poverty-stricken ‘partners’ who would find that Brussels’ largesse was restricted to its cronies.

Like the rest of the bloc, Ukraine’s economy had suffered during the 1990s as its Soviet markets disappeared. Things began to improve during Leonid Kuchma’s presidency (and Yanukovich’s premiership). Although courted by the west, Kuchma did not completely shut down the country as required by the ‘Washington consensus’. In fact, with economic boom in places like China, Ukraine’s raw materials (iron and steel from the east) were in strong demand. The country’s agricultural base had survived and its farms were productive – unlike the Polish version in Sikorski’s Euro-paradise.

Immediately, things started to go wrong as the Orange team began their time in office by interfering in the gas transit arrangements with Russia. In early 2006, after much provocation, Moscow cut off gas supplies to the West through the Ukrainian pipeline system due to Kiev’s arrears of payment as well as its aberrant behaviour. Negotiations with Moscow followed, and fed up with the debts and messing around, the Russians started to charge the Ukrainians more for their domestic supplies of gas. This impacted the country’s energy-dependent, heavy industrial base which was about to be hit anyway by the economic collapse in 2008 which resulted in less global demand for iron and steel.

Despite a change of government in 2010 rather than cease trouble making and find a solution to disagreements with Moscow, it seems that the apparat in Kiev has decided to walk away and accept the West’s somewhat poisoned chalice. Even the apparently, Moscow-friendly Yanokovich. In August 2013, his government indicated that it would sign the partnership agreement in November 2013 during the forthcoming European summit in Lithuania (another lucky beneficiary of the European project).

Tug of War: Moscow Reacts

The Russians have reacted angrily, stating that Ukraine cannot be a member of both customs unions. Ukraine’s economy is heavily dependent on Russia which takes 35 percent of Ukrainian exports. As Vladimir Putin’s envoy Sergei Glazyev points out: “Millions of people working in the industrial sector, with which we cooperate and which has thousands of ties with Russia, want [Ukraine’s accession to the Customs Union]. These are rocket constructors, shipbuilders, chemists, metallurgists, and especially farmers and producers of food, whose products are not in demand anywhere else except Russia,” Glazyev said in an interview published in the Russian-language Ukrainian newspaper Vesti.[1]

If the agreement is finally signed, Moscow says it will impose tariffs on Ukrainian goods which are likely to be ‘dumped’ in Russia as Ukraine is flooded with imports from the EU. But, the Ukrainian elites aren’t worried by any of this. They yearn to belong to the Euro club with its juicy perks and prospects for further self-enrichment. As Glazyev noted: “Numerous political scientists and experts, who have fed on European and American grants for 20 years … are doing a certain political job on their clients’ behalf. In addition, a whole generation of diplomats and bureaucrats has appeared after the years of the ‘orange’ hysteria, who are carrying out an anti-Russian agenda”.[2]

Having embraced several economic basket-cases (including the over-hyped Poland) since 2004, what is in the deal for Europe? Yes, they can flood Ukraine with food and drink (thus destroying the country’s still productive agricultural base) and they can – for a price – plaster the country with European super and hyper markets. For Tesco, Aldi & co. a population of 48 million is virgin territory – a boost for Tesco whose eastern European outlets have lost money in the last few years. Otherwise, after 22 years of ‘freedom’ there is precious little left for the much vaunted ‘strategic foreign investor’ to gobble up.

Cheap labour and cut-price prostitution will be Ukraine’s major exports if the Polish or Baltic model of European integration is anything to go by. Poland’s main ‘export’ is cash remittances from almost three million migrants scattered across the western EU, especially in Britain. Maybe Foreign Minister Sikorski hopes that Ukraine will replace Poland as the mega-El Salvador of Europe if it accedes to a visa-free association with the EU?

For Ukraine’s future, the immediate and most troubling issue is energy: the country is haunted by its fragile status as a transit route to Western Europe and its own parlous ability to pay the world market price for fuel .

