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Current location: Kiev, Ukraine
Member since: Wed Oct 25, 2006, 02:04 PM
Number of posts: 2,011
Current location: Kiev, Ukraine
Member since: Wed Oct 25, 2006, 02:04 PM
Number of posts: 2,011
If the US State Department's Victoria Nuland had not said "Fuck the EU," few outsiders at the time would have heard of Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, the man on the other end of her famously bugged telephone call. But now Washington's man in Kiev is gaining fame as the face of the CIA-style "destabilization campaign" that brought down Ukraine's monumentally corrupt but legitimately elected President Viktor Yanukovych.
"Geoffrey Pyatt is one of these State Department high officials who does what he’s told and fancies himself as a kind of a CIA operator," laughs Ray McGovern, who worked for 27 years as an intelligence analyst for the agency. "It used to be the CIA doing these things," he tells Democracy Now. "I know that for a fact." Now it's the State Department, with its coat-and-tie diplomats, twitter and facebook accounts, and a trick bag of goodies to build support for American policy.
A retired apparatchik, the now repentant McGovern was debating Yale historian Timothy Snyder, a self-described left-winger and the author of two recent essays in The New York Review of Books – "The Haze of Propaganda" and "Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine." Both men speak Russian, but they come from different planets.
On Planet McGovern – or my personal take on it – realpolitik rules. The State Department controls the prime funding sources for non-military intervention, including the controversial National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which Washington created to fund covert and clandestine action after Ramparts magazine and others exposed how the CIA channeled money through private foundations, including the Ford Foundation. State also controls the far-better-funded Agency for International Development (USAID), along with a growing network of front groups, cut-outs, and private contractors. State coordinates with like-minded governments and their parallel institutions, mostly in Canada and Western Europe. State's "democracy bureaucracy" oversees nominally private but largely government funded groups like Freedom House. And through Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, State had Geoff Pyatt coordinate the coup in Kiev.
Posted by MattSh | Wed Mar 26, 2014, 04:21 PM (9 replies)
As a resident of Kiev, I'd just like to give a couple of my perspectives. They might mean something; or they might mean nothing at all. Who can tell?
The day after the ban on Russian TV was announced, my wife called up our cable provider and said "if there are no Russian channels, I don't need your cable service anymore." Our cable company then proceeded to upgrade us to their premium package for free for the next six months. Plus, we still have each and every one of the Russian channels. Her aunt reports that two blocks away, her Russian channels are gone. The only difference being, we called and complained; her aunt had not. We never expected to continue to have the Russian channels.
Here in Kiev, most of the people we know are pro-Russian. Yeah, I know, that's not supposed to be that way. So says the official propagandists. The pro-Maidan propaganda here has been strong though. My wife today just returned from the local clinic. She reports that the Doctor, the nurse, and the receptionist of all pro-Russian. Now there is no doubt a strong pro-Ukrainian thing going on here too; first because of Ukrainianization policies since independence, and second, there's a whole lot more opportunity in Kiev than in the west of Ukraine, so there's a good number of west Ukrainians here.
The main English language newspaper in Kiev, the Kyiv Post, is disgustingly pro-Maidan and pro-coup. Now, the Kyiv Post has not had the best of reputations among a good portion of the expat community. In my eyes, the events of the last three months have hurt its reputation greatly. Not only has its coverage been very one-sided, they've gone beyond that and were basically the whole trumpet section for the protests. But in the end, I think the Kyiv Post will do well. I think early on they realized if they chose the correct side, the newspaper would survive. If they chose incorrectly, their financial problems would catch up to them quite quickly. But more than that, I highly suspect the US Embassy played a role in helping them to choose the "correct" side.
Facebook, well, it is Facebook, it's just not a place where you even want to hint at an alternative opinion. It took me a while to figure out exactly why it was just so lopsided. People with last names like Mann, Parke, O'Ehley, McAlister, and Wheat. Not the usual surnames from this part of the world. The most likely explanation is a State Department recruited numerous Ukrainian-American organizations whose job it is to go out to Facebook and post the official State Department story. Though there might be more to it than that.
Now, about the propaganda. There are two totally different yet parallel worlds trying to occupy the same space. Now, the propaganda is basically used to reinforce everybody's particular point of view. I don't believe that it is leading anybody to switch from one side to the other. But to listen to the stories that come out from the opposite side can certainly be an amusing distraction. Recently I heard recently is Mr. Putin and Mr. Yanukovitch have summer cottages on the same street in Russia, likely paid for by Mr. Yanukovitch. And then there's the one where Putin talks about Sharia law. Funny, I though only US politicians did that.
These event will definitely split families and end friendships. One of my wife's few pro-Maidan acquaintances felt compelled this last weekend to send her an email telling her to "wake up" to which was attached to a very romanticized view of Stephan Bandera. My wife's father had never shown any strong Ukrainian feelings in the past, but since his girlfriend is pro-Maidan, so is he, obnoxiously so at times.
This recent situation in Crimea, I believe, is a godsend. First, it has permitted the situation here in Kiev to assume a certain level of normalcy. And I've been thinking recently that how much better the 20th century would have been if, within the first couple of months of Hitler's rule in Germany, someone had decided it was time to put an end to his nonsense and went ahead and invaded Germany. Maybe people in the states don't learn from history, but it certainly looks like Mr. Putin has.
A couple stories about Right Sector but I want to pass on. It may be possible that it's propaganda, though I suspect that if these stories are not correct, that it's more related to the children's game of telephone. You know the one with the first child whispers something to the second child who whispers it to the third child and by the time it gets down to the 10th child it's a much different story. So here goes:
This a building just down the street from us that has just been broken into for the second time in two weeks. (That's confirmed). This latest incident was apparently performed by Right Sector, who were attempting to free a bank of some of its assets. Most banks here apparently don't keep a lot of assets on-site, but this one did, so they attempted to break in and security on-site barricaded themselves into a safe room and called the police. In normal times, Berkut would respond to these types of calls. But there is no Berkut anymore. So they had to figure out whose responsibility it was. But that's not the end of it. Police eventually showed up and removed the perpetrators, and shortly thereafter release them to the protest camp at Maidan.
The second story is that Right Sector is running an extortion scam. They go off to business owners and for one-time payment of $10,000, they are promised that they will be able to run their business in peace. Or at least until the next time Right Sector decides they need more money. And with breakaway sentiment growing in various parts of the country, it's likely the scam will continue. This in the end will only force the economic situation in Ukraine to go downhill far quicker than it would normally have gone. These extortion course will be passed on to buyers, at the same time that austerity sets it. An ugly situation will just continue to get uglier.
It is difficult to determine truth from rumor around here these days, but I'll pass along something if it seems relevant.
Posted by MattSh | Mon Mar 17, 2014, 10:19 AM (201 replies)
A group of Defense Militia members at EuroMaidan. On the left one gives a Nazi salute.
Sascha, Andrei, and Mira are members of AntiFascist Union Ukraine, a group that monitors and fights fascism in Ukraine. We sat down to talk about the influence of fascism in EuroMaidan, this is what they told me:
Sascha: There are lots of Nationalists here, including Nazis. They came from all over Ukraine, and they make up about 30% of protesters.
Mira: The two biggest groups are Svoboda and Pravy Sektor (Right Sector). The defense forces aren’t 100% Pravy but a large percentage is.
S: Svoboda is more legal as a group, but they also have an illegal militant faction. Pravy Sektor is more illegal, but they want to usurp Svoboda.
M: There’s a lot of infighting between Pravy and Svoboda. They worked together during the violence but now everything is calm so there’s time to focus on each other. Pravy and Svoboda both take donations and they have lots of money. Recently Pravy has all these new uniforms, military fatigues.
One of the worst things is that Pravy has this official structure. They are coordinated. You need passes to go certain places. They have the power to give or not give people permission to be active. We’re trying to be active but we have to avoid Nazis, and I’m not going to ask a Nazi for permission!
S: A group of 100 anarchists tried to arrange their own self-defense group, different Anarchist groups came together for a meeting on the Maidan. While they were meeting a group of Nazis came in a larger group, they had axes and baseball bats and sticks, helmets, they said it was their territory. They called the Anarchists things like Jews, blacks, Communists. There weren’t even any Communists, that was just an insult. The Anarchists weren’t expecting this and they left. People with other political views can’t stay in certain places, they aren’t tolerated.
Posted by MattSh | Thu Mar 6, 2014, 01:21 PM (2 replies)
Just hours after last weekend’s ouster of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, one of Pierre Omidyar’s newest hires at national security blog “The Intercept,” was already digging for the truth.
