If one thing becomes clear about the mounting conflict between Ukraine and Russia, it is that its unpredictability makes this conflict very dangerous indeed.
While all parties involved – Russia, Ukraine, Europe, the NATO and the US – pay lip service to the concept of détante and diminishing the mounting instability and warmongering, all their actual actions show the total opposite.
Like in all international conflicts, all parties involved in the conflict seem to have hidden agendas. This given has as a logical consequence, that there is a massive amount of propaganda and lying involved from all sides. No political leader involved in this conundrum should be believed at face value.
Nevertheless, the build-up of the whole story runs through very familiar lines:
- The Russians are the ‘bad guys’; they have eagerly fulfilled this role since the Second World War, so what else is new;
- The European and the US leaders, as well as the NATO, are obviously ‘the good
- The new Ukrainian leadership wants to hook up with the European leaders and the NATO, so hey… when we follow the principle that ‘the enemy of our enemy is our friend’, they must be the good guys too!
It is needless to deny that Russia indeed hijacked the Crimean region with a sneaky, covert operation.
There is also little doubt that Russia has substantial involvement in the mounting unrest in East-Ukraine. On the other hand, it should not be ruled out that there are genuine worries of the ethnical Russian population behind it, spurred by the earlier Ukrainian attempts to outlaw the Russian language and limit the rights of the ethnical Russians.
From an economic point of view, one should not forget that Russia has to defend its gas supply through the Ukraine (its ‘GDP lifeline’) and that the country wants to stay the number one energy supplier for Europe. As the Russian manufacturing industries – and as a matter of fact, the Russian economy as a whole – still lead a languishing existence, the delivery of gas and oil to Europe (or China) is Russia's bedrock.
On the other hand, there is the situation with Vladimir Putin in his familiar ‘Marlon Brando’ role, as an insulted ‘capo di tutti capi’: Putin feels that he is not really taken seriously anymore in the Western world. In order to punish this ‘disrespectful’ Western attitude, Putin wants to take revenge. He does so, by constantly changing his approach, while setting the situation in the Ukraine to his hand – with continuous success. On Putin’s behalf, Ukraine seems merely like a game of chicken with the West, instead of the country being an area that he wants to conquer.
However, also the motivations of the Western allies are not so honorable and straightforward, as they might seem to the uninquiring bystanders.
The leaders of the European council all have their own worries: some of them want to show to the Kremlin who is really the boss and also that Europe is not dependent on Russian gas anymore: a.o. French president François Hollande and – presumably – British PM David Cameron.
Others, however, (a.o. German chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch PM Mark Rutte) want to preserve their very lucrative exports to Russia: they bark a little and go through the motions, but they certainly don’t want to bite…!
The best example of this schizophrenic politics lately was Dutch Foreign Affairs' Minister Frans Timmermans, who reluctantly cancelled a state visit to Russia with an extensive Dutch trade delegation, but categorically denied that this was a sanction, although it looked, felt and smelt like it.
The European Commission feels that the future of the European Union is currently on the line. This is due to the rise of leftwing and rightwing populism in Europe, with their anti-EU stance and their growing numbers of grassroots. This populism shocked the ‘middle of the road’ politicians, who now feel forced to openly question the blessings and the influence of the EU, in order not to lose more votes to the populists.
That is why the European Commission is so eager to welcome ‘lost sheep’ Ukraine in its flock, in spite of the monstrous financial/economic burdens that such a step could have for the EU itself. In fact, so eager that the EC assumed the ostrich position and totally ignored the vast strategic consequences of this step for Russia and for themselves. The Ukraine is a country that is openly happy about the European Union and happiness about the EU is something that the European Commission really likes and cherishes.
And the NATO?!
This organization has turned from the most important peacekeeping operation in the Western world into ‘an organization without a cause’. The NATO is frantically looking for a raison d’etre to substantiate its enormous budgets and massive ranges of weaponry. Nothing helps better to achieve this goal, than mounting tensions in the heart of Europe. And who can you better turn to in this situation than the ‘mother of all cronies’ Vladimir Putin, who is more than willing to help.
