Saturday, 14 July 2018

Fascism in the Ukraine

Here's some REAL fascism

Meanwhile in Ukraine….


Frank Lee
Mandatory Credit: Photo by East News/REX
13 July, 2018

In one of the largest, if not the largest, Neo-Nazi demonstration in Europe since WW2, 20,000 fascists and their supporters marched through the streets of the Ukrainian capital celebrating the birth of Stepan Bandera 01.01.1909 founder and leader of the ultra-nationalist Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN-B) and its military wing, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) commanded by Roman Shukhevych. This organization which along with the equally collaborationist outfit, the 14th Waffen SS Grenadier Division Galicia 1, were responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Poles, Jews and Russians during the ethnic cleansing which began in Lviv with a pogrom of the city’s Jews a week after the German invasion in 1941, and in the western Ukraine between 1943-45.

Russian state media RT and Sputnik News featuring fascists throwing Nazi salutes and parading in their tens of thousands in a European capital apparently didn’t concern any of the major western news outlets, however, nor the EU for that matter, which is to be expected. Nothing reported on BBC, France24, CNN, New York Times, The Guardian…the silence of the media lambs when it comes to a growing fascist movement in Ukraine is deafening. Although it should be said The Times of Israel did report on 28th April 2018 on this event with the headline: 50 US Congress members call out Ukraine government for glorifying Nazis. Credit where it’s due perhaps.

But for the western MSM in general this reaction to a blatant display of out-and-out fascism is par for the course. It would not be stretching credulity to say that nearly 100% of the MSM reporting on the Ukraine is frankly, ignorant, made-up, fake and mendacious, and this applies particularly to the liberal media; to be even more specific to The Guardian team, of Luhn, Harding and Walker who seem to have made a career of Russophobia and fake news. Their ‘journalism’ of the courtesan in its essence is quite simple: What are my principles? What would you like them to be?

Searching for a more honest and objective appraisal outside of the usual suspects takes some effort and perseverance, but occasionally this yields dividends. One such gold nugget is the recent publication of the book Ukraine in the Crossfire (Clarity Press, Atlanta, 2017) by Chris Kaspar De Ploeg, a Dutch gentleman, freelance journalist and political analyst. The author doesn’t take sides overtly but tries to sift out the facts of the present conflict – a conflict buried under a sea of lies, and insinuations. For example: Whilst remaining critical of Russia and the Donbass rebellion he demonstrates that many of the recent disasters can be traced to the Ukrainian ultranationalists” (neo-Nazis), pro-western political elites” (Poroshenko, Kolomoisky, Tymoshenko) and their European and North-American backers.” (Cover blurb)

Much of the book is devoted to a re-telling of the events leading up to the Maidan coup of February 2014 which brought the present regime to power. All of these events have been extensively covered elsewhere and I don’t want to go over old ground here. But other events and developments which were not apparent at the time – e.g., the unstable relationship between the oligarchs and the neo-Nazis as well as the intra-oligarch struggles for prestige and power, and, perhaps even more importantly, the calamitous economic and social descent of Ukraine into almost third world status; all have been carefully brought to light by the author.
In political terms De Ploeg argues that Ukraine is not a classical neo-Nazi state, but one where the neo-Nazis and the oligarchs rule, if this is the right word, in a forced symbiotic relationship. The oligarchs control the government and state institutions whereas the ultranationalist stormtroopers control the streets.

(This is eerily comparable to Weimar Germany in the 1930s. At that time The Nazi stormtroopers – the SA – were running amok and clamouring for a national socialist revolution. Hitler was soon made to understand that the Junker class which officered the Wehrmacht, Navy, Civil Service as well as the Eastern agrarians were less than enamoured with the SA and its national socialism; they wanted order restored – pronto. Thus, after having been appointed to Chancellor by Hindenburg, Hitler lost no time in appropriating state power, passed the enabling acts, and arranged the disbanding of the SA which was duly enacted during the bloody Night of the Long Knives in 1934. This intra-Nazi coup was carried out by Hitler’s Pretorian Guard, the SS, involving the mass murder of the SA leadership, Ernst Roehm, Gregor and Otto Strasser et al. The SA had done their job and were now dispensable. One should never underestimate the radical opportunism of fascism.)

