“When the Soviet Union was collapsing in late 1991,” as long time US military bureaucrat Robert Gates wrote, “Dick [Cheney] wanted to see the dismantlement not only of the Soviet Union and the Russian empire but of Russia itself, so it could never again be a threat.” (Emphasis mine) This sentiment was echoed by Soviet-Afghan War architect Zbigniew Brzenzski in his 1997 magnum opus The Grand Chessboard. In this work, Brzenzski insists that Washington had to “prevent the emergence of a dominant and antagonistic Eurasian power” in order to preserve America’s “global primacy.” Central to this plan was the total subordination of Ukraine to American interests. As Brzenzski writes:
“Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire…if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as its access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia. Ukraine’s loss of independence would have immediate consequences for Central Europe, transforming Poland into the geopolitical pivot on the eastern frontier of a united Europe.”
In another section, after proposing the division of Russia into three smaller, more manageable republics, Brzenzski speculates that Ukraine could, between 2005 and 2010, “become ready for serious negotiations with both the EU and NATO.” By the year 2010 a “critical core of European security” encompassing France, Germany, Poland and Ukraine would emerge, giving the West the much-needed strategic-military depth against Russia.” The indefinite expansion of NATO is implied by this proposition, and the stated purpose of that institution (preventing the spread of Soviet communism into Western Europe and beyond) had been made irrelevant by the decimation of the USSR. Luckily, the crisis in Yugoslavia provided the perfect pretext not only for the preservation of NATO, but also an increase in its size and aggression.
Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic is usually framed as the sole, Hitlerian instigator of the Yugoslav wars. However, throughout 1990, Croati’s Franjo Tudjman, who had written an antisemitic tome of historical revisionism just before coming to power, chose to create a governing regime in his region inspired by the Ustase, a party of Nazi collaborating seperatists who, with the Vatican’s support, murdered at least 750,000 people during World War 2. Most of these victims were Serbians, but the Ustashe also targeted Jews, Roma, and Orthodox Christians. After World War 2, leading members of the Ustashe formed the “Croatian Liberation Movement” which was folded into the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations and World Anti-Communist League. Just before Tudjman took power in Croatia, the Republican Heritage Groups Council formed by Laszlo Pastor with Nixon’s aid and encouragement gained a prominent Croation emigre sect, who put their Nazi apologia into official GOP literature. “The Independent State of Croatia was declared by unanimous proclamation in 1941,” reads a 1984 Republican Heritage Groups Council booklet. “Lack of Western support and Axis occupation forced the new state into an unfortunate association with the Axis powers.”
During Tudjman’s rule, the Croatian government promoted a version of cultural memory similar to the OUN-B’s convenient “reform” period. In the name of supposedly combatting both communism and fascism, Tudjman physically removed or changed the names of all monuments or streets named after World War 2-era Serbian antifascists. One street was renamed after Mile Budak, a founder of Croatian fascism, who signed the regime’s race laws against Serbs, Jews, and Roma. Furthermore, Tudjman appointed former Ustase officials to important government posts, including Vinko Nikolic, given a seat in parliament and Mate Sarlija, who was made a general in the Croatian army. Dunja Sprac, a Jewish Croation who worked with refugees, noted that the Croatian ruling class liked to pretend “they love Jews and want to help us. But it is so transparent. . . . I see all these awful disgusting symbols, the false newspaper articles and the streets and squares being renamed. This country is in great poverty, not just economically but ethically. It terrifies me.”
Ironically, Tudjman greatly admired Israel and desperately wanted their formal support, but had trouble getting it due to his administration’s overt enabling of anti-semtism and Nazi apologia. Even Western institutions couldn’t cover for Tudjman forever; in 1999, the The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which includes the United States along with some fifty other nations admitted, “There has been no progress in improving respect for human rights, the rights of minorities and the rule of law” in Croatia. According to the OSCE, Croatian television “remained subject to political control by the ruling party” and that programming was full of “hate speech.” In February 1999, the US State Department belatedly made public a report describing Croatia as “nominally democratic” but “in reality authoritarian.”
Even so, Tudjman’s reign was sponsored by the American ruling class, and didn’t come to an end until Yugoslavia had been thoroughly dismantled in 2000. As Michael Parenti writes in To Kill a Nation, “US moves to fragment Yugoslavia came when the Bush administration pressured Congress into passing the 1991 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act. This law provided aid only to the separate republics, not to the Yugoslav government, further weakening federal ties. Arms shipments and military advisers poured into the secessionist republics of Slovenia and Croatia, particularly from Germany and Austria.”
Charles Boyd Boyd, former deputy commander of the US European command, wrote that, “The popular image of this war [in Croatia] is one of unrelenting Serb expansion. Much of what the Croatians call ‘the occupied territories’ is land that has been held by Serbs for more than three centuries. The same is true of most Serb land in Bosnia—what the Western media frequently refer to as the 70 per cent of Bosnia seized by rebel Serbs. In short the Serbs were not trying to conquer new territory, but merely to hold onto what was already theirs.”
Furthermore, as Edward S. Herman and David Peterson observed:
“During the prosecution’s opening statement at his trial, a videotape was played of Milosevic uttering the words ‘No one should dare beat you’ at the Hall of Culture in Pristina in April 1987. “It was that phrase…and the response of others to it that gave this accused the taste or a better taste of power, maybe the first realisation of a dream,” prosecutor Geoffrey Nice told the court. With these words Milosevic ‘had broken the taboo of [Tito] against invoking nationalism,’ Dusko Doder and Louise Branson write, ‘a taboo credited with submerging ethnic hatreds and holding Yugoslavia together for more than forty years….The initial impact was catastrophic: rabid ethnic nationalism swept all regions of Yugoslavia like a disease.’
