Much of Washington and the corporate media are outdoing one another with their saber rattling over the crisis in the Ukraine. Columnists and U.S. senators alike have called upon the Obama administration to come up with billions of dollars to bolster an unelected government in Kiev that is led by various stripes of ultra rightists, including fascists. Not surprising, but Fox News commentators have even called for the dispatch of a U.S. naval armada into the Black Sea.
Although President Obama has thankfully shown no inclination to carry out any such armed intervention, the administration has found common cause with neo-conservatives and Cold War warriors on this crisis, and, moreover with its unnecessary belligerent stance towards Russia. Threats to the Russians about the "price" they will pay for an "invasion" only serve to heighten tensions in an already extremely dangerous situation.
First some facts:
- Russia has not invaded the Ukraine. Russian troops in Crimea have been there for many years by treaty agreement to guard a nuclear-armed military base and other installations. There is an information battle in the Russian, Ukrainian and Western media, including on the interpretations of the treaty.
- There are millions of Russian-speaking people in the Ukraine - half the population - who have legitimate concerns about their rights and what could happen if Russia's nuclear naval base falls into the hands of Ukrainian ultra nationalists.
Secretary of State John Kerry's pronouncements about how wrong it is to invade a sovereign country on "phony" pretexts ring hollow on many counts, including the United States' own inclination to invade and/or bomb countries on pretexts that turned out to be phony and destabilizing. (Invasions and bombings in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya; drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia; regime change in Honduras and attempts in Venezuela, just to name a few places.)
The Obama administration and the European Union actively supported protestors, many armed with AK47s and Molotov cocktails, to overthrow an elected government after its president, Viktor Yanukovych, backed out of a deal with the EU. Righteous reasons like opposition to corruption may have motivated many of the protestors, but it is clear that the government was taken over by well-finance and armed groups, not by democratic-minded demonstrators.
To end the standoff in the square, Yanukovych and the opposition negotiated a deal that would have defused the crisis. It would have brought protestors into the government, amnesty for all involved and new elections in several months. Despite President Obama's assurances that the U.S. would hold everyone to the deal, not a word was said when it was broken by the coup-inclined opposition two days later.
The band of ultra nationalists and fascists now running things in Kiev ignored the deal, took over the government buildings, and immediately passed laws discriminating against the 50 percent of Russian-Ukrainians and legalizing the display of the swastika and other fascist symbols. Reacting to anti-Semitism, now rampant in Kiev and elsewhere, the chief rabbi of Kiev urged Jewish residents to leave the city for their own safety.
The scuttled agreement between the EU and Ukraine - the alleged reason why the protests started - would have forced the Ukraine to separate itself from Russia economically and institute a harsh austerity program - a program like the one that destroyed the Greek economy.
Ukraine receives its energy from Russia and conducts 60 percent of its trade with that country. Western attempts to tear it out of that relationship and make it subservient to the International Monetary Fund, NATO and the EU were in the interests - not of the Ukrainian people but of the corporate 1 percent. Yanukovich's rejection of the EU austerity deal while Russia offered a $15 billion aid package seems understandable.
The geo-political goals of U.S. imperialism remain the plundering of this resource rich region. Nearer term, the U.S. ruling class interests see capitalist Russia as hindering their ability to expand their dominance of the world markets. Since Napoleon oligarchs of one type or another have had that dream.
As Americans, our interests lie in a reduction of these dangerous tensions and a peaceful, democratic resolution. We all stand to benefit from cooperation between Ukraine and Russia and all the countries of that region, as well as U.S.-Russian cooperation.
Photo: A pro-Russian soldier stands by a billboard with a map on which is written "Autonomous Republic of Crimea." Local Crimean officials have said there will be a referendum in March to determine the status of Crimea.