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Ukraine: The Truth April 14, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Europe, Imperialism, Russia, Ukraine, War.
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Roger’s note: I apologize for continuing to post on the Ukraine situation, but probably nothing demonstrates as well the almost surrealistic unreality of what the United States government and the corporate media are promoting as opposed to what is the actual on the ground reality.  In fact, the Neocons, the Pentagon and the National Security establishment could very well lead the world into a nuclear conflagration over the fictional Russian aggression.  One does not need to be a Rusophile or a friend of Putin to see who is aggressing whom.

It’s Becoming Apparent
by GARY LEUPP

Reuters headline, April 9: “Ukraine sets sights on joining NATO.”

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty headline, April 9: “Far-Right Leader Names Ukrainian Military Adviser.”

Moscow’s official line on Ukraine—and it should not be dismissed just because that’s what it is—is that the U.S. has spent about $ 5 billion backing “regime change” in that sad, bankrupt country, ultimately resulting in a coup d’etat (or putsch) in Kiev in February 2014 in which neo-fascists played a key role. The coup occurred because the U.S. State Department and Pentagon hoped to replace the democratically elected administration with one that would push for Ukraine’s entry into NATO, a military alliance designed from its inception in 1949 to challenge Russia. The ultimate intent was to evict the Russian Black Sea Fleet from the bases it’s maintained on the Crimean Peninsula for over 230 years.

Personally, I believe this interpretation is basically true, and that any rational person should recognize that it’s true. Victoria Nuland, the neocon thug who serves as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and is the key official shaping U.S. Ukraine policy, openly admitted to an “international business conference on Ukraine” in December 2013 that Washington had “invested more than 5 billion dollars to help Ukraine achieve [the development of democratic institutions] and other goals.”

She repeated this assertion in an CNN interview, and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has proudly reiterated it as well on cable news. The unspoken goal was Ukraine’s membership in NATO.

(Imagine if a top-ranking official in the Russian Foreign Ministry were to boast of a $ 5 billion Russian investment in undermining the Mexican or Canadian government, with an aim towards incorporating one of those countries into an expanding military alliance. John McCain and Fox News would be demanding the immediate nuking of Moscow.)

Russia, as you know, has relatively few naval bases for a country its size. These face the Barents and Baltic Seas to the north, surrounding Scandinavia. In 1904, when Russian forces were attacked by the Japanese navy at Port Arthur in Manchuria, Russia had to dispatch the Baltic fleet to the region in a voyage requiring six months (and ending in the disastrous Battle of Tsushima). Russian geography poses obstacles to a strong navy.

There is one Russian naval base in Astrakhan on the landlocked Caspian Sea (which is really a vast lake, from which one can sail to Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran or Azerbaijan but nowhere beyond). And there are several bases in or near Vladivostok on the Siberian Pacific coast, which is iced over part of the year, as well as bases on the Kamchatka Peninsula north of Japan. Russia has a modest naval base at Tartus on the Syrian coast, and a logistics base in Cam Rahn Bay in Vietnam. But the only bases with ready access to the Mediterranean and thence the Atlantic or Indian oceans are those in and around Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula on the Black Sea.

Compare the U.S. with over 30 major naval bases on its east and west coasts and Hawaii, and others—some of them huge—in Japan, Italy, Cuba, Bahrain, Diego Garcia and elsewhere! There are more naval bases in the state of California than in the entirety of the Russian Federation.

The U.S. has military personnel stationed in about 130 countries in the world—that is, in two-thirds of the countries who are members of the UN. In contrast, Russia has military forces stationed in, by my count, ten foreign countries, eight of them on its borders. And yet the U.S. press and political class depict Russia and specifically its president Vladimir Putin, a threatening juggernaut. (Just as they once did Saddam Hussein, that lame creature demonized as—as the warmongers always do, before attacking and destroying him—“a new Hitler.”)

Any student at a U.S. university, enrolled in an interdisciplinary program in “international relations” (and educated, as is the norm, by political scientists of the “realist” school) is likely to conclude that—leaving aside the vilified personality of Putin—any Russian leader would insist on retaining the Crimean military assets. Anyone at all! Retention of that historic real estate is a no-brainer. Any outsiders with designs on it (which would include the hawks leading the U.S. Republican Party) are simply unrealistic if not brain-dead.

How could any Russian leader say to Victoria Nuland, “Fine, go ahead, take it,” and hand over this ethnic-Russian region—locus of the Crimean War of 1853-56 and some of the bloodiest battles against the Nazis in World War II, locus of the fateful Yalta meeting between Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill in February 1945–to forces overtly hostile to Russia? Forces that moreover are inclined to praise Ukrainian fascists who during World War II collaborated with the Nazis, even rounding up Jews for the slaughter at their bidding?

The Reuters article referenced above confirms the intention of the U.S-installed regime to formally apply for NATO membership. It cites Oleksander Turchynov, head of the new regime’s national security council, as stating to the parliament that NATO membership was “the only reliable external guarantee” of Ukrainian “sovereignty and territorial integrity.” (As though Russia, which had a cordial relationship with the previous President Viktor Yanukovich—who, let us repeat, was elected in a poll universally regarded as legitimate and democratic in 2010—has in recent times challenged the “territorial integrity” of Ukraine or any other country!)

It thus validates the key Russian charge that this is all about NATO—the NATO that, following George H. W. Bush’s promise to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989 that the alliance would not advance “one inch” towards Russia’s borders has in fact advanced to surround European Russia since 1999. NATO now includes Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Albania, all expected by group rules to devote 2% of their GDPs to the mutual “defense” effort.

If it does not include Russia’s other neighbors, Belarus, Moldova and Georgia, it is not for lack of trying. The “National Endowment for Democracy” (a “private, non-profit organization” used by the State Department to fund regime change abroad) has sought to draw all of them into NATO. As though this were the most natural thing in the world, for all peoples living in countries bordering Russia to aspire to join an anti-Russian alliance!

Nuland’s talking points for popular consumption on Ukraine include the assertion that the U.S. supports “the Ukrainian people’s European aspirations.” She ignores the fact that the country is deeply divided between east and west, and that in the east there are substantial “Russian aspirations” deeply rooted in a history she does not and indeed disdains to even try to understand. She also conceals the fact that U.S. support for regime change in Ukraine, leading up to the February 22, 2014 coup, was not really based on U.S. support for Ukraine’s entry in the European Union.

The EU is a trading bloc that challenges the U.S. and NAFTA. In a world of imperialist competition for markets and resources, the EU and the U.S. often disagree. Washington is angry that EU members Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Luxembourg are all joining the Chinese-led investment bank Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), mainly because it’s likely to boost the Chinese currency and contribute to the decline of the dollar as the international reserve currency. Congress fumes over the EU’s refusal to allow importation of Monsanto’s genetically modified food products. The U.S. State Department is not in the business of promoting EU membership. That’s not what this is about.

In 2013 Hillary Clinton’s State Department seized on the decision made by ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich to back away from a deal he’d initialed with the EU. His advisors told him the austerity regime the EU would impose would be unacceptable, while Russia offered a generous aid package including continued supply of cheap gas.

Yanukovich’s decision to opt for the latter option was based on economic logic, and eminently defensible in economic terms. But the U.S. actively fanned the flames of a movement which depicted Yanukovich’s decision as a betrayal of Ukrainian nationhood and a statement of fealty to Russia. Hence Nuland’s oft repeated sound bite about “European aspirations.” As though Ukraine hadn’t always been part of Europe! As though “Europe” were some shining star, and all those horrible inflictions of terror on the Ukrainian Socialist Republic by European fascists during the 1940s were irrelevant. And as though submission to a Greek-style EU-inspired austerity regime would bring relief to the suffering Ukrainian masses.

In fact, Nuland’s own thoughts on “European aspirations” were sweetly summarized in her phone conversation with U.S. ambassador to Kiev Geoffrey Pyatt just before the putsch in early February 2014. Quite probably leaked by Russian intelligence, and never disavowed by the State Department, the recording shows how Nuland had hand-picked the current prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, for his post over rivals Oleh Tyanybok (leader of the neo-fascist Svoboda Party, who has publically inveighed against the “Moscow-Jewish mafia ruling Ukraine” and referred to “Muscovites” and Jews as “scum) and Vitali Klitschko, a former boxer and sometimes anti-corruption activist.

In the phone call, Pyatt tells her “I think we’re in play,” meaning everything’s set for a coup. “The Kitschko piece is obviously the complicated electron here, especially the announcement of him as deputy prime minister…I’m glad you sort of put him on the spot as to where he fits into this scenario.” Pyatt had apparently informed Kitschko that despite some EU backing, he was not a suitable candidate for the U.S. (In the call, Nuland blandly asserts that he needs more time “to do his homework.”)

