Friday 18 October 2019

Recent history with the Kurds

Translated by Dmitry Orlov;

The Art of Betrayal

17 October, 2019

The recent history with the Syrian Kurds has shown that the United States can betray absolutely anyone, regardless of personal relationships or official promises and guarantees. It’s nothing personal, you know, strictly business…

For example, what do the Ukrainians have in common with the Syrian Kurds? At first glance, their people, geography and history are completely different. But then what about the panicked tweets from former Ukrainian foreign minister Pavel Klimkin, in which he wonders in forlorn trepidation whether the US can betray the Ukraine just as it has betrayed its key ally in Syria. But what about the endlessly promised eternal friendship?

It is easy to understand Klimkin’s quandry. The Ukraine’s bet on American support is today the last and only foundation stone of the Ukrainian failed state. Just a little while ago the previously monolithic Western block fell apart in a glaringly obvious and jarring fashion. Washington and Brussels are engaged in a sanctions war, and the EU now regards the perspective of continuing to support the American project in the Ukraine as burdensome. Europe has already wrung out of the hapless Ukrainians everything it could possibly want.

Thanks to the efforts of European, American and international banks, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank especially, the Ukrainians have been reduced to permanent indentured servitude. With a nominal GDP of just $124 billion for 40 million inhabitants and a huge budget deficit, the Ukrainian government’s external debt as of November 2018 has reached $74.32 billion, of which $13 billion is owed to international creditors, $21.19 billion to other owners of Ukrainian debt, and $7.29 billion to nominally private entities (such as the Ukrainian railroad company) but with government guarantees.

The list of the Ukraine’s creditors is long and varied. It includes both international financial institutions and foreign governments. It owes $500 million to Japan, $300 million to Canada, $260 million to Germany, $610 million to Russia, but just $10 million to its former best friend the United States. That is, even if the Ukraine is turned into a complete and utter Uk-ruin and disappears from the political map the US will suffer losses which, relative to the $60 billion a month spewed forth monthly by the printing presses at the Federal Reserve, will not be noticeable.

If the Americans’ interpretation of the word “friendship” seems exotic, so is the Ukrainians’. Watching the ease with which Trump abandoned the Syrian Kurds to be ground under by invading Turkish tanks, Ukrainian officials suddenly started stressing the inviolability of the former friendship, having conveniently forgotten that just thee years ago they were actively attempting to undermine Trump by conspiring with his enemies. Meanwhile, the story of Ukrainian political meddling in the democratic process in the US is growing more comic and grotesque every day. It started as an attempt to overthrow Trump by alleging him to be a usurper, installed through secret meddling by Russian special services, but while chasing after evidence to use against Trump his enemies managed to tip over a filing cabinet packed with highly embarrassing skeletons.

The efforts to unearth evidence of Russian meddling have all ended in failure, but it turns out that Ukrainian meddling did in fact take place. This has been known since 2017, although mass media in the US, which is openly, blatantly biased against Trump, has succeeded in keeping this fact out of the public eye, by hammering on the unproven nature of the allegations, by portraying it as part of the endless partisan bureaucratic battles within the US, and by other forms of misdirection.

They really wanted to find a role for the Russians in all this, and did their best to disregard all facts that did not further this goal. And it could have all been kept quiet, except for the Ukrainians’ propensity to step on the same rake again and again. During a radio appearance, the former Ukrainian chief prosecutor, Yuri Lutsenko stated directly that his country not only meddled in the most direct fashion possible in the US presidential elections in 2016, but that one the main participants in this process was none other than the current director of the National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine Artëm Sytnik.

Sytnik didn’t violate any Ukrainian laws, so what’s the big deal, right? He just gave copies of the financial documents of the Ukrainian Party of Regions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. He wasn’t planning to meddle. He just wanted to cut off American funding to his domestic political enemies—the Party of Regions. And its American political supporters turned out to be mostly Trump supporters. And the enemy of my enemy is… oops!

It was all a little too clever. This scheme allowed Hillary to charge Trump with colluding with Moscow. You see, the Party of Regions was seen as pro-Kremlin, and if Trump supporters were supporting it, then they were supporting the Kremlin, so what was Trump getting in return? It could be anything—money, secret information, operations to influence public opinion—and such allegations could be used to declare the election results to be invalid.

The Democrats would tuck into this sheaf of documents with knife and fork. There would be investigations. American funding for the Party of Regions would dry up. It would kill two birds with one stone: knock out the Party of Regions (which didn’t have enough fundraising channels of its own) and make the Democrats (who were predicted to win) very grateful. In turn, this gratitude would result in a flow of American funds in support of “Ukrainian democracy,” i.e., into the pockets of corrupt Ukrainian officials. A win-win!

Beyond the urge to line their nests with American cash, the Ukrainian officials also entertained certain megalomaniacal ambitions. War against Russia was one of the key leitmotivs of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. In this, it neatly coincided with the fratricidal tendencies of Ukrainian nationalists, causing them to dream of Americans supplying them with weapons, money, and maybe even showing up to battle the Russians. And then the Ukrainians would ride into Red Square atop an Abrams tank. And then they would carve up occupied Russian territories. All the best ones would be claimed by their masters from overseas, but even the Ukrainians could hope for a few crumbs from the master’s table.

If you feel that this line of thinking is utterly delusional, then you are right. The Ukrainians’ thinking is delusional through and through and, hilariously, the Ukrainians still can’t bring themselves to understand why such a promising scheme fell through. If they did, they would definitely keep quiet about it. But they simply can’t absorb the idea that although Russia and the United States may have some divergent interests, America under Trump is not at all the same thing as it would have been under Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s America has been able to recognize that Obama’s effort to pull Russia into a fratricidal war with the Ukraine has failed, rendering the Ukraine completely useless as far as US interests are concerned. Quite the opposite: the US is now far more interested in the Ukraine’s demise. This is not even a matter of revenge, although Trump is known to be compulsively vengeful and has quite an axe to grind with the Ukrainians. There are three factors that are even more important.

First, in its support for the Ukraine’s anti-Russian regime, the US has run out of maneuvering space. Anti-Russian sanctions have been shown to only make Russia stronger, while militarily all that is possible is to declare nuclear war on Russia, and this the US is decidedly against doing. But it can’t just fester in place without losing face in an important geopolitical contest.

More importantly, the US now sees Russia as a target that’s secondary to its far more important war of economic attrition with China. In this situation, a brilliantly executed tactical retreat appears to be the best option. Ideally, this would be done in a way that would void all previous American declarations, agreements and commitments, providing a blank slate on which to scribble some more empty promises.

Secondly, those Americans who stood to gain from hopeless Ukrainian indebtedness have already done so, and even its complete and utter ruin would not cause them any appreciable losses. Quite the opposite: it would mostly hurt those institutions which Trump has repeatedly promised to reform—specifically, the IMF and, even more importantly, the European Union.

The US didn’t sign the Minsk Agreements—the key international documents designed to compel the Ukrainian government to sue for peace with its separatist eastern regions, to reform itself into a federation (and, given the irreconcilable differences between its regions, to disband shortly thereafter). Therefore, Washington can now wash its hands of the Ukrainian mess, declaring it to be an internal European problem.

Third, by enlarging the Ukrainian scandal to the largest extent possible, Trump can now deliver a blow to the Democrats who are now up to their ears in it. With his reelection just a year away, this is by far the most important consideration for him. Enlarging the scope of this scandal in the run-up to the 2020 election has helped his chances and hurt those of the Democrats, not just because Joe Biden’s chances have been instantaneously zeroed out, leaving behind much weaker Elizabeth Warren, but also because of automatic damage to the reputation of anyone who would associate themselves with the Democratic party even if it were to find a more promising candidate.

The Mueller investigation has shown that Moscow did not aide Trump and this is now established as a fact. And now it turns out that Trump’s adversary did in fact avail herself of foreign meddling. To say that this is awkward and embarrassing for the Democrats would be quite an understatement! But the Ukraine brings back luck to anyone who engages with it, and it remains to be seen whether Trump will be the exception that proves the rule.

The Ukraine has brought particularly bad luck to the Ukrainians themselves. Their governing elite still hasn’t been able to absorb the meaning of multiple warnings they have been receiving from across the Atlantic, ever since Mike Pompeo’s visit to Sochi in May: that the Ukrainian project is being shut down. Some Ukrainian officials may still dream of stuffing their pockets some more on their way out, but the Ukrainian state has no future, not in any abstract sense but quite literally.

By freely and openly admitting to Ukrainian meddling in the last presidential election in the US, Ukrainian officialdom has signed its own death warrant. It managed to do the impossible: to unify revenge-seeking Trump and his opponents against it. They don’t wish to see their dirty laundry paraded before the public, and certainly don’t want to risk their own money, as has happened with the company of Nancy Pelosi’s own son.

Most amusingly, none of these interested parties have to do a thing in order to ease the Ukraine toward its timely demise. Washington doesn’t have to support the Ukraine militarily and can decline to influence the IMF, which has become reticent in granting the Ukraine any more tranches, seeing as its government has failed to show any progress in fighting corruption or in selling off agricultural land (a key IMF demand).

Meanwhile, all of the Ukraine’s neighbors want to compel it to implement the Minsk agreements: to deescalate militarily, to enter into negotiations with its separatist eastern provinces and to federalize. But this is politically impossible, because the Ukrainian ruling elite has no ideas beyond radial Ukrainian nationalism, which federalization would make null and void.

Even if the elite were to wake up and realize that it has no future in any case, there is still the problem of the Ukrainian nationalists themselves. There are no internal political forces that can control them, and although the number of protesters who came out against implementing the Minsk agreements was only around 10 thousand, their overall level of support within the population is no less than 3-4 million people, or 8-10% of the population, and they are not going to surrender without a fight.

Perhaps even more importantly, to one extent or another the entire Ukrainian political class and the Ukrainian oligarchy are opposed to peace, because if peace were achieved and law and order restored, they would be expected to take the blame for it all—the over 10 thousand dead, the half a million injured, the horrendous property damage, the economic ruin… all of it! But they all want to live, and they have nowhere to run.

They had one last hope: that their big daddy overseas would bail them out. That hope sprung eternal even after president Zelensky’s disastrous trip to Washington, during which Trump told him that the Europeans aren’t doing enough to help the Ukraine, and so the US won’t either and, most pointedly, that he should talk to Putin and resolve their differences. This residual hope mostly expressed itself in irrational, emotional outbursts, along the lines of “But how can they do that to us?”

Next came the abandonment of the Syrian Kurds, demonstrating that America, especially when its president’s political survival is at stake, can abandon absolutely anyone, ignoring all previous promises and commitments. And this is when cold sweat started to pour down Ukrainian faces; not so much from those who are in power there now (who still think that they can somehow maneuver out of this cul de sac of their own creation) as from their predecessors, such as the previous president Peter Poroshenko and his aforementioned foreign minister Pavel Klimkin. They now know that they have become expendable, and feel it in their anal sphincters that their hides are about to be offered in payment.

These Ukrainians thought that they were so clever, standing up to Moscow, siding with Washington, manipulating US elections. They felt beyond Byzantine in their cunning and deviousness. But now they will have to pay for their stupidity… just like the Syrian Kurds.

Source: Alexander Zapolskis

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