Those who have been following, since its inception, the western attempt to turn Ukraine into a remote-controlled weapon against Russia have probably noticed a curious phenomenon. Whenever Ukraine falls short of western expectations for it, or fails to act as the west directed it to act, it is said to be making Putin happy. Kind of like how your mother used to tell you, when you were a small child, that the bogeyman would get you if you didn’t stop getting out of bed, or asked for just one more drink of water so you could stay up a little longer. Visions of Putin’s smirking face are called up to rebut Ukraine’s consistent failure to let go of an oligarch-dominated political system and magically achieve prosperity, while having nothing to do with its former largest trading partner – Russia – and not bothering Europe by horning in on its subsidies in an attempt to sell more goods to it. For its part, the United States insists on running Ukraine, appointing a special envoy – Kurt Volker – to preserve its feeling of international importance after it was pointedly left out of the Normandy Format; Meddlers R Us; we don’t need no steenking invitations.
A glance over trade statistics suggests this was a wise choice for the Exceptional Nation – the year before the Glorious Maidan, Revolution of Dignity, the USA did around $3 Billion worth of trade with Ukraine, selling it $1.92 Billion worth of goods and services, and buying $1.03 Billion worth of goods and services from it, posting an American trade surplus of $888 Million. Last year the USA did around $4 Billion worth of trade with Ukraine, selling it $2.46 Billion in goods and services, and buying $1.35 Billion worth of goods and services from it, handsomely increasing the American trade surplus to $1.13 Billion. Considering Ukraine is impoverished and living on handouts, while the per-capita GDP has fallen by more than 6% despite the country having lost about 3 million people (Ukraine’s population today is almost exactly what it was in 1960), that’s quite an achievement.
Per-Capita GDP 2009-2018
Population of Ukraine 2009-2018
Ukraine, and indeed the world, cannot seem to stop dancing to Putin’s tune – the puppet-master pulls the strings, and we all jerk and stumble as he wills. If nothing else brings home to you how genuinely fucked-up the world is, consider for a moment that the best excuse world leaders have for not being able to direct global affairs to their liking is that Putin – leader of what is supposed to be the most isolated and friendless country in the universe – prevents them from having their way, and laughs at their discomfiture.
In that spirit, we’re going to take a look at Justin Lynch’s “Ukraine’s Election Is a Mess—and That’s Exactly What Putin Wants”, for Foreign Policy magazine.
Before we get started – unusually, I suppose – we’re going to assume it is nonsense based on common sense. As we’ve often mentioned before in various conversations, Ukrainian and Russian are mutually intelligible languages. What leader in his right mind wants an unstable, never-far-from-imploding impoverished state right on his doorstep, considering his own state is a likely destination for fleeing refugees, economic or otherwise? Russia was already home to the world’s biggest Ukrainian diaspora, and the dizzying circles Ukraine has made of the toilet bowl since early 2014 have increased Russia’s population of Ukrainians by more than a million. Russians are not idiots, and they keep electing Putin by a wide majority. He can’t be completely clueless, and even though the west portrays him as sustained only by purest evil, there’s no reason to imagine continued instability in Ukraine pleases him except that it is probably fun to watch the west step on its dick again and again, after all its bragging that it will show everyone how it’s done. Ukraine as a western project is a thundering failure, and the west owns every bit of that failure. But Moscow would much prefer it reach some level of stability, although of course it would not like it a bit if a Ukraine relentlessly hostile to Russia became a NATO member.
That was Washington’s plan, at first; together with its European allies, it was going to make a prosperous market vassal of Ukraine, and push the NATO envelope right into Russia’s face. The thing is, Washington does not seem to get how badly it stinks at nation-building, because it always tries to make a new nation that is a great opportunity for American investors, without any of the rest of the framework. What’s the sense of plowing American know-how, money and effort into building a prosperous state, if other people are going to benefit? Freedom isn’t free, you know.
So, after already concluding that the basic premise of his article is codswallop, let’s take a look at what he actually said. I took that step already because I know you are not going to reach a different conclusion; the article is an interesting example of how bias causes us to find various concepts believable, simply because we like to believe them, and so they appear truthful to us without any further evidence that this is the case. I’ll explain why that’s interesting as we go along. Ready? Let’s look.
Mr. Lynch opens with a protest, in Kiev – westerners simply will not spell it ‘Kyiv’, as the Ukrainians want everyone to do, because Ukraine is a western work-in-progress, and they will damned well spell it the way they like. The protest seems to consist mostly of fake demonstrators who were paid to attend; Mr. Lynch can tell, because they look disinterested and disengaged, ‘as if they had taken sleeping pills before the march’, and because they ‘insinuated’ (that’s what you say when nobody actually said that, but you believe it anyway) that they were being paid to attend. His suspicions are confirmed when a man driving a small black car yells out his window that the protest is a fake.
