Humbug And Provocation – Brian Cloughley

Even in circumstances of dire danger there is the occasional chance of a laugh, although it might be a trifle hollow. In the case of the so-called ‘crisis’ in Ukraine, in which Russia is being menaced by the US and some other Nato countries, the joke is in the claim that “Moscow’s orchestrated demonstrations in eastern Ukraine, with Russian troops massing near the border, is the latest provocation in Vladimir Putin’s plans to seize more territory from a neighbouring country.”

This ‘provocation’ is alleged by the US whose ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland were heard in a telephone intercept planning the future of Ukraine in favour of those who overthrew the elected president in a coup. 

Make no mistake, the president, Viktor Yanukovych, was corrupt and evil. But he had been elected in what independent international observers had declared to be fair process. In terms of international understanding of law and democracy it is obvious that his overthrow was illegal. Yet it was publicly approved by Washington.

Before and after the coup the US dabbled deeply in Ukraine’s politics, with Nuland declaring of one politician that “in terms of him not going into the government, just let him stay out and do his political homework and stuff.” Well at least the man would know where he stood, courtesy of the US government. Let’s hope that he is now doing more political homework.

This wasn’t the first evidence of blatant interference by the Americans. Nuland, never reluctant to make a fool of herself, visited Ukraine last December and went to mix openly, for photo opportunities, with the protestors in Maidan Square, which is hardly what diplomats should do.

Diplomatic representatives are supposed to conduct themselves with dignity and sensitivity (at least in public). The Vienna Convention states unequivocally in regard to diplomats that “it is the duty of all persons enjoying such [diplomatic] privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state. They also have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that state.”

It could not be more clear-cut. It is mandatory that foreign diplomats should not – must not – involve themselves in the domestic activities of the nations to which they are accredited. And Nuland, as a most senior (if irresponsible and bungling), US global diplomat, is accredited everywhere.

But Nuland interfered openly in the internal affairs of Ukraine. In December, this assistant secretary of state, arm in arm with the US ambassador, walked into the main area of revolutionary protest and was photographed while handing out packets of snacks to demonstrators. She publicly supported anti-government rebels in the name of the United States of America. 

Let’s think back a couple of years to when activists in New York were protesting against bankers and other financial manipulators in the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ campaign and held a demonstration in New York’s Zuccotti Park. Nobody outside New York had ever heard of Zuccotti Park and it was hardly Maidan Square, which is centrally located in Kiev, but it was a focal point for popular protest. There were thousands of people there at various times, and they considered their cause to be reasonable. They wanted changes to the financial management of their country, and whether they were right or wrong does not concern any foreigner.

What does concern us is foreign diplomatic reaction to this entirely internal affair, because of course there was none. But it is interesting to imagine what would have happened had the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak, accompanied by a visiting deputy minister (equivalent of assistant secretary of state) of the Russian Federation, walked into Zuccotti Park and handed out tasty snacks to protesters.

The US Congress would have gone berserk with fury. The media’s reaction of ultra-nationalist passion would have fuelled hysterical emotion throughout the land. 

But nobody objected to the US assistant secretary of state handing out bags of snacks to rebels in Kiev’s Maidan Square. It is intriguing that the photographs of her arm-in-arm with the US ambassador showed no bags of snacks. So she must have been accompanied by people who carried the goodies for her and who would at some convenient photo-opportunity moment hand them over. Who were they? And who paid for these snacks? Did Nuland or her arm-linked ambassador, Pyatt, authorise such expenditure? 

Who directed the carriers of the snack-stacks? What rehearsal was conducted in order for transfer of large bags of goodies to the hands of Nuland to be effected so smoothly for the cameras? This was stage-managed stuff. The film producing genius Mel Brooks would have loved it, although he would have directed it rather better.

And here’s another sick joke, because after the Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, the flawed John Brennan, visited Kiev last weekend the White House admitted he had been there but said that his visit was “routine” and that reports to the contrary were “false.” (Please stop laughing.)

At least Brennan didn’t hand out hamburgers to members of the Ukraine parliament, but you have to wonder what he and his countless CIA minions dished out otherwise. We all know what the CIA’s solutions are to most problem with people who don’t follow US demands: bribery, character assassination or – much more conveniently – quiet ‘termination with extreme prejudice’ as they used to call it.

When Ukraine’s President Yanukovych declined to enter into an association agreement with the European Union last November the diplomatic mastermind Victoria Nuland announced that “We continue to support the aspirations of the Ukrainian people to achieve a prosperous European democracy. European integration is the surest course to economic growth.” 

In other words America wants Ukraine to sever links with Russia. But Washington has no right whatever to provoke strife between any countries. Its propaganda is humbug, and its interference completely unjustified. But one hopes the protesters enjoyed their snacks, paid for by the US taxpayer.