Streetwise Professor

February 6, 2014

Look Beyond the F-Bomb: An Ominous Harbinger of Things to Come in Ukraine.

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 9:08 pm

For weeks the Russian and Ukrainian governments have been pushing the narrative that the opposition movement in Ukraine is nothing but a creature of the United States.  That the movement is nothing more than a US backed coup.

Today that narrative took a far more sinister turn. Kremlin advisor Sergei Glazyev announced that the US involvement justified a direct Russian intervention in Ukraine:

Protesters expressed their fears as a senior U.S. diplomat arrived in Kiev to try to help find a resolution to the country’s political crisis, and an adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened Ukraine with attack.

Sergei Glazyev accused the United States on Thursday of funding the Ukrainian “rebels” by as much as $20 million a day for weapons and other supplies. He urged the Ukrainian government to put down the “attempted coup,” or Russia may have to intervene under the terms of a 1994 agreement between the United States and Russia, according to the Ukraine edition of the Russian daily Kommersant.

Glazyev was alluding to the Budapest Memorandum, a treaty in which Ukraine agreed to turn over a nuclear arsenal on its soil left over after the fall of the Soviet Union, of which Ukraine was a part until it dissolved in 1991.

In return, the United States, United Kingdom and Russia, nuclear powers all, guaranteed to respect the independence and the borders of Ukraine and reaffirmed their commitment to seek immediate United Nations Security Council action should Ukraine become a victim of an act of aggression.

The memorandum, which is not binding, refers only to “nuclear aggression” and it requires the signatories to consult each other if other unspecified aggression arises.

Glazyev said the agreement binds Russia and the United States “to intervene when conflicts of this kind arise. And what the Americans are doing now, unilaterally and crudely interfering in the internal affairs of Ukraine, is a clear breach of that treaty.”

Many in the west hastened to say that Glazyev does not speak for Putin.  That sounds like whistling past the graveyard to me.

It is especially dangerous to discount his statement given that it occurred almost simultaneously with the release of a recording of a conversation between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.  Nuland and Pyatt discussed US conversations with opposition figures, strategies regarding the opposition, and frank assessments of the opposition and its leadership.  More than enough to be twisted to fit the Kremlin narrative, and to provide a justification for direct Russian intervention along the lines of what Glazyev advocated.

There are no coincidences, comrades.  The Glazyev message and the leak of the Nuland tape complement each other perfectly.

Notably, the Russians were not shy about making plain that they were the ones that recorded the conversation.  The first news about the tape was tweeted by the Russian government: it’s as if they were saying, “yeah, we taped you and we’re releasing the tape.  Whatcha gonna do about it?”

Astoundingly, the State Department-and eventually the White House-laid blame for the recording on the Russians.  Will miracles never cease?  Yes, it’s more than I would have expected, but more is needed.  (And I have to say.  What the hell were Nuland and Pyatt doing communicating in this fashion on an insecure line that they had to have known the Russians were monitoring?  Sometimes our stupidity-or is it naïveté?-drive me around the bend.)

Maddeningly, virtually all the headlines and story ledes about the Nuland tape focused on her frustration at the EUnuchs’ fecklessness in Ukraine: “Fuck the EU,” she said.  Unfortunately, she apologized later.  Unfortunately, because the EU deserves to be heaped with scorn.  Maidan-which consciously refers to itself as EuroMaidan-is looking to the EU for help. In return, they get tepid rhetoric.  EC Council President de Rompuy said that “time is on our side” with respect to Ukraine.  Herman: The opposition does not have the luxury of time.  They are being brutalized by nightriders and daily face the prospect of a crackdown.

But by focusing on the “Fuck the EU” quote, and overlooking the symbiosis between the Glazyev broadside and the leak of the tape, too many journalists and editors are playing right into Putin’s hands.  They are sowing further dissension between the US and its allies.  Relations are already frayed due to Snowden, and this just exacerbates that.

I don’t believe that the primary reason for the Russians to release the tape was to drive deeper the wedge between Europe and the US.  That’s a bonus.  They could no doubt release a tape a day that would have some American official venting at the EUnuchs.  Surely, the Russians are hardly upset that the “Fuck the EU” quote is dominating coverage, but that wasn’t the main reason they released the recording, IMO.

