Crimean ‘Check’ on Western Machinations in Ukraine

Finian Cunningham

American geo-strategic planners are fond of the chess game analogy, as articulated foremost by former National Security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. In the wake of the resounding vote for Crimean unification with Russia at the weekend, it may be said that this move by the Crimean electorate declares a «check» on Washington’s machinations in the Ukraine…

A reading of reactions from officials in Washington and their allies in Europe indicates that the game was not meant to turn out this way.

When the US and the EU started to ramp up destabilization of the Ukraine at the end of November, things seemed to go to plan. A concerted campaign of political interference from Western capitals, massive Western media distortion and the covert sponsoring of violence in the capital, Kiev, created unbearable pressure on the incumbent government of president Viktor Yanukovych.

With Western-backed covert terrorism claiming up to 100 deaths among protesters and police, as well as hundreds injured, and with anarchy descending on government buildings, the elected authorities capitulated on February 22. The unelected regime that came to power in Kiev, led by self-styled prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has quickly moved to implement the regime-change agenda of Washington and its European allies. Financial, trade and military pacts are already being drawn up with Washington, Brussels and NATO.

So far, so good, it seemed, from the Western point of view. The ultimate geopolitical prize from regime change in Ukraine, as set out by Brzezinski and other US planners, is to roll back Russia’s presence in a vital sphere of influence. In this calculus, plucking Ukraine into the Western/NATO orbit would weaken Russia, politically, economically and militarily. This tactic has already succeeded with Western incorporation of the Baltic states, in addition to Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, parts of the Balkans and Georgia on Russia’s southern flank. But Ukraine represents a quantum leap towards corralling Russia. It would allow the ever-closer installation of US missiles on Russia’s borders, making an American first-strike offence a greater enfeebling threat to Moscow. A pro-Western regime in Ukraine would also mean the end of Russia’s naval presence at Sevastopol on the Black Sea, which would in turn undermine Russian energy interests in the Caspian region and with regard to the lucrative European market.

But then came the surprise counter-move. Russia increased its military security on Ukraine’s southern Crimean Peninsula within days of the Western-backed coup d’état in Kiev. This gave a political space for the autonomous republic to assert its pro-Russian loyalty without the threat of intimidation from the Kiev junta and its fascist paramilitaries. Given the limited transport access to the Crimea from the Ukrainian mainland, Russian defenses were able to seal off the peninsula from the intrusion of neo-Nazi shock troops that had ushered in the regime in Kiev and who have since gone on to threaten other cities in the East of Ukraine. Several people have been killed in clashes in the cities of Donetz and Kharkiv where the neo-Nazi Svoboda cadres have attacked pro-Russian rallies. There are also reports of Western-backed mercenary gunmen operating in the Eastern cities, while, ironically, Kiev and its Western sponsors accuse Moscow of deploying agent provocateurs and of overseeing the election in Crimea under armed threat.

Crimea has been spared from Western-infiltrated street violence seen in the rest of Ukraine. On March 6, the Crimean parliament voted for a declaration of independence from Ukraine and for unification with the Russian Federation. The electorate has subsequently endorsed that declaration with an overwhelming majority of nearly 97 per cent, based on a turnout of 83 per cent among a total 1.5 million voters.

«We are going home, Crimea is going to Russia», said the republic’s prime minister Sergei Aksyonov as the results of the ballot were confirmed.

Moscow has welcomed the vote for Crimean self-determination and Russian lawmakers are now in the process of drawing up legislation and other formal contingencies for unification. It may take up to one year to complete the transition.

The Crimean referendum would seem to be irreproachable from a legal point of view. It was conducted in a fully constitutional manner, with the parliament taking all the required steps to convene the poll. More than 130 international observers from some 23 countries, including the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Austria, have reportedly confirmed that the voting procedure was in compliance with recognized standards.

Predictably, Washington and its European and NATO allies have reacted with outrage, accusing the referendum of «illegality» and «violating Ukraine’s sovereignty».

US president Barack Obama told Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that «Washington will never recognize Crimea’s secession from Ukraine». And the American leader reiterated that Russia will face «additional costs» for its «annexation» of Crimea. Putin riposted that the process was legal.