Marcy Wheeler, who is the new site’s “senior policy analyst,” speculated that the Ukraine revolution was likely a “coup” engineered by “deep” forces on behalf of “Pax Americana”:
Wheeler is partly correct. Pando has confirmed that the American government – in the form of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) – played a major role in funding opposition groups prior to the revolution. Moreover, a large percentage of the rest of the funding to those same groups came from a US billionaire who has previously worked closely with US government agencies to further his own business interests. This was by no means a US-backed “coup,” but clear evidence shows that US investment was a force multiplier for many of the groups involved in overthrowing Yanukovych.
But that’s not the shocking part.
What’s shocking is the name of the billionaire who co-invested with the US government (or as Wheeler put it: the “dark deep force” acting on behalf of “Pax Americana”).
Yes, in the annals of independent media, this might be the strangest twist ever: According to financial disclosures and reports seen by Pando, the founder and publisher of Glenn Greenwald’s government-bashing blog,“The Intercept,” co-invested with the US government to help fund regime change in Ukraine.
Step out of the shadows…. Wheeler’s boss, Pierre Omidyar.
Posted by MattSh | Mon Mar 3, 2014, 07:07 AM (16 replies)
Posted by MattSh | Sun Mar 2, 2014, 12:18 PM (5 replies)
Bank Run Full Frontal: Ukrainians Withdrew 7% Of All Deposits In Two Days
Well that escalated quickly. It seems the ouster of Yanukovych, heralded by so many in the West as a positive, has done nothing to quell the fear of further economic collapse in Ukraine:
• *UKRAINIANS WITHDREW AS MUCH AS 7% OF DEPOSITS FEB. 18-20: KUBIV
• *DEPOSIT WITHDRAWALS STILL HIGH IN THE EAST, KUBIV SAYS
Ukraine's bonds resume fall; hryvnia hits record low
The hryvnia fell more than 6 percent on the day to 9.80 per dollar, on track for its biggest one-day loss since February 2009.
Ishitaa Sharma, a strategist at Citi said the hryvnia's slide was likely to add to jitters among the population, with many people left holding a depreciating currency.
"They are all looking for hard currency. There is no buyer out there for the hryvnia," Sharma said.
UPDATE: Current rate today is 10.15.
My Commentary on the above…
Okay, so in practical terms, what does this mean? Well first, this 7% number I find a bit astounding. Why? Because in the euro zone, it’s a general requirement that 1% be held in reserve. And while in the USA there is a 10% requirement, that only applies to checking accounts. So in all practicality, that number is a whole lot lower. So a 7% withdrawal rate would eliminate all cash reserves in most banks in the USA and in the Eurozone.
But let's look at this even closer. It's not likely at all that major corporations with operations in Ukraine are holding anything beyond a couple weeks operating expenses in Ukrainian banks. They’re not considered to be all that reliable. So the 7% number has nothing to do with a couple of major corporations moving money out of the country. They never had that money there in the first place.
Of course, this is not surprising. Especially among the older population, there's a strong memory of the collapse of the USSR and the ensuing collapse of the banks. Those who remember those times understand full well that you should have minimal trust in banks and that once things appear to be going downhill, you get your money out quickly.
So now, what are the practical effects of the second story? What do these numbers mean? For the last few years, the Ukrainian currency has generally been in a fairly stable range when compared to the US dollar at about an 8 to 1 ratio. Now the number is about 9.7 and I have already predicted the ratio hitting 12 to 1 before the May elections. Although now it appears even I may have been a bit optimistic about that. Time will tell.
At the 12 to 1 ratio, the practical effect of this is that any imported goods will see a 50% price increase as soon as it crosses the border. After that, there will likely be additional increases tacked on because the cost of transportation will also have increased. So, this must be good for domestic industries, correct?
Sadly, that is not correct. One of the biggest costs of any manufacturing operation is energy. Energy to run the factory, energy to build product, energy to extract resources, and energy to transport resources, both to and from a factory. Since energy is also an import, energy costs will rise 50% at least. I say at least because a recent agreement with Russia led to a 33% cut in the cost of Russian gas. Since it is not likely that Ukraine will uphold their end of that agreement, it's very likely that Russia will see no need to uphold their part of the agreement. And often, goods produced domestically have some imported content. That imported content will also cost more.