Historical comparisons aside, it remains an open question as to whether or not Ukraine’s delicate balance of parliamentary, semi-parliamentary and anti-parliamentary forces can continue to co-exist, and for how long. For one thing the armed ultra-nationalist militias – The Tornado Battalion, the Aidar Battalion, The Azov Battalion, Right Sector and Svoboda militias, all volunteers – are more reliable and politically motivated than the regular Ukrainian army and police force and have their own political objectives. This is one problem which confronts the Kiev oligarchy. However, in addition to keeping the ultra-nationalists on a tight lead, Poroshenko and his government also have to deal with the internal intra-oligarch struggles involving other political actors jockeying for position and preferment and seeking their own share of the spoils. Consequently, this unlikely coalition is very brittle and might easily fracture in any future political/military crisis, which means that the ‘government’ has to tread very carefully when trying to assert its authority.

Acceptance of the far-right and other dubious figures has not been universal. The commander of the Tornado Battalion for example was eventually arrested and is now facing prosecution. But such cases are rare and highly selective. In fact, is not clear that the state can control the ultranationalist militias at this point, multiple cases against far-right activists have been dismissed after there organizations threatened the concerned judges in court…there have also been a number of clashes between police including a shoot-out between Right-Sector and law enforcement officers in the west of the country leaving 7 wounded.[1]
The ultra-nationalists, therefore, although a significant force are not necessarily the dominant political power in Ukraine; per contra this does not preclude their considerable presence and influence on the policies of the Kiev Junta. The regime has to a significant degree trimmed its sails to the demands of the ultra-nationalists and allowed them to openly flaunt their guns on the streets; these same ultra-nationalists for their part have to accept that they can’t always have their own way. One of the ploys by the Kiev regime for dealing with the situation has been to assimilate some of the neo-Nazi militias into the regular army and police forces. But being part of the Ukrainian National Guard has not prevented the Azov Regiment threatening the state either.

Making common cause with the ultra-nationalists the Junta coalition has successfully blocked the implementation of the Minsk accords. From the outset the ultra-nationalists made it clear that the war in Donbass was going to go on. Furthermore, and contrary to the conventional wisdom, the regime never had any serious interest in ending the hostilities; rather they were brought to the bargaining table by the heavy defeats of the Ukrainian military during the battles of Ilovaisk and Debaltsevo in 2014/2015. Poroshenko was desperate to stop his army disintegrating and his presence in the peace process was merely a gambit to buy time for his battered army, he later admitted as much.

Regarding the war in the Eastern oblasts, De Ploeg makes two subsidiary points: firstly, that this is not an ordinary war but is a war of extermination, (ethnic cleansing if we are being polite), and this is not a view peculiar to the ultra-nationalists, it also permeates the whole of Ukraine west of the Dnieper. 

Secondly, it was also certainly the view of the Junta and is common fare among the educated middle class.

Descriptions of the ethnic Russian minority are endowed with such charming little epithets such as ‘filth’ ‘pests’ or a ‘plague.’ Donbass civilians had become the new Untermensch inhabiting the east and south of the country, which, according to Yulia Tymshenko, our braided heroine, answers: On a question of what to do with the 8 million Russians left inside the Ukraine she says:
They must be killed with nuclear weapons.”
(She later stated that what she said had been taken out of context – naturally!)
To repeat, such views were not the simply held by ultra-nationalists, they have become the received wisdom of the centre-right and right-wing politicians and journalists.
Keith Gessen writing for the London Review of Books that even moderate liberals were anxious to get rid of the Donbass residents who had thwarted their European aspirations for decades with their voting behaviour, he quoted an insightful source thus,”
All the enemies of progress in one place, all the losers and has beens; wouldn’t it be better just to solve the problem once and for all? Wouldn’t it just be a better long-term solution just to kill as many as you could and scare the shit out of the rest of them forever?’’ ‘This is what I heard from respectable people in Kiev. Not from the nationalists, but from liberals, professionals and journalists. All the bad people were in one place, why not just kill them all.’ [2]

No South African type reconciliation here then? Quite simply unabashed, naked genocide comparable with Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Wow! With moderates like these who needs fascists!

