Putin has held a conference on Ukraine. Here are the main points:
• No introduction of Russian troops into Ukraine is currently necessary; if it becomes necessary, then all the arrangements for doing so in accordance with domestic and international law are in place.
• Yanukovych is still Ukraine's official president, but doesn't have a future in Ukrainian politics. Ukraine needs reforms, but they have to be carried out in accordance with the law. To this end, a referendum on the constitution is highly recommended.
• All of the military activities in Crimea were carried out by Crimea's self-defense forces, which the Russians wholeheartedly support.
• Russia will not do anything to encourage separatism in Ukraine; such issues have to be decided by the population of Ukraine via a referendum.
In other news:
• The government in Kiev has announced that it is in communication with the government in Moscow. War has been cancelled for now, looks like.
• Russia will no longer be offering Ukraine a discount on natural gas, because it was conditional on Ukraine paying its bills on time, which it hasn't to the tune of a couple of billion dollars.
• There isn't much more on Ukraine's general mobilization in preparation for war. There are, however, reports from the east of the country that paramilitary groups associated with the extreme right-wing “Right Front” are looting armories. Also, something of a consensus among military experts has emerged: Ukraine's army can't fight.
• US State Secretary John Kerry is pushing for sanctions against Russia. For what, exactly? Not even UK is willing to go along with his plan. The Russian response is that if the Americans can't play nice then the Russians will take their business elsewhere. “We don't depend on the United States for anything” is the way one Russian commentator put it.]
[Monday Afternoon Update:
• Yesterday Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev flipped around in his copy of the Ukrainian constitution, and discovered that the ouster of President Yanukovych was illegal and therefore didn't happen. Likewise the appointment of the new government in Kiev, along with every decision it has made. Yanukovych is still Ukraine's president, Medvedev stated, although with “insignificant authority.”
• Yanukovych, in his capacity as Ukraine's president, has asked the Russian Federation that it introduce its military into the Ukraine and use military force to restore constitutional order: “Life and safety of people, especially in the southeast and in Crimea, are under threat. Under the influence of Western countries acts of terror and violence are being committed in the open. People are being persecuted based on political and linguistic characteristics.” [My translation.]
• Russian Federation has convened a meeting of the UN Security Council to inform it of having received this official invitation to introduce troops into Ukraine: “Actions of the Russian Federation are legitimate.” Above is a picture of UN Ambassador Churkin sort of smiling a little bit as he says that. Goose bumps...
• Boris Grebenshchikov has burst forth with a timely new anti-war song. “Love in the time of war,” baby!
• I haven't found much English-language commentary that's all that useful. Best by far is James Howard Kunstler's piece from this morning.]
[Monday Morning Update:
• The Kiev regime announces general mobilization; only 1% to 1.5% of conscripts bother to turn up
• A dozen major cities—pretty much everything southeast of the line that runs from Kharkov to Odessa—are flying the Russian tricolor
• Ukraine's naval flagship is flying Russia's naval flag
• The newly appointed head of Ukrainian navy has defected to the Russian side in Crimea within a few hours of being appointed
• Most of the Ukrainian military units in Crimea have gone over to the Russian side voluntarily, without a single shot fired
• Ukrainian troops from Kirov have been ordered to march on Crimea, but have refused to obey (illegal) orders from Kiev
• During the last two weeks of February 143,000 Ukrainian citizens have requested asylum in Russia]
Once upon a time I had an excellent history teacher, who has made a lasting impact on how I view the world. “It's about the dates,” he taught us; “Be sure to remember the dates, and you'll have the key to history.” You see, dates are important because most of the important historical events are, in fact, anniversaries. There is a hackneyed phrase that history does not repeat—it rhymes; but it would be a lot closer to truth to say that history has a rhythm—a rhythm based largely on multiples of the annual cycle.
Take, for instance, the Boston Marathon bombing which occurred on April 15, 2013. I seem to have been the only one to note that the unprecedented imposition of martial law in large pars of Boston—ostensibly justified by there being at large two Chechen youths who were thought to be carrying handguns—occurred on Patriot's Day. This day is a Massachusetts state holiday and a major anniversary of the American Revolution commemorating the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolution, which occurred on April 19, 1775. What an excellent choice of date for ignoring the constitution and setting a precedent for military take-over of a major urban area on the thinnest of pretenses! Perhaps future historians will see these two dates as the two book-ends in the 238-year history of American constitutional democracy.
