On Wednesday, the US State Department published a rebuttal of ten of President Putin’s ficticious claims about the situation in Ukraine, of which there are many. Such an example is the Putin logic that ‘there are no Russian forces operating in Crimea… only civilians that incidentally have military training, high-end Russian military hardware, Russian uniforms, et cetera.’ However, the State Department has made a grave error in it’s contradiction of Putin’s points in stating that “Far-right wing ultranationalist groups, some of which were involved in open clashes with security forces during the EuroMaidan protests, are not represented in the Rada.” This is very much untrue and to deny it is a grave mistake in American policy on Ukraine.
President Putin used the specific phrasing of ‘Nazis’ in his recent press conferences. With that, we get the picture of tattooed, jackboot-wearing, leather-clad extremists goosestepping throughout Kiev. This hyperbole, intentional or accidental, is perhaps damaging to what he is trying to achieve in his explanation of what may be his one legitimate point on the matter of Ukraine. The Ukranian far right has certainly made unprecedented social, but most importantly political gains as a consequence of regime change, and this is a fact.
As modern history has always shown us, the real threat is not the loud rattle of the sabre; rather, the quiet ticking of the bomb under the table. The fascist in the suit is considerably more influential and thus, more dangerous than the one running around in the cold Ukraine, half-naked in order to show off his swastika tattoos. The suited and booted fascist threat is exactly the one that Russia is warning about and that the US Government is tragically and stubbornly unwilling to concede that fact.
The Lurch impersonator to the left of the American (and Jewish) assistant Secretary of state, Victoria Nuland, is an incredibly nasty man. His name is Oleh Tyahnybok, and he is head of the extreme right-wing political party Svoboda. Consider some of his many stunts for a moment, and you’ll soon figure out why this guy shouldn’t have his hands anywhere near a position of power and why he looks like he’s faking a smile standing next to Ms Nuland.
In 2004, Tyahnybok praised how during the Second World War Ukranian partisans “fought Moskali (an extremely offensive slur for ethnic Russians), Germans, and Jews who wanted to take away our ‘Ukrainian state’” and advocated the liberation of the state from the ‘Moscow-Jewish mafia’. In April 2005, he co-signed an open letter to then-President Yushchenko calling for a parliamentary investigation into the “criminal activities of organized Jewry in Ukraine.” After the 2010 conviction of the Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk for his supporting role in the death of nearly 30,000 people at the Sobibor camp, Tyahnybok rushed to Germany to declare him a hero who was “fighting for truth.” In 2012, he also called the Jewish-Ukranian actress Mila Kunis a ‘dirty Jewess’. See the picture below and there isn’t much more to say. In short, the guy is a real prick. But he leads Svoboda, the fourth largest party in the Ukranian Rada (parliament), which has now picked up seats in the government.
Svoboda is allied with numerous anti-Semitic, extreme-Right parties in Europe including Jobbik in Hungary and the British National Party in the United Kingdom. In Ukraine, it is also allied with the even further right Pravyi Sektor (Right Sector) which notoriously handed out copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Mein Kampf in Kiev’s Maidan Square last week. But to get a flavour for the party (and then you can decide if it’s racist or extreme right wing), these are some of their key policies:
-Banning all immigration into Ukraine.
-Restricting civil service jobs to ethnic Ukranians.
-Taxing literature, film and music that is not in the Ukranian language.
-Indicating ethnic origin on passports and identification.
-Banning adoptions by non-Ukrainians of Ukrainian children.
-Reacquisition of tactical nuclear weapons by Ukraine.
-Removal of all Russian bases from Ukraine.
Their policies in tandem with their leader make it very easy to see why they are so often annouced as a racist, extremist, and generally insane party. The Russian government, in referencing them as Neo-Nazis, would not be far off the mark. In fact, in July of last year, 30 members of the Knesset used the term in a letter to the President of the EU to illustrate their concern regarding the alarming trend in Svoboda’s popularity.
The reason that Russia is so worked up about Neo-Nazis in Ukraine is that after the March Revolution, Svoboda members have taken critical positions in the Ukranian Cabinet. These positions include the posts of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, Secretary of the National Security and Defence Committee, Minister of Food, and Minister of Natural Resources. The leader of the Right Sector, Dmytro Yarosh, is now the Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine. He yesterday asked Chechen terrorists to ‘step up the fight‘ against Russia and landed himself on an international wanted list.
The extreme nationalism, racism and explicit Russophobia of Svoboda and Right Sektor, and their possession of critical government portfolios in defence and security do, is obviously a cause for concern for Russia. It would be ignorant, stupid, or both to deny that. You have a Minister of Defence who supports Ukraine acquiring nuclear weapons to ‘ward off Russia’ and a deputy Security Council Chairman who asked Chechens to fight Russia, and you’re condemned for calling it a threat? The Obama Administration, in cooperating with these individuals and these parties (and taking photos with them), is being ignorant as opposed to conducive in building a stable Ukraine. Moreover, it is being extremely indifferent to Russia’s legitimate concern about the characters and ideologies of now-empowered officials in the Ukranian government. That said, Russia is being very much exaggerating this concern. In it’s military intervention in the country, it is acting in a belligerent and opportunistic way by using the minor threat as an excuse for a strategic powergrab which is in direct contravention of international law.
So, what to do? Before we enter what sadly seems to be shaping up as a Second Cold War for my generation to deal with, the doctrine of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ must be limited in it’s scope. The State Department must not continue to deny the existence of very disagreeable elements within the incumbent Ukranian government. The governments of both Europe and the United States of America should not engage in extensive cooperation with them just for the sake of annoying Russia, and should actively work to undermine their influence in Ukranian politics.
The situation in Ukraine is gravely concerning; how it will play out will be very much a defining moment for European geostrategic and geopolitical policy for decades to come. Russia must not be allowed to bully Ukraine, a prospective strategic ally and sovereign nation, and policy directives must be taken to protect it. At the same time, we must not empower parties composed of rightist extremists, anti-Semites, and Russophobes through the instruments of cooperation and recognition.