Ukraine: the end of the cold war never happened
Ukraine: the end of the cold war never happened
The Ukrainian affaire is a complex and grave affaire (in another time and in different circumstances it could have triggered a regional war, and why not a world war). It is complex because with the information we have, we can end up having contradictory judgements on it. In these circumstances, it is necessary to determine what is essential and what is secondary. What I consider essential is the power struggle that exists on the world scene, between the supporters of a multipolar world, of which I am part, and those who accept or wish a unipolar world submitted to the dominant ideology of liberal capitalism. In this perspective, everything that diminishes the grip of American-western influence on the world is a good thing, everything that tends to increase it a bad one.
Europe having today abandoned all will to power and independence, Russia is now obviously the principal alternative power to American hegemony, if not to the dominant ideology which the liberal West is the prime vector. The “principal enemy” is thus the West.
Nonetheless I do not feel any sympathy for the deposed president of Ukraine. Yanukovych was obviously a detestable person, as well as a deeply corrupt autocrat. Putin himself eventually realized that – a bit late, it is true. I am neither unreserved about Vladimir Putin, who is obviously a great statesman, much superior to his European and American counterparts, and also an experienced practitioner of martial arts, won over to the principles of political realism, but who is also much more a pragmatic than an “ideologue.” This does not change the fact that, as far as we can tell today, the “revolution of Kiev” has primarily served U.S. interests.
I do not know if Americans have inspired or supported this “revolution” as they had already inspired and funded the previous “coloured revolution” (Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, etc.), seeking to channel an often justified popular discontent in order to integrate peoples into the Western economic and military orbit. In any case, the fact is that they have supported it from the start without any ambiguity. The new Ukrainian prime minister, billionaire, economist and lawyer Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who had received only 6.9% of the vote in the presidential election of 2010, was also immediately rushed to Washington where Barack Obama received him in the Oval Office, an honour that is usually reserved for heads of state. Except for an unpredictable turn, the events that led to the brutal eviction of the head of the Ukrainian state, following the demonstrations on the Maidan square, can therefore not be considered a good thing for all those who struggle against the world hegemony of the United-States.
Everywhere there is talk of a “return to the Cold War.” The question should rather be, has it ever ended. During the Soviet era, Americans had developed a policy which, under the guise of anti-communism, was fundamentally anti-Russian. The end of the Soviet system did not change the fundamentals of geopolitics. It has instead made them more obvious. Since 1945 the United-States has always sought to prevent the emerging of a rival power in the world. The European Union being reduced to impotence and paralysis, they have never ceased to see Russia as a potential threat to their interests. When Germany reunited, they solemnly pledged not to seek to expand NATO to the Eastern European countries. They were lying. NATO, which should have disappeared along with the Warsaw Pact, was not only been maintained, but it expanded to Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, that is to say, to the very borders of Russia. The aim is always the same: weaken and encircle Russia by destabilizing or taking control of its neighbours. All the actions of the United States are aimed at preventing the formation of a large “continental block” by convincing the Europeans that their interests are contrary to those of Russia, when they are in fact perfectly complementary. This is the reason why the “territorial integrity” of Ukraine matters more to them than the historical integrity of Russia. « Back to the Cold War” is for the Americans the most appropriate way to ensure the subjugation of Europe by Washington. The “great transatlantic market” project currently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States is another step in that direction.
The complication stems from the heterogeneous nature of the opposition to Yanukovych. The Western press has generally presented this opposition as “pro-European”, which is an obvious lie. Among the opponents of the former Ukrainian president, there are actually two totally opposite trends: on one side those who actually want to bind closely with the West and dream of joining NATO under U.S. leadership, on the other those who aspire to a “Ukrainian Ukraine” independent from Moscow, Washington or Brussels. The only common point of these two trends is their total allergy to Russia. The demonstrations on Maidan square were therefore initially anti-Russian demonstrations, and it was as a “pro-Russian president” that Yanukovich was dismissed. Ukrainian nationalists grouped in movements like “Svoboda” or “Right Sector” (Pravy Sektory) are regularly reported in the press as being extremists and nostalgics of Nazism. As I do not know them, I don’t know if this is true. Some of them seem to be, indeed, disciples of a convulsive and hateful form of ultra-nationalism that I despise. But it is not certain that all the Ukrainians who want to be independent from Russia as well as from the United States share the same feelings. Many of them fought on the Maidan square, without the feeling of being manipulated, and with a courage that deserves respect. The question is : will they will not be robbed of their victory by a “revolution” whose main effect will have been to replace the “Russian big brother” by the U.S. Big Brother?
