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Sunday, March 26, 2023

A Western coup in Ukraine sets the stage for regional conflagration

yaukovichBy Ardain Isma

CSMS Magazine

Snipers hunkered on rooftops and balconies, taking aim at protesters stationed down in the maidan or the public square and struck to kill. Extremists barricaded themselves behind makeshift trenches while shooting at police. A hotel lobby was soon transformed into an improvised hospital to treat the wounded on both sides. Tensions flared, and the center of Kiev sharply turned into a no-man’s land. When it was over, 77 people were confirmed dead, including 25 police officers. At the height of this political fever, European diplomats, who have long threatened to unleash mob rules to force Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich to comply with Western demands, sat at a corner with Vitali Klitschko, leader of the opposition, and the besieged president and pressured him to effectively relinquish power through an agreement with his foes.

Soon after the signing of the agreement, Yanukovich was reportedly fled to his popular base in the East. The deal has effectively stripped the president of his legitimate power, for it restored the 2004 US-backed constitution of the Orange revolution, it awarded the Primacy to the head of the opposition and it guaranteed the release of jailed billionaire oligarch and former Prime Minister Yulya Timoshenko who was convicted and imprisoned for embezzlement in connection with natural gas deals with Russia. Yanukovich knew he could not assume to be the commander-in-chief after relinquishing so much power. The conventional wisdom dictated that he flee, which he did at the crack of dawn, leaving behind his multimillion dollar mansion.           

The police have melted away. Timoshenko has been freed and now we have learned that Oleksandr Churchynov, speaker of Parliament, was voted interim president with presidential election to be held in May. According to CBC News, the decision by the Parliament to dismiss Yanukovich was done without many delegates from the East, who have left Kiev and gone to the eastern city of Kharkov to decide on the future of their region. A communiqué released from eastern Ukraine condemned the chaos in Kiev and declared their region to be independent of any authority that would emerge from what they call “a coup against the legitimate president.” Ukraine is now a fractured country and, because of this, a conflagration is not under statement.  

A dangerous precedence               

yulyaAt the surface, one would think we’re witnessing a genuine political upheaval led by a progressive force bent on restoring the country’s economy for the benefit of all. That is the farce behind the real political aim. The aim here is to carve Ukraine into western sphere of political and economic influences and thereby render evermore vulnerable Russia’s geostrategic deterrence. Alexander Kerrassov, former advisor for Russian Security Council, summed the danger of a dysfunctional Ukraine on these terms: “If we’re looking for a scenario with the recipe for World War III, Ukraine can certainly provide it.” A chaotic Ukraine, that is. He went on to criticize western politicians with revanchist attitudes who can’t seem to even tolerate a prosperous non-Marxist Russia.

Kerrassov’s concern is one that has been echoed by many watchers, for Ukraine, which lies at the gateway between Western Europe and historic Russian-controlled Eurasia, could be the catalyst behind a war that may disfigure or simply change the face of the earth as we know it. In imperial politics, sphere of dominance reigns, and sometimes ambitions go above and beyond strategic reasoning. This logic played well into triggering both World War I and World War II—two wars in which Russia paid a heavy price.

Ukraine, a country of about 45 million people and roughly the size of France, is historically tied to Russia—both culturally and linguistically. Kiev, its capital, was the birthplace of the Russian nation. The eastern-half of the country is Russian-speaking and it represents the agricultural and industrial heartland of the country. The southwestern city of Sevastopol on the Black Sea is effectively a Russian city that houses the Russia’s Black Sea fleet. Imagine a pro-western Ukrainian government agreeing to not only to join the EU, but also wanting to join NATO? Russia would never agree to that, just as it continues to oppose the deployment US missile shield in Poland (See also CSMS Magazine on US plan to deploy missile shield)

In the southeast, the parliamentary speaker of the Crimean peninsula, which was tacked onto the then-Ukrainian Soviet Republic in 1954 and is inhabited mainly by Russians, has threatened secession from Ukraine. Speaker Volodymyr Konstantinov said secession “is possible, if the country breaks apart.” He added, “And everything is moving towards that.”

This also raises the possibility of Russian military intervention in Ukraine. The Financial Times of London cited a senior Russian official who said, “If Ukraine breaks apart, it will trigger a war. They will lose Crimea, we will go in and protect it, just as we did in Georgia”—referring to Russia’s 2008 war in Georgia after the US-backed Georgian regime attacked Russian peacekeepers in the separatist region of South Ossetia. (Also see CSMS Magazine’s Russia’s victory in Georgia ).

Another Russian official told the Financial Times, “We will not allow Europe and the US to take Ukraine from us. The states of the former Soviet Union, we are one family. They think Russia is still as weak as in the early 1990s, but we are not.”

