It's the US, Not Russia that's Pushed Ukraine to the Brink of War
May 5, 2014
Seumas Milne / The Guardian & RT News
The reality is that, after two decades of eastward NATO expansion, this crisis was triggered by the West's attempt to pull Ukraine into its orbit and defense structure. "America is with you," Senator John McCain told demonstrators in Kiev, standing shoulder to shoulder with the head of the far-right Svoboda party as the US ambassador and the State Department haggled over who would run the new Ukrainian government. The attempt to coop Kiev by ousting an elected leader made conflict certain.
It's Not Russia that's Pushed Ukraine
To the Brink of War
Seumas Milne / The Guardian
(April 30, 2014) -- The threat of war in Ukraine is growing. As the unelected government in Kiev declares itself unable to control the rebellion in the country's east, John Kerry brands Russia a rogue state. The US and the European Union step up sanctions against the Kremlin, accusing it of destabilising Ukraine. The White House is reported to be set on a new cold war policy with the aim of turning Russia into a "pariah state".
That might be more explicable if what is going on in eastern Ukraine now were not the mirror image of what took place in Kiev a couple of months ago. Then, it was armed protesters in Maidan Square seizing government buildings and demanding a change of government and constitution. US and European leaders championed the "masked militants" and denounced the elected government for its crackdown, just as they now back the unelected government's use of force against rebels occupying police stations and town halls in cities such as Slavyansk and Donetsk.
"America is with you," SeNATOr John McCain told demonstrators then, standing shoulder to shoulder with the leader of the far-right Svoboda party as the US ambassador haggled with the state department over who would make up the new Ukrainian government.
When the Ukrainian president was replaced by a US-selected administration, in an entirely unconstitutional takeover, politicians such as William Hague brazenly misled parliament about the legality of what had taken place: the imposition of a pro-western government on Russia's most neuralgic and politically divided neighbour.
Putin bit back, taking a leaf out of the US street-protest playbook -- even though, as in Kiev, the protests that spread from Crimea to eastern Ukraine evidently have mass support. But what had been a glorious cry for freedom in Kiev became infiltration and insatiable aggression in Sevastopol and Luhansk.
After Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to join Russia, the bulk of the Western media abandoned any hint of even-handed coverage. So Putin is now routinely compared to Hitler, while the role of the fascistic right on the streets and in the new Ukrainian regime has been airbrushed out of most reporting as Putinist propaganda.
So you don't hear much about the Ukrainian government's veneration of wartime Nazi collaborators and pogromists, or the arson attacks on the homes and offices of elected communist leaders, or the integration of the extreme Right Sector into the national guard, while the anti-semitism and white supremacism of the government's ultra-nationalists is assiduously played down, and false identifications of Russian special forces are relayed as fact.
The reality is that, after two decades of eastward NATO expansion, this crisis was triggered by the west's attempt to pull Ukraine decisively into its orbit and defence structure, via an explicitly anti-Moscow EU association agreement. Its rejection led to the Maidan protests and the installation of an anti-Russian administration -- rejected by half the country -- that went on to sign the EU and International Monetary Fund agreements regardless.
No Russian government could have acquiesced in such a threat from territory that was at the heart of both Russia and the Soviet Union. Putin's absorption of Crimea and support for the rebellion in eastern Ukraine is clearly defensive, and the red line now drawn: the east of Ukraine, at least, is not going to be swallowed up by NATO or the EU.
But the dangers are also multiplying. Ukraine has shown itself to be barely a functioning state: the former government was unable to clear Maidan, and the western-backed regime is "helpless" against the protests in the Soviet-nostalgic industrial east.
For all the talk about the paramilitary "green men" (who turn out to be overwhelmingly Ukrainian), the rebellion also has strong social and democratic demands: who would argue against a referendum on autonomy and elected governors?
Meanwhile, the US and its European allies impose sanctions and dictate terms to Russia and its proteges in Kiev, encouraging the military crackdown on protesters after visits from Joe Biden and the CIA director, John Brennan. But by what right is the US involved at all, incorporating under its strategic umbrella a state that has never been a member of NATO, and whose last elected government came to power on a platform of explicit neutrality?