Instead, Russia is laying the predicate for direct intervention in Ukraine.  That is the main reason to release this tape, with little effort to conceal the source.  The “Fuck the EU” fallout is just gravy to the Kremlin.  And journalists clueless about Russian active measures-including now the use of social media-are playing right into that.  Journalists who focus on this aspect of the story are like the carriers of a contagious disease. Unwitting vectors of harm.  Obscuring the true message of the leak, and advancing Russian agitprop that sows dissension among the US and its allies.

A little historical perspective is in order.

If you recall the lead-up to the Russian invasion of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on the day that the 2008 Olympics began on 8/8/8, you will remember a crescendo of propaganda, including repeated accusations that Saakashvili was an American puppet.  In the lead up to war, the Russians assiduously constructed a narrative about Georgian misdeeds in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  They raised the rhetorical and physical pressure, and when Saakashvili buckled in response they leapt in with both feet.  Indeed, as I wrote at the time, I am still convinced that the Russians were on the move before the Georgians fired a single artillery piece at the Russian “peacekeepers.”  Once the invasion occurred, the Russians used the narrative that they had constructed so carefully in the weeks and months before to justify their actions.

And sadly, it worked.

The same thing is happening now in Ukraine.  A hypothesis: Glazyev mentions the US spending $20 million per week in Ukraine, including money spent on arms.  What are the odds that if the protests persist, a cache or caches of American weapons is “found” in Ukraine, and Yanukovych appeals to the Russians for “brotherly assistance” to resist an impending US-backed coup?

The only question is: during Sochi, or after?  But I would lay pretty high odds that this will eventually come to pass.  And looking back, the events of February 6 will be viewed as the ominous harbinger.

And the basis for that was laid today, and the Russians will continue to weave that narrative tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and the day after that.

Would that western journalists look beyond the f-bomb dropped by Victoria Nuland, and see what is really happening here.

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  1. If the Russians do intervene it would be to take Crimea, the Donetsk and possibly Odessa. I doubt they would enjoy trying to control the Western part of Ukraine. The Russian military had a nasty experience in Afghanistan if you recollect. South Ossetia and Abhazia were the Russian equivalent of the US invasion of Grenada, hardly impressive or challenging. Besides the Russian military is so corrupt and poorly managed, they might find the task of mobilizing significant numbers of troops beyond their capability. But helping the Party of the Regions organize a partition of the Ukraine? Well, why not?

    Of course if the US Government had half a brain to share, they would retaliate by leaking to the press intimate details of foreign property holdings of selected Russian government figures. That would really scare – and scandalize – the bigwigs in the party of thieves and crooks. “What about the right to privacy?” they would whine and “We stole all that money fair and square”. It would be truly entertaining.

    Comment by Simple Simon — February 7, 2014 @ 7:17 am

  2. @Simple Simon-Agreed, though I wasn’t thinking in terms of Russia actually absorbing Ukraine. Instead, I would expect that if they do intervene, it would be to provide muscle to the Ukrainian government, which would continue to rule over the entire country. That government would be, of course, a puppet of Russia. But I don’t envision Russia annexing Ukraine, or even keeping forces there for the long term. The one exception would be Crimea: I can see them annexing that based on the fact that it was taken from the RSFSR given to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954 (shortly after Stalin’s death).

    Re your last paragraph. Great minds. During the Georgian War I wrote a blog post in which I recommended that the US’s best option to hit back at Russia/Putin was to “Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Accountants of War.” I definitely agree this is a weapon that we should use and have almost inexplicably refused to do so.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 7, 2014 @ 12:14 pm

  3. By now, SWP, you no doubt know that Ukraine as agreed to an IMF recommendation to float the exchange rate of its currency

    At the same time, Fitch has lowered its ratings of Ukraine debt instruments to CCC – pre-default

    and someone snuck into EuroMaidan with a “gift box” which turned out to be a bomb which crippled 2 protesters, a 20-year old and a 16-year old

    This add to other instances of violence while yanukonvikt tries to buy time

    Many people saw the collapse of the currency (the hryvnia) a while back, and a march to disaster

    Comment by elmer — February 7, 2014 @ 9:30 pm

  4. @elmer. Yes, I saw all that. Ukraine is on the brink of a financial collapse, which will put Putin in quite a bind. Does he throw good money after bad? Ukraine will likely turn into a financial ulcer that saps Russia. Too many people act as if Putin’s resources are limitless. Such a joke. Russia has financial feet of clay.

