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Outright lies from the New York Times: What you need to know about the dangerous new phase in the Ukraine crisis

PATRICK L. SMITH

 The slightly fetid “phony war” in Ukraine—the unsettling stagnation noted in this space a month ago—is emphatically over. Suddenly there is movement on several fronts, and some of it is promising. But this is a dangerous moment, too, chiefly because Washington’s bet on the post-coup government in Kiev, bad from the outset, is on the brink of producing a result so ugly and shameful its consequences all around cannot now be calculated.

I refer to the very real potential, as of Monday, for a coup mounted by violence-adoring ultra-rightists—those neo-Nazis airbrushed out of the news coverage even as they now maraud through the Ukrainian capital almost with impunity. “The far right won’t make a full move on the Poroshenko government now,” a Ukrainian émigré said on the telephone Tuesday. “I think it’ll be a couple of months before we see that.”

Comforting, isn’t it?

In effect, we will now watch a race between those attempting to forge a negotiated settlement in Ukraine—and the prospects for this look good once again—and the collapse of the Kiev government precisely because the European powers are now forcing it to accept such a settlement. You tell me who is going to break the tape.

Before I go any further, there is an aspect of this new phase in the Ukraine crisis that needs to be noted right away. The narrative advanced over the past 18 months by most Western media—and all corporate American media, without exception—is coming unglued before our eyes. This is going to make it even more difficult than heretofore to understand events by way of our newspapers and broadcasters.

Already we see the kind of contorted reporting always deployed when our media have to cover their tracks after long periods of corrupt, untruthful work. Per usual, the most consequential offenses occur in the government-supervised New York Times.

Example: Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, now confronts “Ukrainian nationalists” over plans to decentralize power because Vladimir Putin forced this upon him, “with a metaphorical gun to his head.” This we read in Tuesday’s paper. And here we need a trigger warning for the faint of heart, because I have two strong words for this report, written with deliberation.

Outright lies. We are beyond lies of omission now. These are the real thing.

One, these are not “nationalists.” France’s Front Nationale is nationalist. The U.K. Independence party is nationalist. The majorities on Capitol Hill are nationalist. These are black-shirted ultras who vote with explosives and assassins’ bullets. You deserve to know this, and it does not change simply because Washington backs them covertly and John McCain—ask him—does smiling photo ops with Oleh Tyahnybok, their openly fascist leader.

Two, there is no accounting at all for the “gun to his head” bit, but Putin’s view that federalization is the sensible solution to the Ukraine crisis is (1) plainly the sound way to hold the nation together while addressing its differences and (2) vehemently endorsed by the French and German governments. Chancellor Merkel, with no gun to her head, made this plain Tuesday, when she insisted that autonomy legislation now pending in Kiev must be acceptable to the leadership in the rebellious eastern regions. You deserve to know this, too.

Chronology is all if we are to understand the events of the past week or so. You have not seen a chronology, because this is the very worst time, from the official and media perspectives, for you to understand events. A brief sketch of the errant timeline, which will do for now, looks like this:

  • Angela Merkel and François Hollande, the German and French leaders, had Poroshenko to Berlin last week and made him stand next to them as they vigorously reiterated their commitment to a negotiated settlement based on the pact signed in Minsk last February. “We are here to implement the Minsk deal, not to call it into question,”Merkel declared in that forthright way of hers.
  • Last weekend, with Poroshenko back in Kiev, Germany, France and Russia—the Minsk signatories, along with Ukraine—declared that a new ceasefire would go into effect Tuesday, September 1. At writing, the very early signs are that it has a better-than-even chance of holding, previous efforts having frayed.
  • On Monday the Kremlin announced that the Minsk signatories would meet by mid-September “in the Normandy format.” This means the four foreign ministers will convene, probably by telephone (as they first did in northern France on the D-Day anniversary last year). Two implications: One, this is a working session, devoted to structuring terms. Two, Paris, Berlin and Moscow want concrete progress toward a settlement within two weeks. In other words, the clock ticks.
  • Also on Monday, the Rada, Ukraine’s legislature, held a preliminary vote on the constitutional revisions that are to provide the eastern regions a high degree of autonomy. While this is a key provision in the Minsk agreement, the Poroshenko government had previously done nothing to implement it over the seven months since Minsk II was signed.
  • And finally, far-right protesters had gathered outside the Rada in anticipation of the vote. As soon as the measure was passed—by a narrow margin—they erupted into violent rioting featuring bombs, explosive devices and grenades. Three police officers are now dead, more than 100 injured. The instigator was the same party that turned demonstrations last year into a coup— Oleh Tyahnybok’s Svoboda, the Russian-hating, Jew-hating party that canonizes Nazi collaborators. Poroshenko called Svoboda’s riot “a stab in the back.” Of course: Until recently his deputy prime minister and prosecutor general were both Svoboda members. He’s no stranger to these people.

So went the past week. What do we make of it? Where are we in this story?

* * *

I see several moving parts in what is now a highly kinetic situation in Ukraine and surrounding it. In some cases these are intricately related.

Consider first the European position. The Germans and French have plainly quickened the pace of their joint diplomatic efforts. Why is this and why now? It helps to note that Paris and Berlin have chosen to work with the Russians within the Minsk II framework while excluding the Americans (as, indeed, Mink II pointedly excluded them earlier this year, when warmongers on Capitol Hill and in the Pentagon were hoisting the thought of arming Kiev up the flagpole).

Two concerns appear to be at work in the European capitals. One, Washington has stepped back but half a step from its effort to force a military solution in Ukraine. Recall: As of this summer the Pentagon is effectively managing Ukraine’s armed forces. Note: Joe Biden, the White House’s point man on the war, had little to say to the French and the Germans last week, but he called Poroshenko in Kiev to stiffen the wayward president’s back in countering rebel forces on the ground in the eastern regions. (Biden for president is an odious thought, incidentally.)

Two, and more urgent, the Europeans are well aware that the Poroshenko government is highly unstable, if not teetering indeed. Its support in opinion polls is well down in the single digits. Even before this week’s street violence, nobody in Berlin could fail to see the threat of an overthrow posed by the black-shirted ultras of Svoboda and Right Sektor, a more recently formed descendant of the Social-National Party, as Svoboda used to call itself.

Remember the wave of assassinations in Kiev last April? Among the victims was a journalist and historian named Oles Buzina, who opposed a radical breach with Russia on numerous grounds. Buzina seems to have been much honored among Ukrainians, for some of them placed a plaque on the front wall of his home. Last week, Right Sektor members gouged it off—and then replaced it with a similar slab honoring his assassins. “In broad daylight. No police to be seen,” as Russia Insider, the Western-run news site in Moscow, reported.

A few days later Svoboda and Right Sektor staged the riot outside the Rada. There have been arrests in both cases, but we are looking at something close to impunity.

I called Lev Golinkin, a young Ukrainian writer from the eastern city of Kharkiv (and the émigré quoted above), to ask him about this. Here is some of what he said in a long telephone exchange Tuesday:

“The far right does not have enough support to win any presence in parliament. But they don’t need support. They need unrest. All they need is for people to see the Poroshenko government as just as corrupt and inefficient as the one it replaced. And of course it is.

http://www.salon.com/2015/09/02/outright_lies_from_the_new_york_times_what_you_need_to_know_about_the_dangerous_new_phase_in_the_ukraine_crisis/

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