“We can fight against the Europeans, we can fight with rhetoric against them,” said Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland during a meeting of United States officials at a security conference February in Munich, according to the German magazine Bild. The statement shows disdain for the Minsk II agreement -- the Ukrainian Donbass war truce and political solution engineered by Germany and France -- and favor for a military victory of the current Ukraine government over the break-away Donbass region, which borders and is supported by Russia. Also, the statement shows faith in the U.S. propaganda effort, which employs the Mighty Wurlitzer method of continuously pumping out a one-sided, misleading storyline through many media pipes so that the public comes to believe it. Nuland, a neocon holdover from the Bush II administration who advised Vice President Dick Cheney, gave U.S. politicians at the meeting a tip for minding the p's and q's of the propaganda for arming Ukraine. She said, “I’d strongly urge you to use the phrase ‘defensive systems’ that we would deliver to oppose Putin’s ‘offensive systems.’"
On March 23, the House of Representatives officially called on President Barack Obama to send "lethal defensive weapons systems" to Ukraine. Were Obama to heed that call, it could bring a showdown between the U.S. and Russia, two countries that each have thousands of nuclear warheads. So citizens of the U.S. -- as well as of the world -- would do well to get a fuller and truer story of the Ukraine crisis.
First, let's look at the "white hats versus black hats" storyline being pumped out by the Mighty Wurlitzer via U.S. officials and the mainstream media. On March 4 and 10, Nuland gave that storyline to Congress in separate testimony to the foreign affairs committees of both houses:
Sixteen months ago, the Kyiv Maidan and towns across Ukraine erupted in peaceful protest by ordinary Ukrainians fed up with a sleazy, corrupt regime bent on cheating the people of their sovereign choice to associate with Europe. ... The leader of that rotten regime fled the country, and he was voted out by the parliament ... Then, Ukraine began to forge a new nation on its own terms — ... undertaking deep and comprehensive economic and political reforms.
Just last week:
- They made tough choices to reduce and cap pension benefits, increase work requirements and phase in a higher retirement age;
- And, they passed laws cutting wasteful gas subsidies ...
[E]ven as Ukraine is building a peaceful, democratic, independent nation across 93% of its territory, Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine are suffering a reign of terror. ...
This manufactured conflict—controlled by the Kremlin; fueled by Russian tanks and heavy weapons ... —has cost the lives of more than 6000 Ukrainians ...
[W]e salute the efforts of German Chancellor Merkel and French President Hollande in Minsk on February 12th to try again to end the fighting in Ukraine’s East. The Minsk Package of Agreements ... offer a real opportunity for peace, disarmament, political normalization and decentralization in eastern Ukraine, and the return of Ukrainian state sovereignty and control of its territory and borders.
Now, let's look at some facts that can help correct or add some shades of gray to that one-sided story:
- As the Euromaidan protest against the administration of President Viktor Yanukovych went on and on, more and more neo-Nazis and other ultra-nationalists joined the "ordinary Ukrainians" in Kiev. The ultra-nationalists came in paramilitary brigades of 100 men, not for "peaceful protest," but to amp up the violence, and eventually carried out a coup. The post-coup government then sent the ultra-nationalists to eastern Ukraine as "National Guard" to help put down the ethnic Russian protests that arose after the coup.
- Nuland's claim that Yanukovych was "bent on cheating the people" out of their choice to associate with Europe seems a harsh judgement. When Yanukovych postponed signing the European Union association agreement -- touching off the Euromaidan protests -- he had a good reason. He had just learned from Kiev economic experts that the deal would cost Ukraine $160 billion in lost revenue in trade with Russia.
- I don't know that Yanukovych "fled the country," but he did flee Kiev and go to eastern Ukraine. He did so most likely to save his life, as armed neo-Nazis and other street fighters overran presidential and parliamentary offices. The day before, Yanukovych had signed a deal to reduce his powers and hold early elections. But the putsch-makers did not wait for that to occur. Since some members of parliament of his party also fled, opposition parties took control and "voted out" Yanukovych. The new majority also quickly passed an IMF austerity plan, and banned Russian as an official language -- though that was later rescinded. The U.S. quickly recognized the post-coup government. The more ethnic Russian areas of the country in the east and south, after seeing their duly-elected president ousted, then arose in protest. That unrest led to the civil war in the Donbass, and Russia's annexation of Crimea.
- Letting Nuland's words stand on their own, we can see that the current government's "economic and political reforms" include the standard neocon/neoliberal policy plank of austerity for the masses. That may be another reason that Yanukovych balked at the European Union association agreement.
- An event on March 19 casts doubt that Ukraine is on course towards a "peaceful, democratic, independent nation." When the government acted to oust an oligarch's crony and gain control of the state-owned gas company, that oligarch, Igor Kolomoisky, brought a band of armed men to raid the company offices to seize and apparently destroy records. President Petro Poroshenko, also an oligarch, has since (on March 25) fired Kolomoisky from the governorship of Dnipropetrovsk province, a position the post-coup government appointed him to for the dubious reason that he was too rich to bribe.
- Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch each found human rights and law of war violations on both sides, but it doesn't add up to Nuland's claimed "reign of terror." Perhaps the greatest terror has been the shelling and use by both sides of cluster bombs and unguided rockets on civilians. But now a truce is holding in the Donbass war zone. And in Crimea, though a clampdown on the Tatar minority and journalism has occurred, respected polling organizations have found wide support for that region being part of Russia. After the coup, Russia prevented the new government from taking power in Crimea, where ethnic Russians are the majority. And after a vote by the Crimean parliament for annexation to Russia, a referendum was held on the same question. The referendum passed with 96% and the annexation proceeded. Gallup found that 83% of all Crimeans, and 68% of ethnic Ukrainian Crimeans, thought the referendum legitimate. The German polling firm GfK asked the question, "Do you endorse Russia's annexation of Crimea?" and got 93% "yes" answers.
If the war in Ukraine were a "manufactured conflict," it would be in no small part by the hand of Nuland herself. As journalist Robert Parry put it:
Confirmed to her present job in September 2013, Nuland soon undertook an extraordinary effort to promote “regime change” in Ukraine. She personally urged on business leaders and political activists to challenge elected President Viktor Yanukovych. She reminded corporate executives that the United States had invested $5 billion in their “European aspirations,” and she literally passed out cookies to anti-government protesters in Kiev’s Maidan square.
... Nuland made clear that the United States would back a “regime change” against Yanukovych, which grew more likely as neo-Nazi and other right-wing militias poured into Kiev from western Ukraine.
In early February 2014, Nuland discussed U.S.-desired changes with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt ...
Nuland treated her proposed new line-up of Ukrainian officials as if she were trading baseball cards, casting aside some while valuing others. “Yats is the guy,” she said of her favorite Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
- Most of the "more than 6000 Ukrainians" that died in this conflict have been ethnic Russians.
- As the U.S. officially "salutes the efforts" of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in bringing about the Minsk II agreement, the Ukraine parliament, led by Nuland's choice for prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has legislated a poison pill that would kill the agreement. The agreement calls for giving the Donbass home rule, but keeping it in Ukraine with central government control of its borders. But just last week, parliament passed the implementing law with a clause requiring the rebels to give up control of the Donbass to the central government before negotiations for home rule occur -- the backwards order from what was agreed.
2015-04-05 09:49 EDT: Correction: Crimea is the only mostly ethnic Russian region; other eastern regions are mostly Russian-speaking.
Image credit - The U.S. Mighty Wurlitzer of Ukraine Propaganda (original photo by André Natta; edited by Quinn Hungeski)
according to "Guiding Obama into Global Make-Believe" by Ray McGovern, Consortiumnews; March 14, 2015
Minsk II full text - Wikipedia
employs the Mighty Wurlitzer "Guiding Obama into Global Make-Believe" ibid.
neocon holdover "A Family Business of Perpetual War" by Robert Parry, Consortiumnews; March 20, 2015
called on "H.Res.162 - Calling on the President to provide Ukraine with military assistance to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity." - U.S. Congress
white hats versus black hats "Black and white hat symbolism in film" - Wikipedia
U.S. officials "Guiding Obama into Global Make-Believe" ibid.
mainstream media "The Putin-Did-It Conspiracy Theory" by Robert Parry, Consortiumnews; February 13, 2015
gave that storyline "Testimony on Ukraine Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee" - Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs; Washington, DC; March 10, 2015
more and more neo-Nazis "Seeing No Neo-Nazi Militias in Ukraine" by Robert Parry, Consortiumnews; September 8, 2014
amp up the violence "Ukraine, Through the US Looking Glass" by Robert Parry, Consortiumnews; April 16, 2014
carried out a coup "NYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine" by Robert Parry, Consortiumnews; January 6, 2015
sent the ultra-nationalists "Ukraine, Through the US Looking Glass" ibid.
the deal would cost "The Putin-Did-It Conspiracy Theory" ibid.
to save his life "NYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine" ibid.
opposition parties took control "Cheering a ‘Democratic’ Coup in Ukraine" by Robert Parry, Consortiumnews; February 26, 2014
brought a band of armed men "Ukraine’s Oligarchs Turn on Each Other" by Robert Parry, Consortiumnews; March 24, 2015
Amnesty International "Ukraine: Summary killings during the conflict in eastern Ukraine" by Amnesty International; 2014-10-20
Human Rights Watch "Ukraine: War in East, Crimea Occupation - Protecting Civilians Should Be Top Priority" -- Human Rights Watch; January 29, 2015
truce is holding "Russia ETF Rallies as Crisis Eases, Ukraine Truce Holds" by Halia Pavliva; Bloomberg News; 2015-04-02
found wide support "Crimeans Keep Saying No to Ukraine" by Robert Parry, Consortiumnews; March 22, 2015
Gallup found "One Year After Russia Annexed Crimea, Locals Prefer Moscow To Kiev" by Kenneth Rapoze, Forbes; 2015-03-20
Robert Parry put it "A Family Business of Perpetual War" ibid.
Most of "Crimeans Keep Saying No to Ukraine"; ibid
legislated a poison pill "Ukraine’s Poison Pill for Peace Talks" by Robert Parry, Consortiumnews; March 19, 2015
* * *