Just as an aside here, the United States considers itself the global expert on manipulating opposition movements and influencing the masses, mostly by showing them what they want to see and playing upon their biases and prejudice, by intuiting what they want to believe, and providing them with incentives to go on believing. But here’s a thought – what if pretty much everyone is capable of using those tactics, and elements in Ukraine are trolling the United States, for their own reasons?
Mr. Lynch does not offer any substantiation for his allegations that he witnessed a ‘fake protest’, presumably one sponsored by a Poroshenko rival, to discredit the President. But he clearly believes that to be the case; perhaps because the unidentified man who affirmed for him that the protest was a fake was driving a small black car. Certainly hard to argue with a sign like that. What other evidence does he have? The man who fingers the protest as a fake is not named, and there is no indication in the article that Mr. Lynch spoke with him further, or at all. He just drove by, and yelled out the window that the protest is a fake, presumably in English, unless Mr. Lynch had an interpreter handy. And the protesters just look like they were paid. Or sleepy.
Let me ask you this – in eastern-European elections, how many times have you seen that guy pop up, the one who always approaches a western reporter, accidentally, and asks him where he goes to get paid for attending the demonstration, or voting for candidate A, or whatever? Doesn’t it happen pretty much every time? It certainly is featured in at least one western report on pretty much every such election or protest in which the west has a considerable investment in the election or demonstration being a fraud. Now ask yourself this – knowing how western reporters stand out at such events, and knowing in advance what the west wants to believe: how hard would it be to discredit a perfectly legitimate event by just sidling up to the reporter and saying, “Hey, buddy – where does I go to gets paid for attending this fake protest?”
That might not be the case in this article; I wasn’t there, and Mr. Lynch was. But it is plain he judges, as seems to be the mainstream American view and is certainly the wish of Washington, that Ukraine would do best by re-electing Poroshenko to another term. Zelenskiy is as nice a guy as you could wish, but basically a buffoon and a know-nothing who might easily fall under malign Russian influence. Tymoshenko is crooked as a dog’s hind leg, but Washington does not feel confident enough that she would not double-cross them if she thought it was in her interests. Poroshenko is a dullard, a drunk and a greedy rich man who wants to get richer – but he stays bought. He can be relied upon to protect America’s investment in Ukraine, and to drag the country closer to the west, by legislation if necessary.
Mr. Lynch describes the election whose threshold we are upon as ‘chaotic’, but the west is not ready to suggest it is not democratic, and if the vote is held up to questions as to its validity, a whipping-boy has already been selected; Russia. Some 80% of Ukrainians reportedly expect the vote will be rigged, there were no presidential debates between the candidates, SBU members are reportedly on the Central Elections Committee, only Poroshenko can draw upon state services which will announce how many voters are actually in the country when nobody really has any realistic idea, and there are no cameras at the polling stations (Thanks, Eric). As if that were not enough, Poroshenko has ordered the SBU and Police Special Forces to patrol the streets and polling places during the election, ostensibly to safeguard the democratic sanctity of the vote. Voting at the point of a Kalashnikov, anybody? And that’s in addition to members of the nationalist militias being granted observer status by the Central Elections Committee; they will have over 300 ‘observers’ in 34 voting districts. It’s hard not to get the message that Poroshenko will know how you voted. Better watch out; you better not cry – better not vote for that TV clown, I’m tellin’ you why.
As sometimes happens, this post has been overtaken by events, and the vote is actually all but done and counted. Zelenskiy has a commanding lead, as advance polling forecast, but keep in mind that Poroshenko’s goal at this point is not to beat Zelenskiy, but to make it into the runoff. And it looks as if he has done that.
Going back to Mr. Lynch’s article, we see once again the double standard of evidence: Lutsenko’s allegation that he was given a ‘do not prosecute’ list by the United States Ambassador to Ukraine, on their first meeting – Lutsenko, of course, is Ukraine’s Prosecutor-General. And it is typical of US meddling that it goes right to the head man or woman. But unnamed ‘experts’ do not find the report credible…because Lutsenko does not supply any evidence. Perhaps he should have driven by in a small, black car, and shouted his allegation out the window. American analysts find foreign-policy reporting credible when it supports their convictions – which are heavily influenced by the need to be the world’s exceptional nation, able to pull off the impossible-for-everyone-else – and full of shit when it does not. If you were looking for a picture of ‘tunnel vision’, I just drew it.
