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Ukraine’s great unraveling, brought to you by corporate America

Robert Bridge
Robert Bridge

Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. He is the author of 'Midnight in the American Empire,' How Corporations and Their Political Servants are Destroying the American Dream. @Robert_Bridge

Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. He is the author of 'Midnight in the American Empire,' How Corporations and Their Political Servants are Destroying the American Dream. @Robert_Bridge

Ukraine’s great unraveling, brought to you by corporate America
To the casual consumer of McMedia happy meals, the Ukrainian crisis is a consequence of Russia’s yearning for empire lost, a Nazi-style Anschluss that began with Crimea and will end, judging by the big-font hysteria, somewhere near Alaska.

For the more sober-minded observer, however, whose worldview has not been vandalized by misguided Russophobic inclinations, the reality of the situation is a bit more complicated.

In December 2013, then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich made a decision that seems radical only because we have been trained to believe that national indebtedness to foreign institutions is the natural order of things: After telling EU's officials that he intended to sign the European association agreement, Yanukovich sent shock waves across the Western world when he suddenly reversed his decision (Until now, only Iceland has had the courage to say 'no' to western liberal reformers and their massive cash injections since the bottom fell out of the global economy in 2008).

Why the change of heart? Because the now-deposed Ukrainian leader had no desire to sell his proud nation down the river. Yanukovich understood that the harsh austerity measures demanded by the EU-IMF-NATO triumvirate would have served as a final death blow to the Ukrainian people, already suffering from many years of high unemployment and a withering economy.

Yanukovich decided instead to accept a no-strings-attached loan of $15 billion from neighboring Russia - interest-free! Considering the ongoing meltdown of EU member states, most notably in Greece, which continues to stagnate despite a massive $145 billion injection in 2010, Kiev’s volte-face toward Russia was not without merit.

However, that is not the way the Masters of the Western Universe, who wish to control the debt of nations, saw the situation.

No sooner had Yanukovich adjusted his reading glasses to read the fine-print conditions on the EU-IMF agreement, US Senator John McCain was in central Kiev, agitating the local populace with boilerplate promises of a debt-free future while shaking hands and kissing so many babies you’d think he was running for the Ukrainian presidency.

“Ukraine will make Europe better, and Europe will make Ukraine better,” McCain told a confused crowd in Kiev. “We are here to support your just cause, the sovereign right of Ukraine to determine its own destiny freely and independently. And the destiny you seek lies in Europe.”

John McCain (Allison Shelley / Getty Images / AFP)

Later, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was in Kiev, just as anti-government protests had reached fevered pitch, handing out pastries to Ukraine’s protesters and riot police. While there was no word on the expiration date of the bakery goods, the idea of the American superpower acting self-righteous and charitable in the middle of a foreign nation’s internal crisis – triggered in no small part by Washington’s own manipulations – was unappetizing to say the least.

So how does one explain Washington’s extreme diplomatic overtures in Kiev? Is it simply a case that the United States, as the self-designated champion of human rights and cake distribution, is merely acting as an impartial advocate on behalf of an internal political struggle (with emphasis on the word 'internal')? History would suggest otherwise.

It is no secret that the United States has been angling for a strategic advantage in Eastern Europe since the end of World War II, with special attention focused on strategically important Ukraine, which could serve as a future bridgehead into Central Asia and beyond. In an interview with Kiev’s Weekly Digest (May, 2004) Zbigniew Brzezinski, Washington’s premier adviser on geopolitical strategy, emphasized the importance of Russia's neighbor.

Ukraine “is certainly not a pawn; it may not be a queen, but it certainly is an important element on the chessboard – one of the most important.”

We could probably agree that one does not normally allude to the ultimate game of strategy when discussing democracy and people power. Clearly, Brzezinski and his worn-out chess board was making an unmistakable reference to Ukraine's military importance to the United States. It was not, of course, a call for humanitarian action.

So what conclusion should Russian strategists draw from such analysis, especially as NATO continues its mechanized march toward Russia’s border, and despite pledges made to Moscow following the collapse of the Soviet Union that the military bloc would not “move an inch” beyond Germany?

