by Rainer Rupp
Thu 10th Jul 2014
The USA wants to turn Ukraine into a permanent area of crisis, keeping it just off the boil of war. In this way Russia will feel threatened; Russo-phobic east European countries are happy to go along with Washington, while Berlin loses its influence in the area.
Albert Einstein is supposed to have said: ‘If I had only an hour to solve a problem, I’d devote 55 minutes trying to formulate the correct questions. Because once I’d managed to formulate the correct questions, I would be able to solve the problem in less than 5 minutes.’ With the crisis in the Ukraine most people will feel themselves in a similar position. However, formulating the right questions about the causes of instability in the country are made difficult by the ‘quality press’, which is selling NATO and US propaganda as fact. Thus, as an example, the so-called breaching of international law by Russia’s incorporation of the Crimea. But this only breaches the consitution of the Ukraine, not international law, because action was taken only after a democratic referendum.
Dimitri Peskov, spokesman for President Putin called western accusations a ‘market place of hypocrisy’; it was followed by mass killings in eastern ukraine. Western moralising apostles remained unmoved. Their easy acceptance of the use of tanks, helicopter gunships and war planes by the putschist government in Ukraine against peaceful assemblies of unarmed civilians says it all, just as their silence does about the mass killing in Odessa where neo-fascist friends of the west left behind scenes of the burned and badly beaten bodies of pro-Russian separatists.
But enough of these theatricalities! What can we discover behind the backdrop? What are the strategic interests pursued by the main characters in this conflict?
Ukraine is readily described in the West as a territory of world strategic significance. That is true not only from Russia’s point of view - certainly in terms of its defence strategy - but it is not in terms of any offensive plans of conquest which western war-mongers are accusing it of. According to the US private media organisation Stratfor, whose reporters maintain close contact with their colleagues in the secret services as well as with the foreign ministries of the USA and other NATO countries: ‘for a modern power that harboured no malicious intentions towards Russia, Ukraine has only minimal strategic value.’. For an enemy power, however, Ukraine represents a doorway to Russian territory and is thus a mortal threat.
‘So, if the Germans were not planning a new war against Russia - and they are certainly not - Ukraine has little significance for Europe or the Germans,’ Stratfor chief George Friedman continued in the analysis he gave on 11 Feb this year. But from an economic perspective, in terms of energy transportation, Ukraine is important for Russia and the rest of Europe, given that both are prepared to co-operate with each other. Furthermore, a stronger integration of Ukraine would only signify an economic and financial burden for both Russia and Europe.
… a Ukraine for Russia …
Following the 2004 ‘orange revolution’ which was instigated and financed by the USA, developments in Ukraine did not go according to Washington’s plans. The Kremlin, understandably, saw developments as a direct threat to its strategic and economic interests. That’s why it offered the bankrupt country preferential treatment and credits for Russian energy supplies, but it also threatened to cut off supplies if payments were not made. That left a strong impression on the anti-Russian government in Kiev under president Viktor Yutshenko (2005-2010) and Minister President Yulia Timoshenko (2005 and 2007-2010). These two, in the end, made a virtue out of economic necessity and found a modus vivendi with their large neighbour - under consideration of strategic interests. Russia was particularly concerned with preventing the stationing of NATO or US missiles in Ukraine, on its own doorstep.
To the annoyance of the USA, Moscow was at the time strongly supported in Berlin and Paris. This carried substantial influence on the Russophobic forces in Kiev. At the same time Germany and France resolutely blocked US plans to bring Ukraine into NATO. This went so far that in response to the raising of this issue at the NATO summit meeting in Bucharest in 2008 and 2009 in Strasbourg, they didn’t flinch from confrontation with the USA. Thereafter at the 2010 NATO summit in Lisbon a discussion of an eastern expansion of NATO to include Ukraine and Georgia was postponed indefinitely. This decision was undoubtedly taken also as a response to Russia’s resolute reaction to the brutal military intervention of aspiring NATO member, Georgia, in South Ossetia in the summer of 2008.
Finally, though, it was Ukraine’s disappointment with the minimal western aid provided during elections in 2010 which brought a relatively Russian-friendly government to power under president Yanukovich. And even the West accepted the election result. Nevertheless this new president was removed from office by a neo-fascist-led mob supported from the West. This anti-constitutional action was praised by Washington, Brussels and Berlin.
