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The claims for Russian imperialism


The more or less liberal, democratic, capitalist countries that make up seven of the Group of Eight (G8) have condemned Russia and are discussing boycotting the June G8 meeting in Sochi. There is even talk of expelling Russia from the group.

This western government consensus against Russia's actions is based on evidence that prompted the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power to say that it is "hard to avoid concluding that Russia does not want peace and does not want a diplomatic solution."

It is time, since this is what news media in democracies do, to question that consensus. Let's consider the case for what's being called Russian neo-imperialism.

Claim: President Victor Yanukovich was democratically elected by the people of Ukraine in 2010.

He was, by a reasonable margin. Though his main rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, alleged fraud, she later withdrew her claim. But after growing corruption, tightened authoritarian rule and the murder by apparently state-sponsored thugs of more than 80 people protesting against Yanukovich's rule, the parliament in Kiev voted by a substantial majority to strip him of office. Later, with a similar majority, it voted to accept the new government that is now in place.

Claim: The protesters were led by, or at least had among their number, a large contingent of far rightists who are violently anti-Russian and anti-Semitic.

There are such forces in Ukraine. They were part of the protests and they at times received praise from the demonstrators for their courage. But, according to the historian Timothy Snyder, the far-right party Svoboda ("Freedom") is a small electoral force. The more militant Right Sector has so far stressed "that their goal is political and not ethnic or racial," Snyder writes. The latter is, he admitted, "the group to watch," since its rhetoric has been strongly hostile to all foreign, and especially Russian and Jewish, influence. But it does not lead the movement, and the ousting of Yanukovich cannot be represented truthfully as a "fascist coup."

Claim: Russians in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine have cause for alarm and need protection.

There have been fiery speeches against Russian "imperialism." The day after the deputies fired Yanukovich, they passed a law banning the teaching of Russian. This was condemned by, among others, the Foreign Minister of Poland, Radek Sikorski and was quickly scrapped. A likely contender for the next president of Ukraine, the former heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko who is a Russian-speaker, has stressed unity and balance in the parliament.

There have been no recorded attacks on Russians anywhere, including where they are a minority - as in the west of Ukraine. As Power said at the U.N., "the Russian military action is not a human rights protection mission."

Claim: The European Union was the real imperialist actor, and in wooing Ukraine it damaged Russian interests.

It's probably true that the EU was at least naïve in offering an "association agreement" to Ukraine and failing to anticipate the Russian response. But the draft agreement was initialed by President Yanukovich in 2012. Russia didn't like this and in 2013 it temporarily banned some Ukrainian products from its market, yet it was reasonable to suppose President Vladimir Putin would reluctantly acquiesce in time. Instead, Russia became more upset.

Andreas Umland, a German political scientist who lives and works in Ukraine, told me he believes that, as Russia's economy falters, Putin needs a foreign policy success to offset the threat to living standards. "He began to stress the importance of the Eurasian Union (a free trade area planned to take in most of the former states of the Soviet Union) and he needs Ukraine for this to be credible. He needs a political success. It became quite existential for the regime," Umland said.

Claim: Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has had a history of promises betrayed by the West.

The largest complaint - made by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and repeated often by Putin - is that the West promised that NATO would not expand east to the Soviet border, and it has. There is substantial cause for Russian anger here. It seems likely that at least one western foreign minister - the German Hans-Dietrich Genscher - has made such a pledge, along with probably James Baker, then the U.S. Secretary of State.

All that can be said against the Russian position is that NATO has never threatened Russia; that the former Communist states of central and Eastern Europe demanded membership; and that, even in the present situation, NATO has threatened no retaliation.

Many also blame the West for forcing Russia, immediately after the collapse of the USSR and under the presidency of Boris Yeltsin, to adopt economic "shock therapy" in the form of privatization and deep cuts to social programs. But Russia - and all of the Soviet Union - was bankrupt, and only a desperate effort to create a market got things moving again. The widespread impoverishment and misery was the result of the bankruptcy of the economic system. After the initial marketization, the economy became, under Yeltsin and then Putin, a "managed capitalism" with the state in control.

Claim: The West should be nice to Russia not only because Russia is going to have a hard time, but also because it's dangerous.

In some ways, this is the most substantial point. The strength that Putin likes to project is increasingly illusory. Russian growth is less than two percent today, the population is falling fast, there is little modernization, the economy is buoyed by oil and gas prices that are likely to fall and corruption sits at the heart of every enterprise. Western sanctions will deepen this disastrous situation, and though they should be imposed, it's still more urgent to find a new form of relationship.

This means finding a solution to the Ukraine issue, which can command the assent of the new government in Kiev and the governments of Russia, the EU and the U.S. But don't hold your breath. Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told President Barack Obama after talking to the Russian president, is in "another world" - a world where everything depends on a projection of strength at whatever cost, with no prospect of the Russian parliament voting him out.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2014.

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The dear leader has been busy for quite a while now 'fighting terrorists' to Russia's south and anyone else who doesn't bend to his will. We should have been watching things more closely and holding the dear leader to account. The world must progressively reduce its demand for Russian oil and gas.



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It is a fact that the anti-semitic far right has a foot in several ministries. That they are there does not say good things about the present government. Anti-semitism in Ukraine is being ignored by the media. Israel is worried enough to be sending advisors help Jews in that country.

