Will coup in Ukraine divide U.S. and German imperialism?

Rainer Rupp, currently writing for the German daily newspaper Junge Welt, was a high NATO functionary in Brussels from 1977 to 1989, who also reported to the German Democratic Republic’s intelligence service HVA. Workers World managing editor John Catalinotto translated this article to make the voice of a progressive German analyst available for WW readers.

Feb. 28 — The armed coup over the Feb. 22-23 weekend in Kiev, which was with great probability supported by Washington, is momentous in many ways. Within hours the coup trashed the agreement that took so long to be hammered out in discussions led by the European Union and especially by Germany; this agreement involved Moscow and was signed by the Ukrainian opposition parties on the one hand and the government and President Viktor Yanukovych on the other. Thus, not everyone in the West shared in the exuberant joy shown after the overthrow. It has once again become clear that in relation to the Ukraine and Russia, the U.S. and the EU, specifically Washington and Berlin, act according to different and sometimes conflicting agendas.

U.S. commentators who are close to the Obama administration are openly celebrating the coup in Kiev as a successful blow against Moscow, indeed, as tit for tat for the Russian obstruction of U.S. war plans against Syria. They see that Ukraine gives them the potential to turn up or turn down a crisis to impose uncertainty and a strategic distraction on Moscow — if Russia continues to make trouble for the U.S. hegemon as the U.S. tries to enforce its plans for world order. In contradiction to this, the EU, once again led by Berlin, has tried to involve Moscow in coming up with a coordinated, mutually acceptable solution to the crisis in Ukraine, as Germany is particularly concerned with having good economic relations with Russia. For this the EU was denigrated with a contemptuous “f—k the EU” from President Obama’s East Europe and Russian political expert Victoria Nuland.

The German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen made the differences between Washington and Berlin clear with her comments at the meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels on Feb. 26. She repeatedly stressed that a solution to the crisis in Ukraine could be possible only through cooperation with Moscow: “Russia must be involved; there will be no solution found without Russia,” she said in an ARD [television] news report. She pointed out that there is also a NATO-Russia Council, in addition to the NATO-Ukraine Council. “The solution must be sought in common, both with Russia and with NATO and Europe.”

Demands from relevant German business circles followed the von der Leyen’s comments.

The chairperson of the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations of the Federation of German Industries, Eckhard Cordes, had complained this week in a statement about the anti-Russian policy of Berlin and demanded that “the EU and Russia together bring the contending parties in Kiev to the discussion table.” Similarly, even the experts of the German Society for Foreign Policy (DGAP) think tank had taken a position in a study published two days before the coup that closer “cooperation between the West and Russia” will also be required in terms of Ukraine. Germany would have to “urge moderation of both camps in Ukraine and the constructive involvement of Russia,” according to the report (see Junge Welt, Feb. 26).

In contrast, as reported Feb. 26 by the European Policy Centre, a think tank in Brussels, British policy advisor Amanda Paul — representative of the neoconservative U.S.-British and European hawks — made demands on the EU with regard to Ukraine “for a tougher line against Putin. The young generation in Ukraine is well educated and is thus needed by the EU.” That’s why the EU must “cease to behave so cowardly, and instead be ready to tackle Russia before the high hopes of many Ukrainians in the EU are disappointed,” said Paul.

Against this background, the very short final declaration — 254 words — allowed the NATO defense ministers, regarding their deliberations on the Ukraine on Feb. 26, to conclude, as was already shown at the NATO summit on the “new strategic concept” in Bucharest in 2008 and in Strasbourg in 2009, once again not to enforce the hard, confrontational line of Washington against Russia. Apart from the verbal pirouettes which aim to whitewash the violent overthrow of the president of Ukraine democratically elected by the majority of the people, it is particularly important what is omitted from the declaration: namely, there are no threats and warnings to Moscow, nor drawing of “red lines.” It is a completely different tone than that which was heard in the last few days from Washington and London. Also there appeared nowhere, not even indirectly, the demand for Ukraine’s joining NATO or the EU. The U.S.-British adventurers could obviously not prevail in Brussels.

At the same time, however, von der Leyen’s position — that is, “No solution without Russia” — is also missing from the defense ministers’ statement, even though it was strongly supported by Spain, among others. Implicitly, however, the text includes a requirement that, should it be fulfilled, would pave the way for an amicable solution with Russia and is contrary to the destabilizing power politics of the U.S. The relevant passage reads: “We stress the importance of a comprehensive political process based on democratic values, respect for human rights, the rights of minorities and the rule of law that meets the democratic aspirations of the entire (!) Ukrainian people.” This would remove the fascist and other ultra-nationalist forces in Ukraine from consideration.

Despite all the difficulties Moscow had in the past with [pro-West neoliberal billionaire] Yulia Tymoshenko as prime minister or Viktor Yushchenko as president of Ukraine, it can work together with them quite satisfactorily, also thanks to the moderating influence of Berlin on Kiev. The great uncertainty is now, however, whether the West will get back under control the extremist forces it unleashed in the Ukraine.