Reset ‘Nyet’

Washington’s disingenuous approach to the so-called “reset,” an Obama-conceived initiative used to camouflage America’s militaristic designs in the region, was finally revealed by NATO’s blunt refusal to permit Russia's participation in the US missile defense shield project in Eastern Europe – a stone’s throw from the Russian border.

Moscow warned if NATO failed to agree on some sort of mutual agreement with Russia over the ambitious project, which has all the potential to destroy the fragile strategic balance in the region, another arms race could occur on the continent. Yet as incredible as it may seem, NATO seems willing to alienate Russia over an unproven system allegedly designed to neutralize an unproven enemy (Iran) while risking an all-out nuclear-tipped arms race.

Kiev on 20 February, 2014 (RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin)

Judging by the relative insanity of NATO's decision, which ignores the necessity of bilateral cooperation in the war on terror, to which Russia is certainly no stranger, the only thing the “reset” achieved was to sow dissent and disagreement between the former Cold War foes. The Ukrainian crisis was merely the final straw on the back of an overloaded camel.

However, one nation’s crisis is another corporation’s windfall. Indeed, developments in Ukraine certainly spell big bucks for America’s bloated defense industry, which has used the Ukraine crisis in general, and the Crimean “annexation” in particular, to warn Capitol Hill of Russia’s “return to imperialism.” Never mind that Russia has not violated the territorial integrity of a single foreign country - without being attacked first, as was the case with Georgia - since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“Everybody in the Pentagon and in the defense industry is using the Ukraine crisis as a warning for why the department needs to spend more on military technology,” Loren Thompson, chief operating officer for the Lexington Institute, told AP.

Military advantage, however, is not the only reason for Washington imposing itself on Kiev. To understand the full picture, it is only necessary to consider the corporate circus that US Congress has become, in which the “people’s representatives” now take their marching orders from boardrooms across corporate America.

Consider, for example, efforts by the American Petroleum Institute to take advantage of Kiev’s chaos.

“We’ve just had a consistent drumbeat going since the beginning of last year,” Erik Milito, API’s director of industry operations, told Bloomberg. “We just kept doing it, and this became a more heightened debate during the whole Ukraine situation.”

Milito said the message from API, whose members include the likes of Chevron and Exxon Mobil, was not lost upon Democrat and Republican members of Congress.

“It’s a common thing when there’s a crisis for companies to see opportunity, and they will use advocacy to pursue their interests,” said James Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University in Washington.

This begs the obvious question: Is the United States purposefully provoking crises, like the one presently ripping Ukraine apart by the seams, in order to advance itself not only militarily in the region (after all, EU membership de facto implies NATO membership as well), but to quell the inordinate appetite of American corporations?

Judging by recent revelations on the part of Russia regarding the work of NGOs and particular government agencies, that is a very strong likelihood.

In September 2012, Russia’s Foreign Ministry informed the US Agency for International Development (USAID) that, after operating on the territory of Russia for 20 years, it would no longer be welcome.

People walk past the US Embassy in Moscow, the headquarters of US Agency for International Development (USAID ) Russia’s mission (AFP Photo / Kirill Kudryavtsev)

According to the Foreign Ministry, USAID was attempting to manipulate the election processes in the country.

“The character of the agency's work … did not always comply with the declared aims of cooperation in bilateral humanitarian cooperation,” the Foreign Ministry said on its website. “We are talking about issuing grants in an attempt to affect the course of the political processes in the country, including elections at different levels and institutions in civil society."

Russian civil society has become fully mature, the Foreign Ministry said, and did not need any "external direction."

Over the last 20 years, USAID has pumped $1.8 billion into various Ukrainian projects, which its website says help “Ukrainians experience increased political freedoms, stronger transparency guarantees, and more economic and social opportunities.”

How much that massive investment of US taxpayer dollars was used – knowingly or otherwise – to spread the seed of dissent revolution in Ukraine is anybody’s guess. But one thing is certain: the crisis in Ukraine has proven that the American empire is a borderless, virtual construct, which needn’t physically dominate a territory to possess it.

Like a fly-by-night vampire, the EU-IMF-NATO troika only requires an invitation to enter and operate inside of a country before the bloodletting, bank loans and corporate takeovers can begin. Eventually, the debtor country is stuffed into an ill-fitting NATO uniform and becomes a mere shadow of its former self.

Like so many international “patients” that came and went before, Ukraine will never be the same again.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.