The situation in the Ukraine has me puzzled. The violence and protests leading up to the deposing of the Ukrainian president were not given much coverage in the media that I follow/ or I just plain missed it. Whatever the case may be, I’m getting a couple of nearly diametrically opposed narratives of what is going on in the Ukraine and for my edification and yours we’ll go through them together.
For clarity, and the fact I like using coloured text, the article for Al Jazeera will be in green, and the articles from Counterpunch in the usual brown. Starting with Al Jazeera and the article by Mykola Riabchuk penned as “Ukraine: Russian Propaganda and Three Disaster Scenarios.
Riabchuk’s article has a surface pro-Ukraine slant but I think we can safely say that the slant is also of a pro-Western nature. (I intend to bold parts that are extra interesting/to be used in cross analysis)
“As the Ukrainian presidential election scheduled on May 25 gets closer, Kremlin’s window of opportunity for invading the country and derailing its European course is gradually narrowing. The rhetoric of Russian President Vladimir Putin justifying the Anschluss of Crimea and unscrupulous meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs has been based on the premises that there is no legitimate government in Kiev, that it is being run by a gang of Nazis and anti-Semites who took power by coup d’etat and terrorised Russians and Russophones all over the country.”
So his this is his view of the pro-Russian narrative. On the other side we have Andre Vltchek with two article featured in Counterpunch: Ukraine, a Fascist Coup (UFC) and Ukraine: Lies and Realities (ULR).
[UFC] “Ukraine is burning, it is going to the dogs; it has been taken over by an illegitimate government engorged with fascists, neo-Nazis and simple pro-Western opportunists, as well as countless EU and US-sponsored members of various NGO’s.
The West has destabilized an entire nation, supporting right-wingers and fascists. Then it began spreading anti-Russian propaganda, even before Crimea had voted to join its historic homeland.
Everything was well planned, with Machiavellian precision. The EU was hoping to get its hands on the abundant natural resources, heavy industry and a well-educated and cheap labor force. In exchange, it was willing to give… nothing. No sane government would be willing to accept such a deal. Therefore, the only way to push through its agenda, the West began supporting violence and terror, as well as the fascist, neo-Nazi groups. A similar approach is being used by the US and EU in Venezuela, Syria and even Thailand.”
We can see here that the two narratives are aware of each others existence and are actively engaged in a contest to be the leading source of truth about what is happening in Ukraine. Riabchuk bluntly asserts with this next paragraph, citing three sources that the Vltchek’s position is false. I’m skeptical of the evidence offered as opinion polls, a newspaper article and a blurb from Transitions Online hardly seems like damning evidence.
“Such a claim, however calumnious and fully disproved on the ground by independent observers, opinion polls and the minorities themselves, can be sold nonetheless to some audiences, at least Russian, willing for various reasons to be fooled.”
Onward to Riabchuk’s Three Scenarios:
“Currently there are three possible scenarios that endanger Ukraine’s sovereignty. First, attempts to appease the separatist may result in a complete collapse of the Ukrainian authority over the eastern regions and the emergence of a puppet pro-Russian state similar to Moldovan Transnistria. It will likewise exist in legal limbo without international recognition.
Second, the eastern region may decide to proclaim itself the “true Ukraine” and, with Russian backing, launch an offensive against the central government in Kiev to re-establish Viktor Yanukovych’s “legitimate” presidency. The scenario is barely new since it was fully employed in 1918 when the Bolsheviks created a puppet “Ukrainian” government in Kharkiv to overthrow the democratic government of the Ukrainian National Republic (1918-1920) in Kiev. The main advantage of the scenario is to disguise a Russian-Ukrainian war as a Ukrainian-Ukrainian war.
The third option the Ukrainian government faces today is to submit to Russian pressure and bullying and accept a broad range of Kremlin-designed constitutional and administrative changes. These would transform Ukraine into a loose confederation of weak states highly vulnerable to Russian subversion, manipulation and sabotage.”
We lose the neat 1 to 1 congruence as the articles diverge in scope, but we can still compare and contrast the outcomes predicted:
[ULR]“Ironically, there is no ‘self-grown dispute’ between two nations. The seeds of mistrust, and possible tragedy, are sown by the outsiders, and nurtured by their malignant propaganda.
As Sergei Kirichuk, leader of progressive movement ‘Borotba’, explained:
“We have extensive invasion of western imperialism here. Imperialists were acting through huge network of NGOs and through the western-oriented politicians integrated into western establishment. Western diplomats declared that they invested more that 5 billions of dollars to ‘development of democracy in Ukraine’. What kind of investment is it? How was this amount spent? We don’t really know, but we can see the wide net of the US agents operating inside many key organizations and movements.
We can see that those ‘western democracies’ had not been concerned at all about growing of the far-right, Nazi movements. They had been ready to use the Nazis as a real armed force in overthrowing of Yanucovich.
President Yanucovich was actually totally pro-western politician, to start with. And his ‘guilt’ consisted only of his attempt to minimize the devastating aftermath that would come after implementation of the free trade zone with EU, on which the West was insisting.”
Western powers using whatever means necessary to promote ‘stability’ in the region. Shades of Iran, Nicuraugwa and Chile anyone? This shouldn’t be news to anyone. Of course this view is not shared by Riabchuk, as he sees the Russian narrative in terms of massive state propaganda leading to this.
“The Russian elite, infected by its own propaganda, becomes increasingly paranoid and determined to fight the invented “fascists” in neighbouring countries as if they are real. This means that whatever Ukraine does or says in this regard, it matters little. The real choice is either to share the fate of the 1956 Hungary and 1968 Czechoslovakia invasions by the Red army or to follow the example of the 1920 Poland and 1940 Finland (when the Russians were contained).
Ukrainians should learn to live for years, perhaps for decades, not only under persistent political and economic pressure but also under blatant propagandistic war, prone at any moment to turn into quite a real military invasion. If it does not happen by May 25, it may well happen eventually, albeit under some different pretexts and slightly modified rhetorical wrapping. No government in Kiev will be recognised by Kremlin as legitimate until and unless it is the Kremlin’s government.”
Contrast with the outcome from Vltcheck’s first article:
[UFC]“There is also one photo of Arseniy Yatsenyuk – the current acting PM of Ukraine – who recently met with President Obama in Washington, and negotiated the possibility of obtaining loans while agreeing to implement brutal anti-social, neoliberal reforms that will affect millions of Ukrainian citizens. This was the very price of the victory of the rightwing and neoliberal politicians that organized and controlled the Euro-Maidan movement.”
And from the second article:
[ULR]“Old women, Communist leaders, and my friend Sergei Kirichuk, as well as people from international solidarity organizations, made fiery speeches. Apparently, the government in Kiev had already begun to cut the few social benefits that were left, including free medical assistance. Several hospitals were poised to close down, soon.
People were ready to fight; to defend themselves against those hated neo-liberal policies, for which (or against which) none of them had been allowed to vote for.
“In Crimea, people voted, overwhelmingly, to return to Russia”, explained a young man, a student, Alexei. “But the West calls it unconstitutional and undemocratic. In Ukraine itself, the democratically elected government has been overthrown and policies that nobody really wants are being pushed down our throats. And… this is called democracy!”
Still with me intrepid readers? I certainly hope so because the dynamics of the Ukraine situation are most intriguing. Are we witnessing a Russian coup, or an American one? Is this a triumph for self-determination or a end run to escape the grip of toxic neo-liberal policies. My readership is wide and diverse and I entreat you to share your knowledge and opinion about this muddled situation with me so we can all better understand exactly what the heck is going on over there.
Ohhh, bonus content! Watch Bill Maher not talk about anything important for 6 minutes. Fascinating(!) where his and his panel’s assumptions lay.