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Ukraine: a Fine Mess


Two days after acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov announced that the situation in east Ukraine was out of control and that its military force was  ‘helpless’ and even exhibiting “criminal behavior” in the face of citizen resistance and then followed-up with reinstatement of the draft of 18 – 25 year old men in order to fight their friends and neighbors, the Ukrainian Army accompanied by National Guard neo-Nazi members attacked Odessa and other cities in east Ukraine.

It’s not like the Kiev government hadn’t already sent enough troops and tanks to intimidate even the most recalcitrant citizens but many of those citizens are heirs to a proud history of standing their ground against the Nazis in the 1940’s and breaking the back of the Wehrmacht Republic to help win the war for the allies – something that their European neighbors and the US appear to have forgotten.   And after the attacks, a video appeared of vocally angry unarmed citizens in the streets of Kramatorsk chasing off the tanks as if to demonstrate that Ukrainians are still made of strong stuff.

At about the same time on the same day of the horrific arson attack in Odessa, President Obama was hosting German Premier Angela Merkel for a press conference in the White House Rose Garden.   And with the arrogance of a smug and righteous virtue, supporting the Kiev government’s armed incursion as a “move to restore order” and stating that “The Ukrainian government has the right and responsibility to uphold law and order within its territory”, the President shockingly referred to the Kiev government as ‘duly elected.”   Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.   How could the President have made such a mistake, more than slip of the tongue unless, of course, he has slipped into the reality distortion club as a full time member – believing everything he says is so because he says, it makes it true.

From viewing the video of the press conference and reading the transcript, it appears that the President, always a disturbing novice at foreign affairs among other shortcomings, has no long game when it comes to the mess his administration has stirred in Ukraine and with Russia in particular – and I can’t help but be reminded of my grandfather’s favorite Laurel and Hardy comment: “ This is a fine mess you’ve gotten us into now.”

In applauding Merkel for being a ‘strong partner’ and that “we’re united in our unwavering Article 5 commitment to the security of our NATO allies” set off red flags that sent me scurrying to confirm that Article 5 reads:

“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them …shall be considered an attack against them all and if such an armed attack occurs, each of them… will assist the Party so attacked by taking… such actions as deemed necessary.”

Sounds fairly explicit, if not an utterly insane incentive to war, like the Three Musketeer concept:   we’re all in this together.  But wait a minute.  Ukraine is not a member of NATO so why is NATO involved at all as it conducts a massive relocation of its military resources throughout the Baltics?  NATO’s bombing of Libya in 2011 supposedly in support of UN Security Council Resolution establishing a No Fly Zone  raised legal questions whether such an arrangement is a violation of the UN Charter (Chapter VIII, Article 53.)  However, to date, there is no applicable UN Resolution authorizing military action in Ukraine so under what auspices is NATO acting?  Of course, the nasty reality is that if the US wants NATO to bomb a non-member nation, then that’s what will happen – the rule of law is expendable whenever necessary.

It is more than convenient that NATO serves as a proxy for the US; thereby eliminating direct US military involvement in any conflict and avoiding the ire of the American public which contributed $711 million in 2010 not including ‘special ops’ to Libya or Afghanistan – neither of which are NATO members.

The President exhibited a less than accurate knowledge of the facts when he expressed ‘outrage over the appalling treatment” of OSCE ‘observers’ that were being detained by ‘militants’ in Slavyansk citing that they were ‘paraded in front of the media’ and ‘forced to make statements at the barrel of a gun.  It is disgraceful and inexcusable.’   At about the same time, the OSCE personnel were being released and flown to Berlin where Col. Igor Turansky, head of the Ukrainian military mission to the OSCE said that “There are no injuries, all was well. [We were] given food, water, sleep, treated well” adding that the self-defense forces said they detained the observers because they “did not coordinate their actions with the representatives of the locals.”  

During the question/answer portion of the press conference, the President offered the assurance that “our view from the start has been that the Ukrainians should be able to make their own decisions” and “suggestions or implications that somehow Americans are responsible for meddling inside Ukraine” and further, the “last thing we want is disorder and chaos in central Europe”.   All this distorted reality might be a great clinical subject for Dr. Ruth to analyze but now there is a mounting death toll and there needs to be some accountability.   Excuse me Mr. President, if all this is true then what were Victoria Nuland and John Brennan doing in Kiev and why are “dozens” of CIA and FBI agents  who make a living out of disorder and chaos now being reported  in Ukraine?

The President went on to cite what he called “Russian propaganda that has been blasted out non-stop suggesting somehow that the Ukraine government is responsible for the problems in east Ukraine.”   Another embroidered assertion that, frankly, doesn’t even deserve a response.

Speaking of propaganda, the President’s  Executive Order  in 2011 creating the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) within the State Department to focus on ”narratives that can positively influence those who may be susceptible to radicalization and recruitment”  and that  “monitoring and evaluating narratives … that threaten the interests and national security of the United States”  sounds like a conduit for the kind of ultimately discredited misinformation provided to the NY Times recently regarding “masked men in Ukraine linked to Russia.”

To give credit where credit is due, the President’s comment that “I’ve said from the start that Russia has legitimate interests in terms of what happens next door in Ukraine.  Obviously there is a deep and complicated history between Russia and Ukraine and so of course Mr. Putin’s views should be taken into account” identified both the problem and the solution.

Since the dissolution of the USSR in the early 1990s, the US has failed to acknowledge or take seriously that Russia has legitimate security concerns with the continued existence of NATO threatening its backyard.

Renee Parsons was a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives and a lobbyist on nuclear energy issues with Friends of the Earth.  in 2005, she was elected to the Durango City Council and served as Councilor and Mayor.  Currently, she is a member of the Treasure Coast ACLU Board.



Renee Parsons has been a member of the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, an environmental lobbyist and staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found on Twitter @reneedove31

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