    Talk about imperial overstretch.

    I predict that soon the Russians and the Ukrainian government will accuse the US, the EU, and the IMF of deliberately wrecking the hyrvnia, the banking system, and the economy. They will probably blame the Jews for good measure, given that old habits die hard.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 7, 2014 @ 10:11 pm

  5. Dear Professor

    Ah, yes, Stalin and his maps. Check out the maps in Central Asia and you’ll find pockets of territory of one country tucked away in another (eg bits of KG locked away in UZ). Stalin was of course Commissar of the Nationalities (before he became General Secretary of the Party) and so he knew a lot about the topic. During WWII he spent a lot of his time, energy and resources moving ethnic groups en masse hither and thither like pieces on a chessboard (Koreans to Kazakhstan, Chechens away from the Caucasus and so on). In a way, as presently constituted, the Ukraine, much like Iraq or Syria or nearly all of Africa, has borders and a population makeup that is the result of an arbitrary flourish of a mapmaker’s hand.

    Why should the Ukraine remain a single state? Two languages, two religions and a lot of mutual antipathy … a bit like Belgium but without a King. 🙂 Partition is inevitable sooner or later, no?

    Comment by Simple Simon — February 8, 2014 @ 7:47 am

  6. SWP, it would be hard for the Ukrainian “government” – it’s not a government, it’s a regime – to blame Jews for the collapse of the hryvnia, given that the vast percentage of oligarchs in and around the regime are Jewish, such as Dmytro Firtash and Kolomoisky, for example.

    And they also own banks.

    One of the most brilliant journalists/analysts in Ukraine – and an outstanding Ukrainian patriot- is Vitaly Portnikov, who is Jewish. He is extremely well read and speaks several languages. With his very good friend, Mykola Kniazhytsky (Nick Knightly), who is Ukrainian, he started TVi.

    But because he has been calling things like they are, there were death threats against Portnikov, and he has fled to Poland and still corresponds from there.

    Knyazhitsky is in the opposition in Parliament and fighting hard for reforms.

    Putler has funded only $3 billion so far of the $15 billion pledge. Speaks volumes, doesn’t it.

    Comment by elmer — February 8, 2014 @ 9:28 am

  7. From: Jeff ;
    To: southocean ;
    Subject: Re: Fw: StreetWiseProfessor – ominous harbinger in Ukraine
    Sent: Fri, Feb 7, 2014 11:40:21 PM

    Well, the Ukraine is an economic basket case whose fin aces resemble those of Greece but larger. What they want is the EU (meaning Germany) to bail them out. Like Greece their public sector spending is out of control. They are attempting to live beyond their means much like Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain. Also, from what I understand around 90% of the Ukraine’s exports go to Russia. The EU does not seem anxious to acquire another financial disaster area nor do the existing member states of the EU feel inclined to accept the agricultural goods of Ukraine into their own protected markets?

    While we can sympathizes with anyone not wanting to come under the heel of Putin, we must be careful here to not get drawn into a conflict with Russia over a state on their immediate border. While it would be nice to see Ukraine part of the western alliance that is not likely to happen and the USA does not have a direct interest in the Ukraine. This is a problem for the EU to resolve but I doubt they are going to want to cult off their nose to spite their face. This is going to be touchy for Germany since they are the prime motor of the EU but their natural gas like the Ukraine’s comes from mother Russia. And Russia isn’t Iraq or Afghanistan.

