8 March 2014

Soviet leader Josef Stalin used to shrug off critics by his favorite Central Asian saying: “The dogs bark; the caravan moves on.”

Russia’s hard-eyed president, Vladimir Putin, is following the same strategy over Ukraine and Crimea.
Putin swiftly moved his knight into the empty chess square of Crimea, thereby regaining full control of one of Russia’s four strategic port regions: Sevastopol, Murmansk, St Petersburg and Vladivostok.

Sevastopol, now firmly in Moscow’s hands, is Russia’s sole gateway to the Black Sea, Mediterranean, and Mideast. The vast, co-shared Russian-Ukrainian Sevastopol naval base was a shaky, awkward arrangement doomed to eventual failure.

Semi-autonomous Crimea, over 60% ethnic Russian, will hold a referendum on 16 March to decide to remain in Ukraine or rejoin Russia. A referendum is clearly the answer to the whole Ukraine-Russia problem.

Ukraine has been a corruption-ridden failed state since it separated from Russia in 1991. This writer has long suggested that partition of Ukraine into Western and Russian-oriented halves is the sensible solution, with Crimea returning to Russia.

Putin asks if Western-backed Kosovo can go independent of Serbia, why can’t Crimea break its links with Kiev?

The temporary attachment of majority ethnic Russian Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 after 250 years of Russian rule was unnatural, a ticking time bomb. It has now exploded, triggered in part by the West’s successful effort to overthrow the elected but corrupt government in Kiev of Viktor Yanukovich.

Overturning regimes deemed uncooperative or hostile has long been a CIA specialty. Its first big success came in 1953 with the subversion of Iran’s democratic-nationalist leader, Mohammed Mossadegh by a combination of propaganda, rented crowds, and bribes. We saw this same technique used – enhanced by modern social media – in Ukraine’s first Orange Revolution, Georgia, again in Iran(unsuccessfully), and, with the help of US and British special forces, in Libya and Syria. Egypt came next, where a US-backed tinpot military dictator, the self-appointed “Field Marshall al-Sisi” claims he is answering the people’s call.” Not a peep from Washington. Or about the crushing of opposition by Bahrain’s US-backed monarchy.

Russia, which used to be adept at subversion, has lagged in recent years but it still knows the signs. The Kremlin is convinced that Ukraine’s latest revolution was engineered by Washington. The US Undersecretary of State for Europe admitted Washington has spent $5 billion over recent years in Ukraine to bring it into the West’s orbit – aka “building democracy.”

Two points to note. Did Washington think that tough Vlad Putin would just take its coup lying down?

Second, it’s amazing how determined Washington’s cold warriors remain to tear down Russia. The bankrupt US, $17 trillion in debt, running on money borrowed from China, with bridges collapsing and 44 million citizens on food stamps, suddenly finds the money to offer bankrupt Ukraine a new $1 billion loan – just to compete with Moscow. A loan unlikely to be repaid.

America has a bad habit of personalizing foreign affairs and demonizing uncooperative leaders. Remember when Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser was denounced as “Hitler on the Nile?” “Khadaffi, Mad Dog of the Mideast?” Most Americans have little knowledge of geography, history or world affairs so the easiest way to market overseas adventures to them is by creating foreign bogeymen like Khadaffi and Saddam.

Vladimir Putin is the latest. He is being hysterically demonized by the US and British media. Vlad the Bad.

Disturbingly, US Republicans and the usual media propagandists are heaping blame on President Barack Obama for “losing Crimea,” as if any of them knows where it was before last week. John McCain and his sidekick Sen. Lindsey Graham have been demanding that Obama “get tough.”

Sure. Let’s mine Russia’s ports or blockade its oil and gas exports. Nothing like a nuclear war to show how weak the Democrats are. Thank god McCain did not win the presidency. The dolts at Fox TV can’t tell the difference between caution and cowardice.

