Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

March 11, 2014

Lion and the Lamb: The crisis in the Ukraine

CROSSVILLE — Once again our nation is trying to decide how to respond to another political crisis in the Middle East—an area that has produced a continuing series of "threats" to us and our empire, such as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Iran, and Syria. This new crisis, however, takes us into a slightly different part of the world—the Ukraine. Its territory has had over a thousand years of tumultuous history, including being ruled by Russia since the 18th century, but a brief look at its most recent years will help provide some additional understanding of the current crisis.

In 1954, on the 300th anniversary of Ukraine's merger with tsarist Russia, Nikita Khrushchev gave the Crimean peninsula as a gift to the Ukraine as a gesture of goodwill. Russia, however, was able to keep its Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol which it continued to operate under a long-term lease from the Ukraine.

In 1991, the breakup of the Soviet Union left 25 million Russians residing in 14 newly independent states, one of which was the Ukraine. This turned out to be a popular development with more than 90 percent of Ukrainians voting to declare independence. This new state, however, had a built-in division that was eventually to cause problems. A majority (59 percent) of those living in eastern Ukraine and the Crimea were ethnic Russians speaking the Russian language, but those in the western more European-oriented part of Ukraine spoke Ukrainian. In 2012 a law was passed giving the Russian language official status in regions where Russians comprised more than 10 percent of the population. At the end of this past February, however, the Ukrainian parliament in an anti-Russian maneuver, overturned the language law, a serious violation of ethnic minority rights.

The growing crisis in the Ukraine has been noted in varying degrees by our American news reporting. One important factor, however, has generally been omitted from their reports: the significant role that the U.S. has been playing in the Ukraine. For a number of years the U.S. has, through the National Endowment for Democracy, U.S. AID, and other governmental and quasi-government bodies, been funneling money to anti-government groups in the Ukraine.

In 2004 a U.S.-financed "Orange Revolution" sought to introduce European Union membership for Ukraine that would have included putting the cash-strapped state in an International Monetary Fund financial straitjacket, opening it up to looting by Western bankers and corporations, and positioning NATO missile bases close to Russia's borders, but the effort failed.

More recently, neocon efforts have included helping anti-government groups to fund and organize the mobs that sought to oust the elected government of Ukraine in a coup attempt in January. The National Endowment for Democracy has invested more than $5 billion in 65 projects inside the Ukraine for these kinds of purposes. When the coup efforts began developing, the authorities in Crimea sent an urgent request to Putin to send Russian troops there for protection, a move that was denounced by the U.S. State Department.

A leaked tape of the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland and the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt discussing how to staff the new government of Ukraine after the anticipated collapse of the elected government reveals how deeply the U.S. had been involved in the undermining of the government of Ukraine. (Destabilizing governments in the name of promoting democracy has been a longtime project of the neoconservatives in the State Department.)  In Ukraine's case, it means moving that state into the West's orbit and away from Russia's. Victoria Nuland herself comes from a prestigious neocon family: she is the wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan and the sister-in-law of the Gates-Petraeus adviser Frederick Kagan.

The crisis in Ukraine, at this point, keeps bubbling along. The anti-government groups, many of which have right wing, neo-Nazi orientations, control the streets of Kiev, Ukraine's capital, but do not control the government. If they succeed in doing so, it is feared that they will begin to pass laws that strip away the rights of people to practice their culture and use their language. The forces patrolling the streets of Kiev also include several hundred Americans who are members of the Blackwater private army (renamed Academi).

The parliament of Crimea has voted recently to join the Russian Federation rather than remain an autonomous republic within the Ukraine—a vote to be confirmed by a Crimea-wide poll on March 16. Responding to this, Russia's parliamentary leaders on March 7 welcomed a delegation from Crimea's parliament and declared that they would support such a vote. This action, however, has been strongly opposed by the Ukraine and U.S. leaders, stating that a vote for secession would violate Ukraine's Constitution and international law. President Obama has also announced sanctions in response to what he has called Russia's de facto military occupation.

The U.S. has been playing a very dangerous neoconservative game of encircling and threatening the Russian Federation. We'll see what develops further during this month.

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