Reprinted from Consortium News
Among honest and knowledgeable people, there really isn't much doubt about what happened in Ukraine last winter. There was a U.S.-backed coup which ousted a constitutionally elected president and replaced him with a regime more in line with U.S. interests. Even some smart people who agree with the policy of going on the offensive against Russia recognize this reality.
For instance, George Friedman, the founder of the global intelligence firm Stratfor, was quoted in an interview with the Russian liberal business publication Kommersant as saying what happened on Feb. 22 in Kiev -- the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych -- "really was the most blatant coup in history."
Brushing aside the righteous indignation and self-serving propaganda, Stratfor's Friedman recognized that both Russia and the United States were operating in what they perceived to be their own interests. "The bottom line is that the strategic interests of the United States are to prevent Russia from becoming a hegemon," he said. "And the strategic interests of Russia are not to allow the U.S. close to its borders."
Another relative voice of reason, at least on this topic, has been former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who -- in an interview with Der Spiegel -- dismissed Official Washington's conventional wisdom that Russian President Vladimir Putin provoked the crisis and then annexed Crimea as part of some diabolical scheme to reclaim territory lost when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
"The annexation of Crimea was not a move toward global conquest," the 91-year-old Kissinger said. "It was not Hitler moving into Czechoslovakia" -- as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had suggested.
Kissinger noted that Putin had no intention of instigating a crisis in Ukraine: "Putin spent tens of billions of dollars on the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The theme of the Olympics was that Russia is a progressive state tied to the West through its culture and, therefore, it presumably wants to be part of it. So it doesn't make any sense that a week after the close of the Olympics, Putin would take Crimea and start a war over Ukraine."
Instead Kissinger argued that the West -- with its strategy of pulling Ukraine into the orbit of the European Union -- was responsible for the crisis by failing to understand Russian sensitivity over Ukraine and making the grave mistake of quickly pushing the confrontation beyond dialogue.
While the comments by Henry Kissinger and Stratfor's Friedman reflect the reality of what demonstrably happened in Ukraine, an entirely different "reality" exists in Official Washington. (Note that both interviews were carried in foreign, not U.S. publications.) In the United States, across the ideological spectrum, the only permitted viewpoint is that a crazed Putin launched a war of aggression against his neighbors and must be stopped.
Facts, such as the declaration in September 2013 from a leading neocon, National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman, that Ukraine was "the biggest prize" and an important step toward ousting Putin in Russia, do not fit into this story frame. [See Consortiumnews.com's "A Shadow U.S. Foreign Policy."]
Nor do the comments of neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who was caught in a pre-coup phone call, handpicking Ukraine's future leaders and discussing how to "glue this thing." Nor her public statements about the United States investing $5 billion in Ukraine's "European aspirations."
White Hats, Black Hats
Instead of dealing with what actually happened in Ukraine, U.S. pundits and politicians -- from conservative to liberal -- have bought into a fantasy version of events in which the coup-makers all wore white hats and the elected president and his eastern Ukrainian supporters -- along with Putin -- all wore black hats.
But there are, as always, rhetorical differences across the U.S. partisan liberal-conservative divide. On Ukraine, the American Right urges an escalation of military tensions against Russia while chiding President Barack Obama for weakness (when compared with Putin's toughness) -- and liberals cheer on Obama's supposed success in driving the Russian economy into a painful recession while accusing the Right of having a man-crush on Putin.
This liberal "theme" of jabbing the Right for its alleged love of Putin takes the Right's comments about his forcefulness out of context, simply to score a political point. But the Right-loves-Putin charge has become all the rage with the likes of Paul Krugman, Thomas L. Friedman and other liberals who are bubbling with joy over the economic suffering being inflicted on the people of Russia and presumably eastern Ukraine.