American Elephants


Obama May Be Uninterested in Geopolitics, But The World Won’t Wait. by The Elephant's Child

A pro-European protester wears a gas mask during street violence in Kiev

The Ukrainian government’s assault on protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square has shocked the world. The European Union is being forced to reexamine some of their assumptions about foreign policy. After the horrendous killings of protesters, President Obama, backed by his sterling foreign policy team, Chuck Hagel, Susan Rice and Joe Biden, said “There will be consequences if people step over the line.”

No one took that warning seriously. There is a fundamental shift we are witnessing in the national-security strategy of the United States, and this one means big repercussions for the world. Government snipers kept right on shooting protesters, and Obama’s passive statement merely reminded the world of all his previous red lines.

Talks mediated by three EU foreign ministers and a Russian envoy, got Viktor Yanukovych to agree to stop the violence, share power and hold early elections. Later on Friday, the Ukrainian parliament unanimously restored the 2004 constitution which curtails presidential powers. Mr. Yanukovych has lost control over the chamber, which also voted to release his predecessor, Yulia Tymoshenko, who was jailed on trumped-up charges in 2011. Government riot police which had used live ammunition against civilians, withdrew from the capital’s center.

A new “national unity” government is to be created within 10 days to work out other constitutional changes to strengthen Ukraine’s democracy. Presidential elections will be held before the end of the year.

Yanukovych has fled Kiev for the city of Kharkiv. The protesters want Yanukovych to resign. He says he is not resigning, and may just be attempting to shore up support. Russia is reportedly prepared to fight a war over the Ukrainian territory of Crimea to protect the ethnic Russian population and the military base there. Russian officials say in private that Ukraine falls inside Russia’s sphere of influence.

“We will not allow Europe and the US to take Ukraine from us. The states of the former Soviet Union, we are one family,” said a foreign policy official. “They think Russia is still as weak as in the early 1990s but we are not.”

There is no scenario where Yanukovych resigns and the opposition takes over. Putin does not intend to lose the Ukraine. Yanukovych has enriched himself and his family  since taking power in 2010, but his popularity has declined as the corruption has gone up. The people want a clear path into the EU and NATO, the clubs of a free Europe. They have experienced Russian domination, and don’t like it. And the Holodomor may have been long ago, but it is not forgotten. For Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, the possibility that a united Ukraine might desert Russia and join Europe is completely unacceptable. The situation is — fluid.



Take a moment to remember. by The Elephant's Child
November 25, 2008, 7:52 pm
Filed under: Foreign Policy, History, Terrorism | Tags: , , ,

Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but Ukrainians are remembering Holodomor, the horrific famine in 1932-1933 when the policies of Stalin led to the deliberate starvation of millions of Ukrainians at the rate of twenty-five thousand peasants per day.  Can you conceive of that number?

The great historian of the Soviet Terror, Robert Conquest, has noted that this genocide had two terrible effects: over the next decade or so, more than ten million peasants died.  At the same time, the Communists who oversaw the mass murder were brutalized into becoming bureaucrats for whom terror was an acceptable, normal method of carrying out “the revolution”.  Chilling!

Michael Ledeen invites us to remember, and to put the blame where it belongs.



Sounds Like Genocide to Me by The Elephant's Child
April 7, 2008, 1:38 am
Filed under: Foreign Policy, History, Media Bias, News, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Holodomor Memorial

Russia’s lawmakers have passed a resolution stating that the 1930’s famine that killed millions of peasants in Soviet Ukraine should not be considered genocide. Even Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the 89 year old renowned author dismissed Ukrainian claims that the famine was genocide as a myth. Historians agree that the 1932-1933 famine was instituted by Soviet authorities under Joseph Stalin.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko is leading an effort to gain international recognition of the famine as an act of genocide.

That the Great Famine was engineered to force peasants to give up their plots of land and establish collective farms is a matter of history. The number of peasants deliberately starved to death is estimated to be around 10 million, but the actual number is unknown. Grain was removed by the authorities from the villages, and the animals, and any food, and the peasants and their children were forced to remain. Ukrainians call it Holodomor, or death by hunger.

Many argue that the famine was meant to target private landowners as a social class in order to pay for the rapid industrialization of the Soviet Union. Others suggest that the famine was simply meant to eliminate Ukrainians as an ethnic group, as if one were better than the other.

President Vladimir Putin’s government has angrily clashed with nations formerly of the Soviet bloc about efforts to reinterpret 20th century events. Moscow accuses those nations of seeking to rewrite history and cast Russia as the villain.

Americans in 1933 were assured by New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty that “any report of famine” was “exaggeration or malignant propaganda”. Duranty received the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting, though the British chargé d’affaires in Moscow reported in his dispatach that “According to Mr Duranty the population of the North Caucasus and the Lower Volga had decreased in the past year by three million and the population of the Ukraine by four to five million”. Robert Conquest says that “the influence of his false reporting was enormous and long-lasting”.

Also in the news is President Bush’s visit to the Ukraine to stress America’s support for its leaders hopes to join NATO. President and Mrs. Bush visited a memorial honoring famine victims along with President and Mrs. Yushchenko.

Of course the demand for the recognition of the Great Famine as an act of genocide is connected to Ukraine’s desire for NATO membership, and Russia’s angry denials are a sign of their displeasure at the actions of its former state.

Events have consequences. People have long memories.




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