Historian and Russian policy analyst Stephen Cohen with Thom Hartmann (the nasty ads are about two and a half minutes long).  My.fdl operationmindcrime has the entire interview embedded, plus a few other links; I’ve clipped  the first 20 minutes.

Several notes on his interview: First, please note: ‘If you study Russian history with an open mind…as much as you may hate the ideology of the Kremlin under a given regime, or however much you may dislike the leadership of Russia, as long as you approach Russian history, its triumphs, its traumas, (etc.)…that the Kremlin would see this slow advance of NATO as a dangerous threat and a provocation and would react exactly as George Kennan said it would twenty years ago.’

This is Cohen’s companion piece Cohen on Ukraine civil war: ‘Lincoln didn’t call Confederates terrorists’, June 14, 2014.  It includes the ‘only heresy can break orthodoxy’ and ‘Obomba in a bubble with no matching counter-arguments’ themes.

Did he mean to say that Ukraine is one of the Kremlin’s ‘red lines’, or did he mean ‘Crimea’ and Georgia?  And he may indeed be right that Russia wanted to leave some of the border open to citizens trying to escape Kyiv’s constant shelling in some key locales.  Show of force in Poland and other nations on the periphery?  Oh, yes; NATO is proving that it’s mission is in no way passé, José.  But ‘pull your troops away from the border, Roosia!’

Diana Johnstone described the 2013 meeting Cohen referenced this way:

It Was All Planned at Yalta’

In September 2013, one of Ukraine’s richest oligarchs, Viktor Pinchuk, paid for an elite strategic conference on Ukraine’s future that was held in the same Palace in Yalta, Crimea, where Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill met to decide the future of Europe in 1945.  The Economist, one of the elite media reporting on what it called a “display of fierce diplomacy”, stated that: “The future of Ukraine, a country of 48m people, and of Europe was being decided in real time.” The participants included Bill and Hillary Clinton, former CIA head General David Petraeus, former U.S. Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers, former World Bank head Robert Zoellick, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, Shimon Peres, Tony Blair, Gerhard Schröder, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Mario Monti, Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite, and Poland’s influential foreign minister Radek Sikorski.  Both President Viktor Yanukovych, deposed five months later, and his recently elected successor Petro Poroshenko were present. Former U.S. energy secretary Bill Richardson was there to talk about the shale-gas revolution which the United States hopes to use to weaken Russia by substituting fracking for Russia’s natural gas reserves.  The center of discussion was the “Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement” (DCFTA) between Ukraine and the European Union, and the prospect of Ukraine’s integration with the West.  The general tone was euphoria over the prospect of breaking Ukraine’s ties with Russia in favor of the West. 

Forbes reported at the time on the “stark difference” between the Russian and Western views “not over the advisability of Ukraine’s integration with the EU but over its likely impact.”   The Forbes piece explained that the West knew the pitfalls, and Mark Adomanis’s  predictions seem to be coming true.  Add in the language that required Ukraine ‘to abide by Europe’s security and military policies’, and as Cohen reasonably decodes  it: ‘bring Ukraine into NATO through the back door’.

Johnstone also says that the Empire’s policy was essentially mapped out in Zbigniew Brzezinski’s 1997  The Grand Chessboard.

Kissinger may have indeed volunteered his services to Obomba, at least he is relatively rational about Ukraine, even if one disagrees with his take.  Zbig?  Read away.

Cohen’s remarks about the fact that in Germany, there is actually  debate going on about Ukraine and those responsible for this ‘crisis’ was seriously interesting.  And lo, and behold, Michael Cavlan, commenting at Café-Babylon.net, brought this video of Sahra Wagenknecht, deputy chair of Germany’s Left Party speaking at the Bundestag about the EU crisis and the civil war in Ukraine in reaction to a policy statement by Chancellor Angela Merkel, June 4, 2014.

The Neo-Nazis of which she speaks

Writing at HuffPo on March 11, Michael Hughes addressed ‘The Neo-Nazi Question in Ukraine’:

‘In a State Department “fact sheet” released last week the U.S. accused Putin of lying about the Ukrainian government being under the sway of extremist elements. The report stated that right wing ultranationalist groups “are not represented in the Rada (Ukraine’s parliament),” and that “there is no indication the government would pursue discriminatory policies.”

Yet after simply Googling the terms “Ukraine” and “Neo-Nazi,” the official position of the United States government along with the stance taken by many in the American media both now seem quite dubious, if not downright ridiculous, especially considering that one would be hard-pressed to machinate the lineup that now dominates Ukraine’s ministry posts.

For starters, Andriy Parubiy, the new secretary of Ukraine’s security council, was a co-founder of the Neo-Nazi Social-National Party of Ukraine (SNPU), otherwise known as Svoboda. And his deputy, Dmytro Yarosh, is the leader of a party called the Right Sector which, according to historian Timothy Stanley, “flies the old flag of the Ukrainian Nazi collaborators at its rallies.”

The highest-ranking right-wing extremist is Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Sych, also a member of Svoboda, who believes that women should “lead the kind of lifestyle to avoid the risk of rape, including refraining from drinking alcohol and being in controversial company.” This is the philosophy underlying one of his “legal initiatives,” according to the Kyiv Post, “to ban all abortions, even for pregnancies that occurred during rape.”

