They must have really lacked political instinct and common sense
not to foresee all the consequences of their actions. -- Vladimir Putin, March 18, 2014 --
Banana plantations in Ukraine?
I ask because the United States is treating Ukraine as if it were a banana republic.
Honduras? Ecuador? Costa Rica? Guatemala? On February 25 the White House issued an incredible announcement that could have applied to any of them back in the rip-roaring, shin-kicking, neo-colonial days of United Fruit Company:
"The Obama administration has signalled it no longer recognises Viktor Yanukovych as Ukraine’s president as western support firms up for the new leadership in Kiev.
Jay Carney, the main White House spokesman, said that although Yanukovych ´was a democratically elected leader, his actions have undermined his legitimacy and he is not actively leading the country at present´.
Jen Psaki, a state department spokeswoman, said: ´Yanukovych left Kiev. He took his furniture, packed his bags, and we don’t have more information on his whereabouts. So there are officials who have stepped in and are acting in response to that leadership gap at the moment.´"*
A leadership gap: that, we are told, was the straw that broke Yanukovych´s back. When push came to shove -- and it definitely did -- the gap was the cause of it all. Simple, no?
The State Department leaves it to us to string a few more beads. (i) The current U.S.-Russia showdown, which could turn into a new Cold War, is completely Yanukcovych´s fault. Russia´s, too, for supporting him. If only he hadn´t cut and run... (ii) Any government is better than no government. Wouldn´t you agree?
Let´s look further, though. Why, only hours after making major concessions to the pro-West opposition, did Yanukovych suddenly take flight?
Mystery of mysteries... Well, not really. Here is what Obama and the State Department aren´t telling you:
An on-the-spot Sky News report leaves little doubt about what Yanukovych was facing.
The United States Government doesn´t know beans about Ukraine. (For proof, ask Obama, your senator or congressman to name one country other than Russia that borders Ukraine. There are six.) On the other hand, the U.S. is second to none in knowledge of something else: lynching. From 1882-1968, over 4,000 occurred in America.
President Yanukovych´s gusty exit is an easy call. He didn´t want to end up like Will Brown -- a bullet-riddled, charred, mutilated corpse dragged by a car. Yellow-dog journalism, marches, attacks on policemen, rampage, pandemonium, shrieks of delight: the whole Kiev scenario was played out before in good old Omaha. Elsewhere, too.
It is hardly suprising that a lot of people, especially Blacks, think lynching is as American as apple pie.
Was the cause of the upheaval in the Ukraine the sky-high crowd in the Sky News report, which was clamoring for the hanging of Yanukovych? -- the crowd that was brazenly manipulated by opposition politicians to reject his compromises?
Yes and no. No, because, once again, we must look further. Who was aiding and abetting the crowd and its leaders?
Back in December, State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki gave the U.S. Government´s position on the developing crisis in the Ukraine. She left no doubt whatsoever that Washington was backing the street protests.
Visual confirmation was provided by the cookie lady, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, featured at the top of this post. She is the "she" the questioner refers to in this excerpt from the Psaki news conference:
"QUESTION: And then this morning or last night, she was down – she went down and visited the protesters --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and there’s pictures of her handing out, I think it’s cakes and cookies or – what was the purpose of that visit? Why go down to the square? I mean, to support --
MS. PSAKI: Well, she had been, I believe, to – as well as visiting – she’d visited with opposition leaders and officials last week on her first visit as well, and it is important to convey our support for their ability to voice their views, support for their efforts on European integration. Our belief that respect for democratic principles including freedom of assembly is a universal right, not just an American right. So she – it’s obviously been a challenging couple of days and she went down there to show her support."
Show her support. You think the Nuland cookie incident was a one-off? In case you still doubt the U.S. Government was frentically feeding the anti-Yanukovych movement, I invite you to drop in on a tapped telephone conversation between Nuland and Jeoffrey Pyatt, U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine. (A written transcript is also available.) It tells us what we always suspected about U.S. foreign policy-makers: their agenda is written in jello. Here Nuland makes her famous remark, "Fuck the E.U." Far more enlightening, however, is the overall Nuland/Pyatt attitude toward the three Ukrainian opposition leaders under discussion. They are treated as pawns in a banana republic.
Thanks to TV media on the scene, we can see for ourselves why Yanukovych fled. Thanks to Nuland and Psaki, we know the Ukrainian opposition leaders and mobs were U.S.-orchestrated. In case you are wondering why the State Department was so obvious about it all, tradition dictates that in banana republics the puppet master must be 100% visible.
Make that 200%; points are deducted for subtlety.
* * *
Here, a new question arises.
When all is said and done, was the West-fed ouster of Yanukovych legal and legitimate?
