Weissman writes: "Many world leaders, particularly from Eastern Europe and the Baltic, had showed up with the Clintons 'to pepper Ukraine's president and political elite with encouragement to cement the country's turn away from Moscow and towards Brussels.'"
Speaking at a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club of Long Beach in California, Hillary Clinton spoke for the first time on the situation in the Ukraine. (photo: Getty Images)
Part II: Meet the Americans Who Put Together the Coup in Kiev
04 April 14
s the new US ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt was taking the measure of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych in September, Bill and Hillary Clinton visited historic Crimea. The region was still under Kiev's control, though the Russians held a long lease on bases in Sebastopol, where they keep their prized Black Sea Fleet.
The Clintons had come as "special guests" of the Yalta European Strategy (YES) conference, an annual power fest hosted by Ukraine's second richest oligarch, Viktor Pinchuk, who works closely with the Clinton Global Initiative. Pinchuk's friend George Soros's International Renaissance Foundation, which is based in Kiev, served as one of the co-sponsors. Neither the oligarch nor the hedge fund billionaire appeared among the targets of the country's superb investigative journalists whom the US State Department, its offshoots, and its allies were funding.
Many world leaders, particularly from Eastern Europe and the Baltic, had showed up with the Clintons "to pepper Ukraine's president and political elite with encouragement to cement the country's turn away from Moscow and towards Brussels."
"We, the USA, are for Ukraine's integration into Europe," said the former US secretary of State, applauding the country's Cabinet of Ministers for having just approved the EU Association Agreement. Yanukovych was scheduled to sign the agreement in Vilnius at the end of November.
In an inspired aside, Hillary spoke glowingly of the “excellent chocolates that Ukraine produces that can be exported to many countries of the world.” The Russians had recently banned Roshen brand chocolates to show what they could do if Ukraine completed its turn toward Europe. Roshen's billionaire owner is the former foreign and economics minister Petro Poroshenko, a fellow-speaker at the conference and now the leading candidate to win Ukraine's coming presidential election.
Hillary's husband Bill, who as US president had responded to the Soviet Union's collapse by moving to encircle Russia with "strategic containment," also sweetened his words. EU membership would pose no obstacle at all to coexisting with Russia, the big man declared. "Most people think that politics is a zero-sum game," he said. "Our goal is to make politics a game where everyone wins."
Well, not everyone.
Vladimir Putin's man on Ukraine – the economist Sergey Glazyev – also spoke at the conference, where he repeated earlier warnings. If Ukraine signed the EU agreement and removed its protective tariffs, higher quality EU goods would flood the country and make it difficult for local producers to compete. It would also force Russia – Ukraine's principle trading partner – to defend its own borders with higher tariffs and tighter controls. Ukraine's trade balance would grow worse, creating a default of 25 to 35 billion Euros, which would deplete the country's foreign exchange reserves within 6 months.
"Who will pay for Ukraine's default?" Glazyev asked. "Is Europe ready to take on this burden of financial responsibility?"
In sideline discussions with Western media, Glazyev went beyond economics. Social and political costs of EU integration could cause separatist movements to spring up in the Russian-speaking east and south Ukraine, which could cause Russia to consider void the bilateral treaty that delineates the borders between the two countries.
"Russia threatens to back Ukraine split," ran the headline in Rupert Murdoch’s Times of London on September 23. Signing the association agreement with Brussels "could lead to the break-up of the Ukrainian state," Glazyev told the paper. He compared it to Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, both of which split in the 1990s. Russia, he said, would be legally entitled to support the breakaway regions.
Legally, perhaps, just as the vast majority NATO and EU nations recognized Kosovo's secession from Serbia in 2008. Historically "the big brother" of the predominantly Eastern Orthodox Serbs, Russia still refuses to recognize Kosovo, but used the Western precedent to recognize the two breakaways from Georgia – Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Legal precedents cut in many different directions. The real issue is geostrategic. Fighting over territory along Russia's borders could all too easily lead to military confrontation between the world's top nuclear powers.
