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Cold War Heating Up

Ukraine and the IMF

by NORMAN POLLACK

I welcome Russian intervention in Crimea. No, I’m not a Stalinist wannabe, nor, to paraphrase the current put-down of critics of Israel, a self-hating American; rather, fair is fair in international politics, and invoking a double standard only contributes to the wrongful party’s growing aggressiveness, in this case, the US, and its speaking for the Western Community, together a matrix for global privatization under IMF tutelage, supported largely through military means. Yanukovych was no bargain, but he was democratically elected—and to deny that his being tossed out through the use or threat of force was a coup illustrates the double standard.

To deny America’s consistent record of shaping the sociopolitical, economic, and ideological forces of counterrevolution, even now, beyond Ukraine, encompassing Latin America (especially Venezuela) and the Far East (Obama’s transparent effort through both his Pacific-first strategy and Trans-Pacific Partnership, to encircle, isolate, and maneuver, via the “pivot” of military assets, the confrontation with, China) further exemplifies the double standard. Targeted assassination is merely the cherry on top of the sundae of America’s war-provoking hypocrisy. Off-topic? Hardly, for this directly illuminates the situation in Ukraine and particularly Russian military action in Crimea.

Demonize Putin to the heavens (oops, wrong direction) as a master stroke of obfuscation, nicely fitted into the national malaise of denial, so that the National Security State can proceed with impunity in its organization of the mental life of Americans—instilling fear, stimulating xenophobia and ethnocentrism, accustoming us as a people to the doctrine of permanent war—inseparable from the financialization and militarization of American capitalism in a political milieu of deregulation and economic milieu of monopolization. Fortress America looks abroad, its CIA-JSOC paramilitary operations primarily geared to regime change out of the limelight, its reliable international-financial-partner, the IMF operationally the same, where all can see.

“Respectable” intervention is part of the normalization of continued American market-penetration/control and regional stabilization of secure natural-resources holdings and supply. Kiev floating the flag of Privatization would suit Washington fine—indeed, the opening for chaos now provided, it could settle for nothing less (its hand in fomenting the chaos not to be gainsaid). IMF-itis seems to be a compulsive malady of these hegemonic takeovers at one or two removes.

And when not completely successful they invite forceful rhetoric from POTUS, as in paying the price for interference in US-EU-IMF plans and programs. From where I stand, Putin is understandably angry—at the coup, the potential destabilization of Eastern and Central Europe, the possibility of missiles placed immediately on Russia’s doorstep, the obvious encirclement already seen in US policy toward China.

When I refer to the “militarization of capitalism,” I mean not only enormous Pentagon spending (“military Keynesianism”) as America’s prime stimulus to prevent depression, but military-backed capitalist expansion, specifically, capitalism of the right sort, directed to formerly-socialist areas in need of enlightenment as well as Third World areas undergoing modernization. Hence austerity, trade partnerships, favorable business climate for trade, investment, manufacturing, in sum, the whole kit and caboodle of what has become a process of essentially American-defined globalization.

Poor Ukraine, a throwback to European fascism circa 1950 for significant population segments in its western portion, strains of tense nationalistic feeling as its natural accompaniment, along with the more variegated eastern side, both in language and ethnicity, meaning that any political-structural disruption is bound to encourage division and breakup, a risk the protesters in Kiev and the Western Community as their enablers were willing to take.

Putin’s response is just that; absent the coup, neither maneuvers on the border nor occupation of Crimea would have followed. Yanukovych’s treaty with the EU days before should have settled matters, but the US-EU-IMF got greedy and had the supporters on the ground for dismantling the state and its constitution. We blame Putin for own illegal actions, only the most recent case of regime change.

March 30 is the Crimean referendum on separation. At this point, Kiev wants its cake and eat it, having little love for Crimea’s East and aware the feeling is fully reciprocated, and aware, further, the Crimean East cannot be accommodated into the EU paradigm (including IMF provisions), yet prizing unification as economic bait for inviting international capital to exploit an integrated territory following IMF ground-rules. The temptation to keep Crimea is great, as testimony to the authority and sovereignty of the Kiev government. Yet,

I’m rooting for Putin, Russia, and Crimea, free from any illusions of their impeccable record of democracy and freedom, because arrayed on the other side are world historical forces under US leadership which articulate the policies of repression, waste, intervention, widening class differences, and hegemonic-oriented global military engagement, all more menacing both to domestic society and the global order. Obama’s braggadocio will hopefully prove unavailing, and further belligerence on his part may direct the world’s attention to his recreational past time of poring over hit lists and personally ordering drone assassinations. Not a comforting thought to have him call the shots, a moral void at the helm of the ship of state.

My New York Times Comments on the NYT editorial, “What is Russia’s Aim in Ukraine?” (Mar. 1), and Alison Smale and Steven Erlanger, “Russian Military Seizes Crimea,” (Mar. 2), follow:

I
The Times’s partiality is obvious, as in the phrase “outrageously provocative” to describe war games near the border, when, in fact, a democratically elected president was deposed in a coup–somewhat truer to the words than the Russian action.

Nor is there a word on US intervention in support of, or making possible, the coup. Like Obama’s targeted assassination, NYT overlooks war crimes and gives Obama a free pass–but let Russia or China or Venezuela step over the line and bango (!) to the barricades. I’d value an honest investigation into whether or not fascists are playing a meaningful role in Ukraine. I’d also like editorial comment on Yanukovych’s negotiated treaty with the EU, shortly before he was forced to flee. He may be corrupt, even a downright scoundrel, but the takeover was unjust and it is doubtful the US has clean hands.

NYT, the possibility of cataclysmic war, because of Obama belligerence and chauvinism (as in the Pacific-first geostrategic mobilization against China), cannot be gainsaid. Closer attention to Washington, in its war-provocative record (after all, Iraq and Afghanistan are not imaginary), is a solemn obligation of a free pass–even if emotionally you are rooting for the supposedly good guys. Either that, or drop the pretense of neutrality and admit your desire for the renewal of the Cold War, even heated up. Obama’s massive surveillance and destruction of civil liberties far exceeds any acts committed by Putin.

II
I agree with Ryzhkov when he warns, “in case they unleash the dogs on us.” Crimea should be welcomed as fleshing out the West’s continuous intervention on behalf of IMF austerity measures. What is Iraq, what is Afghanistan, but blatant US global hegemonic moves that, if comparable moves had been pursued by Russia or China instead, we would have seen, not shouting matches but dangerous armed hostilities.

The arrogance of the West, particularly that of Obama and the US, is unsettling, a hand-on-the-trigger mentality all for what? Austerity for the losers, privatization for all–as meanwhile the perfect climate is created in America for half-trillion dollar “defense” expenditures and a massive surveillance program that reduces traditional civil liberties to zero. Our self-righteousness–and this is why Crimea is welcome–becomes advertised to the world. The Ukrainian coup is, in your report, deftly termed an “ouster,” and Obama’s warnings about violations of international law ring hollow when he personally authorizes targeted assassinations. Is Putin any more a war criminal than Obama?

I should like to see Crimea secede from Ukraine. But more, I should like to see Ukraine fall under IMF terms and influence, and let the IMF, the West, the US bail it out financially. Since 1980, who has been a better world citizen, the US or Russia? Compare the # of world military bases. Compare the # of efforts at regime change. Compare CIA and KGB. Self-righteousness on the march.

Norman Pollack has written on Populism. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.