Putin’s Victorious Defeat 238


Just a month ago, Putin had one of his pet oligarchs, the firmly pro-Russian multi-billionaire Yanukovich, in power in Ukraine.  Putin had been to an awful lot of trouble to ensure that Yanukovich got elected.  It is undoubtedly true that the United States and its allies funded various pro-western groups in the Ukraine – my friend Ray McGovern, former senior CIA, put a figure of US$100 million on it, and he should know.  The resources Putin poured in to ensure Yanukovich’s election were more in kind than financial, but were not on too different a scale.

In earlier attempts to put Yanukovich in power, Putin had in 2004 helped organise massive electoral fraud, and Putin’s secret service had attempted to assassinate Victor Yushchenko.  The 2010 election of Yanukovich also involved a great deal of fraud.  Russia is an influential member of the OSCE, Ukraine is also a member and that organization is notably mealy-mouthed in pointing out the derelictions of its own members. Nonetheless its observation mission of the 2010 Presidential elections stated:

 “The presidential election met most OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections and consolidated progress achieved since 2004. The process was transparent and offered voters a genuine choice between candidates representing diverse political views. However, unsubstantiated allegations of large-scale electoral fraud negatively affected the election atmosphere and voter confidence in the process.”

That is about as close as the OSCE has ever come to accusing one of its own members of fraud.  International organisations have their obvious limitations.

Putin had put years of effort into getting the President of Ukraine which he wanted, and he had him.  Yanukovich attempted to steer an even-handed path between Russia and the West, while putting his main effort into acquiring an astonishing personal fortune.  Putin lost patience when Yanukovich appeared ready to sign an EU association agreement, and put extremely heavy pressure on Yanukovich over debt, energy supplies, and doubtless some deeply personal pressures too.  Yanukovich backed down from the EU Association agreement and signed a new trade deal with Russia, appearing on the path to Putin’s cherished new Eurasian customs union.

The west – and not only the west – of Ukraine erupted into popular protest.  The reason for this is perfectly simple. Income, lifestyle, education, health and social security for ordinary people are far better in western and central Europe than they are in Russia.  The standard of living for ordinary Polish people in Poland has caught up at a tremendous rate towards the rest of the EU.  I am not depending on statistics here – I have lived in Poland, travelled widely in Poland and speak Polish.  I was professionally involved in the process of Polish economic transformation.  There have been a large number of commenters on this blog this last few days who deny that the standard of living for ordinary people in Poland is better as a result of EU membership, and believe life for ordinary people is better in Russia than in the west.  I also of course speak Russian and have travelled widely in Russia.  Frankly, you have to be so ideologically blinkered to believe that, I have no concerns if such people leave this blog and never come back; they are incapable of independent thought anyway.

Undoubtedly pro-western groups financed by the US and others played a part in the anti-Yanukovich movement.  They may have had a catalytic role, but that cannot detract from the upswell of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who were not paid by the West, and drove Yanukovich from power. It is true that, when the situation became violent some very unpleasant nationalist, even fascist, groups came to the fore.  There is a great deal of extreme right wing thuggery in all the former Soviet Union – ask Uzbeks who live in Russia.  The current government in power in Kiev seem a diverse bunch, and seem to include some pleasant people and some very unpleasant people.  Elections this year will make things clearer.   It is also true that corruption is the norm among the Ukrainian political elite, across any nationalist or ideological divides.

In a very short space of time, Putin went from the triumph of killing off the EU Association agreement to the disaster of completely losing control of Kiev.  But for reasons including trade, infrastructure and debt, the new government was bound to come back to some relationship and accommodation with Putin eventually.  It just needed patience.

Instead of which, Putin decided to go for a macho seizure of the Crimea.  There is no doubt that the actions of surrounding military bases and government buildings by Russian forces, and controlling roads and borders, are illegal under international law.  There also appears little doubt that a large proportion of Crimea’s population would like union with Russia, though whether a genuine majority I am not sure.  I am sure under these circumstances of intimidation and military occupation, the referendum will show a massive majority.  Hitler pulled the same trick.

So now Putin can stride the stage as the macho guy who outfoxed the west and used his military to win Crimea for Mother Russia.  But it is an extremely hollow victory.  He has gained Crimea, but lost the other 95% of the Ukraine, over which one month ago he exercised a massive political influence.

