Friday, June 06, 2014

D-Day + 25 550

The world, it seems, is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy by the Allied forces in 1944.  Some of the few remaining participants gather again to recollect that momentous day. And with them gather the 'global leaders' who either maintain the 'peace and  freedom' that invasion was meant to secure, or try to remove it, again. The validity of that  statement depends on one's perspective. This year, as in other years, it has absolutely nothing to do with the festering sore that remains the middle east. This year it has everything to do with the Ukraine, and more specifically the 'unwanted' guest, Vladimir Putin - world-pariah and President of the Russian Federation.

And what did Putin do to incur the wrath of civilization? Well not much at all. Other than upsetting a fairly well-designed American apple-cart. He messed with the 'democratization of the Ukraine'.

But holy moly bat-wanger wasn't the Ukraine already a democracy?

Well technically, since 1992, it has been - or at least it hasn't been a Soviet Socialist Republic - even though it had 'democracy' of a sort, then, as well. Problem is, that wasn't the right sort, and  neither, apparently, has the kind they've had since. It hasn't been made more perfect, like it should. You see friends, what's been wrong is that Ukrainians have insisted on electing themselves a series of 'kleptocracies' - democratic elections  of crooks who steal the country blind to  'get ahead'.

Now in some Ukrainians - particularly the oligarch class of Ukrainians - (Russians and a few other ex-soviets as well) that 'go-getting entrepreneurial spirit' is praised and rewarded with Cypriot bank accounts, lavish holiday homes in Spain and English football teams.  But what happened in practice is that Ukraine has  been "stolen into bankruptcy" and requires a massive bail-out, which, because it wasn't 'attached', wasn't necessarily coming from the west without an elaborate system of jumpin' through hoops. The Bank  of Ireland had offered to float a $15 billion dollar bond issue but wasn't guaranteeing more that a 10%  return to Kiev. That's when Putin reared his close-clipped head.

Putin, fresh from a world-class 'eclat' at Sochi,  was offering the necessary $15 billion but it came with strings attached. Those strings were a closer alignment to the newly-developed Russian-Asian trade bloc Putin was trying to set up between the former elements of the USSR. That orientation offended a number of Ukrainians who had been pushing for a 'pivot west' for EU and NATO membership. And it offended America.

An American  'investment' of $5 billion in 'democracy' got the Kievans and a few others out on the streets, starting in November, in an attempt to sway, at first, and then overthrow the administration of President Yanukovich. When the protest turned violent and after a number of people had been killed in Kiev, Yanukovich took flight and 'abandoned' his government. An interim group was self-ratified and took over.

One of their first actions  was  to pass legislation to enshrine Ukrainian as the only 'official' language in a country more than half populated by Russian speakers. The 'russian-ukrainians' in Crimea , who had already tried separating from Ukraine 4 years ago, 'took the bit between their teeth', blockaded Ukrainian military and government posts and declared their regional government the only legitimate one for them. They held a referendum on  separation, got a resounding 'yes' vote, declared independence and asked  to join the Russian Federation.

Putin was delighted.  Crimea is Russian again.

Of course that didn't delight everybody else, some claimed that Putin had actually "invaded" Crimea, held that referendum at gunpoint and then 'annexed' the place.  But the 'coup',  if there was a coup, was  far less bloody and destructive than the 'wilding' in Kyiv.  Ukraine, however, still wants its Crimea back ... or $90 billion in reparations.

At the same time, more or less,  the 'east' went sour.

One of the new 'interim' government's first actions was to deploy the Ukrainian 'nationalist militia' groups and the better units of the army to 'danger points' - Odessa in the West, the Crimean border, obviously, and the larger deployment into the eastern regions of the country. The ostensible reason for all  this was the loudly-bruited "imminent threat" of a Russian invasion of the Ukraine. When regional government,  loyal to Yanukovich, collapsed,  disorders followed in eastern cities between 'russians' (some  bussed-in from russia)  and 'western' Ukrainians (bussed-in from Kyiv,  Lviv etc)  for pro-Ukraine demonstrations.  Oligarchs were appointed to govern three of the regions. Disorders continued to spread and the Ukrainian forces were faced-down by local civilians - often surrendering weapons and equipment at civilian checkpoints. Armed groups removed the vestiges of Ukrainian control in a number of places in the east,  and set up local administrations on the Crimean model. One notable spot was the town of Slavyansk, which is located over salt mines that are used as one of the largest arms storage depots on earth. 

The response on the interim government was to call for a 'mobilization' (of the Maidan patriots into a National Guard)  and declare "war" on what they now termed  armed ''terrorists" in the east. The eastern army was immediately reinforced with 'ad hoc' NG units sent to spurious 'training camps' in the east -  as well as a deployment of heavy equipment. This has continued with deployment of a 'Special Forces' unit and, lately, 'volunteer militia units' - usually affiliated with one of the ultra-nationalist groups tasked with 'defending the motherland'. Last week tank units were being moved into  the two apparently "besieged"  'hotspots' around Slavyansk and Luhansk.

Surprisingly, none of this seems to be going well at all - with government forces receiving some sharp knocks and an apparent disconnect between regular forces and the 'auxiliaries' who seem to get the 'easy jobs' - shooting-up civilians rather than facing-down their opposite numbers.  It could be that a NG unit was responsible for a 'massacre' of 17 soldiers blamed on the 'terrorists'. The government gunships that shot-up the unit, after the attack, certainly didn't help and might well have killed some survivors. Just this week the 'rebels', now largely told-off as being 'interlopers' from Russia, seized a border crossing and security station just outside Luhansk, while separatists in the city did the same to two government outposts after a UAF strike fighter rocketed the city's administration center.

The government forces blockading Slavyansk continue to settle for bombarding the outlying areas rather than launching the 'final assault' they've been promising for a month. Maybe when the tanks arrive.

So, then, what all this got to do with D Day? While one part of the world focuses on Putin's purported 'evildoing' as, somehow, antithetical to the events of 70 years back, they aren't comparing the two 'invasions' at all. Although Putin's was smaller, infinitely less notable and actually as the result of an 'invitation' by the locals,  it wasn't as 'right' as the one that started the liberation of Europe. To hear it, he's 'enslaved' the Crimea and damaged the Ukraine for no good reason, his 'invasion' not at all like the one that took the Allies to France.

I'm inclined to think that Poroshenko, president-elect of the 'new' Ukraine, at D Day, is a real affront to  the spirit of that time. He represents a dimension of the Ukraine that sided with the Nazis to kill Russians (and Poles and Jews) to make a 'better', free -er Ukraine. That same evil spirit is being visited on the innocents, again, to-day. That, to-day, it is wrapped in 'democracy' and involves money,  is no reason it should be tolerated any more than it was on June 6th all those years ago.

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