It has none, of course -- which is why the Ukraine crisis is seen in such a different light across most of the world. There may be few global takers for Putin's oligarchic conservatism and nationalism, but Russia's counterweight to US imperial expansion is welcomed, from China to Brazil.
In fact, one outcome of the crisis is likely to be a closer alliance between China and Russia, as the US continues its anti-Chinese "pivot" to Asia. And despite growing violence, the cost in lives of Russia's arms-length involvement in Ukraine has so far been minimal compared with any significant western intervention you care to think of for decades.
The risk of civil war is nevertheless growing, and with it the chances of outside powers being drawn into the conflict. Barack Obama has already sent token forces to Eastern Europe and is under pressure, both from Republicans and NATO hawks such as Poland, to send many more. Both US and British troops are due to take part in NATO military exercises in Ukraine this summer.
The US and EU have already overplayed their hand in Ukraine. Neither Russia nor the western powers may want to intervene directly, and the Ukrainian prime minister's conjuring up of a third world war presumably isn't authorised by his Washington sponsors.
But a century after 1914, the risk of unintended consequences should be obvious enough -- as the threat of a return of big-power conflict grows. Pressure for a negotiated end to the crisis is essential.
Putin: Washington behind Ukraine Events
All Along, though Flying Low
(April 30, 2014) -- The US has been behind the Ukrainian crisis from the beginning, but was initially flying low, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said. He added that if sanctions continue, Russia will have to reconsider who has access to key sectors of its economy.
"I think what is happening now shows us who really was mastering the process from the beginning. But in the beginning, the United States preferred to remain in the shadow," Putin said, as quoted by RIA Novosti. Putin stated that since the US has taken a lead role in resolving the political crisis in Ukraine, it is "telling that they originally were behind this process, but now they just have emerged as leaders" of it.
The "Maidan cookies" policy paves the way to a broader crisis, Putin warned, referring to US officials showing up in central Kiev and encouraging protesters during demonstrations. "It is necessary to understand that the situation is serious and try to find serious approaches to the solution," he said.
Putin said that he has called on Kiev to start an all-Ukrainian dialogue, adding that other countries should not be blamed for the crisis. "[They should] treat equally the rights of those living in other areas of Ukraine, first of all, I mean, the east and southeast, establish a dialogue, find a compromise," he told journalists while speaking about the measures necessary to put an end to the crisis. "Here's what you need to do; searching for the guilty outside Ukraine is wrong."
Russia may reconsider foreign access to energy sector
Regarding the last row of sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and the EU, Vladimir Putin said he sees no need for counter sanctions. "We would very much wish not to resort to any measures in response," he told reporters. "But if something like that continues, we will of course have to think about who is working in the key sectors of the Russian economy, including the energy sector, and how."
Certain US companies have close business ties to Russia, including Exxon Mobil and Chevron Corp. For example, Exxon Mobil's net acreage holdings in Sakhalin, Russia were about 85,000 acres at the end of 2013, while its net acreage in the Rosneft joint venture for the Kara and Black Seas was 11.3 million acres. Chevron Corp has a 15 percent stake in the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, which transports crude oil from Kazakhstan through Russia to the Black Sea.
On Monday, the US implemented its latest round of sanctions against Russia, targeting business leaders and companies with ties to Putin. "Regarding the second package, it's not clear at all what this is linked to, because there is no cause and effect link with what is happening now in Ukraine and Russia," Putin said.
At the same time, the US and EU sanctions will not harm the Eurasian integration process, which is meant to lead to the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union, based on a Customs Union and common economic space among Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus, he said.
Putin also commented on observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) being detained in eastern Ukraine, stating that he is confident that the situation will be resolved, but stressing that all parties involved must draw conclusions.
"All the participants in this process will have to draw conclusions from this, from this situation. And from now on avoid such mistakes," he said.
Putin noted that he understands the concerns of European partners and added that Ukrainian authorities should have discussed and received approval for the visit from local authorities in eastern Ukraine in order to avoid such a situation.
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