Europe (East & SouthEast)
The Ukrainian crisis falls neatly into a long-standing mythology that a fraction of the left and a large majority of liberals in the West buy into each time the media decides to engage in a foreign policy morality tale. It is the same old story of the good – be it 'democracy', ‘human rights’ or ‘self-determination’ - that 'we' bring to others. In fact this mythology is the dangerous product of a deep-seated racism in Western societies that still hasn't come to terms with the legacy of colonialism, exploitation and genocide that 'we' have in reality imposed on 'them.'
Ukrainian opposition poster shows a PORA jackboot stomping on an insect representing the current government and its supporters. Such racist dehumanization of opponents is a critical precursor to conflicts and is a hallmark of fascist movements.
US-backing for opposition forces in the Ukraine - which has already been exposed in some progressive and main-stream publications (see links below) - has been well documented. What hasn’t been addressed, however, is the way in which the reality of the situation on the ground has been obscured in the main-stream press in order to confirm old Cold War stereotypes and perpetuate the current mythologies of Empire globally. The ‘fairy tale’ of the Ukrainian elections is designed to legitimate attempts to reorder to post-Soviet space – through the agency of NATO, the IMF/World Bank, and civil society promotion outfits like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), USAID, the Open Society Institute, etc. - in ways that serve the geostrategic and economic interests of Empire.
Thus, while opposition leader Viktor Yuschenko has been represented as a liberal reformer and his opponent Viktor Yanukovych as the incarnation of Soviet style authoritarianism, the reality is quite different. Yuschenko essentially represents the modern face of a conservative Ukrainian nationalism that has been progressively revived in the western portions of the country since the declaration of Ukrainian independence in 1990, while Yanukovych is little more than a typical post-Soviet petty-capitalist oligarch - of which there are dozens of examples of in the region (and that generally, although not in this case, enjoy the backing of Western policy makers).
I got a curious email yesterday from a friend studying at Cambridge University who’s been involved in Palestine solidarity activism on UK campuses. Yesterday he got yet another job offer in his mailbox through the ‘Career Service’ listserve run by Cambridge (see the end of this blog entry for the full text of the offer). The position caught his eye because it related to Palestine. It seems like Adam Smith International, the spin off consultancy of the conservative Adam Smith Institute in the UK, is looking for a Refugee Policy Advisor to consult the Palestinian Authority on aspects of refugee policy. While the link between neo-liberal economics – with a Thatcherite accent - and Palestinian refugee rights may seem abstract, it makes perfect sense if we consider the actual objectives of the international community’s intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
For those who have been following the Palestinian issue closely, this type of intervention and ‘advice’ on a crucial topic like refugee rights will come as no surprise. After all the ‘international community’ has been inching ever closer to an open endorsement of Sharon’s disengagement/annexationist plan since it was announced during the Likud party’s Herzaliya conference in December 2003. This last April, Sharon was invited to the White House and received full approval for ‘disengagement’ from the Bush Administration, including a willingness to overtake responsibility for the security situation in Gaza either directly or through regional proxies. This point was highlighted by Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, in a Washington Post article that he penned shortly after the Bush-Sharon summit. Indyk is a primary proponent of imposing an international trusteeship over the Palestinian ‘state’ (read Bantustan) that is scheduled to emerge sometime in the middle or near the end of the year 2005.