(i) On the informal level -- that of the rioters and Stormtroopers who forced Yanukovych to flee for his life -- the answer is self-evident. Lying in bed, refluffing pillows and staring at the darkened plasterboard ceiling, even Washingtonian hardliners like Nuland know that removal by lynch mob is illegal and illegitimate. That awareness explains why, the day after Yanukovych escaped, they felt compelled to go into a hurry-up offense and formalize his forced eviction via the Ukrainian parliament.
(ii) On the formal legal level, the answer is more involved but no less certain.
The question at hand: was the removal of Yanukovych -- a democratically elected leader (White House´s words) -- by parliamentary impeachment legal?
This is what the Ukrainian Constitution says about impeachment (Note: the Verkhovna Rada is the country´s 450-member unicameral parliament):**
"Title V, Article 111. The President of Ukraine may be removed from the office by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in compliance with a procedure of impeachment if he commits treason or other crime.
The issue of the removal of the President of Ukraine from the office in compliance with a procedure of impeachment shall be initiated by the majority of the constitutional membership of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine shall establish a special ad hoc investigating commission, composed of special prosecutor and special investigators to conduct an investigation.
The conclusions and proposals of the ad hoc investigating commission shall be considered at the meeting of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
On the ground of evidence, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine shall, by at least two-thirds of its constitutional membership, adopt a decision to bring charges against the President of Ukraine.
The decision on the removal of the President of Ukraine from the office in compliance with the procedure of impeachment shall be adopted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine by at least three-quarters of its constitutional membership upon a review of the case by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, and receipt of its opinion on the observance of the constitutional procedure of investigation and consideration of the case of impeachment, and upon a receipt of the opinion of the Supreme Court of Ukraine to the effect that the acts, of which the President of Ukraine is accused, contain elements of treason or other crime."
A few distinctions are worth noting. It takes a simple majority of the constitutional membership of the parliament to initiate an impeachment procedure; it takes two-thirds of that membership to bring charges. However, it takes at least three-quarters of its constitutional membership to adopt a decision to remove the president. Hard to follow, no? The reasons behind different numerical requirements like those are the stuff of political science texts and graduate student seminars. Given our topic, I won´t go into them (although somebody else needs to do so -- and urgently).
The constitutional membership of the parliament is 450. It is NOT the number of members who happen to be in the chamber at any given moment, which is usually less. People unfamiliar with legislatures usually fail to make that distinction and get into serious trouble, as we shall see...
Three-quarters of 450 = 337 are required to remove a president. On February 22, when the impeachment motion came to the floor, 328 parliament members voted "Ay!"
328 is nine votes short of 337.
The motion to impeach Yanukovych failed to pass. I defy anyone, Obama and Nuland included, to refute that statement.
Conclusion 1. Viktor Yanukovych is still the legal and legitimate president of Ukraine. No need to look further, viz., at the constitutionally-mandated investigating commission or Supreme Court review.
Corollary: Vladimir Putin is correct in his claim that the unelected government of Arseniy Yatsenyuk, which superseded that of Yanucovych, is illegal and illegitimate.
Conclusion 2. The Unholy Alliance (see our prior post) -- Washington, billionaire oligarch eBay-founder Pierre Omidyar, and far-right Stormtroopers -- in charge of Ukraine today...could not even impeach Yanukovych correctly. Banana republic stuff. No wonder President Putin has no respect for them. No wonder he did what he did. Obama, in his own way, acknowledged the Kremlin´s disregard (contempt?), the potential military consequences of which are horrific.
Respect is a phenomenon with which Obama manifestly has deep psychological problems.*** Beware -- the issue doesn´t end there. A multimillionaire, Obama fits the working definition of oligarch, viz., he has enough money to make his problems your problems.
The proverbial bottom line: was incompetence -- little or no political instinct and even less common sense -- in Washington the cause of the upheaval in Ukraine?
We are close to the answer. Once again, however, we must go further. Just one more step. We must name the Absent Host of the Unholy Alliance: the CIA. The believe-it-or-not impeachment screw-up bears its indelible fingerprints. Time and time again, history shows the agency does not know how to count votes, much less win them.****
(Personal note to the boys and girls of the CIA. I was the chief of staff to a legislative Majority Floor Leader for eight years. For over two decades, I also worked on election campaigns on federal, state and city/county levels. (i) To succeed in legislative politics, you must know how to count. (ii) To win popular elections, you must know how to count.
No sane elected politician in the world will dispute those conclusions. What, then, is your problem?)
* * *
The Western response to the Crimea referendum was not long in coming: economic sanctions. The bank accounts of Putin´s advisors were frozen, travel bans imposed, etc.
