Reflections on the Revolution in Ukraine Part III

It’s the Geopolitics stupid!

At a recent meeting held in Paris to discuss the future of Ukraine, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Secretary Sergey Lavrov, were unable to find sufficient common ground to come to any firm decisions regarding the future of the country. Kerry rejected the legality of the referendum in the Crimea and, for his part, Lavrov, was firm in his stance on the dubious legality of the present regime in Kiev.  It was always going to be tough for the two interlocutors to come to any productive outcomes in this diplomatic context.

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Additionally Lavrov insisted upon the virtual semi-detachment of Ukraine’s eastern oblasts which did not go down at all well in Kiev. The Russian plan was to essentially impose a political solution where Ukraine’s eastern and southern provinces have greater autonomy, the right to speak the Russian language and the ability to pursue much more independent policies from the central government. U.S. and Ukrainian officials say they worry such a formula could provide the Kremlin with a virtual veto over Kiev’s political system.

The plan was briefly outlined by Lavrov thus.

“We are certain that Ukraine needs profound constitutional reform. In all fairness, we can’t see any other way to ensure the stable development of Ukraine but to sign a federal agreement,” Mr. Lavrov said in an interview on Saturday (29/03/14) with Russian state media. “Some may know better and are, perhaps, capable of finding some magic spell to ensure living in a unitary state with people in the West, on the one hand, and the southeast, on the other.”

All of which illustrates the position of Ukraine as being on the geo-political fault-lines between the US and its EU allies and Russia. It seems that national sovereignty is now off the agenda for both sides as they jockey for position. It would now appear that the Ukraine which was, is no more, partition and separation are beginning to look inevitable. Had the Presidential elections in Ukraine taken place as they were scheduled, and which Yanukovich would probability have lost, the story might have been very different. Unfortunately, and as I said in my last bulletin, there were outside forces who had little patience with Presidential elections and were more interested in regime change.

Which brings me to one Ms Victoria Jane ‘f**k the EU’ Nuland (born 1961) the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the United States Department of State. She who along with US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt were strolling around among the crowds at the Maidan offering cookies, doughnuts,  as well as encouraging and comforting words. As I said at the time, this could have only taken place with clearance from the White House.

Why do I see fit to mention her and why is she of any importance? Well for one she was engaged in determining the personnel of the interim Ukrainian administration. In a bugged telephone conversation with Pyatt, Nuland argued that boxing champion Klitschko of the Udar (Punch in English) party was not to be included in any forthcoming administration but that the Deputy (and acting) leader of the Fatherland Party, Yatsenyuk (Tymoshenko’s party) should be included. Apart from this faux pas there was the admission elsewhere by Ms Nuland that the US has invested $5 Billion in The development of Ukrainian, ‘Democratic Institutions’.

But perhaps most importantly is the fact that Ms Nuland is the wife of one Robert Kagan. Mr Kagan is an American historian and is important in as much as he was one of the co-founders of The Project for the New American Century, (PNAC) an international relations think-tank based in Washington DC, established in 1997 together with arch US foreign policy hawks, Richard Perle and William Kristol. Their stated goal was to ‘promote American global leadership’. Their position that ‘American leadership was both good for America and good for the world’ and that this should be vigorously asserted as a main plank of US foreign policy. Kagan himself was to state that ‘the US is an empire and should be an empire.’ The position of these neo-conservatives, or neo-cons as they became known, was frankly comparable to jihadist ambitions to reshape the world to conform to Sharia law. The neo-cons wanted to shape the world to the American way, which is presumably good in the sight of God. If this took regime change, then so be it. Nothing should be allowed to stand in the way of the great crusade.

If these people had merely been some eccentric fringe group – of which there are many on the other side of the pond – it would not have much mattered. But it becomes clear that with its members in many key administrative positions in the department of State, that the PNAC has exerted influence on high level government official in the administration of both Bush and Obama. This fact notwithstanding its organization was much reduced by 2006. The worldview had by now become embedded in American strategic thinking. The Westphalian doctrine that no state shall attack another start unless the other state directly threatened its interests, was now considered passé, and regime change, as we have seen in Iraq, Libya and possibly Syria, is now regarded as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy. As Guardian columnist George Monbiot was to write, ‘’to pretend that this battle begins and ends in Iraq requires a wilful denial of the context in which it occurs. That context is a blunt attempt by a super-power to reshape the world to suit itself. (The Guardian 11 March 2003)

The collapse of communism in the Soviet Union in 1990/91 and the touted ending of the Cold War, saw the imposition of a virtual Treaty of Versailles on Russia, under the puppet dictator and buffoon, Boris Yeltsin. Russia, like Germany in 1919, was to be kept down, humiliated, and have its nose rubbed into its new status at every opportunity. Moreover, its economy was almost destroyed by the economic shock therapy imposed by the IMF/World Bank, under the tutelage of one Jeffrey Sachs. The various ex-Warsaw Pact states – Poland, Hungary, DDR, the Baltics, Czech Republic – were drawn into the EU and then NATO. NATO itself was expanded rather than wound down.

This was an interesting development since the EU’s foreign policy orientation underwent a profound change (its economic policies had already changed – for the worse). Initially the EU was supposed to be a third force standing between American capitalism, and Soviet communism. This at least is how De Gaulle saw it: Non-alinged with an independent foreign policy akin perhaps to Yugoslavia under Tito.  Additionally, the policy outlined by Jacques Delors was one of managed capitalism of the Germany sozialemarktwirtschaft variety and French etatisme seemed more attractive than the deregulated, financialised systems of the US and UK.

As things unfolded, however, the Delors’ model was discarded and a neo-liberal regime foisted upon Europe. The drive to the east meant that EU widening prevented the type of EU deepening that De Gaulle and Delors had had in mind. But now foreign policy was also to become Americanised. The UK, of course had always been incorrigibly Atlanticist, but it would have been safe to assume that continental powers – particularly France – would be less so. After denouncing the Iraq War – along with Russia and Germany – France now (under a socialist government!) is actually front-running US imperialism (let’s call it what it is) and taking the initiative in regime change operations in Libya, Mali and almost Syria.

Thus we now have a situation whereby the EU has effectively become the spearhead of US operations of subversion and regime change (in the name of enlargement) in driving east into Europe right up to the Russian frontier. In the case of Romania US missiles are already being installed, and the plan is for a broader deployment throughout Europe.

Europe apparently has a neo-con foreign policy to complement its neo-liberal economic policy.

‘’ … it is not only Great Britain that is Atlanticist. The continental European states are no less so, despite their seeming intention to construct a political Europe. Proof of this is given by the central position of NATO in this political construction. For some European countries (the ex-COMECON states) NATO’s protection, that is that of the US, against their ‘’Russian enemy’’ is more important that their adhesion to the European Union.’’ (The Implosion of Capitalism – Samir Amin – p.203)

And so the great game continues. One of the principal things to emerge from this has been the absolute spinelessness of European leaders and their willingness to do the US’s dirty work. One wonders whether this EU is any longer worth belonging to: the Ukrainian imbroglio has been a great game-changer in this respect.

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Frank Lee is a member of the Chartist editorial board and authors pieces on economics and global political economy. He also contributed the two preceding peices to this article.