What Means Foreign Meddling?
Like the Clintons, many world leaders had their say at Victor Pinchuk's conference. Two of the quieter figures there would also play a major role. Geoffrey Pyatt, the US envoy to Kiev, had just taken up his first post as a full ambassador, and his priority was to keep the pressure on Yanukovych. One of his primary tools was Ukraine's former deputy prime minister Oleh Rybachuk, in effect a Western agent whom Pyatt and his team ran through the USAID-funded private contractor Pact Inc.
The building of Rybachuk's "New Citizen" and its many campaigns, which Part I describes, shows how Washington and its allies used diverse discontents to build an opposition movement. Progressives take note. Most of the campaigns the foreigners funded undoubtedly found an audience, whether for democracy and good governance or against censorship and corruption.
Openly pushing to integrate Ukraine with Europe was dicier, threatening to split even further an already divided country. In the western part, the people are predominantly Catholic, ethnically Ukrainian, and far more nationalistic, seeing themselves as Europeans in contrast to the "Asiatic" Russians. In the eastern part, the people are predominantly Eastern Orthodox, more ethnically Russian and pro-Russian, much less nationalistic, and they remember the past in a very different way. Many in the western part – though overwhelmingly not in the east – saw Europe as far more likely than Russia to guarantee democracy and human rights.
Attitudes in both parts of the country could quickly change, as we shall consider in future articles. Repressive measures to enforce austerity will weaken faith in the US and Europe, while Putin will almost certainly complicate the situation further, one way or the other. The question for now goes more to the heart of the matter. Should the US and its allies get so deeply involved in the internal affairs of a foreign country – especially "to do good?"
Across the political spectrum in Washington, soft-power intervention has enormous support, especially now that the State Department and its offshoots have taken over so much of it from the CIA. Former secretary of State Madelyn Albright chairs one of the National Endowment for Democracy's "core institutes," the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI). Her board members and senior advisors include everyone from former presidential candidates Howard Dean, Bill Bradley, and Michael Dukakis to one of the true heroes of the civil rights movement, Congressman John Lewis. NDI has offices and staff from Afghanistan to Silicon Valley.
Senator John McCain chairs the parallel International Republican Institute, with a board that stretches from his longtime advisor and a paid lobbyist for Georgia, neocon Randy Scheuneman, to foreign policy realist Brent Scowcroft, who served as National Security Adviser to President George H.W. Bush.
Controlled by the State Department rather than by either political party, both groups have operated for years in Ukraine, as have NED's two other core institutes. The Center for International Private Enterprise works closely with the US Chamber of Commerce and "strengthens democracy around the globe through private enterprise and market-oriented reform." The American Center for International Labor Solidarity, or "Solidarity Center," is formally part of the American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations and is chaired by AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka. Funding comes from NED, USAID, the State Department, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Labor, the AFL-CIO, private foundations, and national and international labor organizations.
Add these groups to NED itself, USAID with all its private contractors, allied NGOs and foundations, largely government-funded groups like Freedom House, and State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. What emerges is the non-military infrastructure of an American empire that no one but boastful neocons admits we have. In countries like Ukraine, they and their NGOs regularly meet with local officials, advising on what and what not to do. At home, they lobby endlessly for more imperial intervention, often military. And they feed the ideological notion that the US has some God-given right to intervene, "not only for our own narrow self-interest, but for the interest of all," as Obama told the UN General Assembly last year.
Obama speaks of "American exceptionalism," as did Ronald Reagan, with his "shining city on a hill." Madeline Albright sees America as "the indispensable nation," while Joseph Nye, the chief salesman of soft power, sees it as "Bound to Lead." All this sounds like cheerleading for the pursuit of economic interests, military advantage, and global hegemony, which in Ukraine it is. But never underestimate the destructive force of self-deluding idealism, as the British novelist Graham Greene dramatized in "The Quiet American." Writing in the early 1950s, he foresaw these feelings as a dangerous innocence that would lead directly to Washington's long and brutal war in Southeast Asia. "Innocence," said Greene, "is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm."
