Frank Lee reports on the Crimean Referendum, the double-standards of western government & media reactions and the challenges facing the unelected Kiev regime
The ongoing crisis in the Ukraine has reached another point of (perhaps unexpected) development. It was obvious to most impartial observers that the parliament of the Crimea had staked its position very early – namely, that they were unwilling to accept the authority of the unelected Kiev regime. The first calls for a referendum came as early as February and March 2014. This seemed to chime with what the majority of Crimea’s population, mostly ethnic Russians, also seemed to think, and so it turned out. The arrival of Russian troops would probably not have made any difference to the eventual outcome, but just to make sure Putin sent his special forces to protect his military assets in Sevastopol. Under a prior arrangement with the Ukraine Russia held a 25 year lease on the Sevastopol naval base, for which it also paid US$500 million per annum. Moreover the conditions of Russia’s leasehold also included the right to station up to 16,000.00 naval and military personnel in the Crimea.
Having said this, the results of the referendum – which did not come as any great surprise – was rather tarnished by the obvious presence of Russian soldiers at checkpoints, Simferopol airport, railway stations and other strategic locations. This caused the spokespersons for the western alliance – EUSA for short – to go into propaganda overdrive and drive its media sycophants into a state of near apoplexy. It was argued that the referendum was illegal since it violated the constitution of the Ukraine. However, whatever the legal position in the Crimea, the upholders of the Ukrainian constitution – the Kiev regime – were undoubtedly illegal, having come to power by mob violence, so that it was scarcely in a position to declare the Crimean referendum illegal. It has also been pointed out that the referendum in Kosovo resulted in a secession from the disintegrating state of Yugoslavia, took place in the presence of a foreign occupying force, as did the referendum in the Falklands.
What the whole Ukrainian imbroglio is clearly demonstrating is the barefaced hypocrisy and double standards of the western media – including the soi-disant doyen of the liberal-left, the Guardian. No lie it seems is big enough as long as it serves the noble cause of the western alliance. Whether these neo-con foreign policies and neo-liberal economic policies are ‘noble’ remains something of a moot point, however.
Ukrainian Domestic Politics
What next? The problems facing the Kiev regime are considerable. Firstly there is the ongoing embarrassment of the neo-fascist element now entrenched in the government, and its all too ubiquitous presence on the streets, where Svoboda and Sector 5 paramilitaries swagger around in Kiev as if they own the place, and in a certain sense they do. After all they spearheaded the revolution, notwithstanding the fact that they probably only represented a minority in the general protest movement. As has as already been made clear they now hold six ministerial portfolios some in extremely sensitive areas. How far does the regime control these ultra-radicals?
It is all very reminiscent of Germany in 1934, where the Nazi paramilitaries, the SA, under the command of Ernst Roehm were calling for a second revolution, which is exactly what Dmitry Yarosh, leader of Sector 5, is calling for. Moreover, he has called for nationalization of selected industries – classic fascist economic policy – in the Ukraine, and has gone on record that he will blow up the gas pipeline from Russia to western Europe if Russia invades the Ukraine. This coming from a minister in a ‘government’ duly recognised by the west.
Recent incidents have brought to light this acute PR problem, not only for the head of the Kiev regime, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, but also his western backers. One such incident is reported as follows:
“When state-owned Ukrainian TV broadcast celebrations of Russia’s annexation of Crimea on Moscow’s Red Square, a group of nationalist politicians cried betrayal. They burst into the office of the channel’s executive, accused him of being a Russian stooge, punched him and forced him to sign a resignation letter.
The assault, which prompted condemnation in the West, presents an important test for Ukraine’s new pro-Western government. … For Ihor Miroshnichenko, a lawmaker with the nationalist Svoboda party, those scenes of Russian domination were all too much.
And the broadcast of Russian celebrations seemed to add insult to injury.
To vent his rage, he led a group of Svoboda colleagues in storming the office of the First National channel’s chief, Oleksandr Panteleymonov, used an insulting term used to describe Russians and punched him repeatedly, while an aide recorded the scene on video.’’
According to de facto head of state Yatsenyuk,
‘These are not our methods’. A country which is going toward the European Union will continue to profess the basic principles and values of the European Community.’
“His position is complicated by the fact that Svoboda, a vocal force in parliament that took part in the protests that ousted the pro-Russian government, received several key posts in the Cabinet – including prosecutor general, the very figure who will be in charge of investigating the TV station attack.’’
(Maria Danilova, Associated Press Kiev)
But they were the methods by which, whether by design or default, Yatsenyuk and his regime came to power. This is the problem with revolutions, they open a Pandora’s Box of unforeseen and unwelcome outcomes. And this particular incident is just one among many.
Of course Hitler had a short method of dealing with the SA paramiltaries: their leadership was wiped out by the SS during the infamous ‘Night of the Long Knives’’ in June 1934 and the rank and file drafted into the army. Unfortunately for Yatsenyuk he doesn’t have an SS to do the requisite dirty work, even if he wanted to.
The Upcoming election in May for the Ukrainian Parliament provides another litmus test for the Kiev regime. Given the fact that there has been a de facto ban on both the Communist Party and The Party of the Regions, Yanukovich’s party, in the western Ukraine, and a process of ratification to make the ban legal which is now before the Parliament, how fair and free is this forthcoming election likely to be? It would also be a good bet that parties favouring separatism in the East – the Progressive Socialist Party of the Ukraine, for example – or openly separatist parties, will wish to contest the election. Noises coming from Kiev would seem to suggest that this will not be allowed. Thus whole swathes of the Ukrainian electorate will be effectively disenfranchised.
This last point brings up yet another problem: what will happen in the Eastern Oblasts. There have already been mass demonstrations in Kharkov and Donetsk for a Crimean style referendum, and this has led to a number of arrests including one Pavel Gubarov, a leading separatist from the Donetsk region and member of the Progressive Socialist Party of the Ukraine. He is now awaiting trial in Kiev. This fissure in Ukrainian politics is not likely to go away any time soon, and could lead to open conflict.
The Ukrainian Economy
Turning to the economics, the regime in Kiev has further deep-going problems to deal with; problems which look frankly intractable. Namely, the country is effectively bankrupt. It is now being bounced into a fast tracked membership of the EU by a non-elected government in the belief that EU membership is, for some obscure reason, thought to be the deus ex machina. In fact, EU membership could simply exacerbate the situation as has been the case in the peripheral regions of western Europe. We need to pose the question as to why, a predominantly, poor, agricultural country, with an industrial base which is basically technologically obsolescent, and which could not compete with the industries of western Europe, wishes to join and open its markets to the EU. This would be the right royal road to under-development, as local industries would simply disappear, or be subject to take-over by foreign multinationals. The Ukraine would join a long list of East European states which now form a low-wage, outsourcing hinterland for western multinationals.
Additonally, since Ukraine will be in need of considerable credits and loans, it can expect a man from the IMF to come knocking on the door and insisting that the country ‘reforms’ its economic and financial structures before Ukraine gets any cash. – for ‘reforms’ read the dreaded Structural Adjustment Programme: cuts in public expenditure, devalue the currency, privatise state assets, end subsidies, deregulate, open the economy to financial flows (‘hot money’) lower wage costs … the usual and devastating neo-liberal package which we have seen operationalised from Chile, to Thailand to Greece.
This destabilization process of Ukraine will not be easily reversed. If only the protest movement had waited until the democratic presidential elections in 2015, much of this might have been avoided. But outside forces wished to force the issue and had no time for such fuddy-duddy notions such as democratic elections. These geopolitical issues will be dealt with in the next bulletin.