The 1914-2014 EU deja-vu complex
By Will Hart
The "coincidental" timing of the crisis in the Ukraine is not lost on Europeans, who can be a superstitious lot when it comes to the threat of another World War. Statements like the below made by President Obama's former ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, do not help matters:
'"The last 24 hours was a major escalation," McFaul told TIME in a Friday interview, as Ukraine's military began an operation to reclaim eastern cities and towns taken over by pro-Russia militants. The offensive has led to violence, including reports that Ukrainian helicopters were shot down by pro-Russian forces. Brewing violence in the southern port city of Odessa a claimed dozens of lives Friday.' (Time)
Now, about that eerie déjà-vu feeling, here is a very brief thumbnail sketch of how WWI began: On 28 July, 1914 the Austro-Hungarians fired the first shots in preparation for the invasion of Serbia. As Russia mobilized, Germany invaded neutral Belgium and Luxembourg then marched towards France, leading Britain to declare war on Germany.
Damn, just when it looked like Europe had shaken the albatross of war off its collective neck, the stench of death arises out of nowhere. Odd that it should come exactly a century later. Are we caught in some hitherto unsuspected 100-year historical, karma cycle, like the once-in-a-century perfect storm?
The players are not exactly the same but they are evoking the ghosts of the past. Putin is not trying to rebuild the Soviet Union that is a fallacy. What the Russian president, and his people, are deathly afraid of is the specter of fascism raising its ugly head in Germany, and other parts of Europe via the 28-nation NATO alliance.
Russia is afraid of getting squeezed to death in the American backed NATO-pincers. After all, the western Ukrainians that launched the Maidan revolt, and coup, in Kiev had backed Hitler in WWII. When push comes to shove the loyalties of the Russians that live in the Crimea and in other parts of the eastern Ukraine are to the Mother country not Kiev.
What this whole process has done, and Washington has conducted these same de-stabilization campaigns elsewhere, is to open up old wounds; using the old divide and conquer trick. Make no mistake, neither the Russians nor the Chinese are fooled one bit (they will hold joint military exercises this month).
A recent article in Pravda clearly shows the Russian president's perspective. "According to Putin, the fact that the U.S. has come out to the forefront in resolving the crisis in Ukraine shows that it was the USA that was originally at the head of the process. 'They have now manifested themselves as the leaders of this whole process,' said Vladimir Putin." (Pravda)
European stock markets were jittery, on Monday, after clashes broke out in six cities in eastern Ukraine over the weekend; while pro-Russian forces overran a police station in Odessa, freeing close to 70 activists held there. In reality, the chaos is spreading like a wildfire.
In fact, the civil war is already on, though it seems only some Europeans are starting to fully grasp it. The situation has spun out of control. That is how large-scale wars begin. Where are the voices of reason urging a cease fire and talks, as in the United Nations?
In truth, Putin has been backed into a corner. Did he have any choice but to annex the Crimea and protect ethnic Russians after the vote? In virtually all other regards he has acted with restraint and been rather conciliatory given the aggressive actions that the US and NATO have taken.
The western press quickly 1) reincarnated Cold War rhetoric and 2) demonized Putin as a Soviet-style Hitler wannabe. America cancelled the G8 meeting scheduled for Sochi in June, a diplomatic slap in the face. They also cancelled all future relationships with the Russian Space Agency, except for the current contract that has ROSKOSMOS flying US astronauts to the International Space Station, ditto...
Yet, although he threatened to retaliate against US and NATO economic sanctions, the Russian president decided against engaging in a shoving match. In the meantime Putin has stressed he wants to resolve the situation through diplomacy and avoid any military confrontation. At least his actions are consistent with his rhetoric, which gives them some credibility.
What about the statements and actions of the US and NATO? Senator "shoot first, aim later" McCaine who was in Kiev just before the rebellion is leading the charge to raise $100 million to wire Kievin the US senate. Though McCain would prefer Obama send American troops instead. Last week the NATO commander ordered his forces to move in on the Ukraine.
On May 2, days after the United States and the European Union slapped Moscow with a new round of sanctions, German Chancellor Merkel arrived at the White House for meetings and a working lunch with Obama.
The German chancellor came in a high mood because of her decisive re-election victory late last year -- but that was tempered by pressure coming from all sides as Europe tries to show resolve against Russia on Ukraine -- without harming its own economic interests of course. We call that putting on the Rambo-face diplomacy, as long as no sacrifice is involved.
That is the same kind of 'let me have my cake and eat it too' that the war machine- Europe of yesteryear had, when it pushed the world over the cliff into two bloody wars, the first in 1914. Get a clue Bonn, Paris, London, et al...
What skin do you think America really has in this deadly chess game? Could the corporate war profiteers be standing back there in the shadows once again?