Following the errant leper from French Indochina to Eastern Europe, Stanford's Michael McFaul added a rhetorical flourish during the first Orange Revolution in 2004. "Did Americans meddle in the internal affairs of Ukraine?" he asked. "Yes. The American agents of influence would prefer different language to describe their activities – democratic assistance, democracy promotion, civil society support, etc. – but their work, however labeled, seeks to influence political change in Ukraine."
Professor McFaul, who would become Obama's ambassador to Russia, defied overwhelming evidence to find Washington innocent of any geostrategic agenda or covert coordination, whether by State or the CIA, and saw the meddling as a good thing. The twists and turns of the second Orange Revolution, Ukraine's loss of Crimea, increased tensions between Russia and the West, and the possibility of a military confrontation over eastern Ukraine, show just how wrong he was on each and every count.
The Law of Predictable Consequences
On November 21, Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovych pulled back from his agreement with Europe. The Western-funded journalist Mustafa Nayem, the Western-funded organizer Oleg Rybachuk, and the US-backed opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk all called their people to protest, and the pressure on Yanukovych moved to the Euromaidan. As much as Rybachuk had wanted a new Orange Revolution, the protest did not start out as an effort to overthrow Yanukovych. It was simply trying to turn him back to Europe. Nor would it be it a replay of 2004, especially with the high visibility of the ultra-nationalists, including many who call themselves fascists and proudly display Nazi symbols and confederate flags.
As a matter of history, Washington and its allies had long ago made their peace with Ukraine's fascist past. Declassified CIA and US Army documents give the grim details, while the essentials appear in a summary that the US National Archives published in 2010. Available online, the study is called "Hitler's Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, U.S. Intelligence, and the Cold War." Read it and weep.
The story revolves around the controversial figure of Stepan Bandera and his demand for an independent and ethnically homogenous homeland. Leader of the OUN-B, the more terrorist faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, Bandera drew on his country's long history of hating Jews. He blamed Jews for the horrors of Soviet Communism, especially Stalin's confiscation of grain production to feed urban workers in 1932-1933. This had caused widespread starvation in grain-producing areas throughout the USSR, killing millions of people, and not just in Ukraine.
"Jews in the USSR constitute the most faithful support of the ruling Bolshevik regimes and the vanguard of Muscovite imperialism in the Ukraine," Bandera's group proclaimed in April 1941. Yaroslav Stetsko, his closest deputy, made it even more explicit. “I … fully appreciate the undeniably harmful and hostile role of the Jews, who are helping Moscow to enslave Ukraine," he said. "I therefore support the destruction of the Jews and the expedience of bringing German methods of exterminating Jewry to Ukraine."
Thinking this way, Bandera and his followers – and many less ideological Ukrainians – collaborated with the Nazis and slaughtered Russians, Poles, other Eastern Europeans, and Jews, as well as Ukrainians who opposed fascism. Bandera also had problems with the Germans, who held him and Stetsko in Sachsenhausen concentration camp for backing an independent Ukrainian state in Galicia, which is now the heart of Western Ukraine. The Germans wanted Galicia for themselves.
After the war, Bandera worked for Britain's MI6 in Munich, running agents into Ukraine to gather intelligence and build opposition to Soviet rule. He also worked for German spymaster Reinhard Gehlen. Having penetrated Bandera's group, the Gehlen organization, and the very top of MI6 with Kim Philby and his Cambridge comrades, the Soviets easily rounded up most of the agents. Then, in October 1959, a KGB assassin – Bogdan Stashinskiy – killed Bandera with a gun that shot cyanide dust into his face.
The CIA had wisely steered clear of Bandera, who became increasingly anti-American. They worked instead through Bandera's wartime chief in Ukraine, Mykola Lebed, who had led the brutal extermination of Poles and Jews. Described by US Army counter-intelligence as "a well-known sadist and collaborator of the Germans," he had become Bandera's rival in the often murderous world of Ukrainian émigré politics. Lebed worked with the Americans through the entire Cold War, in operations that included parachute drops of trained agents, radio broadcasting, and publishing ultra-nationalist literature for distribution within Ukraine and among Ukrainian émigrés in Europe, Canada, and the United States.
