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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Ukraine -- A Nation on the Edge: Update March 1, 2014

The Ukrainian crisis that I wrote about in early January has become critical.   As I attempt to write an update to my previous post, events unfold faster than I can research, and understand, and write.
Here is my first post on the topic:

Tampering by the United States in Ukrainian politics became evident in early February in a leaked telephone call between top US diplomats.  After increasingly aggressive actions by anti-government protesters occupying government buildings, the Ukrainian police began to violently repress the rebellion.  About one hundred Ukrainian civilian protesters died.  In a backlash against the violence, President Yanukovych was deposed by the Ukrainian parliament, and is wanted on charges of mass murder.   He has taken refuge in Russia.  The present focus of Russian resistance to the coup is in Crimea, the idyllic resort peninsula on the Black Sea.  Crimea, with historic allegiance to Russia and a majority Russian population, will soon become a break-away province, further dividing Ukraine and intensifying the conflict.  Vladimir Putin has now requested and received approval from the Russian Duma for a military intervention in Ukraine.
There is an old Russian joke that features President G.W. Bush, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.  (Russians considered President Bush and Secretary Rice intrinsically funny.)  Bush calls the Secretary of State, and with despair in his voice, asks her if there exists any country in the world where life is peaceful, where things work, where society is good.  Secretary Rice responds, “Yes, Mr. President, I’m sorry, but we’re working on that.”

Indeed, Condoleezza Rice was one of the architects of neoconservative foreign policy during the Bush era.   Neoconservative foreign policy is based on “assertive” promotion of democracy through military or political intervention in other countries, American “exceptionalism” (egotism, as political philosophy) and American nationalism. 

Following President Bush, President Obama kept much of the neo-conservative structure in the U.S. State Department.  One of those holdovers from the Bush Administration is Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, and wife of prominent neoconservative theorist Robert Kagan.   A phone call from Nuland to Ukraine Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt on an unsecured cell phone was intercepted and placed on YouTube.  The call reveals Nuland expressing preferences about which leaders among the Ukrainian opposition should take power in a new government, and reveals Nuland’s disdain for the European Union, for its careful and diplomatic approach to the Ukraine crisis. 

The text of Nuland’s conversation is appalling (see first link below).  Nuland and Pyatt discuss who should be included and who should be excluded in a new government of Ukraine, In their conversation, they plan to call leaders of the Ukrainian opposition to settle the leadership of a new government. 

I would like to note that this is not democracy.

The details of US support for the Ukrainian opposition are unclear, but it appears that there has been significant effort in promoting this coup.  Victoria Nuland was conspicuous in Kiev during December, handing sandwiches to protestors in Kiev.  Russia has claimed that the US has spent $20 million per week in support of Ukrainian opposition.  The American Ron Paul Institute says that Nuland herself claimed spending of $5 billion over two decades for Ukrainian democratization.

Democracy does not grow out of chaos.   America’s neoconservative diplomats have promoted exactly the opposite of what they claim to espouse.  What were they thinking?

In a democratic Ukraine, voters elected president Yanukovych.   If they disapproved of his decision to revoke the trade agreement with the European Union, they should wait until the end of his term, and elect a new president.  Shutting down the government through massive protests, occupying government buildings, and a government coup are not the process of democracy!  By inciting such actions, America and its diplomats carry significant blame for the horror that follows.  To me, America's involvement in this misery is shameful.  

At this point, I do not believe that Ukraine can continue as a united country.  Crimea, and parts of Eastern Ukraine will most likely be returned to Russia.  Civil unrest, civilian deaths, and economic hardship will follow for all parts of Ukraine for a long time to come.  Ukraine could have become a bridge between the West and Russia.  Instead, it has become a battleground.

In Syria, in Egypt, and now in Ukraine, the neoconservative vision of foreign policy has led to chaos and destruction that will last for decades.  When will America learn to keep its place in the world, and allow other countries and cultures to find their way to democracy through self-determination and peace?
Text of the conversation between Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt can be found here: