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Once and awhile Counterpunch surprises me with a bit of unvarnished factual reporting.  I didn’t know that Functionalism was a think in International Relations – but what a great concept to make the world a more peaceable place.

“Peace through pieces” was an important contribution to understanding mediating differences by the political theorist David Mittrany in the mid-20th century. Mittrany argued for an issue-specific strategy for solving larger problems. “The historical task of our time is not to keep the nations peacefully apart but to bring them actively together,” Mittrany wrote, “through the continuous development of common activities and interests across them.” Closer interaction because of global interdependence, Mittrany postulated, would lead to closer cooperation and peaceful co-existence, a concept known in international relations as Functionalism.

Many of Mittrany’s proposals were used in the establishment of the specialized agencies of the United Nations. A recent example of his theory that peace would come from common rules and technical cooperation would be the admission of Russia to the World Trade Organization in 2011. By including Russia in a rules-based institution, it was assumed, larger cooperation, based on the institution’s rules, would follow, a sort of socialization of the Russian Federation, at least in trade.”

Going to war over spheres of influence.  The 21st century is going to be just as rough as the 20th century.

“Russia says, for instance, that it is threatened by Nato expanding eastwards and potentially including Ukraine as a member. The response of the Nato powers is to say that its door should remain open to all and, more privately, that Ukraine is unlikely to join the organisation in the foreseeable future, so why is Moscow objecting so strongly?

But there is a perfectly rational Russian response to this, which is to point to the furious American response to Soviet missiles being based in Cuba that almost led to a nuclear war in 1962. The Russians can also reasonably ask why, if Ukraine’s Nato membership is such a distant prospect, Nato powers are so insistent on keeping open the option, even though, by doing so, they increase the chances of a shooting war.”

The Russian national interest must be preserved I suppose, and that is reason enough to initiate an armed conflict.  We watch the US do it all the time as well, just that somehow we’re the good guys.

With resources scarce, this model of armed intervention will occur more often.  We’ll have to get used to it or be prepared to radically reorganize our societies around the idea that we as co-inhabitants on this earth all have the right to live in peace.

 

The lives of the common people seem to always come last when it comes to geopolitical considerations.

I’m frightened for the wrong reasons.

 

If I listened and believed what I was supposed to believe I would be afraid that the Russians are provoking the West into military conflict in Ukraine.  The problem is that I’m more of afraid of what We are doing to destabilize the situation.  John Pilger is with me on this one.

“Washington’s role in Ukraine is ­different only in its implications for the rest of us. For the first time since the Reagan years, the US is ­threatening to take the world to war. With eastern Europe and the Balkans now military outposts of Nato, the last “buffer state” bordering Russia is being torn apart. We in the west are backing neo-Nazis in a country where Ukrainian Nazis backed Hitler.

Having masterminded the coup in February against the democratically elected government in Kiev, Washington’s planned seizure of Russia’s ­historic, legitimate warm-water naval base in Crimea failed. The Russians defended themselves, as they have done against every threat and invasion from the west for almost a century.

But Nato’s military encirclement has accelerated, along with US-orchestrated attacks on ethnic Russians in Ukraine. If Putin can be provoked into coming to their aid, his pre-ordained “pariah” role will justify a Nato-run guerrilla war that is likely to spill into Russia itself.

Crisis in Ukraine.Instead, Putin has confounded the war party by seeking an accommodation with Washington and the EU, by withdrawing troops from the Ukrainian border and urging ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine to abandon the weekend’s provocative referendum. These Russian-speaking and bilingual people – a third of Ukraine’s population – have long sought a democratic federation that reflects the country’s ethnic diversity and is both autonomous and independent of Moscow. Most are neither “separatists” nor “rebels” but citizens who want to live securely in their homeland.

Like the ruins of Iraq and Afghanistan, Ukraine has been turned into a CIA theme park – run by CIA director John Brennan in Kiev, with “special units” from the CIA and FBI setting up a “security structure” that oversees savage attacks on those who opposed the February coup. Watch the videos, read the eye-witness reports from the massacre in Odessa this month. Bussed fascist thugs burned the trade union headquarters, killing 41 people trapped inside. Watch the police standing by. A doctor described trying to rescue people, “but I was stopped by pro-Ukrainian Nazi radicals. One of them pushed me away rudely, promising that soon me and other Jews of Odessa are going to meet the same fate … I wonder, why the whole world is keeping silent.”

