U.S. News Media's Coverage of Ukraine Crisis Paints False Picture of Good vs. Evil

Posted Feb. 26, 2014

MP3 Interview with Eric Draitser, independent geo-political analyst and founder of the StopImperialism.org, conducted by Scott Harris


Following a three month occupation of Independence Square in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, escalating street battles between protesters and police resulted in more than 85 deaths. The violence and loss of life, which grew out of opposition to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's abandonment of a proposed trade deal with the European Union, brought down the government and sent the deposed president, who now faces charges of mass murder, into hiding.

Ukraine, now close to bankruptcy and with nearly $73 billion in debt, is a divided nation with half the population in the western region identifying with Europe, while Ukrainians in the east and south have closer cultural and linguistic ties to Russia. After President Yanukovych secured a $15 billion bailout deal with Moscow in December, protests escalated. Now with Russian aid suspended, and opposition parties trying to form a new government before elections in May, Ukraine’s new leaders are seeking $35 billion in aid from the International Monetary Fund, the EU and U.S., but that funding, if provided, will come with unpopular strings attached in the form of harsh austerity measures.

Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Eric Draitser, an independent geopolitical analyst and founder of the website StopImperialism.com, who assesses the political upheaval in Ukraine and the growing influence some extreme right-wing and neo-Nazi groups now have as part of the opposition coalition, as the nation confronts a deep economic crisis.

ERIC DRAITSER: The reductionistic view that the U.S. corporate media takes is one that is not simply because they do not understand it, it’s because they’re pushing a particular narrative, and the narrative has a geopolitical dimension at the broadest level, the narrative is an anti-Russian one, that is to say, the Yanukovich government representing some sort of a surrogate for Vladimir Putin and the Russian government, therefore everything that the democratically-elected, albeit corrupt, government of Ukraine did, under President Yanukovich, was bad, was the representation of evil, and anyone in opposition to them is good, is a democracy, is an activist or something like this, but of course the truth is far from that. In fact the opposition is made up of a number of different elements, some of them what I would call more liberally-minded, Western-inclined elements, typified by a few of the opposition leaders — in particular, the well-known celebrity Vitali Klitschko, the former champion boxer, but also some other pretty well-known individuals like the man named Arseny Yatstenyuk who is noted in the Victoria Nuland’s recorded, call it leaked, conversation that she had, in which he was supposed to be the hand-picked successor to lead the Ukrainian government. So, there’s a number of individuals who represent the so-called liberal wing of the opposition.

And these were the ones who were being put forward by the U.S. media in the narrative that they were putting together. However, there is another very insidious element that I would argue is actually in the driver’s seat of the opposition. And these would be the fascist and neo-Nazi elements who have a tremendous amount of sway on the ground — a number of different organizations, some of them organized political parties, others organized street mobs, and various others somewhere in between. And they are the ones you actually see if you look at the footage, coming out of the Maidan Square in Kiev; they’re the ones who have engaged in the violent struggle against the police and so forth, and some groups that listeners need to be aware of — the Right Sector, which is a broad neo-Nazi organization — they were some of the most prevalent in engaging in the violence. The Svoboda or Freedom Party is a neo-Nazi political party that has deep ties to the historic Ukrainian so-called nationalism, going back to their collaboration with the Nazis in World War II. These elements, whether they’re a minority, or a majority, they’re the ones who are really driving events on the ground.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Eric, one of the major issues that brought on this crisis in the Ukraine was the decision the Ukrainian government had to make about whether to move toward Russia or the European Union to bail itself out of this horrendous debt. It’s got $73 billion debt, it’s estimated, and Russia offered $15 billion. The European Union offered substantially less — and a prescription of International Monetary Fund austerity policies, like we’ve seen unfold in places like Greece and Italy and Spain. The Ukraine is a divided nation culturally, and by language and familial ties. The eastern and southern part of the country closely linked with Russia, and the west and Kiev linked more closely to Europe. Why is it not possible that, instead of having an up or down choice, between Europe or Russia, there couldn’t have been some accommodation made, so that Ukraine could have association with both Europe and Russia?

ERIC DRAITSER: Well, that’s precisely what should have happened, but again, your analysis presumes that Europe was looking for some kind of a rational agreement, which they were not. They were essentially creating a blackmail scenario where they were forcing Ukraine to choose one side or the other, knowing that it would put the Ukrainian government in a very untenable position. Now what could have happened would have been sort of a tri-partite agreement, for instance like what Canada has — where Canada participates in NATO, but Canada also has agreements with Europe, and with other parties outside of the NAFTA agreement. You could have had something very similar to that in Ukraine, where Ukraine had a partnership agreement with Europe, but also with the Customs Union of Russia and of the former Soviet republic. And you could have had some kind of accommodation, but of course that wouldn’t have served the geopolitical strategy of the United States and their European allies, because by making Ukraine choose, they forced the government to side with Russia, thereby inciting the destabilization campaign that they were looking for.

Ukraine did not have the choice to go with both sides; they were forced to choose, and in my judgment, the United States and the European Union knew full well that Yanukovich would side with Russia.

For more information, visit StopImperialism.org.

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