An American in Ukraine Comments on the Ukraine Crisis
by John-Henry Hill, M.D.
First Posted: March 11, 2014
Edited: March 17, 2014
I am an American who has lived in Ukraine since 2010 (and a visitor here for some 10 years before then), with houses in both Odessa and Simferopol (Crimea), as well as in Scotland and Switzerland. (I am currently in Odessa; my wife is in Simferopol visiting her parents and phones me several times each day with the news.) The people here are greatly interested in how Americans view the political crisis here. So I have read hundreds of articles on American news web sites to get an idea of what is being presented there. I can assure you that MOST of the information presented by the Obama administration and the American news media about the political crisis here is WRONG! Among the more accurate presentations of what the mood is here was a short piece by Lev Golinkin, a former Ukrainian, titled “Vladimir Putin’s enemies aren’t all good guys” in the Boston Globe of March 10, 2014.
The word that best sums up the situation here is FEAR.
The people in southern Ukraine and Crimea view the post-coup leaders in Kiev as illegitimate. Like the Maidan protesters in Kiev, they saw the former president Yanukovitch as corrupt and no doubt would have voted him out of office in the upcoming elections. But they are appalled by the post-coup government and are fearful of its affiliations with the neo-NAZI factions (e.g., Right-Sector and Svoboda from western Ukraine) that currently control the streets and government offices in Kiev. Of note, armed gangs of Right-Sector members, having scared off the police, now patrol the streets of Kiev and the halls of government buildings. These well-armed gangs, who were the primary snipers killing both the Maidan protesters and the police in Kiev, have beaten and kidnapped political opponents in the parliament and in neighboring districts; and in a few cases even burned their opponents’ homes. As the two tape-recorded conversations of Victoria Nuland (U.S. State Dept.) with the U.S. Ambassador in Ukraine and more recently of Estonian Foreign Affairs Minister Urmas Paet to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton reveal, both the post-coup government leaders and the neo-NAZIs groups were supported and funded by the U.S. and NATO, primarily through U.S. NGOs (non-governmental organizations). Further, the U.S. government was well aware of the violent history of these neo-NAZI groups, whose recent history includes combat in such places as Georgia and Chechnya.
I do not use the term “neo-NAZI” lightly. Many of the coup leaders are followers of Ukrainian Nazi Stepan Bandera, who collaborated in the mass murder of Jews, Poles and pro-Russian Ukrainians during World War II. Indeed, masses of men from northwest Ukraine worked for the NAZIs in both the military and in concentration camps. Their current political ideology, organizational structures and symbolism are straight out of NAZI Germany, but with a nationalist Ukrainian twist. More importantly, these neo-NAZIs are not on the fringes of the post-coup government in Kiev. Rather, they are the core leaders of that government (including the new prime minister Arseniy Yatsenuyk or “Yats” – as Victoria Nuland called him – of the Fatherland party), including the armed forces, police, courts, national security, education, and economic affairs. The links to international bankers are also evident, primarily in the persons of Yatsenuyk (as prime minister) and newly appointed central bank head, Stepan Kubiv.
The calls for the use of force by the U.S. are WRONG! The solution is NOT force – military or economic – by the U.S. and NATO. The people here do NOT want violence. Like most Americans, they simply want to live their everyday lives as they desire, without fear from government and violent extremists. They are seeking the assistance of Russia because there currently is NO alternative, as the U.S. has sided with the post-coup Kiev government. The vast majority of the people in eastern and southern Ukraine and Crimea do NOT wish to break up Ukraine and join Russia. Nor do they wish to become affiliated with the European Union, which they view as an economic “death sentence” as befell Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Spain and Cyprus. But, given the U.S.’ support of what they perceive as a rogue government, they see no viable alternative. They prefer to secede rather than submit to the violence and servitude promised to them by the Right-Sector, Svoboda and other neo-NAZI leaders now in power in Kiev! They prefer the relative economic freedom offered by Russia, as opposed to the neo-feudalism the international banks and the IMF have imposed on the peoples of other nations.