In 2010 a joint Russian-German pipeline began to carry Russian gas to Europe under the Baltic sea. Moscow’s decision to redirect energy exports to the west had been driven by ongoing problems with the Ukrainian route, mainly caused by the Orange politicians (and encouraged by the west). By 2013 Ukraine’s revenues for transporting Russian gas to Europe had nearly halved. Meanwhile, under pressure to ‘distance’ themselves from their evil neighbour, in 2012 Ukraine started to import some gas (at subsidised prices) from Germany’s Ruhrgas. Presumably, this was Russian gas going on a rather roundabout journey but, for good, geopolitical reasons.

Ukraine: an economic basket case?

However, the much promoted energy independence might be achieved – at least, sometime in the future. In 2013, with hubris at fever pitch, various regions in Ukraine began signing contracts with companies like Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell for shale gas exploration. Initial tests have indicated large deposits around the country. Perhaps, finally, the Ukrainians would be free from Russian imports, although exactly when is unknown (2050 is one date bandied about). And, will the domestic customer benefit from lower prices, especially when the profits will go to Chevron & co.? None of this concerns the greedy mix of energy companies and Ukrainian politicos, noses already in the trough and snouts sniffing for more kickbacks.

But, maybe the Europeans have failed to take note of some of the risky business practises encountered by Western investors in Ukraine. According to the Financial Times “Swissport, for example, claims to have spent much of this year struggling to reverse a court ruling that stripped it of a 70 per cent stake in Ukraine’s largest air cargo handler. It won a victory in Ukraine’s highest commercial court on October 2, but could face further legal challenges. London & Regional Properties recently lost management control over Globus one of Ukraine’s top shopping malls. Even McDonalds has been caught up. The fast food giant claims that raiders are trying to seize ownership of one of its 75 local restaurants. Other investors whose assets have faced legal threats in Ukraine steelmaker ArcelorMittal , the biggest foreign investor in the country.[3]

Sometimes, pressures appear to be applied by state law enforcement itself. In two separate incidents last month, fraud investigators raided and temporarily paralysed the local subsidiary of Italy’s Unicredit bank; at Vitmark Ukraine, a juice manufacturer owned by private equity fund Horizon Capital, documents, computers and other items were seized.

On top of this, Ukraine is in debt and, again, poised to go cap in hand to the IMF for further loans. At the end of September the cost of insuring 3-year Ukrainian debt hit a three year high. Among emerging markets, the country has one of the biggest burdens of short-term external debt relative to foreign exchange reserves. Its reserves fell by about 30 per cent to less than $20bn in the year to the end of August. According to Moody’s, this provides 2.3 months’ import coverage. The ratings agency said in its downgrade note”.[4]

Bizarre, then, that while he was in Germany in May 2013, President Yanukovich boasted that the Partnership Agreement “will have a substantial positive influence on the European economic situation and will help Europe emerge from the crisis”. As one commentator pointed out “even without any trade liberalization Ukraine is buying more and more German goods, but it essentially has nothing to export there. Under these circumstances, offering itself as the “saviour of Europe” is a bit presumptuous”.[5] Germany isn’t going to promote anything in Ukraine that might smack of competition (in heavy industry, for example). Instead various ‘green’ projects were floated around at the May meeting.

So, Ukraine is broke; its goods are of an inferior quality and unlikely to appeal to the European consumer; its business practices (including their legal underpinning) are dubious. Why bring the EU closer to such a place when over twenty years of western involvement has not led to any improvement? The answer, as everyone really knows, is political. This is the first really promising opportunity to drag Ukraine away from Russia, a country with which is shares a long border, a common language and historical experience as well as family and religious ties. But, the hatred felt in the west for Mr. Putin has only intensified with his intervention to stop an attack on Syria. Sealing Ukraine’s ties with Europe are a good way of giving him a bloody nose.