Russian-speaking Ukrainians are fighting for survival. When Putin announced the withdrawal of Russian troops from the border, the Kiev junta’s defence secretary – a founding member of the fascist Svoboda party – boasted that the attacks on “insurgents” would continue. In Orwellian style, propaganda in the west has inverted this to Moscow “trying to orchestrate conflict and provocation”, according to William Hague. His cynicism is matched by Obama’s grotesque congratulations to the coup junta on its “remarkable restraint” following the Odessa massacre. Illegal and fascist-dominated, the junta is described by Obama as “duly elected”. What matters is not truth, Henry Kissinger once said, butbut what is perceived to be true.”

(Source)

I’m certainly glad that Canada is soundly backing the fascist junta in the Ukraine, I’d hate to think what would happen if we let those people decide for themselves what is best for their country.  We most definitely need to serve our interests protect the people of Ukraine during this conflict.

 

I’m frightened for the wrong reasons…

 

 

mukraineThe situation in the Ukraine has me puzzled.  The violence and protests leading up to the deposing of the Ukrainian president were not given much coverage in the media that I follow/ or I just plain missed it.  Whatever the case may be, I’m getting a couple of nearly diametrically opposed narratives of what is going on in the Ukraine and for my edification and yours we’ll go through them together.

For clarity, and the fact I like using coloured text, the article for Al Jazeera will be in green, and the articles from Counterpunch in the usual brown.  Starting with Al Jazeera and the article by Mykola Riabchuk penned as “Ukraine: Russian Propaganda and Three Disaster Scenarios.

Riabchuk’s article has a surface pro-Ukraine slant but I think we can safely say that the slant is also of a pro-Western nature.  (I intend to bold parts that are extra interesting/to be used in cross analysis)

“As the Ukrainian presidential election scheduled on May 25 gets closer, Kremlin’s window of opportunity for invading the country and derailing its European course is gradually narrowing. The rhetoric of Russian President Vladimir Putin justifying the Anschluss of Crimea and unscrupulous meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs has been based on the premises that there is no legitimate government in Kiev, that it is being run by a gang of Nazis and anti-Semites who took power by coup d’etat and terrorised Russians and Russophones all over the country.”

So his this is his view of the pro-Russian narrative.   On the other side we have Andre Vltchek with two article featured in Counterpunch: Ukraine, a Fascist Coup (UFC) and Ukraine: Lies and Realities (ULR).

[UFC] “Ukraine is burning, it is going to the dogs; it has been taken over by an illegitimate government engorged with fascists, neo-Nazis and simple pro-Western opportunists, as well as countless EU and US-sponsored members of various NGO’s.

The West has destabilized an entire nation, supporting right-wingers and fascists. Then it began spreading anti-Russian propaganda, even before Crimea had voted to join its historic homeland.

Everything was well planned, with Machiavellian precision. The EU was hoping to get its hands on the abundant natural resources, heavy industry and a well-educated and cheap labor force. In exchange, it was willing to give… nothing. No sane government would be willing to accept such a deal. Therefore, the only way to push through its agenda, the West began supporting violence and terror, as well as the fascist, neo-Nazi groups. A similar approach is being used by the US and EU in Venezuela, Syria and even Thailand.”

We can see here that the two narratives are aware of each others existence and are actively engaged in a contest to be the leading source of truth about what is happening in Ukraine.  Riabchuk bluntly asserts with this next paragraph, citing three sources that the Vltchek’s position is false.  I’m skeptical of the evidence offered as opinion polls, a newspaper article and a blurb from Transitions Online hardly seems like damning evidence.

“Such a claim, however calumnious and fully disproved on the ground by independent observers, opinion polls and the minorities themselves, can be sold nonetheless to some audiences, at least Russian, willing for various reasons to be fooled.”

Onward to Riabchuk’s Three Scenarios:

“Currently there are three possible scenarios that endanger Ukraine’s sovereignty. First, attempts to appease the separatist may result in a complete collapse of the Ukrainian authority over the eastern regions and the emergence of a puppet pro-Russian state similar to Moldovan Transnistria. It will likewise exist in legal limbo without international recognition.

Second, the eastern region may decide to proclaim itself the “true Ukraine” and, with Russian backing, launch an offensive against the central government in Kiev to re-establish Viktor Yanukovych’s “legitimate” presidency. The scenario is barely new since it was fully employed in 1918 when the Bolsheviks created a puppet “Ukrainian” government in Kharkiv to overthrow the democratic government of the Ukrainian National Republic (1918-1920) in Kiev. The main advantage of the scenario is to disguise a Russian-Ukrainian war as a Ukrainian-Ukrainian war.

The third option the Ukrainian government faces today is to submit to Russian pressure and bullying and accept a broad range of Kremlin-designed constitutional and administrative changes. These would transform Ukraine into a loose confederation of weak states highly vulnerable to Russian subversion, manipulation and sabotage.”