But neither these remarks by Milosevic nor his June 28, 1989, speech on the six-hundreth anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo had anything like the characteristics imputed to them. Instead Milosevic used both speeches to appeal to multi-ethnic tolerance, accompanied by a warning against the threat posed to Yugoslavia by nationalism—’hanging like a sword over their heads all the time’
In his 1987 speech—the words ‘no one should dare beat you’ having been uttered in response to the news that the police had roughed up some local Serbs—Milosevic said ‘we do not want to divide people into Serbs and Albanians, but we must draw the line that divides the honest and progressive who are struggling for brotherhood and unity and national equality from the counterrevolution and nationalists on the other side.’ Similarly in his 1989 speech, he said that ‘Yugoslavia is a multinational community and it can survive only under the conditions of full equality for all nations that live in it,’ and nothing in either of these speeches conflicted with this sentiment—nor can quotes like these be found in the speeches and writings of Tudjman or Izetbegovic….
…Despite the allegations to the contrary, it remained the prosecution’s belief throughout the trial that the Milosevic regime’s political objective at the time of the secessions of Slovenia, Croatia, and later Bosnia-Herzegovina was to preserve the [Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia]; and that if this could not be done, then as much of the old SFRY as possible should be kept within a single, unitary successor state. Indeed, this was the reason for which Milosevic’s Socialist Party had received 65 percent of the Serbian vote in December 1990, in the republic’s first multiparty elections: Not to create a ‘Greater Serbia,’ but to preserve Yugoslavia.”
The reversal and/or downplaying of these facts in Western media, which depicted the entirety of the Yugoslav wars as an unfortunate but inevitable explosion of long-standing “ethnic tensions” exacerbated by Milosevic’s singular desire for a “Greater Serbia”, was done not only to provide a pretext for NATO expansion. Indeed, perhaps an even more important objective was the misdirection from global energy politics and their economic implications for the Western world. As Pijl writes:
“…when Germany responded to centrifugal pressures in Yugoslavia by supporting Slovenian and Croatian aspirations for secession, the United States, in line with the Wolfowitz Doctrine, moved to restrain German ambitions by encouraging Islamic Bosnian and, later, Kosovo Albanian statehood, partly motivated by the need to compensate for the suspicion in the Muslim world aroused by the first Gulf War, and partly out of a design to gain access to Central Asian energy resources left unprotected after the dissolution of the USSR.”
On this note, in addition to Ukraine, Brzenzski lists Azerbaijan as an important geostrategic “pivot”:
“Despite its limited size and small population, Azerbaijan, with its vast energy resources, is also geopolitically critical. It is the cork in the bottle containing the riches of the Caspian Sea basin and Central Asia. The independence of the Central Asian states can be rendered nearly meaningless if Azerbaijan becomes fully subordinated to Moscow’s control…An independent Azerbaijan, linked to Western markets by pipelines that do not pass through Russian-controlled territory, also becomes a major avenue of access from the advanced and energy-consuming economies to the energy rich Central Asian republics. Almost as much as in the case of Ukraine, the future of Azerbaijan and Central Asia is also crucial in defining what Russia might or might not become.”
During the first Gulf War in 1990, Dick Cheney responded to the question “Why is the US at war with Iraq?” with this answer: “The fact of the matter is that part of the world controls the world supply of oil, and whoever controls the supply of oil, especially if it were a man like Saddam Hussein, with a large army and sophisticated weapons, would have a stranglehold on the American economy and, indeed on the world economy.” As Peter Dale Scott notes, “The first Bush administration actively supported the plans of US oil companies to contract for exploiting the resources of the Caspian region and also for a pipeline not controlled by Moscow that could bring the oil and gas production out to the West. The same goals were enunciated even more clearly as matters of national security by Clinton and his administration.”
In 1991, Richard Secord, Harry “Heinie” Aderholt, and Ed Dearborn—three veterans of U.S. operations in Laos and later of Oliver North’s operations with the Contras—turned up in Azerbaijan. The trio were there on behalf of MEGA, an American oil company working with the Bush administration to construct, as Scott puts it, “an oil pipeline stretching from Azerbaijan across the Caucasus to Turkey.” Secord, Aderholt, Dearborn, and their men “engaged in military training, passed ‘brown bags filled with cash’ to members of the government, and set up an airline on the model of Air America, which soon was picking up hundreds of mujahideen mercenaries in Afghanistan.” Thanks to their efforts “…heroin flooded from Afghanistan through Baku into Chechnya, Russia, Europe, and even North America.” (Remember Russia’s heroin crisis and ensuing AIDS epidemic referenced in Part 1 of this essay?)
In 1997, National Security Council energy expert Sheila Heslin told congress that US policy in Central Asia was to, “in essence break Russia’s monopoly control over the transportation of oil [and gas] from that region, and frankly, to promote Western energy security through diversification of supply.” A year later, Cheney said that he couldn’t, “think of a time when we have had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian.” After the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent occupation, America was able to build military bases in Georgia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, giving Western imperialists a logistical foothold “on the doorstep of countries it has concerns with like Pakistan, India, Iran, China and Russia.”
Slava Stetsko, now the leader of the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations, returned to Ukraine in 1991, where she started the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, an immediate successor to OUN-B. She was aided by Roman Zvarych, Stetsko’s private secretary during the 1980s. Zvarcyh would later become instrumental in the creation of the Azov Battalion, a neofascist paramilitary which would officially be incorporated into Ukraine’s armed forces in 2014.
The Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists was joined by another far-right group inspired by Bandera and Stetsko known as the Social-National Party of Ukraine. This party’s co-founder, Oleh Tyahnybok, first joined parliament under the umbrella of the supposedly more moderate Narodniy Rukh movement. While in office, the Social-National Party got a somewhat more muted makeover, becoming Svoboda. An affiliate of the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, Tryzub, was created by several of these same people in 1993.
As in Croatia, Ukraine in the 1990s saw a gradual reintroduction of fascist symbols and historical narratives into society under the guise of de-Communization. As Rudling writes: “Soviet textbooks were discarded and, in many cases, replaced with diaspora accounts of the past. The re-export of the nationalist narrative to Ukraine went relatively smoothly, finding a particularly receptive audience in the western parts of the country. A significant number of Ukrainian historians and intellectuals, used to toeing the Soviet line, swiftly replaced Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy with nationalist interpretations. While the influence of returning émigré nationalists on Ukrainian politics has been modest, their influence on Ukrainian history writing and myth-making has been significant, particularly after 2004.” In other words, the courting of Ukrainian fascists-and the dissemination of their ideology among emigre communities in America-was starting to pay dividends.
In 1994, Leonid Kuchma was elected president of Ukraine. In Western media, his administration was depicted as pushing “the Communist-dominated legislature into accepting the painful state budget cuts and price increases necessary to slash a massive budget deficit and win loans from the International Monetary Fund” while privatizing State-owned firms. Whether or not the Ukrainian legislature was actually “Communist-dominated” by this point is debatable; according to one study, all left-wing parties held only 40% of seats in the 1994-1998 parliament. Nonetheless, Kuchma’s era did represent a Yeltsineqsque acceleration of “shock therapy” in Ukraine and, unsurprisingly, support for Kuchma among western Ukrainians grew exponentially:
“Western Ukraine — a staunchly nationalistic region whose people favor shifting ties away from Russia and toward the West — gave Kuchma only about 4 percent of its vote in last summer’s elections. But residents here — and a nationwide public opinion poll — say most citizens in western Ukraine now back him…‘There has been a major shift westward in Kuchma’s base of support,’ said Stephen Nix, a representative in Kiev of the Washington-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems, which helped conduct the poll. ‘But what is remarkable is how anybody could have such positive ratings when dissatisfaction is so high’ over Ukraine’s economic crisis.”
Similar to Chubais in Russia, Kuchma’s economic advisors enacted a mass voucher program to speed along the process of privatization. “In 1995, every Ukrainian adult received a personalized ‘voucher’ they could use to buy shares in state companies at special auctions. But instead of creating a new class of shareholders, the scheme backfired and created a black market for new securities.” Just like in Russia, millions of people preferred to sell their vouchers for much needed cash rather than become investors and wait for a speculative return. By the time Kuchma was reelected in 1998, a slew of Ukraine’s “new rich” had entered parliament. According to Sławomir Matuszak, “big business at present does not have such a strong influence on politics in any other Eastern European country as it does in Ukraine.” As Matuszak explians, “A specific model of political class emerged under Kuchma’s rule. In this model, most politicians were clients of big business and represented its interests in the parliament and government. The oligarchs themselves also became politicians.”
Three main “clans” of oligarchs formed during Kuchma’s first term: The Donetsk clan, which produced future president Viktor Yakunovych, the Dnipropetrovsk clan, which had a strong influence on Kuchma’s first term and would play an outsized role in the 2004 Orange Revolution, and the Kyiv Clan, which heavily influenced Kuchma’s second term. Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk are located geographically in Ukraine’s east, whereas the Kyiv Clan orbited the nation’s capital to the Northwest.
According to the RAND Corporation, “Of all the former Soviet republics, Ukraine suffered the longest and one of the deepest declines in economic activity. Its transition recession lasted from 1989 until 2000, 11 years. According to official statistics, Ukraine’s GDP by 1999 was just 38.5 percent of its 1989 level.” During this era, the Dnipropetrovsk clan splintered into roughly two factions; “Privat” (so named as it centers on PrivateBank along with some mining and ferroalloys plants) and “Interpipe” which “includes several giant steel and pipe plants, the bank ‘Kredit-Dnepr’, a media group, and air-company ‘Aerosvit’, based in Borispil Airport.” Politically, Interpipe grew close to Kuchma while Privat cooperated with a political group led by Pavlo Lazarenko and Yulia Tymoshenko (the latter of whom would become a leader of Ukrainian nationalism and its push for integration into the European Union).
In contrast with the Dnipropetrovsk clan, the Donetsk clan only became more consolidated throughout the 1990s, until it was dominated by one political group, the Party of Regions, and one business group, SCM, owned by Rinat Akhmetov. “SCM is the largest Ukrainian business group, with diversified activities. Through informal networking and minority shareholdings, Akhmetov controls most middle-sized assets situated in the oblast. Even if his group is generally considered to be Donetsk based, SCM includes many assets in the Dnipropetrovsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhia oblasts, in Kiev, in Crimea, and, through minority shareholding, in some Western-Ukrainian oblasts.”
Back in Russia, Yeltsin’s gangster state was developing in a similar fashion. In 1998, The Nation reported: “After seven years of economic ‘reform’ financed by billions of dollars in US and other Western aid, subsidized loans and rescheduled debt, the majority of Russian people find themselves worse off economically. The privatization drive that was supposed to reap the fruits of the free market instead helped to create a system of tycoon capitalism run for the benefit of a corrupt political oligarchy that has appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars of Western aid and plundered Russia’s wealth.”
