Yesterday I wrote a diary expressing my opinion about the conflict in Ukraine. My main point in that diary was to call attention to the fact that there were (and are) multiple factors that contributed to the crisis; that it is a very complicated situation; that there are several competing interests, inside Ukraine, in neighboring Russia, and the West, including the United States.
One key area I called attention to was the fact that I've notice what I consider to be some sort of talking points propagated by the U.S. media basically painting Putin as a deranged (crazy) authoritarian dictator out of touch with reality. And my point was that anybody who came to view the situation in those (simplistic) terms would be missing other very important aspects related to the circumstances that led to the current crisis.
I also pointed out that some fascist and neo-nazi elements were now part of the governing coalition (at ministerial levels) that has been supported by the West (including the United States). And I referenced an op-ed in The Guardian supporting that assertion.
After reading several articles and papers about the subject, both from mainstream media sources and from independent/alternative news sources I've come to the conclusion that the West's hands in this whole mess are not clean. I've concluded that there has been a shock doctrine-type destabilization campaign, and that in the mix of it all, there are some (neo-liberal) financial interests in play, and that's where the IMF is playing a role.
I'm also fully aware that Putin's Russia is violating all kinds of international laws by invading Crimea...
In the comment thread of the diary I wrote yesterday some folks were claiming that I was saying that everything bad that happens in the world is the U.S. fault. As I and many other commenters pointed out, nowhere in the diary do I even insinuate such an absurdity.
I think one of the key paragraphs I wrote in that diary is this one:
So you see, there is more to the story; it's more complicated, more nuanced than just saying that Putin is "crazy," which is a meme/talking point spreading throughout the mainstream media like wildfire. And the irony... It seems like Western intervention helped precipitate a coup d'etat in Ukraine, helping fascist and neo-nazi elements become part of the new government coalition (along with a new set of oligarchs).That is still my position, and given the multiple sources of information I've consulted, I stand by it.
However, for argument's sake, I'd like to examine one issue which I consider to be the elephant in the room when it comes to this conflict...
Is it the position of some that in this geopolitical drama/conflict Putin is the obvious bad (and crazy, out of touch with reality) guy, and the U.S. and the West are the (mostly) good guys who's only sin may have been supporting the efforts of anti-corruption, pro-democracy factions in Ukraine rising up against a corrupt Russian puppet?
Okay, so let's push that argument further and assume that those who hold that view may also believe that there were no nefarious intentions regarding the steps the U.S. and the West were taking to help the opposition and that the promise to help the new government with IMF loans was not a neo-liberal plot, but much-needed funding that would have helped them get back on their feet.
Let's assume, for argument's sake, that the U.S. and the West are mainly benevolent in their intentions and that the clear bad guy is Putin.
Now, here's the question: Even under the assumption that the U.S. and Western allies were on the up and up, just trying to be helpful, is it really that hard to believe that Russia would see these steps (including the talk about eventually bringing Ukraine into the NATO alliance) as a provocation, and that they may react in the way they did?
Maybe my thinking is way off the scales, but if you were to describe the situation to me (months ago) I would say, "Well, of course if the pro-Russian president of Ukraine is deposed and the new government moves to make the Russian language illegal, there is talk about IMF loans, and about possibly joining NATO, Putin is going to make a move."
I mean, I see that as common sense; something that at least should be seen as a high possibility. I'm not seeing it as right or wrong (in this context), but as realpolitik.
But let's put all that stuff aside for a second; let's put aside the debate about who is right or wrong about the U.S. and western allies intentions. The issue now is this: Now that Putin seems to be in the process of annexing Crimea (something I see at this point as fait accompli), what is the West prepared to do to confront that situation other than threatening economic sanctions?
And regarding economic sanctions, what happens if Putin ups the ante and counter-attacks by declaring all foreign dept null and void? What happens if Putin makes a further move on Ukraine proper?
And here's the key question: If Putin gets away with annexing Crimea and the West ends up backing down (after weeks of tough-talk but little action in the face of a potential world-wide economic crisis), would not those who may have been encouraged by the West to depose the pro-Russian government/president feel betrayed?
I'm fully aware that things are changing very fast and that this is indeed a very dangerous situation that could quickly get out of control. Nevertheless, if what ends up happening is that Russia annexes Crimea (which again, I think it's pretty much a done deal) and continues to exert influence in Ukraine (for the foreseeable future), and the U.S. and the West end up backing down (which I think is what's going to happen), would not that be a huge black eye for the West?
You see, I'm not interested on demonizing or lionizing anybody. I'm just trying to look at the world as it really is when it comes to these international conflicts and geopolitical dynamics.
And that's why I can't bring myself to embrace what I believe is an infantile position by saying that Putin is crazy, and a bad person, and that the West is playing the good guy in this situation. I don't fall for the bogeymen worldview.
Bottom line: If the State Department was advising president Obama about how smooth things would go after Yanukovych fled to Russia, they utterly failed him.