What’s Really Going on in Ukraine?

Pic: Mac_Ivan (CC)

Pic: Mac_Ivan (CC)

Via Beyond the Mainstream:

You’d be forgiven for knowing very little about the unrest in Ukraine – the violence, the rioting on the streets, the armed protesters storming government buildings amidst plumes of thick black smoke rising from makeshift barricades. Most of the public have once again been Beibered by the mainstream media – the arrest of this precocious, spoilt physical embodiment of crass corporate culture proving newsworthy enough for an MSNBC host to interrupt an interview with a member of Congress discussing the true scale of NSA spying.

In this climate of superficial distractions and media inanity, you’d be equally forgiven for not really knowing why there is political unrest in Ukraine. Most of the explanations for the violence offered by the mainstream media present the information in simplistic sound-bytes – talking points without the relevant wider political and historical context which renders current events coherent.Unknown Object

The following article from The Independent provides us with a brief overview of the media’s presentation of recent events in Ukraine:

In November President Viktor Yanukovych decided to pull out of a treaty with EU, an agreement many felt would have paved the way for the Ukraine to join the union. It looked like he was going to sign the agreement before performing a U-turn, which has made Ukrainian disappointment all the sharper. However the government would rather stay friendly with Putin in return for favourable treatment. The protesters think it would benefit ordinary people far more to be aligned with the EU and consider Yanukovych a man who only represents the interests of the richest.

The article goes on to define the demonstrations as “more than a pro-EU movement”, one which represents popular resentment towards perceived government corruption and violent repression towards peaceful activists.

President Viktor Yanukovych’s government forces are certainly guilty of using excessive force against the rioters, and accusations of torture appear to be well-founded and should not be excused. But condemnation is certainly clouded when you consider the level of violence from the rioters. By the same token, when mobile phone users near the scene of the riots received text messages from the state reading, “Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass riot” it brought to home just how omnipresent – and ominous – surveillance technology in the 21st century has become.

The problem with the “popular protests against the government and for integration into the EU” narrative is that it omits crucial information regarding the role of the West is fomenting and orchestrating demonstrations such as these; a role which illuminates broader geopolitical objectives in the region and the extent to which intelligence agencies and their offshoot organizations meddle in the affairs of sovereign nations. Understanding the nature of soft power – the use of coercion and bribery – and the subversion and infiltration of grassroots political movements by NGOs and other organizations backed either directly or indirectly by the US government, helps us to more broadly understand why the unrest in Ukraine is reaching such a fever pitch.

The seemingly spontaneous 2004 Ukrainian “Orange Revolution”, sparked by electoral fraud and allegations of voter intimidation, was led largely by a number of grassroots movements tied to political activists and student groups. Many of the groups involved, however, were funded and trained by organizations intimately linked to the US government. The foreign donors of these groups included the US State Department, USAID, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, George Soros’s Open Society Institute and the National Endowment for Democracy.

The candidate who emerged victorious in the wake of these widespread orchestrated protests, Viktor Yushchenko, was not only endorsed by the same institutions which wielded their influence over the protest movements themselves, he was also supported by the International Monetary Fund. A central banker by profession, Yushchenko was a firm advocate of implementing IMF monetary reforms and, equally crucially, an advocate of NATO membership. Before entering into Ukrainian politics he had worked at the US State Department,the Reagan White House, the U.S. Treasury Department, and the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. In short, it’s safe to say that he was a product of Washington, an image only exacerbated by his hostility towards Russia.

It is tempting to automatically assume that the same process is taking place in Ukraine at the moment. Certainly, intelligence agencies have historical form when it comes to covert operations and the manipulation of activists via social media – similar US-backed “Colour Revolutions” have taken place in Georgia, Yugoslavia and elsewhere. The widespread political support for the protesters in Ukraine and the lack of condemnation for their use of violence would certainly add to the view that these protests are at least tacitly backed by the West, if not outright orchestrated. While none of this constitutes “proof” of outside interference, at the very least it is enough to raise suspicions. On the other hand, without firm evidence it is perhaps equally plausible that the support for the protesters is simply a case of making political capital out of the situation, stoking the flames of an already lit fire.

