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The new cold (online) war. March 3, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in International Politics.

Whatever the views people have on the crisis in the Ukraine, it is fascinating to see how comments sections on various media are suddenly filled with pro-Russian comments in – and who I to speak, I guess, not great English.

Just on the crisis it’s difficult to quite determine the legality of the change of power in Ukraine. On the one hand Yanukovych was not exactly impeached, although a bill and vote on same was promised imminently by the opposition. The question is is whether the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) also had the right to hold a vote of impeachment which was carried with 328 Deputies voting in favour and none against (of a total of 450 deputies). This figure included those from Yanakovych’s own party. Problem being that sources such as Radio Free Europe argue that proper constitutional procedures weren’t followed in the vote (and of a necessary 338 votes plus a constitution court review, they were ten votes short). On the other hand – and it’s difficult to pin down the chronology 100 per cent, he did appear to depart Kiev the day of the vote along with most Cabinet Ministers which whatever else is deeply problematic.

Deeply deeply unclever of the Ukrainian parliament to vote on the status of minority languages (even if the result was vetoed) directly after such a problematic transition.

In a way that may be irrelevant. Clearly sufficient political forces were swayed to turn against Yanukovych to allow the events to unfold and that may matter more. We shall see. Can’t see this ending well for any concerned, whether Ukraine, Crimea or Russia.


1. John Goodwillie - March 3, 2014

When there is a revolution, constitutions tend to be overlooked. And it seems reasonable to say that a revolution has overthrown the government of Yanukovich. Was this the will of the people? The massive demonstrations in the face of gunfire, the seizing of governmental buildings, the vote against Yanukovich by at any rate a large proportion of his erstwhile supporters, all seem to indicate that it was the will of the majority.

Whether it was a wise decision is another matter. To fail to see that the situation called for the isolation of Yanukovich by the greatest consensus achievable, and therefore for guarantees for Russian speakers and guarantees for the autonomy of Crimea, seems to show massive misjudgment. And the reason for constitutions is precisely to guard against quick majority decisions whose implications have not been thoroughly thought through.

Many readers will have heard of, if not actually read, Lenin’s book ‘Left-wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder’ – the title has also been translated ‘The Children’s Disease of Leftism in Communism’. Lenin’s point was that the over-enthusiasm of people whose Communism was a recent acquisition was liable to lead them to move too quickly and lose touch with the working class: it was a sign of immaturity.

Like the revolutionaries in Egypt who thought that the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood by the army was a step forward, the Ukrainian revolutionaries have immaturely thought that a parliamentary decision would put them in complete power rather than subject them to the twin dangers of Russian intervention and the fascism in their own ranks.

What attitude can outsiders like us adopt? It seems to me rather futile to talk simplistically about constitutional legitimacy or territorial integrity. We should rather be looking for the re-establishment of peace through some sort of consensus and compromise which enables democratic elections to take place throughout the Ukraine. The EU must clearly point out that its own commitment to democratic principles requires that it cannot deal with people whose own democracy is questionable (in fact it seems to given advice in this direction, advice contrary to the mischief-making of the Americans).


WorldbyStorm - March 3, 2014

That’s a very very thoughtful comment John. I’d be tempted to post that up as a post in itself. Agree entirely.


que - March 3, 2014

will you attribute it in full or just to John?

I think its a thoughtful piece and neatly opens up possibilities for discussion not least the idea that should a revolution should be delayed simply because it may trigger further action by agents even more undesirable.

It also places the context of the EU’s role into focus.

There is a rich vein there


CL - March 3, 2014

” the so called “interim government” led by Victoria Nuland’s handpicked neoliberal puppet Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has been forced to cede control of the national security forces to the openly Nazi leaders of these organizations. “-some revolution.


EamonnCork - March 3, 2014

I’m not sure citing Counterpunch as arbiter of disinterested truth is necessarily the killer punch you think it is. ‘Some revolution’?


CL - March 4, 2014

“The office of President Oleksandr V. Turchynov announced the two appointments on Sunday of two billionaires — Sergei Taruta in Donetsk and Ihor Kolomoysky in Dnipropetrovsk — and more were reportedly under consideration for positions in the eastern regions.

The strategy is recognition that the oligarchs represent the country’s industrial and business elite, and hold great influence over thousands of workers in the east.”-Some revolution.
(I’m not citing the NYT as a ‘killer punch’. In a rational discussion of a complicated situation I don’t think there are ‘killer punches’.)


