Speaking at the NATO headquarters in Brussels this week on the political turmoil in Ukraine, US Secretary of State John Kerry affected an air of neutrality and cautioned against “a bidding war” between the European Union and Russia.
Kerry said: “They [Ukrainians] ought to be able to decide who they want to affiliate with, without a bidding war either in personal terms or in national terms, but rather based on the benefits that are available to them and the life that comes with it and the rights and benefits that they would like to be able to reach out to.”
Shave off the cant rhetoric and we can note the implicit way Kerry sets himself up as a benevolent arbiter on the internal affairs of a sovereign country. In effect, in that statement Kerry is de-legitimizing the authority of the Kiev government, which took the sovereign decision recently not to go ahead with a proposed trade agreement with the European Union.
And despite Kerry’s caution against a bidding war over the Ukraine, that is exactly what the EU and the US have been waging, and waging aggressively for at least two decades – albeit in low-key fashion. This bidding war is not just aimed at enticing Ukraine into the EU fold, but at cleaving all the former Soviet republics from Russia’s sphere of influence. And it is not just about developing closer commercial ties; the bidding war is a full-on covert war to encircle and undermine Russia as a geopolitical power…
The US and EU are working hand-in-glove as military partners of the NATO alliance in this long-term adversarial geopolitical project – under the guise of nebulous values of democracy, rule of law, governance and who knows what else, maybe even the Eurovision Song Contest.
Despite his pretense at neutrality, the American top diplomat gave an unveiled signal of Washington’s hard position when he made a four-hour unscheduled stop over in Moldova this week. Kerry skipped a ministerial meeting in Ukraine (there’s a snub) to fit in his visit to the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, where he greeted officials on that country’s signing up last month to an EU partnership agreement. The signal could not be clearer: the US was demonstratively giving its imprimatur to the former Soviet republics who embrace Europe, and those that don’t will be given the cold shoulder.
Along with the other former Soviet republic of Georgia, Moldova signed for closer trade ties with the EU at the Eastern Partnership conference held in Vilnius, Lithuania, at the end of November. It was Ukraine’s decision to not join the EU pact on that occasion that has resulted in an escalation of street protests in Kiev. The protesters claim that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his government are denying them “a dream” to join the European Union. With suspicious mobility and organization, the protesters have taken to the streets with bulldozers and petrol bombs to block government buildings and disrupt normal civic functioning – thereby adding to Ukraine’s already economic woes.
The Ukraine is scheduled to have national elections in 2015, but the street protests seem to have gone well beyond expressing legitimate dissent over the EU pact rejection, and are posing to launch a coup against the elected government.
Unarguably, there is a public constituency in Ukraine that subscribes to the notion of an “EU dream” – one which would purportedly bring a panacea for grievances of economic hardship and alleged political cronyism. But there are also the undeniable signs of externally directed subversion and sedition, which is exploiting public discontent over these issues and in particular the Ukrainian government’s latest decision to back away from the EU partnership.
Public comments by John Kerry and the EU chief Herman Van Romquy casting the Ukrainian government’s rejection of the EU pact as somehow unwarranted while tacitly supporting the street demonstrations represent an inordinate insinuation in the internal affairs of a sovereign government. Yet, ironically, Western authorities are implicating Moscow as the party that is interfering.
There appears to be a concerted campaign involving Washington and its European allies, the Western mainstream media and various human rights groups to amplify the agenda of discontent, which plays into the hands of political parties within the Ukraine wanting to erase historic ties with Russia. The three main opposition parties leading the street protests are: the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform led by former world boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko; the Fatherland Party whose former leader Yulia Tymoshenko is imprisoned for corruption; and the neo-fascist Freedom Party. All three groups have links to Western governmental and private agencies, such as the US-based National Endowment for Democracy and the multi-billionaire capitalist, George Soros, whose combined agenda is one of engineering regime change in targeted countries to suit Western corporate and financier interests. These links in Ukraine go back to at least the so-called Orange Revolution some 10 years ago.
The significance of John Kerry’s visit this week to Moldova cannot be overstated. It was the first visit to that country by an American secretary of state in more than two decades. The previous visit was by then Secretary of State James Baker III in 1992, in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse the previous year.
US officials traveling with Kerry this week told reporters that the stop in Moldova was designed to “offer support and encouragement in the face of Russian threats and pressure”. Such rhetoric is contemptible. It is mischievously distorting the political problem – a sovereign government in Kiev making a judgment, which sections of its population disagree with – and seems aimed at provoking regional tensions between Moscow and its neighbors by painting Russia as a fiendish, retrograde influence.