Time will show the sanctions are tacky kid stuff -- banana republic ruses. They are up against the most formidable of foes: hard facts. Among other things, Western Europe depends on Russia for 25% of its gas to produce electricity and to heat homes, offices, factories.
We come to the proverbial and inexorable bottom line of the March Ukrainian upheaval.
Putin won. This isn´t the first time he outmaneuvered Obama (see our post of July 14, 2013, "Edward Snowden, Quid Pro Quo Vadis?"), nor will it be the last. The White House versus the Kremlin is checkers versus chess, pinochle versus bridge, a ukulele versus a guitar.
Caught in a fairytale of his own making, Obama denies a chess match exists: however, the pros know one when they see it. They also know something else. Obama can keep on playing if he likes; it is his right. However, the big pieces are in place and the center of the board is controlled by Putin. The match is over before it is over.
Clumsy, naive... How might the West have done things differently?
* * *
A necessary preface:
Regular readers know we offer opinions, not advice. An opinion may consist of advice which is (i) deliberately offered too late to be actionable; (ii) knowingly impossible to implement due to circumstances prevailing at the moment; and/or (iii) offered with the foreknowledge that the simple fact of its publication will render its practical value null and void.
1. We will quickly pass over
(i) the failure of the West to beat Yanukovych in the 2010 presidential election. All I can say is, if you can´t knock a guy like that out in the second round, you have no business being in electoral politics;
(ii) the West´s rejection of Yanukovych´s compromises with the Ukrainian opposition; and (iii) Washington´s withdrawal of recognition of Yanukovych as Ukraine´s legal and legitimate president.
Proceeding with the chess analogy, we would assign each of those moves a ?? notation: blunder. In case you are wondering, as a political consultant I did not -- and never would -- participate in any comparable action. It is worth reiterating that the destitution of a freely and fairly-elected president by a lynch mob incited by the U.S. Government was an appalling, vintage, banana republic gambit. Let´s move on.
2. We begin our hypothetical scenario on March 6. As before, Crimean authorities announce they will hold a referendum on March 16. Two options will be on the ballot: stay in Ukraine or join Russia.
The Crimea referendum move, which is of course Putin´s, receives this chess notation: !? Interesting, risky move...
3. March 7/8. The West denounces the referendum as illegal, illegitimate and provocative.
Chess notation: ??? Colossal mistake.
The correct move would have been to welcome Putin´s referendum.
In our scenario, the following announcement is made: to make the Crimea referendum fully legal according to the Ukrainian Constitution, the entire Ukraine will participate in the March 16 referendum. Across the nation, ballots are printed; precinct officials appointed; registered voter lists prepared; rooms readied. The atmosphere is festive, even carnivalesque. Pictures circulate on the Internet showing Crimean girls putting flowers in soldiers´ gun barrels.
The vote in Crimea is thereby subsumed under a nationwide vote. Putin´s project is co-opted.
The chess notation: !! Brilliant move.
4. March 16, Sunday. The nationwide Ukrainian referendum on Crimea takes place.
Realistically, only two outcomes are possible:
(i) Ukraine votes to let Crimea secede. So be it -- with Ukraine´s blessing, Crimea will join Russia. The upheaval in Ukraine is completely avoided. And that´s not all.
Return to Sender: Ukraine is delivered from Khrushchev´s 1954 cadeau empoisonné (see prior post). His addition of Crimea to Ukraine was actually a subtraction. It split the new Ukraine in half, making impossible the fundamental consensus required for reasonable and responsible government. (John F. Matlock, former ambassador to Russia, has a similar appraisal.) With Crimea gone, Ukraine can have closer ties with Western Europe.
Chess notation: +-. The two opponents are equal.
Sorry, dear reader, but here our hypothetical scenario stops. Two reasons do not permit us to continue:
(i) An analysis of the second possible outcome -- Crimea votes to secede but Ukraine as a whole votes to retain Crimea -- could have repercussions on Ukrainian issues which remain active. As noted, we do not give advice, only opinions.
(ii) Step 3 in our scenario is impossible.
As our prior post explained, the Unholy Alliance now ruling the Ukraine cannot hold a nationwide referendum on Crimea:
"One Alliance member will never agree to it: the fascists. Here´s why:
The centerpiece of Hitler´s Nazi ideology was Lebensraum -- ´living space.´ The wheels of evolution-as-destiny supposedly drive the superior race to displace inferior ones in their homelands. As for the superior race´s homeland, not one inch is negotiable -- ever. You see the axiom engraved in the eyes of far-rightist Ukrainian street toughs with goof-ball haircuts: ´What´s mine is mine; what´s yours is mine too.´ The dead hand of the departed Nazi Sturmabteilung reaches out, rises, breaks through the surface."
