From Abby Martin’s Breaking the Set on RT
From Abby Martin’s Breaking the Set on RT
Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, spoke to the Duma, the Russian parliament, on March 18. The propaganda talking heads of the Empire’s media complex will be selecting passages of Putin’s remarks to attack. The DISSENTING DEMOCRAT on the other hand will provide a significant excerpt for review. We also urge readers to read the entire speech at http://eng.kremlin.ru/transcripts/6889
Today, I would like to address the people of the United States of America, the people who, since the foundation of their nation and adoption of the Declaration of Independence, have been proud to hold freedom above all else. Isn’t the desire of Crimea’s residents to freely choose their fate such a value? Please understand us.
I believe that the Europeans, first and foremost, the Germans, will also understand me. Let me remind you that in the course of political consultations on the unification of East and West Germany, at the expert, though very high level, some nations that were then and are now Germany’s allies did not support the idea of unification. Our nation, however, unequivocally supported the sincere, unstoppable desire of the Germans for national unity. I am confident that you have not forgotten this, and I expect that the citizens of Germany will also support the aspiration of the Russians, of historical Russia, to restore unity.
I also want to address the people of Ukraine. I sincerely want you to understand us: we do not want to harm you in any way, or to hurt your national feelings. We have always respected the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state, incidentally, unlike those who sacrificed Ukraine’s unity for their political ambitions. They flaunt slogans about Ukraine’s greatness, but they are the ones who did everything to divide the nation. Today’s civil standoff is entirely on their conscience. I want you to hear me, my dear friends. Do not believe those who want you to fear Russia, shouting that other regions will follow Crimea. We do not want to divide Ukraine; we do not need that. As for Crimea, it was and remains a Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean-Tatar land.
I repeat, just as it has been for centuries, it will be a home to all the peoples living there. What it will never be and do is follow in Bandera’s footsteps!
Crimea is our common historical legacy and a very important factor in regional stability. And this strategic territory should be part of a strong and stable sovereignty, which today can only be Russian. Otherwise, dear friends (I am addressing both Ukraine and Russia), you and we – the Russians and the Ukrainians – could lose Crimea completely, and that could happen in the near historical perspective. Please think about it.
Let me note too that we have already heard declarations from Kiev about Ukraine soon joining NATO. What would this have meant for Crimea and Sevastopol in the future? It would have meant that NATO’s navy would be right there in this city of Russia’s military glory, and this would create not an illusory but a perfectly real threat to the whole of southern Russia. These are things that could have become reality were it not for the choice the Crimean people made, and I want to say thank you to them for this.
But let me say too that we are not opposed to cooperation with NATO, for this is certainly not the case. For all the internal processes within the organisation, NATO remains a military alliance, and we are against having a military alliance making itself at home right in our backyard or in our historic territory. I simply cannot imagine that we would travel to Sevastopol to visit NATO sailors. Of course, most of them are wonderful guys, but it would be better to have them come and visit us, be our guests, rather than the other way round.
Let me say quite frankly that it pains our hearts to see what is happening in Ukraine at the moment, see the people’s suffering and their uncertainty about how to get through today and what awaits them tomorrow. Our concerns are understandable because we are not simply close neighbours but, as I have said many times already, we are one people. Kiev is the mother of Russian cities. Ancient Rus is our common source and we cannot live without each other.
Let me say one other thing too. Millions of Russians and Russian-speaking people live in Ukraine and will continue to do so. Russia will always defend their interests using political, diplomatic and legal means. But it should be above all in Ukraine’s own interest to ensure that these people’s rights and interests are fully protected. This is the guarantee of Ukraine’s state stability and territorial integrity.
We want to be friends with Ukraine and we want Ukraine to be a strong, sovereign and self-sufficient country. Ukraine is one of our biggest partners after all. We have many joint projects and I believe in their success no matter what the current difficulties. Most importantly, we want peace and harmony to reign in Ukraine, and we are ready to work together with other countries to do everything possible to facilitate and support this. But as I said, only Ukraine’s own people can put their own house in order.
Residents of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, the whole of Russia admired your courage, dignity and bravery. It was you who decided Crimea’s future. We were closer than ever over these days, supporting each other. These were sincere feelings of solidarity. It is at historic turning points such as these that a nation demonstrates its maturity and strength of spirit. The Russian people showed this maturity and strength through their united support for their compatriots.
