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Monday, 3 August 2015

Corbyn and Ukraine: it's not pretty


Last week a story emerged from Eastern Ukraine that sent chills. Journalist Maxim Tucker wrote that there were very real fears that the 'rebels' were building a 'dirty bomb'.

With the help of Russians, nuclear scientists supposedly, a repository of radioactive waste had been opened and there was 'chatter' about why. This, Tucker explains in this BBC interview, could mean that they were interested in building a psychological weapon, a fear weapon.

This would hardly be the first time that concern has surrounded the remains of the Soviet atomic programme - Barack Obama zeroed in on it as a priority years ago. Only last December seven men were arrested in Moldova suspected of smuggling nuclear material from Russia.

A nuclear fog hangs over the whole situation with Ukraine, Russia and the West

In March Russia's Ambassador to Denmark threatened that country with Russian nuclear weapons if it joined NATO's missile defence system. Putin himself said in April that he put Russia's nuclear arsenal on standby when he believed 'the life of ex-Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych had been in danger'. And in April his Foreign Ministry accused the Ukrainian government themselves of building a dirty bomb.

Last month Andrei V. Kozyrev, a former Russian foreign minister, wrote in the New York Times that "things may even come to nuclear blackmail, as has been hinted." There are a number of scenarios being played out, not in the fevered imaginations of the mentally disturbed but by serious experts, which include a Russian atomic bomb going off.

The context for all this is a supposed threat to Russia. According to reports from Moscow the fever in which much of the Russian public seriously believe that the United States and the 'gay' Europeans are going to invade is not confined to the lumpen, the vatniks, but infects the Gucci loving, London mansion owning elites and the siloviki, the spooks and former spooks who run Russia.

When crowds mass in Armenia to protest a hike in electricity prices it is Americans doing down Russia in its 'sphere of influence'. When the people of Macedonia rose up against corrupt and authoritarian leaders they could not be doing it themselves they had to be paid by the CIA (or possibly on drugs).

Most famously, of course, the people of Ukraine - right and left wing - did not overthrow one of the most corrupt regimes in the world using their own agency. Oh no, it was all plotted from Langley (read Jim Kovpak's fabulous satirical takedown of this notion).

This fog, this miasma, in which serious people as well as idiots dream of men and women gathering in smoke-free bunkers in Whitehall and Brussels and DC (quite possibly sitting next to the luxury homes of Russian politicians whose corruption they happily tolerate) to plot against Russia has now reached the mainstream of Western politics.


Source: Atlas of Prejudice
Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy

It has infected both the mainstream French right and the French socialist left, and the Socialist German left.

And the possible leader of Britain's Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has the fever too.

This is why a long standing supporter of CND, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, can see the nuclear sabre rattling (alongside the talk of 'colour revolutions' threatening Russian interests, of Russia being 'surrounded') as rational, as "provoked".

Using the classic Soviet propaganda technique of 'projection' - creating confusion by accusing someone of doing exactly what you are doing - Corbyn can claim that:
The obsession with cold war politics that exercises the Nato and EU leaderships is fuelling the crisis and underlines the case for a whole new approach to foreign policy.
Leaning, as Russian propagandists and Kremlin trolls do, on a particular reading of history Corbyn can note that "Ukraine’s national borders have ebbed and flowed with the tides of history" and unwittingly echo Igor Strelkov, the FSB colonel and former Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) 'Minister of Defense', who told Der Spiegel:
Kiev is a Russian city. I want a new Russian domination, which is historically justified. The Ukraine has been and remains a part of Russia. My dream is that Russia re-establishes its natural borders as they were in 1939.
Corbyn can claim that "Ukrainian politics are divided between Ukrainian and Russian-speaking people", which is simply not the case as anyone who visits Kyiv could tell him as the language spoken there is Russian. This plays into the Kremlin myth, and the reason given for invading Crimea, of Russian speakers being oppressed. He can repeat Kremlin memes that a glorious future awaits as Russia can form an alliance with China, a "Russia-China bloc", and screw the Americans (rather than the reality of Russia being forced to accept bad terms because it has no other choice).

He can claim that Ukraine has "been put under enormous pressure to come into the EU and NATO military orbit" when the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) was refused by the West in 2008. Immediately after the Maidan the new government said it did not want to join NATO, it was only last October after the Russian invasion that Ukraine said it wanted to join and non-aligned status was only revoked at the end of last year.

