By William Boardman -- Reader Supported News [2.9.15]
"Russian aggression" -- the bad faith mantra of dishonest brokers
Just as NATO allies Germany and France were undertaking a peace initiative with Russia and Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry turned up in Kiev at the same time, seeking to poison the talks before they started by spouting yet again the ritual U.S. accusation of "Russian aggression." The incantation is meaningless without context. Its purpose is mesmerize a false consciousness. "Russian aggression" may or may not exist in the events of the past year, just like "Russian self-defense." Reporting on the ground has been too unreliable to support any firm analysis, never mind the provocative "Russian aggression" the U.S. brandishes as a virtual call for war.
Western aggression, political and diplomatic more than military, is a cold reality and has been for two decades. The West, and especially the U.S. has yet to accept responsibility for 20 years of anti-Russian aggression, much less pull back from such perennial hostility. The Obama administration (parts of it at least, given the incoherence of the "administration") has acted as if its pulling off an only-slightly-violent coup in Kiev in 2014 was a grand triumph. Worse, having grabbed a government on Russia's borders, the Obama hawks carry on as if the only reasonable choice for Russia is to accept the success of this Western aggression.
Rarely is this context acknowledged in discussions of the natural fissures in Ukraine that feed sectarian civil war. Rather the issues are over-simplified -- falsified -- by the U.S. Secretary of State, consistent with a hidden agenda of provoking a military confrontation (at the very least) with Russia and eastern Ukrainians. That's the subtext that makes sense of Kerry's otherwise seeming blithering in Kiev on February 5:
"We talked about the largest threat that Ukraine faces today, and that is Russia's continued aggression in the east. There's no other way to call it. We're not seeking a conflict with Russia. No one is. " The president is reviewing all of his options. Among those options, obviously, is the possibility of providing defensive -- defensive -- assistance to Ukraine. And those discussions are going on. The president will make his decision, I am confident, soon."
Note the lie: "We're not seeking a conflict with Russia. No one is."
When Kerry said that, he was lying, he almost surely knew he was lying, and the question is whether his lie represents only the rogue war-faction in the U.S., or is part of a dicey good-cop/bad-cop routine out of Washington. The only way it's true that "we're not seeking a conflict" is that the U.S. is already engaged in conflict with Russia, decades-long and currently escalating. The lie of not seeking a conflict already engaged is used to mask the lie of "defensive weapons," a military-diplomatic oxymoron of long standing. So the most obvious answer to the question of who wants war in Ukraine is elements of the U.S. government whose immediate challenge is to persuade its Kiev client that it's a good idea to risk turning it's country into more of a battlefield than it already is.
Kiev's desire is more obscure, and likely divided. Having taken power in something of a slow-motion coup d'etat last spring, the government faced a restive-to-defiant population in eastern Ukraine. Rather than seeking to negotiate legitimate grievances with the eastern region, the Kiev government chose instead to escalate quickly, from political hostilities into civil war. When that didn't work out militarily, when Kiev started losing what it started, it agreed on September 5 to terms of a ceasefire that it then failed to honor with consistency (as did the separatists). Now the Ukrainian president has been to Moscow for early peace talks, but only after he staked out a preposterous public position seeking to win with a losing negotiating hand what Kiev has already lost on the ground.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President FranÃ§ois Hollande in Kiev on February 5 (when Kerry was in town but not part of the meeting). In his public statement, Poroshenko referred self-servingly to September's Minsk Agreement signed by Ukraine, Russia, and the break-away Ukrainian states that call themselves the People's Republic of Donetsk and the People's Republic of Luhansk. The only other Minsk signatory was the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), giving the agreement the tacit endorsement of Europe without any individual European nation signing on. The United States was not directly involved in the Minsk Agreement, but a week later expressed its support for finding a peaceful solution by sending American troops to take part in NATO military exercises in Ukraine's western provinces.
Understood in its actual context, Poroshenko's February 5 statement is ludicrously disingenuous:
"The Minsk plan is very simple: immediate ceasefire; releasing all the hostages; closing the border, or renew the internationally recognized border on Ukrainian (side); withdrawal all of the foreign troops from the Ukrainian territory; launching very important process of the political regulation by the election on the municipal election, local election, under Ukrainian legislation in the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk."
All signatories must take Minsk accord seriously to avoid war
It's hard to find anyone who doesn't urge compliance with the Minsk Agreement, even if that means different things to different people. Neither side in Ukraine has come close to significant compliance for any length of time. Poroshenko calls for the ceasefire, but omits the international monitoring called for in the agreement. He calls for closing the border with Russia, which is NOT part of the agreement. When he calls for the withdrawal of foreign troops, he omits mention of NATO. When he refers to elections, he omits Kiev's failure to pass the legislation it promised, and he omits the elections that have already been held in the Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk [see "Election Note" at the end of this article]. Poroshenko also omits amnesty for separatists, improving humanitarian conditions in the region, and the recovery program, all of which are part of the Minsk Agreement.