The US Agency for International Development (USAID), along with its sister organization, the National Endowment for Democracy (both all but confirmed as extensions of the CIA) sponsored Western “aid” to Russia during the 90s throug the Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID). HIID had supporters in the upper echelons of the Clinton Administration, including Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs Lawrence Summers (Summers would later receive 10s of millions of dollars in donations from Jeffrey Epstein while president of Harvard in 2003). Jeffrey Sachs, “who was named director of HIID in 1995, lobbied for and received USAID grants for the institute to work in Ukraine in 1996 and 1997.”
HIID and other Washington advisors helped Chubais, “set up a network of aid-funded ‘private’ organizations that enabled them to bypass legitimate government agencies and circumvent the new parliament of the Russian Federation, the Duma.” In 1995, “in Chubais-organized insider auctions of prime national properties, known as loans-for-shares, the Harvard Management Company (HMC), which invests the university’s endowment, and billionaire speculator George Soros were the only foreign entities allowed to participate…Soros also invested in Russia’s high-yielding, IMF-subsidized domestic bond market.” In 1997, Soros, “tided over Yeltsin’s government with a backdoor loan of hundreds of millions of dollars while the government was awaiting proceeds of a Eurobond issue.”
After seven years of nonstop plunder by “oligarchs” within the country, their gangster friends, and the Western imperialists supporting both, Russia experienced another massive economic crisis: “..in August 1998, after recording its first year of positive economic growth since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia was forced to default on its sovereign debt, devalue the ruble, and declare a suspension of payments by commercial banks to foreign creditors.” A turbulent year followed that ended with “a decrease in real output of 4.9 percent for the year instead of the small growth that was expected. The collapse of the ruble created an increase in Russia’s exports while imports remained low.” As Shleifer and Treisman summarized: “the crisis of August 1998 did not only undermine Russia’s currency and force the last reformers from office…it also seemed to erase any remaining Western hope that Russia could successfully reform its economy.”
Three pivotal events took place between 1999-2000 that would set the stage for current relations between the West and Eurasia:
- NATO conducted a bombing campaign in Kosovo which killed anywhere from 500-1,500 civilians and injured tens of thousands more (the exact death toll is still unknown) “The bombing shocked Russia since it devalued Russia’s veto right as NATO used force without the express sanction of a United Nations Security Council resolution.” NATO now had a pretext for intervening anywhere in Europe so long as it did so to “defend human rights.”
This was particularly troubling to Russia, as it came after the US broke its promise not to enlarge NATO to encircle Russian borders. Finland and Sweden joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace program in 1994, with Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic being formally incorporated into the alliance in 1999. Ukraine had also joined the Partnership for Peace just before the 1994 elections. Richard Holbrooke, an investment banker , entrusted with the Yugoslavia portfolio in the State Department proclaimed “America, a European Power” and stated “the West must expand to central Europe as fast as possible in fact as well as in spirit, and the United States is ready to lead the way.”
- During a New Year’s Eve address on December 31, 1999, Boris Yeltsin resigned six months early, appointing Vladimir Putin as his successor. Four months earlier, a series of bombings targeting apartment buildings in three Russian cities had killed more than 300 people and injured more than 1,000. These bombings were apparently carried out by muhjahadeen from the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, which Yeltsin had gone to war with five years earlier. Putin’s response to the bombings endeared him to the Russian public, and his aggressive foreign policy in Chechnya, which led to the de facto re-taking of the land by Russia, further reinforced his image as a stronger leader than Yeltsin. On March 26, 2000, Putin was officially elected President of Russia.
- In Ukraine, President Kuchma was caught on tape ordering the kidnapping of journalist Georgiy Gongadze, whose decapitated corpse had recently been found. Between late December 2000-early March 2001, mass protests broke out in Kiev and, despite a year of economic growth, Kuchma’s approval ratings fell below 9%. The Prime Minister at the time, Viktor Yuschenko (who’s Deputy Prime Minister was the Privat-alligned Yulia Tymoshenko) latched onto the crisis to expand his influence and even restructured the Ukrainian constitution to give more power to Parliament. Many figures who participated in protests went on o organize 2004’s “Orange Revolution”, which greatly aided Yuschenko and his friends in the Privat bloc of oligarchs.
Bolstered by rising oil prices throughout the first decade of the 2000s, Putin’s government used large oil revenues to pay back debt ahead of schedule and saved any surplus profits to use in case of a market crash. It prioritized jobs and pension payments “even at the expense of wages and efficiency.” A careful balance struck between state owned firms, which became increasingly crucial during the early Putin era, and the private sector:
“The large role that oligarch-dominated state-owned firms play in certain key sectors is justified in part by their willingness to support the Kremlin in managing the populace by keeping unemployment low, media outlets docile, and political opposition marginalized. The energy industry, for example, is crucial to the government’s finances, so private firms have either been expropriated or wholly subordinated to the state. Steel firms are less important, but they, too, must avoid mass layoffs. Service sector firms, such as supermarkets, have no such political role.”
In 2002, Moscow established the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) uniting Armenia, Belarus, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan and, until 2005, Turkmenistan. Despite Putin being the first foreign leader to offer his condolences to US president George W. Bush after 9/11 (not to mention warning Bush that he felt that “something was about to happen, something long in preparation” two days before 9/11) and initially collaborating with the American invasion and occupation of Afghanistan the year before, the United States repeatedly refused to grant any license to the CSTO.