Putin is in Crimea for one reason only: to protect the Black Sea Fleet. This is not nice. It is also fairly minor compared to what the US has done recently. Iraq and Afghanistan. the US NATO rape of Yugoslavia. I could go on but you get the idea. Only when the US military goes into, say, San Salvador to get rid of an elected president (1965) or destroys a country like Vietnam, its okay. The US media whitewash it.

What Putin did was not nice. In fact as I look at more, it was stupid. It was stupid for reasons other than the obvious ones. He raised expectations in a region that from the 18th century belonged to Russian and was only given to Ukraine unilaterally by Khrushchev in 1954, without the consent of the citizens of Crimea. Putin has given Crimea's Russian majority, and no doubt others, false hope of support for independence or some other assistance when Putin is only interested in that if somehow helps safeguard the Black Sea Fleet.

You might note that other Ukrainian areas with large Russian populations have been calling for Putin to come and smashing things in the meantime. Putin is not coming. They do not concern the Black Sea Fleet.

All that Putin cares about is the damned Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. He is worried too about Ukraine joining NATO and points missiles at Russia. But that does not concern Crimea.

How to get Putin out of Crimea? Okay, we can't say, nice Putin, nice Putin, please leave when you feel like it. We cannot go around screaming that Putin is like Hitler because of Crimea (then George W. Bush is more so). Name calling is not going to work. Sanctions? Europe fears sanctions will hurt them before they hurt the Russians. This is where the work of diplomacy is crucial. Remember how the Cuban Missile Crisis was solved? Not brinkmanship. Not because Mr. K. blinked. There was a compromise. The Soviets removed the nuclear missiles from Cuba and the Americans took nuclear missiles (secretly) out of Turkey. That is how good diplomacy works. Let us hope it works in this case before someone gets seriously hurt.

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Good summation Kabukilover

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Dear Russia . It is wrong to invade other peoples countries . Lots of love, The USA & UK governments.


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From what I've seen and read it would appear that Putin wants Crimea as part of a greater Russia... and also Eastern Ukraine with it's vast oil fields. I seriously doubt that this has anything at all to do with Russian speaking people being attacked by anti Russian mobs... far as I can tell it's the other way around.

Comparing this incursion with what international forces did in Iraq is fair enough - that was about securing oil. Afghanistan is another matter - and remember the Russians/USSR tried that one too.

Yugoslavia was a result of Serbian ethnic cleansing... NATO (as IFOR and KFOR) and before them the UN went in to stop the Serbians carrying out mass murder. That mission freed Croatia, Kosovo and Slovenia from the tyranny of Milosevic. How is that a 'rape of Yugoslavia' Kabukilover?

Basically Putin can do whatever he likes because he knows that there will be no military action against him since it would result in WW3 and we'd all be dead. He's a power mad dictator just like the Soviet leaders of the past... just with a different hat on.

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The USA & UK governments.

It would have made about as much sense to sign it Napoleon. A great many nations are today free from Russia and Russia let them go. Not that I approve of Russia meddling with any nation's freedom, but its not like the U.S. and U.K have a clean record. Please!

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I used to be a blind believer of the media and supporter of any US interventions until few people like USMC Maj General Smedly D Butler, (war is a racket), John F Kennedy, (the secret societies speech), and USA Maj General Albert Stubblebine, (Attack on the Pentagon), allowed me to think first about who gets what out of each event, and an event would help a country in its future agendas. Listen to their depositions in U-Tube and put the puzzle together. Knowledge is power.

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Do I support this move by Russia? No, countries should respect the sovereignty of other countries.

However, there is a clear double-standard at play here. The most of the other G-8 countries recently participated in the illegal invasion of Iraq and then Afghanistan, for a lot worse reasons, and there was no talk of retribution against them.

The G-8 countries can't do one thing and then turn around and cry foul when someone else does the same. They've lost all authority on this matter.

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Russia hits back at US ‘barefaced cynicism and double standards’ over Ukraine

The Russian Foreign Ministry has accused the US State Department of double standards and low-level propaganda after it published a list of President Vladimir Putin’s “false claims” about the events in Ukraine.

“The State Department is trying to play on a shamelessly one-sided interpretation of the events,” ministry spokesperson Aleksandr Lukashevich said on Thursday. “Surely, Washington cannot admit that they were nurturing Maidan [protests], encouraging the violent overthrow of the legitimate government, and thus clearing the way for those who are now pretending to be a legitimate power in Kiev.”


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To begin with, I cannot take anyone seriously who says, "Yugoslavia was a result of Serbian ethnic cleansing…" and say nothing about the crimes against humanity by the KLA. The US goal was to destroy Yugoslavia as a nation. And here is where this touches base with Crimea. In order to wreck Yugoslavia the US and NATO created a new race of people called "Kosovas." It was to this mythical race that the Serbian provence of Kosovo really belonged, not to Serbia. So here is the connection. Today the Western powers are all but ignoring Crimea. There is little if any mention of Crimea as an autonomous region and as a region that has struggled against the central government in Kiev. (One struggle Crimea won was against privatization of its resources that would have put them in the pockets of Ukrainian oligarchs.) If Kosovo can have Kosovars why can't Crimea have Crimeans? This is because the majority happen to be pro-Russian, having roots in pre-1954 Russian Crimea.

One thing I want to say about this article. Anyone who tell you (or quotes someone who says) that having extreme right-wing racists and anti-semites in the new Kiev regime is no big deal is not worth listening to. Just imagine members of the KKK in the US president's cabinet.

It is probably impossible at this point,but everyone's interests would bet be served if Crimea became an independent nation, or have virtual independence as an autonomous region of Ukraine.

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