Ukraine continues to hog media attention. Crimea has virtually declared autonomy from Kiev and with the support of Russian units stationed in Crimea, have taken control of its territory.
Russia, after demonstrating its willingness to militarily intervene in Ukraine if Russian speaking population were to be attacked, has declared that it does not see any need for such an intervention right now. While the EU and the US have been talking about Russia's military intervention and how it violates international law, they are unable to explain why they are backing an illegal coup against a duly elected president in Ukraine, that too carried out with the help of neo Nazi militias. And it takes some chutzpa for the US to accuse others of violating international law -- specially military interventions in other countries -- considering its history.
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That the coup was illegal is without question. The Ukraine constitution lays down the procedure for impeachment and removal of a President. It has mandatory provisions such as setting up an investigation committee, framing of charges, multiple rounds of voting in the Parliament and review by the highest judicial body. None of this happened. And it cannot happen in one day and with just one vote in the Parliament; that too under the guns of the street thugs that Svoboda and Pravyi Sektor – the two key fascist organisations – had mobilised after government forces were withdrawn.
Withdrawal of government forces from the Parliament and government offices. and disarming of the street demonstrators was a part of the peace agreement that the EU had brokered between Yanukovich and the opposition. Yanukovich foolishly withdrew his forces, while the other side violated the agreement and remained armed. His MP's were beaten up and he was forced to flee Kiev. Not surprisingly, the MP's of his party – the Party of Regions – either switched sides or kept quiet as Ukrainian parliament passed a series measures including disbanding the riot police, and prohibiting the official use of the Russian language, banning the communist party (which in the last election had 13% of the votes and removing the Russian language TV which most people watch off the cable networks.
The facts on the ground right now are that there are large protests taking place in east and southern parts of Ukraine against the coup in Kiev. Crimea has declared autonomy from Kiev. In Kiev and other towns in western Ukraine, openly fascist formations are in control. Ultra-nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) and Pravyi Sektor (Right Sector) members have been appointed to key positions in the Defense Ministry, National Defense and Security Council, and the Prosecutor General's office. One of them, Dmitry Yarosh (Right Sector) has been inciting attacks against Russian speakers and Jews. Russia is initiating legal action on this. Svoboda leaders Oleh Tyahnybok and Igor Miroshnichenko were declared persona non grata in the United States last year. Tyahnybok has praised his supporters for being the “worst fear of the Jewish-Russian mafia.”
Yulia Timoshchenko and Yatsenyuk have taken leadership of the Kiev junta with fascist gangs providing the muscle. It is this mixture of oligarchs and fascists that the EU and the US are now backing. It also confirms the US hand in Kiev – “Yats” was Victoria Nuland's preferred candidate t lead the government in her leaked phone conversation with the US Ambassador in Kiev.
For the west, Ukraine is part of its new “great game”. Ukraine is a major strategic prize – it expands NATO to Russia's doorstep. And if it can deny Russia access to Crimea, guaranteed under an existing accord, this would deny Russia access to its Black Sea naval base – Sevastopol.
Conversely, Russia would not like NATO to be parked at its door step. But they hold many more cards that just military ones. Ukraine depends on Russian subsidised gas supplies for its energy needs, its more developed eastern provinces are economically much more integrated with Russia – both for markets and raw materials. The EU also depends heavily on Russian gas supplies. So Russia can play a waiting game – as long as it keeps the west militarily out of eastern Ukraine, particularly Crimea.
For the west, bringing Ukraine over has very heavy costs. Ukraine needs big money to survive – conservatively estimated to be $ 35 billion over the next year. It is a big economy with over 40 million people. Loans from IMF and western banks are possible, but at high political costs for its local Ukrainian allies. The structural adjustment programs of the IMF and the German banks are hard on the people; just ask the Greeks. This is why Yanukovich refused the EU deal – it came with a cost that he could not accept. Now that the west has backed the new dispensation in Kiev to the hilt, their ability to avoid harsh domestic measures is limited.
The US has announced $1 billion as aid, followed up by EU committing $15 billion, most of it as loan rollovers, etc. Hard cash that Ukraine needs will be available only in driblets and under tough conditionalities. The problem for the Kiev junta is that not only they have a bankrupt economy, the eastern part is much the richer part and helped subsidise Kiev and other parts of a largely agrarian western Ukraine. And this is the part that is now threatening to break away.
The west, particularly the US has been threatening Russia diplomatically – will throw you out of G8, impose sanctions on you if you do not recognise the Kiev junta as the government, etc. There is a Tamil proverb which translates roughly “to scare the opponent with a loud fart”. To Russia, this is exactly how such threats sound. The US and its allies need Russia much more than the other way. Russia is vital to a settlement in Syria, it is integral to the talks with Iran on nuclear fuel enrichment and important in sending supplies to its troops in Afghanistan. Threatening Russia when the US has so little leverage, is a game of bluff that they can only lose.
The US and their allies may have lost the ability for regime change but not their appetite. The problem for the world is that a number of failed states from US misadventures are rising. As countries collapse or are driven civil war, the cost to the people, and indeed the whole world is enormous.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author's personal views, and do not necessarily represent the views of Newsclick