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Crisis in the Ukraine: Imperialism Pushes East
08 Dec 2004
The political crisis in Ukraine is about Western imperialism, headed by the U.S. ruling class, manipulating the political process and maneuvering among the different factions of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie. The goal is to open the floodgates for U.S. and European corporations to exploit this rich and strategically located country, to weaken Russia by breaking up its political and economic ties with Ukraine, and to accelerate Kiev's movement towards NATO.
The political crisis in Ukraine is not about electoral fraud. It is not because the Ukrainian presidential election runoff on Nov. 21 "did not live up to international standards," as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell declared. If capitalist elections had to live up to such standards, Bush would not have been president in 2000; he would not have won Ohio and a host of other states in 2004.

The political crisis in Ukraine is about Western imperialism, headed by the U.S. ruling class, manipulating the political process and maneuvering among the different factions of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie. The goal is to open the floodgates for U.S. and European corporations to exploit this rich and strategically located country, to weaken Russia by breaking up its political and economic ties with Ukraine, and to accelerate Kiev's movement towards NATO.

On a broader political and strategic level, this election dispute is about imperialism's relentless march to the East, the encirclement of Russia and the attempt to reduce it to a neocolony. It is a dangerous, incendiary, aggressive move that is being orchestrated far beyond the Bush administration. In fact, when the list of institutions involved in this subversive putsch is laid out, it constitutes a broad section of the mainstream bourgeoisie, many of whom were opposed to Bush and his adventurist foreign policy.

The Carnegie Institute for International Peace, George Soros's Open Society Insti tute, Freedom House and the National Endowment for Democracy (CIA) are in it, among others. The subversive organizations of the European imperialists must be also be added to the list.

They have created PORA, the so-called "student" organization on the model of Otpor in Serbia and Kmara in Georgia. They mobilized thousands of "poll watchers" and agitators and propagandists to prepare for the election. They organized a strategy of "exit polls" which put their man, Viktor Yushchenko, ahead by 11 percent; this then became the media event and the axis of all sorts of destabilizing accusations. They organized election campaign slogans, logos, campaign squads, and so on.

Yushchenko's Our Ukraine movement and the Kiev Press Club are both funded by Washington's National Endowmen for Democracy, which in turn is a conduit for the CIA. This and more has been documented by Michel Chossudovsky (www.globalresearch.ca) and by Ian Trainor in the British newspaper Guardian of Nov. 26.

The imperialist "moderates" are saying to Bush, look what your adventure in Iraq cost and look where it got us. We will show you how to take over a rich, strategic country of nearly 50 million without creating such a mess. The Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld group are completely preoccupied with Iraq, Iran, the Middle East in general and Korea, and how to salvage their situation. Colin Powell, their connection to the mainstream ruling class, is managing the Ukraine situation as his last act before leaving.

Imperialist move to the East

The movement to the East began with the overthrow of the Polish socialist government by the CIA, which created the Solidarity movement through its stooge, Lech Walesa. It climaxed with the destruction of the USSR and all the socialist countries of Eastern Europe.

It then continued with the Yugoslav war of 1999, followed by the "peaceful" overthrow of the government of Slobodan Milosevic and the takeover of Serbia. Washington then moved to oust its former ally, Eduard Shevardnadze, in Georgia and put in a completely U.S.-educated puppet, Mikhail Saakashvili. It failed in its attempt to overthrow the government of Belarus. And now the imperialists are on to Ukraine.

Ukraine borders on Russia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, the Black Sea and the Sea of Avov. It has 48 million people. It was a colony during the tsarist empire.

Its eastern portion emerged from the civil war after the Bolshevik Revolution as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. It became part of the original Soviet Union, formed in 1922.

The western Ukraine was part of capitalist Poland until 1940; it was invaded and occupied by the Nazi imperialists as part of their offensive against the USSR in 1941. It lost 7 million people at the hands of the Nazis. Resistance developed after the initial Nazi invasion destroyed large units of the Red Army.

Under the planned economy of the USSR, Ukraine was transformed from a primarily agricultural and mining region to an industrial power second only to Russia within the framework of the USSR. The planned economy made it possible to recover from the vast devastation of World War II.

After the collapse of the USSR and the restoration of capitalism, the new bourgeois leadership declared it "independent" and moved towards dependence on the West. Production collapsed by over 50 percent. Over 30 percent of the population was soon living in poverty. Social benefits were trimmed and Ukraine, like all the post- Soviet countries that fell victim to capi talist restoration, became a land of insecurity for the workers and the peasants.

But it is a land still coveted by the transnational corporations. A description of Ukraine by an internet think tank, globalsecurity.com, tells a lot.