The Svoboda party has tapped into Nazi symbolism including the “wolf’s angel” rune, which resembles a swastika and was worn by members of the Waffen-SS, a panzer division that was declared a criminal organization at Nuremberg. A report from Tel-Aviv University describes the Svoboda party as “an extremist, right-wing, nationalist organization which emphasizes its identification with the ideology of German National Socialism.

According to this BBC news clip two Svoboda parliamentarians in recent weeks posed for photos while “brandishing well-known far right numerology,” including the numbers 88 — the eighth letter of the alphabet — signifying “HH,” as in “Heil Hitler.” This all makes Hillary Clinton’s recent comments comparing Putin to Hitler appear patently absurd, as Stanley adeptly points out: “After all, in the eyes of many ethnic Russians, it is the Ukrainian nationalists — not Putin — who are the Nazis.”

Ah, yes; ‘the tanks and other heavy equipment have been provided by Russia’.  We’re being bombarded with “those Russian tanks prove Putin is behind the terrorists!”  Anyone who is anyone in this mess has pix and videos of those three tanks on Twitter!  Even satellite photos!  (proving exactly nothing)

Moon of Alabama discredits that narrative rather handily.

Events since the interview or those not discussed

On June 14, the Guardian reported: Bloodiest day in Ukraine conflict as rebel missiles bring down military jet:  Il-76 transport plane destroyed at Luhansk airport, killing 40 paratroopers and nine crew.

In apparent retaliation, members of Right Sektor attacked the Russian Embassy in Kyiv, demanding the Russian flag be taken down, pelting the building with rocks and eggs, and destroyed diplomatic vehicles nearby.   The protestors painted swastikas on them and the gates of the Embassy, as even the Guardian reported.  Their article’s title was Ukraine minister’s abusive remarks about Putin spark diplomatic row’ (he started the chant: Putin is a dickhead), but the subtitle was hilarious in the extreme: ‘Andriy Deshchytsia caught swearing about Russian president while trying to placate protesters outside embassy in Kiev, even adding this:

‘Alexei Pushkov, a senior Russian foreign policy official, called on the Ukrainian president to fire his foreign minister after the outburst. Leonid Kalashnikov, Pushkov’s deputy, told a Russian radio station: “I can’t really imagine how anyone, especially a Russian representative, can sit down at the negotiating table with him after such an outburst.”

However, Geoff Pyatt, the US ambassador to Ukraine, wrote on Twitter that the minister had been “seeking to defuse a dangerous situation”, calling Deshchytsia “a skilled diplomat and credit to Ukraine“.

Ah, yes; quite the ‘placating diplomat’, Geoffrey.  It just could make negotiations a wee bit more difficult, don’t you think?

Perhaps this also caused negotiations, including the costs of Gazprom gas a bit sticky. Press TV has reported that:

Russia has accused Ukraine of using “prohibited weapons” while attempting to retake the pro-Russia controlled city of Slavyansk.
Comments by the Russian Foreign Ministry Human Rights Ombudsman Konstantin Dolgov came on Thursday, shortly after Russian state media reported the use of incendiary bombs by Ukraine’s forces in the eastern city of Slavyansk.

“Ukrainian defense forces and nationalists are using prohibited weapons against Slavyansk’s civilians, firing on refugees and killing children,” Dolgov tweeted, adding, “Kiev’s humanitarian crimes against (Ukraine’s) southeastern residents … must be investigated.”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Moscow once again called on Kiev to stop its military operations in eastern Ukraine and agree to a ceasefire with protesters there.

According to a statement by Russia’s Foreign Ministry, the appeal was made during a phone conversation between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Ukraine’s mainly Russian-speaking parts in the east have been the scene of deadly clashes between pro-Russia protesters and the Ukrainian army since Kiev launched military operations in the southeastern regions in mid-April in a bid to root out the protests there.  Kiev says it is targeting armed pro-Russia protesters, but many civilians have been caught in the shelling that has been going on for days’.

There are videos online of the alleged white phosphorus bombs or shells raining down in civilian areas.  I don’t know, but this video is titled (Bing translated): ‘Army twice per day bombarded Slavyansk phosphorus’.


From Reuters: Russia cuts off gas to Ukraine as Kiev orders border secured’

‘Kiev and Moscow blamed each other for the failure to agree on the price of future gas deliveries and refused to abandon well established positions: Russia offering a discount and Ukraine rejecting that as a tool for political manipulation’, yada yada.

A long-term reduction of supply could hit EU consumers, which get about a third of their gas needs from Russia, around half of it through pipelines that cross Ukraine. Earlier price disputes led to “gas wars” in 2006 and 2009, and Russian accusations Ukraine stole gas destined for the rest of Europe.

Gazprom’s Miller said Russia would provide Ukraine with the volumes necessary to cover EU demand, but implied that Kiev may take some of those supplies for their own use – a potential shortfall Moscow could not be expected to cover.

Leveraging the EU toward pragmatic sanity?

Will a Bay of Pigs moment be sparked?  Will this just be a civil war of attrition as some predict, or will Putin make any military move to protect Novoroosiya?  Does he personally care about the many dead and/or those fleeing for their lives?  I admit that I doubt it when I see his cold dead eyes.  Will the Russian populace make demands on him?  What does it tell us that the front page of the Guardian World has not one piece about Ukraine as I type?  Iraq has taken center stage, of course.  Pity the poor pawns in this hideous and unnecessary geopolitical theater.  It just didn’t have to be this way.  As Stephen Cohen said so well: “Their demands aren’t at all unreasonable.”

(cross-posed at Café-Babylon.net)