Archive for December 12th, 2013

The Cold War Never Ended

by lizard

Before getting into this post, I’d like to say a few things about my biases. I am a knee-jerk critic of US foreign policy. My geopolitical sniffer is geared toward detecting the prevalent deceit wafting from our politicians and the clever propaganda packaged by corporate media. That doesn’t mean I think the leadership of other countries are honest, well-intentioned people.

In this post about revolutionary pawns, I’ve had a back-and-forth with the Polish Wolf about the protests in Ukraine. My “knee-jerk anti-Americanism” makes me very suspicious of Ukraine cozying up with the EU. Not the wolf. Here is a portion of one of his comments:

The EU offers far better conditions for a growing economy than Russia. Thousands of Ukrainians are already illegally working in Europe (you can find signs advertising temporary work written in Ukrainian all over Western Europe). Closer work with the EU could put them closer to on par with the Poles who have become some of the most successful immigrants in many EU countries, especially Britain. More generally, the structures of the EU have proven well-suited to the development of post-communist countries; there’s really no way Poland, Lithuania, or Hungary would look like they do now without the assistance provided by the EU (indeed, one could argue that EU structures were key in transforming post-fascist countries too, and that they only miss-stepped in included them in the Euro zone). Moreover, the Russian economic model has produced some of the greatest wealth disparities and worst human development conditions per GDP found anywhere on earth; the EU economic model is truly middle-class centered and progressive.

Regarding the Russian economic model, this Business Insider article looks at the claim PW makes about wealth disparity, and while it seems to back up his assertion, there is a link to a Washington Post article that suggests the US is actually worse than Russia when it comes to income inequality.

Regardless, calculating this kind of stuff isn’t easy, and all the data should be looked at with skepticism, like the fact 6 members of the Walton family own as much wealth as the bottom HALF of the US population—that’s 150 million people.

But the relationship Ukraine is experiencing unrest over isn’t with the US, but the EU, which PW claims offers “far better conditions for a growing economy” than Russia. Really? Here is a little more unvarnished context to what the EU model offers: IMF loans with severe austerity requirements:

After negotiations with the European Union, and a parallel effort by Ukraine to secure loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) broke down, the Ukrainian government blamed the collapse of the agreement on the IMF’s push for severe austerity measures. Announcing the end of the negotiations, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov called the IMF’s austerity demands the “last straw.” IMF requirements listed by Ukraine include a wage freeze for public employees and large increases in home utility costs.

KVPU members unanimously adopted a resolution at their November congress calling for the government to sign the EU agreement, but also expressed dismay at the IMF’s austerity demands. KVPU President Mikhailo Volynets said, “We strongly believe that closer ties to the EU will benefit our members. Unfortunately, the IMF demanded economic reforms that would hurt average families in Ukraine, and undercut worker and human rights.

“The problem in Ukraine is not that a teacher or nurse makes 3000 UAH ($365 USD) a month,” Volynets said. “The problem is that a few oligarchs control everything for their own profit and that teachers and nurses only make 3000 UAH a month.”

Volynets urged Ukrainians to keep up the pressure on the government, and also asked for international solidarity.

“The KVPU calls on our European Union friends and the IMF to clearly articulate economic reform proposals that support the average Ukrainian family. We call on the government to sign the Association Agreement without delay. Economic reforms must address the vast income inequality and corruption at the top, and not target average working Ukrainians. Does the IMF want to send the message that austerity at the expense of average Ukrainians was more important, at the end of the day, than democracy?”

Yes, that has always been the message coming from the IMF. Maybe PW should read Klein’s Shock Doctrine to understand this better.

The situation in Ukraine could get dangerous. An article in The Nation describes why:

The last thing that President Obama needs right now, as he struggles to finalize an accord with Iran and get the peace conference on Syria up and running next month, is a showdown over Ukraine. But he might just get one. The three-week-old crisis there is teetering on the brink of something far worse, as protesters vow to expand their demonstrations and security forces threaten a general, violent crackdown. Despite signs that the government in Kiev may be trying to negotiate a resolution to the standoff, and despite nationally televised talks between Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich and his three predecessors, there’s enormous potential for uncontrolled violence.

The right in the United States, especially the neoconservative anti-Russia lobby, is in a lather, perhaps intoxicated by the toppling of a statue of V.I. Lenin in Kiev by anti-government protesters. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Edward Lucas, author of The New Cold War: Putin’s Russia and the Threat to the West, urges the United States and the Europeans to expand the confrontation from Ukraine to Russia itself. If Ukraine “falls into Russia’s grip,” he warns, “Europe’s own security will also be endangered.”

I guess the Cold War never ended. 50 years ago it could have, but that hope died with John F. Kennedy. Now, the game goes on, and people across the world will continue to suffer.

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