Investment Watch Blog
US TROOPS DRILL IN UKRAINE
The Whys Behind the Ukraine Crisis
Global Research, September 04, 2014
A senior U.S. diplomat told me recently that if Russia were to occupy all of Ukraine and even neighboring Belarus that there would be zero impact on U.S. national interests. The diplomat wasn’t advocating that, of course, but was noting the curious reality that Official Washington’s current war hysteria over Ukraine doesn’t connect to genuine security concerns.
So why has so much of the Washington Establishment – from prominent government officials to all the major media pundits – devoted so much time this past year to pounding their chests over the need to confront Russia regarding Ukraine? Who is benefiting from this eminently avoidable – yet extremely dangerous – crisis? What’s driving the madness?
Of course, Washington’s conventional wisdom is that America only wants “democracy” for the people of Ukraine and that Russian President Vladimir Putin provoked this confrontation as part of an imperialist design to reclaim Russian territory lost during the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. But that “group think” doesn’t withstand examination. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Who’s Telling the Big Lie on Ukraine?”]
The Ukraine crisis was provoked not by Putin but by a combination of the European Union’s reckless move to expand its influence eastward and the machinations of U.S. neoconservatives who were angered by Putin’s collaboration with President Barack Obama to tamp down confrontations in Syria and Iran, two neocon targets for “regime change.”
Plus, if “democracy promotion” were the real motive, there were obviously better ways to achieve it. Democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych pledged on Feb. 21 – in an agreement guaranteed by three European nations – to surrender much of his power and hold early elections so he could be voted out of office if the people wanted.
However, on Feb. 22, the agreement was brushed aside as neo-Nazi militias stormed presidential buildings and forced Yanukovych and other officials to flee for their lives. Rather than stand behind the Feb. 21 arrangement, the U.S. State Department quickly endorsed the coup regime that emerged as “legitimate” and the mainstream U.S. press dutifully demonized Yanukovych by noting, for instance, that a house being built for him had a pricy sauna.
The key role of the neo-Nazis, who were given several ministries in recognition of their importance to the putsch, was studiously ignored or immediately forgotten by all the big U.S. news outlets. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine’s ‘Dr. Strangelove’ Reality.”]
So, it’s hard for any rational person to swallow the official line that the U.S. interest in the spiraling catastrophe of Ukraine, now including thousands of ethnic Russians killed by the coup regime’s brutal “anti-terrorist operation,” was either to stop Putin’s imperial designs or to bring “democracy” to the Ukrainians.
That skepticism – combined with the extraordinary danger of stoking a hot war on the border of nuclear-armed Russia – has caused many observers to search for more strategic explanations behind the crisis, such as the West’s desires to “frack” eastern Ukraine for shale gas or the American determination to protect the dollar as the world’s currency.
Image: Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, speaking to Ukrainian and other business leaders at the National Press Club in Washington on Dec. 13, 2013, at a meeting sponsored by Chevron.
Thermo-Nuclear War Anyone?
The thinking is that when the potential cost of such an adventure, i.e. thermo-nuclear warfare that could end all life on the planet, is so high, the motivation must be commensurate. And there is logic behind that thinking although it’s hard to conceive what financial payoff is big enough to risk wiping out all humanity including the people on Wall Street.
But sometimes gambles are made with the assumption that lots of money can be pocketed before cooler heads intervene to prevent total devastation — or even the more immediate risk that the Ukraine crisis will pitch Europe into a triple-dip recession that could destabilize the fragile U.S. economy, too.
In the Ukraine case, the temptation has been to think that Moscow – hit with escalating economic sanctions – will back down even as the EU and U.S. energy interests seize control of eastern Ukraine’s energy reserves. The fracking could mean both a financial bonanza to investors and an end to Russia’s dominance of the natural gas supplies feeding central and eastern Europe. So the economic and geopolitical payoff could be substantial.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Ukraine has Europe’s third-largest shale gas reserves at 42 trillion cubic feet, an inviting target especially since other European nations, such as Britain, Poland, France and Bulgaria, have resisted fracking technology because of environmental concerns. An economically supine Ukraine would presumably be less able to say no. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Beneath the Ukraine Crisis: Shale Gas.”]
Further supporting the “natural gas motive” is the fact that it was Vice President Joe Biden who demanded that President Yanukovych pull back his police on Feb. 21, a move that opened the way for the neo-Nazi militias and the U.S.-backed coup. Then, just three months later, Ukraine’s largest private gas firm, Burisma Holdings, appointed Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, to its board of directors.