2. EamonnCork - March 3, 2014

Plus 1. Though I suppose it’s plus 2 or 3 at this stage.


Willie Free - March 3, 2014

When you have an alliance of neo-liberals and neo-fascists on one side it would have to be something else not to support anything against them. Eamon, the Jihad supporter, and WBS let’s invade Iraq – probably not in the best place to comment, do you accept past mistakes?


Bob Smiles - March 3, 2014

Not one person commenting here will have to fight or die in this war so let’s leave out the macho bullshit , war would be a tragedy that will only benefit rival oligarchs


WorldbyStorm - March 3, 2014

+1 Bob.

Willie, if you have noticed a common thread running through the posts I’ve put online on this issue I’ve tried to be even-handed and work through the contradictions and so on. But don’t go asking me to pick sides because for the life of me I can’t see an easy way through this and a deeply authoritarian Russia which has nothing at all in common with the aims of those of 1917 and a deeply problematic Ukrainian government don’t seem to me to be much kop either way.

As to the past, WTF? I wasn’t online in 2003/4, I never made a public comment anywhere online or off, and even if I had no one would give a rashers any more than they would today. Get a grip on yourself.


workers republic - March 4, 2014

The only losers will be the ordinary people ,the working classes.On the Russian side , Putin has a huge ego. He is an oligarch , an arrogant autocrat and in a symbiotic alliance with a homophobic state church. Russia is a capitalist state.It is not Communist , in any sense of that word.
On the other side there are corrupt politicians, oligarchs, national chauvinists and ultra -rightists . As WBS said there are similarities with the events that led to WW 1. In a nuclear world a nuclear world ,a world war would be truly cathostrafic.
A solution is possible; both sides have weaknesses, Ukraine is on the brink of bankruptcy , if it defaults on it’s debt Russian banks, including the state bank will lose a lot of money . A negotiated agreement is the only viable solution. After saber- rattling Putin has pulled back his forces on the east while tightening his grip on Crimea .An negotiated Independent Crimea with guaranteed “parity of esteem” and civil rights for minorities in Crimea and Ukraine seem to me the best attainable solution.


que - March 4, 2014

‘On the other side there are corrupt politicians, oligarchs, national chauvinists and ultra -rightists .’

You forget to add and also honest and decent people sickened by corruption but willing to take a stand and even to lose their lives to fight for a better future.

There is a nasty tinge to the revolution in UKR but the ordinary people seem very much behind it. Lets not lose sight of the fact that the ordinary (wo)man on the street seems to have been behind it without being ultra-rightist themselves

I think a negotiated Crimea client state is as good as it will get but this is not going to leave other states feeling comfortable. Anyone with a large Russian population will be scared of incursions and land grabs.


workers republic - March 5, 2014

“you forget to add there are honest and decent people sickened by corrupttion and willing to make a stand and even to lose their lives to fight for a better future ”
True and people have lose their lives . I was referring to the make-up of the “Interm government”
And given the politics of the area “a negotiated client state is as good as it will get”. That is quite likely . This might be acceptable to the ethnic Russians but not the Tatars ,a substantial minority (40%). A power-sharing government in Crimea would be
a positive development in that situation.
Russian speakers in the East of Ukraine also need their rights (such as the status of Russian) to be guaranteed.


3. EamonnCork - March 3, 2014

I think I may take Eamon the Jihad Supporter as my new CLR handle. There’s some real geniuses doing the rounds this weather. Imagine being the poor sorry bastard who invents his little name, does his little jibe and disappears until it’s time for the next intervention. The levels of personal bitterness and social inadequacy are shocking to contemplate really.
I agree with Bob, what I’d personally like to see is both sides extricating themselves from this without anyone getting killed. I’d imagine that’s the prevailing emotion here, arguments about the exact causes of the imbroglio aside.


WorldbyStorm - March 4, 2014

Isn’t it telling that we apparently have to fall in line behind one side or another?


shea - March 4, 2014

iam a bit worried that the eu which this state is a member of may have sponsored a coup. A lot of the media the last month to my eye was aimed at people out side ukraine. Maintreame media report an incident, a few days later contradictions to this incident or that pop up on line. Maybe its just sloppy journalism braking things down to its most simplistic into good guys and bad and then being countered with a modern audience that have a stronger right of reply, maybe i am to skeptical of main streem media and to biased in favour of new media, but it looks the same with Venezuela same with Syria.