Nuland wanted to marginalize Klitschko, who in the coup’s aftermath was awarded (as consolation prize) the post of Kiev mayor, She wanted to make sure that the former Minister of the Economy, Yatsenyuk, advocate of severe austerity measures and proponent of NATO membership, succeeded Yanukovich.

The phone call makes clear that Nuland had recruited UN officials to endorse the regime change.

Towards the end of the conversation, Nuland tells Pyatt “OK,” signaling that the two agreed on the general strategy. She then alludes to the welcome complicity of several other assets: Jeff Feltman, Robert Serry, and Ban Ki-moon.

She reports that Jeff Feltman has “now gotten both Serry and Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday.” Meaning: to help facilitate the coup and validate it afterwards.

Who are these people? Geoffrey Feltman, a career U.S. diplomat, was at the time the UN Under Secretary-General of Political Affairs. He is perhaps best known for his tenure as U.S. ambassador to Lebanon between 2004 and 2008 when he exercised so much influence that Hizbollah—echoed by other parties—referred to the Fouad Siniora government as the “Feltman government.”

Robert Serry is a Dutch diplomat who served as NATO’s Assistant Secretary-General of Foreign Crisis Management and Operations between 2003 and 2005 and also had been Dutch ambassador to Ukraine. An advocate of Dutch participation in the Iraq War based on lies, he was a reliable U.S. ally.

Ban Ki-moon is of course the UN Secretary-General who, as South Korea’s foreign minister, pressed for the deployment of South Korean troops in that same Iraq war based on lies. We know from Wikileaks that, prompted by the U.S., he urged the UN Security Council to ignore the UN Board of Inquiry’s report on the Israeli bombing of Gaza in 2008-2009 to avoid U.S. and Israeli embarrassment. It’s safe to call him a reliable U.S. puppet.

Towards the end of the intercepted phone call Nuland signs off: “So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and to have the UN help glue it and, you know, Fuck the EU.” Fuck them, that is to say, if their ideas about Ukraine’s future differ from our own.

So much for respect for anybody’s “European aspirations.”

In the same phone call, Nuland notes that Yatsenyev “will need Klitschko and Tyahnybok on the outside, he needs to be talking to them four times a week.” One has to ask: what’s more disgusting, the fact that the U.S. State Department would so attempt to micro-manage a regime change in a sovereign state, or that this neocon Nuland (who just so happens to be Jewish) representing the U.S. government, would urge the U.S. puppet to routinely network with a neo-fascist who describes Jews as “scum”?

In this case, commitment to the expansion of NATO cause plainly trumps the resistance to anti-Semitism cause. Nuland ought to be ashamed of herself.

When confronted last May in a House hearing by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher with photographic evidence of the role of neo-Nazis in the Maidan events, Nuland acknowledged that “there were many colors of Ukraine involved including very ugly colors.” She didn’t mention her own photos with Tyahnybok, all smiles, or her instruction to “Yats” to be on the phone with him four times a week.

The Radio Free Europe article referenced above begins: “The controversial leader of Ukraine’s ultranationalist Right Sector paramilitary group has been named an army adviser.  Ukrainian Armed Forces spokesman Oleksey Mazepa announced on April 6 that Dmytro Yarosh would ‘act as a link between volunteer battalions and the General Staff.’ Yarosh’s Right Sector militia claims to have some 10,000 members, but so far has not officially registered with the government as other paramilitary forces have done. The Right Sector militia is fighting alongside Ukrainian government troops against pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country.”

The neo-fascist Right Sector was formed in 2013 during the Maidan protests in Kiev, amalgamating a number of groups aligned to the Svoboda Party. As the latter was striving for international respectability, its leaders meeting with Nuland and John McCain among others, the Right Sector functioned as its violent activist contingent. It was almost certainly involved in sniper fire on the square, attributed to the regime and used to validate its overthrow.

Now its head is awarded a government post, to coordinate the actions of the right-wing militias (most notoriously the Azov Battalion, which proudly sports Nazi insignia and has attacked civilian targets in east Ukraine). Does this not validate the Russian charge that there is a strong fascist component to the regime?

The situation is complicated. The neo-fascist shock troops deployed to pull off the putsch are not in favor of EU membership. They don’t want its tolerance for diversity, its immigration rules. They have a vision of White Power manifest in their varied symbols, that include Confederate flags, certain Celtic crosses, and swastikas. They might not even favor NATO membership. But as the Radio Free Europe article indicates, their support is valued and needed by the regime.