The first Orange Revolution built on these ultra-nationalistic foundations, most dramatically through the Ukrainian-American wife of Victor Yushchenko, the man the West backed for president. As Director of the Ukrainian National Information Service and then a Reagan White House aide, Katherine Chumachenko, as she then was, defended the unrepentant die-hards, including Yaroslav Stetsko, president of the pro-Nazi Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations.
In 1991, as the Soviet Union was breaking up, the bright, charming, and well-connected Chumachenko created the US-Ukraine Foundation with funding from the NED and USAID. Moving to Kiev, she met Yushchenko, married him, and became Washington's tightest link to the Orange Revolution, which made her husband president. He proved hugely disappointing to his Western backers. But, as if in his wife's image, he set out to change how Ukrainians thought of themselves and their history, using nationalist ideologues to concoct and popularize a new set of historical myths. Mostly imported from the Ukrainian diaspora in which Chumachenko had lived and worked, the new narrative stressed the Soviet and Polish victimization of Ukraine, turned the USSR's Great Famine into a purposeful genocide of Ukrainians, and rehabilitated Bandera, Stetsko and their followers, making them heroes of "the Ukrainian liberation struggle."
As the Swedish historian Pers Anders Rudling explains, the revisionist narrative "denied the OUN's fascism, its collaboration with Nazi Germany, and its participation in atrocities, instead presenting the organization as composed of democrats and pluralists who had rescued Jews during the Holocaust." The new history managed at the same time to celebrate the bravery of the Ukrainians who fought in the Waffen-SS and to integrate the work of Holocaust deniers. It also absorbed basic white racism and used former KKK leader David Duke as an "expert" on "the Jewish Question." The nation's schools and universities taught this contradictory concoction, which Yushchenko capped by officially proclaiming Stepan Bandera a "hero of Ukraine."
In Bandera's Footsteps
On December 22, the Euromaidan protesters elected a governing council, which seemed to confirm the notion that the new uprising would not repeat the mistake of 2004 by backing a single political leader. This would be a movement of civil society, "a little bit like the Solidarity movement in Poland," as Yatsenyuk described it to Euronews. Yet, when the "Maidan People's Union" announced its new leadership, the big three were the leaders of the parliamentary opposition whom Geoffrey Pyatt and his team had long promoted. These were Arseniy Yatsenyuk of Yulia Timoshenko's Fatherland Party, the former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, who headed UDAR, and Oleg Tyahnybok, leader of the ultra-nationalist Svoboda ("Freedom") party, which claimed to follow in Bandera's footsteps. The chief beneficiary of Yushchenko's new history, Svoboda had won 37 seats in parliament and become a major player.
Seeking allies wherever he could find them, Pyatt had met in early September with Tyahnybok, who assured him that Svoboda fully supported Washington's policy. "Closer cooperation with Europe," the ultra-nationalists declared, "will help to overcome the current Colonial-Soviet mentality imposed on Ukraine by Moscow."
Washington remained committed to working with Svoboda, even after Yanukovych offered a deal to bring Yatsenyuk into a national unity government as prime minister, with Klitschko as his deputy. This was the subject of the famous bugged telephone call sometime on or after January 25th, in which Nuland thought it better for the European-backed Klitschko to stay out of the government. What Yats needs, she told Pyatt, "is Klitsch and Tyahnybok on the outside. He needs to be talking to them four times a week, you know."
Pyatt agreed, but saw a problem ahead. "We want to keep the moderate democrats together," he said, meaning Yatsenyuk and Klitsch. "The problem is going to be Tyahnybok and his guys, and I'm sure that's part of what Yanukovych is calculating on all this." Pyatt evidently feared that Yanukovych was trying to push Svoboda to break with the others and go to extremes, possibly in the streets, which could have strengthened Yanukovych's hand.