While that might strike some of you as a serious conflict of interest, even vocal advocates for ethics in government lost their voices amid Washington’s near-universal applause for the ouster of Yanukovych and warm affection for the coup regime in Kiev.
For instance, Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, dismissed the idea that Hunter Biden’s new job should raise eyebrows, telling Reuters: “It can’t be that because your dad is the vice president, you can’t do anything,”
Who Is Behind Burisma?
Soon, Burisma – a shadowy Cyprus-based company – was lining up well-connected lobbyists, some with ties to Secretary of State John Kerry, including Kerry’s former Senate chief of staff David Leiter, according to lobbying disclosures.
As Time magazine reported,
“Leiter’s involvement in the firm rounds out a power-packed team of politically-connected Americans that also includes a second new board member, Devon Archer, a Democratic bundler and former adviser to John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. Both Archer and Hunter Biden have worked as business partners with Kerry’s son-in-law, Christopher Heinz, the founding partner of Rosemont Capital, a private-equity company.”
According to investigative journalism in Ukraine, the ownership of Burisma has been traced to Privat Bank, which is controlled by the thuggish billionaire oligarch Ihor Kolomoysky, who was appointed by the coup regime to be governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, a south-central province of Ukraine. Kolomoysky also has been associated with the financing of brutal paramilitary forces killing ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.
Also, regarding this energy motive, it shouldn’t be forgotten that on Dec. 13, 2013, when neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland reminded Ukrainian business leaders that the United States had invested $5 billion in their “European aspirations,” she was at a conference sponsored by Chevron. She even stood next to the company’s logo.
So, clearly energy resources and the billions of dollars that go with them should be factored in when trying to solve the mystery of why Official Washington has gone so berserk about a confrontation with Russia that boils down to whether ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine should be allowed some measure of autonomy or be put firmly under the thumb of U.S.-friendly authorities in Kiev.
There’s also the issue of Russia’s interest in exploring with China and other emerging economies the possibility of escaping the financial hegemony of the U.S. dollar, a move that could seriously threaten American economic dominance. According to this line of thinking, the U.S. and its close allies need to bring Moscow to its geopolitical knees – where it was under the late Boris Yeltsin – to stop any experimentation with other currencies for global trade.
Again, the advocates for this theory have a point. Protecting the Mighty Dollar is of utmost importance to Wall Street. The financial cataclysm of a potential ouster of the U.S. dollar as the world’s benchmark currency might understandably prompt some powerful people to play a dangerous game of chicken with nuclear-armed Russia.
Of course, there’s also the budgetary interest of NATO and the U.S. “military-industrial complex” (which helps fund many of Washington’s “think tanks”) to hype every propaganda opportunity to scare the American people about the “Russian threat.”
And, it’s a truism that every major international confrontation has multiple drivers. Think back on the motives behind the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Among a variety of factors were Vice President Dick Cheney’s lust for oil, President George W. Bush’s psychological rivalry with his father, and the neocons’ interest in orchestrating “regime change” in countries considered hostile to Israel. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]
There are also other reasons to disdain Putin, from his bare-chested horseback riding to his retrograde policies on gay rights. But he is no Stalin and surely no Hitler.
The Neocons’ ‘Samson Option’
So, while it’s reasonable to see multiple motives behind the brinksmanship with Russia over Ukraine, the sheer recklessness of the confrontation has, to me, the feel of an ideology or an “ism,” where people are ready to risk it all for some larger vision that is central to their being.
That is why I have long considered the Ukraine crisis to be an outgrowth of the neoconservative obsession with Israel’s interests in the Middle East.
Not only did key neocons – the likes of Assistant Secretary Nuland and Sen. John McCain – put themselves at the center of the coup plotting last winter but the neocons had an overriding motive: they wanted to destroy the behind-the-scenes collaboration between President Obama and President Putin who had worked together to avert a U.S. bombing campaign against the Syrian government a year ago and then advanced negotiations with Iran over limiting but not eliminating its nuclear program.
Those Obama-Putin diplomatic initiatives frustrated the desires of Israeli officials and the neocons to engineer “regime change” in those two countries. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even believed that bombing Iran’s nuclear plants was an “existential” necessity.
Further, there was the possibility that an expansion of the Obama-Putin cooperation could have supplanted Israel’s powerful position as a key arbiter of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Thus, the Obama-Putin relationship had to be blown up – and the Ukraine crisis was the perfect explosive for the destruction. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Why Neocons Seek to Destabilize Russia.”]