"Endowed with good natural resources, superb agricultural land, a well-educated population, ethnic peace and a strategic location in Europe, Ukraine was positioned to be one of the most successful of the former Soviet states in attracting foreign investment needed to restructure its economy," reads the study.

"Ukraine is rich in natural resources. It has a major ferrous metal industry, coke, mineral fertilizers and sulfuric acid. Manufactured goods include airplanes, turbines, metallurgical equipment, diesel locomotives and tractors. It also is a major producer of grain, sunflower seeds and sugar and has a broad industrial base, including much of the former USSR's space and rocket industry. Although oil and natural gas reserves are small, it has important energy sources such as coal, and large mineral deposits, and is one of the world's leading energy transit countries, providing transportation of Russian and Caspian oil and gas across its territory."

This description is enough to have stockholders, CEOs, Wall Street brokers, bankers and the entire global fraternity of profit-seeking capitalist parasites drooling at the mouth. After all, these resources and all the economic infrastructure developed and built up over generations by the working class under the socialist system are now there for the taking.

But so-called "oligarchs" in Ukraine are not cooperating fast enough. Many of them are trying to take all the loot for themselves. And therein lies the axis of the crisis in Kiev.

The term oligarchs has come to mean the robber capitalists who have used their political connections to lawlessly appropriate formerly socialist property, usually at bargain-basement prices. It is a term of opprobrium used in the capitalist press. And it is fitting. But it ill behooves the biggest oligarchs of all to use that term--the ones at Citibank, J.P. Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and the Fortune 500, who not only use political influence to steal the resources of entire countries, but use the CIA and the Pentagon to get by subversion and military force what they cannot get legally and peacefully.

Imperialism vs. indigenous capitalists

The fierce struggle for the post of president between the present prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, and the former prime minister, Viktor Yushchenko, cannot be understood on a strictly national, Ukrainian scale. The big business media are trying to cast it in terms of democracy versus corruption and the nationalist Ukrainian west versus the Russian-speaking east. But the struggle can only be understood in terms of the intervention of imperialism.

The giant corporations and the political strategists of Wall Street, London, Paris, Rome and Brussels are seeking to break the strength, if not the back, of the national, protectionist, counter-revolutionary bourgeois factions that have feasted off the privatization process and are trying to amass industrial empires. These indigenous capitalists are busily engaged in dividing up the fruits of 70 years of socialist construction built up by the workers and peasants of Ukraine, but they have resisted sharing them with outsiders.

President Leonid Kuchma, whose second five-year term is expiring, picked Yanukovych to be his successor. Yanu kovych had been governor of the coal-rich Donets region. Later, as prime minister from Nov ember 2002 to December 2004, he tried to solidify his base in this industrial and coal-mining region of the east, raising wages, pensions and social benefits to coun terbalance the suffering of the workers from capitalist restoration and privatization.

Yanukovych's demagogy was meant to offset the fact that he was part of the Kuchma grouping that was enriching such capitalists as Rinat Akhmetov, the owner of System Capital Management, Ukraine's biggest corporation with large holdings in metallurgy. Also in his camp are Viktor Pinchuk, Kuchma's son-in-law, who owns Interpipe and three television channels and is reportedly Ukraine's second-richest man, worth $3 billion. Also behind Yanu kovych is the Dnepropetrovsk-based Privatbank, a powerful capitalist grouping. And he was close to Serhiy Tyhypko, chairperson of the National Bank and other business interests who have tried to grab the lion's share of industry. (Kyiv Post, Nov. 29, and globalsecurity.com)

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an independent, working-class voice in this struggle. But that is what is desperately needed to expose both camps and revive the struggle against capitalism and exploitation and for a planned economy with workers'rights.

Yushchenko, during his term as Kuchma's prime minister from 1991 to 2001, made "progress" in privatization for the imperialists.

In the Russian Independent Internet Digest (RIID at putinru.com) of Oct. 29, the journal pondered the paradox that the Russians might be worse off under the allegedly "pro-Russian" Yanukovych.

"'Yanukovych is for regional protectionism, there is no doubt about it,' said Myron Wasylyk, head of the Ukraine office of PBN, a consulting and public relations firm.

"'Yanukovych has basically blocked off the Russians and the Westerners and has given everything to the Ukrainians,' Wasylyk said.

"During Yushchenko's tenure as prime minister, from 1999 to 2001," continues the RIID, "the prospect for foreign firms was much brighter, said Dmitry Tara bakin, director of Dragon Capital, Ukraine's biggest brokerage by volume."