As Pijl notes, “When it transpired that NATO’s Danish Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, was contemplating a possible cooperation with the CSTO, the US ambassador to NATO intervened, as the CSTO was seen as antagonistic to the promotion of US interests in the former Soviet republics.” When the United States started preparations to re-invade and occupy Iraq in the name of overthrowing Saddam Hussein a year later, the Russian military offered no such assistance (allegedly assisting Hussein instead). “We stand for resolving the problem exclusively through peaceful means,” Putin said. “Any other option would be a mistake. It would be fraught with the gravest consequences. It will result in casualties and destabilize the international situation in general.” As the War on Terror proceeded apace, Western nations gradually withdrew from their Eurasian accommodations, including those in the arms control process made in the 1970s and 1980s. “Crucially,” Pijl writes, “the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 and made plans for a missile defence system deployed in the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania. As a result Moscow became more reluctant to accommodate NATO.”
In this environment, the new Russian capitalism moved further and further away from overlap with Western markets and, in turn, Putin’s government oversaw the rebirth of a Russian national project. As Pijl puts it, “Thus emerged a capitalist-oriented, state-oligarchic class that crystallised around the Bonapartist figure of the president.” Putin inaugurated this new order by cracking down on numerous oligarchs who refused to get with the program. As Pijl writes:
“Thus the media tycoon, Vladimir Gusinsky, emigrated to Israel in June, and Boris Berezovsky, whose millions had been earned by bleeding the Lada car maker, Avtovaz, via its dealerships network, repaired to London in November. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the energy oligarch (estimated fortune, $8 billion in 2003), on the other hand, attempted to build opposition to Putin by buying up members of the Duma to support his plans to build a TransSiberian pipeline to China. He was also negotiating with ExxonMobil and Chevron about US participation in his Yukos concern, which he planned to merge with Sibneft into the world’s largest oil company. Khodorkovsky was arrested and given an extended prison sentence for fraud in 2005. Yukos was brought back into the Russian patrimony via a proxy construction involving state-owned Rosneft and Gazprom, as part of broader subordination of the economy to the state.”
The year of the “Yukos affair”, the Russian government announced it would no longer offer foreign companies preferential treatment in bids for oil, gas, gold or copper deposits. “In late 2006, Shell was forced to sell its majority share in the natural gas extraction project known as Sakhalin2 to Gazprom, and half a year later, in June 2007, the British-Russian holding company TNK-BP likewise had to sell its concession in eastern Siberia to Gazprom.” Gazprom’s chairman, Dmitry Medvedev, later became Prime Minister under Putin being succeeded at Gazprom by former prime minister Viktor Zubkov. One notable realm where Russia was not impeding relations with the West was in the realm of oil and gas; in 2011, the NordStream pipeline was fully completed and in the ten years since Russian gas has made up one third of European natural gas consumption. The European Union (EU) also turns to Russia for more than one-quarter of its crude oil imports, the bloc’s largest single energy source.
The Eurasian Economic Community, first formed in 2000 as the economic corollary to the CSTO, served as the basis for the still-existing Eurasian Economic Union, an integrated single market of 184 million people and a gross domestic product of over $5 trillion. In 2006 Russia joined with Brazil, India, China and South Africa into a geopolitical and economic power bloc known as BRICS. “From Washington’s perspective,” Pijl writes, “the new prominence of state-owned companies in shaping the transnational energy economy appeared to resurrect the détente constellation that Reagan had sought to dislodge in the second Cold War. Gazprom’s agreement with NIOC of Iran and the conclusion of a joint venture with ENI to exploit Libyan gas set all alarm bells ringing in key NATO capitals. The ENI deal was sealed in a meeting with Prime Minister Berlusconi when Putin returned from Tripoli, where he had cancelled $4.5 billion of Libyan debt.”
Starting in 1993, George Soros started investing in the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm dealing in defense related assets and featuring high profile political, military and economic figures. This includes William Barr, attorney general under George Bush Sr. and Donald Trump whose father gave Epstein his teaching job at the Dalton School. According to Dan Briody, Barr, “would help Carlyle…funnel millions of dollars through a temporary tax loophole known as the Great Eskimo Tax Scam, taking Carlyle into the Big Leagues.” There was also former Nixon aide and close friend of George Bush Sr. Frederic Malek, Mellon family advisor and Mellon Foundation manager Arthur Miltenberger, former deputy director of the CIA under Reagan, Frank Carlucci, who led, “Carlyle into the murky world of defense buyouts in the late 1980s and early 1990s” and former President George W. Bush (Bush’s Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, was close personal friends and business partners with Frank Carlucci and W’s Secretary of State, Colin Powell, also had a stint as an advisor at Carlyle).
Soros invested $100 million in Carlyle Partners II, which would become the biggest and most successful Carlyle fund. After Soros’s investment, Carlyle Partners II gained cash infusions from, “American Airlines, Gannett, Citibank, and others. By the winter of 1994, the fund had already reached $400 million, and the target was raised to $650 million. Then in the fall of 1995, the goal was again raised, this time to $750 million…By the time Carlyle Partners II closed in September 1996, the fund had raised more than $1.3 billion, 13 times the size of the company’s first fund, and more than twice the anticipated amount.” In the years leading up to 9/11, Carlyle Partners II sunk the bulk of its money “into an impressive series of defense, aerospace, and security companies. Names like Aerostructures Corp., United Defense, United States Marine Repair, and U.S. Investigations Services dominated the list of investments. And most of them had one thing in common: They depended on government contracts to make a living.”
After securing the creation of a private equity fund that would help fuel the War on Terror, Soros began experimenting, along with the CIA, State Department, USAID and NED, with another innovation of the Third Cold War. This is what’s known today as “Color Revolution.”