Though I’m told that Obama now understands how the neocons and other hardliners outmaneuvered him over Ukraine, he has felt compelled to join in Official Washington’s endless Putin-bashing, causing a furious Putin to make clear that he cannot be counted on to assist Obama on tricky foreign policy predicaments like Syria and Iran.
As I wrote last April,
“There is a ‘little-old-lady-who-swallowed-the-fly’ quality to neocon thinking. When one of their schemes goes bad, they simply move to a bigger, more dangerous scheme. If the Palestinians and Lebanon’s Hezbollah persist in annoying you and troubling Israel, you target their sponsors with ‘regime change’ – in Iraq, Syria and Iran. If your ‘regime change’ in Iraq goes badly, you escalate the subversion of Syria and the bankrupting of Iran.
“Just when you think you’ve cornered President Barack Obama into a massive bombing campaign against Syria – with a possible follow-on war against Iran – Putin steps in to give Obama a peaceful path out, getting Syria to surrender its chemical weapons and Iran to agree to constraints on its nuclear program. So, this Obama-Putin collaboration has become your new threat. That means you take aim at Ukraine, knowing its sensitivity to Russia.
“You support an uprising against elected President Viktor Yanukovych, even though neo-Nazi militias are needed to accomplish the actual coup. You get the U.S. State Department to immediately recognize the coup regime although it disenfranchises many people of eastern and southern Ukraine, where Yanukovych had his political base.
“When Putin steps in to protect the interests of those ethnic Russian populations and supports the secession of Crimea (endorsed by 96 percent of voters in a hastily called referendum), your target shifts again. Though you’ve succeeded in your plan to drive a wedge between Obama and Putin, Putin’s resistance to your Ukraine plans makes him the next focus of ‘regime change.’
“Your many friends in the mainstream U.S. news media begin to relentlessly demonize Putin with a propaganda barrage that would do a totalitarian state proud. The anti-Putin ‘group think’ is near total and any accusation – regardless of the absence of facts – is fine.”
Yet, by risking a potential nuclear confrontation with Russia — the equivalent of the old lady swallowing a horse – the neocons have moved beyond what can be described in a children’s ditty. It has become more like a global version of Israel’s “Samson Option,” the readiness to use nuclear weapons in a self-destructive commitment to eliminate your enemies whatever the cost to yourself.
But what is particularly shocking in this case is how virtually everyone in U.S. officialdom – and across the mainstream media spectrum – has bought into this madness.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.
Mocking Putin’s Good Faith Ukraine Peace Plan
On Wednesday, Putin offered a seven-point plan to end Southeastern Ukraine’s conflict. A previous article discussed it.
It’s genuine. It’s sincere. It’s fair-minded. It favors neither side. It’s a way to restore regional peace. It’s an important proposal to keep conflict from spreading.
It doesn’t matter. Obama wants war, not peace. So do rogue NATO partners. Kiev’s puppet regime is a convenient proxy.
MSM scoundrels ridiculed what demands support. More on this below.
Obama commented before Putin explained his plan, saying:
“There is an opportunity here. But no realistic political settlement can be achieved if, effectively, Russia says:”
‘We are going to continue to send tanks and troops and arms and advisors under the guise of separatists who are not homegrown, and the only possible settlement is if Ukraine cedes its territory or its sovereignty or its ability to make its own decisions about its security and its economic future.’ ”
Separately, he accused Russia of “a brazen assault on the territorial integrity of Ukraine, a sovereign and independent European nation.”
“It challenges that most basic of principles of our international system: that borders cannot be redrawn at the barrel of a gun, that nations have the right to determine their own future.”
His hypocrisy was glaring. No nation spurns international laws more than America. None more flagrantly challenge the sovereign independence of other nations.
None wage perpetual wars for unchallenged global dominance. None more brazenly trample on human and civil rights. None more egregiously violate core principles it claims to stand for.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said:
“Our view is that if President Putin is prepared to stop financing, arming, and training separatists and remove Russian troops from Ukraine, those are objectives, of course, not only would we support but certainly the Ukrainians would support.”
“And President Putin’s plan certainly does not do that. So as of now, I think there’s a great deal more work to be done.”
“And President Putin has had a lot of words but not backed them with actions, and that’s essentially what we feel needs to happen from here.”
Obama and Psaki disagreed on the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Psaki said:
“…I don’t want to make a sweeping term because there are reports we have that are unconfirmed, and we speak to the ones that we have that are more confirmed.”
