by Alex Dunn
So, further rumblings from the old countries have reached the shores of the United States. A familiar sound, but this time originating from a different place – Ukraine.
The sound itself? Russian tanks, once again bulldozing their way into a peace-loving nation. To European ears, the rumble is louder and more disconcerting than it might be stateside.
Who is to blame? Well that is obvious, isn’t it? Putin, the power-crazed Russian President.
Putin, the former KGB man who changed the Russian constitution to lengthen the presidential term by a couple of years.
Putin, the man who wears an inscrutable expression during hilarious and incongruous photo opportunities (bare chested fishing anyone?).
Perhaps the thing which most concerns the US and Europe is that Putin seems immune to Western criticism, making him the perfect bogey man.
The US has reacted predictably following Russia’s intervention in Crimea and now Eastern Ukraine.
After a tumultuous decade in the former Soviet state beginning with the Orange Revolution, it looked like Ukraine might be taking some significant steps towards greater integration with Europe and a closer relationship with the US. All of that got ruined by the expansionist ambitions of Vladimir Putin, right?
Wait a minute, is that what really happened?
Ukraine president, Viktor Yanukovich had been democratically elected. He was overthrown by rebels who had no relationship with the ballot box. It is true that Yanukovich is widely blamed for being partly responsible for the economic stagnation which has mired Ukraine for years. When viewed alongside the footage of the tasteless excess of his abandoned estate in Mezhyhirya, it is difficult to feel much sympathy for someone who appeared to be feathering his own nest, whilst ordinary Ukrainians struggled. Indeed the pictures of ordinary citizens gazing upon the marble, flat screen TVs and odd sculptures were sobering. Whilst nowhere near the same scale, they were reminiscent of the images of Saddam’s former palaces. Such a link is something that the western media has been keen to establish.
Yanukovich fled to Russia. Well of course he did. He probably had Viktor Yushchenko in mind when he decided to cut his losses (the unfortunate Yushchenko suffered dioxin poisoning at the hands of agents unknown in 2004 during a presidential campaign).
With Yanukovich licking his wounds, a US-friendly administration was installed in Kiev, led by “Interim President” Oleksandr Turchynov, who wasted no time in enthusiastically cracking down hard on protesters who had the audacity to oppose the overthrow of their government.
Now, that term “US-friendly” should raise a flag. The interim Prime Minister, Arsenly Yatsenyuk is said to have US support and the State Department was certainly quick to recognize the regime installed by the coup.
Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland has quantified how much a US-friendly administration could cost. She has said publicly that the US has “invested” 5 billion soft power USD to “ensure a secure and prosperous and democratic Ukraine”. She privately deployed some distinctly undiplomatic language in summarising her feelings about the European response to events in Ukraine – “Fuck the EU”.
The role of neo Nazi militias in the interim regime is far from clear. Large sections of the media are simply not discussing an embarrassing side-effect of the coup. Again, we may draw parallels with Iraq. When one regime is toppled, the dream replacement may be poisoned by unexpected and undesirable elements.
Enter stage left, the Russians, alarmed by the possibility of Ukraine cosying up to US / Euro suitors.
The Western press, without any nod to irony, tells us that this is Russian expansionism and belligerent interference in another state.
The Russians counter that they are merely protecting the interests of the ethnic Russians in the region.
What sort of country simply invades another because of an ethnic interest…?
In UN language, Russia could be accused of actions “which constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of that State.”
Oh no wait, that was the UN General Assembly Resolution 38/7 which “deeply deplores the armed intervention in Grenada” by the US in 1983.
Putin could be forgiven for treating US accusations of interference with a great deal of disdain. The US wrote the manual on blundering and catastrophic interference. At least Putin has resisted carpet bombing Kiev. No Shockski and Aweski so far.
The Russians are concerned about the ethnic Russians, their Black Sea fleet (which is stationed in Crimea) and the geopolitical implications of another pro-western country on its borders.
What makes Russia’s reaction any more abhorrent than the misadventures of the “War on Terror”?
September 11th marks the anniversary of another instance of disastrous foreign meddling in the affairs of an independent state. No, not that September 11th.
As chronicled in Chile – The Other September 11: An Anthology of Reflections on the 1973 Coup, September 11th marks the date when when the democratically elected government of President Salvador Allende was overthrown in a coup which marked the beginning of a brutal period of oppression by the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.
The Nixon administration was concerned that communism was taking hold in South America and was hostile to Allende gaining power. The CIA tried to get rid of Allende and subsequently supported the military junta which did the job for them. It is said that Kissinger was disappointed that US involvement was not more widely credited with the ousting of Allende, who committed suicide in the presidential palace as it was bombed by the military. This is the same Kissinger who won the Nobel Peace prize in the same year as the coup.
As Obama (a fellow laureate) remarked just a few days ago, “To be fair, they give those to just about anybody these days.”
They certainly do.
What happened in Chile in 1973 is no less shameful now than it was then, so why do powerful nations continue to poke their noses into things that don’t concern them?
Ukraine must cut its own path, without having Russia, the EU or the US fighting over it.
The presidential elections have resulted in a mandate for the pro-Western Poroshenko, who promises to take a tough line on the separatists in the east of the country.
There are a lot of parties taking tough lines in Ukraine. The places where these boundaries cross will be marked with bloodshed.
As for Viktor Yanukovich, regardless of the other accusations, a look at the loot stashed at Mezhyhirya proves he is at least guilty of crimes against good taste.
Alex Dunn is a British ex-pat who currently lives in Luxembourg.