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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/4/14

The Whys Behind the Ukraine Crisis

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Cross-posted from Consortium News

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Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, speaking to Ukrainian and other business leaders at the National Press Club in Washington on Dec. 13, 2013, at a meeting sponsored by Chevron.
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A senior U.S. diplomat told me recently that if Russia were to occupy all of Ukraine and even neighboring Belarus that there would be zero impact on U.S. national interests. The diplomat wasn't advocating that, of course, but was noting the curious reality that Official Washington's current war hysteria over Ukraine doesn't connect to genuine security concerns.

So why has so much of the Washington Establishment -- from prominent government officials to all the major media pundits -- devoted so much time this past year to pounding their chests over the need to confront Russia regarding Ukraine? Who is benefiting from this eminently avoidable -- yet extremely dangerous -- crisis? What's driving the madness?

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Of course, Washington's conventional wisdom is that America only wants "democracy" for the people of Ukraine and that Russian President Vladimir Putin provoked this confrontation as part of an imperialist design to reclaim Russian territory lost during the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. But that "group think" doesn't withstand examination. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Who's Telling the Big Lie on Ukraine?"]

The Ukraine crisis was provoked not by Putin but by a combination of the European Union's reckless move to expand its influence eastward and the machinations of U.S. neoconservatives who were angered by Putin's collaboration with President Barack Obama to tamp down confrontations in Syria and Iran, two neocon targets for "regime change."

Plus, if "democracy promotion" were the real motive, there were obviously better ways to achieve it. Democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych pledged on Feb. 21 -- in an agreement guaranteed by three European nations -- to surrender much of his power and hold early elections so he could be voted out of office if the people wanted.

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However, on Feb. 22, the agreement was brushed aside as neo-Nazi militias stormed presidential buildings and forced Yanukovych and other officials to flee for their lives. Rather than stand behind the Feb. 21 arrangement, the U.S. State Department quickly endorsed the coup regime that emerged as "legitimate" and the mainstream U.S. press dutifully demonized Yanukovych by noting, for instance, that a house being built for him had a pricy sauna.

The key role of the neo-Nazis, who were given several ministries in recognition of their importance to the putsch, was studiously ignored or immediately forgotten by all the big U.S. news outlets. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Ukraine's 'Dr. Strangelove' Reality."]

So, it's hard for any rational person to swallow the official line that the U.S. interest in the spiraling catastrophe of Ukraine, now including thousands of ethnic Russians killed by the coup regime's brutal "anti-terrorist operation," was either to stop Putin's imperial designs or to bring "democracy" to the Ukrainians.

That skepticism -- combined with the extraordinary danger of stoking a hot war on the border of nuclear-armed Russia -- has caused many observers to search for more strategic explanations behind the crisis, such as the West's desires to "frack" eastern Ukraine for shale gas or the American determination to protect the dollar as the world's currency.

Thermo-Nuclear War Anyone?

The thinking is that when the potential cost of such an adventure, i.e., thermo-nuclear warfare that could end all life on the planet, is so high, the motivation must be commensurate. And there is logic behind that thinking although it's hard to conceive what financial payoff is big enough to risk wiping out all humanity, including the people on Wall Street.

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But sometimes gambles are made with the assumption that lots of money can be pocketed before cooler heads intervene to prevent total devastation -- or even the more immediate risk that the Ukraine crisis will pitch Europe into a triple-dip recession that could destabilize the fragile U.S. economy, too.

In the Ukraine case, the temptation has been to think that Moscow -- hit with escalating economic sanctions -- will back down even as the EU and U.S. energy interests seize control of eastern Ukraine's energy reserves. The fracking could mean both a financial bonanza to investors and an end to Russia's dominance of the natural gas supplies feeding central and eastern Europe. So the economic and geopolitical payoff could be substantial.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Ukraine has Europe's third-largest shale gas reserves at 42 trillion cubic feet, an inviting target especially since other European nations, such as Britain, Poland, France and Bulgaria, have resisted fracking technology because of environmental concerns. An economically supine Ukraine would presumably be less able to say no. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Beneath the Ukraine Crisis: Shale Gas."]

Further supporting the "natural gas motive" is the fact that it was Vice President Joe Biden who demanded that President Yanukovych pull back his police on Feb. 21, a move that opened the way for the neo-Nazi militias and the U.S.-backed coup. Then, just three months later, Ukraine's largest private gas firm, Burisma Holdings, appointed Biden's son, Hunter Biden, to its board of directors.

While that might strike some of you as a serious conflict of interest, even vocal advocates for ethics in government lost their voices amid Washington's near-universal applause for the ouster of Yanukovych and warm affection for the coup regime in Kiev.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
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