There are many potentially worrying signs in the ‘de-escalation’ process in theory agreed by the US, Russia, EU and Ukraine this Thursday in Geneva.
For starters; the regime changers in power in Kiev did not commit themselves, explicitly, to constitutional reform (the draft language is slippery, to say the least); they did not commit, explicitly, to leaving Ukraine out of NATO; and a minor but still significant point – this was not a joint press conference by the two key players, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Arguably, the US State Department is bound to interpret ‘de-escalation’ as a sort of ultimatum to every anti-fascist, pro-autonomy and pro-Russia group in eastern Ukraine, as in ‘disarm or else’. That’s the same logic behind the nefarious March 2011 UN approval of a no-fly zone over Libya.
By negotiating directly with the Kiev regime changers in Geneva, Moscow in fact took a step back – recognizing them as a legitimate government (until then that was an absolute no-no.) Moscow also implicitly recognized groups in eastern Ukraine – be they independent-ist, pro-autonomy or pro-Russia – as the only ones to be disarmed (what about Nazi-style or neo-fascists groups in western Ukraine?)
And the key problem; there’s no way to verify for sure the neutrality of OSCE peace missions, which can be easily infiltrated by Western intelligence and even facilitate the weaponizing of neo-fascist, pro-Kiev outfits.
The Jewish question
It gets even murkier, the process coming after CIA Director John Breenan’s ‘secret’ visit to Kiev the previous weekend, coupled with ‘leaked’ Washington plans to deliver ‘non-lethal weapons’ (as in IEDs, mortars and grenades) to the regime changers.
And then Kerry, alongside EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton at the press conference, had to condemn the “grotesque flyers that have no place in our 21st century,” as in forcing Jews in eastern Ukraine to ‘register’. Translation: the State Department accepted what bears all the hallmarks of a CIA-style psy-op as a true story. A not-so-subtle push to imprint in misinformed layers of public opinion the toxic tie-up between Russophobia and anti-Semitism.
The State Department, for all its sleek machinery, would not even bother to verify that real anti-Semitic posturing had in fact been coming out of regime changer neo-Nazi outfits of the Right Sector kind, coupled with the warning by Rabbi Reuven Azman of Kiev for Jews to leave Ukraine.
Yet no wonder ‘Russian anti-Semitism’ became a lead news story in Western corporate media. It held the ‘merit’ of simultaneously demonizing Moscow while killing a real story – the farcical Kiev ‘anti-terrorist’ operation encouraged by the CIA’s Brennan.
As for the flyer psy-op, the original report, published by Novosti Donbassa, said they were distributed by “three unidentified men wearing balaclavas and carrying the flag of the Russian Federation,” and carrying the logo of “the People’s Republic of Donetsk” – as pro-Russian autonomists/separatists define themselves.
The flyers were signed by Denis Pushilin, in theory the ‘people’s governor’. Pushilin then told Ukrainian media the flyers with the logo were really distributed in Donetsk – but fiercely rejected their content, denying his group had printed them, and even denying he had used the title ‘people’s governor’. Pushilin had no idea who was behind the operation, which he labeled “a provocation’”
Also not surprisingly, Israeli media – and their American echo chambers – were all over the place with the non-story, always failing to stress that anti-Semitic attacks since the Maidan coup had in fact been perpetrated by rabid anti-Russian, Western Ukrainian neo-Nazis/neo-fascists.
And it gets curiouser and curiouser when one learns that the Bibi Netanyahu administration in Tel Aviv not only supports the regime changers, but also a possible wave of Ukrainian immigration to Israel. Chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky told Israel Radio this past Wednesday he expects immigration figures to double by the end of the year. A quick glance at Israel’s demographics problem and it’s easy to do the math.
The strategy lesson
The more things change… Before the accomplished putsch in Kiev largely organized by the ‘Khanate of Nulands’ – a neo-con cell inside the US State Department – the official Washington narrative was that the Yanukovich government should not by all means use force against “peaceful protestors”, some of them, by the way, were ‘peacefully’ throwing Molotov cocktails at police, setting fire to buildings and smashing statues. Now, those occupying government buildings in eastern Ukraine are branded as‘terrorists’.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (in red) smiles at the start of a quadrilateral meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (3rd L) and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia (3rd R) in Geneva, as representatives of the U.S., Ukraine, Russia and the European Union about the ongoing situation in Ukraine, April 17, 2014. (Reuters/Jim Bourg)
Still, let’s go back to the basics. For all Western corporate media hysteria and assorted psy-ops – ongoing and yet to come – Moscow does not need to ‘invade’ anything in eastern Ukraine or beyond. What matters is Ukraine out of NATO, and preferably neutral, Finlandized – an option that even Cold Warrior (or war criminal, take your pick) Henry Kissinger favors. Ukraine will never become a member of the EU because the EU does not want it, does not need it, and cannot afford it.
Moscow has already sent a stark message to the US/EU; there is a very fine line from supporting civilian protests in Eastern Ukraine to backing unofficial weaponized groups. This is hardcore geopolitics – not color-coded-flyer Brussels blah blah blah.
The devil will now be in the details, as in how the disarmament of assorted groups will progress in tandem with a process granting vast layers of autonomy to eastern Ukraine. The current cabinet in Kiev seems to be ready to play ball, telling government officials, regional administrations and the Kiev municipal administration that they have until October 1 to debate proposed constitutional amendments leading to decentralization.
This is not an admission that Ukraine needs full federalization, but it’s already a start. It’s what Moscow has been proposing since the Maidan coup.
For all of what passes for Western ‘intelligentsia’ carping on Putin as a Stalin remix, the ‘sick Russian bear’ and stupidities of the same ilk, a strategy lesson is evolving. The Kremlin does have a vision, the will and the means to pursue it, perseverance, and a carefully calibrated method. Sun Tzu would approve it. Don’t provoke; wait. Be patient, but not inactive. Accrue your potential. Then retake the initiative. Strike only when the right convergence presents itself. And then the ‘tactician’ on the other side, already blinded because he does not respect you, will be left clueless, wondering what hit him.
Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.