As the violence on the streets of Kiev continues, already spreading away from the capital, the Russian State Duma recently passed a resolution slamming foreign politicians and other players for interfering in Ukrainian internal affairs in an attempt to escalate the conflict. It’s a marked contrast to the rhetoric emerging from Washington and the EU, both of whom have expressed the possibility of intervening, with the US adopting a stance which hints at another planned “regime change” on Russia’s doorstep.

Perhaps the most damning indictment of the West’s stance over Ukraine and their support for what they refer to as a “pro-democracy protest movement” is the profoundly anti-democratic leanings of the violent protesters at the vanguard of the assault on the Ukrainian authorities. Anyone familiar with the crisis in Syria and the attempts to topple President Assad will be all too familiar with the US’s willingness to get into bed with extremists of the worst possible nature in order to achieve their objectives.

In Ukraine today it appears that very little has changed. Just as the Western-backed Syrian rebels with intimate ties to al-Qaeda were presented in our media as “pro-democracy” organizations, so too are many of those protesting in Ukraine drawn from far-right and fascistic groups such as the opposition Svoboda party, whom John McCain was more than happy to appear on stage with in December 2013 and offer his – and by extension America’s – support.

Yet it would also be wrong-headed to characterize the protests in Ukraine as being led by far-right extremists – many protesters are taking to the streets through genuine and legitimate grievances with the current government. The danger lies in these moderate protesters allying themselves with those on the far-right – combined with tacit support from the US for the likes of the Svoboda party, it could be a concoction which would set the stage for a dictatorship far more corrupt and repressive than those currently clinging onto power.

With the geopolitical stakes as high as they are, not least with the potential for a broader NATO influence in the region, it would be wise to view the situation in Ukraine through the wider prism of the global balance of power and all that this entails. Equally, we should be wary of simplistic media narratives which seek to paint any conflict in black and white/good vs. evil terms, particularly when the “good guys” are being backed by the US government and her allies. All too often this amounts to little more than propaganda designed to rouse support for opposition movements favourable to “regime change”, and by now it should be very clear how little this has to do with vague, idealistic notions of “democracy”, and how much it has to do with regional – and ultimately global – hegemony.

16 Comments on "What’s Really Going on in Ukraine?"

  1. The other day I saw a picture from there of a cop on fire, so I assume things are going well.

  2. akerfeldt | Jan 27, 2014 at 1:53 pm |

    What exactly are US interests in Ukraine? Is it just to weaken Russia?

    • Andy Dilks | Jan 27, 2014 at 4:44 pm |

      Bringing Ukraine into the NATO sphere has been a long term goal – the past 2 decades or so can be viewed as a process of encircling Russia with NATO-affiliated countries from the former Soviet bloc (recall the “controversy” over the missile defense shield, the provocation in George/South Ossetia in 2008, the western-backed “color” revolutions and so on)

    • Calypso_1 | Jan 27, 2014 at 5:24 pm |

      Ukraine should be considered as strongly having its own interests considering it voluntarily submitted to nuclear disarmament in exchange for security guarantees and agreements against economic coercion. An agreement which Russia has constantly sought to undermine.

  3. This reads as a bit of a hit piece on American foreign policy for encouraging the overthrow of a Russian-friendly government. You seem to overlook the shadow presence of the Russians elsewhere in the world, not to mention their own will to hegemony.

    Did you also consider that there may be a long running hatred of the Russians for Stalin’s past crimes? There was certainly evidence of a “payback mentality” among Serbs for Croat complicity with the Nazis.

