Rollback! Or should it be Containment? Brave little secretly-CIA-funded organisations promoting Freedom in Occupied Europe! Why should we allow some country to have the wrong kind of government just because they voted for it? Straits crisis! Enemy tanks rolling through the streets of an unhappy victim of the Enemy! Duck and Cover!
In reality the Cold War was so unutterably convenient for Western imperialism that it never really went away after the Soviet Union jacked it in and folded up like a rotten orange. Still, those of us who do not live in the mentally-enslaved economic labour camp called the Free World are possibly a bit startled at its sudden return fully-grown, full of fight and full of 99 44/100 % bullshit. How did we get here? Well, did we expect someone to hold up a sign saying KINDLY REMAIN SEATED ACT II WILL COMMENCE SHORTLY, or something?
What happened in the Ukraine was and is quite unsurprising, but is also — well — a bit disturbing.
The Ukraine had been a Russian satellite since the days of Peter the Great — that’s over 300 years back for you innumerates — and had been part of Russia since Catherine. But in 1917 the German invaders proclaimed it independent (backing the nationalists, who were happier to be ruled by Germans than by Moscow) and since then everyone with plenty of money from the Pripet Marshes to the Black Sea dreamed of using that money to establish independence from the ghastly Bolsheviks and become really filthy rich.
It didn’t help that Stalin decided to make an example of the Ukraine and starve out its wealthy peasants with genocidal consequences. As a result the Ukrainians welcomed the Nazis in with open arms, which made it much easier for the Nazis to starve out the remaining wealthy peasants with genocidal consequences. Many of them didn’t mind because the Nazis were at least murdering the filthy Yids, and therefore when the logic of history brought the Soviet Army rolling back across the black-soil belt, with the blue-tabbed NKVD executioners following them to sort out the traitors, many Ukrainians became partisans against the Soviet government in support of the Nazis. They were successful enough that the CIA was still sending them arms as late as 1953.
All this festered until 1991, when the Communist Party disintegrated and Boris Yeltsin took over the USSR in a coup. In order to sustain his popularity and ensure that the Americans paid his vodka bill, Yeltsin agreed to simply break up the USSR altogether, splitting the country up along lines which in most cases were as arbitrary as the colonial lines drawn in Africa, but which had previously hardly mattered because by the 1970s it was a lot easier to get from Russia to the Ukraine than from South Africa to Mozambique. But by 1992 there was a well-policed national border in the way, and a lot of Russians were on the wrong side of it, and the best way for demagogic, corrupt Ukrainian politicians to hold on to power in Kiev was to promote hatred of Russians.
One thing which Yeltsin had done when he sold out the Russians of the Ukraine (incidentally, people talk about “ethnic Russians” versus “ethnic Ukrainians” but this is bullshit; Russians and Ukrainians are of the same ethnicity, they just talk slightly different languages — like the difference between Bavarian and Hanoverian) was to secure a naval base at Sebastopol. This is the only big naval base in the Black Sea, the only sea on the Russian border which is ice-free all the year round (although easily denied access to the world-ocean if you blockade the Dardanelles or the Bosphorus). Though it seems silly to outsiders, access to world trade is important to Russia, and while Yeltsin was allowed to sell out independence, democracy and the Russian economy, if he’d sold out Sebastopol he’d have been lynched.
The Americans and the Russians have waged a tug-of-war with the Ukraine as the rope. The Russians have the much stronger tug-of-war team, but every once in a while the Americans send in goon squads to beat them up, ensuring that they win the match. That’s what happened in 2004, when George W Bush’s “Orange Revolution” kicked out the Russian-backed corrupt gangsters from Kiev and replaced them with American-backed corrupt gangsters. The latter mob, who will be familiar to anyone who’s been seriously involved in Eastern European prostitute-trafficking, ruled the roost until late last year. The Russians were obviously not happy — they’d have preferred their own crooks in charge — but since the Ukraine runs on gas power and the Russians control the whole of Ukraine’s supply of gas, the Russians had other things to worry about.
The trouble was, however, that the boss of the Ukraine did a foolish thing. He jailed a businesswoman who had American connections. Suddenly, the people of the Ukraine rose up in all the majesty of an oppressed mass struggling to be free, and demanded that billionaires be allowed to make gigantic profits from sweetheart petrochemical deals with Russia without fear of being sent to jail. If this sounds tipsy, it is; it was our old friend the Tea Party, the masses demanding a better deal for the classes, but with the tea made in a samovar instead of a pot. (This doesn’t mean that the jailed businesswoman was any more corrupt than the party boss, of course.)
At this point, you would expect the boss of the Ukraine to get all nervous. The Yanks were against him, and they’d installed him in the first place. He had two options; go with the Yanks, release the businesswoman, and get thrown out, or go with Moscow and alienate his right-wing corporate support-base, but stay in power (maybe). Being gutless he chose to do neither. Then Europe offered him a sweet bailout to escape from his immediate economic worries (the Ukraine is bankrupt) in exchange for much bigger economic worries later (and the Europeans have a habit of failing to fulfil their own obligations in deals while insisting that you fulfil your own obligations to the letter and beyond). The “opposition” in Kiev, a bunch of bought-and-paid-for corporate hacks and spook front people, welcomed this with glee and pretended that it was the overture to full European Community membership (which it wasn’t). The Ukrainian President got a phone call from Moscow telling him that it wasn’t a good idea (which was perfectly true, although Vlad “Impaler” Putin has his own private definition of the word “good”)
Apart from Sebastopol there was another reason for Russia to be edgy about Western activities in the Ukraine, and this was NATO. When Gorbachev pulled out of Eastern Europe it was on the understanding that Eastern Europe wouldn’t join NATO. Then Eastern Europe joined NATO and there was nothing the Ukrainians could do about it except quietly tell Byelorussia and the Ukraine that joining NATO would be a Very Bad Idea. One of George Bush’s spectacular projects was abrogating the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the USSR (the Russians have the quaint idea that treaties should be held to, but the Americans have this “unsigning” policy they bring out whenever convenient, and anyway the USSR no longer exists) and deploying anti-ballistic missiles in Poland, allegedly to defend Europe against Iran (which has no missile that can reach Europe).
