US bans aid to Ukrainian Neo-Nazi Azov group: What’s behind the move?

Derek Monroe
Derek Monroe is a writer/reporter and consultant based in Illinois, USA. He has reported on international and US foreign policy issues from Latin America, Poland, Japan, Iraq, Ukraine, Sri Lanka and India. His work appeared in Foreign Policy in Focus, Alternet, Truthout and Ohmynews, and has been published in over 20 countries.
Ukraine's voluntary militia called the Azov Battalion (Reuters/Marko Djurica)
After outlawing training and arming of Ukraine’s Azov battalion, it’s also likely the US will send highly paid PR consultants to deal with Ukraine’s image, which apparently doesn’t look good, said foreign policy analyst Derek Monroe.

Leading officials in Ukraine have granted awards to members of a far-right paramilitary group the Azov Battalion. They praised the unit for the so-called “liberation” of Mariupol from anti-government fighters last year. Meanwhile, last week US Congress banned American military advisers, who are training Ukrainian troops, from providing any assistance to the Azov Battalion describing it as Neo-Nazis.

RT:The US is taking a tough stance against the Azov Battalion. Are they likely to continue receiving support from within Ukraine?

READ MORE: US lawmakers ban aid to Ukraine neo-Nazis

Derek Monroe: There are definite political ramifications to the issue itself. Senator [John] Conyers who is head of the Black Caucus in the Congress definitely takes a lot of issues personally…staunched racist remarks not only against Russians, but also about people of different races, different faiths, even different sexual orientation.

So it remains to be seen. I think politically there will be definitely some kind of degree of backlash against the situation because our people, many people from the US, are part of the Ukrainian government right now, whether they’re several appointed consultants, or some members of the government in the Ukraine like our finance minister that happens to be from Chicago. Some pretty sure there will be a lot of self-searching when it comes to the degree of analyzing the situation and to make sure that appropriate actions have been taken. I think it needs to be taken in this case.

RT: This militia group, along with others in Ukraine, is privately funded and is not part of the regular army. How easy is it for the Ukrainian government to control groups like this?

DM: They’re part of this so-called National Guard which is actually modeled on the US template, on how we have organized the militias, national guards in Latin America for example - it is rather similar. Surely they’re being funded by oligarchs and also supported by a variety of different channels including the US, CIA, or other secret channels at this point.

But I think what’s really comes into play is that political necessity will definitely determine some kind of degree of pressure to make sure those groups are being reigned in, or at least the rhetoric that’s coming out of the groups themselves has to be changed. I’m sure there will be some very highly paid PR consultants coming into Ukraine right now just to deal with the issue of the image, because apparently it doesn’t really look good.

RT:Is there perhaps a danger that we’re going to see a rift between the Kiev authorities and the US over this, or do you think this will be dealt behind closed doors?

DM: I think it will probably be dealt behind closed doors. However, Azov Battalion people are very much staunch supporters of ‘independence’ from what’s going on in Kiev. They will go with the game as long as they are basically able to fulfill their own aims. In this case- war against Russia, war against some kind of .. enemy of Ukraine that happens to be anybody who doesn’t share their views. And they have specifically stated that if they don’t get what they want they will definitely march on Kiev. However, that’s said, I think the Ukrainian government is also dependent on a lot of Western aid, specifically financial and economic. I’m pretty sure there will be some things put in place specifically US involvement over there - namely our consultants, our trainers, out military boots on the ground - to make sure that whatever happens, the Azov Battalion is going to be fairly isolated and doesn’t really go out of framework of control.

RT:Why do you think America took this stance recently, because we’ve known about the Neo-Nazi links to this group for number of months?

DM: I think politically Senator Conyers - actually I sent an e-mail to his office, I haven’t got a reply, because this is one the questions I had too. I think fundamentally the issue is somewhat personal. Conyers has been very vocal on any kind of degree of racism, and is not going to tolerate it. He didn’t have to go as far as introduce the part of the legislation that would visibly block Azov getting any US aid. However, this has been blown up for a long time. And US media has definitely been playing around the game in order to cover up the real extent of the chauvinism, racism, and any kind of ‘ism’ you can imagine, in order to cover up the “freedom fighters.” This is an accumulation of many things that kind of came into play right now.

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