    • Andy Dilks | Jan 27, 2014 at 4:42 pm |

      I agree – the desire for regional hegemony applies to Russia as much as it does the US – I intended to focus on US foreign policy to provide historical context of US meddling but agree that the situation is more complex, although I’m not sure the shadow presence of Russia is anywhere near as extensive – or deadly – than the US. Thanks for reading

    • Simon Valentine | Jan 27, 2014 at 6:19 pm |

      one question

      what is an integer?

      • A whole number rather than a fraction.
        Is this some kind of Situationist Koan?

        • Simon Valentine | Jan 28, 2014 at 10:52 am |

          does this this or that this reference an integer?
          or should have that this there become that as if being what you said?

          • That depends on the meaning of “this.” Is this this the this that we are speaking to or is that this the one?

          • Simon Valentine | Jan 28, 2014 at 12:38 pm |

            how would one determine if in terms of a computer algorithm and sound wave energy sensors? 🙂

  4. FactCheck | Jan 27, 2014 at 5:52 pm |

    Regarding the sentence about Yushchenko’s career, can anyone verify this? It’s the first time I’ve come across this information and I’m curious to learn more. A google search did not turn up any results.


    • FactCheck | Jan 28, 2014 at 11:12 am |

      I did a little research and found that the career accomplishments that
      the author credits Yushchenko with are actually those of his American-born wife. I am not sure whether the author was negligent,
      lazy, or simply so desperate to prove that the west is deeply involved in Ukrainian internal affairs that he would blatantly lie.

      What made me uneasy about this piece is
      that it reads very much like something you’d hear in an official
      statement from the Ukrainian government or read in a Russian newspaper. While it’s fair to say that Ukraine has been a battleground between the West and Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is wrong to suggest that the demonstrations are the work of foreign agents (western educated elite and NGOs). Suggesting so undermines the
      robust civil society that has existed in Ukraine for decades and insults
      the memory of those who have perished in Soviet labor camps and exile
      for their “crimes against the state.” What the western NGOs did is give
      the people the tools to mobilize.

      For the current Ukrainian government, this civil society is very inconvenient- it interferes with Mr. Yanukovych’s Soviet business- as- usual mentality. His method of dealing with the civil unrest was to ignore it first and then to push through new laws targeted at specifically criminalizing every single person in the Independence Square. While I do not condone the violence, it’s hard to ignore the fact that that’s what it took to get Mr. Yanukovych’s attention.

      While the demonstrations in the Independence Square may have been triggered by Yanukovych backing out of the trade agreement with Europe, the protests have turned into something much broader. The demonstrators are demanding transparency and accountability. They want and deserve a government that works for the benefit of its people.

      I appreciate the author’s attempt at providing an alternative view. I just wish he has taken the time to really understand the situation.

  5. I’m waiting for sources I trust who are actually there to get a believable take on what’s going on. Too many competing narratives from sources I don’t know and/or who aren’t there.

  6. Andy Dilks | Jan 28, 2014 at 1:48 pm |

    For those questioning the intentions of US government-backed NGOs in Ukraine I would recommend doing a search on “NGOs and the CIA” for some background information and researching the role played by NGOs in putting out damaging pro-intervention propaganda in Syria. Of course, it would be wrong to tarnish ALL NGOs with the same brush – many do great work – but by the same token it would be equally unwise to credit them with a clear agenda, particularly those NGOs which receive significant funding from government bodies, intelligence agencies and other private sources with ulterior motives for meddling in the affairs of a sovereign nation. These things are never clear-cut, but organizations with a track record of acting in a manner which benefits US foreign policy and CIA objectives should be viewed with caution.

  7. shinyhalo | Feb 19, 2014 at 1:22 pm |

    This guy has it right. It’s all about money and power over the masses. There are lots of stories about the tyranny of the EU. One thing they all have in common is making the cost of living higher and allowing immigrants to come into countries and get welfare and drive down wages. The end goal is two classes of people: 1% ultra-rich, 99% practically slaves.

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