(image by theglobalpanorama)
Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks World War III, edited by Stephen Lendman (Clarity Press, May 2014) was rushed into print in order to capitalize on the current crisis there. Thus, the book has flaws and redeeming qualities.
The book's introduction and 24 chapters are uneven in quality; ranging from rants to hurried sketches to documented scholarship. Although some writers contradict others, the chapters are uniformly liberal in their point of view; which is to say that the neo-Nazis and oligarchs in Ukraine, the neoconservatives, liberal interventionists and predatory capitalists in the United States, as well as their feckless lackeys in the European Union and NATO, deserve much of the blame for the crisis. Notably absent from the book are chapters written by historians of Russia and Ukraine, which might have provided historical perspective to these recent events.
Not that it would be easy to find a scholar specializing in Russian or Ukrainian history who is reliable. Recently, Stephen D. Shenfield exposed the bias of 41 experts on Ukraine, working both in Ukraine and various Western countries. They failed to address the ugly truth about the leading role played by neo-Nazis in toppling the democratically elected government in Ukraine, because they feared that by doing so, they would be providing more fodder for Russia's propaganda campaign. Thus, Mr. Shenfield reluctantly concluded: "They seek not to determine where the truth may lie but rather to deal with the phenomenon of the Ukrainian radical nationalists in such a way as to do the least harm to the cause with which they sympathize."
Similarly, the West has very few historians of Russia who have not succumbed to "the image of Russian iniquity" that, according to Allesandra Stanley, "is so deeply embedded" in America's collective unconscious. Thanks to America's pathological collective unconscious about Russia, the views of Russophobes like Zbigniew Brzezinski and bombastic, attention-seeking politicians possessing no demonstrable knowledge of Russian history, like John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry, are courted by an equally pathological and ignorant mainstream news media. Simultaneously, the views of sane and serious students of Russian history, like Steve Cohen, Jack Matlock and Gordon Hahn are virtually ignored.
Instead of including chapters by reliable historians, the book offers the views of the highly esteemed and always intriguing Paul Craig Roberts. This former high level official in the Reagan administration now believes that "The Washington-sponsored coup in Kiev is a reckless act [that] " should alarm the entire world."
He asserts that "the ultra-nationalists" introduced violence into the protests and changed demands from joining the EU to overthrowing the elected government." He also sees similarities linking neoconservative claims of "American exceptionalism" to Hitler's claims for the German nation. Finally, he warns, unless the U.S. rids itself of the obnoxious "Wolfowitz doctrine" -- a doctrine that urged the use of American power to keep other countries forever locked into their subordinate positions -- "nuclear war is the likely outcome."
A few of the book's authors address the economic aspects of the crisis in Ukraine. In Michael Hudson's view, "Finance in today's world has become war by non-military means." (p.27) "Backed by the IMF and the European Central Bank (ECB) as knee-breakers in what has become in effect the financial extension of NATO, the aim is for U.S. and allied investors to appropriate the plums that kleptocrats have taken from the public domain of Russia, Ukraine and other post-Soviet economies"" (Ibid)
Michael Parenti agrees, but emphasizes that the "manufactured uprising in Kiev is something we have seen in numerous other countries." (p.51) "[T]he goal of these western-financed attacks has been to make the world safe for the 1%, the global super rich. Ukraine citizens who think they are fighting for democracy will eventually discover that they are really serving the western plutocracy." (Ibid)
Perhaps the best chapter to analyze the economic implications of the crisis in Ukraine is the one written by Jack Rasmus and titled, "Who Benefits from the Ukraine Economic Crisis?" He notes that the initial bailout package offered by the West totaled $15 billion. It clearly was inferior to the money and huge gas discount offered by Russia. Moreover, Russia did not insist on a 50% reduction in household subsidies for gas, cuts in government employment and pensions, or the privatization of government assets and property.
Nevertheless, on 30 April 2014, Kiev's coup regime negotiated a $17 billion loan with the IMF. As a prior action, Naftogaz raised its subsidized gas rates to consumers by 50%, effective May 1st. As a prior action, a law was passed that raised property and excise taxes, cut pensions for former government employees by 10% and reduced the number of law enforcement employees.
As a prior action demanded by the IMF, Ukraine's government implemented a free-floating exchange rate. Certain to spark inflation, the National Bank of Ukraine recently forecast inflation of 12 to 16 percent this year. (A 7 April 2014 article in The Nation by Alec Luhn was the source of the information provided above.)
But, as Professor Rasmus notes, $17 billion was the estimated amount required just to avoid defaulting on payments to banks for debt already incurred. Thus, "the lion's share" of the IMF loan will go to western banks to pay principal and interest on previous loans. (p.122)
Ukraine, in Rasmus' view, actually needs a bailout of $50 billion -- which it never will receive. Consequently, Ukraine will find itself consistently begging for more loans. And, consequently, Kiev's coup regime will find itself compelled to "cut services and privatize public assets, selling them to billionaires and western interests at fire sale prices." (p. 130)
Mr. Rasmus claims that the West wants to get their hands on Ukraine's nuclear power, shipbuilding, aircraft, automobile, truck and public bus manufacturing industries in order to integrate them into their international corporations. Downsizing and restructuring will follow and will be accompanied by cuts in wages and benefits.
Thus, the winners from Kiev's economic turn to the West will be Ukraine's oligarchs, Ukraine's banks, western banks, and western corporations. Beyond the job losses and wage reductions in the private sector, the losers will be "the majority of Ukrainian households that will have their real income reduced as they pay higher costs for gas, Ukrainian elderly who will have their pensions cut, Ukrainian government workers who will lose their jobs, and all Ukrainian households who will lose other government services." (p. 123)