“I don’t have anything new to confirm,” she added. On the one hand, she suggested Russian troops crossed Ukraine’s border.
On the other, she stopped short of accusing Moscow of an invasion. “Why do you shy away from this,” she was asked?
She ducked the question, saying “in our view it doesn’t matter what we call it.”
“So our actions, in our view, and what we’re going to do about it is more important than what we call it.”
On Wednesday she was asked:
“Jen, yesterday you hadn’t confirmed independently the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine.”
“But today, President Obama – I quote – (said) Russian forces have moved into Ukraine with tanks, with weapons, and this not a subject to dispute. Has something changed?”
Psaki contradicted her Tuesday comments, saying:
“We’ve said that many times before…” She lied claiming she “actually said (it on Tuesday).
“So you think it’s a fact (about) Russian presence in Ukraine. Military presence,” she was asked?
“I’m sorry. I’m not understanding your question,” she responded.
“It’s a fact,” she was asked?
“Is a fact? We’ve long – we’ve stated for some time time now. Yes.”
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on contradictory US statements.
Obama and his State Department expressed different views on alleged Russian involvement in Ukraine.
“We have repeatedly said there are no Russian troops on (its) territory,” said Peskov.
“While Obama says there can be no doubts about that, US Department of State officials say simultaneously with their president that the United States has no proof of Russian military presence in Ukraine.”
“This situation underscores their reluctance to use facts.”
“It’s an obsession with attributing a negative role in the development of the Ukrainian crisis to Russia, and we strongly object to this.”
In its latest weekly August 28 – September 3 update, OSCE observers monitoring the Russian/Ukrainian border said they witnessed no Russian troops or tanks crossing over.
Claims otherwise are spurious. It doesn’t matter. They repeat with disturbing regularity. Putin bashing is a growth industry.
Ukraine’s putschist prime minister Arseniy called his peace plan “an attempt to confuse the international community” ahead of the September 4 and 5 NATO summit.
“Putin’s real plan is the destruction of Ukraine and the resumption of the USSR,” he claimed.
Peace won’t come until Moscow withdraws its troops and proxy fighters, he added.
Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) defense ministry press service head Vladislav Brig wants Kiev forces entirely out of Southeastern Ukraine as a condition for peace.
“The negotiating side here is not Russia,” he said. “It is the Donetsk People’s Republic. We will stop the offensve when Ukrainian troops leave out territory.”
MSM scoundrels consistently turn truth on its head. Big Lies substitute for hard truths.
On Tuesday, The New York Times claimed Putin’s peace plan “muddied the diplomatic waters, leaving the West an excuse for delaying punitive sanctions that would also hurt European economies…”
“The ultimate effect, coming after Russian troops intervened in Ukraine last week to beat back a successful government offensive, may be to leave the country as a loose coalition that Moscow could still dominate, which critics of the Russian president say is his real aim.”
“The timing of Mr. Putin’s announcement was lost on no one, however, as he and Western leaders engaged in a global chess game over the fate of Ukraine.”
Putin’s plan “raise(d) more questions than it answered.”
His “strategy is to convince Kiev that it must negotiate, not fight, and to reinforce the idea that the overall outcome depended on Moscow.”
Washington Post editors want NATO countries providing Ukraine support “even if it’s not part of the alliance.”
They repeated the Big Lie about “Russian soldiers and tanks advanc(ing) across Southeastern Ukraine…” They want more than defensive measures agreed on.
They claim a brigade-sized rapid reaction force “will do nothing to stop what Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko rightly calls the ‘direct, unconcealed aggression’ by Russia against Ukraine or (Putin’s) mounting ambitions…”
Obama ruled out force to defend Ukraine. It “will soon be confronted with the terrible choice of fighting alone against the Russian invasion or capitulating to Mr. Putin’s demands.”
WaPo editors want Washington and other NATO members supplying Ukraine with weapons and munitions.
They want sanctions targeting Russia’s economy “significantly escalated.”
“Russia’s aggression in Ukraine poses a critical test to the Western alliance, and the war there is at a tipping point.” they claim.
“The response cannot be to cede Ukraine while trying to dissuade Mr. Putin from further conquests.”
Wall Street Journal editors ridiculed what they called a “Putinesque Cease-Fire,” saying:
“Thousands of Russian soldiers have turned the military tide in eastern Ukraine, and now Vladimir Putin wants to secure his advantage.”
“That’s the essence of the cease-fire outline that the Russian autocrat proposed to Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday.”