Why did Ukraine do that? Because non-alignment had "proved to be ineffective in guaranteeing Ukraine's security and protecting the country from external aggression and pressure." This is the same reason that Baltic states joined NATO as soon as they could - because they knew Russia was a threat, because Russia had repeatedly demonstrated that it was a threat, not because they had 'pressure' put on them or because of some "attempt to encircle Russia" or an "ambition of NATO expansion further eastwards", let alone for "more NATO or US-run bases in the region" (there are no NATO bases).

Russian imperialism - not mythical 'pressure' - is the reason why a majority in Ukraine now want to join NATO and it is also the reason why a majority of the public in  Sweden  also now support NATO membership. Even in Finland support for NATO membership is going up.

He also believes that some sort of deal was made after the Soviet Union collapsed that NATO would not 'expand eastwards'. This is not true, there is no evidence of any promises or whispers or anything else. It is an urban myth reminiscent of another one confidently repeated by, amongst others, Putin, that former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said that Siberia's vast natural resources were too important to the world for Russia to unfairly control on its own. Sounds about right to you? Well the source is not some FSB secret recording but a mind reading project. Yes, Russian spooks read Albright's mind and now Putin mouths the results.

I would throw in a jibe at this point about Corbyn believing that water 'retains a memory' but, to be fair, he is hardly the only one.

Regurgitation

Corbyn is talking out of his arse and he is insulting the many nations Russia subordinates. It is Russian imperialism, not some "attempt to encircle Russia" that "is one of the big threats of our time."

Echoing the Kremlin's talking points - and denying agency to Ukrainians and ignoring what his fellow socialists in Ukraine are saying - Corbyn can say:
On Ukraine, I would not condone Russian behaviour or expansion. But it is not unprovoked, and the right of people to seek a federal structure or independence should not be denied.
Russia wants a federal Ukraine so it can control Ukraine through its proxies in the Donbas. There has never been any evidence of a mass movement seeking a federal structure or independence in the Donbas although there is wide support for power to be more widely distributed and that's what Ukraine's new constitution is aiming for.

When armed thugs, many of them Russian fascists and led by Russian special forces, seized buildings last year there were no mass demonstrations of support, none. All polling says that the 'rebels' are a small minority. Yes, people there have their legitimate grievances but all the evidence says that they do not want gangsters, anti-Semites, fascists, thugs and Rinat Akhmetov ruling over them.

Last month hundreds of ordinary people bravely took to the streets in Donetsk calling for an end to the war. Did the 'Stop The War Coalition' (STWC) of which Corbyn is the Chairman report on those Donbas peace protesters? Did it, did Corbyn, have their back? Heck no.

Lewes Bonfire Night
The sole reason war continues in Ukraine is Russia. They supplied the men and the weapons that stopped Ukraine from dismantling the Donetsk and Luhansk so-called 'People's Republics' last Summer. That Russian military backing was directly responsible for the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 and the deaths of 298 people including ten Brits.

So is Corbyn's STWC calling on Russia to stop supporting war and picketing their embassy? Of course not, no it is picketing the Americans! (Why never the Germans I wonder?)

This despite Corbyn writing that:
We should oppose any foreign military intervention in Ukraine, as that would only succeed in that country reliving its traumatic past as a battleground where Russia and Western Europe vie for supremacy.
Plainly, Corbyn is talking out of both sides of his mouth, carefully saying one thing to one audience and one to another. See how he reacts here as an interviewer claims Russia has been wrongly called an aggressor in Ukraine and that the Maidan is "extreme right" - Corbyn nods sagely.

Corbyn is not, to my knowledge, involved with it but the ridiculous "Solidarity with the anti-fascist Resistance in Ukraine" represents leading figures in STWC and those people are dictating the STWC's line. They are linked with the Stalinist grifter group Borotba, who stand alone on the Ukrainian left in backing the 'rebels' and denouncing the Maidan as a 'fascist coup'. Underlining the lunacy of these people, Denys Gorbach reports that:
Separatist authorities have arrested Borotba members on several occasions. The CPU [Communist Party of Ukraine] has also found it difficult to enter the ‘political process’ in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).
An illustration of just how those pretending that the 'rebels' are building a socialist paradise in the Donbas influence STWC came when they invited Kremlin-funded far-Right academic Boris Kagarlitsky to discuss Ukraine at an event entitled ‘How to stop the spread of war’, which Corbyn spoke at. More on Kagarlitsky.

This is what, as Howie's Corner points out, "ordinary trade unionists are helping to pay for ... Unite, PCS, UCU, CWU and others are paying towards supporting pro-Russian, pro-Putin aggression."

Not only that but all those supporting STWC are supporting a position towards Russian imperialism that aligns them with the far right across Europe.