After the 1999 bombing campaign in Kosovo, a movement to overthrow Milosevic picked up steam with Soros’s help. As the LA Times reported in Jan. 2001: “His Soros Foundations Network helped finance several pro-democracy groups, including the student organization Otpor, which spearheaded grass-roots resistance to the authoritarian Yugoslav leader.” Velimir Curgus of the Soros network’s Belgrade branch admitted that, “Most of our work was undercover.” Soros gave Otpor “their first grant back in 1998, when they appeared as a student organization,” said Ivan Vejvoda, executive director of the Fund for an Open Society-Yugoslavia. In addition to funding opposition groups, Soros branches in Yugoslavia, Albania, Kyrgyzstan and Croatia were accused by government officials of “shielding spies and breaking currency laws.”
As Gerald Sussman and Sascha Krader point out, outward political aesthetics of the various leaders targeted in the Color Revolutions of the 2000s and early 2010s mattered little. In some instances the covert war masquerading as democratic revolution, “destabilised people who just a few years earlier were lionised by the US government as post-communist liberators, faithful IMF supporters, and pro-Western liberal democrats. Even Milošević had been touted by the CIA as ‘a force for stability’ in the early 1990s (MacKinnon 2007, 276).” Thus, the ultimate decision for support by Soros and the institutions of Western imperialism for Color Revolutions came from how they would discipline or remove world leaders who may have initially supported the penetration of Western capital into their nations but then attempted to go their own way or align themselves with BRICS. The dichotomy presented in mass media coverage of Color Revolutions-that of “Western democracy” vs “anti-Western authoritarianism”-is, thus, completely false.
In 2003 the George W. Bush administration oversaw the “Rose Revolution” in Georgia. As Sussman and Krader write, “John Tefft, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, argued at a hearing of US House Committee on International Relations in December 2004 that the Bush administration’s bankrolling of exit polls in Georgia, Belarus, and Ukraine was designed to ‘help to expose large-scale fraud’. But as two voting specialists skeptically observe, this same concern, for obvious reasons, was not expressed by the US government about exit polls a month earlier that found presidential contender John Kerry winning the popular vote in the American election (Freeman and Mitteldorf 2005), nor did they draw comparisons with Gore’s apparent and decisive victory, also based on exit polls, in Florida in the 2000 presidential election.”
The exit polls were just the tip of the iceberg. As journalist Mark MacKinnon observed at the time, in February of 2003, Soros: “began laying the brickwork for the toppling of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. That month, funds from his Open Society Institute sent a 31-year-old Tbilisi activist named Giga Bokeria to Serbia to meet with members of the Otpor (Resistance) movement and learn how they used street demonstrations to topple dictator Slobodan Milosevic. Then, in the summer, Mr. Soros’s foundation paid for a return trip to Georgia by Otpor activists, who ran three-day courses teaching more than 1,000 students how to stage a peaceful revolution.”
By November, a think tank organized by Bokeria, the Liberty Institute, helped organize street protests that eventually forced Shevardnadze to resign. Bokeria said it was in Belgrade that “he learned the value of seizing and holding the moral high ground, and how to make use of public pressure — tactics that proved so persuasive on the streets of Tbilisi after this month’s tainted parliamentary election.” Soros also funded a popular opposition television station that was crucial in mobilizing support and he reportedly gave financial support to a youth group that led the street protests. He also had a close relationship with Mikhail Saakashvili, a New York-educated lawyer who became president after Shevardnadze’s resignation. Bokeria’s Liberty Institute also received funds from the US government backed Eurasia Institute. Three other parts of the opposition-Saakashvili’s National Movement party, the Rustavi-2 television station and Kmara! (Enough!)-were all linked to Soros and Western imperialism.
MacKinnon notes that both Belarus and Ukraine, “expelled Open Society, accusing the organization of political interference.” While the Belarus expulsion would stick, Soros maintained leverage over Ukrainian civil society via his primary investment in the International Renaissance Foundation. To understand the ensuing exploitation of Ukraine’s fault lines by the Western bourgeoisie, we must briefly analyze the fault lines themselves.
As Pijl writes, “On the eve of the collapse of the USSR, Ukrainians and Russians accounted for 72 and 22% of the population of Ukraine, respectively. In the first census after independence, in 2001, Russians had declined by 5 percentage points; three-quarters of the Jews who had survived the genocide by the Nazis and Ukrainian fascists had emigrated in the 1970s, pushing down their share to 0.9 per cent.” Linguistic fractures were also present; “Practically all educated Ukrainians speak Russian…and many ethnic Ukrainians speak Russian as their first language. Although an apparently overwhelming majority gave Ukrainian as their mother tongue in surveys…only half used it on a regular basis. People in the east tend not to speak Ukrainian at all. Hence language was a weak unifying force.”
Furthermore, “Crimea, a Russian-majority area, never reconciled itself with its place in an independent Ukraine. It voted against inclusion in 1991, declared independence in May 1992, and enjoyed a separate status until it definitively broke away in 2014.” As Nicolai Petro writes, “For many in eastern and southern Ukraine, including the historical regions of Donbass, Novorossiya, Slobozhanshchina, and Crimea, being Ukrainian means being part of a distinct nation that lives in close harmony with Russia. Although they do not wish to join Russia, neither do they wish to be forced to forsake Russian culture in order to be considered loyal Ukrainians.”