We lose the neat 1 to 1 congruence as the articles diverge in scope, but we can still compare and contrast the outcomes predicted:

[ULR]”Ironically, there is no ‘self-grown dispute’ between two nations. The seeds of mistrust, and possible tragedy, are sown by the outsiders, and nurtured by their malignant propaganda.

     As Sergei Kirichuk, leader of progressive movement ‘Borotba’, explained:

“We have extensive invasion of western imperialism here. Imperialists were acting through huge network of NGOs and through the western-oriented politicians integrated into western establishment. Western diplomats declared that they invested more that 5 billions of dollars to ‘development of democracy in Ukraine’. What kind of investment is it? How was this amount spent? We don’t really know, but we can see the wide net of the US agents operating inside many key organizations and movements.

We can see that those ‘western democracies’ had not been concerned at all about growing of the far-right, Nazi movements. They had been ready to use the Nazis as a real armed force in overthrowing of Yanucovich.

President Yanucovich was actually totally pro-western politician, to start with. And his ‘guilt’ consisted only of his attempt to minimize the devastating aftermath that would come after implementation of the free trade zone with EU, on which the West was insisting.”

Western powers using whatever means necessary to promote ‘stability’ in the region.  Shades of Iran, Nicuraugwa and Chile anyone?  This shouldn’t be news to anyone.  Of course this view is not shared by Riabchuk, as he sees the Russian narrative in terms of massive state propaganda leading to this.

“The Russian elite, infected by its own propaganda, becomes increasingly paranoid and determined to fight the invented “fascists” in neighbouring countries as if they are real. This means that whatever Ukraine does or says in this regard, it matters little. The real choice is either to share the fate of the 1956 Hungary and 1968 Czechoslovakia invasions by the Red army or to follow the example of the 1920 Poland and 1940 Finland (when the Russians were contained).

Ukrainians should learn to live for years, perhaps for decades, not only under persistent political and economic pressure but also under blatant propagandistic war, prone at any moment to turn into quite a real military invasion. If it does not happen by May 25, it may well happen eventually, albeit under some different pretexts and slightly modified rhetorical wrapping. No government in Kiev will be recognised by Kremlin as legitimate until and unless it is the Kremlin’s government.”

Contrast with the outcome from Vltcheck’s first article:

[UFC]”There is also one photo of Arseniy Yatsenyuk – the current acting PM of Ukraine – who recently met with President Obama in Washington, and negotiated the possibility of obtaining loans while agreeing to implement brutal anti-social, neoliberal reforms that will affect millions of Ukrainian citizens. This was the very price of the victory of the rightwing and neoliberal politicians that organized and controlled the Euro-Maidan movement.”

And from the second article:

[ULR]”Old women, Communist leaders, and my friend Sergei Kirichuk, as well as people from international solidarity organizations, made fiery speeches. Apparently, the government in Kiev had already begun to cut the few social benefits that were left, including free medical assistance. Several hospitals were poised to close down, soon.

People were ready to fight; to defend themselves against those hated neo-liberal policies, for which (or against which) none of them had been allowed to vote for.

“In Crimea, people voted, overwhelmingly, to return to Russia”, explained a young man, a student, Alexei. “But the West calls it unconstitutional and undemocratic. In Ukraine itself, the democratically elected government has been overthrown and policies that nobody really wants are being pushed down our throats. And… this is called democracy!”

*****

Still with me intrepid readers?  I certainly hope so because the dynamics of the Ukraine situation are most intriguing.  Are we witnessing a Russian coup, or an American one?  Is this a triumph for self-determination or a end run to escape the grip of toxic neo-liberal policies.   My readership is wide and diverse and I entreat you to share your knowledge and opinion about this muddled situation with me so we can all better understand exactly what the heck is going on over there.

 

Ohhh, bonus content!  Watch Bill Maher not talk about anything important for 6 minutes.  Fascinating(!) where his and his panel’s assumptions lay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UkraineprotestsjpgWhat is so not-awesome about our news media is its propensity to relay to us news and events without the background context necessary have said news event make sense.  Go take a look at the CBC’s reporting on what is happening in the Ukraine.  I’ll reproduce the headlines here for sake of argument.

  • Parliament votes to oust President Viktor Yanukovych
  • Security forces now declining to take part in conflict
  • Jailed opposition figure Yulia Tymoshenko may be released soon
  • President and opposition sign deal meant to end crisis
  • President Yanukovych leaves capital for pro-Russian eastern Ukraine
  • Yanukoych accuses opposition of conducting a coup
  • MPs replace speaker, interior minister

Fascinating stuff. But what does it mean?  I mean, who is Yanukovych and what does his party stand for?  Heck, what sort of political economic system does the Ukraine possess for starters.   You can read all of those articles on Auntie Ceebs and not have even a fog-eyed view of what the hell is actually going on.  The reporting we get suffers from what I’ll call the ‘keyhole syndrome’.

