The abhorrent situation in the Ukraine at present is extraordinary. In 1991 the Ukraine was the most viable of the states spun off from the USSR by the US agents in the Yeltsin collaborationist regime. In 2014 it is a disintegrating basket-case. What’s happened?
The obvious and immediate answer is that while Russia abandoned Yeltsinism, the Ukraine did not, and instead whored itself out to the West under a succession of corrupt oligarchs who cared nothing for the country. Thus after twenty-two years the country was worse off, politically and economically, than its hapless neighbour Belarus.
Some historical context is probably worth mentioning. For imperialist purposes, the US propaganda system represents the Ukraine as irretrievably different from Russia. In reality, although there is such a thing as Ukrainian nationalism and there is a Ukrainian language which is as different from Russian as Bavarian German is different from East Prussian German — still, there is such a thing as Bavarian nationalism, and Bavarian German and East Prussian German are still German. There is no ethnic reason, therefore, why the Ukraine and Russia should be enemies.
There are, of course, historical lesions between the two. The Ukrainian upper classes leaped into the arms of the Germans in 1917, eagerly proclaiming their colonial subordination. They tried to do the same in 1941, but the Germans initially weren’t interested any more, preferring genocide and enslavement. After 1943 they were more willing to accept Ukrainian upper-class support, but most of them had been murdered and the rest were a little alienated from the Ukrainian general populace — which explains why the Banderists never succeeded, despite the substantial American support they received well into the 1950s. All this, however, shows that the Ukraine contains a substantial population which is ready, willing and able to collaborate with any non-Russian foreigner prepared to pay a few bills.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian peasants have not forgiven the forcible grain seizures of the early 1930s (done to help finance the Five-Year Plans) and the vicious punishments which followed the peasant resistance in which the Soviet secret police killed, or encompassed the deaths of, hundreds of thousands of people. That’s not an easily forgiveable thing — although the Afrikaners forgave similar treatment by the British rather quickly, and the Ukraine settled down to being a Russian province after the early 1950s. Still this means that the descendants of those peasants are up for being fooled into stupid adventures by their corrupt ruling class.
This was basically what happened after 1991. Moreover, on the two occasions when it seemed possible that the Russians might be willing to participate in Ukrainian restructuring (2004 and 2014), foreigners, with strong popular support in much of the Ukraine, stepped in and prevented it from happening. The Ukraine was only to be colonised by people with no cultural link to the country, and with no immediate concern for the well-being of its people (in contrast to the Russians, to whom Ukrainians might have appealed on the basis that medieval Rus began in the Ukraine, and on the basis that a relatively prosperous Ukraine would be to Russia’s advantage).
The most recent colonisation, however, is the most ridiculous yet. Russia naturally wanted the Ukraine within its “near abroad” orbit, including it within Russia’s free trade zone. Since the Ukraine is obviously not fit to join the EU, this was an offer better than anything which the EU could make, and was buttressed with a bigger bribe than the EU was willing to offer, so the Ukrainian oligarchy was tempted. Therefore the Ukrainian oligarch was overthrown so that the Ukraine could accept a very bad deal from the International Monetary Fund and no preferential links with the EU. The Ukrainian ruling class organised a revolution in order to smack their country across the face with a huge wet fish. It’s not plausible that anybody could hate the Russians that much. It’s far more plausible that the Ukrainian ruling class was bought out by Westerners who were out to screw the Russians.
If Russia and the Ukraine become more prosperous, then they will import more EU goods, and will no longer pose a threat of social anarchy on the EU’s eastern flank. Therefore, since the EU is neither willing nor able to bankroll Ukrainian economic development (unlike Russia it does not need most of Ukraine’s products) it is to the EU’s advantage to see the Ukraine fall into Russia’s orbit. The EU, therefore, opposed the Russian moves to make this happen because of something else — the desire by the United States to see the Russians weakened and undermined; to take revenge on the Russians for their independence towards Iran and Syria and their defeat of American designs in Georgia. Acting through NATO, that was enough to make the whole EU fall on its face and worship at the Wall Street altar, even though no country in NATO (not even the United States) stood to gain by this policy.
NATO’s ostensible goal was, presumably, to incorporate the Ukraine into NATO. The Ukrainian military run-down and ineffectual, but based in the Ukraine, NATO troops would be able to threaten Russia with invasion (although the Russian military is rather larger than anything that NATO has tried to attack in its entire history). NATO membership would also enable the Americans to put anti-missile-missiles into the Ukraine, preventing the Russians from retaliating against an American nuclear strike. (Unfortunately the Russians could fire their missiles in other directions, so this would not matter much, and missile bases in the Ukraine would be no more effective than missile bases in Polane or Rumania, where the Americans already have access.) On the whole, then, these plans were not very meaningful.
On the other hand, the main Russian naval and intelligence base in the Black Sea was in the Crimea, which had been transferred to the Ukraine under Krushchev. If they were expelled from this base, then NATO would have a free hand in the Black Sea. It already controls most of the shore of that sea, and the Russian Black Sea Fleet is far weaker than in the mad militaristic days of Brezhnev, so this would not be a titanic prize (in any case it’s far from clear what control of the Black Sea would entail, given that NATO can close the Straits whenever it chooses). However, it would be more valuable than the land or missile-based advance into the Ukraine. All it would require would be for the Ukrainian government to tear up a solemn treaty and show itself wholly untrustworthy. What’s to lose?