The deployment didn’t happen, but the Obama administration is even more keen on ABMs and wants to deploy them as far forward against Russia — oops, Iran, sorry — as possible, preferably on the Ukrainian border. The Russians don’t like that, partly out of pride, partly out of grand strategy. They really don’t want NATO’s tanks on their front lawn. They see NATO as a weapon aimed at them (and who the hell else could it be aimed at — Somalia?). And so they’re distrustful of the Americans and the Western Europeans for the rather shallow reason that they’ve broken every promise they ever made, and they are nervous about the Americans deploying strategic weapons on their borders. Hey, aren’t these Russians mean and paranoid! It’s not as if the Americans would get all uptight if the Russians were to, say, deploy strategic weapons to Cuba. Oh, wait . . .
So when the People marched in support of Western big business, NATO and America’s right to stick its nuclear dick wherever it wishes, Moscow got antsy. The boss in Kiev, with his usual acumen, hid under the bed and waited for everything to be over. Unfortunately, the People began to stop showing up after a while — who the hell really cares about corrupt businesspeople and gigantic loans which those businesspeople will pocket and then make the rest of the public pay for? So the people backing the People had to up the ante a little, and enter the Ukrainian fascist movement, stage right, with thugs in steel helmets and carrying rifles suddenly showing up and taking pot-shots at the local cops. That made up for any shortage of mass membership, since the cops showed a certain reluctance to face rifle fire. Call in the army! But unfortunately the Americans fund the Ukrainian army and they were able to persuade them to “remain independent” (that is, side with the businesspeople and the fascists). The Boss of Kiev came out from under his bed, filled a few suitcases with banknotes and scuttled off across the Russian border. Another triumph for democracy!
Not really. It turns out that nobody is going to bail out the Ukraine. The current government is therefore engaged in doing what it is told — namely, proposing to slash salaries, reduce what remains of social services and generally turn the Ukraine into Greece-Beyond-The-Bosphorus, which is not quite what the Pan-Slavs had in mind. It’s going to make them unpopular even with the western Ukrainians; what the Russians in the Ukraine are going to think about that doesn’t really bear consideration. However, the Russians aren’t going to get much consideration, because in order to rally the western Ukrainians, one of the first things the new Kiev junta did was repeal a law guaranteeing Russians the right to be educated in their language and use their language in the courts. We don’ need no steenking Russkis!
The Russians in the Ukraine are therefore unhappy, but they have nobody to help them, except in the Crimea where the Russian naval base was entitled to deploy about 30 000 troops. Understandably, the Russians in the Crimea (overwhelmingly the majority) felt in a strong position. They took control of the territory. Maybe they did so with Russian help; they certainly did so with Russian approval and the Russians made military demonstrations in the region to support them. Efforts by the Kiev government to take back the government buildings and military bases seized by the Crimeans failed and the Russian government meanwhile condemned the Kiev government for its anti-Russian stance.
So we have a standoff. Kiev can’t invade the Crimea and enforce its will, because that would mean war with Russia. It would be logical for the Kiev government to moderate its anti-Russian stance, but unfortunately it consists almost entirely of parties whose whole rationale is to hate Russians, and its policies are such that it badly needs a nationalistic distraction. Of course, if the Kiev government simply guaranteed the Russian government’s rights in the Crimea and then called on the locals to negotiate with Kiev, perhaps with Russians observing, then a deal might be reached. This could probably be organised under the counter, even as the Kiev government banged its empty anti-Russian drum.
Unfortunately, the Americans are already there, and they are, as is their habit, opposed to anything which smacks of diplomacy. They want to get everything, preferably through force. But they have no force and the government they are backing is technically illegitimate, unpopular with a minority of Ukrainians, and likely to become unpopular with just about everybody. However, they control the Kiev government and can get it to do whatever they want, and this has nothing to do with the interests of either the Kiev government or the Ukraine.
So they are accusing the Russians of aggression, because the Russians have followed the terms of their agreement with the Ukraine. Nobody outside America and her satellite countries takes this seriously for a moment. Obviously the Chinese don’t like precedents which might affect Outer Mongolia and Tibet, such as the idea that the Crimea should have independence or autonomy, but they’ve had to live with such precedents before, as in South Sudan and Kosovo (where secession imposed by armed might supported by foreigners was cheered to the echo by the Americans). Basically, nobody whom the Americans aren’t paying gives a stuff about the Crimea. Probably not even the Ukrainians give very much. It’s a wholly manufactured crisis intended to give the American media the excuse for whomping up a new Cold War with Russia (and with most of the rest of the world, but naturally the Americans pretend otherwise).
It all makes perfect sense from the American paranoid sociopathic perspective. For the rest of us, we should just stand behind Putin (unpleasant as he may be, he hasn’t once put a foot wrong in this crisis) and hope that the Americans will eventually see reason and allow the crisis to wind down. But we should also remember that ultimately, the Americans are not going to stop doing this until their horrible regime implodes.