This brings us to Andriy Parubiy, whom the protesters had named to command their self-defense force. His role – and his political history – demonstrate what a pervasive hold Ukraine's fascist past continues to have on political life, especially in the western part of the country.
In 1991, when Parubiy and Tyahnybok were still at university in Lvov, they brought together student groups, patriotic associations, and ultra-nationalist activists into what would become the forerunner of Svoboda. They called it the Social-National Party, which Der Spiegel described as "an intentional reference to Adolph Hitler's National Socialist Party." The group took as its symbol a variant of the Wolfsangel, a double-hook worn by may SS units, and restricted membership to ethic Ukrainians, including skin heads and football hooligans. Parubiy headed the party's paramilitary wing, the Patriots of Ukraine, which helped create the even more militant Praviy Sektor, or Right Sector. Parubiy himself was shown on television personally beating Communist-led demonstrators.
Both Parubiy and Tyahnybok became followers of Victor Yushchenko, though Yushchenko's group in parliament expelled Tyahnybok for a speech at the gravesite one of Bandera's followers in which he attacked "the Moscow-Jewish mafia ruling Ukraine." Parubiy stayed with Yushchenko, for whom he worked in the Orange Revolution in 2004. "There is a certain tension between Yushchenko and the street," he told the Washington Post. "The street wants action, but it respects Yushchenko's desire to succeed through political channels." Parubiy's language also revealed his political orientation. "For 300 years we have been the playground of different states," he said. "We didn't feel ourselves Ukrainian, but millions of detached atoms. Now, we are becoming one large community."
Paruiby remained a fierce defender of Stepan Bandera, as repackaged by Ukrainian émigrés and Yushchenko's nationalist ideologues. "All people interested in history know that Stepan Bandera was in a German concentration camp during the Second World War, while his brothers were shot dead by the Nazis," he wrote to the European parliament in a letter defending Yushchenko's proclamation of Bandera as a Hero of Ukraine. "In addition, Ukrainians were the first to offer armed resistance to the German occupation in Transcarpathian Ukraine. The Nuremberg process didn't name the OUN-UPA as Nazis or collaborators."
True enough as far as Parubiy went, but he cherry-picked his facts and completely ignored most of what Bandera and his followers actually said and did.
By the time of the Euromaidan protests, Parubiy had become an MP for the Fatherland Party of Tymoshenko and Yatsenyuk. But he had no problem returning to the streets and commanding the paramilitary groups of his old comrades from Svoboda, the Right Sector and other ultra-nationalist groups. His were the street-fighters many people credit with actually driving Yanukovych out of office, which was not what Washington and its allies initially intended.
But questions remain, especially about the role of snipers. In an intercepted telephone call, Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet told the EU's Catherine Ashton that, while in Kiev, he had heard that snipers had used the same type of bullets on both protesters and police. This suggested that the snipers were provocateurs, possibly hired by the protesters. Paet's source was one of Ukraine's most admired people, the singer, songwriter and physician Olga Bogolomets, who helped organize emergency medical services for the protestors. She says that Paet misunderstood what she told him. She never saw the dead policemen or the bullets that killed them, she told Canada's Globe and Mail. "What I saw were people who were killed by snipers and on [protesters'] side."
Others suggest that at least some of the sniper fire came from buildings that Parubiy and his paramilitary groups controlled, a possibility that Ukraine's superb journalists need to investigate. But I doubt they will get much help from the Western backed-interim government, which has named Parubiy to head the National Security and Defense Council. In some ways even scarier, his deputy is Dmytro Yarosh, the head of the Right Sector paramilitary. As for Tyahnybok, Svoboda now has three ministers in the interim government – a fourth, the Defense Minister, has resigned – and the party has the continued support of US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt.
I am, he said last month, "positively impressed" by Svoboda's evolution in opposition and by its behavior in the Rada, Ukraine's parliament. "They have demonstrated their democratic bona fides."
A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, "Big Money and the Corporate State: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How to Nonviolently Break Their Hold."
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