President Obama and the United States, on their behalf, feel that there is something to gain in the current explosive situation. They have their considerable amounts of shale gas, that they can sell to a Europe, which is sick-and-tired of the Russians and their gas.
As the situation is relatively safe and far away for the US, Obama can scream and shout at Putin, without having to fear any serious consequences. Even a regional war in Europe would have a very limited contamination risk for the United States.
Besides that, it could be Obama’s chance to prove that he is "tough on… something!" It might prevent him from being forgotten in the future, as a non-descript and rather weak president.
And the Ukraine itself?!
In my opinion, one bunch of parasites and scavengers on society has been replaced by another bunch: the first bunch were Putin’s friends and the second bunch are ‘friends’ of the West. Of all the good intentions that many people at Maidan Square had during the protests, most have probably flooded down the drain, in the current atmosphere of ‘divide and conquer’ that is ruling Ukraine.
The current government seems to be a mixture of oligarch business-men, ruthless, opportunistic politicians and ultra rightwing fanatics, with a dark past and (probably) a dark future.
The Ukraine wants to become a member of the European Union AND of the NATO at the shortest possible notice. They want to do so, in order to tap in on the large subsidy flows coming from the EU and to escape from the Russian economic and military influence: by itself this is a logical and defensible step for them.
Obviously, the new Ukrainian government wants to be seen as the sole victims of the whole situation with Russia. To achieve this, the country is constantly pointing at the mounting tensions between Russia and the Ukraine and at the stationing of armed forces at the Russian borders: everything that Ukraine did was good and defensible, while everything that Russia did was bad!
On top of that, the new Ukrainian government is also busy with calling the ethnical Russian protestors terrorists, in order to substantiate their deadly military approach against them: hence, the ATO (Anti Terror Operation).
In my humble opinion, however, the ethnical Russian protestors (distinguished from genuine Russian military infiltrators) are obviously not terrorists, as these people in fact hardly terrorize anybody. Instead, they defend their position, by taking over Ukrainian government buildings. However, the Ukrainian government calling the Russian protestors ‘terrorists’ fits in the atmosphere of deliberately mounting tensions.
This is the explosive and dangerous mix, which is at play in the Ukraine.
And today – like business as usual – the Western newsmedia (read: mainly the Anglo-Saxon newsmedia) were once again eager to print the next verbal outburst by PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk of Ukraine. The following snippets come from NBC:
Russia "wants to start World War III" and Moscow's veiled threats of military action could start an armed conflict in Europe, Ukraine's prime minister said Friday,
Arseniy Yatsenyuk made the comments a day after Russia said it had been "forced" to start fresh military drills just over the border because of increased activity by NATO and the Ukrainian military.
"Attempts at military conflict in Ukraine will lead to a military conflict in Europe,'' Yatsenyuk told a cabinet meeting broadcast live and translated by Reuters. "The world has not yet forgotten World War II, but Russia already wants to start World War III."
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Ukrainian attempts to drive armed pro-Moscow separatists out of occupied buildings across the east of the country would be met with "consequences."
Ukraine's operation against the separatists - whom the West says are backed by Russia - turned deadly Thursday amid reports that five pro-Russian militiamen had been killed in the city of Slaviansk.
"There has been no suspension of the ATO in connection to the threat of invasion by Russia's armed forces," Interior Minister Arsen Avakov wrote on his Facebook page, translated by Reuters. "The ATO goes on. The terrorists should be on their guard around the clock. Civilians have nothing to fear."
As far as I’m concerned, the whole story of ‘Russia wanting to start World War III’ is needless and pointless fearmongering, only aimed at involving the NATO in Ukraine’s situation. This is something that the NATO should not do and should not desire at all. As a matter of fact, it shows the desperation of the current Ukrainian government. Probably the whole situation will blow over in a few months, when everybody comes to his senses again.
Nevertheless, in this situation, in which five different parties all have different goals and keep their cards firmly to their chest, the situation could run out of hand very easily, when all parties are calling each other’s bluff.
I don’t believe in World War III and I certainly don’t want this to happen. Neither want the US, the NATO, Russia and the European Union, when they are in their right minds.
Still, in this particular case, which is currently creating its own dynamics, everything could happen, unfortunately.