His plan “would cede to Russia control over a second giant chunk of Ukraine’s territory…”
“It’s no accident (Putin) floated this plan before the” September 4 and 5 NATO summit.
He “hopes to forestall sanctions and divide the West…” Peace gives Putin a chance “to grab more territory when the mood strikes.”
“Ukraine will not be (hiis) last military destination.”
Fact checking Western Big Lies:
It bears repeating what previous articles explained. Ukraine is Washington’s newest colony. It’s a convenient proxy. It serves its regional aims.
It’s government has no legitimacy. it’s a coup d’etat regime.
It’s infested with neo-Nazi fascists. They’re waging war on freedom. They want all opposition elements crushed.
They want all independent voices silenced. They want their message alone getting out.
They want democracy prevented at all costs. They want unchallenged hardline rule. They want what free people everywhere reject.
Russia hasn’t supplied Ukrainian self-defense forces with weapons and munitions.
It didn’t invade Ukraine. It’s troops aren’t involved in fighting. No credible evidence suggests otherwise.
Retired Russian military personnel, some active duty members on leave, other Russian nationals, as well as individuals from other countries came to Southeastern Ukraine as volunteer fighters.
At the same time, other foreign volunteers and Blackwater USA type mercenaries fight for Kiev. Western leaders and media ignore their involvement.
Washington wants total Eastern European control. Ukraine is a vital linchpin. It’s key in its plans to marginalize, weaken, isolate, contain and co-opt Russia.
As a Western proxy, Kiev is a dagger threatening Russian sovereign independence. Putin is justifiably alarmed.
War serves Washington’s interests. Peace defeats them. Direct confrontation with Russia is madness.
Things seem inexorably heading in this direction. Neocons infest Washington. They exert enormous influence.
They want war, not peace. Obama is the latest in a long line of US warrior presidents. He’s on a fast track for the unthinkable.
America’s rage for war makes nuclear confrontation possible. Mutually assured destruction (MAD) prevented it earlier.
Fail safe days appear over. The unthinkable appears possible. At stake is world peace.
Imagine risking humanity’s destruction. Imagine what no responsible leaders would dare. The worst of all possible outcomes may follow. Forewarned no longer is forearmed.
A Final Comment
On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov urged heeding Putin’s call for Southeastern Ukrainian peace. “We do not give up,” he said.
“President Vladimir Putin personally makes great efforts in direct contacts with President Poroshenko to find such ways of cooperation that will allow immediately put an end to bloodshed, remove the threat for the civilian population, ensure solution to humanitarian problems, problems of reconstruction of the destroyed infrastructure, and, of course, ensure the beginning of the negotiating political process.”
“We hope the calls will be heeded first and foremost in Kiev, Luhansk and Donetsk.”
“We will be ready together with OSCE within the framework of the contact group to help the conflicting parties to move along the path of stabilization of the situation in practice.”
“There was no lack in peace initiatives. We were actively pushing forward approaches which are sealed in the Geneva Statement dated April 17.”
“We fixed the Berlin Declaration and documents which presuppose an immediate cessation of fire and the start of a respectful inclusive dialogue on a constitutional reform with the participation of all regions.”
“None of those that signed the documents together with us, I mean Ukraine, the United States, and the European Union, are interested, as it seemed to us, in implementing what we reached agreement about. This is very sad.”
“(T)he West’s behavior raises very big doubts as to the sincerity of what is being done by Brussels and Washington.”
It bears repeating. Washington and rogue NATO partners want war, not peace. Humanity’s fate hangs in the balance.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network. It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour
Russia Supports Council of Europe’s Drive to Investigate Crimes against Humanity in Ukraine
Russia supports the Council of Europe’s drive to investigate the events in Ukraine that have happened after February 2014, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday.
“I know your position and we support it. It includes the necessity of holding an investigation to the end, and an investigation is needed in all incidents that happened in the period after February,” Lavrov said during a meeting with Council of Europe’s Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland.
At a meeting with the Russian foreign minister, Jagland acknowledged that human rights violations in Ukraine pose a challenge to Strasbourg.
Ukraine’s southeastern regions have never recognized the legitimacy of the country’s new authorities that took power after a February 22 coup.
Since mid-April, Kiev has been conducting a military operation against the independence supporters and according to the United Nations, the conflict has already claimed lives of almost 2,600 civilians.
Both the Donetsk and Luhansk regions are suffering from a humanitarian catastrophe due to constant shelling and a lack of basic supplies.
Moscow sees the operation as punitive and has repeatedly urged the Ukrainian government to put an end to the bloodshed.