President Putin’s ambition is to slowly reassemble some parts of the old USSR, Ukraine being the most important. Doing so is in Russia’s national interest, much as we may not like it. Nearly all Russians believe Putin is on the right track. By contrast, Washington wants to keep Russia weak and treat it as an obsequious, defeated nation, like postwar Germany or Japan.

The US won’t accept that Russia has any legitimate spheres of influence, while Washington’s span the globe. Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry, who used to be a sensible fellow before becoming corrupted by power, blasted Russia: “you just don’t invade a country under a phony pretext!”

I guess Kerry has never heard of the US invasions of the Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Libya. Or can’t remember Vietnam and the Gulf of Tonkin “incident.”

Kerry should cut the hypocrisy and get to work on a diplomatic settlement. Two major nuclear-armed powers cannot – must not – be allowed to confront one another.

Ukraine could turn out to be the 1914 Bosnia-Herzegovina of our era if we don’t stop primitive breast-beating over a region no one could even find on a map until recently.

copyright Eric S. Margolis 2014

This post is in: Crimea, Russia, Ukraine, USA


  1. In my surfing the last few days, I came across some very interesting links, that explain this latest mess better than I could ever hope to do. Her are a couple just to wet your whistle:
    a broad outline of the situation and:
    in which Pepe Escobar gives his opinion in a very straightforward way.
    The US forfeited its right to criticize anybody with its illegal war in Iraq and questionable invasion of Afghanistan, which until then was not in the orbit of the international bankers, just like Libya before it got attacked or Sudan. Now out of the seven, who did not fly in that orbit in 2001, there are only three left;Iran, Cuba and north Korea. Do you see, what is at play here, or am I imagining things, because I don`t subscribe to the official 9/11 story either and have that kind of tendency?
    I remember the thirties and forties of the last century and am beginning to feel a sort of déjà vu.

  2. silentwhisper says:

    Just as much as the Moroccons have a say in annexing part of Spain or the Afghani annexing part of Iran. Let me see, we can go on with this.

    is America corrupt? Yes. But the bigger questions is whether Russia is a more corrupt state both economically and morally.

    I’m not champion of the Western democracy ideals or for the social-capital system we’ve come to love in the West. Nevertheless, I’m fully aware that Putin is nothing but a tyrant. I must say, a weak one as well.

  3. I tire of the hypocrisy on both sides. USA should not be criticizing other countries for invading sovereign nations under phony pretexts. Likewise Putin shouldn’t be invading Crimea by claiming it is the right of it’s citizens to determine which nation they wish to be part of. Will he allow Chechens and Ossetians that right in regions where they out number Russian citizens? And what of Siberia where Russian ethnic numbers are diminishing compared to other ethnic groups? Of course he wont.
    The only thing the leaders care about is control of the strategic port of Sevastopol

  4. I think Putin has handled the situation rather well. He cannot let this portion of the Ukraine fall into NATO hands, via EU. The Americans were likely wetting their lips just to get a line of missile defense in the area…

    Not a shot has been fired… except in the air and to chase off those pesky monitors…

  5. Once again a clear eyed and clear headed geopolitical assessment of a current news worthy conflict by Eric. It stands in stark contrast with the corporate media spin put out by the much read and viewed propaganda outlets. It’s very sad that most people don’t realise their minds are being poisoned by falsehoods and lies of omission when they expose themselves to the standard media outlets. This applies to the CBC and BBC, which actually have an undeserved reputation for balanced and accurate reporting, as well. It’s best to rely on alternative media resources, found on the internet, for honest reporting and interpretation. Here’s wishing Eric’s Blog will gather a larger following.

  6. RT blasted by the media sheep in America asked a valid and reasonable question today. Why did the EU tell Ukraine “It’s us or them.”? Putin offered that both sides should help Ukraine.
    What American war mongers fail to realise is that is America and Russia go to war, Russia will take it home to America. Imagine what Americans would do if Russia knocked out the GPS system that half of Americas weapons rely on, and many Americans can’t go to the store without.

    By the way Eric. Are the reports true that some of the new Ukrainian governments members are Nazis? No western media will even raise the question.

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