An alternative Jeremy

The sole, generous benefit of the doubt I can give Corbyn is that he is badly advised, as with perhaps him listening to nobody but his STWC colleagues and associated hangers on. How else but disorganisation and ignorance to explain an appearance at an event organised by the fascist and pro-Putin Lyndon LaRouche organisation? (Here's a 2001 B'nai B'rith report about the group Corbyn appeared with.)

How else to explain how he can recommend the Kremlin's propaganda war outfit as an impartial source of news?


As far as I'm aware Corbyn has had no contact with Ukrainian socialists. His views appear formed entirely through STWC and their geopolitical obsession and their constant references back to the Iraq War and 'neoconservatives' rather than dialogue with actual Ukrainians.

He could learn something from them, for instance here's Denis Pilas:
The international left should not succumb to any kind of geopolitics or support of ‘lesser-evil’ imperialism. Instead, it should campaign against both the militaristic and adventurous policy of both the US and Russia. It should be a genuine anti-war movement, against a possible civil war in Ukraine as well.

It should oppose the conservative, authoritarian and oligarchic regime of Putin in Russia, and be in solidarity with leftists persecuted by it.

In the case of Ukraine, it must call on working people of Western and Eastern Ukraine to unite in struggle against the oligarchs. It should also protest against the IMF’s demands and include Ukraine in an all-European struggle against austerity.
Rather than picketing the American embassy, what, Denis, do you think that the British left should be doing?
The demands from Western governments should be:

· To lift the Ukrainian debt
· To introduce visa-free regime for Ukrainian citizens,
· To cancel austerity demands,
· To introduce effective sanctions against Ukrainian oligarchs and confiscate their property in the West to return it to the people
Corbyn should be asked about all this, in fact he should be grilled. But I'm not holding my breath. The Labour Party leadership hustings thus far have been foreign policy free save some quizzing on Corbyn's relationship with Hamas. On that, many people I respect have written but it was notable that none of them saw fit to mention Ukraine, even in passing.

Nearly 7000 dead in a war in Europe. Yes, I think a possible Labour leader should be questioned on what he thinks about it.


If you have any further evidence of Corbyn's views on Ukraine please leave a comment.


Edited to add: Corbyn repeated these themes and errors in a August 7 Guardian interview, again claiming that:
Nato expansion and Russian expansion – one leads to the other, and one reflects the other.
It includes the claim that Ukraine's non-nuclear status and non-alignment were an "informal agreement" -- rather than a formal treaty and Ukrainian policy until the end of last year -- and the suggestion that Poland (and I assume the Baltic states) should not have been 'recruited' into NATO. He thus erases these countries fears and rights and ability to 'align' how they like.

As I have been accused of 'smearing' and 'singling out' Corbyn (one person compared this post to the Zinoviev letter!) here are what I gather to be the positions of the three other leadership candidates.

Andy Burnham
England should boycott the 2018 World Cup because someone needs to take a stand against corruption in Fifa and military aggression by Russia, Andy Burnham, the favourite to be the next Labour leader, has said.
http://www.theguardian.com/football/2015/may/31/england-boycott-2018-world-cup-andy-burnham
Yvette Cooper

Nothing, but her 'ally' Vernon Coaker attacked her rivals questioning 'if they could tackle Islamic State, the eurozone crisis and Russian aggression'.
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/only-yvette-cooper-can-trusted-6183745
Liz Kendall
His attempts to destabilise a sovereign state, annex territory and arm a thuggish separatist militia created the environment in which this attack [MH17] occurred.

Britain cannot shy away from events like this, even when they take place many miles from our shores. Failure to act would give a green light to bully-boy tactics and pockets of instability across the globe.
http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/United-action-needed-horror/story-21941535-detail/story.html
 Also please note:


Edited to add: In late August a video of a speech given last year by Corbyn 'emerged' in which he says the following:
[Nato's] interests in the Ukraine are not benign interests in support for the people of Ukraine. It's about advancing military technology and a military presence further and further eastwards in order to create this ghastly scenario of some kind of hi-tech war with Russia in the future.
Just how much nonsense this is is shown by how many are yelling at the US for its delays to supplying non-lethal military help to Ukraine!

The sole others I can find making this "hi-tech war with Russia" argument are American neo-Confederate libertarians. See this piece from the Ron Paul fanclub for example. And you can also read similar arguments on the conspiracist, pro-Putin website Globalresearch.ca.

They're Jeremy's go to sources for foreign policy guidance?

Edited to add: The Ukrainian human rights legend Halyna Cornash has condemned Corbyn from a human rights perspective and has identified a number of other statements which I had missed.


Subsequent to this I wrote three further articles prior to Corbyn's election:
See also:

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