What happens in Ukraine is not much of our business what the eu does there is. i may well be completely off and the EU role has been nothing but honorable and if thats what it is great but we should not tolorate anything less.


Gewerkschaftler - March 4, 2014

+1 as to not having to take one or other of two repulsive ‘sides’. Or choose between two sets of oligarchs.

As to shea’s point I doubt there was ‘EU’ action as such. The EU isn’t a unitary player in international affairs. Within the EC there would have been those influenced by NATO cold-warriors redux and the more accomodating stance adopted towards Russia by the Germans.

They would have attempted to influence the situation but were probably caught on the hop.


makedoanmend - March 4, 2014

WBS – “Isn’t it telling that we apparently have to fall in line behind one side or another?”

This is probably – no – it is the most intelligent single statement written about the Ukraine that I’ve read so far.

My understanding of what is happening in the Ukraine is beginning to jell, as are the other “disturbances” that are developing across the globe.

There are no sides to choose. More and more, it seems that what we are witnessing is something akin to the reasons for WWI. We have resource grabs, and big egos, and the ordinary people being prepared for slaughter to prop up big egos and big bank balances.

Ordinary people are the losers whichever side one would choose to support in the majority of these conflicts.

I choose instead to side with ordinary people over austerity and the ideologues of austerity.

There’s has to be a better and different way for us rather than following the outworn scripts of the last couple of centuries.

[by the by, ain’t saying you don’t write intelligent stuff about other topics – just happened to hit the nail on the head here imo]


WorldbyStorm - March 4, 2014

“Ordinary people are the losers”+1

Just on all this. Your point about ‘beginning to gel,’ is to return the compliment spot on and it’s not just the broader processes at work but the local one in the Ukraine. The centrality of far right forces to the new government is such that in any other context the EU would be doing what it did to Austria when the FP was in govt. Or at least one would hope so – though these days who can tell. The invasion by the Russians of Crimea is likewise massively problematic. Why are we meant to support either of those? I don’t get it.


4. 1MayBloc - March 4, 2014

Der Spiegel provides a good account of how the power grab is playing out amongst the opposition in Ukraine.
Klitschko and the Right Sector losing out it seems.


With the Right Sector believing that it led and won the physical force struggle on the streets it will be interesting to see how they react to exclusion. Beer Hall putsch anyone?


Gewerkschaftler - March 4, 2014

Good article 1M.

Better than most of what is appearing in the English/Irish press. Interesting the reports of EU inaction in response to Russian pressure.

It seems to me that Steinmeier and behind him Merkel are doing their best to avoid war breaking out. On a purely material level, 40% of German gas supplies would be in question in the case of civil, or worse, international war.

And even Makhno is mentioned:

But in Kiev, anarchy has been making inroads. Ukrainians speak of “Makhnovshchina,” a reference to the anarchist-Communist partisan movement under the leadership of Nestor Makhno during the civil war that started in 1917. Makhnovshchina is a term applied to anything that smells of capriciousness and chaos.


Pasionario - March 4, 2014

“Revenge taken against the rich and prominent is part of that chaos. In the Kiev suburb of Gostomel, 20 assailants burned down an estate belonging to Communist Party head Petro Symonenko. A Toyota Land Cruiser and an Aston Martin Vantage — a €129,000 vehicle allegedly driven by his wife — were found in the garage.”

Well, well. Only the best for the workers, eh?

Seems to me the only way everyone gets out of this alive is if Russia gets the Crimea in exchange for letting the rest of the Ukraine do its own thing, provided its “own thing” does not include NATO membership.

In my view this all goes back to the stupid decision to expand NATO after the Cold War. NATO should have been scrapped once its purpose was served and Russia should have been brought into some other international defence conclave.


que - March 4, 2014

why would Russia join an international defence conclave?


Pasionario - March 5, 2014

It’s not relevant now but at the time Russia under Yeltsin was pro-Western. It would have made sense to scrap NATO entirely and come up with some other organisation that included Russia and the other Warsaw Pact states. Instead, Clinton decided to push NATO up to Russia’s borders in the mistaken belief that Russia had been definitively humbled and wouldn’t cause any more trouble if kept in its box.


5. Gewerkschaftler - March 4, 2014

Whenever I look under the fold at Guardian articles I’m amazed by the number of people who are being presumably paid to comment.

Do they really think the cacophony of readers comments are that influential?

I don’t do ‘social media’ but I can just imagine what it’s like there.