…for the USA…
The history of world-wide military intervention by the USA since the beginning of the 21st century represents a chain of expensive military and political defeats. The lesson of these: Washington can still destroy countries and decimate populations. Its hegemony, though, is incapable of bringing peace to these areas and of being able to impose its own political system. All this has contributed to a change in the attitudes of US citizens. Presently, almost a third reject any form of further military intervention abroad, including Ukraine. Less than a fifth would be in favour. Beating the drums of war, even for the upcoming elections would hardly be a vote-winning exercise.
Looking beyond the ongoing economic crisis in the USA, we can see that Washington is still prepared to pursue its interests militarily. According to past practice most subservient governments and leaders owe their very existence to US power. At the same time Washington is worried about the worldwide moving away from the dollar as a reserve currency. That’s the main pillar on which US hegemony rests. At the beginning of the crisis in 2007 around 60% of world currency reserves were held in dollars; today its is only a third.
Seen against this background Moscow has been able, both in the Near East and Europe, to play its cards well. Particularly in relation to Iran and Syria, Russia (and as a rule supported by China and the other BRIC states) has been able to frustrate US hegemonic plans. Thus the ‘agitator’ is seen by the self-styled ‘exceptional nation’ USA more than ever as the old enemy. In order to reinforce its position as hegemonic power, Washington needs to punish Russia and put it in its place. With this in mind, the opportunity to destabilise the Ukraine presented an opportunity and an ideal instrument. In addition it offers Washington the opportunity of expelling Russia from its strategically important base in the Crimea.
A direct military intervention by the USA in Ukraine and therewith a conflict with Moscow is improbable, but an irrational escalation of the conflict cannot be entirely excluded. According to Stratfor there appears to be a consensus at the moment in the USA and among the former republics to avoid the use of military force. Russia is no longer the world force it was and its military forces, in comparison with the USA, have many weaknesses, but it is still by far the strongest country in the region and is in a position to demonstrate its power in the other former Soviet Republics, as the war in Georgia demonstrated.
Even the US military in the meantime has weaknesses. More than a decade of military interventions in the Islamic world has not left it unscathed and it is not prepared for the sort of conventional war it would have to wage against Russia. At the same time the political structures of the NATO alliance are frayed and the allies are not willing to be persuaded to join any military adventure against Russia. The single thing that matters at the moment is the bundling of forces already in place. That’s why the US prefers a minimal risk strategy of pro-Western regime change as in the rose and orange ‘revolutions’ along the Russian border. The closer a conflict between Russia and the US takes place on Moscow’s doorstep e.g. as in Ukraine, then the greater is Moscow’s military advantage, from a logistics basis at least.
US plans for a new alliance
At the beginning of February the revelations of a phone conversation held by Victoria Nuland, State Secretary at the US Ministry of Foreign Affairs, cleared some of the fog. It became clear that it was not Germany and the EU but the USA that was behind the crisis in Ukraine. With her ‘fuck the EU’ Nuland emphasised not only her disdain for the problems of Brussels and the EU but showed in what direction the strategic thinking of the US was going. This happened while the Europeans, in the face of a dangerous escalation of the crisis in Kiev, had decided on a course of utmost caution and moderation. There was also the factor that they wanted Russia included as an equal partner in seeking a solution for the crisis. That, again, went against US plans.
Only 12 hours after an agreement had been signed in Kiev between German foreign minister Steinmeier, his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius and Radoslav Sikorski from Poland, together with representatives of Ukraine’s President Yanukovich, as well as Russian representatives, the USA, with the help of its bullyboy neo-fascist Storm Troops, had hounded the legally elected president from office and set up their own illegitimate regime. Since then it is Washington that is determining what happens in Ukraine. Berlin, with its puppet Klitchko, and Brussels have been marginalised. There the US place-men,like ‘President' Arseniy Yatsenyuk, are in the driving seat. They have the support of hundreds of CIA agents and other US specialists advising them on military tactics against the pro-Russian population in the east, which is demanding more autonomy and doesn’t recognise the putsch regime in Kiev.
All recent diplomatic attempts by a number of European nations to defuse the conflict, and at least to talk about a federal solution with the rebels in the east - a demand also made by Moscow - have fallen on deaf ears in the USA and also their henchmen in Kiev. The reason: a de-escalation or solution to the conflict would not be in the interests of the USA. Moreover, thanks to the EU initiated destabilisation of Ukraine, Washington has been handed an ideal opportunity of punishing Russia and enabled it to maintain a permanent crisis situation on its doorstep, which the US can at any moment re-ignite if Moscow frustrates its efforts in other parts of the world.