Within the Ukrainian body politic the complete acceptance of ultra-nationalist ideas and personnel within the mainstream institutions has become a test of loyalty to the regime. There is a roll call of ultra-nationalists in Parliament, and in state institutions, as well as in the militias. The most prominent being such as Andriy Parubiy. Mr. Parubiy, MP now the speaker in the Ukrainian Parliament, has a biography littered with overt activity as one of the leading figures at the nexus of the Ukrainian ultra-nationalist and outright neo-Nazi movements. Then comes Andriy Yevhenovych Biletsky MP, Lieutenant Colonel of police, former political prisoner and university instructor. He is a co-founder and former leader of the multi-organizational ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi movement “Social-National Assembly”.

The head of the Patriots of Ukraine group, whose statements could easily be mistaken for the rabid polemics of Nazis during WWII: Founder of the Azov Battalion:
Our National body should start with a racial cleansing of the Nation […] a healthy racial body will revive […] culture, language and everything else.”
We must pay attention to the question of the value of race. Ukrainians are a part (and one of the largest and the highest in quality) of the European White Race.”
The historical mission […] is to head and lead the White Peoples of the whole world in the last crusade for their existence. A crusade against Semite-led sub-humanity.”
This could have been straight out of Mein Kampf.

Turning to the economic and social ramifications of the 2014 coup it will be observed that the full weight of the neo-liberal economic policies has been foisted on the Ukraine, courtesy of the IMF. This was already apparent in the early 80s but the trend accelerated after the coup. The standard IMF/WTO Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs) a package of ‘reforms’ and ‘fiscal consolidation’ (I just love these IMF euphemisms) consisted of cuts in government expenditure, accompanied by extensive liberalisation of product and labour markets, together with abandonment of exchange rate control and capital flows. These policies along with political instability have had, among other things, a disastrous effect on population growth. Ukraine’s population was 52 million in 1992 and the decline started in that year. By 2016, this figure had fallen to 42.5 million, its 1960 figure, and was accelerated since the coup of 2014. The current Fertility rate stands at 1.3. Any figure less than 2 will mean a shrinking population. The death rate has also increased, along with mass migration with some 2 million Ukrainian guest workers decamping to Russia and Poland in search of work. This is a slow-motion demographic calamity.

Although a certain Mr Anatoly Karlin writing in the Unz Review has a rather different, rose-tinted view of the Ukrainian economic recovery, the bald fact is that none of the indicators carry any hope of a long-term revival. The fact of economic disaster as measured in various statistics is, however, unmistakable: Debt-to-GDP ratio has climbed steadily to 85%, per capita income languishes at US$2,200 (compared to El Salvador US$4,200). Unemployment stands at (officially at least) 10%, and in terms of external trade the current account has not been positive since 2003, those glorious days which gave rise to the ‘Orange revolution’. Finally, there are the rating agencies who provide the following ratings for Ukraine’s sovereign bonds– S&P, B-minus, Moody’s, Caa, and Fitch, B-minus, which means below investment grade if we are being polite, junk bonds if we are not.[3] The currency – the hryvnia, exchange rate against the British pound is £1 = 35, hyrvinia. When I was last in Ukraine (2012) you would get only between 8 and 12 hyrvnia for a £. Welcome to the Sunflower Republic.

All of this in spite of the IMF’s loan and its unilateral debt forgiveness of the Ukraine’s outstanding debt to Russia which had become due. In doing this the IMF infringed its own constitution. As Michael Hudson explains:
The IMF broke four of its rules by lending to Ukraine:(i) Not to lend to a country that has no visible means to pay back the loan (the “No More Argentinas” rule, adopted after the IMF’s disastrous 2001 loan to that country).(ii) Not to lend to a country that repudiates its debt to official creditors (the rule originally intended to enforce payment to U.S.-based institutions).(iii) Not to lend to a country at war – and indeed, destroying its export capacity and hence its balance-of-payments ability to pay back the loan.
(iv), not to lend to a country unlikely to impose the IMF’s austerity “conditionalities.” Ukraine did agree to override democratic opposition and cut back pensions, but its junta proved too unstable to impose the austerity terms on which the IMF insisted.