11931192-keyholeKeyhole Syndrome is when people watching the news are presented with a important event but not the details surrounding said event that would allow them to make a decision, critical or otherwise about said event.  Wow there is a coup attempt in Ukraine – how about that.  How do we get from the Orange revolution to here?  Do you even remember the orange revolution?

What is needed, honest readers is context, and I strive to provide a slightly larger keyhole looking into the events happening in the Ukraine.   Read more in the full report  at the Council for Foreign Relations website.

Economic Structure and Policies

Ukraine has a classic rentier curse. Oligarchs and politicians, often one and the same, extract rents from the transit of energy and other scams. Some prices are market based and others controlled, creating huge opportunities for arbitrage. Various licenses and concessions depend on political favor, facilitating corrupt lobbying, and oligarchs have manipulated the political process to ensure a supply of subsidized gas, coal, and electricity. Bursts of market reform in 1994–95 and 2000–2001 were only the minimum necessary to prevent international lenders from withdrawing completely. After 2004, the Orange Revolution’s leaders enacted populist measures rather than tackling systemic problems.

Notwithstanding relatively liberal privatization laws, the process came to benefit oligarchs. Most big enterprises were sold by closed discount cash sales. Today, without an effective legal system, all property remains insecure. Violent corporate raiding is widespread; oligarchs use mafia muscle to take over each other’s firms and scare away most foreign investors. The black economy accounts for 40 to 50 percent of official GDP. Ukraine has received support from international financial institutions, but these funds have been small relative to Ukraine’s GDP. The country’s failure to enact reforms has repeatedly marred its relationship with the International Monetary Fund.

Civil Society and Media

Ukraine’s civil society, though stronger than other aspects of democratic governance, remains weak. After the Orange Revolution, cohesion and engagement quickly disintegrated as people grew disillusioned by elites’ broken promises. Today, only 5 percent of Ukrainians belong to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The current Yanukovych government has curtailed freedom of assembly and used the security and tax services to harass activists. Despite this (or perhaps because of it), however, NGO activities are rising. Some elites, exasperated by the divided political opposition, are organizing civil society groups instead of pursuing political power.

Ukraine’s media have generally functioned as an instrument of power rather than an independent force. Many media companies have long been left in private hands under “reliable” oligarchic control, fostering self-censorship. The Orange Revolution allowed a window of media freedom, but today many journalists face bullying and bribery. By contrast, the internet remains lively and free, with growing social media and anticorruption sites.

Legal System and Rule of Law

The law in Ukraine is deliberately capricious and its application arbitrary. Because the population must constantly break the law, authorities can decide whom to prosecute, and they wield this authority to consolidate power. Punishment is used to disable anyone who challenges the system; forgiveness is used as patronage. Most judges are holdovers from the Communist era and continue to respond to instructions from officials. Conviction rates top 99 percent.

Reforms passed in 2010 have increased executive control over the judiciary. Yanukovych created two new courts to bypass relatively independent ones and he purged the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court. Other executive bodies gained control over judicial appointments. The ease with which authorities launched political prosecutions in 2011 and 2012—most prominently against Tymoshenko—showed the new system’s weakness. Today, politicians routinely take bribes from oligarchs or are oligarchs themselves. Members of parliament are immune from prosecution, making public office a gravy train. A place on an electoral list is estimated to cost $5 million in bribes to party leaders.

Government Structure and Division of Power

Ukraine has made almost every mistake imaginable in its institutional design. In the 1990s, it built ministries that recreated bad habits of the Soviet command economy. Prosecutors, tax police, and the former KGB were given too much power. Kuchma also expanded presidential authority but used it to act as the oligarchs’ patron. The constitutional changes to weaken the presidency agreed to during the Orange Revolution were therefore not necessarily bad ideas. However, they were hastily drafted and poorly implemented, allowing oligarchs to build an alternative power center in parliament. Nonetheless, the reversal of these changes in 2010 was unwise. It restored the status quo ante, rather than keeping the best of the reforms, and its aim was not rebalancing the system but entrenching Yanukovych’s administration.

Oh. So the Ukraine, despite its residual media memory as a ‘democracy’ is actually a oligarchy that thrives on looting the country of its wealth and maintaining its power through any means necessary.

A brief aside:this is the kind of system we inhabit here in North America.  When you finally come to this conclusion (or not, please continue to consume the bread and circuses arranged for your leisure) the decisions our respective governments make become much more understandable and do have a rational, just not the type this is going to benefit *you*.

Ah, so now we can begin to understand what is going on in the Ukraine and start asking more reasonable questions to further our analysis of what is transpiring over there.

ukraine

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