In a not-so subtle way, Washington is pushing the narrative of the EU and the Western media that Russia is behaving unconscionably towards its neighboring countries to the West, alleging that Moscow is using a mixture of economic blackmail and threats to prevent them joining EU trade and political partnerships.
Moscow is endeavoring to form its own alternative trade bloc, called the Customs Union, with its neighbors. Armenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan have already joined this Russian initiative and Azerbaijan is understood to be about to sign up. Part of the Customs Union benefit to members would be lower costs for Russian gas and low-interest financial loans from Moscow. As Russia sees it, if neighboring countries opt for EU partnership, as Moldova and Georgia have done, then it is Moscow’s legitimate prerogative to withhold its proffered economic advantages.
Russia dropped the import of Moldovan wines in September on the grounds that the product failed quality standards. The move is being portrayed in the West as a reprisal to pre-empt Moldova’s embrace of the EU; there again, Moscow argues that it is has the right to decide from where it buys imports of wine as in all other products and goods.
Reuters reported Kerry’s visit to Moldova thus: “US officials said Washington was working with the EU to help the Moldovan wine industry find new markets and, to emphasize this, Kerry planned to sample wines at the historic Cricova winery on the outskirts of the capital, Chisinau.”
The fact that “Washington is working with the EU to help the Moldovan wine industry find new markets” alludes to the bigger geopolitical agenda. Why should Washington be involved in EU political business and Moldovan wine making, if it were simply a neutral observer, as it is trying to make out?
Alleged Russian interference in the internal affairs of its neighbors is contradicted with substantial evidence of actual interference by the EU and US. The continual soliciting of new members to the EU’s East has recruited several former Soviet-era states or semi-states, including Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Latvia, Slovakia and Slovenia. The latest Eastern European state to avail of full EU membership is Croatia, which joined in July.
But the fiscal and social crises that have become endemic to the EU clearly show that its relentless expansion based on “improving prosperity and governance” is hollow, if not fraudulent and reckless. The EU is more accurately described as an “austerity bloc”, bringing handsome benefits to corporations and banks at the expense of tens of millions of workers and their families. Unemployment across the current 28 member states has more than doubled over the past five years since the global economic recession began in 2008, to hit some 20 million. That’s just the official figure, which is notoriously underplayed. The actual unemployment rate may be double the officially cited 12 per cent.
This social misery and poverty is by no means restricted to peripheral EU member states, which might be blamed for not being able to adjust to “modern” standards. Massive unemployment and hardship are tearing the very social fabric apart even in the core countries of Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Spain.
It is therefore the height of irresponsibility for the EU ruling bureaucracy to continue soliciting new member countries to the bloc with unrealistic promises of prosperity and stability, when the reality is the converse. Of course, the promise of prosperity is only true in a narrow, perverse sense in that the free movement of capital is able to exploit new resources; for the vast majority of the EU’s combined 500 million people, expansion means that millions more are brought into the labour market to serve to drive down already abject wages – as well as drive up unemployment. EU expansion means expansion of poverty for the majority, and expansion of wealth for the corporate and banking elite.
In that regard, Russian President Vladimir Putin was correct to describe the EU partnership being offered to the Ukraine as a “suicide pact”. Given the present structural weaknesses of the Ukraine, the opening up to predatory European capital would indeed be disastrous. Unfortunately, many protesters in Kiev seem to be deluded about the alleged benefits of EU membership, and they seem to be pathetically oblivious to the social disaster awaiting to befall them as it did other Eastern European countries that have already joined the bloc.
Given the destabilizing, predatory role played by the EU towards Russia’s neighbouring counties – aided and abetted by Washington – and given the steady encirclement by the NATO military alliance around Russia’s borders, one has to understand the recent turmoil in the Ukraine as part of a bigger geopolitical picture. That picture is a long historical process of Western-dominated capitalism trying to expand and subjugate new markets, and in particular to bring the vast hinterland of Russia within its orbit.
We could trace this Western capitalist project all the way back to the reaction to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and its aftermath, including the Western-sponsored assault on the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany.
But suffice to say for now that what it is going on in the Ukraine presently is not what it may appear. It has much bigger historical antecedents than mere street protests and ostensible calls for “democracy” and “free markets”. It is no less than the capitalist assault on new Eastern territory.
The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.