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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Ukraine. Ne pas mourir pour les oligarques…

by Patrick Le Hyaric

Don’t Let Ukraine Die for the Oligarchs!

Translated Sunday 16 March 2014, by Richard Pond

The dangerous machinations at work at the heart of Europe bring with them an embryonic risk of war. The intervention of Russian military forces in Crimea, which they are occupying in defiance of international law, could cause things to degenerate. We must quickly halt the escalation. Only the search for a political agreement between all the parties concerned will succeed in doing so.

Let us recall that first of all, there is a profound social and economic crisis in Ukraine. As in many countries, the majority of the population rejects this diabolical combination of poverty and unemployment on the one hand, and on the other hand, the enrichment, corruption and kleptocracy both of the ruling classes plaguing the state and of political officials since the fall of the Soviet Union. The average salary in Ukraine is 250 euros a month, and pensioners receive 90 euros a month, whilst prime ministers and other oligarchs live off gold. This is what the people revolted against to begin with.

Former President Yanukovych, who negotiated an association agreement with the European Union, changed direction in the autumn in order to rally to Putin’s plan for a Eurasian customs union. This reversal brought forth hopes and illusions which forces rode within Ukraine and within the EU - against the President and against Russia. To these popular movements of protest and legitimate dissent, ultra-reactionary and fascistic forces grafted themselves. These were often supported by German and North American rightwing groups and by the "Trilateral Commission", which, as if by chance, met in October 2013 with this issue on the agenda, and none other than Mr Yatsenyuk, who has become the new prime minister, as one of the speakers. The conservative German newspaper Die Welt has described one of these parties, called the "Right Sector" [Pravy Sektor], as "an informal association of small rightwing and neo-fascist groups". And the American magazine Time, which has given space to the party leader to express their views, described their ideology as "border[ing] on fascism". In Kiev, they succeeded, along with the anti-semitic Svoboda party, whose slogan is "Ukraine for the Ukrainians", in bringing alive the protest movements for justice and democracy. They also occupied official buildings with very well-armed paramilitaries and drove out the elected but corrupt President, who had lost the support of Parliament and of his own party.


In Crimea the same fate befell the incumbent leaders at the hands of different armed militia. The Russian language has been banned in Ukraine, and the anti-communist witch-hunt is as overt there as the struggle against opponents of Russian intervention is in Crimea. The Kiev coup took place after an agreement on 25 February which had envisaged a government of national unity. To describe these actions, which combine movements of opposition with strong outside pressures, as "revolutionary", amounts to deceiving the citizens of Europe.

All the same, it is curious that there are some people who pretend to be shocked by the rise of the far-right while also rejoicing that the flag of the Ukrainian national-socialists is being flown above official buildings! Curious, too, are those who celebrated the "Arab revolutions" while concealing the growth of Islamic fundamentalism and yet see nothing but fascist intrigue behind the Ukrainian demonstrations!

In truth, as always, big capital is never fussy about methods or the alliances when it is a question of its own interest - because behind this worrying crisis that is often presented to us as a new struggle between "good and evil", there rises an ugly whiff of oil and gas, and in the wind are the seizure of mines and good land by new nationless oligarchs. Three-quarters of Russian oil and gas pass through Ukraine, and the EU buys a large portion of Russia’s oil. Europe and the world are dominated by powerful financiers, and look where this leads us. As all too often, different imperialisms rely on the people’s anger and aspirations, not in order to satisfy the people; rather, they count on these legitimate claims so as to implement their goal of domination. In reality, Ukraine - which possesses wealth of various kinds and production capacities - is a geostrategic prize. This explains why Russia wanted to include it in a customs union, in the name of the historic political, military, and economic links that bind the two countries. And the EU institutions, for their part, are pushing Ukraine to accept an "association agreement". Both Russia and the EU were in this case, as if by magic, suddenly not very observant about respect for civil liberties and democracy in Ukraine. This is the context of the country on the brink of bankruptcy. Its national budget requires at least 35 billion euros over the coming two years.