On 23 February of this year in Kiev there took place a coup d'état in which armed neo-Nazi militants surrounded and took over Parliament and forced the parliamentarians, under duress, to replace the elected government with opposition figures who were supported and promoted by the EU representatives and the US State Department. Representatives of the party of the overthrown government—the Party of Regions—were threatened into resigning.
What provided the rationale for the coup d'état was the killing of demonstrators by uniformed snipers, blamed on the previous government. The overthrown president, who has since fled to Russia, was accused of mass murder, and the new government demanded his extradition (a dumb move, since Russia's constitution forbids extradition). But there are serious questions about this interpretation of events: the special forces were never issued rifles and were never ordered to open fire on the protesters; there were quite a few special forces members themselves among those killed; the killings were carried out in such a manner as to incite rather than quell protest, by targeting women, bystanders and those assisting the wounded. The killings were followed by a professionally orchestrated public relations campaign, complete with a catchy name—“Heaven's Hundred” (“Небесная сотня”)—complete with candlelight vigils, rapid clean-up and laying of wreaths at the scene of the crime and so on.
Unfortunately, this name has a nasty antecedent in the “Black Hundred” (“Чёрная сотня”), which was the name of a coalition of anti-Semites and ultra-right-wing nationalists back in 1905. It is illustrative of a certain ham-handedness on the part of the PR campaign's authors, and bears a similarity to the choice of white ribbons—a World War II symbol worn by Nazi collaborators and Wehrmacht auxiliaries in Nazi-occupied territories—which were shipped in from abroad for the anti-government demonstrations in Moscow in December of 2011. These demonstrations are commonly thought to have been organized by Western NGOs. It would seem that the same PR organization is behind both events. Wouldn't it then make sense to assume that this PR organization is staffed by fascists, hence their consistent choice of fascist symbols and terminology?
Now let's look back exactly 81 years. On February 23, 1933, somebody set fire to the Reichstag building in Berlin (the fire was blamed on the Communists, but this remains far from proven and the event is commonly suspected to have been a false flag operation). A day later, Hitler used the fire as an excuse to assume emergency powers and to flush the Communists from government, giving the National Socialists a majority. February 23, 1933 is the day remembered as the definitive turning point in the rise of fascism in Europe, setting it on course for World War II and the loss of millions of lives.
Obviously, this is far from a replay but more of a faint echo. It is a work-out of a long sequence of events. Leaving aside the dim past which gave rise to such organizations as the Black Hundred and its Pogrom artists, the major problem is that Western Ukraine (Eastern Poland prior to World War II) was never properly de-Nazified (the technical German term for this process is Entnazifizierung). Then there was the fateful mistake of giving away Russian Crimea to Ukraine by Khrushchev (a Ukrainian), neatly paralleling the giving away of Abkhazia to Georgia by Stalin (a Georgian). Then came the years of neglect following the collapse of the USSR during which Ukraine, never quite capable of self-governance, achieved truly stunning levels of misery and corruption and became famous for its main export—young prostitutes. Then came the Orange Revolution, in which Yushchenko, who is the husband of a former Reagan-administration neocon, was thrust into office in a US-orchestrated campaign. He, along with his side-kick Yulia Tymoshenko, continued the orgy of corruption, until they were voted out of office and replaced by an equally venal, but additionally very thick-headed Yanukovych, who was the one chased out of office on the anniversary of the Reichstag fire.
And now the situation in the Ukraine is roughly as follows. The new Ukrainian government, born, as it were, of an incestuous relationship between a Ukrainian neo-Nazi skinhead and his pig (or was it a US State Department operative?) lacks legitimacy. In the Russian-speaking provinces in the east, people are taking over local governments and appealing to Russia for help, which Russia is quick to offer, moving troops into the historically Russian Crimean peninsula and handing out Russian passports to anyone who wants one. (Interestingly, they are handing out Russian passports to the members of Ukrainian special forces, who are now on the run. Clearly, the Russians don't think that the allegations of mass murder will stick.) Having lost 26.6 million dead fighting fascists during World War II, it is not in Russia's political DNA to allow fascists to rise to power right in the Slavic heartland. Nor is a newly resurgent Russia, whose team just came in first at the winter Olympics in Sochi, beating the old Soviet record for the number of medals, is likely to strike a relaxed pose with regard to a fascist takeover of Ukraine. And so, on March 1, the Russian parliament approved Putin's request for the use of the armed forces in Ukraine. Right now in Western Ukraine they are busy demolishing World War II memorials and celebrating Nazi collaborators as national heroes, but my guess is that, as events unfold, Western Ukraine will finally be de-Nazified, 70 years late.