No matter that Dmytro Yarosh is wanted by Interpol for “public incitement to terrorist activities” for threatening to destroy Russian pipelines in Ukraine. He’s a necessary part of a team, and Washington backs the team. And the State Department and captive media pooh-pooh any suggestion that there’s any fascism here, or any underhanded effort to encircle Russia. It’s all about Ukrainian “freedom,” supported by its benign self, which has in recent memory visited such memorable liberations on Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.

There is a fascist-friendly regime in Ukraine, ushered into power by the U.S. State Department. And it does want to enter NATO, and weaken Russia—if possible, by re-establishing control over Crimea and booting the Russian fleet out. Given German opposition to its admission into the alliance, it is doubtful that will occur short-term.

But with crazies running the U.S. State Department, successfully promoting a bogus narrative about what’s happened in Ukraine over the last two years—a narrative echoed slavishly by a clueless mainstream media—it’s just barely conceivable that there might come a day in which U.S. forces join the Azov Battalion in battling forces of the People’s Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk.

It won’t have anything to do with “freedom,” any more than the last few U.S. wars have had anything to do with that abstraction. It will be about imperial expansion, which while it might serve the .01% that rules this country, is not in your interest at all.

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

 

What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis March 3, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Russia, Ukraine.
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Roger’s note: This article lays out in detail the overall geopolitical strategy of the most reactionary hawkish elements within the Obama government, including Hillary Clinton; and puts the Ukraine crisis in a broader perspective.  This situation is complex and has historical roots that get ignored in the main stream media which, for analysis, substitutes cheer leading  for U.S. interests, which have absolutely nothing to do with democracy, not to mention the best interests of the Ukrainian, Russian or American people.

 

 

President Barack Obama has been trying, mostly in secret, to craft a new foreign policy that relies heavily on cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin to tamp down confrontations in hotspots such as Iran and Syria. But Obama’s timidity about publicly explaining this strategy has left it open to attack from powerful elements of Official Washington, including well-placed neocons and people in his own administration.

The gravest threat to this Obama-Putin collaboration has now emerged in Ukraine, where a coalition of U.S. neocon operatives and neocon holdovers within the State Department fanned the flames of unrest in Ukraine, contributing to the violent overthrow of democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych and now to a military intervention by Russian troops in the Crimea, a regionin southern Ukraine that historically was part of Russia.

 

President Barack Obama discusses the crisis in Ukraine for 90 minutes on March 1, 2014, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (White House photo/Pete Souza)

Though I’m told the Ukraine crisis caught Obama and Putin by surprise, the neocon determination to drive a wedge between the two leaders has been apparent for months, especially after Putin brokered a deal to head off U.S. military strikes against Syria last summer and helped get Iran to negotiate concessions on its nuclear program, both moves upsetting the neocons who had favored heightened confrontations.

Putin also is reported to have verbally dressed down Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan over what Putin considered their provocative actions regarding the Syrian civil war. So, by disrupting neocon plans and offending Netanyahu and Bandar, the Russian president found himself squarely in the crosshairs of some very powerful people.

If not for Putin, the neocons – along with Israel and Saudi Arabia – had hoped that Obama would launch military strikes on Syria and Iran that could open the door to more “regime change” across the Middle East, a dream at the center of neocon geopolitical strategy since the 1990s. This neocon strategy took shape after the display of U.S. high-tech warfare against Iraq in 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union later that year. U.S. neocons began believing in a new paradigm of a uni-polar world where U.S. edicts were law.

The neocons felt this paradigm shift also meant that Israel would no longer need to put up with frustrating negotiations with the Palestinians. Rather than haggling over a two-state solution, U.S. neocons simply pressed for “regime change” in hostile Muslim countries that were assisting the Palestinians or Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Iraq was first on the neocon hit list, but next came Syria and Iran. The overriding idea was that once the regimes assisting the Palestinians and Hezbollah were removed or neutralized, then Israel could dictate peace terms to the Palestinians who would have no choice but to accept what was on the table.