Immediately the new oligarchs were installed in power by violence in Kiev they started talking about getting the Russians out. The Americans had been talking about it for some time. It was an obvious move, and there was an obvious riposte, which was the secession of the Ukraine and its enthusiastic welcome home back into Russia. Suddenly the Ukrainian oligarchs looked foolish and weak, and the exercise had failed more than completely; the Russians were more secure in the Crimea than they had been since 1991.
At this point a sensible government would have taken stock of the problems which they had created. Not only had they made threatening noises against Russia itself, but they had revoked laws giving cultural protection for the Russian minority in the Ukraine (which was dominant in the East). Obviously this was intended to promote anti-Russian hostility, which the oligarchy wanted because they had no real popular policy and needed to unite their support base against a racial bogey. Furthermore, their seizure of power depended on two parties, Freedom and the Right Sector, both of which were extreme reactionary and racist parties. Emphasising anti-Russian attitudes also helped to conceal the anti-Semitism which has always characterised Ukrainian (and Polish and Rumanian and Hungarian) far-right attitudes, which was desirable because the oligarchy was being supported by Israel as well as NATO. All these problems needed to be resolved by sensible negotiations both with Moscow and with the local Russian minorities. Unfortunately, there were mad bigoted obstacles in the way.
It is often claimed that the Ukraine is the first fascist government in Europe since the war (the Italian MSI and the Austrian Haider governments apparently don’t count) but this is to flatter Freedom and the Right Sector. These are not real fascist parties, they are skinhead parties, and their political attitudes show all the sophistication of a drunken football crowd after an exciting game. As a result, instead of trying to resolve the emerging crisis in the eastern Ukraine which the oligarchy and its right-wing friends had promoted, the oligarchy decided to crush the Russian opposition by force. This appealed to the far right, and also to the Americans who were by this time strutting around Kiev giving orders and periodically flying in some corrupt Washington politicians to make vainglorious speeches.
Kiev tried to deploy forces to menace the Russians in the Crimea, but as it proved the Ukraine had no such forces — its effective military was about a brigade, and even this brigade might not be willing to fight. (Ironically, although the old Soviet military had relied heavily on Ukrainians, the Ukrainian military relies heavily on Russians, who now have dual loyalty.) Hire some soldiers? Unfortunately, the Ukraine was bankrupt and the Russians were rather rudely asking them to pay their debts in full; more quietly, so was the EU. The IMF declared itself willing to provide a vast loan, in return for the usual privatisation, suppression of social services, and massive increases in prices which the IMF always introduces in order to weaken the economies of its subject countries. But for the Ukraine to get its loan, it would have to suppress the uprising in the East. Presumably this madly destructive criterion came not from the IMF’s headquarters in Washington, but from the US State Department in Foggy Bottom and the US Defence Department at the Pentagon. (Not that there’s much difference.)
How to do this without forces? Simple. The Ukraine announced that it was setting up a militia, called the National Guard. (The Bosnian Serbs had done much the same, along much the same lines, but the Ukrainians enjoyed American support.) This would be an untrained and lightly-armed force, but it was assumed that the Russians in the east would be equally weak. Unfortunately for this assumption, while Moscow was not particularly interested in occupying the Ukraine, it had no hesitation in playing the same card that the Americans had played all over the world, and provavly provided the Ukrainian Russians with aid. (It is also possible that the Ukrainian Russians had been able to filch suitable weaponry from the ill-guarded and unpaid military bases in the area.) As a result, when the Ukrainian militia (largely staffed with thugs drawn from the skinhead parties) showed up, they faced an enemy armed with guided anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.
Possibly things could have been calmed down, except that the skinheads and Russian dissidents fought a pitched battle in the streets of Odessa, where there is a strong Russian minority. The skinheads, supported by the police, won, and proceeded to murder scores of the Russians and then burn down the local trade union headquarters. (This is something of a fascist tradition; the squadristi in Italy and the Brownshirts in Germany did the same.) All this made the Russians in the East rather more annoyed and jumpy than they might have been, and as a result when the armoured vehicles and helicopters moved in to try to seize control in the cities of the Donetsk region, the result was a bloody massacre — of armoured vehicles and helicopters, picked off by snipers armed with missiles, against which the ill-trained and half-equipped militias had no defense. Hence the militias stood off the cities and bombarded them with artillery, confirming all the suspicions of the Russians and probably not exactly charming the ethnic Ukrainians in the cities either.
All this completely unnecessary violence suggests that the Ukrainians were either crazy or were not acting altogether in their own interests and initiative — and of course this is the case. The Ukrainians were, basically, behaving like the Americans in Iraq, and this was because they were controlled by the Americans who had launched the war in Iraq (the American mercenaries were the same company which had fought in Iraq, the CIA and State Department controllers installed in Kiev to order the oligarchs around were the same neoconservatives and fantasists who had launched the Iraq war). They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing — even down to the fact that when the Americans failed in Iraq, they set up a local militia (which was armed with weapons purchased from the Ukraine). The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In other words, the Ukraine has been colonised through its ruling class, which is controlled by its Americans, and through those members of its populace who are easily led by the nose through a mixture of false economic promises and racist rhetoric. It’s the usual story– Fanon saw it happen all over Africa — but more extreme than anything which has been done in Europe, by Europeans, in the past. Fundamentally, it is a step further than the economic colonisation of Greece, and shows once again that the colonial system is coming uncomfortably close to home. And if the Americans and their EU satellites are prepared to do this to Ukrainians, what are they prepared to do to Africans in future?
Perhaps someone should ask.