Russia’s foreign policy position on this matter drew its firmness from the will of millions of our people, our national unity and the support of our country’s main political and public forces. I want to thank everyone for this patriotic spirit, everyone without exception. Now, we need to continue and maintain this kind of consolidation so as to resolve the tasks our country faces on its road ahead.
Obviously, we will encounter external opposition, but this is a decision that we need to make for ourselves. Are we ready to consistently defend our national interests, or will we forever give in, retreat to who knows where? Some Western politicians are already threatening us with not just sanctions but also the prospect of increasingly serious problems on the domestic front. I would like to know what it is they have in mind exactly: action by a fifth column, this disparate bunch of ‘national traitors’, or are they hoping to put us in a worsening social and economic situation so as to provoke public discontent? We consider such statements irresponsible and clearly aggressive in tone, and we will respond to them accordingly. At the same time, we will never seek confrontation with our partners, whether in the East or the West, but on the contrary, will do everything we can to build civilised and good-neighbourly relations as one is supposed to in the modern world.
Americans should understand that Mr. Putin speaks as a Russian patriot. What he says and does is consistent with being the leader of a nation. The American media belittles that because American leaders do not adopt comparable positions. The apparent national leadership of the United States do not concern themselves with what is best for America and the American people, they serve the interests of Multinational Corporations, Banksters, Corporateers and the Military-Industrial Complex and hence lack understanding of a political leadership with national concerns.
An American leader would attend to American interests, the American economy, American industry and American jobs. A real American would not attempt to extend an international banking-corporate complex into other nations or into the sphere of influence of another great nation. If we understand the difference between a national leader and being a corporate puppet, we can understand the nature of the problem in eastern Europe.
EDGE LEFT is an occasional column by David McReynolds
Before launching into my analysis of events in Ukraine, there are a few points which should be made for an American audience.
Commentators are engaged in a campaign to discredit Vladimir Putin, dismissing him as nothing more than the former head of the KGB. I hold no brief for Putin, whom I consider the head of a state dominated by oligarchs. But it is worth remembering Putin is the head of a state with which the US needs to deal. Poisoning the water with personal attacks does not move us toward a dialogue on Ukraine or on other matters where the US needs to work with Russia.
It is also worth remembering that Gorbachev, widely praised in the West (and in my view a major “good guy”) was actually the KGB candidate when he took office. It is in US interests to have a working relationship with Russia on matters such as Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan. And, beyond that, on issues of true nuclear and conventional disarmament.
How legitimate is the new Ukrainian government?
There is general agreement that the ousted president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, was corrupt. The problem is he was elected by a clear margin. Dramatic as events on the Maidan were, it remains unclear what forces were involved, who “won”, and what they represent. I’ve read several eye witness accounts of the dramatic actions in February – the problem is no two agree. The US insists the new government represents the people of Ukraine – but who makes that decision? (Younger readers need to remember that while Britain recognized the new Soviet government, which came to power in 1917, in 1924, the US did not recognize it until 1933. In the case of China, where the present Chinese government took power in 1949, the US did not recognize it until Richard Nixon’s term. The US is very selective as to when it recognizes new governments that come to power via a revolution).
How nonviolent were the events at the Maidan?
I was more than a little surprised to find that the facebook page of the Nonviolent Action Research Network (widely wide by American pacifists) termed the events in Kiev “nonviolent”. That is nonsense. One can support or oppose the shifts that occurred in Kiev but one cannot call them nonviolent. Not only were a number of protestors killed, but so were a number of Ukrainian police. If people check the storming of the Winter Palace in Czarist Russia,in October of 1917, when the Bolsheviks took power and the Russian Revolution became a reality, there were only a handful of people killed – far fewer than died in Kiev. I support the right of people to resist oppression by the methods they choose, but as a pacifist I will urge that resistance be nonviolent. For better or worse, Kiev was not nonviolent.
What happened at the Maidan?
The events in Kiev were turbulent. There have been reports – again, from eye witnesses – that far right wing elements dominated the protesters, while other equally fervent eye witnesses insist far right wing elements were marginal. Steve Erlanger, in a “memo from Kiev” in the New York Times of Sunday, March 2, noted that the new government has few representatives of “what was the country’s largest and most popular party, the Party of Regions, led by the ousted President, Viktor f. Yanukovych. Instead, the government is currently dominated by those associated with a former prime minister, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, who is widely blamed for the failure of the 2004 Orange Revolution to change Ukraine’s corrupt political system”. Erlanger’s analysis suggests that Russian fears of the new government are valid – and, more important, that the fears of many Ukrainians, particularly in the Eastern Ukraine, are valid.
