Saturday 22 February 2014

The West in Ukraine: ‘just’ immoral or plain criminal?

Almost exactly 69 years ago, at the 1945 conference of Yalta, USA and Great Britain tacitly assented to Stalin’s demands for Soviet ‘influence’ in post-war Eastern Europe.  The conference was the World War II equivalent of the Sykes-Picot agreement: it divided people and territories into ‘spheres of influence’.  In practice, the West had abandoned more than 100 million Eastern Europeans, who were thus denied basic freedoms for decades and were condemned to spend their lives imprisoned in police states, slaving under the heel of communist dictators.

The American and British leaders of the time had, however, an excuse: their top priority was, understandably, the speedy defeat of Nazi Germany.  In retrospect, that defeat was at that point, already inevitable; but perhaps things looked differently in February 1945, with numerous soldiers still falling in battle and the full enormity of the Nazi crimes surfacing in all its horror.

But, if I can find Churchill and Roosevelt excuses for their agreement with Stalin at Yalta, I can find none for what the current leaders of USA and EU did the other day in Kiev.  This is February 2014, not February 1945; there are no Nazis to defeat; there is no Soviet Union, either, just a lesser power – Russia – and a lesser dictator – Putin.

Denied ‘influence’ over Poland, the Baltic countries, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, etc. etc., Putin (who sees the collapse of the Soviet Union as “a major geopolitical disaster”) is attempting to cling to Ukraine as one of the last bastions of that shrinking ‘influence’.  With that obvious objective in mind, he is once again deploying the usual arsenal, ranging from overt threats to economic pressure to bribe.  In concrete terms, Putin contrived the complete ruin of the (already weak) Ukrainian economy by blackmailing it (with the complicity of an indifferent EU) into developing a dependence on Russian oil and gas – and then charging exorbitant prices for those commodities.  Then he offered $15 billion to ‘save’ the economy he had helped scuttle.  Provided, of course, that Ukraine abandoned any dreams of freedom and returned to the warm embrace of the Russian bear.  So far, nothing new: Russian leaders – from the early czars to the Soviet leaders – have always sought to rule over the smaller neighbouring countries.

The real scandal here is that the two Western powers (USA and EU) have once again struck an immoral deal with a Russian-led dictatorship, foolishly attempted to win its ‘favours’ by sacrificing the freedom and well-being of others.

On behalf of the EU, Poland's Foreign Minister presented
the Ukrainian opposition with 'an offer they can't refuse'
Reports from the Ukrainian capital reveal how representatives of the European Union (with US assent) shamelessly threatened Ukrainian opposition leaders into signing an agreement with a government which can hardly be seen as representative of the country’s interests.  It is incredible – and indeed stomach-turning – that an official representative of the European Union could scoop to such levels of immorality; and yet, one of these high-level official representatives has been caught on camera threatening the Ukrainian opposition leaders he was ‘negotiating’ with
"If you don't support this [deal], you'll have martial law, the army. You will all be dead."
And let us not forget that the Polish minister (acting as EU ‘negotiator’) uttered these shameful threats after scores of unarmed protesters had been gunned down by government forces in the previous couple of days.  A Polish minister!  Poland has struggled for centuries to free itself from the same kind of Russian imperialism the minister has helped impose on his Ukrainian neighbours...

Some in Ukraine believe that freedom can be beaten out of people.
What do you think?
Yeah, I get it.  Poland – and the EU as a whole – wants good relationships with Russia.  After all, the latter is Poland’s (and Europe’s) main supplier of natural gas – the lifeblood of European economy.  But is that any justification for what can only be described as Mafia-like behaviour?

Did the West have to do Putin’s dirty work?  Did it have to intervene at all?  After all, the West chose to take a rather neutral stance when similar situations occurred in Turkey and Egypt.

Have the American and European citizens been consulted, before scruple-less Western leaders made the decision to weigh in?  Has there been any public debate?  Has the issue been discussed, for instance, in the British Parliament, or in the American Congress?  No, not to my knowledge.  This decision has been made in some dark, opaque place, behind closed doors.  And that should tell us all we need to know.

I do not know what price – what bribe – Putin has offered Obama and the EU for their 'cooperation'.  But I do know that the West has sold the Ukrainian people down the river.  And the only question in my mind is whether this behaviour has crossed the thin boundary between abject immorality and sheer criminality.  What do you think?

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