What´s mine is mine. Hitler´s doctrine of Blud und Boden (Blood and Soil) -- the testy big brother of Lebensraum -- reverberates in the official statement of March 8 by Andriy Deshchytsa, Ukraine’s acting foreign minister: “Crimea is and will remain Ukrainian land...The borders of Ukraine are inviolable.” Case closed, over and out -- and over and above what the Ukrainian Constitution unequivocally provides for: "Title III. Article 73. Alterations to the territory of Ukraine shall be resolved exclusively by the All-Ukrainian referendum."
Nine days later, after the referendum in Crimea took place, blud und boden resurfaced in a pronouncement by Ukraine´s interim president, Oleksandr Turchynov: "We will never accept the annexing of our territory." We can only suppose that never means never -- no annexation even with representation, i.e., even if a majority of Ukrainians vote to allow Crimea/other area to secede.
* * *
For once, we have a political story with a clear moral. It comes in two parts:
(i) If you link up with fascists your hands will be tied in more ways than one. Putin recognized that fact and quickly took advantage of it.
(ii) In this month´s turmoil, Ukraine will prove to be years ahead of its time. It is giving us a preview of the Unholy Alliance´s signature song, i.e., what the United States Government/oligarchy/fascist Stormtrooper coalition holds in store for other nations, including America:
A banana republic without bananas or a republic.
Post Script. Cadeau empoisonné Number 2? 3? I hope Ukrainians will take a close look at Nuland´s cookies.
The U.S. $1 billion in loan guarantees is a scheme to take the speculation out of speculation for American investors in Ukraine. The oligarchy ruling the United States is behind the billion-dollar ploy; it harkens back to the S&L bailout and President Ronald Reagan´s puerile, catastrophic tagline, "All in all, we hit the jackpot."
Among the other Nuland goodies, Ukrainians will find a gamey, EU $15 billion-loan tied to the International Monetary Fund. Before signing on the dotted line, I hope Ukraine will chat with Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece about their experiences.
Warning to Ukrainian leaders: if you travel to those countries and mention the IMF, don´t forget to duck.
*Here is the State Department transcript:
"QUESTION: So the Russian prime "minister said today that the West – criticizing Western officials for recognizing the Ukrainians that have come forward now, and they’re calling that they came to power during an armed mutiny. Do you see that as the way? I mean, there’s some – Yanukovych called it a coup.
MS. PSAKI: Well, this is a case, Lesley, where an elected parliament is acting in response to fill the void created when Yanukovych and almost all of the other leaders of his government left Kyiv. As Secretary – as NSA, National Security Advisor Rice, said yesterday, he left – Yanukovych left Kyiv. He took his furniture, packed his bags, and we don’t have more information on his whereabouts. So there are officials who have stepped in and are acting in response to that leadership gap at the moment."
**For more on unicameral legislatures -- only one legislative body as opposed to a house and senate -- and why the United States should adopt a unicam, see our book available without charge on this blog, The Big Movida: The Third American Revolution.
***Sigmund Freud in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life extensively analyzed gaffes such as Obama´s misspelling of respect. Likewise, Carl Jung investigated “unconscious interferences in the waking state, ideas ‘out of the blue,’ slips, deceptions and lapses of memory, symptomatic actions, etc.” C. G. Jung, “The Transcendent Function,” in C. G. Jung, The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 8, R.F.C. Hull, translator, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1981, p. 77. (Paragraph 154).
To the point: Is respect Obama´s hamartia? If so, we may have found what is behind the U.S. fumbling and the resulting upheaval in Ukraine.
Hamartia (ἁμαρτία) has been alternatively translated as fatal flaw, frailty, sin, trespass, mistake, miscalculation, error of judgment. Scholars agree, however, that the most basic sense is missing the mark. That is the best summation yet of Obama´s policy in Ukraine -- indeed, of his administration in general.
The sine qua non of Greek tragedy, hamartia takes various forms. The prototype appears in Sophocles´ play "Oedipus": ignorance of one´s origins. For those who wish to investigate this subject further, Obama´s first book, Dreams From My Father, contains a richness of text. (For a fuller exposition of hamartia, see our post of February 14, 2013: "The Hamartia of Rafael Correa").
I think the Kremlin is aware of Obama´s unconscious, respect complex and is manipulating it. Putin´s handling of the Snowden affair and of the crises in Syria and Ukraine indicate he knows where certain deep levers are located; how hard and when to push down; when to let up.
****For a recent case study, see our posts on Venezuela: April 8, 2013: "Venezuela Presidential Election: Backing into Victory"; April 14, 2013: "Venezuela Today: All The Marbles"; and April 15, 2013: "Maduro Elected: James Bomb in Venezuela."