It is FEAR that is pushing the Ukraine people toward Russia – NOT ideology! If anyone thinks that the threat of military and economic force by the U.S. will change the situation, he is dead wrong. The people ALREADY perceive such threats of deadly force coming from the post-coup Kiev government and the neo-NAZIs. They fear that if these neo-NAZIs consolidate their power, a PURGE of pro-Russian Ukrainians will take place throughout Ukraine and Crimea. The American people have never experienced the political purges such as those that occurred here under Stalin and Hitler (aided by western Ukrainians). But the people here remember them well and realize that they could happen again. Whether this fear is rational or not is beside the point: the fear is genuine and growing. Its effect on the people here should not be under-estimated.
Any solution to this crisis must include:
1.) long-term guarantees by the U.S. and Russia, backed up by mixed-unit U.S.-Russian military forces if necessary, that there will be no political purges or retribution anywhere in Ukraine by any parties;
2.) all armed para-military forces be removed from Kiev (by a joint, mixed-unit U.S.-Russian military force in Kiev ONLY), with their replacement by the regular police (who are afraid of Right-Sector and Svoboda groups);
3.) all foreign (especially U.S.) non-governmental organizations (NGOs) must be banned permanently in Ukraine; and further EU and NATO expansion to the east must be halted permanently.
4.) the post-coup government in Kiev be disbanded immediately; and a temporary government council be created, composed of two representatives from each oblast to act as a type of unicameral legislature to appoint temporary administrators of the central government and to organize a new Ukraine-wide REFERENDUM (see #8 below).
5.) the current treaty with Russia for its Black Sea fleet and land-based troops in Crimea must be maintained and extended indefinitely;
6.) a guarantee that no future Ukraine government may sell, transfer or monetize (“privatize”) any state-owned assets; that all such assets shall remain in a legal trust for the people of Ukraine; and that all loans to Ukraine, its oblasts (similar to our states) and Crimea from any outside groups (such as the IMF, World Bank, the EU, NATO, BIS, the U.S. and all other nations and their agents, foreign banks, etc.) will be subject to immediate cancellation and the discharge of such debts should any attempt be made by them to introduce “austerity measures” or any other fiscal, monetary, capital controls, political or military interventions into Ukraine, its oblasts or Crimea.
7.) the people of Ukraine must retain their individual right to keep arms, as the militia concept is very strong here and the people will never forfeit the rights of keeping arms and of self and community defense;
8.) that a REFERENDUM be held throughout Ukraine (with international monitors) within the next 30 days in which the people of each OBLAST (similar to our States) are given a choice of whether to remain a part of Ukraine as a FEDERATION of autonomous OBLASTS; OR to become independent nations (and thereafter free to form new nations within their current geographical areas or to join existing foreign nations, such as Russia, Belarus or Poland). If such a referendum were to take place, in order to earn the trust and confidence of the Crimean people, Crimea (which on March 16, 2014 voted for independence and acquisition by Russia) would need a guarantee from ALL nations of complete and total independence – both from Ukraine and from Russia, but with all treaties with Russia intact (see # 5 above). Only under these conditions would the people of Crimea ever even consider NOT being annexed by Russia, which they view as their guardian.
The American media fail to understand that CORRUPTION is the primary problem here, with its origins both in the West and in Russia. They see the international bankers, the IMF, the World Bank, multi-national corporations and the ultra-rich oligarchs (Russian, European and Ukrainian) buying their politicians and selling their nation to the highest bidders. And the Ukrainian people, like most Americans, are sick of it! They do NOT want to be ruled by Russia; nor by the U.S or the European Union. But like most people here, I would rather be under Russian protection than at the mercy of the post-coup Kiev government. The people here are fleeing a burning house – and they flee toward Russia solely because they view the U.S. and EU as throwing more gasoline on the flames!
If the U.S. government truly wishes to resolve the crisis in Ukraine, it must give the Ukrainian people a viable alternative to BOTH the Kiev neo-NAZI government (in collusion with the IMF, EU, mega-banks and multi-national corporations) AND to a Russian takeover. And, if any proposal is to gain the trust of the people here, its implementation must be undertaken by the U.S. and Russia jointly, probably requiring a mixed, joint U.S.-Russian military force. Above all, the U.S. needs to recognize the genuine FEAR that exists among the people here; along with their current distrust of the U.S. government and the EU.
Wake up before thermonuclear war makes this all a moot point!
The de facto Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenuyk (or “Yats”) has LOST CONTROL of the coup in Kiev. The REAL power resides in the fascist groups such as the Right-Sector and Svoboda.