Noam Chomsky, distinguished scholar and well-known author on East-West politics who wrote “Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance,” inferred that the great game in Eurasia has moved to Ukraine, and any escalation could prove fatal for generations to come.                

It is true a majority of Ukrainians live a precarious life. It is true Yanukovich, the country’s president, is in no way representing the aspiration of a people in need. It is also true the disintegration of the Soviet Union has brought nothing but economic stagnation for millions of people in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, except for the nouveaux riches made up of oligarchs and other dubious profiteers which constitute a thin layer of society.

In Ukraine, just like in Russia and other former Soviet Republics, the disparity between the haves and the have-nots is profoundly huge. It was the first lesson the masses learned from a bourgeois democracy after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Social safety nets are quasi non-existent, poverty is rampant, and prostitution is on the rise.   

Does the EU have the solution?

protestaIn November of last year, Yanukovych cancelled the signing of an association agreement with the European Union (EU) at the last minute and instead moved closer to Russia. Since then, The EU member states with Germany in the lead have systematically sought to destabilize and divide Ukraine, even if it means to throw their support for fascist elements. The western media appear to overlook that fact. The New York Times euphemistically refers to the Right Sector as a “hardline nationalist” group. In fact, it is a pro-Nazi group that criticizes Svoboda—itself a fascist party that celebrates Ukrainians who joined Nazi SS units that carried out mass killings of Jews in the western Ukrainian region of Galicia during World War II—as too “moderate.”

It is not just the traditional press, western ideologues have come to play their partition. Taras Kuzio, a former Canadian Institute Research Associate from the University of Alberta, seems to agree that only the “West [has] the ability to bell-out Ukraine.” His position is no different from many western-minded ideologues. Joerg Fobric, a German expert who works for a policy think-thank based in Berlin could not be blunter. “Russia can ill afford a bell-out program for Ukraine,” he stated on CCTV (China’s Central Television). He went on to say that the 15 billion dollar aid package promised by Russia was only meant to forestall the opposition advance and to buy time until the next election cycle set for the spring of next year. In saying so, Fobric has implicitly acknowledged the western aim, which was not to help the Ukrainian people out of their financial quagmire, but rather to push further their plan at securing regime change.  

It’s hard to imagine the EU can—right at this moment—provide the financial recipe necessary that Ukraine needs when it hasn’t been too long France, Italy, Spain, and of course Greece were said to be on the verge of financial collapse. What the EU offered to Ukraine was an IMF loan package which would have required countless austerity measures that Yanukovich knew his country could not afford. Very unpopular himself, the Ukrainian president was unable to galvanize his own support, even as the eastern half of the country never participated in the plot to remove him.   

Yanukovych, his back against the wall swinging, signed away his right to govern after protracted negotiations that went on throughout Thursday night and into Friday, even as bloody battles raged on the streets of Kiev. The foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland, having arrived in Kiev on Thursday, worked closely with the opposition leaders—Vitali Klitschko of the Udar Party, Arseniy Yatsenyuk of Tymoshenko’s Fatherland Party, and Oleh Tyahnybok of the fascistic Svoboda party.

Also signers as guarantors of the agreement were Foreign Ministers Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, Laurent Fabius of France, and Radoslaw Sikorski of Poland. However, Russian negotiator Vladimir Lukin, who was originally supposed to sign, declined to do so.

As Alex Latier and Peter Walsh who reported for the World Socialist website state, “before the agreement was signed, the German and Polish foreign ministers travelled to the Maidan (Independence Square)—the centre of opposition protests, where tens of thousands of mostly middle-class protesters had gathered—in order to obtain the protesters’ consent. They met in a hotel with 30 members of the Maidan Council, which represent the protesters.”

It appears that even the right-wing opposition leaders were straining to control the far-right thugs unleashed on Ukraine by the western powers. As RT reported, when Klitschko tried to speak to promote the deal with Yanukovych, he was shouted down by the protesters, who called out, “Shame!”

According to RT, a Russian cable News Network, Oleh Tyahnybok, whose Svoboda party openly espouses anti-Semitic and racist views, was received at the German Embassy and presented along with Foreign Minister Steinmeier for a photo opportunity.

Washington, while not formally a party to the negotiations, applauded the outcome in Kiev. The White House issued a statement declaring that the Obama administration “welcomes” the agreement, calling it “consistent with what we have advocated.”

These statements underscore the utterly reactionary and reckless policy of the western powers, which have worked with fascist groups to drive Ukraine and the entire region to the brink of war.

So, like in 2004 during the orange revolution, the bluff has worked, for now. The next few days will prove crucial, as the world waits to see which way the Ukrainian conflict will take us.

Dr. Ardain Isma is essayist and novelist. He teaches Cross-Cultural Studies at UNF (University of North Florida). He can be reached at publisher@csmsmagazine.org

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