So, is this as bad as it gets? Sadly, the answer again is no. Everything that has happened up to this point has not yet taken into account austerity measures that will be imposed by any IMF agreement. Pensions and salaries at a minimum will be frozen; or worse, they may be cut. And on top of that, tax increases and new taxes will likely be introduced. The IMF will be paid back, one way or another.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union the population of Ukraine has already dropped about 10%. The current troubles will likely lead to a further drop, some to emigration and some to putting off having children. Those in the west of Ukraine will likely try to flee toward Europe, and can expect not to be welcomed. Those in the East would tend to head east toward Russia, an area they are more likely to get a warm welcome.
And I can tell you with absolute certainty that except maybe for the top 1%, nobody will be seeing raises this year anywhere close to 50%.
Posted by MattSh | Wed Feb 26, 2014, 10:21 AM (7 replies)
This article was likely written on Friday and posted on Saturday, so there are sections that are outdated already. Yet I found it to be a good read. Note that this is opinion of two people and not a hard news story.
And a link for the artist: http://goo.gl/yVdhjq
Posted by MattSh | Sun Feb 23, 2014, 08:56 AM (1 replies)
As an 8+ year resident of Kiev and living about 1.5 miles from the main EuroMaidan protests, I've seen a lot the last few months that I had never expected to see. A lot of what I'm going to say here is going to be controversial, precisely because of the pseudo-coverage these events received in the USA.
In general, I've always had this idea that if people are out in the streets protesting in large numbers, they have a very good reason to do so. But when these protests started, I was having trouble finding exactly what that very good reason was. I mean, come on, you're protesting the failure to accept a trade agreement that would impose Greek style austerity and devastate numerous domestic industries in the process? Seeing that wasn't all that appealing to many, it morphed into a protest against corruption, which is obvious and rampant here and much more appealing to the general population. But many could not overlook a couple of things. One is the fascists leanings of one of the main groups behind the protests, and that the protests were incredibly well organized and well funded and claiming it all came from ordinary Ukrainians didn't compute. I smelled a rat early on, and so have in general been against these protests, though there have been occasions where they almost won me over, to be followed a day or two later by the street doing something so stupid that I could no longer be on their side.
Let me just link to a couple of articles that I believe describes the complexity of the situation the last few months in Kiev.
Debate: Is Ukraine's Opposition a Democratic Movement or a Force of Right-Wing Extremism?
Now, what was that agreement? It would have been an economic catastrophe for Ukraine. I'm not talking about the intellectuals or the people who are well placed, about ordinary Ukrainians. The Ukrainian economy is on the brink of a meltdown. It needed billions of dollars. What did the European Union offer them? The same austerity policies that are ravaging Europe, and nothing more. $600 million. It needed billions and billions.
There's one other thing. If you read the protocols of the European offer to Ukraine, which has been interpreted in the West as just about civilizational change, escaping Russia, economics, democracy, there is a big clause on military cooperation. In effect, by signing this, Ukraine would have had to abide by NATO's military policies. What would that mean? That would mean drawing a new Cold War line, which used to be in Berlin, right through the heart of Slavic civilization, on Russia's borders. So that's where we're at to now.
One other point: These right-wing people, whom Anton thinks are not significant, all reports, and I don't know when he was in Ukraine, maybe it was long ago and things have gone, but the reports that are coming out of Ukraine are the following. One, the moderates, that's the former heavyweight champion boxer, Vitali Klitschko, and others, have lost control of the street. They've asked the people who have been attacking the police with Molotov cocktails, and to vacate the buildings they've occupied, to stop. And the street will not stop, partly because, I'd say largely because, the street in Kiev is now controlled by these right-wing extremists. And that extremism has spread to western Ukraine, where these people are occupying government buildings. So, in fact, you have a political civil war underway.
Ukraine and the Rebirth of Fascism in Europe
For its part, the United States has strongly come down on the side of the opposition, regardless of its political character. In early December, members of the US ruling establishment such as John McCain and Victoria Nuland were seen at Maidan lending their support to the protesters. However, as the character of the opposition has become apparent in recent days, the US and Western ruling class and its media machine have done little to condemn the fascist upsurge. Instead, their representatives have met with representatives of Right Sector and deemed them to be "no threat." In other words, the US and its allies have given their tacit approval for the continuation and proliferation of the violence in the name of their ultimate goal: regime change.
