Europe Awaits a Bitter Winter’s Tale
Finian CUNNINGHAM | 06.10.2014 | OPINION

Europe Awaits a Bitter Winter’s Tale

Napoleon learnt it in 1812, and Hitler likewise in 1941. Will the European Union oligarchy learn the same harsh lesson in 2014? The lesson being that belligerence toward the Russian bear comes with a devastating price, especially when the belligerents appear to be marching ever-so blindly ahead of sound reason and judgment. 

Last week the EU leadership in Brussels decided against lifting trade sanctions it had previously imposed on Russia. The sanctions were imposed after Crimea’s referendum in March this year led to the reunification of the Ukrainian southern peninsula with Russia.

Like Washington, Brussels has accused Russia of aggression in Ukraine and of annexing Crimea, ignoring the fact that the people there cast an overwhelming majority vote for accession to the Russian Federation, in protest at the fascist junta that the EU and Washington had levered into power through an illegal coup in Kiev the previous month.

Last week the Brussels bureaucratic elite justified their decision to keep sanctions in place because it said that Russia was not doing enough to implement a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine. Earlier in the week, German chancellor Angela Merkele reportedly said that «there was no way of lifting sanctions» due to the continued sporadic fighting between Kiev’s military forces and ethnic Russian self-defence militia.

Brussels and Washington, and their military alliance NATO, accuse Russia of subverting eastern Ukraine by covertly supplying weapons and soldiers. NATO commanders alleged that they had irrefutable proof that there were thousands of Russian military personnel infiltrated inside Ukraine, helping the rebels in the Donetsk and Luhansk self-declared republics in their fight against Kiev’s forces. 

Moscow has repeatedly denied that it is sending munitions or troops into Ukraine. Demands for NATO to present its «irrefutable proof» have not been reciprocated with verifiable evidence. 

Again, the EU is making judgements based on the most flimsy and negative prejudices, namely that conflict and chaos in Ukraine must be due to Russian malfeasance. There can be no other explanation, according to Brussels. So, like the Crimea referendum, the people of Donetsk and Luhansk cannot possibly be defying the illegal coup regime in Kiev; the people must be falling prey to Moscow’s mischievous manipulation, so the EU reasoning goes. 

Against this tenuous logic is the fact that the recent ceasefire in eastern Ukraine was brokered largely under the personal aegis of Russian Vladimir Putin, who proposed a seven-point peace plan to the Contact Group in Minsk on September 5. 

More than 3,200 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since the Kiev regime launched its «anti-terror operation» in April against the dissident population. That crackdown has had the tacit backing of Washington and Brussels. 

That the proposed ceasefire remains a shaky truce is not because of Russia’s ongoing covert interference or due primarily to breaches by the Donetsk or Luhansk anti-Kiev militia. The ceasefire is under threat from continued military offensive by the Western-backed Kiev forces. 

The city of Donetsk has come under constant shelling from the Kiev regime’s forces since September 5 and in spite of an agreement by the Contact Group in Minsk to implement a 30-kilometre «buffer zone» on September 20. The buffer zone was meant to withdraw artillery from the conflict lines. However, Donetsk city has incurred countless barrages from Kiev’s forces besieging the city.

The latest violations include the shelling of a school this week and a bus-stop in the city centre, which resulted in at least 11 fatalities. In a separate attack, an aid worker was killed when a shell hit the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross. On the same day, Thursday, an apartment block was hit with artillery fire in the east of the city. 

Previously, on September 28, the city’s Kuibyshevsky district was shelled. And on September 24, another apartment block was struck with artillery, resulting in two dead. The Associated Press reported, somewhat ambiguously, that the attack was due to residents being «caught in cross-fire». 

But the inescapable and damning fact is that the Western-backed Kiev regime should not be firing at civilian areas, and especially under a ceasefire which specifies a buffer zone of 30 km. The retaking of Donetsk airport by the self-defence militia last weekend should put an end to the shelling of the city because most of the firing over the past month was emanating from that location. 

The Kiev President Petro Poroshenko declares that forces supposedly under his control are adhering to the ceasefire in contravention of the facts. While his Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was inspecting new forces that are being assigned to the east of Ukraine for further combat operations. These forces were reportedly fitted out with new Armoured Personnel Carriers and winter combat clothing, as Yatsenyuk bade them farewell at a Kiev base.

Yet, in light of all this, the EU makes the irrational judgment that Russia should be punished for breaches of the ceasefire. 

Vladimir Putin described the EU sanctions as «utter folly». Speaking to various Russian businessmen in Moscow, Putin said: «It is utter foolishness from those governments who are limiting their business, preventing it working, reducing its competitiveness, freeing up niches for competitors on as promising a market as Russia».

Utter folly indeed. European sanctions have been met with counter-sanctions from Russia, which have in turn banned a wide range of agricultural produce. Already, Brussels is having to find hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of compensation for fruit, vegetable, meat and dairy farmers who have been locked out of Russia’s import market, valued at nearly $16 billion in 2013.

Europe’s budget deficit crisis is going to scream as winter proceeds, with crops left rotting in fields and some 10 million farmers marooned without income. Already, French farmers have dumped cargos of idle produce on to the streets and have even torched government building in Brittany in protest at the Russian sanctions threatening their livelihoods. 

Russia is reportedly sourcing agricultural imports from alternative markets in South America and Asia. As Putin intimated, the EU bureaucracy will be the loser, and even more so when its farmers in cold mid-winter fully digest the idiocy of its decision-making. 

Then there is the vital issue of natural gas supplies. EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger has made the crassly naive comment that Russia should not «politicise gas supplies». So, let’s get this straight Herr Oettinger, it’s perfectly acceptable for the EU so slap on unwarranted financial and industrial sanctions on Russia, but it is, in your view, completely unacceptable for Russia to cut off gas supplies to Europe? 

To be fair to Russia, it has not threatened to carry out such a measure, owing to the fact that millions of households across Europe will freeze without the supply of Russian gas for heating and cooking. 

But what if Russia is forced into such a drastic move. Last week, state-owned Gazprom concluded an investigation which found that EU member states Poland, Slovakia and Hungary were subverting Russian policy of suspending gas supplies to Ukraine. Moscow was obliged to halt supplies earlier this summer to Ukraine because the Kiev regime refuses to pay up on its gas bill of over $5.3 billion. 

Now it turns out that EU states are pirating Russian gas by selling it back to Ukraine. In that case, Russia has every right to retaliate by cutting off gas exports to certain EU states. Given that the EU is dependent on Russia for 50 per cent of its fuel consumption that crunch will lead to massive social disruption and anger. 

The worst bit is that all of this confrontation, human suffering and financial mayhem is unnecessary. It is the EU leadership that has politicised and poisoned relations with Russia, based on ideological prejudices and woeful misinformation. 

Washington and its fascist Kiev ideologues may be gloating at the deepening crisis, but what about the 500 million ordinary EU citizens, who will suffer this winter because of idiotic decision-making? 

European citizens are already deeply disillusioned with Brussels and its out — of-control supranational bureaucracy. Record unemployment and relentless economic austerity policies, while a tiny financial oligarchy grows ever-richer, are factors for why anti-EU political parties and separatism are on the rise right across the continent. 

The EU debacle of antagonising Russia over spurious, irrelevant concerns is setting the scene for a winter of discontent and massive revolt. 

Like past imperial Svengali figures who tangled with the Russian bear, the Brussels elite will likewise find themselves fatally overstretched and in cataclysmic retreat when winter sets in.

Tags: European Union  Ukraine  US 

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