By Roger Annis, published in Truthout, Aug. 1, 2014
In a statement issued on July 30, the leaders of the top seven imperialist countries in the world plus the European Council and the European Commission express concern over what they call an ongoing threat by the Russian government to the “territorial integrity” of Ukraine. They say that Russia “must stop its support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine.” The statement announced a new round of economic sanctions against Russia.
The accusation of Russian support for the popular rebellion in southeast Ukraine, and for the pro-autonomy sentiment more broadly in the east of the country, is a trope. It and the accompanying threats are a coded demand that the Russian government police the autonomy movement and pressure it to surrender.
The real, not fictional, story of Russian non-involvement in eastern Ukraine was detailed several weeks ago by a leader of the Donetsk Peoples Republic, Pavel Yurevich Gubarev. An Associated Press article of July 9, 2014 quotes Gubarev at a press conference in Donetsk: “We would like to receive help in the form of Russian forces. But we are realists and understand that’s impossible.”
The report continued:
Rebels in the Donetsk region and the adjacent Luhansk region have repeatedly called for Russia to send in “peacekeeping” troops as the fight against them intensifies. Russia has shown no inclination to do so…
Gubarev suggested that Russian tycoons are opposed to military action, fearing their businesses would be affected. Russia already has been hit with Western sanctions for its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March and for allegedly fomenting the unrest in eastern Ukraine, in which more than 400 people have reportedly been killed. Sending forces into Ukraine would almost certainly prompt even harsher sanctions.
“Their selfish interests are understandable,” Gubarev said.
The G7 says it wants a “prompt” investigation of the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. But since the crash, the government in Kyiv, supported by the G7, has stepped up its cruel and devastating military operations in the southeast. Ukraine army operations blocked access to the site for four days running–July 27 to 30.
Inspectors were finally able to access the site beginning on July 31. The New York Times reported, “Ukrainian officials said they had suspended offensive operations against the rebels to allow the monitors to reach the site safely. Commanders at Ukrainian military positions near the site confirmed that they had been ordered to halt their advance.”
New York Times journalist Sabrina Tavernise reported from the crash site in the hours and days following the disaster. She told interviewer Charlie Rose on July 29 that rebel fighters created no barriers to the crash site during the time they controlled it and that the blockages that began on July 27 were instigated by Ukraine forces.
Why was access to the site blocked and what were Ukraine forces doing during the four days they had the site to themselves? These questions have not even been asked by mainstream journalists, leave alone investigated.
The delay to the investigation created by the Ukraine government was criminally irresponsible and it strongly suggests that the government had compelling political or other reasons to keep inspectors at bay. The delay in recovery of the bodies was an unspeakable affront to their families and to human dignity. This apparent sabotage of a “prompt investigation” sheds new light on the unseemly rush to judgment and condemnation of Russia over the crash. As Robert Parry of Consortium News and other writers have argued so compellingly, the ‘blame Russia’ chorus has compromised the possibility of an impartial and authoritative investigation.
In their statement, the G7 imperialists condemn Russia’s “annexation” of Crimea last March. A sanctions regime was imposed on Crimea shortly after the people there voted in a snap plebiscite to get out of the line of fire of Kyiv’s course to civil war and secede from Ukraine. Economic sanctions on Crimea and now on Russia are a violation of economic sovereignty. Historically, sanctions lead to war, and that is precisely the discussions over Ukraine that are now taking place in the halls of power of the G7.
U.S. and NATO actions in eastern Europe underscore the war danger. The U.S. has increased its military aid to Ukraine—first with $33 million to its army, now with $15 million to train its notorious National Guard. The Guard was a moribund institution resuscitated after the seizure of power by the neo-conservative and extreme right in Ukraine in February of this year. Its cadre are include large numbers of volunteers from the parties of the extreme and fascist right.
Kyiv is making strong demands on other NATO countries to likewise provide military aid. According to Russia’s foreign ministry, the European Union has quietly lifted restrictions on suppyling military equipment and technology to Ukraine. Meanwhile, the U.S. is stepping up the training and equipping of the armed forces of Poland, Romania and Moldova. And for months, increased numbers of fighter aircraft and warships of NATO countries have assumed threatening postures in the skies and waters surrounding Russia.
Sanctions are serving to deflect attention away from what should be at the center of the world’s attention – the criminal war being waged by the neo-conservative government in Kyiv. This is a government that includes fascists as ministers, including its Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, Andriy Parabuiy. Although its national treasury is broke and now dependent on loans from the big, international financial institutions, Kyiv is planning to spend “billions” more hryvnias on its war and stretch it into winter if needed (12 hryvnias=one US dollar).
The G7 statement reaffirms support to something it calls a “peace plan” of President Petro Poroshenko for southeast Ukraine. But the only “plan” that Poroshenko is implementing is a military offensive spearheaded by shelling and bombing of towns and cities until the population and its self-defense forces surrender. There are no signs of surrender, even if several thousand have died and more than half a million people have been made refugees.
The two main obstacles to the course of Poroshenko and his NATO backers are the crippling financial burden of the war and the diminishing political tolerance of Ukraine and world opinion. Antiwar and anti-conscription protests are on the rise in Ukraine. Defections from the army and refusals to answer conscription orders are growing. Kyiv’s war course is running out of time and money.
Progressive parties and other political forces in the G7 countries need to come together rapidly and effectively to oppose this war. We need to force Kyiv to heed the popular will in eastern Ukraine and increasingly in other parts of the shattered country to stop its bombardments and ground attacks and negotiate with the citizen movements it calls “terrorists”.
A symptom of the danger that the civil war in Ukraine could expand to clashes with Russia is the rise of extreme nationalist, Russophobic and openly fascist ideology in Ukraine, eastern Europe and parts of western Europe. The rise of the far right coupled with paralysis and confusion by important sections of the European left weakens the potential for urgently needed antiwar action. So not just the war threat but also the fascist threat needs to be challenged.
Russia and other governments have an obligation to act to stop the ongoing massacres in eastern Ukraine. Passive lamenting of events and appeals for peace will have no effect on the NATO warmakers. They are running amok, as is their partner Israel in Gaza. It is time for massive and sustained, antiwar mobilizations on the scale of an earlier moment in history that, compared to today, begins to look benign—the era of the Cold War and the war in Vietnam.
[Roger Annis’ extensive writings about the situation in Ukraine have appeared in different publications and are compiled on his website, ‘A Socialist in Canada’. He was a delegate to the antiwar conference that took place in Yalta, Crimea on July 6, 7.]* * *