European ministers met in Brussels on Monday to draw up punitive sanctions on senior Russian officials. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton referred snidely to the «so-called referendum» and dismissed it as «illegal under international law». That’s rich coming from «Lady Ashton» who has never faced an election in her life and who owes her entire political career to secret decisions taken by privilege and patronage.

Ashton’s claim of illegality was echoed by European Council president Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso.

Tellingly, despite their pomposity and pejorative assertions, none of the Western leaders, or the dutiful mainstream news media, offer a legal argument to support their claim that the people of Crimea have acted unlawfully or unconstitutionally. The official Western position seems to rely solely on force of bombastic rhetoric and nothing else.

Perhaps, these political hacks in high office secretly know that if they were to engage in real discussions based on objective legal principles and standards, their arguments would be swiftly decimated, given their own support for the neo-Nazi putschists who ransacked their way into government in Kiev with acts of murder and massive intimidation. If the Western sponsors of the fascist coup are not careful, their empty talk about constitutionality and due process could rebound to expose their own criminal involvement in regime change.

For now the people of Crimea have dealt a blow to Western machinations in Ukraine, with a bold «check».

However, the game is not over yet. The reactionary regime in Kiev is calling up a «national guard» of 60,000 members that will incorporate the Right Sector paramilitaries. The neo-Nazi security ministers, Andriy Parubiy and Dmitry Yarosh, are calling for military attacks on Crimea and the pro-Russian population in the East of Ukraine. Yarosh has even warned that his Pravy Sektor shock troops will blow up Russian gas pipelines that run through Ukraine to Europe. And there are plenty of American political hotheads who want to arm the Kiev fascists. Senator John McCain, along with a delegation of other belligerent US congressmen visiting Kiev this week, spoke openly about arming the junta. «Russia is a giant gas station masquerading as a country», said McCain, relishing an opportunity to attack Moscow.

As the news of the Crimea referendum was being celebrated in its capital, Simferopol, and other cities, the Kiev-appointed foreign minister Andriy Deshchytsya was in Brussels meeting NATO chiefs to discuss «military cooperation». Deshchytsya announced provocatively: «Ukraine reserves the right to use all necessary measures to stop military invasion by Russia.»

Washington and its European allies, together with their proxy regime in Kiev, are evidently so full of their own self-righteous propaganda that the possibility of further escalation of conflict with Russia is very possible, even though there are absolutely no justifiable grounds for such aggression.

Increased conflict will lead to further polarization of the pro-Russian populations in East Ukraine, who are likely step up their calls for similar secession from Kiev, as in Crimea. That conjures up a very real danger of civil war breaking out in Ukraine that will surely spell an end to Western regime change plans. A worst-case scenario would be for such a conflict to explode into an all-out war between the US, its NATO allies and Russia, with the Kiev shock troops working on the ground, reminiscent of Libya and Syria.

But the crucial reality check restraining such a catastrophic outcome is Europe’s mortal dependence on Russian oil and gas. Over one-third of all the European Union’s oil and gas is supplied from Russia. In Germany, the EU economic powerhouse, that dependency on Russian fuel reaches up to 40 per cent.

European leaders are thus playing a reckless and deluded game by antagonizing Russia over its legitimate national interests in Ukraine. Washington may be making the loudest noises for sanctions and «costs» being imposed on Russia. But when the going gets tough, it will be Europe that pays the price, from the collapse of its economies and indeed its entire social order when Russian energy supplies are cut-off in the inevitable counter-move.

«This is basically a hydrocarbon version of Mutually Assured Destruction», was how the head of Citigroup’s London-based energy research put the situation amid growing tensions.

So, if the Crimea referendum result spells «check», the next Russian move will be checkmate.

Finian Cunningham, originally from Belfast, Ireland, was born in 1963. He is a prominent expert in international affairs. The author and media commentator was expelled from Bahrain in June 2011 for his critical journalism in which he highlighted human rights violations by the Western-backed regime. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For many years, he worked as an editor and writer in the mainstream news media, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. He is now based in East Africa where he is writing a book on Bahrain and the Arab Spring. He co-hosts a weekly current affairs programme, Sunday at 3pm GMT on Bandung Radio.

Source: Strategic Culture Foundation. Photo: © N/A


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