U.S. neocons working on Netanyahu’s campaign team in 1996, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, even formalized their bold new plan, which they outlined in a strategy paper, called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” The paper argued that only “regime change” in hostile Muslim countries could achieve the necessary “clean break” from the diplomatic standoffs that had followed inconclusive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

In 1998, the neocon Project for the New American Century called for a U.S. invasion of Iraq, but President Bill Clinton refused to go along. The situation changed, however, when President George W. Bush took office and after the 9/11 attacks. Suddenly, the neocons had a Commander in Chief who agreed with the need to eliminate Iraq’s Saddam Hussein — and a stunned and angry U.S. public could be easily persuaded. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]

So, Bush invaded Iraq, ousting Hussein but failing to subdue the country. The U.S. death toll of nearly 4,500 soldiers and the staggering costs, estimated to exceed $1 trillion, made the American people and even Bush unwilling to fulfill the full-scale neocon vision, which was expressed in one of their favorite jokes of 2003 about where to attack next, Iran or Syria, with the punch line: “Real men go to Tehran!”

Though hawks like Vice President Dick Cheney pushed the neocon/Israeli case for having the U.S. military bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities – with the hope that the attacks also might spark a “regime change” in Tehran – Bush decided that he couldn’t risk the move, especially after the U.S. intelligence community assessed in 2007 that Iran had stopped work on a bomb four years earlier.

The Rise of Obama

The neocons were dealt another setback in 2008 when Barack Obama defeated a neocon favorite, Sen. John McCain. But Obama then made one of the fateful decisions of his presidency, deciding to staff key foreign-policy positions with “a team of rivals,” i.e. keeping Republican operative Robert Gates at the Defense Department and recruiting Hillary Clinton, a neocon-lite, to head the State Department.

Obama also retained Bush’s high command, most significantly the media-darling Gen. David Petraeus. That meant that Obama didn’t take control over his own foreign policy.

Gates and Petraeus were themselves deeply influenced by the neocons, particularly Frederick Kagan, who had been a major advocate for the 2007 “surge” escalation in Iraq, which was hailed by the U.S. mainstream media as a great “success” but never achieved its principal goal of a unified Iraq. At the cost of nearly 1,000 U.S. dead, it only bought time for an orderly withdrawal that spared Bush and the neocons the embarrassment of an obvious defeat.

So, instead of a major personnel shakeup in the wake of the catastrophic Iraq War, Obama presided over what looked more like continuity with the Bush war policies, albeit with a firmer commitment to draw down troops in Iraq and eventually in Afghanistan.

From the start, however, Obama was opposed by key elements of his own administration, especially at State and Defense, and by the still-influential neocons of Official Washington. According to various accounts, including Gates’s new memoir Duty, Obama was maneuvered into supporting a troop “surge” in Afghanistan, as advocated by neocon Frederick Kagan and pushed by Gates, Petraeus and Clinton.

Gates wrote that Kagan persuaded him to recommend the Afghan “surge” and that Obama grudgingly went along although Gates concluded that Obama didn’t believe in the “mission” and wanted to reverse course more quickly than Gates, Petraeus and their side wanted.

Faced with this resistance from his own bureaucracy, Obama began to rely on a small inner circle built around Vice President Joe Biden and a few White House advisers with the analytical support of some CIA officials, including CIA Director Leon Panetta.

Obama also found a surprising ally in Putin after he regained the Russian presidency in 2012. A Putin adviser told me that the Russian president personally liked Obama and genuinely wanted to help him resolve dangerous disputes, especially crises with Iran and Syria.

In other words, what evolved out of Obama’s early “team of rivals” misjudgment was an extraordinary presidential foreign policy style, in which Obama developed and implemented much of his approach to the world outside the view of his secretaries of State and Defense (except when Panetta moved briefly to the Pentagon).

Even after the eventual departures of Gates in 2011, Petraeus as CIA director after a sex scandal in late 2012, and Clinton in early 2013, Obama’s peculiar approach didn’t particularly change. I’m told that he has a distant relationship with Secretary of State John Kerry, who never joined Obama’s inner foreign policy circle.

Though Obama’s taciturn protectiveness of his “real” foreign policy may be understandable given the continued neocon “tough-guy-ism” that dominates Official Washington, Obama’s freelancing approach gave space to hawkish elements of his own administration.

For instance, Secretary of State Kerry came close to announcing a U.S. war against Syria in a bellicose speech on Aug. 30, 2013, only to see Obama pull the rug out from under him as the President worked with Putin to defuse the crisis sparked by a disputed chemical weapons attack outside Damascus. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “How War on Syria Lost Its Way.”]