    Comment by Peter M Todebush — February 8, 2014 @ 12:22 pm

  8. Well, SWP, they’re blaming the Jews, but not in the way you think.

    A member of the Party of Regions, and an almost daily talking head and front man for the Party of Regions Bolshevik Regionnaires on TV talk shows in Ukraine, Mykola Levchenko, has complained about the “media distorting” what has been happening in Ukraine.

    The owners of the media are “anti-government” and Ukraine is now a “pirate ship”. The owners of the TV stations are only worried about their capital and their position and their politics are anti-government.

    Who are the owners? Firtash (whom we know from RosUkrEnergo), Kolomoisky (mansion in Switzerland), Pinchuk (whom we know from his ties with Kuchma and his very expensive lavish Londongrad mansion, among other things) and Poroshenko (the chocolate king whose chocolates were banned in the Rasha due to “health concerns”)

    The first 3 are Jewish. Poroshenko is Ukrainian, and owns Channel 5. Firtash declared himself to be the “savior of Ukraine” in Inter TV.

    Comment by elmer — February 11, 2014 @ 8:25 am

  9. This has been known for quite some time, but here is a very good summary from the Daily Beast.

    The sovok mafia in Ukraine has been spreading money around assorted lobbyists in DC to spread the word about how great sovok mafiadom is.

    Comment by elmer — February 12, 2014 @ 8:11 am

  10. SWP, it looks like your site was down for a while, but here is some info:

    In Luhansk, “Cossacks” asked Putler to save them from fascists. And the intervention of —- NATO. The old fart on the video opines that NATO can be defeated. I’m not sure what the medals are for.

    Channel 5, owned by opposition oligarch and chocolate king Poroshenko, is down. It has been subjected to cyberattacks for over 2 months. Poroshenko’s chocolates were declared persona non grata in the Rasha for “health reasons.”

    And this from Sakaashvili – excellent

    Russia is crippled by crime and corruption, but the European Union has consistently found Georgia to be the safest and one of the least-corrupt countries in the region, with a crime rate several times lower than Russia’s. Most importantly, Georgia is a democracy that went through a power transition in elections in 2012 and 2013 in which my party was defeated.

    The Games are being held on the site of a 19th-century genocide, in which almost all Circassians, the original inhabitants of the Sochi area, were methodically killed or expelled to Turkey. That wound has been kept alive by the Kremlin’s current approach toward the Circassians who remain in the region, and in its attitude toward other peoples of the North Caucasus. Russia’s leaders persistently refuse to treat people from Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria as equal citizens. The Kremlin regards their homelands as colonies where it has to buy off the elite and suppress the rest of the population.

    This attitude was vividly demonstrated in the last few months when Russian security forces increased mass arrests of young people and took saliva specimens from most Muslim women because the government believed that a woman from Dagestan was responsible for a suicide bombing that killed 16 people. Such a heavy-handed colonial approach can only antagonize and radicalize the population, undermining Russia’s efforts to maintain control of the region.

    Mr. Putin is also mistaken to think that the Olympics will shore up his hold on power. The last time Russia acted as host to the Games was back in 1980. The Olympics that year were meant to be a triumph of Soviet leadership and a demonstration of the superiority of their system.

    Unfortunately for them, soon after the Games ended, the turmoil that eventually led to the demise of Soviet Communism began to grow worse. There are some striking similarities with Sochi, which, like Moscow, was turned into a showcase for the system. The Soviet regime didn’t allow nonMoscovites to enter the city — just as people from the region are now being shut out of Sochi.

    Mr. Putin once called the dissolution of the Soviet Union the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century, yet it seems he still fails to grasp why it happened. Just like Mr. Putin today, the Soviet leaders back then neglected the need for modernization, betting instead on consistently high energy prices.

    After 1980, falling oil prices and changes in technology led to the eventual meltdown of the Soviet Union. Today’s Russia is teetering on the edge of recession, despite its oil boom. More broadly, there is a fundamental contradiction between Mr. Putin’s effort to tighten the screws and restore the past, and the dreams of people in and around Russia who are striving for a better future. As a result, Mr. Putin’s fate might well be decided in the cold streets of Kiev rather than on the balmy slopes of Sochi.

    Comment by elmer — February 12, 2014 @ 9:23 pm

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