NATO states are not reliable
While malicious commentaries from Washington clearly demonstrate that the crisis in Ukraine is a quid pro quo for Moscow’s role in the Syrian conflict, strategic thinking of the US establishment goes further. Now that the US has more than a foot in the door of Ukraine, it hopes to not only force Russia to toe the line but also gain more influence in ‘old Europe’, particularly in undermining Germany’s role in Eastern Europe. At the same time plans are being discussed - ‘parallel to a NATO that has become largely ineffective’ - according to the Stratfor document. A projected new US led alliance is being devised - along the Russian frontier from Estonia, via Belarus, Ukraine and parts of eastern middle Europe and including parts of central Asia. ‘The problem is that NATO is no longer a functioning alliance. It was developed during the Cold War in order to defend a frontier that lay far to the west, but which today lies far to the east. Even more important was the consensus among all members that the Soviet Union represented an existential threat to western Europe,’, explained Stratfor chief Friedman, who continued: ‘A consensus is no longer there. Different countries have differing perceptions on Russia and other concerns. For them a repetition of the Cold war, even in the face of Russian action in Ukraine, would be worse than an accommodation with Russia. On top of that the end of the Cold War has meant that there has been a substantial shrinkage of military forces in Europe. Without massive and rapid re-armamament NATO just wouldn’t have the forces at its disposal. Because of the financial crisis and other reasons, re-armament will not happen. On top of that, NATO demands unanimity for any action it wishes to undertake and that is simply no longer there.’
However, the states along Russia’s western and southern border have, according to Stratfor, ‘a primary interest in responding to Russian power demands’. On the other hand, the ‘rest of Europe is not in any danger’ and these countries are ‘not ready and are not prepared to offer financial help or military sacrifice to help solve the problem’ because they believe they can live with it. That’s why US strategy must be to create new structures on Russia’s periphery ‘that bypass NATO’. In this region there has to be a new alliance, set up by the USA and whose members - in contrast to NATO - ‘have no right of veto’.
East European Russophobia
The EU has lost its shine and attractiveness. In terms of dealing with the structural problems of the Eurozone, little progress has been made. For the weaker countries, membership means more austerity, high unemployment and lack of prospects for the masses. But those making the running in Germany and France still have not given up on their dreams of leadership in an economically and politically united Europe of 500 million people. Because only in this way can they hope to implement their long-term vision of working with the USA on the global stage as equal partners. And this would not be possible without the maintenance of good relations with Moscow.
Though there is the danger that the Russophobia of the new east European members will lead to the frustration of the EU leaders’ dreams - as seen already in the attempted strategic EU partnership with Russia. Particularly in the security politics area, the nations of the ‘new Europe’ are flirting with the idea of stronger bilateral relations with the USA. They don’t believe that the ‘fat and comfortable West Europeans’ would be willing to risk a conflict with Russia in order to defend their interests, and that they’d use their veto in NATO if they felt it necessary.
They feel, though, that the US would be a more robust and aggressive representative of their nationalist and Russophobic interests. That would be demonstrated, for example, by Polish-US co-operation in pushing back Russian influence in Ukraine. There is also the fact that, according to US State Secretary, Nuland, destabilisation in Ukraine has already cost the USA five billion dollars. A deeper co-operation between Washington and eastern Europe is a welcome development for the US in its plans of ‘bypassing NATO’, and the ‘old Europeans’ have good cause for concern.
An example of east European positioning, was the warning given by Polish president Bronislav Komorovski on 10 May 2014, when he demanded that Germany take a more decisive stance vis a vis Russia. His country expected ‘more decisiveness from the German government in the conflict’ [with the Ukraine]. He had ‘little understanding of the manner in which some in Germany view Russia today’. And there followed an implied threat, ‘there is a suspicion that some politicians in Germany are seeking a foreign policy road that would be difficult for us Poles to accept’. Warsaw’s resentment-driven foreign policy is not determined by the overcoming of historical traumas; it is steering towards a new cold war. That would be, for Warsaw, very profitable because frontier Poland would make substantial political and economic capital out of it.
Berlin and Paris, on the other hand, find themselves in a predicament: they don’t want to spoil their good relations with Russia, but they also wish their ambitions to be the leaders of a united Europe recognised. These will be ruined if they do not take resolute action against Moscow in order to placate the EU east Europeans. Up to now they’ve attempted to do the splits: sharp political rhetoric against Russian on the one hand, and sanctions, that hurt no one, on the other. But this policy has hit the buffers. The east Europeans have seen through it and demand ‘more decisiveness’ as Komorovski puts it.
This article is an edited version of the one published in Junge Welt on by Rainer Rupp 6. Juli 2014, Nr. 153
Translation by John Green