Now that the situation in Ukraine has relatively stabilized, we can take stock. There are three main villains in this story. The first was deposed President Yanukovych, who committed treason against his own country by calling in the Russians.
The second was our intelligence community, who failed to warn either the Bush or Obama administrations about the possible threat that Russia posed over Ukraine. Putin told Bush in 2008 that Ukraine was not even a country, signaling his aggressive intentions. We were in a position to know that as far back as 2004. Putin had told Ukraine in no uncertain terms that denying Russia access to a naval base in Crimea would result in war. The job of a legislator or an intelligence expert is to evaluate potential trouble spots and make recommendations based on that. This crisis poses serious unanswered questions about why we failed to predict Russian aggression over Crimea. This warrants a diary of its own sometime.
The third, who we will talk about today, was Victoria Nuland, who incited the Ukrainian revolt against Yanukovych. In so doing, she ignored the lessons of history. Inciting people to revolt against a government, no matter how bad, will never work unless we are prepared to back them militarily. On at least three other occasions, we incited people to revolt against the Russians and then failed to back them up militarily. On all of those occasions, we forfeited good will from people who were willing to give us the benefit of the doubt.
Yet Washington's role in the Hungarian revolution soon became mired in controversy. One of the most successful weapons in the East-West battle for the hearts and minds of Eastern Europe was the CIA-administered Radio Free Europe. But in the wake of the uprising, RFE's broadcasts into Hungary sometimes took on a much more aggressive tone, encouraging the rebels to believe that Western support was imminent, and even giving tactical advice on how to fight the Soviets. The hopes that were raised, then dashed, by these broadcasts cast an even darker shadow over the Hungarian tragedy that leaves many Hungarians embittered to this day.The second such occasion occurred in 1991.
Once the Soviets made up their minds to eliminate the revolution, it took only a few days to complete the main military phase of the operation. By November 7 -- coincidentally, the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution -- Soviet forces were firmly enough in control of the country that Kádár could take the oath of office in the Parliament building (even though the Nagy government had never formally resigned). Pockets of resistance remained, but Kádár was able to begin the long process of "normalization" that featured suppressing dissent of any meaningful kind and otherwise coopting Hungarian society into going along with the new regime.
One month into the first Gulf War, in February 1991, President George H.W. Bush called on the Iraqi people to stage a coup. He asked them “to take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside.” Millions heard the call. If the United States, which was then bombing Iraq, was on their side, they felt sure they could depose Saddam.However, the US refused to help these rebels and Saddam repressed this rebellion with great brutality. He was able to cling to power for another decade, whereas he might have been deposed earlier if the US had just allowed events to take their course.
And in 2008, Neocon elements incited a war in Georgia. Robert Scheer notes that Georgian President Saakashvili would never have risked war with Russia had he not believed that the US would have their back if Russia were to follow through with their threats and intervene in a civil war between Georgia and South Ossetian separatists.
Before you dismiss that possibility, consider the role of one Randy Scheunemann, for four years a paid lobbyist for the Georgian government who ended his official lobbying connection only in March, months after he became Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s senior foreign policy adviser.And Victoria Nuland, oblivious to the lessons of history, continued this policy of plotting regime change in 2014.
Previously, Scheunemann was best known as one of the neoconservatives who engineered the war in Iraq when he was a director of the Project for a New American Century. It was Scheunemann who, after working on the McCain 2000 presidential campaign, headed the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which championed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
There are telltale signs that he played a similar role in the recent Georgia flare-up. How else to explain the folly of his close friend and former employer, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, in ordering an invasion of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, an invasion that clearly was expected to produce a Russian counterreaction? It is inconceivable that Saakashvili would have triggered this dangerous escalation without some assurance from influential Americans he trusted, like Scheunemann, that the United States would have his back. Scheunemann long guided McCain in these matters, even before he was officially running foreign policy for McCain’s presidential campaign.
In 2005, while registered as a paid lobbyist for Georgia, Scheunemann worked with McCain to draft a congressional resolution pushing for Georgia’s membership in NATO. A year later, while still on the Georgian payroll, Scheunemann accompanied McCain on a trip to that country, where they met with Saakashvili and supported his bellicose views toward Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
In the call, posted by an anonymous Russian source, Nuland and Pyatt discuss installing a new, pro-US government that will incorporate the fascistic opposition which has been leading street protests against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Even though Washington’s campaign for regime-change has been coordinated with the European Union (EU), and particularly with Berlin, in the phone conversation with Pyatt, Nuland attacks the EU for being insufficiently aggressive, saying at one point, “Fuck the EU.”
Psaki also addressed Nuland’s and Pyatt’s discussion of which forces Washington would allow to come to power in Kiev. In the telephone call, the two discuss plans to install an oligarchic regime working closely with fascist gangs. They agree that boxer Vitali Klitschko, who leads the German-backed UDAR party, should stay out of power and “do his political homework and stuff.”Robert Parry writes about the speech that Nuland gave to Ukrainian businessmen back in December.
They conclude that Arseniy Yatsenyuk of jailed billionaire oligarch Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland Party should rule, conferring regularly with Oleh Tyahnybok of the fascist Svoboda Party, whose members and neo-Nazi allies provide most of the thugs fighting riot police in Kiev.
Now, you have Assistant Secretary of State Nuland, the wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan, acting as a leading instigator in the Ukrainian unrest, explicitly seeking to pry the country out of the Russian orbit. Last December, she reminded Ukrainian business leaders that, to help Ukraine achieve “its European aspirations, we have invested more than $5 billion.” She said the U.S. goal was to take “Ukraine into the future that it deserves.”It had been a long-term policy goal of the US over the last 20 years to bring Ukraine into the orbit of the EU; they had spent $5 billion of your taxpayer dollars towards that goal. Nuland, in that speech, said that joining the EU was the only way out of the crisis for Ukraine. It turns out that there was an implied threat -- if Ukraine were to join Russia, then it would be toppled.
The fact of the matter is that while human rights is important, it is not our primary concern as a nation as far as the government should be concerned. The purpose of our foreign policy should be to maintain stability throughout the world. Only if there is an international consensus or if there is a clear and present danger to this country should force be used. While the White House and State Department should do what it can to promote human rights, it should not be done in a way that undermines stability. This is because any conflict can become World War III -- which the UN Charter was designed to avoid.
On the other hand, rank and file people can and should care about human rights and publicize human rights violations around the world. Only through publicity can human rights violators be named and shamed. World opinion can be a powerful tool in forging an international consensus and forcing action on human rights issues. But regime change, as a tool, should be off the table due to the gross violation of national sovereignty that it entails. There is a time and a place for revolutions -- our country was formed as a revolution against tyranny. But it must come from the people who live in the area affected by tyranny. To do otherwise undermines the sort of stability around the world that is necessary for world peace.