Cold War Images

BERLIN/KIEV | | ukraine

BERLIN/KIEV (Own report) - An German expert on Eastern Europe is raising strong criticism of Berlin's policy toward and German media coverage of Ukraine. Berlin and the EU have been systematically ignoring Russian cooperation proposals for years and massively provoking Moscow, observes Stefan Meister, a specialist on Russia at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). Therefore, they are "to a large extent responsible" for the current crisis escalation. The conflict between the West and Russia has been generally viewed "too one-sided." "We are using (...) cold war images." While politics and media are preparing public opinion for further escalation, initial evidence of plans to destabilize the Crimea are coming to light, in case the peninsula's population votes in favor of joining Russia in Sunday's referendum. Militant Ukrainian fascists, for example, who have announced that they would "defend the fatherland to the end," have already begun their mobilization. Some of them had fought against the Russian military in Chechen militias. In addition, it is being claimed that Moscow may have to contend with attacks from Crimean Tatar Salafist Muslims. Some of these Salafists have gained combat experience in the Syrian War.

Zones of Influence

A German expert on Eastern Europe is strongly criticizing Berlin's policy toward Ukraine and media coverage of events in that country. In relationship to the escalating Ukrainian crisis, Stefan Meister, a specialist on Russia at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) makes the observation that "the EU, or its member states also bear a large responsibility for the current situation." The West has repeatedly broken its geostrategic accords with Moscow. For example, it had been agreed that NATO would not expand to include the countries of the former Soviet Union; "but they did it anyway." Putin's "proposals for cooperation in the domain of security and energy" were consistently rejected. Before the November 2013 summit in Vilnius, where Kiev was supposed to sign the Association Agreement, the EU inconsiderately made "a proposition to the Ukrainian elite, which was not at all what they needed." It had also "completely disregarded" the fact that "for Russia, the loss of Ukraine ... is much more significant, than gaining the Ukraine is for the EU." Moscow, without "control over the Ukraine" is incapable, in the long run, of remaining "a regional power." After all this experience, Putin probably figured that "if the others are expanding their zones of influence, I will do the same." It could not have been expected otherwise.[1]

"Among Men and Animals"

Stefan Meister further explains that, in the West, the Crimea crisis is generally perceived with too much bias. "We are reacting quasi hysterically to what is happening, using ... cold war images," says the East Europe expert. "We are blaming Putin, while remaining mute about our share of guilt." What's more, "our perspective of the Ukrainian opposition" is "very one-sided." Especially the publicized opinion is "much too focused on the person, Putin," the president, who, actually is only a "moderator between various Russian elite interest groups."[2] In fact, in the German media, Putin is increasingly being stylized into a symbol of aggressive politics, that must be countered. The previously liberal "taz" alleges that, under Putin, "rightwing extremist radicals" can be "found in the direct entourage of the reigning power," which raises Russia "at least, to a proto-fascist totalitarian state."[3] A few weeks ago, the paper speculated that "Russia's ruler" can "allegedly do without women; (...) rumors of an affair" with a "rhythmical gymnast" are merely supposed to "cover up his disinterest." Putin "nurtures other passions," ... "he really feels comfortable only in intimate men's circles and with animals."[4]

War not Ruled Out

While the German government and the mainstream media are preparing public opinion for further escalation of the conflict with Moscow, initial evidence of plans to destabilize the Crimea are coming to light, for the case that the peninsula's population votes in favor of joining Russia in Sunday's referendum. The fascist "Pravi Sektor" ("Rightwing Sector") has announced that it has opened recruiting offices throughout the Ukraine, to recruit volunteers to reconquer the Crimea. They want to mobilize for the case that Russia continues its "aggression" there.[5] "The other side of the coin is war," according to a quote from one of the leaders of the organization: "We do not rule out this option. Accordingly, we are conducting mobilization and are preparing to repel foreign aggression. If the Kremlin tramples on us further, we will fight and defend our native state until the end."[6] According to Ukrainian media, the leader of the "Pravi Sektor," Dmytro Yarosh, announced that his paramilitary association would coordinate its activities with Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council. Jarosch officiates as Vice Secretary of this council under the personal direction of the Ukrainian President. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[7])

Experienced Militias

The "Pravi Sektor's" threats of force must be taken all the more seriously, given the fact that, in the past, one of its member organizations, the extremist rightwing UNA-UNSO - founded in 1990 - not only had already intervened in the Crimea but has combat experience. In the spring of 1992, that association staged a demonstration in the Crimea, which dominated headlines throughout the country. This was perceived at the time - shortly following the disintegration of the Soviet Union - as a response to the topical debate, as to whether the allocation of the Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 should be reversed and the Crimea be reattached to Russia. The Crimea remained with Ukraine. UNA-UNSO activists also joined the combat in Georgia in 1993. In 1994, according to one report, the association had a constant exchange with Chechen separatists, at war with Moscow. UNA-UNSO members also practically "participated in Chechnya's war against Russia."[8] One of these former UNA-UNSO militiamen was recently spotted at the Western Ukraine protests, when he threatened regional parliamentarians with a kalashnikov. Today he claims he will "fight communists, Jews and Russians for as long as blood flows in my veins."[9]

"We are Ready"

Alongside the "Pravi Sektor," whose ranks have been dramatically reinforced in the course of those protests supported by Berlin, another group drawing attention in the Crimean context are the Crimean Tatars. This 280,000-member Islamic minority also has a Salafist wing, some of whose activists have combat experience from the Syrian conflict. One of the Crimean Tartar leaders was quoted with a prognosis that it should be expected that, at least, a few of those with combat experience will attack the Russian troops in the Crimea in the future. “They say: ‘an enemy has entered our land and we are ready’," he is quoted saying.[10] Observers point out that, on the one hand, Salafists fighting in Syria, often have the best links to Saudi Arabia and that, on the other, massive protests are now taking place in Saudi Arabia against Russian measures in the Crimea - based on the bogus allegation, Moscow wants to kill the Crimean Tartars. Saudi media propagates that in the Crimean War of the 19th Century, Arab Muslims had also fought the Russians.[11] Riyadh, which is participating in this anti-Moscow media agitation, is one of the West's - Germany's as well - closest allies in the Arab world. This dictatorship has already joined forces with Western powers against Moscow - in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

More reports and background information on the current German policy in reference to the Ukraine can be found here: Problems of Eastward Expansion, A Broad-Based Anti-Russian Alliance, Expansive Ambitions, Our Man in Kiev, Integration Rivalry with Moscow, On the Offensive, At all Costs, The Crimean Conflict and The Kiev Escalation Strategy.

[1], [2] Kühle Strategie statt Größenwahn. www.tagesschau.de 10.03.2014.
[3] Klaus-Helge Donath: Berliner Kuscheldiplomatie. taz 04.03.2014.
[4] Klaus-Helge Donath: Alphatier und Antityp. www.taz.de 11.02.2014.
[5] Reinhard Lauterbach: Rechte machen mobil. www.jungewelt.de 08.03.2014.
[6] Right Sector not ruling out war in Crimea and its participation in conflict. www.kyivpost.com 07.03.2014.
[7] See The Kiev Escalation Strategy.
[8] Franziska Bruder: "Willst du Frieden, bereite dich auf den Krieg vor". www.antifainfoblatt.de 17.06.2003.
[9] Blind eye turned to influence of far-right in Ukrainian crisis: critics. globalnews.ca 07.03.2014.
[10] Tatars warn Russia risks provoking jihadi backlash in Crimea. www.ft.com 09.03.2014.
[11] Egypt caught between Russia and Saudi Arabia. www.al-monitor.com 10.03.2014.