February 20, 2014

The situation in Ukraine is nuanced with many different competing factions and ideologies sparking continuing violence and unrest, yet all we hear from our news media outlets is that people are upset over Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's decision to align with Russia and accept a $15 billion bailout package.

There's so much more to it than that. Professor Stephen F. Cohen sat down with Amy Goodman to better inform us all on the politics, people, and competing political forces at work in Ukraine.

Key facts ignored in reports by American media

Professor Cohen has some strong facts to lay the foundation for any conversation about Ukraine:

"Ukraine is splitting apart down the middle, because Ukraine is not one country, contrary to what the American media, which speaks about the Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. Historically, ethnically, religiously, culturally, politically, economically, it’s two countries."

"[T]he European Union, backed by Washington, that said in November to the democratically elected president of a profoundly divided country, Ukraine, "You must choose between Europe and Russia." That was an ultimatum to Yanukovych. Remember—wasn’t reported here—at that moment, what did the much-despised Putin say? He said, "Why? Why does Ukraine have to choose? We are prepared to help Ukraine avoid economic collapse, along with you, the West. Let’s make it a tripartite package to Ukraine." And it was rejected in Washington and in Brussels. That precipitated the protests in the streets."

"Extremists have taken control of the movement from the so-called moderate Ukrainian leaders...".

This is important, because many (but not all) of those extremists are neo-Nazi fascists.


However, despite its extremist rhetoric, Svoboda cannot be called a "fringe" party – indeed, it currently occupies 36 seats in the 450-member Ukrainian parliament, granting it status as the fourth-largest party in the country. Further, Svoboda is linked to other far-right groups across Europe through its membership in the Alliance of European National Movements, which includes the British National Party (BNP) of the United Kingdom and Jobbik, the neo-fascist, anti-Semitic and anti-Roma party of Hungary. The leader of Svoboda, Oleh Tyahnybok, who has appeared at the Kiev protests, has a long history of making inflammatory anti-Semitic statements, including the accusation during a 2004 speech before parliament that Ukraine is controlled by a “Muscovite-Jewish mafia.” Miroshnychenko also called the Ukrainian-born American film actress Mila Kunis a “dirty Jewess.” [...]

The bitter irony of the current protests in Kiev is that while groups like Svoboda are adamantly opposed to the pro-Russian policies of Yanukovych, they also find the “pro-European,” pro-democracy stance of most other Euromaidan protesters anathema.

Victoria Nuland's Leaked Conversation Much More than Mere Profanity

Professor Cohen points us back to that telephone call that caused a minor media stir when Victoria Nuland said "F*ck the EU." At the time, it seemed to me everyone was paying attention to the wrong thing, and indeed they did. Nuland's conversation with Pyatt concerned their sense of who could step into the situation as a moderate and possibly lead the country.

I disagree with Cohen's opinion that this was an attempt to plot a coup against Ukraine, given the context seemed to be more focused into the mainstream political process and not some sort of insurrection. Nevertheless, it is a look inside how Western diplomats interfere and manipulate other countries' political processes.

"Klitsch" referred to in the recorded conversation is professional heavyweight boxer Vitali Klitschko, who is being groomed by the EU to step into the fray as the "moderate and reasonable" candidate. Cohen describes him as "a project of Merkel. He represents German interests."

"Yats," according to Cohen, "is a representative of the Fatherland Party. It’s a big party in Parliament. But Washington likes him a lot. They think he’ll be our man. So you could see what they’re saying. We don’t quite trust Klitschko."

The gist of their conversation is that our (US) guy is Yats, and Merkel's (EU) guy is Klitsch. But who is Ukraine's guy, and do these diplomats and world leaders actually care at all about that? What about the Ukrainian people? Do they get a say?

All of these geopolitical chess moves seem to ignore what the people of Ukraine want and what they're enduring at the hands of just about everyone. Cohen fears for Ukraine's and Eastern Europe's future, predicting an outcome that "may be the construction, the emergence of a new Cold War divide between West and East, not this time, as it was for our generation, in faraway Berlin, but right on the borders of Russia, right through the heart of Slavic civilization. And if that happens, if that’s the new Cold War divide, it’s permanent instability and permanent potential for real war for decades to come."

I also see a lot of potential for different interest groups in this country to interfere in Ukrainian politics. After I asked the question about agitation, I spent a lot of time doing more research, and what I discovered seems to confirm that in addition to US government officials there is interference and agitation by outside Western interests that could tilt the balance of power in a direction which would consign us all to a future of war, death, bloodshed and destruction.

We live in dangerous times.

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