Auction of steel mill shows what's what

Despite Yanukovych playing the "Russian" card at home, preparing to promote Russian as a second official state language and leaning politically toward Russia, "he approved the results of a privatization auction for the country's biggest steel mill, Kryvorishstal, earlier in this year. Global steel majors, including Russia's Severstal, were all anxious to bid, but parliament's privatization committee revised the terms of the tender essentially to ban them, driving down the sale price in the process."

In the end, the auction was won for just $800 million by a Ukrainian company founded by Pinchuk and Akhmetov, even though Severstal said it was willing to pay $1.2 billion. (RIID)

What the RIID did not mention, because it was only concerned with Russian capitalist interests, was mentioned by Business Week Online, Nov. 8, about the same auction. Viktor Pinchuk won, complained the U.S. financial magazine, "even though the winning bid of $800 million was far less than a $1.5-billion offer from U.S. Steel Corp."

Business Week shares RIID's assessment of Yushchenko. "If Yushchenko, a strongly pro-Western politician who jump-started Ukraine's boom when he was prime minister ... pulls off a victory, Ukraine could see major reforms that will put the country on the international investor map like never before."

And Business Week has a prescription for how to begin the investment boom. "What's really needed are big manufacturers" who will be drawn by "a highly educated, cheap work force. Labor costs are below $160 a month, including all taxes and social levies, vs. around $400 a month in Poland. And as wage costs in European Union accession countries [former Soviet republics--F.G.] spiral upward, nearby Ukraine looks ever more tempting. 'EU enlargement has brought the borders of Europe to Ukraine, so from a strategic point of view, a logistical point of view, and a cost point of view, it makes much more sense right now to manufacture in Ukraine,' says Jorge Intriago, partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Kiev."

Knowing the opportunistic nature of both camps in the struggle inside Ukraine, Business Week, the authoritative organ of the biggest U.S. capitalists, is not too worried. It quotes Garry Levesley, Ukrainian director for the Arlington, Va.-based power company AES Corp., which has two Ukrainian power distribution companies. "Whoever wins, the country will continue to move forward economically, reform and normalize. The only question is the pace of improvement," says Levesley.

The U.S. and European imperialists are huddling now. They have threatened Russia, whose economy, military and space program are heavily integrated with Ukraine. They are backing the candidate, Yushchenko, who wants to bring Ukraine into NATO, and have pushed the Parlia ment to reject Yanukovych. They inflamed the situation in order to get a beachhead in Ukraine. Now they will try to stabilize the dangerous and incendiary state of affairs they have created so they can have a smooth transition to a breakthrough in imperialist exploitation of Ukraine.

The push into Ukraine is, in the last analysis, an expression of the crisis of world capitalism and imperialism. It is no accident that German imperialism forced the Bolshevik government to sign away Ukraine in the Brest-Litovsk Treaty of 1918, which allowed Russia to get out of World War I. Ukraine was a valuable and strategic territory that the German capitalists needed and they thought such a monumental loss would cripple the Bol shevik government. After Germany collapsed, the Brest-Litovsk Treaty was nullified.

It is also no accident that Hitler, when planning his offensive against the USSR, made the capture of Ukraine, with its agriculture and minerals, a principal military objective. To Hitler, Ukraine was "lebensraum," living space, a place to colonize, invest in and enslave the Ukrainians. This was essential to Hitler's plan for world conquest.

His mad adventure in the USSR was an expression of German imperialism's need for colonies. It had few, but possessed the most advanced, most productive capitalist industrial machine in the world. It was a matter of life and death for the German imperialists to grab new markets, new sources of raw material and new wage slaves.

While the social crisis in the United States bears no comparison to the one that Hitler sought to solve, nevertheless, the present relentless and dangerous push to the East, which could also eventually target China, is driven by the same capitalist/imperialist forces that made for his sudden grab at Ukraine.

The movement in the United States must expose the dangerous and aggressive maneuver of the U.S. ruling class and demand that Wall Street and Washington keep their hands off Ukraine.


Reprinted from the Dec. 9, 2004, issue of Workers World newspaper
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Re: Crisis in the Ukraine: Imperialism Pushes East
08 Dec 2004
Is there a reason why articles in Russian keep appearing on indymedia’s website? It is very frustrating for Non-Russian speaking people. Especially when the headlines are written in English.
Re: Crisis in the Ukraine: Imperialism Pushes East
08 Dec 2004
Give me a break with this communist propaganda!

The Ukrainians are caught between two version of a New World Order -- the neo-Brezhnev style New Red tyranny under Putin and the Washington/Brussels style tyranny under NATO.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss!

Pray for Ukraine!

http://www.distributism.com