Imperialist forces

Through an association agreement with the EU, the Troika would grip the whole of the people even more tightly in the financiers’ vice. To tell the Ukrainian people that this agreement would save them from bankruptcy is a pure lie. On the other hand, to have them believe that Russia’s Eurasian Union would bring them out of poverty, at the price of Russian imperial domination, is just as much a lie, since Russia, too, faces enormous economic difficulties and might well require "strong returns on investment". Thus, despite themselves, the Ukrainian people and perhaps the peoples of Europe were able to become hostages of imperialist forces. For a long time in the West, these forces considered Ukraine as a key piece on the economic and geostrategic chessboard, to be used against Russia and in the service of a basically European (often German) redeployment of capital. Besides, as Zbigniew Brzezinski, former US national security adviser, wrote in 1997: "If Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as its access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state." For the same reason, too, a number of NGOs have been mobilised in Ukraine over the last several years, including Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute, and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems - this, at the same time as TV channels were bought and the paramilitary formations we have seen were put in place. We get a glimpse of what is at stake when we see the leaders of NATO twitching dangerously.

On the other hand, in the East, the same methods - even more advanced - are used by Russia to "protect" its naval forces in Crimea, installed thanks to an agreement with the former Ukrainian government. In fact, Russia is occupying Crimea without a mandate and expects to put in place officials who are in its pay, who are in favour of a self-determination referendum. Obviously, this can only inflame a climate of internal tensions in Ukraine and cause tensions to mount internationally, in light of the stakes described above. Although Vladimir Putin has undertaken a strategy of once more raising Russia’s status, it would be a great mistake for the Europeans to want to humiliate him. To exclude Russia from the G8 meeting is a very bad idea at a time when we should instead be looking to engage in dialogue and not in war. To brandish the threat of economic sanctions is also entirely counterproductive for Europe’s citizens and will trigger even more problems for Ukrainians. Still more so given that the United States is playing a double game with Europe and Russia: getting the EU’s and NATO’s help in attaining geostrategic domination while also using Russia to win other prizes internationally, such as normalisation of relations with Iran. The EU and France must therefore play a different role from that of increasing tensions or issuing threats, even verbal ones.

Justice and democracy

So the inner flame of division, hatred and violence smoulders dangerously against a backdrop of economic and social crisis. This crisis affects the EU just as much as Russia. The rise of the far-right, ultranationalists and fundamentalists in today’s Europe, has a good deal to do with the permanent state of confusion maintained by the interested forces as well as everyday anguish about the future. The people demand first of all justice and democracy. The powerful are taking them as hostages and dispatching tensions and war to them. Nothing must be done to stoke the embers; rather, everything must be done to expand information, debate and solidarity among the workers, artists and the youth of Europe - for a European community freed from hatred and from the threat of war. All the peoples of Europe must therefore get involved and in various ways speak out for dialogue, cooperation, peace, and justice. They do not need war-mongering statements but new cooperation agreements with the people of Ukraine and likewise with the people of Russia. And the people of the whole of Europe must no longer be divided into the subjects and the footsoldiers of a predatory capitalist economy in this context of a long-running war: the economic war.

The Ukrainian people must be able to debate and decide their future with full knowledge of the facts. The EU should assist them instead of trying to imagine the impossible, which is what its High Representative, Baroness Ashton, does. With the connivance of the new Ukrainian prime minister, she was allowed to propose the signing of a new association agreement with the provisional Ukrainian government, one without a mandate from the ballot box. This would be a victory for the hawks. Likewise, the EU must give up trying to add Ukraine as a NATO member. On the other hand, Russia, too, must respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the sovereignty of its people. The people of Ukraine must be allowed to choose their representatives through free elections. The same is true of the people of the Crimean republic. We must end the present spiral and demand a European summit, perhaps under the aegis of the OSCE and in association with the UN, to seek a peaceful and democratic outcome respectful of the sovereignty of peoples. The peoples of Europe aspire to something other than what this economic war and the heavy sound of tanks promises them. The goal lies in the solidarity of peoples and youth in order to eradicate unemployment, divide wealth in a different way, and promote social and human development. No, the peoples of Europe must not die for the oligarchs!

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