This was obviously a political decision made by an organization which is supposed to be politically neutral.

The monumental stupidity of a nation which subordinates economic common-sense to anti-Russian gestures and rhetorical bluster was visibly illustrated in the trade deal involving the import of European gas and South African coal to the exclusion of Russian gas and Donbass coal.
In both cases, however, Ukraine was simply buying the same goods from Donbass and Russia but resold at a significantly higher price by South Africa and Europe simply acting as middle-men at a huge cost to the Ukrainian tax-payer. [4]

All of which illustrates the intractable political and economic debacle unfolding and goes some way to explaining the present impasse of a backward movement into under-development. Ukraine is becoming deindustrialised – not unlike the fate of many post-soviet nations – its trade with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan severed. This was formerly a very large and important export-import market, imports consisting of energy commodities coming from the EEU, and exports to the EEU consisting of Ukraine’s advanced industries in the east situated in Donetsk, Lugansk, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Zhaporizyha and Nikolayev oblasts. These exports consisting of machinery, equipment, aircraft, vessels, nuclear reactors and boilers, railway, tramway rolling stocks and inorganic chemicals.
The machinery industry alone had an annual revenue of nearly US$20 billion and is responsible for employing 600,000 people in the southern and eastern oblasts. Not only would trade disruptions in the EEU devastate the southern and eastern economies, they would also lead to the deindustrialisation of the Ukraine, and this process has already started.” [5]

Apart from Moldova, Ukraine is now the poorest country in Europe. And once the process of deindustrialisation starts, charting a way back will be very difficult, even with the best will in the world and with the necessary manpower, skills and expertise to carry out such a transformation. Moreover, this imbecility is compounded by military expenditures including the costs of an army of 250,000 that is doing nothing other than getting drunk and occasionally shelling towns and villages – against International Law it might be added – on the front line in the Donbass. Ukraine’s defence expenditure stands at 3.7% of GDP compared with NATO’s 2% and most NATO countries don’t even reach 2%. For the pen-ultimate poorest country in Europe this is frankly bizarre. If you wanted to run a country and its economy into the ground this is the way to do it.

De Ploeg does not spare the EU which has a great deal to answer for this situation. In making promises which it had no intention of keeping Brussels, particularly in the shape the Eastern Partnership – brainchild of the unprepossessing Swedish/Polish neo-con axis of Carl Bildt and Radislow Sikorski – has served basically as an instrument of EU/US foreign policy aimed at detaching ex-soviet republics from Russia’s borders to weaken Russia. This along more directly with the US involvement as exemplified by the antics of Nuland and Pyatt, together with CIA-front outfits such as the National Endowment for Democracy, lavishly equipped with a mandate to wrest Ukraine out of the Russian sphere of influence. But there was never going to be a full economic integration of Ukraine into the EU, because, apart from sunflower seeds, Ukraine has little to offer Europe in return; and it has also been subject to import penetration by EU products to the extent that it runs what has become a permanent deficit on current account. What export industry existed in the Ukraine prior to the coup was fatally damaged by the 2014 split. According to the Vienna Institute of International Studies,
Rather than austerity Ukraine will need a huge ‘Marshall Plan’ to reconfigure Ukraine’s economic composition, requiring massive investment if it is to replace its post-Soviet industry – which seems especially now that the industry heartlands of the Donbass have been severed from the Ukraine. Currently, however, it seems that such financing would only come in the form of loans with conditions attached, which ensures a lack of investment for modern industries and rather optimize the continued export of unprocessed Ukrainian resources.”[6]

