As much as President Obama needs President Putin’s help on Syria, Iran and other global hotspots, he has fallen in line behind U.S. hardliners in seeking to ratchet up the confrontation over Ukraine and now is trying to bring the Europeans along at the G-7, writes ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.
By Ray McGovern
The “G-7 summit” at a resort in Germany’s picturesque Bavaria region is likely to show whether “G-7” should be called “G-1-plus-6” – number “one” being what President Barack Obama continues to call the “only indispensable country in the world”; the “six” being those countries that Russian President Vladimir Putin has labeled Washington’s “junior partners.”
The “G-7” – consisting of Germany, France, Italy, the UK, Japan, Canada and the U.S. – formerly was known as the “G-8” until Russia was booted last year after being blamed for the violent aftermath of the U.S.-sponsored coup d’etat in Kiev on Feb. 22, 2014.
Last year, the West was in high dudgeon over what it deemed “Russian aggression” and what Secretary of State John Kerry termed Russia’s “Nineteenth Century behavior.” After all, the U.S. and its allies are well known for always respecting the territorial integrity of other countries regardless of the circumstances. Okay, well, maybe not.
However, at the Bavarian summit, the U.S. is hoping to rekindle some of that old outrage to get the European Union to extend economic sanctions on Russia, though they are hurting the EU’s struggling economies, too.
The main question is whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, who have witnessed up-front-and-personal the behavior of Washington’s neocon policymakers and their Ukrainian puppets, will summon the courage to act like adults.
Will the leaders of Germany and France continue to bend to the U.S. diktat? Or are they more likely, this time, to stand up on their own feet and resist pressure from the U.S. and its UK lackey for continued punitive sanctions against Russia?
Merkel and Hollande have had the chance personally to take the measure of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his client relationship with the U.S. At a very different kind of summit on Feb. 11-12 in Belorussia, with U.S. representatives pointedly not invited and only Poroshenko reflecting U.S. objectives, Merkel and Hollande worked out with him and Putin the so-called “Minsk II” package agreement that included a ceasefire – which pretty much held until just recently – and a mechanism for resolving the political confrontation between the post-coup regime in Kiev and the ethnic Russian resistance in the east.
Merkel and Hollande are no political novices. And, if they know their history, they know what a Pétain or a Quisling looks like. In any case, they cannot have failed to recognize what Poroshenko looks like and how he continues to do the bidding of the neocons running U.S. policy on Ukraine, who are hell-bent on demonizing Putin and ostracizing Russia – all with little heed to the economic and longer-term security damage inflicted on “junior partners” like Germany and France.
Shortly after Minsk II was signed, the hard-line Ukrainian parliament, led by U.S. favorite Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, approved implementing legislation that was designed not to implement the political side of the agreement. A “poison pill” was inserted that, in effect, required the ethnic Russian rebels in the east to surrender before negotiations proceeded. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine’s Poison Pill for Peace Talks.”]
Poroshenko signed the law to the delight of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, the neocon operative who had hand-picked Yatsenyuk before the coup, telling U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt that “Yats is the guy” while also repudiating the European Union’s more cautious approach back then with the pithy remark, “Fuck the EU.”
Yatsenyuk remains Nuland’s go-to guy when it comes to not resolving the Ukraine crisis — and surely not restoring the pre-crisis working relationship that Obama had with Putin, a tandem that had undermined neocon dreams of more “regime change” in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iran, by instead working on diplomatic solutions to those difficult problems.
Now, with many EU economic sanctions against Russia due to expire this month, the neocons and their clients in Ukraine understood the need to again kick-start the Putin bashing – and almost on cue there was a pre-summit uptick in ceasefire violations in southeastern Ukraine that the West’s mainstream news media predictably blamed on Putin.
However, the German and French leaders – and of course Putin – are acutely aware of which side sees advantage in wielding outrage over the increased fighting as a transparently convenient cudgel to pound Russia and demand that the U.S. “junior partners” renew the economic sanctions.
Europeans have a giant economic stake in what happens at the “G1-plus-6” summit in Bavaria. Trouble is, European press coverage of Ukraine is almost as poor as what you read in the U.S. media. Odd as it strikes me, having analyzed Soviet propaganda for decades, the U.S. fawning corporate media has recently proven to be at least as adept at spreading half-truth and lies as Pravda and Izvestia in the old Soviet days.
Because of my previous professional experience, it is hard for me to accept that President Putin’s account of what went down in Kiev since early 2014 is far more factually based than what we hear from President Obama or read in the New York Times, but it is. For instance, here are excerpts from an interview Putin gave on June 6 to the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera:
What sparked the [Ukraine] crisis? Former President Viktor Yanukovych said that he needed to think about signing Ukraine’s Association Agreement with the EU, possibly make some changes and hold consultations with Russia, Ukraine’s major trade and economic partner. In this connection and under this pretext riots broke out in Kiev. They were actively supported by both our European and American partners.
“Then a coup d’état followed – a totally anti-constitutional act. … The question is: what was the coup d’état for? Why did they need to escalate the situation to a civil war? … The result that we have – a coup d’état, a civil war, hundreds of lives lost, a devastated economy and social sphere, a four-year $17.5 billion loan promised to Ukraine by the IMF and complete disintegration of economic ties with Russia…
“I would like to tell you and your readers one thing. Last year, on Feb. 21, President Yanukovych and the Ukrainian opposition signed an agreement on how to proceed, how to organize political life in the country, and on the need to hold early elections.
“They should have worked to implement this agreement, especially since three European foreign ministers signed this agreement as guarantors of its implementation. If they were used merely for the sake of appearances … they should have said [after the coup the next day], ‘You know, we did not agree to a coup d’état, so we will not support you; you should go and hold elections instead.’”
However, instead of upholding the Feb. 21, 2014 agreement, the EU – under strong pressure from Nuland and the Obama administration – hastened to recognize the “legitimacy” of the coup regime in Kiev. The Feb.21 agreement was quickly forgotten and the new Ukrainian authorities, with Yatsenyuk elevated to prime minister and right-wing extremists given key ministries, moved to crack down on the ethnic Russians in the south and east, citizens who had been Yanukovych’s political base and who resisted the unconstitutional coup.
Perhaps now is the time for Merkel and Hollande to remember that German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, in addition to Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, mediated the Feb. 21, 2014 agreement and signed it as official witnesses. An envoy from Russian President Putin, Vladimir Lukin, was also involved but did not sign as a witness.
There may be no such thing as a guilty conscience in high-stakes diplomacy. Still, what happened just one day before the Feb. 22 coup in Kiev is a matter of record.
Would it be too much to expect of Steinmeier and Fabius to remind their bosses of this shameless piece of failed diplomacy, before Merkel and Holland cave in once again to Washington’s diktat – and to the neocons who could then rush off to a Bavarian Biergarten to celebrate the escalation of Cold War II?
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During his 27 years as a CIA analyst, he was chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy branch in the 60s, and Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Western Europe in the 70s. McGovern now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
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