Put another way, it is inconceivable to the experts Washington draws upon for nailing down the narrative that America would never – never – engage in what is unquestionably interference in another country’s justice system, with the goal of exempting certain individuals from prosecution.
Say – would you like an example which will blow that thinking into the weeds, in the most revelatory way possible? You don’t have to ask me twice: here you go.
“We hold former President Maduro and those surrounding him fully responsible for the safety and welfare of interim president Juan Guaidó and his family,” Robert Palladino, a State Department spokesman, said on Thursday. “It would be a terrible mistake for the illegitimate Maduro regime to arrest Juan Guaidó.”
The USA ordered Venezuela’s president to safeguard its designated ‘interim president’ from arrest. The article suggests the Venezuelan government wants to arrest him for orchestrating power blackouts in the country, in an effort to coerce the poor into abandoning Maduro. And the USA has form for this, having blueprinted the stirring-up of civil unrest over power blackouts back in 2010, when Hugo Chavez was President. But let’s pretend that never happened – Juan Guaido is openly colluding with a foreign government to overthrow the elected government of his own country, and put himself in charge with the backing of that country. In anyone’s language, that is gimme-a-T.R.E.A.S.O.N treason, the kind of over-the-top lawbreaking that in the United States, Beacon o’ Freedom, is punishable by death. Who cares about blackouts? Guaido is a documented traitor to his country, and the nation with which he is colluding ordered his government not to prosecute him! Do you find it hard to believe Washington might have an asset or two in Ukraine it does not want burdened with a corruption investigation? I, for one, do not. It is about as hard to believe as a suggestion that the Gulf of Mexico contains water, or that men sometimes scratch their balls when they are waking up.
If you were waiting for a quote that summarizes how little Washington cares what Poroshenko has to do to win, just as long as he does, bring in Liubov Tsybulska, the head of the Hybrid Warfare Analytical Group.
“I like that it’s real democracy,” she wrote in a text message. “Russians call it mess, but that’s how free society does election.” In fact, Ukraine’s elections could not be any more different than Russia’s, because current polls show the outcome is almost completely unpredictable.”
Oh, my. Say, is Donald Rumsfeld still alive? Because all we need now is for him to come in at the end of that quote, and remark sagely, “Freedom is untidy”. America does not give a tin shit what you do, just as long as you’re on the side of the angels. And if the author meant Russia’s elections are completely predictable in the sense that advance polls usually reflect how the election will turn out, well, duh. What the fuck is the purpose of advance polls, if not to make a judgment on how the vote is going to go? The Russian candidate who is forecast to win handily in advance polling conducted immediately prior to the election…consistently wins handily. Imagine my surprise.
But here is the poster-country for democracy – the ones who thought it up, you might say – openly admiring, in one of the country’s premier foreign policy magazines, the concept that the messier and more uncertain the election process is, the more democratic it is. And nobody having a clue who is going to win spells excitement! Convicted felons are still prohibited from standing for election in the USA, though – are prohibited from voting, in fact – because that might make things a little too exciting.
The point at which I couldn’t continue reading any more occurred where Peter Dickinson of the Atlantic Council gave Poroshenko a free pass on the issue of his political cronies being busted buying parts for defense equipment from Russia, and then upcharging the government for them and pocketing large profits. In a country where the average monthly wage is $257.00 USD at today’s exchange rate, a country that lives on loans from the international community, loans which Ukrainian children not yet born will still be working to pay off. But according to Dickinson, Poroshenko is such a failure at anti-corruption that the revelation he is corrupt is unlikely to damage his re-election prospects much. I just sat there, slowly shaking my head from side to side in wonder.
“For a country at war with Russia, the allegations have sparked ire. But Peter Dickinson, a fellow at the Atlantic Council, said that the claims may not be significant. “He has almost zero credibility as an anti-corruption crusader and therefore this issue is not an important part of his re-election bid,” Dickinson wrote. “Poroshenko’s electoral appeal is rooted in the notion of ‘better the devil you know’ and his presidential campaign rests on his ability to convince voters that he is the lesser of all available evils.”
Poroshenko might have an uphill battle convincing his own voters of that reality, but he has plainly gone down a treat in Washington.
Let me put my cards on the table here – the current political class in Washington, irrespective of party affiliation and almost without exception, is so debauched and untethered that it enthusiastically supports the election of unabashed criminals where their election serves American foreign-policy goals. Is it too late to be astounded? Yes, it is. Ukraine is lightly chided for its rampant corruption, while Russia is held up to universal scorn…because Putin.
Douglas Hofstadter, author of “Metamagical Themas;Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern”, is going to take us out. Douglas?
“It turns out that an eerie type of chaos can lurk just behind a facade of order – and yet, deep inside the chaos lurks an even eerier type of order.”