Unsurprisingly no-one is rushing to pick up the tab for this new ‘Marshall Plan’ Certainly not the EU, and even less so the Americans, who simply wanted yet another east European state (qua protectorate) to serve as a military base aimed at confronting Russia. It seems generally agreed that the current financial aid on offer will be totally insufficient for the massive reconstruction costs of Ukraine, and moreover, there will be additional ‘strings’ or ‘conditionalities’ in IMF-speak attached. This would almost certainly incur long-term debt peonage for Ukraine. So, this option would seem to be ruled out. However, such monies which have been forthcoming through loans to the Kiev regime, both private and public, have been sufficient to keep the war going and the regime afloat.
Therefore, these institutions are essentially financing a proxy war with Russia as well as severing Ukraine economically from its neighbour.”[7]
Ukraine also carries a great deal of political/ideological baggage considered to be incommensurate with the EUs putative democratic values. Those neo-Nazi torch-lit processions in Kiev – pure 1930s Nazi pastiche, redolent and worthy of Leni Riefenstahl – are a little difficult to square with the EUs professed liberal-democratic idealism.

In the final sections of the book the author moves on to discuss the broader geopolitical aspects and the degree which they impinged on the Ukrainian imbroglio. The coup itself was a long time in the making, and in a sense was a continuation of the Yuschenko/Tymoshenko Orange revolution of 2004 which soon became unpopular with its electorate. The collapse in living standards led to public resentment against reform and the beneficiaries of privati- sation. National opinion polls conducted in 2005, after the Orange evolution, revealed widespread social and political disillusionment: only 23 per cent of the population believed that they had the ‘ability to live under the new social conditions’, 51 per cent felt that their health care was ‘insufficient’ and 44 per cent were absolutely or somewhat dissatisfied with life in general. The Orange ‘revolution’ was to fizzle out in an acrimonious spat between Yuschenko and Tymoshenko; but this was just the trial run. From this point on Yanukovych, elected President in 2010 and his government, a coalition of the Party of the Regions and the Communists became the target of a colour revolution.

Nobody should be in any doubt about both the overt and covert role played by both US and EU officials in the formation of the future interim government. Throughout this period EU and high-ranking US officials openly engaged in Ukraine’s internal affairs. The US Ambassador, Geoffrey Pyatt and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland (wife of neo-con theorist Robert Kagan) were, during the disturbances, strolling around Independence square reassuring the protestors that America stood behind them. This action could never have taken place without being sanctioned at the highest level. Nuland was to later give a talk at the Washington Press Club in which she mentioned the 5 billion US$s funded by the various US/EU organizations and affiliates. Presumably five billion dollars is the going rate for colour revolutions, please apply to G. Soros, the Open Bitcoin will be accepted. Moreover, CIA front organizations including the aforementioned National Endowment for Democracy, as well as USAID, and Human Rights Watch, were deeply involved in this process.

Somebody (I don’t know who) once said ‘Wars are a racket’. De Ploeg mentions this in a cursory reference. The bald fact is that the whole episode was in macro terms the expansion and enlargement of EU/NATO to the east and the military/political encirclement of Russia. The operation in Ukraine was engineered to move it out of its geo-strategic position and at the same time to embed it firmly into the EU-NATO bloc; this was part of this larger US grand strategy. It is still very much a Work in Progress, however, but things haven’t turned out in quite the way as the architects of the original plan envisaged.

EU status beyond the Association Agreement was never on the cards for the foreseeable future, but a possible de facto NATO membership is a possibility. The US Assistant Secretary of Defense for National Security Affairs, Elissa Slotkin, stated that the Ukrainian Army will be interoperable with NATO forces by 2020.’ [8]

Now we are getting to the heart of the matter. US geopolitical strategy is predicated upon a hegemonic project to establish a system of dominance over the entire world. This desired outcome was nothing if not ambitious and is a common feature of all historically crackpot utopian schemes. This explains the US’s concurrent wars in the middle-east, the South China Sea, and in Europe – EUROCOM – with Ukraine as the spearhead. The object was initially to occupy western Europe through NATO and the EU, then spread this to eastern Europe, resulting in a de facto occupation and vassalisation of the European continent.