Regarding Crimea, things are both clearer and simpler. For at least four centuries, Crimea has been a Russian territory populated mainly by Russian populations. It also houses the Russian fleet, Sevastopol being Russia’s the access point to the “warm seas”. To imagine that Putin could tolerate NATO taking control of this region is obviously unthinkable. But he did not need to do so, since during the referendum of March 16th nearly 97% of the Crimean unequivocally expressed their desire to be attached to Russia, or more precisely to return there, as they had been arbitrarily cut in 1954, by a decision of the Ukrainian Nikita Khrushchev. This decision to grant administratively Crimea to Ukraine was made during the Soviet era – it was therefore of no great consequences – and without any consultation of the concerned population. The magnitude of the March 16 vote, coupled with a participation rate of 80%, leaves no doubt about the will of the people of Crimea. In these conditions, to speak of “Anschluss”, to compare it with the Soviet intervention in Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968), is simply ridiculous and to denounce this referendum as “illegal” even more. The “revolution” of the 21st February has indeed put an end to the Ukrainian constitutional order, and substituted a de facto power to a duly elected president, which resulted in the dissolution of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. It is precisely for this reason that the Crimean leaders, estimating that the rights of the autonomous region were no longer guaranteed, decided to hold a referendum on its future. One cannot have both a power born of a rupture of the constitutional order, which releases all actors of society of their constitutional constraints, and at the same time refer to that same constitutional order in order to declare “illegal” the Crimean referendum. Old Latin saying : Nemo auditur propriam turpitudinem allegans (“no one can be heard to invoke his own turpitude”).
By immediately giving their support to a new government directly issued from the 21st February coup, the Americans have also shown that their concern for “legality” is very relative. By attacking Serbia, bombing Belgrade in 2008, by supporting the secession and independence of Kosovo, declaring war on Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, they have also showed what case they make of international law, as a principle of “inviolability of borders” that they invoke only when it suits them. Moreover, the United States seem to have forgotten that their own country was born of secession vis-à-vis England … and that the annexation of Hawaii to the United States in 1959 was not authorized by any treaty.
European and American leaders, who assume the quality of the sole representatives of the “international community”, did not challenge the referendum that, a few years ago, separated the island of Mayotte from the Comoros, to attach it to France. They admit that in September the Scots will vote in a referendum on a possible independence of Scotland. Why would the Crimeans not have the same rights as the Scots? Comments of European and American leaders on the “illegal and illegitimate” nature of the Crimean referendum only show that they did not understand the nature of this vote, and that they refuse to recognize both the principle of the right of peoples to self-determination and the sovereignty of the people, which is the founding principle of democracy.
As for the threat of economic and financial “sanctions” brandished by the West against Russia, they are laughable, and Putin was right to openly say how indifferent he felt about them. Putin knows that the EU has no power, no unity, no will. Rightly, he gives no credit to countries that claim to “defend human rights”, but cannot do without the money of the oligarchs. As Bismarck said: “Diplomacy without a credible use of force is like music without instruments.” Putin knows that Europe is decaying, that it is just capable of posturing and of verbally provoking, and the United States themselves consider it insignificant (“Fuck the European Union!,” as Victoria Nuland said). He especially knows that if they really wanted to “punish” Russia, Westerners would punish themselves because they would be exposed to large-scale reprisals, of which they are clearly not willing to pay the price. They would only get a dose of their own medicine.