Andrew Wilson, a Ukraine expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said that an early “mistake” by the new government was the overturning of the 2012 law that allowed regions of Ukraine to make Russian a second official language, “needlessly offending Russian-dominated regions like the Donbass and Crimea”.
Commentators on events in Ukraine seem to break down into a kind of “left vs. right” pattern. William Blum, whose writing often makes good sense, argued in a recent piece that developments in Ukraine are part of the conscious pattern of the US to dominate the world, which has governed US actions for the last century. Much of what Blum has written has value, but this is nonsense – in 1914 it was Great Britain which ruled the world, WW I had just begun, and the US did not become conscious of its “new destiny” until after World War II. Other figures – Secretary of State Kerry, President Obama, and Hillary Clinton – are so off base it would be funny if it were not serious. What is one to say of Obama, speaking at a press briefing in the White House, with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu sitting beside him, when he spoke of international law, ignoring the fact that Israel has occupied the West Bank in violation of international law, with considerable brutality and violence, for more than forty years.
And of course what can one say about any Russian actions in Crimea (on which I’ll comment in a moment) when they come from the leader of a nation which invaded Iraq, destroying it in the process, and has a bloody record of military interventions, some of which have never made rational sense (as in the case of Vietnam, where an estimated three million Vietnamese were killed).
There has been an almost complete lack of balance in media coverage. CNN has been happy to give extended time to interviews with John McCain, one of those rare veterans who seems to long for war, but little time to calmer voices.
To sum up what happened at Maidan, I’m fed up with some of the left telling me it was an anti-Semitic event, and everyone on the right saying it was entirely a democratic event. Clearly – if one can work through the reports – it was not just a “left vs right” event, but one in which many young Ukrainians, fed up with the corruption of the government, burst into a largely spontaneous and very exciting moment of revolt. However there is no question that the political right was there, and no question at all that it has been given key posts in the new government.
A note on Crimea:
Crimea is historically Russian. It does not have the independent history of Ukraine. It also has Russia’s only warm water port. It was inevitable, once the events in Kiev took the turn they did, that Russia would move into Crimea, and it is not going to leave. Think back to our own actions – when Fidel Castro took power in Havana in 1960 he posed no threat to the US – only to US control in Central and South America. Yet the US was so disturbed it launched a military attack (the Bay of Pigs), and has spent much of the the past half century trying to assassinate Fidel, and imposing severe sanctions. And we are surprised that Russia took steps to protect what had historically been part of Russia?
The trigger for Russian actions:
Early in February, as events at the Maidan has created a crisis, with the death toll rising, Polish and German diplomats met with both the Ukrainian government and with the rebels, working out a series of compromises which would have left Yanukovych in power but would also have met many of the demands of those in the Maidan. It is probable that Putin would have lived with that, but we will never know, since the rioters continued the uprising, which had by then become a revolution, and Yanukovych was forced to flee.
The context of the Ukrainian Crisis:
Here I want to step back away from the immediate crisis of Ukraine, for a look at the history which dictates much Russian policy – under Putin as it did under Stalin.
Russia has no natural barrier – no river, no mountain range – to guard it on its Western border. It has suffered invasion from the West three times in recent memory – under Napoleon and then twice under the Germans. In the last invasion, under Hitler, between 25 and 27 million Soviet citizens lost their lives. All the factories, dams, railroads. towns and cities West of a line from Leningrad in the North to Moscow to Stalingrad in the South were destroyed. Americans make much of 9.11 (and I don’t make light of it) but for Russia it was not just a handful of buildings in one city which were destroyed – it was entire cities, leveled. And then with the wounded to care for, the orphans, the widows.
Americans have never understood what the war meant to Russia and why, after the war, the Soviets sought to build a “protective band” of territory between itself and Germany. This was Eastern Europe, which under the iron boot of Stalin became “people’s democracies” or “presently existing socialism”.
Something Americans (perhaps including our President and the Secretary of State) have forgotten was that Russia wanted to make a deal with the West. It had made peace with Finland, which (again, memories are short and we have forgotten this) fought on the side of the Nazis. The Soviets withdrew from Austria after the West agreed that Austria, like Finland, would be neutral.The Soviets very much wanted a Germany united, disarmed, and neutral. Stalin did not integrate the East Germany into the Eastern European economic plans for some time, hoping he could strike that deal. But the West wanted West Germany as part of NATO, and so the division of Germany lasted until Gorbachev came to power.
