“Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.”
Oscar Wilde, from “The Picture of Dorian Gray”
And so begins the liberal application of whitewash to one of the most disgraceful episodes in Ukraine’s history. From shouting know-nothing students high on protest being made to look like a massive multitude of savvy political hipsters to the deliberate and calculated interjection of violence when Yanukovych crumbled and gave the opposition everything it had asked for – because everything was still not enough – to the premeditated and grisly murder of peaceful protesters in the Odessa Trade Union Building to the pummeling of eastern-Ukrainian towns in a punitive operation because the townspeople dared to speak up for themselves, to strafing attacks on helpless civilians that left dead innocents sprawled in the careless choreography of broken limbs and smashed bodies.
Common sense is indeed coming, creeping on unobtrusive pads and hoping to restore normality with a dash of amnesia. The sad and simple fact of the matter is that Ukraine’s leadership committed war crimes, knowingly and deliberately, and was encouraged to commit them and to go on committing them by the governments of the United States and Canada and the European Union, who provided them with cover, rationalized away their actions as simple acts of law enforcement to which any government is entitled, and pretended that Ukraine’s leadership had a perfect right to behave as it did.
Now all the actors are realizing that there can be no solutions to Ukraine’s terrible troubles without involving Russia. Something quite a few people tried to tell them at the outset, when taking good advice would have cost nothing. There is a name for people who must learn everything the hard way, but I am too tired to say it again.
The ghoulish Roman orgy of destruction and slaughter rationalized as Kiev’s “anti-terrorist operation” is drawing to a close, of pure necessity, without having achieved any of its goals. Collateral damage numbers in the hundreds of lives lost and the millions upon millions in property damage to eastern Ukrainian cities who had the temerity to speak up for themselves and say that their concerns and hopes were not fairly represented by their government, and that they no longer wished to labour under its governance. Most of them never wanted separation, or to be a part of Russia, but to live in a Ukraine that respected them and their opinions. A federalized union of regions, as Russia originally proposed, would have suited them very well. But the coup government was proud, and pride and bad decisions go together like nerds and hornrim glasses.
Something the coup government – and its successor, Poroshenko, himself an avid cheerleader for the “anti-terrorist operation” – never got around to explaining was who was being terrorized by the terrorists, considering they never left their cities. Instead, they prepared themselves for the coming of the reaper, while the smug fucks in Lviv cheered the armoured columns on. Not for them to be shot while standing on their own balcony, to gasp out their last breath in a bullet-riddled car opened up like a sardine can by eager, gawky draftees backed by latter-day Nazis under the Right Sektor banner. Not for them to die with the smell of their own burning hair in their nostrils, like the terrified protesters in the basement of Odessa’s Trade Union Building, a horror so great that the west can still not bring itself to admit the real death toll. No, life went on pretty much as it always had for Kiev and the west of Ukraine, but for the thrill of patriotism in their breasts born from the knowledge that the new government, which served their interests to the exclusion of others, was on the job. Geroyim slava.
The talk now has a distinctly “Aw shucks: hope there ain’t no hard feelins” feel to it. Ukraine sees understanding with Moscow, we hear, on parts of a peace plan proposed by Petro Poroshenko, if you can read that without laughing so hard that you spill coffee all over yourself. Yes, Peaceful PoroChocco the “Great Pragmatist”, who as recently as May 30th vowed to punish “rebels” who were responsible for shooting down a military helicopter which was part of the anti-terrorist operation come to kill as many of them as it could. “These criminal acts by the enemies of the Ukrainian people will not go unpunished”, he elaborated for his many western fans, who were probably reminded of Ayad Allawi, the U.S. appointed temporary Prime Minister of Iraq. “No talks with terrorists“, vowed Ukraine’s “burly” new leader (that’s a new word for “corpulent from a lifetime of ease and rich food”, in case you didn’t recognize it), who supposedly compelled the “overwhelming rallying” of his people behind him and who confidently promised to roll up the terrorists “in a matter of hours” with his “robust campaign”.
Take note, those keeping score – wild-ass prediction number one, which obviously came to nothing. Now some would have us believe that PoroChocco is “putting out the olive branch of peace“. Listen: is that the flutter of doves I hear?
What that is is a steaming heap of bullshit. While the west is scuffing the dirt with its toe and pretending like it was all just a bad dream – “We have a responsibility to stand with our partners in a difficult time,” Mr. Dudley of BP told an audience at the St. Petersburg forum – PoroChocco is talking tough to Time Magazine and conveying the message that the only reason he’s willing to sit at the table with Russia and do deals is because no western country is prepared to guarantee Ukraine’s security. There’s a dual message there, both implicit: one, the west tried to crush Russia and failed. Two, PoroChocco’s vaunted “pragmatism” might extend to putting Ukraine back in Russia’s orbit if the west doesn’t step up.
The purpose of that New York Times piece is not to show how brave these companies are for doing the duck-and-weave around government-imposed sanctions, but to signal to Russia that American business wants to mend the rift and go back to making money. But it cannot be business as usual again. It can’t. Because the west cannot be trusted. Economic war is the new policy tool of the 21st century, and western governments are keen to employ it. Russia must never be vulnerable to the west attempting to pull the rug out from under it again. If western companies want to do business in Russia – and they plainly do – it should be under conditions such as those now imposed on Visa and Mastercard: they have to post a large bond in advance with a non-western bank, which would be liable to confiscation if the company defaulted on its agreements for the purpose of obeying its government’s call for punitive sanctions. Because make no mistake: the sole reason for this fence-mending exercise is because the effort to tip over the Russian economy was a failure. Granted, it wasn’t much of an effort, and although it cost a little money, the Russian economy has weathered much worse storms and could again. However, if it had been a success, and the economy had collapsed and Russia had asked for terms – those companies now gobbling about their responsibility to their partners in difficult times would walk over the heads of their partners’ children to take over ownership. And Russians would be labourers in their own land for foreign owners. This episode has been a valuable lesson; it can’t be business as usual.
To say nothing of the war crimes committed by Ukraine’s government, eagerly aided and abetted by the west even as their media gave it cover by minimizing what it was doing and pooh-poohing those who suggested Kiev was carrying out a punitive pogrom against the eastern towns, some of which have been flattened to rubble and others in which not a building is left standing undamaged. Indiscriminate attack, which makes use of weapons that are unguided and whose effects cannot be controlled, and “treats an area with similar concentrations of military and civilian objectives as a single military objective.” Denial of Humanitarian Assistance, in the cutting off of water, food and electricity supplies. Persecution of an identifiable group on religious, political or racial grounds, forcible transfer of population, murder and imprisonment. The use of mercenaries as a means of impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination. All supported by an abundance of evidence, if anyone cared to document it.
Kiev will try to squirm out from under any charges – if in fact any are ever laid – by claiming these apply only in the law of armed conflict, which is not operative in the case of a law enforcement action by a government against its own people. Ask yourself if that would be the consensus opinion if it had been Russia or Iran doing it. The EU would have turned itself inside-out running for the ECHR, while North America would have tutted and quacked about democratic values and freedom until the judgment trump.
Kiev must not be allowed to get away with it. And the west, which so eagerly backed first the coup government and then the election of one of Ukraine’s biggest oligarchs to the presidency – one who helped to draft, as a businessman, the very EU Association Agreement he is eager to sign as President – must be restricted in its joint business dealings with Russia to the point that the west cannot menace Russia with the sanctions weapon because it would hurt western business too badly. Then the west – and most especially the USA – will have to turn once again to negotiation, dialogue and international regulatory bodies to throw its weight around.
It’s not over yet. But you can see over from here.