The western powers will not bring any really effective sanctions that would harm the financial interests of the interconnected super-rich, be they Russian oligarchs or City bankers.  But they will now do what they were not prepared to do before, provide enough resources to make Ukraine politically free of Russia.  The EU has already agreed to match the US$19 billion in guarantees Putin had promised to Yanukovich. Before the annexation of Crimea the EU was not prepared to do that.

The Crimea was the only ethnic Russian majority province in Ukraine.  Donetsk does not have an ethnic Russian majority, only a Russian speaking majority – just like Cardiff has an English speaking majority.  The difference is key to understand the situation, and largely ignored by the mainstream media.  Without Crimea, the chances of the pro-Putin forces in the rest of Ukraine ever mustering an electoral majority are extremely slim.  Putin has gained Crimea and lost Ukraine – has he really won?

The real tragedy, of course, is that Ukraine’s relationships are viewed as a zero-sum game.  Russia has huge interests in common with Europe.  I hope to see Ukraine a member of the EU in the next decade, and Putin has made that vastly more likely than it was a month ago.  But why does that have to preclude a close economic relationship with Russia?  The EU should not operate as a barrier against the rest of the world, but as a zone of complete freedom within and ever-expanding freedom to  and from without.  And European Union will never be complete until Russia, one of the greatest of European cultures, is a member.

 

 

 

 


238 thoughts on “Putin’s Victorious Defeat

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  • craig Post author

    Clarence,

    The comment about the evolution of your thought was fascinating. I went through a similar process myself. Except I missed the bit where I had to believe that anybody who was anti-western, no matter how vicious, corrupt and dictatorial, was a hero. Where did you pick that up from?

  • Clarence

    Not a hero, Craig. Just less bad and not entirely fixated on money. Might even mention the word ethics but that might be straying too far.

  • Clarence

    Bye the bye, Craig, when you say that you went through a similar process yourself (ie as mine, which, as I stated, was entirely illuminated by the 9/11 lies and false press coverage), how can you then continue to support the US government conspiracy theory about a few arab hijackers with box cutters being able to evade the multibillion dollar security complex and then to destroy the twin towers with nuclear weapons*?
    *http://donaldfox.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/mystery-solved-the-wtc-was-nuked-on-911/

  • John Goss

    Someone, that’s the one. Often if you are in a certain location links are stopped. Like people in the US can watch the film about the UK’s assassination of Princess Diana, but we can’t in the UK. Are you in the US? Australia? It is governments I think that decide what can and cannot be watched in their countries. I expect it’s the same in Russia.

  • Resident Dissident

    “In a way I think up to this crisis Putin was going about democratising Russia to make it compatible with the better-governed western-European countries in the right way.”

    Could we have some evidence to support this statement?

  • John Goss

    Res Des, I agree it’s immoral and produced all the oil-rich oligarchs that are funding the mafia in the Ukraine. I do agree it should be state-owned and prices should be kept down. Nobody owns our natural resources. But would you want it to return to the Soviet days?

  • Resident Dissident

    John Goss

    I am not letting you go so easily you said “up to this crisis Putin was going about democratising Russia to make it compatible with the better-governed western-European countries in the right way”. Now please support or withdraw the statement.

  • Resident Dissident

    I must say that I agree almost entirely with Craig’s statement – especially the part about Russia becoming part of Europe. Ukranians, Russians, Poles and other Slavs should not be separated from each other as their similarities are much greater than their differences – but also I do not want the Slavs to be split off from the rest of Europe – we have tried than and it doesn’t work. I do believe that the EU needs to be reformed if it is to become a true European Union but like Craig I do support the ideal – and I recognise that one of the main barriers to its achievement is the corrupt autocracy that currently operates in Moscow.

    I might also add that the attacks on Craig are in extremely poor taste and just illustrate my previous observation as to how cults usually direct their greatest hatred towards those who they consider to be apostates. I also note how certain individuals have crawled out from under their stones and we have a number of new visitors who are more than willing to accuse Craig and others as being in the pay of the Great Western Conspiracy or similar – all I can say to those individuals is that perhaps they are revealing themselves by the nature of their accusations.

  • Someone

    John Goss,8 Mar, 2014 – 1:37 pm

    This is strange!, I tried the link after your post “8 Mar, 2014 – 12:49 pm”, the link worked, I have just tried it again and it comes up “Forbidden”!.

  • mark golding

    I enjoyed your link Someone (George?) ‘London’s Laundry Business’ – interestingly my great-grandfather, John Benjamin was from Southwark; a ‘waterman’ who ferried ‘toffs’ returning to the City of London after they had ‘entertained’ themselves in the ‘red light’ areas of Southwark. The ‘entertainment’ was so good the City acquired control of Southwark appointing a bailiff and steward to ensure compliance else feel free to enjoy the ‘hospitality’ of Southwark prison.

  • Someone

    “Someone I am intrigued to know what it says. A precis will do.”

    John Goss, I have another source!, here is the article.

    “Russia Calls European Formulas for Ukraine Unacceptable

    embajador-vladimir-chizhov.jpg

    Moscow, Mar 7 (Prensa Latina) The Russian ambassador to the European Union (EU), Vladimir Chizhov, called the language in a document released for the EU Summit regarding the crisis in Ukraine, as “unacceptable and unjust.”

    Warning that Moscow would not be intimidated by the language and threats of sanctions, the diplomat pointed out that the formulas included in the statements of Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, are inconsistent with the insistence that negotiations and dialogue are the only way to resolve the crisis.

    Chizhov stressed that just like at the meeting of EU foreign ministers, the Councilâ�Ös document advises the freezing of visas and the suspension of negotiations on a new accord regarding this issue as well as the preparations for the G-8 Summit in Sochi.

    The diplomat recalled that in regard to the visas and negotiations for an exemption between Russia and the EU, talks have been at a standstill for quite some time.

    He indicated that the only new element in the European position was the attempt to divide the agreement on association with Ukraine, the deferment of which provoked the disturbances that ended with the forced toppling of Ukraineâ�Ös elected president, Viktor Yanukovich.

    The ambassador explained that now, in order for the EU to show its support for the current illegitimate authorities in Ukraine, it had decided to sign the political part of the document with them.

    “I should like to point out that the total volume of the text is more than a thousand pages. The substantive section, dealing with the economy, should wait until after elections that would allow for the formation of a more legitimate Government, or at least, one that is more responsible,” concluded Chizhov.

    Russia insists that President Yanukovich, toppled by a violation of the agreement drafted between him, opposition leaders, and representatives from German, France and Poland on February 21, is the sole legitimate authority in Ukraine.

    The agreement provided for troop withdrawal as a way to de-escalate the conflict, the formation of a national coalition government, and constitutional reform, as well as elections to be held in September, instead of by year end.

    When Yanukovich complied with the first part, withdrawing troops, extremists swept in and overtook the Parliament and presidential offices, revoking his mandate, restoring the 2004 Constitution from the “Orange Revolution” and beginning a campaign to settle scores.

    Despite this illegal behavior, the U.S. and its European allies recognized the new rulers in Kiev as legitimate and even went so far as to invite the new designated Prime Minister, Arseny Yatseniuk, to the EU Summit in Brussels.

    sus/sa/tjg/jpm Modificado el ( viernes, 07 de marzo de 2014 )”

    http://www.plenglish.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2450881&Itemid=1

  • John Goss

    Thanks Someone, I guessed it must be pretty damning for a Forbidden notice. No wonder! So in essence the Polish, German and French signatures on a document mean absolutely nothing. What happened to integrity? Even Craig would agree I’m sure that this is a gross flouting of international law.

    Vladimir Chizhov and the Russians are the only ones who have behaved honourably in this affair.

  • Ben

    Herbie; Roberts is an apostate revealing himself by the nature of his accusations. 🙂

  • Herbie

    Absolutely Ben. I was going to highlight that rather ironic comment of Res Diss, but it’s clearly way above his head.

    Whooshhhh…

  • fred

    “Even Craig would agree I’m sure that this is a gross flouting of international law.”

    No, it isn’t illegal. It’s just nasty, sneaky, dirty, underhand and a damn good reason not to trust them and for Russia to not withdraw troops.

  • Ben

    Chernobyl leaves a metallic taste for the Ukrainian people.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/08/ukraine-crisis-russia-nuclear-idUSL6N0M50B820140308

    “(Reuters) – Rosatom, Russia’s state energy corporation, said on Saturday it would resume nuclear fuel shipments to Europe via Ukraine after Kiev lifted a ban imposed during anti-government protests earlier this year on transporting the hazardous material.

    The ban was introduced on Jan. 28 by the government of now-deposed President Viktor Yanukovich, who fled the country last month after a popular uprising.

    Rosatom said the ban ended on Thursday and the first rail shipment of nuclear fuel in 2014 via Ukraine to eastern Europe was expected next week.”

    Why would shipments be allowed after the fall of Yanukovich? It would seem to be an element of negotiation, instead of a ‘gimme’.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Karel

    What makes you think that I am in disgise? You need to follow my posts o this blog. You will find hundreds. I was sick to my stomach when putin offered karimov support after he brutally executed hundreds of people most of whom were unarmed and many of whom were women and children. Karimov still had blood on his hands when he met putin in kremlin. This for me and many my compatriots was a sign of that russia inder putin is our emenemy. We have been living under russian boot for over 150 years but 2005 was a moment of truth. Brutality of one mad man was suported by another mad man. Realpolitik may be? But it does not change the fact that because of putin karimov is still on his throne instead of ICC

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Mad lefties are at their best. Remind me when group of mad letfies like Ben visited Moscow in 1937 and prised stalin’s acheivent while 12000 a day were being arrested and sent to gulag. History teaches this people nothing. Enemy of their enemy is their friend. Mad western lefties style

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Nobody yet responded to my question.

    How 15000 gunmen appeared in Crimea overnight? Comon mad letfies? Use your conspiracy theories. Explain this to me.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    John Goss

    the fact remains that it was puton who supported karimov after andijan massacre. Not nato not us not even devil but putin. Full stop.

    what you wester lefties seem to miss complitley out of the picture is that while you curse your governments for this and that you do not give a toss about the facts that in many ways because of russia over 50 million people in central asia are traped. They are rulld by dictatorships with no hope of change. And when by chance change comes you start prading putin and russian chauvinism.

    How many of you give a toss about Muslims in Chechnya or Dagestan or Uzbekisyan? Or only those Muslims who denied freedom by us diserve care of western lefties?

  • karel

    halibaba
    Thanks for telling me about prosperity increasing by the day in those faraway places. Sadly, this elusive phenomenon seems to evade me. In my neighbourhood, Lyon 1er arrondissement,I do not personelly know anyone recently visited by Abundantia. Even Lakshmi is nowhere to be seen. Many shops are closed, some for ever, even an estate agent up the hill collapsed about 2 months ago. If such parasitic entities, like estate agents, go under then their host is either already dead or dying. I am convinced that the economy in the new Ukraine, just like in Poland, the Slumberland of Craig, will soon tic better to the satisfaction of their citizens. The government there has already some exciting ideas for a kick off, like halving the pensions.
    http://rt.com/news/ukraine-austerity-pensions-halved-174/

  • nevermind

    Are we to expect that you will also take the Chinese Government to task for supporting this Tatar busting move by the Crimean parliament.

    That they supported the move to a referendum counts as heavy as the actions of Putin.

    That said I can’t for the heck of it understand why the likes of Hague and Obama are supporting the rightwing fascists who think that ‘Russia is not that strong’.
    It is no surprise to me that a CDU/CSU Merkel would support these thugs, after all, the sheepskin wearing fascists are still apparent and active in Germany.

  • fred

    “Nobody yet responded to my question.

    How 15000 gunmen appeared in Crimea overnight? Comon mad letfies? Use your conspiracy theories. Explain this to me.”

    I don’t think there is any conspiracy. It’s reasonable to assume that there were more than 15,000 guns in Crimea, considering surveys have shown there are more than 3 million guns in private hands in Ukraine. It’s reasonable to assume there were more than 15,000 men.

    What was your theory then?

  • Courtenay Barnett

    Mark Golding,

    You said:-

    “I say again remember the Arab dressed SAS forces in Iraq found planting explosives many of which ripped the fragile limbs of children now orphaned and in constant pain both mentally and physically.”

    And SAS in South Africa was the same story. The world is that kind of place.

    CB

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Fred

    I realise that you might not have served in the army (like I did) and have no knowledge of the difference between hunting gun and machine gun. Please show me stats that confirms of 3 million (or even 100.000) machine guns in private hands in Ukraine?

    Gunmen in Crimea are in full military uniform with machine guns and transported in military vehicles. In fact they are much better armed than Ukrainian military in Crimea or elsewhere and to some extend better armed than some of the russian military. I see it as presence of elite russian forces in Crimea. I realise of course that western lefties do not see any of this.

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