In an attempt to pry Ukraine out of the Russian sphere of influence, the US-EU-NATO alliance has, not for the first time, allied itself with fascists. Of course, for decades, millions in Latin America were disappeared or murdered by fascist paramilitary forces armed and supported by the United States. The mujahideen of Afghanistan, which later transmogrified into Al Qaeda, also extreme ideological reactionaries, were created and financed by the United States for the purposes of destabilizing Russia. And of course, there is the painful reality of Libya and, most recently Syria, where the United States and its allies finance and support extremist jihadis against a government that has refused to align with the US and Israel. There is a disturbing pattern here that has never been lost on keen political observers: the United States always makes common cause with right wing extremists and fascists for geopolitical gain.
Ukrainian Left-Wing Activists' Appeal to UN, EU, and USA: Don't Back Civil War & Fascist Coup in Ukraine!
1. The pretext for organizing the Euromaidan in Kiev was the refusal of the Government and the President of Ukraine to sign an Association Agreement with the EU. We draw your attention to the content of this document, for the sake of which the Parliamentary opposition led people to the Maidan. The heart of the Agreement is the complete loss of Ukraine's sovereignty through the transfer to supranational agencies (the Council of Association and the Committee on Trade) of decision-making authority, placing them juridically above the Constitution and laws of Ukraine. It has been unconditionally proven that this contradicts the Declaration on the National Sovereignty of Ukraine, the Constitution of Ukraine, and decisions of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. It also contradicts the expression of the will of the people of Ukraine in the referenda of March 17 and December 1, 1991.
Implementation of the Association Agreement with the EU would indisputably lead to the destruction of the country's economy, industry, agriculture, service sector, and science.
Russia Under Attack
In a number of my articles I have explained that the Soviet Union served as a constraint on US power. The Soviet collapse unleashed the neoconservative drive for US world hegemony. Russia under Putin, China, and Iran are the only constraints on the neoconservative agenda.
Russia’s nuclear missiles and military technology make Russia the strongest military obstacle to US hegemony. To neutralize Russia, Washington broke the Reagan-Gorbachev agreements and expanded NATO into former constituent parts of the Soviet Empire and now intends to bring former constituent parts of Russia herself–Georgia and Ukraine–into NATO. Washington withdrew from the treaty that banned anti-ballistic missiles and has established anti-ballistic missile bases on Russia’s frontier. Washington changed its nuclear war doctrine to permit nuclear first strike.
All of this is aimed at degrading Russia’s deterrent, thereby reducing the ability of Russia to resist Washington’s will.
The Russian government (and also the government of Ukraine) foolishly permitted large numbers of US funded NGOs to operate as Washington’s agents under cover of “human rights organizations,” “building democracy,” etc. The “pussy riot” event was an operation designed to put Putin and Russia in a bad light. (The women were useful dupes.) The Western media attacks on the Sochi Olympics are part of the ridiculing and demonizing of Putin and Russia. Washington is determined that Putin and Russia will not be permitted any appearance of success in any area, whether diplomacy, sports, or human rights.
Posted by MattSh | Wed Feb 19, 2014, 08:30 AM (84 replies)
Less than a mile away.
Posted by MattSh | Tue Feb 18, 2014, 07:41 AM (17 replies)
Sochi on my mind: It is hard to think of an issue more politicized in Western media than the topic of Russia. It is commonplace to hear, read, and watch media reports claiming the worst possible things about Russia and Russians.
Criticisms are magnified even more when the subject is Vladimir Putin. While Russia does have a long list of issues to grapple with (like just about every other country in the world), the kind of media coverage it receives in turn engenders a serious security threat to the international system. Russia bashing is dangerous for us all.
Whether one likes it or not, Russia is an important power in the world. Having a seat on the UN Security Council confirms its voice will be heard. In fact, Russia often represents the concerns of most of the globe on the Security Council, although this is hardly ever pointed out by the western powers on the Council, particularly the United States. Russia is not a spoiler; rather it holds back the unilateral tendencies held by those in Western capitals. It is almost unthinkable that anyone in the mainstream would ever inform audiences of this reality.
The level of journalistic malpractice committed against Russia blinds Western electorates, poisons public opinion, and emboldens the reckless political class. The denigration of the Sochi Games was to be expected. Cheap shots, lazy reporting and maniacal commentary are a form of entertainment served up by Western mainstream media. The Games have come and will soon pass into history. But their impact will be felt long after.
Posted by MattSh | Fri Feb 14, 2014, 09:06 AM (12 replies)