A few quick thoughts to offer on who might be playing for what in Ukraine.
First, most popular uprisings or protests get nowhere unless they get considerable outside help. For example Qatar supplied much of the help in the Arab Spring. In the Ukraine, it has been quite clear for a while now that the US has been in favour of a change of regime from pro-Russian to pro-Free market and agressively Ukrainain ethinc-nationalist. Witness that well known US peacenik Senator john McCain’s trip last December to Kiev where he made a point of being photographed several times with Oleh Tyahnybok the leader of Svoboda party, one of the three opposition leaders the US likes. McCain spoke to a crowd saying how the Ukraine would be better in Europe and Europe would be better with the Ukraine. That McCain should speak about Ukraine in terms of joining Europe rather than as becoming a friend or ally of America, struck me at the time as interesting. Particularly because the US regime’s frustration with what it sees as Europe’s reluctance to share the US’s enthusiasm and policy has been painfully evident.
A frustration made rather public in thte suave “F*kc the EU” comment made by the US State Department’s Victoria Nuland when she was speaking to US ambassador to Ukraine, Jeffrey Pyatt. Ms Nuland was … ‘underlining’ perhaps, the US State Department’s ‘desire’ to see Mr Yatsenyuk become the new power in Ukraine. According to Ms Newland “Yats [Yatsenyuk] is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience.” Aparently, and rather unsurprisingly, “Yat’s” ‘economic experience’ rather than, let’s say, his diplomatic skills or his no doubt deep concern for the human rights of other ethinic groups (like Jews for example) was upper most in Ms Newland’s mind.
And now Yats is the new US backed leader. I say US backed rather than Western backed advisedly because I think what is unfolding in Ukraine is not a simply the West versus Russia.
The US – or at least the Hawks in the US, like McCain, are happy to see Ukraine detached from direct Russian control and for it to split East/West – as I think it likely it will. Such a split will not be clean or free of violence. It will therefore present the opportunity to create a thorn in Russia’s side. In the immediate it presents problems for Russian gas exports to Europe. It doesn’t stop them, of course. There is still Nord Stream running direct into Germany. And South stream is still coming along. But it will dent Russian export profits and worry European markets and governments.
But the benefits for America – at least in the minds of its hawks, don’t stop there.
Nothing hurt Pentagon funding like the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the East/West German split. What size of military pork barrel might a new East West Ukraine split deliver? I think the Pentagon is delighted. I doubt AMerica will be as nakedly provocative as to built big new militray bases in a new West Ukraine. Though some will certainly think it only right and proper. But I would be amazed if they don’t create a few speical forces and intelligence sites – which will need defending!
And of course the Pentagon’s pleasure is Europe’s pain. Europe is split on Ukraine. Germany is not happy to anger Russia. Merkel has conspicuously spent at least as much time on the phone with Putin as with Obama. Being the European terminus of the Nord Stream gas pipeline into Europe means Germany has along term intersts in being friendly with Russia. And Germany has historically always looked East in its foreign policy. While France has historically always looked South and Britain always West. On top of which France has, since Syria, become America’s new best War-buddy. The reasons for which I wrote about in Syria – Cui Bono.
So by provoking a “f*ck the EU” split in Ukraine America weakens any pesky European solidarity. Nothing like dividing your allies against each other to maintain control over them. Not only does a split in Ukraine cause welcome frcition between the two pillars of the European project, Berlin and Paris, it is also marvelously mischievous because if there is one thing the EU is very sensitive and woried about at the moment it is separatist movements. The EU does not like the idea of its constituent nations begining to break apart into even more bickering and all-too-democratic factions. Centralization of decision making is what Brussels wants not nationalist democracies. Spain fears anything that gives legitimacy to Catalonian separatism. The EU and the Conservative Government in Westminster have made it very clear they are neither of them happy about Scotland away from the UK and France is nervous about a possible Belgian break up.
Which makes the present US championing of Ukrainian regime change, raising as it does separatist and ethnic arguments, very difficult fo the EU. Brussels doesn’t want to be seen as turning its back on the Ukrainian’s who want to be in Europe and which the US and the global media have been quick to call ‘Pro-democracy’. Yet it if they join in with American talk about ‘the right to self determination’ etc they leave themselves looking like utter hypocrites.
Not only that but in an East West split a great deal of what wealth there is in the Ukraine would stay with Russia while Europe and Britain , would get another large group of very poor people with an utterly bankrupt government looking for help, bail out and jobs. What wonderful social fears and tensions would erupt within a year, and be whipped up to fever pitch by the lovely, popular European and British press shrieking about how hundreds of thousands of poor Ukrainians were now going to join the flood of Romanians all of whom are about to move into our towns and take our jobs while claiming benefits for their 27 children. Somewhere in the US State department they are laughing with joy.
The US has already begun to back peddle on any idea that America would provide vast cash hand outs, prefering instead that Europe sort something out with the oh-so-lovely IMF. Europe would have a huge potential drain on its already unstable finances to say nothing of the carnage already happening at UniCredit and some of the Austrian banks exposed to Ukrainain debts. A poor Ukraine, promised it was going to be able to ‘join Europe’ and get help and iPads, would do nothing to help political stability and strength in Europe.
And what of Russia? Is this is KO? I don’t think so. Putin has consistently out-played the Obama regime. If I were Putin I would not rush too many troops in to Ukraine to secure the speical forces units he has there. I would certainly move them up and move them in to key places. But I would also hope, and try to help along, any useful idiot in Ukraine who felt like shooting any Russian soldier or Russian speaking civilian. And then I would storm in to ‘protect’ vital interests and innocent civilians and to “oppose terrorism”. I would secure the best parts of Ukraine put my hand firmly on the gas tap, and leave the rest for Europe to cope with.
In this scenario American hawks do best, Russia and its military can hope to make a good result from a seemingly bad situation and Europe comes out weakened and divided.
This is, obviulsy, just one way of seeing a very complex situation and I don’t offer it as a rival to other considerations but rather as a compliment to them. I think, as always, it’s not about championing freedom. It always about power and competition between the large powers. in which the little countries are pieces to be moved about and manipulated wherever possible.