Similarly, Obama and Putin hammered out the structure for an interim deal with Iran on how to constrain its nuclear program. But when Kerry was sent to seal that agreement in Geneva, he instead inserted new demands from the French (who were carrying water for the Saudis) and nearly screwed it all up. After getting called on the carpet by the White House, Kerry returned to Geneva and finalized the arrangements.[See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Saudi-Israel Defeat on Iran Deal.”]

Unorthodox Foreign Policy

Obama’s unorthodox foreign policy – essentially working in tandem with the Russian president and sometimes at odds with his own foreign policy bureaucracy – has forced Obama into faux outrage when he’s faced with some perceived affront from Russia, such as its agreement to give temporary asylum to National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

For the record, Obama had to express strong disapproval of Snowden’s asylum, though in many ways Putin was doing Obama a favor by sparing Obama from having to prosecute Snowden with the attendant complications for U.S. national security and the damaging political repercussions from Obama’s liberal base.

Putin’s unforced errors also complicated the relationship, such as when he defended Russian hostility toward gays and cracked down on dissent before the Sochi Olympics. Putin became an easy target for U.S. commentators and comedians.

But Obama’s hesitancy to explain the degree of his strategic cooperation with Putin has enabled Official Washington’s still influential neocons, including holdovers within the State Department bureaucracy, to drive more substantive wedges between Obama and Putin. The neocons came to recognize that the Obama-Putin tandem had become a major impediment to their strategic vision.

Without doubt, the neocons’ most dramatic – and potentially most dangerous – counter-move has been Ukraine, where they have lent their political and financial support to opposition forces who sought to break Ukraine away from its Russian neighbor.

Though this crisis also stems from the historical division of Ukraine – between its more European-oriented west and the Russian-ethnic east and south – neocon operatives, with financing from the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy and other U.S. sources, played key roles in destabilizing and overthrowing the democratically elected president.

NED, a $100 million-a-year agency created by the Reagan administration in 1983 to promote political action and psychological warfare against targeted states, lists 65 projects that it supports financially inside Ukraine, including training activists, supporting “journalists” and promoting business groups, effectively creating a full-service structure primed and ready to destabilize a government in the name of promoting “democracy.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Shadow US Foreign Policy.”]

State Department neocons also put their shoulders into shoving Ukraine away from Russia. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, the wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan and the sister-in-law of the Gates-Petraeus adviser Frederick Kagan, advocated strenuously for Ukraine’s reorientation toward Europe.

Last December, Nuland reminded Ukrainian business leaders that, to help Ukraine achieve “its European aspirations, we have invested more than $5 billion.” She said the U.S. goal was to take “Ukraine into the future that it deserves,” by which she meant into the West’s orbit and away from Russia’s.

But President Yanukovych rejected a European Union plan that would have imposed harsh austerity on the already impoverished Ukraine. He accepted a more generous $15 billion loan from Russia, which also has propped up Ukraine’s economy with discounted natural gas. Yanukovych’s decision sparked anti-Russian street protests in Kiev, located in the country’s western and more pro-European region.

Nuland was soon at work planning for “regime change,” encouraging disruptive street protests by personally passing out cookies to the anti-government demonstrators. She didn’t seem to notice or mind that the protesters in Kiev’s Maidan square had hoisted a large banner honoring Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist who collaborated with the German Nazis during World War II and whose militias participated in atrocities against Jews and Poles.

By late January, Nuland was discussing with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt who should be allowed in the new government.

“Yats is the guy,” Nuland said in a phone call to Pyatt that was intercepted and posted online. “He’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. He’s the guy you know.” By “Yats,” Nuland was referring to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who had served as head of the central bank, foreign minister and economic minister — and who was committed to harsh austerity.

As Assistant Secretary Nuland and Sen. McCain cheered the demonstrators on, the street protests turned violent. Police clashed with neo-Nazi bands, the ideological descendants of Bandera’s anti-Russian Ukrainians who collaborated with the Nazi SS during World War II.

With the crisis escalating and scores of people killed in the street fighting, Yanukovych agreed to a E.U.-brokered deal that called for moving up scheduled elections and having the police stand down. The neo-Nazi storm troopers then seized the opening to occupy government buildings and force Yanukovych and many of his aides to flee for their lives.

With these neo-Nazis providing “security,” the remaining parliamentarians agreed in a series of unanimous or near unanimous votes to establish a new government and seek Yanukovych’s arrest for mass murder. Nuland’s choice, Yatsenyuk, emerged as interim prime minister.