I would have urged radical actions by the West in 1956 when the Hungarian Revolution broke out – it was obvious that if the Soviets could not rule Eastern Europe without sending in tanks (as they had already had to do in East Germany in 1953), they posed no real threat of a military strike at the West.
What if we had said to Moscow, withdraw your tanks from Hungary, and we will dissolve NATO, while you dissolve the Warsaw Pact.
But of course the West didn’t do that. The US in particular (but I would not exempt the Europeans from a share of the blame) wanted to edge their military bases to the East. When the USSR gave up control of Eastern Europe, the US pressed for pushing NATO farther East, into Poland and up to the borders of Ukraine.
Pause for a moment and assume that revolutionary events in Canada had meant Canada was about to withdraw from NATO and invite in Russian military advisers.
What do you think US response would be?
Why are we surprised that Putin has said, very clearly, “no closer – back off”.
In this case Moscow holds the high cards. Europe is not going to war over Crimea. And it needs Russian gas. Sanctions will cut both ways – Europe is very cautious and, irony of ironies, it is Germany which is behaving with the greatest diplomacy.
If, out of all this, US planners accept the fact that there are real limits to how far East NATO can push, then the crisis will have helped us come to terms with reality. It may even lead us to consider dissolving NATO!
The importance of civil society.
All states act in their own interests. States do not have moral values. What we need to count on is the civil society – and Russia has one – which will modify state behavior, just as civil society here can sometimes modify state behavior. We – folks in the American civil society – need to reach out to the folks in Ukrainian and Russian civil society. There have been anti-war actions in Russia at this time – great, let’s try to link with them. We need to worry when, as in Nazi Germany, civil society is silenced. To a great extent that has happened here, in the US. Of course we should hope for a fair referendum in Crimea – but I think the fairest possible referendum will still see Crimea returned to Russia.
Meanwhile, we need to tamp down the talk of military action, of sanctions, and of efforts to humiliate Putin. He isn’t my hero, but most Russians are happy with him. He has restored to Russia some of the pride it lost with the dissolution of the old Soviet Union. Americans, of all people, should understand this, with our endless (and tiresome) insistence we are the great nation in the world.
David McReynolds has been Chair of WAR RESISTERS INTERNATIONAL and was the SOCIALIST PARTY candidate for President in 1980 and 2000
President Obama today said that the United States stands with the Ukraine against Russian interference in their internal affairs.
The United States as we all know is strongly supportive of self-determination for other nations. . . . . NOT!
The CIA conspired with the Honduran military to remove the democratically elected President of Honduras.
The CIA, having previously attempted a coup against the democratically elected President of Venezuela, is again supporting dissident elements seeking to overthrow the legitimate elected government of Venezuela.
The U.S. Marines captured and removed the President of Haiti when he dared to suggest that American corporations should raise the slave wages being paid his people.
The U.S. military invaded Panama killing thousands to apprehend Manuel Noriega on an American warrant.
The U.S. mined the harbors of Nicaragua in contravention of a finding of the World Court that such an act of war was in violation of the UN Charter and international law.
The U.S. has invaded Granada, bombed Libya, intervened in Egypt, supported rebels in Syria, invaded Afghanistan, used drones in a half-dozen nations, bombed Serbia, broke up the Yugoslav national federation, bought off candidates in France and Italy, conspired to remove the British premier Harold Wilson, supported those who committed genocide in Cambodia (because they were anti-Vietnam), landed special forces in Colombia, supported a military coup in Chile, suborned genocide in Indonesia . . . . . .
And on, and on, and on.
And President Obama has the audacity to piously chastise Russia for interfering in a country that until 1954 was a constituent part of Russia (Crimea*). He does so because the United States is committed to self-determination. The Russian head of state is condemned as a would-be conqueror when Russia maintains only a single base outside of the territory of the former USSR while the U.S. maintains a global empire of military and naval bases on which the sun never sets.
When hypocrisy becomes a form of government it must be known as “Hypocracy”. The United States, under Bush-Obama, is the epitome of hypocritical government.
* Vladimir the Great (not the current Vladimir), Grand Prince of the Kievan Rus, the forerunner of the Russia State, first conquered Crimea in 988. The peninsula was exchanged back and forth between the Russians and the Byzantines, Genoans, Kipchaks, Mongols and Tatars until taken by the Tsar in 1783. Crimea remained Russian until 1954 when Nikita Khrushchev “gave” it to the Ukraine. This was done when the Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union and would be comparable to Michigan giving Wisconsin the Upper Peninsula.
