M. I. Bhat
After enjoying a little over two decades of post-Soviet threat-free environment from Russian tanks and short range missiles, Europe is on the verge of losing its peace. It has none to blame except its Union leadership that remains afflicted with Cold War Syndrome and willingly ready to get manipulated by Washington to serve its exclusive global agenda. First it was color revolutions in the Eastern Europe and then raining blood and gore on one after another Muslim country -- and the European Union was there shoulder to shoulder with the US in all these regime change and destabilization missions.
Now it is Ukraine. What the Washington was trying to achieve here covertly, Brussels - the US' "little soldier" -- in its enthusiasm went overboard, precipitating the crisis by forcing the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych Government there to decide on Association Agreement - reminiscent of Bush's 'with us or against us.' As the unfolding events since have shown Ukraine is turning into a fireball that has a potential to roll over and incinerate the whole of Europe and beyond. Brussels seems to have made a mortal miscalculation.
Ukraine is not Yugoslavia when Russia like an injured and unconscious soldier lying in a pit couldn't fire a shot to defend his fellow soldier. Not anymore. While dealing with the West on Syria it indicated its unwillingness to be bluffed and deceived like on Libya. And now on Ukraine, it has unambiguously announced it is past the time when playing games with a week Russia would accrue strategic military gains (Nato expansion and missile bases close to Russian border) for the US. Russia has gained its consciousness and health.
At the same time the loss of Crimea to Russia without having to shoot a bullet exposed Washington's limitations to orchestrate Ukrainian situation to its liking. It has little economic leverage for any meaningful use against Russia. So, the increasingly brazen lies and foul mouthing against Russia and loud exhortations to Europe to tag with Washington's line. Not to be left behind, you have the NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen transferring Nato military assets closer to Russia and calling for member states to increase their defense budgets. Someone tell him serious people don't have his looks.
Realizing the potential cost of this misadventure some European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are reportedly privately dithering to follow Washington. But that hasn't helped calm Ukraine. Rather their public posturing and participation with the US in threatening and imposing sanctions on Russia and the deployment of Nato soldiers and military assets in Poland, Lithuania and Black Sea green-signaled the coup-imposed Junta Government in Kiev to feel emboldened and announce edicts sidelining Russian-speaking Ukrainians, withdraw on Geneva agreement within hours of signing it, and now military offensive against them -- despite repeated Russian pleadings for dialogue and diplomatic solution. Burning alive dozens of Russian-speaking protestors in Odessa, releasing the culprits from jail, or using helicopter gunships in Eastern Ukraine couldn't have happened had the West not encouraged Kiev. News just in from Mariupol city in southeastern Ukraine is that Kiev army using heavy weaponry has shot dead 20 more pro-Russian "armed rebels."
Yet the West is accusing Russia of deploying armed forces and arming Russian-speaking protestors to create unrest and chaos in Ukraine to prevent Presidential elections on 25 May. Answering questions like how these "armed rebels" are getting killed in scores or why the US has sent dozens of CIA and FBI agents to Ukraine doesn't bother them.
Instead of addressing the core issues that in the first place spawned violence and brought Ukraine to the brink of civil war, the German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in consultation with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and US Secretary of State John Kerry, has proposed to Russia a fresh round of peace talks in Geneva "to put an end to violence." The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rightly declined, calling such talks "pointless."
"Once again gathering in the same format, when the opposition to the current regime in Ukraine is absent from the negotiating table, this will hardly change anything," Lavrov said.
Sooner the Washington and its European partners appreciate that they are not dealing here with the Palestinian authority but with Russia better it would be for all of them and the world.
But the US is not interested to let the Ukrainian crisis subside. That much is evident from the White House response to President Putin's surprising 180 degree change in his earlier stance to help de-escalate the crisis - withdrawing troops from Ukrainian border, supporting Presidential election, and asking protestors to postpone referendum. Rather than welcoming Putin's change in tack and building upon it to peacefully resolve the situation, White House responded by saying postponing referendum is not enough, Putin should ask for cancelation, and that there is no evidence of troop withdrawal.
It was again a raw instigation and signal to Kiev where Prime Minster Arseniy Yatseniuk lost no time in dismissing Putin's call for postponement of referendum as "hot air." Acting Head of the Presidential Administration Serhiy Pashynskyi went a step ahead threatening pro-Russian militants will be killed or detained.
Election without addressing demands of the Russian-speaking population is no panacea for the Ukrainian crisis, as Putin rightly said. Indeed if the protestors go ahead with the announced referendum on 11 May - as is now certain after they declined to heed Putin's call for postponement - it would render the 25 May Presidential election meaningless as the expected outcome of the referendum could throw Ukraine into civil war and push the tension between Russia and the West to new heights.
Washington stepping back from its gameplan is very unlikely because it has not much to lose. It is the European Union that must assess the costs of its participation in the US gameplan. If Europe doesn't reverse its course on Ukraine it could plunge the continent in an unenviable situation. The burden is not on Brussels, which in fact is responsible for creating this dangerous mess.
The burden of pulling the Europe from quagmire is on its national leaders -- most fundamentally on the Chancellor Angela Merkel who the US has entrusted with the leadership role on behalf of Europe in this crisis. She holds the key to how far Ukrainian crisis can develop.
In a world where alternate and social media have made it increasingly difficult for Governments to hide their dirty linen with official narratives or mold public opinion through brazen lies and false flags, can Chancellor Merkel be convincing:
- to play up Russian threat when cyber world is flooded with Russian innocence;
- when German industry and labor have been benefitting from Russia without - unlike from the US -- any political or ideological demands;
- when the majority German opinion doesn't feel threatened by Russia; or when more than 300 German intellectuals have written to President Putin in support of his stand on Ukraine (German version here)?
- to European in general and Germans in particular that she is not being manipulated by Washington for its own global agenda where they have nothing to gain but earn animosity and economic losses;
- that it is not a matter just between the US and Russia where Germans/Europeans would not get used as cannon fodder; and
- that tagging with the US is not a potential recipe for letting the situation go out of hand and initiate the third world war.
Rightly or wrongly, Germans carry the stigma of plunging the Europe and much of the world into two unprecedented cycles of large scale death and destructions. It is for them to decide if they can afford this misfortune yet one more time when total apocalypse for them and the wider world is a certainty? They may not have much time left to decide before it is too late.
Rise up Germany and say: Enough and No More.
M. I. Bhat