It is disturbing to see John McCain, a US senator and war hawk, rushing to Ukraine and cheering on crowds of protestors to revolt against their own government. Under no circumstances would the US allow a foreign politician a travel visa to fly over for the express purpose of inciting people to revolt against the White House but this is exactly what McCain is doing in Ukraine. Ukraine is one in a series of countries where McCain has inflamed hostilities with disastrous results. Recall that, just last year, he made an illegal trip to Syria to lend support to rebels who turned out to be criminals and terrorists, and in 2011 he was directly involved in policy-making that led to the destruction of Libya, a country that previously had the highest human development index in the region.
Now that Ukraine has reached boiling point, McCain appears in group photographs, as usual with the most unsavoury elements, including outspoken right-wing neo-Nazis who play a major role in the protests. It is now this land, which shares borders with Russia, which commands the closest attention of the powers that be in the US. Thus, it is worth examining recent events and their place in the bigger picture of international relations.
The present crisis in Ukraine does not have its basis in the fight for democracy, as McCain and his ilk proclaim. Ukraine is a typical democracy, and the current president of that democracy, President Viktor Yanukovych, was elected by ballot in 2010 with 48.95 percent of the vote, an outcome that was judged to be fair by the country’s election commission and international observers. Today, despite the violent protests, recent polls show that Yanukovych’s Party of Regions still has the highest electoral ratings. On the contrary, the crisis in Ukraine has its basis not in questions of democracy but in the intense competition for markets following the Great Recession of 2008, and an imperial agenda to isolate and weaken Russia.
Let us consider the sequence of events. In 2008, the Great Recession hit the world hard and shook US and European markets to the core. Unemployment reached staggering levels, banks and manufacturers suffered losses and were forced to either close down or merge to keep afloat, and the average consumer’s purchasing power plummeted. A study of history will show that, under such circumstances, countries frequently try to re-divide the world and its markets between them to salvage their own positions through wars of conquest. The Great Depressions of the previous century, for instance, were notably accompanied with the most devastating world wars. Thus, we see that in the interest of acquiring new markets, in just over a decade, enough wars have been waged and enough civil conflict has been imposed by the civilised west upon isolated countries to make the most barbaric medieval periods seem tame by comparison. Since 2008, two countries, Libya and Syria, have already fallen victim to the ravenous appetite of the great powers for acquiring markets. And now Ukraine is the latest arena for the international powers to do battle with each other.
Yanukovych rejected the European Union’s Association Agreement trade pact in favour of a more substantial loan from Russia to support industrial development. Signing the Association Agreement would have meant that the EU could have acquired a market of almost 45 million fresh consumers for European businesses. Since the EU competes with the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, Ukraine’s failure to sign the Association Agreement is being interpreted by many as a step away from membership in the European Union, even though that is not yet the case. This was Yanukovych’s real crime, and the recent protests that are supported by the US and the leading European countries, are intended to put pressure on the administration to capitulate.
To be sure, Yanukovych’s government, which represents a class of oligarchs, has obviously failed to fix glaring economic and social issues. Ukraine essentially remains one of the poorest countries in the region, and has serious problems with corruption and mafias. However, examining the choices for addressing economic problems, either to accept EU support where the returns were less evident and that were in any case conditional upon IMF-prescribed market reforms that required raising gas prices by 40 percent, or to accept a $ 15 billion loan and cheaper gas from Russia, it is not difficult to see why Yanukovych’s government accepted Russian support.
The other question is how many more injuries Russia and its allies can bear to have inflicted on their interests and psyche? It really has been one assault after another upon Russian interests. First it was Libya, then Syria and now a country that Russia shares borders with. It is not only for trade-related reasons that Russia assigns the highest priority to maintaining its influence over Ukraine. Historically, the territories of both Ukraine and Poland have been used as a corridor to launch numerous invasions of Russia. Needless to say, Russia will relentlessly defend its interests there and nothing less should be expected. As proactive and involved as Russia was in seeking a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict, it is all but certain that the Russian response will be much more significant where it concerns a country on its border. So, it is bewildering that even with such knowledge, western administrations, and particularly the US, continue to make foreign policy choices that are gradually leading to a head-on collision with Russia.
As for President Yanukovych, there are few possible outcomes, and a middle-of-the-ground solution looks very unlikely. One possible outcome that is actively being sought by the US and EU is that the crisis will force Yanukovych’s capitulation. Yanukovych had previously favoured Ukraine gaining EU membership, so this is not unthinkable. The second is that the crisis may drive his party further into the arms of Russia. This is, after all, the second time he has suffered from a colour revolution, and perhaps he and his party have just about had enough.
During his recent China visit, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel reportedly got an earful from ...