The situation in the Ukraine is disturbing. Warhawks in Washington are anxious to give the finger to the Russians and extend the American Empire well into the Russian heartland. On the other hand, Russia has been rattling sabers, piqued at losing to the American hockey team on its own ice.
What must be kept in mind, however, is that this is not simply a matter of the United States as the good guy and Russia as the villain. Things are far more complicated.
It’s been a long, long time since the U.S. could actually lay claim to being the knight in shining armor, and its parry and thrust in eastern Europe surely isn’t a revival of the disinterested American seeking liberty and justice for the world. The U.S., like Russia and many other nation-states, is run by a small power elite who use the nation and its national resources to pursue its own agenda. Whatever America seeks in the Ukraine, it is not to bestow the blessings of liberty but rather to consolidate ever-expanding markets and corporate connections. The American Empire and its European allies are looking to move eastward. They’ve already successfully broken the Yugoslav Federation and worked their way into Czech, Hungarian, Romanian and Bulgarian economies. The Ukraine was next on the list.
Russia is not a Good Guy either. It wants to dominate the Ukraine, and believes that it must hold on to Crimea as essential to its national security. Despite the U.S. media lampooning Vladimir Putin, any Russian leader who was not a traitor to his people, would act to defend its own backyard from hostile foreign powers. Putin is not a conqueror set on re-establishing the Russian Empire, he is just trying to hold on to what has been Russian for centuries.
Ask yourself who has invaded more countries since 2000, Putin or Bush-Obama? Ding-ding-ding, no, the answer is: Bush and his smarter brother from another mother, Obama. Putin has shown he was ready use military force to defend his own, but the U.S. and the E.U. have been behaving provocatively.
The CIA and other Western intelligence agencies have been pouring money into the Ukraine since the so-called Orange Revolution of 2004. And the KGB, in its present incarnation as the FSB, has also been engaged in black ops with the intent of controlling the Ukraine for their side. No white hats, all black. The Ukrainian people are caught in the middle as pawns in a much bigger game.
From 1946-1956, the OSS, and later CIA, built on the Ukraine underground apparatus left by the Nazis. There was a very strong Nazi collaborationist puppet government in the Ukraine which welcomed and worked with the Nazis when they invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. For about 10 years after the War, the Nazi underground engaged in an on again, off again guerrilla war against the Soviet government.
In recent demonstrations it is notable that shirts and flags emblazoned with the word “Svoboda” were prevalent. Now the word itself is hardly frightening, it means Freedom. What is less well known is that Freedom, or Svoboda, was the name of the Ukrainian nationalist organization that succeeded the Nazi-collaborationist movement from WWII.
So, with much simplification, the conflict in the Ukraine is a Communist-Nazi redux. Only this time, the Empire is on the Nazi side while it chose the Communist side in the last go around.
It reminds one of Orwell’s “1984”, in a world of three “nations” or international alliances, sometimes it was Oceania against Eurasia and East Asia and sometimes it was yet a different combination. The chairs may shift but the players and the game are the same.
* From the Buffalo Springfield song,
There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
I think it’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
We better stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, now, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
The Republicans and their puppeteers at Murdoch’s Faux News are a-fluster about the supposed “Russian invasion” of the Ukraine and its occupation of the Ukrainian province of the Crimea. Makes good sound bites, resurrects an old bugaboo, the hungry Russian bear, and enables wing nuts to bleat repeatedly Obama soft, Obama soft.
However, the facts are less dramatic.
As we’ve noted earlier, the Ukraine is historically “little Russia” which has been within the Russian national family for a 1000 years. Crimea although adjacent to the Ukraine, is ethnically Russian. When the Ukraine became politically autonomous it entered into agreements with Russia recognizing Russian rights in the Crimea. Under those agreements, Russia maintains troops and naval bases in Crimea. Russia always has troops in the Crimea, there was no invasion.
No Russian troops entered the Ukraine. When a coup removed the Ukrainian President, its perps decided to play the nationalist card to bolster its street cred with the people. One of the sops to uber-patriotism was to make the Ukrainian language the “official language” for public business. This ukase was extended to all regions within the Ukraine including the Crimea.
Crimea which is predominantly Russian, and which both Russia and the Ukraine have recognized as an “autonomous republic” took offense. There is a serious disagreement between the Ukraine and Crimea as to whether Crimea is obligated to “Ukrainize” itself. This is complicated. It is not a simple Good Guy versus Bad Guy scenario.
The situation is being used by a Republican caucus to score points against a President they disdain and by a media anxious to hype a story for ratings.