Yet, the violent ouster of Yanukovych provoked popular resistance to the coup from the Russian-ethnic south and east. After seeking refuge in Russia, Yanukovych appealed to Putin for help. Putin then dispatched Russian troops to secure control of the Crimea. [For more on this history, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Cheering a ‘Democratic’ Coup in Ukraine.”]

Separating Obama from Putin

The Ukraine crisis has given Official Washington’s neocons another wedge to drive between Obama and Putin. For instance, the neocon flagship Washington Post editorialized on Saturday that Obama was responding “with phone calls” when something much more threatening than “condemnation” was needed.

It’s always stunning when the Post, which so energetically lobbied for the U.S. invasion of Iraq under the false pretense of eliminating its (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction, gets its ire up about another country acting in response to a genuine security threat on its own borders, not half a world away.

But the Post’s editors have never been deterred by their own hypocrisy. They wrote, “Mr. Putin’s likely objective was not difficult to figure. He appears to be responding to Ukraine’s overthrow of a pro-Kremlin government last week with an old and ugly Russian tactic: provoking a separatist rebellion in a neighboring state, using its own troops when necessary.”

The reality, however, appears to have been that neocon elements from within the U.S. government encouraged the overthrow of the elected president of Ukraine via a coup spearheaded by neo-Nazi storm troopers who then terrorized lawmakers as the parliament passed draconian laws, including some intended to punish the Russian-oriented regions which favor Yanukovych.

Yet, besides baiting Obama over his tempered words about the crisis, the Post declared that “Mr. Obama and European leaders must act quickly to prevent Ukraine’s dismemberment. Missing from the president’s statement was a necessary first step: a demand that all Russian forces – regular and irregular – be withdrawn … and that Moscow recognize the authority of the new Kiev government. … If Mr. Putin does not comply, Western leaders should make clear that Russia will pay a heavy price.”

The Post editors are fond of calling for ultimatums against various countries, especially Syria and Iran, with the implication that if they don’t comply with some U.S. demand that harsh actions, including military reprisals, will follow.

But now the neocons, in their single-minded pursuit of endless “regime change” in countries that get in their way, have taken their ambitions to a dangerous new level, confronting nuclear-armed Russia with ultimatums.

By Sunday, the Post’s neocon editors were “spelling out the consequences” for Putin and Russia, essentially proposing a new Cold War. The Post mocked Obama for alleged softness toward Russia and suggested that the next “regime change” must come in Moscow.

“Many in the West did not believe Mr. Putin would dare attempt a military intervention in Ukraine because of the steep potential consequences,” the Post wrote. “That the Russian ruler plunged ahead shows that he doubts Western leaders will respond forcefully. If he does not quickly retreat, the United States must prove him wrong.”

The madness of the neocons has long been indicated by their extraordinary arrogance and their contempt for other nations’ interests. They assume that U.S. military might and other coercive means must be brought to bear on any nation that doesn’t bow before U.S. ultimatums or that resists U.S.-orchestrated coups.

Whenever the neocons meet resistance, they don’t rethink their strategy; they simply take it to the next level. Angered by Russia’s role in heading off U.S. military attacks against Syria and Iran, the neocons escalated their geopolitical conflict by taking it to Russia’s own border, by egging on the violent ouster of Ukraine’s elected president.

The idea was to give Putin an embarrassing black eye as punishment for his interference in the neocons’ dream of “regime change” across the Middle East. Now, with Putin’s countermove, his dispatch of Russian troops to secure control of the Crimea, the neocons want Obama to further escalate the crisis by going after Putin.

Some leading neocons even see ousting Putin as a crucial step toward reestablishing the preeminence of their agenda. NED president Carl Gershman wrote in the Washington Post, “Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents.  … Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

At minimum, the neocons hope that they can neutralize Putin as Obama’s ally in trying to tamp down tensions with Syria and Iran – and thus put American military strikes against those two countries back under active consideration.

As events spin out of control, it appears way past time for President Obama to explain to the American people why he has collaborated with President Putin in trying to resolve some of the world’s thorniest problems.

That, however, would require him to belatedly take control of his own administration, to purge the neocon holdovers who have worked to sabotage his actual foreign policy, and to put an end to neocon-controlled organizations, like the National Endowment for Democracy, that use U.S. taxpayers’ money to stir up trouble abroad. That would require real political courage.

Robert Parry

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat. His two previous books are Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’.