One need just recall here that Russian oil and gas accounts for about a third of the energy supply of the 28 countries of the European Union, to say nothing of the scale of European, especially German and British, investments in Russia. One can count today no less than 6000 German companies active in the Russian market. In France, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius threatened Russia to not deliver two “Mistral” type ships currently under construction in the shipyards of Saint-Nazaire. In a country where there are already more than five million unemployed, the result would be the loss of thousands of jobs… As for the United States, if they seek to freeze Russian assets abroad, they expose themselves to seeing credit repayment that U.S. banks have granted to Russian structures, frozen.
Today, Ukraine is a ruined country. It will have the greatest difficulty to do without the economic support of Russia and to resolve the closing of the CIS (Russia accounted so far for 20% of its exportations and 30% of its importations). It is also difficult to imagine Europeans finding ways to help it financially when they do not even want to give to Greece anymore : given the crisis Europe is going through since 2008, the European Union is simply unable to unlock sums of several billion euros. In the grip of their own problems, starting with huge deficits, will the United States want to support Ukraine single-handedly ? It is doubtful. The checks of Washington and of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will not solve the problems of Ukraine.
For now, the future remains as uncertain as it is worrying. The Ukrainian case is not over, not least because we do not yet know who exactly are the new Ukrainian authorities. If Ukraine chooses to be resolutely anchored in the West, the big question is how will the eastern part of Ukraine react, as it is both the most pro-Russian and the most industrialized (the West is only one third of the GDP). How could Russia, for its part, accept a radically anti-Russian government running a country of which half of the population is Russian ? Any attempt to impose a solution by force could lead to civil war and ultimately to the partition of a country where the main lines of political, linguistic and religious division, largely overlap lines of territorial division. It would then reproduce the scenario that led to the breakup of former Yugoslavia. In the immediate future, the greatest risk is that of a deterioration of the situation in Kiev, accompanied by a series of irresponsible initiatives (creation of militias, etc.), of isolated incidents that could degenerate into a rise to the extreme. Neither Europe nor Russia (which will now strengthen its military alliance with China) have an interest in this. On the other side of the Atlantic, however, supporters of war abound.
The Western media hysteria reveals their degree of submission to Washington. Putin is regularly described as a “new czar,” a “Kgbist”, a “neo-Soviet” but also a “fascist” and a “red-brown”, while he is not the one who triggered the Ukrainian crisis, and has rather shown in this case extraordinary patience. Russia, who has never experienced such a degree of democracy in its history, is presented, if not as a “dictatorship”, at least as “insufficiently liberal”, that is to say, not yet totally conforming with the requirements of the “open society”. But, as Henry Kissinger clearly understood it : “to demonize Putin is not a policy but a way to hide a lack of policy.” Admittedly, as I said earlier, there is no reason to consider Putin as a “savior” who would spare the Europeans the necessity of taking themselves control of their destiny. Europe is not destined to be the western branch of a great Russian empire (the idea of empire is not reducible to imperialism). However, it has the duty to recognize the need for an alliance with Russia in the great collective project of a Eurasian continental logic, which is quite different.
Russia, for its part, would do well to recognize the pluralism of identities of its neighbours in the “near abroad”. The Ukrainian anger was fed by a real Russian tendency to deny the Ukrainian identity, although this denial has sometimes been exaggerated. Things would probably not have arrived at this point, if Russia had treated Ukraine on an equal footing and with reciprocity. In a federal logic, local identities must be respected as well as the rights of minorities. The concepts of decentralization, autonomy and regionalism must enter the Russian political culture, just as they must enter the Ukrainian political culture, as presently they obviously are not willing to do so (as is shown by the incredible decision of the new Ukrainian government to deny the Russian language the status of second official language). The concept of zone of influence has a meaning, and this meaning must be recognized, but “satellite” countries must now give way to partners and allies. As Croatian Jure Vujic said, the “Grand European Eurasian geopolitical project must be primarily a unifying project, geopolitical cooperation based on respect for all European peoples and the principle of subsidiarity.”
Translated by Venator for Open Revolt