I realize that many readers in the US may find what I say here shocking, but it must be understood that they are subject to the same ham-handed PR campaign that has run amok in Moscow and Kiev. The people who run this campaign are not particularly well-read, but there are two books that they apparently find seminal and follow slavishly, textbook-fashion: George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Their initiatives tend to be a blend of these two approaches to mind control. Specifically, they have embraced the concept, from 1984, of “two minutes of hate”—a daily ritual in which the populace is made to redirect its negative emotions away from the obvious failings of its own government and toward a possibly nonexistent external enemy.
And so US citizens, saddled with their feckless, thieving Presidents and Congressmen and gradually going broke as a result, are being systematically conditioned to hate Vadimir Putin. (As thieving presidents go, Bush is ahead so far with over a trillion dollars stolen via the bank bailouts and the so-called “Iraqi Reconstruction” while Obama is behind, having gobbled up just the “stimulus spending,” but may pull ahead of Bush soon thanks to the massive grift scheme known as “Obamacare” and other assorted swindles.)
Now, Putin is only the most competent Russian leader since perhaps Peter the Great, enjoys greater popularity among his own people than Bush and Obama ever did put together, and is a respected statesman around the world, which, by the way, sees the US as the greatest threat to world peace. Putin's first great initiative, dictatorship of the law, transformed a once lawless Russia into a generally law-abiding state, though slightly too conservative and restrictive for some people's taste. His second great idea, sovereign democracy, made Russia almost completely impervious to Western attempts at political manipulation.
Add to that his economic successes (Russians' incomes have doubled repeatedly while US incomes have stagnated) and his foreign policy successes (his government recently prevented a major conflict in Syria, then engineered a rapprochement between the West and Iran) and you can begin to see why he makes US State Department apparatchiks and assorted US neocons absolutely livid with rage. That kind of anger tends to be catchy, and so we find journalists and commentators in the US so wrapped up in their negative feelings towards Putin that they are neglecting to do their job, which is to inform people. Even some otherwise fairly intelligent Russians have managed to get caught up in it. If Putin now manages to achieve peace in Ukraine, then perhaps they will all succumb of apoplexy, and the world will rejoice.
Finally, it bears pointing out that, Rechstag fires aside, the current state of affairs in Ukraine is the West's direct fault: Ukraine was forced to choose between signing a worthless deal with the EU and entering a customs union with Moscow. Both Washington and Brussels, along with most of Western media, completely ignored Putin's suggestion that all the sides negotiate a compromise solution to avoid Ukrainian bankruptcy, which is now all but assured. Because of Western intransigence, Ukraine's government was forced to lurch between the EU and Moscow, losing face in the process and providing the fascists with a convenient opening.
In light of all this, some people might wonder: were the people in Washington and in Brussels always eager to favor fascists, or is this a new thing for them? I believe the answer is that it doesn't matter. Their assigned job is to destroy countries, and this they do well. They have destroyed Iraq, Libya and Syria, but these are small, and the beast is still hungry. They would love to destroy Iran, but that has turned out too tough a nut to crack. And so they have now set their sights on larger prey: Venezuela and Ukraine. And the reason they have to continue destroying countries is so that the process of wealth destruction, which is inevitable as the world runs short of critical resources, can run its course some place other than the West's economic heartlands in the US and Northern Europe. It matters very little to them whether they have to support al Qaeda fighters in Libya and Syria or fascists in Ukraine; it's all the same to them.
Some people might also wonder whether Ukraine's masked gunmen are really fascists. Yes, there are a lot of skinheads, and they like swastikas and their leaders hate Jews and like to quote Goebbels, but are they really fascist? (Yes, they are.) Such soul-searching on the subject of fascism is most touching (not to me). If you find the topic interesting, John Michael Greer recently came out with a 3,200-word treatise on the subject with a similarly lengthy follow-up. He takes a long time to define fascism and his thesis is, roughly, that fascism tends to spring forth like a naked lady from a cake whenever the political center fails to hold.
In case you would prefer something much shorter, my thesis is that fascism can be handily equated with militarized bigotry, and that while most countries are at this point immune to it, seeing it as idiotic at best and criminal at worst, certain countries are not—weak, socially disrupted, destitute countries, with an unresolved fascist past, that are subject to unscrupulous external political manipulation—such as poor Ukraine.
[Update: Based on some of the responses, people still have trouble imagining what it's like to have the fascists in charge. Well, here's a short video in which one of the “revolutionaries” is “holding discussions” with a Ukrainian Attorney General, on camera. You don't have to understand Ukrainian to see what's happening.
For some alternative perspectives on what's happening, see here and here and here.]