On the other hand, the competition between the oligarchs aligned with Privat and those aligned with Donbass shaped the renewal of “ethnic tensions” in Ukraine at the turn of the century. Anders Åslund, director of the Russian and Eurasian Program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, one of the architects of the imperialist assault and a participant in the Round Tables of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, justified the oligarchs and their divvying up of Ukraine by framing it as an act of self-defense: “New owners became conspicuously rich … [but] since their property rights were weak, the new entrepreneurs, commonly called oligarchs, reinsured their property rights by buying politicians, judges and other officials, what is called corruption or state capture.” As Pijl concludes, “Public discontent exploded in the Orange Revolution of 2004 and the Maidan revolt ten years later, but since lesser oligarchs in both cases used the occasion to wrest power from the mightiest billionaires, neither event has dislodged the oligarchy as such.”
The Dnepropetrovsk-Privat oligarchs created the Hromada (Community) party and Yulia Tymoshenko was elected to parliament in 1996, just before Yuschenko, as head of the new National Bank of Ukraine. She began the final round of privatizion of Ukraine’s economy with an IMF loan of $375 million.
In 1999, Tymoshenko founded an even more aggressively ethno-nationalist party, Batkivshchyna (Fatherland), while Kuchma moved closer to the Donbass oligarchs to ensure his re-election. Tymoshenko’s party wedded its explicitly reactionary social politics to rhetoric in defense of a “democracy” it claimed the Donbass clan wanted to destroy. Afer the 2000 political scandal, Yuschenko, who Kuchma had appointed Prime Minister as a concession to western Ukrainians, would use the next four years to build a robust political bloc whose main pillar was the Ukrainian nationalists and neofascists supported by the West.
In addition to state repression of journalists, the cassettes leaked in 2000 exposed how the oligarchy hoarded billions for themselves while public life deteriorated. From late 2002, the few remaining barriers between parliament and the oligarchs completely fell apart, with the Donetsk faction becoming ascendant. As Pijl writes, “From now on, struggles within the oligarchy increasingly took the form of attempts by the lesser oligarchs, those of Dnepropetrovsk or from the west country, to attach themselves to popular discontent to dislodge their rivals: first in the ‘Orange Revolution’ of 2004 and eventually in the Maidan uprising followed by the armed coup in February 2014.”
As these class formations were emerging, the return of a strong central government under Putin complicated Russia’s supply of gas to Ukraine. In 2002, Gazprom removed Florida-based Itera as the intermediary for its supplies to Ukraine, replacing it with EuralTransGaz (ETG). When it was revealed that ETG was a massive money-laundering operation two years later, Russia replaced it with RosUkrEnergo. In the waning days of Yakunovych’s Prime Ministership under Kuchma, he signed a decree giving RosUkrEnergo a monopoly on the gas trade in Ukraine. When the Presidential race between Yakunovych and Yuschenko, in which the former was victorious, was supposedly “revealed” to have been “rigged”, it was the final straw for not only much of the Ukrainian public, but also the Western bourgeoisie.
Yuschenko’s “Our Ukraine” national front had already achieved 24% of the vote in 2002’s parliamentary elections. When two Western NGO’s accused Yakunovych of rigging the vote, Tymoshenko issued a call to her supporters to gather in Maidan Square at Kiev under the name “Para (Enough).” The ensuing Orange Revolution was described even by sympathetic Western analysts as a revolt of the “the millionaires against the billionaires” and Yuschenko was noted as “careful not to criticize oligarchs…because smaller oligarchs support him.” And who in the West was supporting these oligarchs?
Well, consider that Oleh Rybachuk, Yuschenko’s right hand man during the Orange Revolution and the “Anatoly Chubais of Ukraine”, had a longstanding relationship with the State Department, EU, NATO, George Soros, and the neoconservative think tankers in Washington DC. In 2004, Rybachuk gave a speech to the American Enterprise Instiute which “received standing ovations and caused tears in the eyes of many.” Furthermore, Yuschenko’s American-born wife, educated at the University of Chicago business school, served as a State Department official and later worked in the White House during the Reagan administration. Under George HW Bush, she worked at the US Treasury Department and subsequently became a close personal friend of George W. Bush.
The National Democratic Institute (NDI), an outgrowth of the National Endowment for Democracy affiliated with the Democratic Party, was the one to suggest Tymoshenko and Yuschenko form an alliance instead of running against each other (MacKinnon 2007, 118, 155). As for the “rigged” election, the American political consultant Dick Morris “admitted to a clandestine meeting in an unnamed Eastern European capital with Yushchenko’s team, at which he advised them that a big exit poll … might … help to bring protesters out into the streets if the exit poll indicated obvious ballot fraud” (Wilson 2006). As Sussman and Krader point out:
“Several local pollsters working on the ‘national exit poll’ were receiving Western assistance. These included the Razumkov Center, funded by NED and affiliated with Freedom House, and a think tank, the Democracy Initiatives Foundation, also a NED grantee as well as a recipient of other Western finance, which conducted a ‘national exit poll’ (Bandera 2006: McFaul 2006; NED 2004). KIIS is another local opinion polling firm, with U.S.-trained leadership, which counts USAID, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the US State Department, and Coca-Cola among its former clients (Kiev International Institute of Sociology, no date). A Ukrainian NGO, Committee of Ukrainian Voters, which organized a parallel vote tabulation, had a working relationship with NDI (Committee of Ukrainian Voters, 2006; McFaul 2006)”
The State Department and Soros shelled out millions for the Orange Revolution, with the US shelling out $34 million and Soros throwing in another $1.6 million in support of a local ‘Freedom of Choice’ NGO coalition and Ukraine’s ‘New Choice 2004’ (Wilson 2005, 184). According to Sussman and Krader:
“The German Marshall Fund of the United States, Freedom House, and the Canadian International Development Agency together provided $130,000 for activist training (Kaskiv, Chupryna and Zolotariov, 2007, 134). Foreign assistance also staked various get-out-the-vote programs, including ‘leaflet campaigns, street theatre, rock concerts, door-to-door campaigns, and karaoke shows’ (Freedom House 2005). The Center for Political and Legal Reforms, financed by various U.S. foundations, linked its website directly to Yushchenko’s home page ‘under the heading “partners”’, USAID brought the group to Washington, D.C. for three weeks of training in ‘political advocacy’ (Kelley 2004)…Ukraine’s regime change initiative enjoyed more funding, foreign and domestic, including large contributions from local millionaires who opposed the Kuchma government, than either Serbia or Georgia (MacKinnon 2007, 171).”