Australia Engaged in US-NATO Activities in Ukraine: When “Wheezing Middle Powers” Get it Wrong
Barking up the wrong tree has been a specialty of the Australian diplomatic corps for some years. Piddling on that same tree in some misguided understanding of ownership has been another. The announcement by Prime Minister Tony Abbott – that an interim embassy mission will open in Kiev, and that military advisors will be sent – is one such example. Here, the forest, with its trees, is truly far and distant.
An argument making the rounds is that Australia is showing its “middling” power status in making such gestures. The idea of Australian middle power status is articulated with such insistence you might actually believe it. In truth, it struggles to make the grade, wheezing its way along the track of competition in the hope that someone might notice. That someone, of course, is the United States. Other powers, such as Russia and China, are to be regarded as studied villains of the peace (current and future), notwithstanding the trade being done with them.
The other dreary remark made is that Australian occupation of a seat on the Security Council, or its presence in such forums as the G20 has actually made a difference to both muscle and influence. If you are looking for the role of honest broker, the bridge between dissenting parties, the answer is no. (Abbott’s suggestion that Russia is essentially motivated by roguishness, funding and equipping murderers hardly suggests such a line.) If you are looking for another seat occupied for reasons of clerking duties, that is quite another matter. It that area, Australia excels.
So, into the Ukraine she goes, with promises of “non-lethal” action as a form of payment for “its support and friendship”1 Australians perished in the deadly affair, but Abbott is truly misreading the picture if he thinks Australian personnel are needed as a gesture of assistance. “Australia is truly grateful for Ukraine’s help in recovering the victims and bringing home our dead.”
For one, the Ukrainian authorities did not cover themselves with glory in that affair. There were denials and counter-denials that they did have the necessary weapons system that might have been used in the downing of the flight. There was the practice of charging flights running routes through eastern Ukraine when there should have been a steadfast prohibition of the use of the corridor.
Ultimately, under international aviation law, Ukraine was responsible for activities taking place on the ground, irrespective of whether it was being contested by rebel separatists. None of this matters for a historically disinterested Abbott, who had the answers in advance of any investigation into circumstances around the event. “We are also grateful for Ukraine’s strong support for the criminal investigation into this particular atrocity and in their determination which we share to bring the perpetrators to justice.” The issues are already determined: rebel fighters did it, with Russian help.
The link with Moscow is drawn with unenviable certainty, justifying the need for Australia to rally to the Ukrainian cause with schoolboy conviction. “So, Madam Speaker, the government and I believe the Australian people, would like to repay Ukraine for its support and friendship, especially as Ukraine continues to be subject to active destabilisation and indeed outright invasion from Russia, a country it has never sought to harm.”
Sanctions are being reiterated, and the uranium supply line is being cut. “There will be no uranium sales to Russia until further notice and Australia has no intention of selling uranium to a country which is so obviously in breach of international law as Russia currently is.”
Such talk takes place in a vacuum of history. Russian interests in Russian nationals – very much part of the nationality principle at international law – is not even a footnote in conversation. Ukrainian agitation, Russian response and its very mixed relationship with the separatists, and the interference mounted by foreign powers, have all done their part in making a dangerous situation incendiary.
Particularly troubling are the ever pressing problems posed by a burgeoning NATO alliance. Formed in 1949 to combat the Soviet Union during the Cold War, it has over extended its remit. Foreign wars and engagements keep its soldiers busy. With 28 members, it is one of the largest military alliances in history, boasting a combined expenditure of 1 trillion dollars a year. Its presence is a reminder of continuing US dominance on the European continent. An olive branch, even if a somewhat bare one, is being held out to Kiev by Washington – the door is open for those on our side.
Former US ambassador to NATO, Kurt Volker2 of belligerence to “prove [Putin] wrong.” The suggested recipe is a military one: “For the sake of Ukraine’s integrity as a country, for future European security and for NATO’s credibility as a defence organization, NATO leaders need to make some tough decisions and push back militarily against Russia.”
The dangers posed by this militarisation, along with Canberra’s desire to be more relevantly engaged with NATO activities, has seen that worst tendency in Australian foreign policy realise itself: the longing to be noticed. Many a year has passed since an Australian foreign minister realised that the dictates of geography come first. The political dross, dressed up as strategic wisdom, should come a distant second.
Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: [email protected]
Ukraine’s richest help fund military
As military operations persist in Ukraine, many voluntary Ukrainian fighters are becoming increasingly dependent on funds provided by the country’s millionaires.