6. ivorthorne - March 4, 2014

I can’t help but think that there will be no good outcome to the crisis in Ukraine. That said, I think that when we look at the bigger question, we have to ask ourselves what we would like if we want to stop Putin.

Putin will not allow the former Soviet block countries on its borders to determine their own future and he is willing to use force to enforce his will. That makes the entire region a ticking time-bomb.

Of all of the various possible outcomes, I would like one that would make Russia think twice about invading its neighbour who decides they’d like to develop more ties with the “West”.


Mark P - March 5, 2014

“That said when WE look at the bigger question, WE have to ask ourselves what WE would like if WE want to stop Putin… Of all the various possible outcomes, I would like one that would make Russia think twice about invading its neighbour who decides they’d like to develop more ties with the ‘West'”.

Ah, “we”, the slipperiest of words.


7. Roger Cole - March 4, 2014

I would hope Bob Smiles is correct in saying nobody on this blog will die in what could spiral out control into a major EU/US/NATO war on Russia. However the Treaty of Lisbon which the Irish people first rejected and then were forced to vote again on and voted yes, did seek to ensure a major shift to a EU Common Foreign Security and Defence Policy.
The EU also is now a declared “strategic” partner of NATO. So while I hope he is correct, I am not so confident. An Irish political/media elite that has allowed and actively supported millions of US troops land in Shannon Airport to take part in US/EU/NATO wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria would also support a war with Russia. Defeating the candidates of the warmongers in the upcoming EU elections
should be a crucial objective to ensure Bob is correct


EamonnCork - March 4, 2014

Is this EU-NATO-Ukrainian alliance similar to the Al-Qaeda-Israel one you detected in Syria?
And let me see if I have this right, unless we vote a certain way in the European elections there is a danger of Irish people dying in a war in the Ukraine. You’re a desperate fantasist Roger.


8. Jim Monaghan - March 4, 2014
9. que - March 4, 2014

from the guardian :

‘On the ground in Crimea, meanwhile,

what is particularly odd is that the most vociferous defenders of Russian bases against supposed fascists appear to hold far-right views themselves.

Outside the Belbek airbase, an aggressive self-defence group said they were there to defend the base against “Kiev fascists”, but also railed against Europe, “full of repulsive gays and Muslims”.

“What you foreigners don’t get is that those people in Maidan, they are fascists,” said Alexander, a Simferopol resident drinking at a bar in the city on Monday night. “I mean, I am all for the superiority of the white race, and all that stuff, but I don’t like fascists.” ‘


PaddyM - March 5, 2014

I can’t see why it would be particularly odd – RT (Russia’s propaganda channel) tends to be populated by “experts” from the crackpot right (LaRoucheites, former members of Samoobrona from Poland, etc.) as well as the crackpot left (Galloway, ANSWER, etc.).


10. Jim Monaghan - March 5, 2014

There is a difference between interference on a financial basis and putting troops on the ground. Russia, a revived empire has done just that. This makes it well nigh impossible to argue that say Latvia should withdraw from Nato which ( misguided ) they see as a bulwark against Russia.


CMK - March 5, 2014

Below is probably the most enlightening thing I’ve read about the whole Russian/Ukraine crisis.

Explains cogently why there is zero chance of any European intervention or US for that matter against Russia. A hint: where has all the oligarch’s wealth gone since 1991? A further hint: it’s not in Russia.

‘The Kremlin thinks it knows Europe’s dirty secret now. The Kremlin thinks it has the European establishment down to a tee. The grim men who run Putin’s Russia see them like latter-day Soviet politicians. Back in the 1980s, the USSR talked about international Marxism but no longer believed it. Brussels today, Russia believes, talks about human rights but no longer believes in it. Europe is really run by an elite with the morality of the hedge fund: Make money at all costs and move it offshore.’



Ed - March 5, 2014

Funnily enough, Gideon Rachman had a piece in the Financial Times yesterday pointing to the same facts but making the opposite argument – because the Russian elite is so embedded in western capitalism, there’s no question of them going to war with western states, or even of a new cold war, they have too much to lose, too many ways to apply pressure etc. We shall see I suppose. One thing that Judah and Rachman would agree on is that there’s no ideological questions at stake, just two sets of crooks squabbling over territory (although they wouldn’t phrase it like that I guess).


Dr. X - March 5, 2014

Well, yes, but a great deal of Putin’s work since he came to power has been to assert himself over the Yeltsin-era oligarchs – that’s what the prosecution of Khodorkovsky was about surely?


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