Thursday, February 27, 2014


I have to admit that for the first time, today I'm worried about what's developing in the Ukraine.  Oh, I know there's been voices on the internet for awhile now comparing this to the start of WWI and saying that WWIII is bound to start because of the Ukraine.  I just hadn't paid them a whole lot of attention.  Those voices are always there.  Just a few months ago these voices were saying that it would be Syrian civil war that would launch WWIII.  To me, these voices are like the people on the internet who claim that every comet or asteroid is really a super-dense neutron star that's going to destroy our solar system.  Or like the people who say that Yellowstone is on the edge of erupting any day now and destroy the city where I live.  Those people are always there.  The sky is always falling somewhere.

But, while reading today's news dispatches from the region, I have to admit that today I did begin to get worried.  The Ukraine now has the feel of a situation that is getting out of control.  The Ukraine has always been a situation which directly impacts and threatens key Russian strategic interests.  Surely this must look from Moscow about how it would look from America if we saw either the Canadian or Mexican government being overthrown by violent gangs with ties to Al-Qaeda.  And remember, Al Qaeda only killed 3000 Americans.  I say 'only', because the Nazis killed 20,000,000 Russians during WWII.  Seems logical that a government on Russia's borders with Nazi affiliations would get the Russian people and government's attention even more strongly than a government in either Mexico or Canada with Al-Qaeda ties would get America's attention.

For a few days there, I thought the situation in the Ukraine was at a point where things could settle down and reach some sort of relatively peaceful resolution from here.  The rebellion has been apparently victorious in Kiev and points west.   The eastern and southern parts of Ukraine are historically Russian and were only added officially to the Ukraine in the 1950's by Khrushchev as a symbolic gesture at the time of the 300th anniversary of the Russian - Ukrainian 'union'.   Since the Ukraine was then firmly a part of the Soviet Union, adding them to the Ukraine was like changing a state boundary without changing the national boundary.  Now, those historically Russian areas (they conquered them fair and square centuries ago) are a part of the Ukraine. 

I was listening to Prof. Cohen in a radio interview from this last weekend.  Its a great piece if you what thoughtful, informed and downright intelligent conversation on the crises in the Ukraine.  That was the first piece, followed by others on the internet, that gave me the impression there was a chance it could stop here.  If  the revolutionaries accepted their victory, and were content to control Kiev and parts west, then a deal could be reached.  Perhaps a 'federated' system in the Ukraine where the two parts agree to be relatively independent of each other.  Or maybe even an outright split with the traditionally Russian parts of the Ukraine going back to being a part of Russia like they have been for the longer than Massachusetts has been one of the United States of America.

Then the worrying news came in.  First I saw reports where the revolutionaries in Kiev were now insisting that the country remain unified, and of course under their complete control.  One of the first acts of the new self-declared government in Kiev was to threaten to arrest anyone opposed being armed by a government formed by armed mobs in the streets of Kiev.

"Ukraine’s acting president Aleksandr Turchinov said there were concerning "signs of separatism" in the mainly Russian-speaking Crimea.Turchinov warned against threat’s to the country’s territorial integrity, saying anyone engaged in separatist activities would be punished. Protesters on the southern peninsula have held rallies since President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted." - RT-USA
Its one thing for armed groups and street protests that represent the majority of the people in a region to take power.  As an American, that belief goes back to the core, fundamental concept of America itself that the people hold the true sovereign power of a nation.   Thus, I have at least some sympathy when the majority of the population in a region stand up to say they don't like the way they are being governed and to demand changes. I may not like what I see from afar, but as an American patriot who holds dear the basic fundamental principle of America , I can have sympathy with the belief that they want to rule themselves in a manner that 'shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness'.

But, its a completely different story when armed gangs from one part of a country start saying they now have the right to dictate to people in regions where the majority of people do not support their rebellion.  The Crimea and the older industrial regions of the Dnepr Bend region are of Russian ethnicity, have historic ties to Russia, and were the basis of the majority that elected the President who has now had to flee Kiev.  To the people in these regions, the armed street mobs in Kiev just overthrew the democratically elected government that they had voted for. In other words, they probably feel towards the demonstrators in Kiev the way American Democrats felt towards Bush after the Supreme Court selected him to be the President in 2000. 

If I believe that the people of the western Ukraine have some basic right to rise up and demand a government that suits them, then one also has to grant the same rights to the people of the eastern and southern regions of the Ukraine.  If they feel that a government in Kiev formed by armed street mobs doesn't represent them, then they have the same rights to stand and demand a government that represents them.

Now, not only are threats coming from Kiev out to these region, not only is the new 'liberated' and 'freedom-loving' government in Kiev threatening to attack and arrest anyone who speaks against them, but there is now rioting in the Crimea and reports of trains full of armed revolutionaries heading south from the Kiev area.

"Demonstrators from Russian-dominated Sevastopol, the largest city in Crimea, are arriving at the region’s capital Simferopol, in the center of the Crimea peninsula, to support thousands of Russian nationals rallying against the new authorities in Kiev.

Right-wing leaders threatened earlier that they would send to Sevastopol the so-called “trains of friendship,” which are, in fact, groups of armed radicals, RT correspondent Egor Piskunov reported from Simferopol. Additional checkpoints have been set up on the main roads leading to the city to prevent any possible provocations, he said." - RT-USA
So, at a point where it appeared that the situation might have a chance to settle down, take a breath and calm down, instead the revolutionaries in Kiev are escalating the whole situation further by escalating fights in the Crimea.  Instead of a stretch of peace where people might be able to reach an agreement on some sort of federated Ukraine that could respect everyone's wishes, the situation is being escalated in the Crimea.

One wonders if the EU and the US are instigating any of this?  Are they the voices in the ear of the Kiev revolutionaries saying they have to attack now to keep the more industrialized sections of the Ukraine under their control?  We'll have to wait for Wikileaks to report to us on what the diplomatic cables are saying right now. 

What is scary is that it may not matter.  Prof Cohen says (in the radio piece linked above) that the EU and US diplomats thought they had negotiated a deal with the 'moderate' leaders of the rebellion.  Yet, when those 'moderate' leaders return to the people in the street to report their successful negotiations, they are heckled and rejected by protestors who then launched armed attacks on the government buildings.

Lets just say hypothetically that someone in the US government has a flash of reason and realizes that the situation in the Ukraine needs to be calmed down for awhile before the whole thing explodes.  Who in the Kiev government would they talk to about this need?  The moderates who would talk to the diplomats and reach a deal have been discredited by the street protestors.  The street protestors clearly said that these 'moderate' leaders don't represent them when they rejected the negotiated peace deal last weekend and instead attacked.

So, even if the US has a flash of sanity and tries to calm the situation down, the people who have the actual power in the protest government don't seem to be listening.  The people who are willing to make deals don't have the power. 

Does anyone notice a bigger pattern?  In both Syria and the Ukraine, the American people are told we must support 'moderates'.  Yet, in both cases the moderates are revealed to have no real power, and instead the US policy ends up putting radicals in power who goals are antithetical to US interests.  The rebellion in Syria that the US has supported and fueled, along with the Saudis and the gulf oil states of course, has turned into a armed Sunni rebellion in Iraq that the government that the US spend hundreds of billions of dollars and 4,000 plus American lives to put into place is now fighting to put down.  The US policy of supporting 'moderates' in Syria has now led to the US being asked to send more arms and munitions to Iraq to fight the rebels there who are armed with arms and munitions supplied to the rebels in Syria by the US\Saudi\Gulf States coalition. 

Amazing the power that the line that Sykes and Picot drew in that if a man with a gun crosses that imaginary line in the desert he transforms from freedom fighter and terrorist.  I can picture someone hoping back and forth over that line in the sand saying 'freedom fighter' as a foot lands on the Syrian side, and 'terrorist' when a foot lands on the Iraq side.  And perhaps a very confused drone operator somewhere who believes for an instant he's got a legitimate signature strike target of a terrorist, but then has to stop the impulse to kill him (and anyone near him) when the foot lands on the Syrian side of the line and he's instantly transformed into a freedom fighter fighting to liberate his nation from the evil Assad family.

And now, in the Ukraine, supposed support for 'moderates' in Kiev has turned into a rebellion that has a dangerous set of Nazi tendencies to it.  And, regardless of the accuracy of that impression, it has turned into a rebellion which is now apparently completely out of control.  It has turned into a rebellion which now seems that its out of control actions will escalate and inflame the situation further.

Take note of one thing.  The Olympics are over.  Putin was never going to launch a move to support Russian leaning citizens of the Ukraine while the Olympics were going on.  But the Olympics are over now.  And Putin just ordered 'defense readiness drills' for the Russian military in regions around the Ukraine. 

That can be seen as anything from a saber-rattling warning to basic prudence.  If Mexico or Canada had just had their government overthrown by rebels with Al-Qaeda like tendencies, and if the situation seemed to be escalating further out of control as those rebels seem to bypass chances where a peaceful settlement could be reached, then it might be reasonable to think that doing 'defense readiness' checks on this side of the border might just be a very prudent thing to do.

Perhaps the sight of the Russian army checking its weapons for readiness might get some people in Kiev to calm down right now and listen to reason?  Listen to the 'reason' that says they should celebrate their victory and begin to put their region back into order instead of starting the next round of fighting.  AIf it doesn't, then this is starting to look like it could continue to spin so far out of control that the Russian army might need those weapons soon and only a fool wouldn't be checking to see if they are ready.

If Russian speaking protestors in traditionally Russian parts of the region are being attacked in the streets by armed revolutionaries from Kiev, then there is going to be a very strong reaction in Russia that they should help the Russians they'll see being attacked on their TVs.  That feels like one of those points of history where a leader, whether Putin or anyone else, might have no choice but to respond to that rising national feeling  In other words, pretty much the same situation the Czar felt when a rising tide of feelings of slavic brotherhood with the Serbs meant that Russia in 1914 had little or no choice but to give its support.

It all has the feeling of getting out of control now.  The people who've really been in control of Kiev for the last week have been the right-wing leaning protestors who ignored the peace deal and attacked the government.  Russia seems to be getting pushed into a corner where it will have no choice but to respond.  I read history, and the start of World War I is a fascinating period for me.  Perhaps I'll write about why that is on some other early morning.  But for now, its enough to say that for the first time this situation in the Ukraine is really starting to worry me because it looks like its all getting out of control in some pretty dangerous ways.  And when a situation seems out of control, that should worry a lot of people.