The deal still needs to be finalised and this seems to pivot upon Yanukovich agreeing to Brussels’ demand that Yulia Timoshenko, jailed in 2011 for embezzlement and abuse of office, be freed. The Europeans see her plight as a human rights tragedy almost on a par with Nelson Mandela’s incarceration on Robben Island, ignoring the fact that this is the second time she has been imprisoned for economic crimes – in 1994 she was convicted of money laundering and extortion. Many Ukrainians find this sanctification hard to take. They are more likely to accept Matthew Brzezinski’s description of her modus operandi as the ‘gas princess’ in his book Casino Moscow.[6] The incarceration of a rich and powerful lady with a shady past is what seems to separate the Ukrainians from economic nirvana in the EU’s embrace.

As of this writing, Timoshenko’s release looks to be imminent, as Yanukovich has indicated his support for parliamentary action to allow her to be released from prison and sent to Germany, ostensibly for medical treatment.

Why does all this matter? Several basket cases have been absorbed into the EU already but with many negative repercussions, never mentioned by politicians like Sikorski. As people in former Soviet Bloc countries have fled the poverty resulting from membership of the EU, Ukrainians will also flee to western Europe once the ‘free trade’ rules kick in and visa rules are liberalised. How much more migrant labour can countries like Britain support? The Russians seem to be much angrier by Ukraine’s European aspirations than they were when the Baltic States joined NATO and EU. At the recent Yalta Conference where old globalist hands like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton urged Ukraine forward to the promised land, Putin’s envoy, Glazyev (also present) warned that signing the pact – rather than entering a Russian customs union – could tip Ukraine into default.

If the EU’s embrace of Ukraine precipitates a crisis in the debt-laden country with its currency worthless and Russia breathing down its neck, won’t Brussels feel obliged to ‘rush forward’ to save Ukraine by offering immediate entry into the EU? In the past, admission to NATO has preceded EU accession in ex-Communist countries. But when Ukrainians have been polled on joining an anti-Russian alliance, with them in the front-line, they have rejected the idea. So now the double-headed Western political monolith in Brussels is pushing EU accession first, to be followed by membership of NATO down the road.

With its shaky economy and political turmoil in several EU and euro member states, is this what the European Union really needs? With Russia now showing a more robust approach to what it sees as its ‘national interest’ who knows whether what seems on the surface to be an economic spat could lead to something deadlier. The EU’s claim to be a stabilising force for peace on the European continent looks set to collide with its geo-political ambition to do down the Russian state regardless of the costs to ordinary people inside the EU, Ukraine and Russia itself.

[1] “Putin’s aide calls opinion that all Ukrainians want European integration “sick self-delusion”” Interfax, 21st August, 2013  http://www.interfax.co.uk/ukraine-news/putins-aide-calls-opinion-that-all-ukrainians-want-european-integration-sick-self-delusion-2/

[2] ibid

[3]Roman Olyarchik: “EU beckons but investors still getting a rough ride”  Beyond Brics Blog, Financial Times, 3rd October, 2013 http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2013/10/03/ukraine-eu-beckons-but-investors-still-getting-a-rough-ride/#ixzz2gfuGquIJ

[4] [4]Luke Smolinski “Ukraine:investors get nervous” Beyond Brics Blog, Financial Times, 26th September, 2013http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2013/09/26/ukraine-investors-get-nervous/#ixzz2gfuSIfSP

[5] Natalya Meden, “What Lies Behind the Idea of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement”  Strategic Culture Foundation,  26th June, 2013  http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2013/06/26/what-lies-behind-idea-eu-ukraine-association-agreement.html

[6] For, Matthew Brzezinski on Timoshenko, see for example: “City reaps benefits of native sons. Dnepropetrovsk is home to 220 national politicians. That is too cozy — and too influential — a relationship to suit many Ukrainians.” Wall Street Journal, 28th February, 1997

Christine Stone is a UK-based lawyer and journalist. She was Director of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group. She is the author most recently (with RPI Academic Advisor Mark Almond) of Post-Communist Georgia: A Short History.

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment