A Variety of Perspectives on the Ukraine Conflict and the Potential Revival of a Cold War
Editor’s Note from Rabbi Michael Lerner
Some of our readers have objected to us presenting critiques of the coup that overthrew Ukraine’s democratically elected government, which had tilted away from the European Union and toward Russia. We were not seeking to affirm that choice in particular—rather, we were seeking to present a more complex picture of the situation by pointing to the one-sidedness in the media, which made it seem as if the West were obviously innocently interested in promoting human rights and democracy and therefore siding with the coup from the streets.
We at Tikkun do not have a position on the Ukraine, but we do have a commitment to nonviolence, peace, and democratic processes. We also have a deep skepticism about the role of global capitalism and its relentless pursuit of new markets, a capitalism which is just as powerful in Russia as it is in the European Union.
So below we print a letter from one of our readers and an article he recommends on the issues, another backgrounder countering some of what we sent out before, and some other articles that argue against the construal of the situation that has emerged in the American media.
We share all this partially to counter the sanctimonious outrage from the United States about Russia’s military intervention in its neighboring state (hypocritical indeed coming from our country, which has been involved in far more murderous and destructive interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now setting groundwork for such an intervention in Iraq and Venezuela).
Saying this in no way implies support for Putin’s Russia. But it does ask us to be real about who the U.S. really is—not the supposed “good intentions” of President Obama, but the actual behavior of our government: its drone warfare and its continued violence around the world, some of it covert, much of it overt. And it asks us to be real about the United States’ refusal to use its power to stop Israel’s violent domination of the West Bank as it expands its settlements while talking peace.
Letter to the Editor from Aaron Goldberg
I have been to Ukraine recently and have some close friends on the ground there.
The popular movement to oust Yanukovich’s corrupt government and move Ukraine into a European orbit is highly inspiring.
We Americans should humbly try to learn from it.
It is a people’s movement, in my opinion the likes of which has not been seen in the United States since the 1960′s.
Hundreds of thousands of courageous civilians risked their lives and livelihoods, against all odds and day in and day out in extreme cold, to protest their own government and the venality of their political leaders more generally.
Opposition leaders and Western leaders alike arrived late to the game.
Calling this grassroots movement ‘proto-Nazi’ or ‘fascistic’ is Putinesque propaganda that bears zero resemblance to any reality that I am aware of.
Your professed political and social values align with those of the protestors, who generally aim for nothing more (but also nothing less) than a democratic, social-welfare state under the rule of law, including protection against historically-rampant government corruption.
Anti-Semitism is widespread in Eastern Europe (of course in Russia as well). But it is a non-factor in the protests.
I am aware that Tikkun makes an effort to present a balanced perspective on complex issues, which again I appreciate.
In this spirit, at the very least I would suggest that you should solicit a contribution from a member of the protest movement or one of its many international supporters, in order to ‘balance’ these two articles (which in my opinion did much to mislead and little to balance).
You could just start with one of the many Ukrainian voices that have already been publishing in the western press, such as Riabchuk in today’s NY Times.
You can read the New York Times article that Aaron Goldberg suggested by clicking here or reading the text below:
Ukraine, Not Ready for Divorce
By MYKOLA RIABCHUK
MARCH 5, 2014
KIEV, Ukraine — In 2010, the Ukrainian writer Yuri Andrukhovych scandalized his countrymen by saying — facetiously — that the next time the Donbas region, on the mainland northeast of Crimea, expressed an eagerness to secede, we shouldn’t stop it. He was recalling a moment in 2004 when the local elite of the Ukrainian southeast, watching in horror as the Orange Revolution played out in Kiev, summoned a congress and threatened to quit Ukraine. It never happened, of course. The people didn’t want it, and Ukrainian law forbade it.
Still, Mr. Andrukhovych’s words are remembered as a comment on how difficult the marriage between eastern and western Ukraine has been. Any group in a diverse country may one day want to divorce its government. But in every divorce, there are matters to settle fairly — of property, of obligations, of the weaker party’s rights. Which is why divorce courts exist. Amicable divorce is next to impossible when there is nobody to apply the rule of law.
So it is worth considering the extent of legal and political dysfunction introduced after Viktor F. Yanukovych assumed power in 2010 and installed a huge number of Donbas people in the central government and local administrations throughout Ukraine. This transferred his region’s corrupt political habits to the central government, undermining respect for law and encouraging the use of the state apparatus for blackmail and racketeering.
Profound popular dissatisfaction followed, but for a time, people could hope that an association agreement with the European Union that Mr. Yanukovych had said he would sign would temper his predatory regime. But then he shelved the agreement, turning to Russia for help instead. For many, this clarified the kind of future he was building; the revolution known as Maidan, after the Kiev square where protests mushroomed, followed.
Maidan was, in effect, a middle-class revolt against the remnants of post-Soviet feudalism, an attempt to link Ukraine to Europe rather than see it become another autocratic kleptocracy like Russia or Belarus. But efforts toward that goal had been hijacked twice before: in 1991, when post-Communist leaders restored corrupt and arbitrary rule, and in 2004, when the Orange Revolution for democracy was spoiled by leaders more intent on infighting than reform.
Now, most dangerously, Russia’s de facto invasion has put the Maidan uprising at profound risk of derailment. I don’t think Russia will try to take over all of Ukraine; occupying Crimea as a Russian protectorate may be enough to prevent integration of Ukraine with the European Union, let alone NATO. That would satisfy Russia’s policy toward its “near abroad”: Create internal conflict, exploit it to blackmail a sovereign government, and see the West shrink from building closer relations with the target country because its future is now uncertain.
Still, if the Kremlin is succeeding as an international spoiler, it is doing worse at strategic vision, prediction and calculation. With Ukraine, its apparatchiks succumb to their own propaganda and misunderstand important facts. For one, the Orange Revolution was not a Western plot. Nor were the Maidan protesters pogromchiks, extremists or neo-fascists, as the Kremlin has shamelessly tarred them. And linguistic heritage is not the same as political loyalty. The fact that nearly half of Ukraine’s people speak Russian as their primary language doesn’t necessarily make them any more loyal to Mr. Putin than English binds the Irish to the British crown.
In addition, sociologists have found that Maidan’s social, regional and ethnic base was broad. Even though the percentages were a bit higher among residents of western Ukraine, ethnic Ukrainians and highly educated people, a series of World Value Surveys found a shift in the past decade — across all regions and ethnic groups — from “survival values” of the industrial era toward postindustrial “self-expression.”
In one 2012 survey more than 90 percent of respondents in the west and 70-plus percent in the east considered themselves “a patriot of Ukraine.” Even in Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, only 2 percent rejected this description definitively. Another poll, conducted Feb. 8-18, found that virtually nobody in western Ukraine wanted Ukraine to unite with Russia, and in central Ukraine between 2 and 5 percent did. Moving east, the numbers rose only to 15 percent in the Kharkiv region; 24 percent in Luhansk and Odessa; 33 percent in Donetsk; and 41 percent in Crimea.
Crimea is perhaps the most complex case, because its Tatars are the only ethnic group truly native to the peninsula. Before 1783, they had a state. Then Russia seized the peninsula and subjugated them; in 1944, the Soviets deported them to Central Asia. It was 1989 before they could return — only to encounter neglect by the government and Russian chauvinism, racism and Islamophobia from the Russian-speaking majority. Their hopes for security and prosperity now point more to Kiev and the European Union than to Moscow.
The Kremlin’s efforts to ignite tensions in other Ukrainian regions are likely to fail. Ukraine is divided along many lines, but there are encouraging signs in the sudden support that Ukrainian oligarchs have shown for the new government in Kiev, and in thousands of letters from Ukrainians, Russians and Russophones to Mr. Putin urging him to spare them from the Kremlin’s “protection.”
These actions, alongside the polls, show that Ukrainians as a whole are not much divided over their territorial integrity.
So, Mr. Putin, spare them your help. They can help themselves without bloodshed, as they had done for more than 22 years of independence from Moscow.
Mykola Riabchuk, a political and cultural analyst in Kiev and a senior fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, is the author of “Gleichschaltung: Authoritarian Consolidation in Ukraine, 2010-2012.”
Tom Hayden’s recent article (published here) is also worth reading:
by Tom Hayden
March 3, 2014
Haven’t the Republicans, the neo-conservatives and the mainstream media been telling us all these years that America won the Cold War? They spoke too soon. From the residue of the old Soviet Union, a new nationalist, nuclear-armed, resource-rich Russia has risen to challenge Western claims of triumphalism. The new Cold War is upon us, and the American elites have no suggestions except to fight it again.
If asked to take sides, I stand with Pussy Riot. To understand their creative subversion, watch the HBO documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer. But Pussy Riot is a minority thus far, employing a kind of shock and awe on the level of culture. They are backed often by the American elites who would never allow Pussy Riot in, say, South Carolina.
That’s the home state of slavery, militarism and the US Senator Lindsey Graham. Running against a Tea Party challenger, Graham is not big on naked women in general, even those who brilliantly mock Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church. Graham was quick to advocate this week that we, “create a democratic noose around Putin’s Russia.” Given the Deep South’s lynching history, that was a poor choice of words by Graham, though who can be really sure. His apparent point is that we won’t have finished the Cold War until we take Ukraine and choke all of Russia with armed neo-liberal allies of the West.
The frequently rational New York Times seemed to legitimate Graham’s southern drift, asking on its news pages whether President Barack Obama “is tough enough to take on the former KGB colonel in the Kremlin?” The Times at least noted, “It is no easy task.”
This is another example of what C. Wright Mills called “crackpot realism.” Proponents of NATO and corporate neo-liberalism simply are unable to stop pushing against Russia’s borders and probing its most cherished regions. They already have incorporated Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovenia, Poland and the Czech Republic, most of what they call “post-Soviet space.” They were repelled militarily when they sought to grab Georgia. That should have satisfied their thirst for full dominance. But they went too far, supporting protests in western Ukraine that toppled the elected government and now are pushing an International Monetary Fund agenda, which will deepen an economic crisis. Even before the current mess, the Kiev government flirted with NATO and sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The present conflict is very unlike the Cold War in one sense: there is no “communist threat.” There are communist partisans in Ukraine of course; hot with their memories of the Nazis and fascists they fought in the Ukraine, and whose descendants now are active in the Western-supported Svoboda Party, which represents over ten percent of the national vote and up to 40 percent in the western Ukraine.
What the West faces in the western Ukraine, and in Russia generally, are the powerful nationalist, ethnic cultural and religious currents recently on display in the successful Olympic games. Any western intervention, direct or indirect, incites that vast well of resistance. Outside pressure toughens inside resolve.
This is hardly to defend Putin’s Russia overall. But the West seems unable to accord the country the significant respect required in coexistence and conflict resolution, and Russia responds accordingly, at times and places of its choosing.
For a sane and informative text on Russia over the decades, see Stephen F. Cohen’s illuminating Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War, Columbia University Press, 2009.
Michel Chossudovsky’s analysis (published here) is also worth attention:
Ukraine and the “Politics of Anti-Semitism”: The West Upholds Neo-Nazi Repression of Ukraine’s Jewish Community
By Prof Michel Chossudovsky
Global Research, February 26, 2014
The US and the EU are supporting the formation of a coalition government integrated by Neo-Nazis which are directly involved in the repression of the Ukrainian Jewish community.
There are about 200,000 Jews living in Ukraine, most of them in Kiev. This community is described as “one of the most vibrant Jewish communities in the world, with dozens of active Jewish organizations and institutions”. A significant part of this community is made up of family members of holocaust survivors. “Three million Ukrainians were murdered by the Nazis during their occupation of Ukraine, including 900,000 Jews.” (indybay.org, January 29, 2014).
Ukrainian Jews were the target of the Third Reich’s Einsatzgruppen (Task Groups or Deployment Groups) which were supported by Ukrainian Nazi collaborators (Wikipedia). These “task forces” were paramilitary death squads deployed in occupied territories.
Contemporary Neo-Nazi Threat against Ukraine’s Jewish community
While the Western media has not covered the issue, the contemporary Neo-Nazi threat against the Jewish community in the Ukraine is real. Ukrainian Neo-Nazis pay tribute to Stepan Bandera, a World War II-era Nazi collaborator who led the pro-Nazi Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN-B). The contemporary Neo-Nazi Svoboda Party which is supported by Washington follows in the footsteps of the OUN-B.
Reports from Kiev confirm that the Jewish community is the target of the Right Sector and the Neo-Nazi Svoboda party, which is supported and financed through various channels by Washington and Brussels:
“Ukrainian Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman asked Kiev Jews to leave the city and, if possible, the country, due to fears that Jews might be targeted [by Svoboda Brown Shirts] in the ongoing chaos. … Some Jewish shops have been vandalized and other threats to the Jewish community have been received.
“I told my congregation to leave the city center or the city all together and if possible the country too… I don’t want to tempt fate…but there are constant warnings concerning intentions to attack Jewish institutions,” Rabbi Azman told Maariv. (JN, February 24, 2014)
The leaders of the Ukrainian Jewish Community contacted Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman requesting the assistance of Israel. (Edward Dolinsky, head of the umbrella organization of Ukraine’s Jews).
Israel –which is unofficially a member of the Western military alliance (US-NATO-Israel)– has remained mum on the subject: Real Politik Uber Alles. No statement has emanated from Tel Aviv. The Israeli government has not responded to the request of the Ukrainian Jewish Community nor has it made any statements.
America’s pro-Israeli lobby The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has not taken a stance on the issue. Not a word from Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu.
The Western Media: Talking about the Neo-Nazi Threat to Ukraine’s Jewish Community is Taboo
Within the Western media, news coverage of the Neo-Nazi threat to the Jewish community in Ukraine is a taboo. There is a complete media blackout: confirmed by Google News search, mainstream coverage of the threat to the Jewish community in Ukraine is virtually absent.
An article in the current issue of The New York Review of Books constitutes the pinnacle of falsehood and media distortion. The Jewish community in Ukraine is portrayed as an unbending supporter of the Maidan protest movement led by Right Sector Neo-Nazis:
The protesters represent every group of Ukrainian citizens: Russian speakers and Ukrainian speakers (although most Ukrainians are bilingual), people from the cities and the countryside, people from all regions of the country, members of all political parties, the young and the old, Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Every major Christian denomination is represented by believers and most of them by clergy. The Crimean Tatars march in impressive numbers, and Jewish leaders have made a point of supporting the movement.
In its broader coverage of the Ukraine “protest movement”, the Western media has failed to acknowledge the nature of the opposition, casually referring to “radical elements”.
What is not mentioned is that these “radical elements” supported and financed by the West are Neo-Nazis who are waging a hate campaign against Ukraine’s Jewish community.
The Israeli Media and the State of Israel
The Israeli media toes the line. The hate campaign against the Ukrainian Jewish community is not the object of concern. The Jerusalem Post casually dismisses the evidence of crimes committed against Ukraine’s Jewish community under the title:
“Although there is “no information of Jews being targeted” as of yet, Jewish institutions are under self-imposed lock-down”.
According to the JP, there is no “defined threat against them”:
“There is currently “no information of Jews being targeted, but there is a danger because of vigilante groups,” Chief Rabbi Yaakov Bleich told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
“We have not seen any random attacks and we hope people are basically interested in law and order and not in mayhem,” he said, expressing his hope that protesters would begin turning in their arms tomorrow as scheduled.
“We are definitely worried about security and everybody should keep their guard up,” the American-born rabbi cautioned. “That’s because of the general situation. There are no threats that we know of.”
… There is a great deal of uncertainty among Kiev’s Jews, said one community member, speaking anonymously.She said that while there has been no direct threat against Jewish institutions, two Jews were attacked during the protests and the general feeling of insecurity pervading the city has affected its Jews as well.
Things will calm down within a week, but life is still far from normal at the moment, she said.” (Ukraine’s Jews ponder their future, Jerusalem Post-Feb 24, 2014)
According to “expert opinion” quoted by the JP, the spread of swastikas in Kiev’s urban landscape should be of no concern. According to Vyacheslav Likhachev, “an expert on the far-right associated with the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress”, the Svoboda Neo-Nazi activists are not attacking Jews. In an utterly twisted logic expert Likhachev quoted by the JP intimates that the (former) Yanukovych government is responsible for anti-semitic violence;
The two incidents of anti-Semitic violence since the beginning of the protests, he alleged, were most likely provocations by the government looking for a pretext to clamp down on its political opponents.
“There is no real special danger for the Jewish community due to anti-Semitism from protesters,” he said.
According to Likhachev, the authorities tried to recruit him to take part in a propaganda campaign against the protesters and he believes that, given the lack of emphasis placed on Jews and other ethnic minorities by the opposition, including such factions as Svoboda, it is more likely that the attacks were part of this alleged campaign. (Ibid)
According to the JP, the issue is one of “transition”, which will be resolved once a new government is installed .
“Despite his [Likhashov's] optimism fear pervades the local Jewish community, as it does the entire Ukraine, during the transition period.”
Ironically, while the Israeli media dismisses the matter, the Arab media has provided a far more balanced assessment of the threat to the Jewish community in Ukraine.
Rabbis in Kiev and across Ukraine spoke out, warning their congregations to stay off the streets and remain in their homes. The Jewish Agency in Jerusalem has moved swiftly to offer aid to elderly Jews living in greater Kiev. Food-delivery men are braving gunshots and Molotov cocktails to help them. Reports from Kiev say the police have been replaced by roving bands of undetermined loyalty.
… The fresh report of the firebombing of a new synagogue in Zaporizhia, 250 miles southeast of Kiev, increased the alarm in Israel and accelerated planning for all contingencies, including evacuations. (John Batchelor, Ultranationalist neo-Nazi parties on the march in Ukraine, Al Jazeera, February 25, 2014
The Politics of Anti-Semitism: Anti-Semitism Practiced at a Political Level
Ironically, while renowned scholars critical of the State of Israel for violating the fundamental rights of Palestinians are accused of being “anti-semitic”, nobody bats an eye lid when John McCain, Victoria Nuland, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, John Kerry, Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel openly pay lip service to Neo-Nazism in the Ukraine.
Is the Western media “anti-semitic” when it fails to report crimes committed against the Jewish population in Ukraine?
Is the self-proclaimed “international community” anti-semitic when it upholds in the name of “democracy” a “protest movement” led by Neo-Nazis?
Is Netanyahu an anti-semite by tacitly supporting US-EU-NATO geopolitical interests in Ukraine, with total disregard to the rising tide of fascism and anti-semitism?
Michel Chossudovsky is an award-winning author, Professor of Economics (emeritus) at the University of Ottawa, Founder and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal and Editor of the globalresearch.ca website. He is the author of The Globalization of Poverty and The New World Order (2003) and America’s “War on Terrorism”(2005). His most recent book is entitled Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War (2011). He is also a contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. His writings have been published in more than twenty languages. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Other articles on this topic to consider include:
The Rape of Ukraine: Phase Two Begins by William Engdahl
Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine by Timothy Snyder