The fall of the Berlin Wall was supposed to end this east-west military confrontation. Surprisingly Gorbachov fell for this superficial patter and involuntarily gave the green light for the US and its allies to carry out their expansionist plans; the EU/NATO monolith was set in motion. The Warsaw Pact was disbanded but NATO grew bigger and moved eastwards. An excuse was needed to explain this apparent contradiction. It came with the Ukrainian crisis and the corollary of supposed ‘Russian aggression’.
the war in Ukraine serves to keep the EU in line with the wider US agenda. We have seen since the Ukraine crisis, the existence and expansion the NATO alliance has found new legitimation – which remains a pivotal organization for US influence over the EU … In addition, Germany and France have allowed NATO to deploy troops in the Baltic states and to continue EU membership invitations to post-soviet countries.”
The comment has been made that NATO’s continued existence serves to solve the problems it created [9]. When we look at the big picture everything drops into place. The Uni-polar moment hasn’t yet passed into history, but it is passing. A multi-front, multi-theatre war against a huge bloc of countries straddling Eurasia is becoming impossible, and as a matter of fact it always was. Internal, possibly intractable problems within the EU and USA are weakening both the capability and will of the empire to pursue what should now be considered a utopian aim. In his own stupid way, Trump, realises this, because he is not ideological. His opponents – the war party coalition, of Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo, the entire media, both houses of Congress, the Neo-Cons ensconced if their various think-tanks, and institutions, the Democrat and Republican parties, clearly are solidly against any detente and will fight any movement towards it, however minimal.

So, this is where we are at the present time. Ukraine has become the catspaw in a wider struggle involving outside actors and in the short run is condemned to inexorable decline – according to the Bloomberg misery index Ukraine comes 7th on the list of miserable countries – and in the longer run to a possible break-up. Ukraine isn’t collapsing, it has simply collapsed – collapsed into a long-term economic depression (An economic depression is usually defined as a severe downturn followed by a weak recovery then a long period of sub-optimal growth) but Ukraine’s depression is also both cultural, social, economic and political. It is not merely the most concentrated areas of the Russian-speaking east – the Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk – where secession has become a virtual fait accompli, and large areas of these latter two oblasts are subject to a virtual occupation by the Ukrainian Army, and viewed as much, but there are also areas of the east – Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhe and Nikolayev, which whilst they did not secede are not the most enthusiastic supporters of the Kiev regime. 

Additionally, Hungarian and Romanian national minorities in Transcarpathia and Bessarabia may well become restive – of which there are signs already – given the majority monist view, from Kiev to Lviv, that Ukraine should have one language, one culture, one identity – a utopian nonsense forming the twisted idealism of Bandera and his latter-day followers. Such an undertaking was bound to fail in such a multi-cultural and multi-linguistic environment.

In the words of Edmund Burke:
A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.”[10]

  • [1] The German publication Der Spiegel reported on the Tornado Battalion ‘’who had prisoners tutored by means of an object similar to a power generator. The prisoners were held in a basement, stripped naked, place on a concrete wall and doused with water. They were touched with live wires, such as at the temple, genitals and testicles … According to a statement of a former prisoner, ‘prisoners were force under the threat of death to rape another prisoner.’’ (Hahn, G.M. – 05 October 2015 – America’s Ukraine Policy and Maidan Ukraine’s War Crimes. http:/’s-ukraine-policy-and-maidan-ukraine’s-war-crimes/#_finref3
  • [2] Gessen, K: Why not kill them all?
  • [4] G. Landesmann, and L.Podkaminer (2015) How to stabilise the Economy of the Ukraine – wiiw and United Europe, April, p.33
  • [6] Landesmann and Podkaminer, Ibid p20)
  • [7] De Ploeg – (ibid.p.111)
  • [8] De Ploeg –US to provide aid to Ukrainian armed forces to ensure NATO interoperability (06-11-2015)
  • [9] See Richard Sakwa – Frontline Ukraine – passim. And before him by J.A.Schumpeter: He contended that in ancient Egypt ‘a class of professional soldiers’ formed in a war against a foreign tribe ‘the Hyksos’ persisted even when those wars were over. This military caste ‘created by wars that required it, now the organization created the wars it required.’ A pithy summary of NATO and the MIC perhaps.
  • [10] Edmund Burke – Reflections on the Revolution in France.

UKRAINE ON FIRE - The Real Story. Full Documentary by Oliver Stone (Original English version)

UKRAINE ON FIRE - The Real Story. Full Documentary by Oliver Stone (Original English version) from Robin Westenra on Vimeo.

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