“Following the successful overthrow of Shevardnadze, David Dettman, NDI director in Kyiv, flew to Tbilisi to consult with the NDI’s Georgia director to discuss whether a similar ‘revolution’ could happen in Ukraine. Dettman determined that it could and later helped organize training camps for the Ukrainian youth movement, run by Serbian Otpor activists and paid for by the British Westminster Foundation. (Otpor training camps in Ukraine would be subsequently bankrolled by Freedom House) (MacKinnon 2007, 172, 184). Georgian experts also arrived to assist the Ukrainian anti-Kuchma (and his designated successor, Yanukovych) rebellion. A former Georgian Liberty Institute official, Gigi Targamadze, visited Kyiv along with several Georgian Kmara youth activists, while Pora is said to have sent a contingent to Tbilisi for training (Anjaparidze 2005). The logistics were financed with U.S. assistance (MacKinnon 2007, 172)…
…Otpor activist Aleksandar Maric boasted: ‘We trained them [Ukrainian youth opposition] in how to set up an organization, how to open local chapters, how to create a ‘brand,’ how to create a logo, symbols, and key messages’ (quoted in Bransten 2004). Pora received $500,000 from Freedom House, while a Ukrainian opposition group, Znayu, was given $50,000 from Freedom House and $1 million from the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation to start a teaser-type advertising campaign in seventeen Ukrainian cities. ‘Znayu was one of our larger projects in terms of visibility, but it was really just a small part of our whole work’, commented an election specialist from Freedom House in Kiev, Juhani Grossman (MacKinnon 2007, 174).”
For all their trouble, the West got a Yuschenko government bolstered by Ukrainian neofascists and the Privat oligarchs aligned with them. In January 2005, Yuschenko appointed Tymoshenko Prime Minister and she immediately used her new post to crack down on the Donetsk clan. The head of the Donetsk oblast council was arrested for raiding one of the Orange supporters’ business groups while Krivorozhstal, Ukraine’s largest metallurgical company, which had been sold to two Donetsk oligarchs in the closing months of Kuchma’s presidency, was repossessed by the government. In August 2006, a coalition of the Party of Regions, Socialists and Communists voted Yanukovych into office as prime minister again, and he would hold this post until the early parliamentary elections of 2007, which saw a renewed parliamentary ascent of the Donetsk bloc’s Party of Regions but also return of Tymoshenko to the Prime Minister’s office, where she would remain until 2010. In 2009, RosUkrEnergo was removed from the gas market, which led to Russia cutting off supplies from Gazprom.
A schism between the Yuschenko and Tymoshenko blocs of the Orange Revolution emerged, with many Privat oligarchs ultimately settling for the latter. In the meantime, war broke out between Russia and Georgia over the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “After increasing tensions during the spring and the early summer of 2008, the events escalated into a conflict when Georgian soldiers advanced to South Ossetia on 7 August. President Mikheil Saakashvili described the move as self-defense, but Russia retaliated by deploying troops to South Ossetia and conducting bombing raids into Georgia proper.” As the linked study points out, the Bush administration exlpoited the longstanding tensions between Russia and Georgia for its own purposes:
“In a speech given in Tbilisi on 10 May 2005, Bush had praised Georgia as ‘a beacon of liberty’ for the region and the world, and in the 00s the country became one of the most important recipients of the US aid on a per capita basis…President Saakashvili had powerful friends across party lines: in 2005, Senators John McCain and Hillary Clinton had jointly proposed to award him the Nobel Peace Prize…US plans for a Europe-based missile system were a constant source of tension, and Washington’s strong support for the independence of Kosovo in February 2008 was still prickling Russia. Moscow was also growing more and more irritated over the US support to Ukraine and Georgia…In the face of fierce opposition from Russia and significant skepticism in some of the leading EU nations, the NATO April 2008 summit in Bucharest, where Georgia and Ukraine had hoped to be granted a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP), had ended with a confusing compromise solution where even the participants were uncertain about the decisions they had taken.”
According to the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia there were more than 100 US military advisers in the Georgian armed forces when the hostilities began. Heikki Tuomas Koskenniemi points out how, throughout the brief war and even moreso in its immediate aftermath, the usual neoconservative intelligentsia shaped the American narrative of events. Two seminars organized immediately after the conflict started by the American Enterprise Institute and Brookings featured Robert Kagan, Fred Kagan, and Thomas Donnelly. The “nearly apocalyptic” tone of the conferences was, as the linked study points out, echoed by neocon views, “in the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal and, thanks to columns by Robert Kagan, Charles Krauthammer, David Brooks and Max Boot, The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.”
Krauthammer condemned the NATO report on the war for not placing all the blame on Russia, whining that there was, “No dissolution of the G-8. No blocking of Russian entry to the World Trade Organization. No statement of support for the Saakashvili government” and insisting that some immediate threat was posed to American national security by this brief conflict over two small areas of East European territory. Robert Kagan went so far as to call the war, “the end of dreams” of a true end of history and also signaled the return of “an almost 19th-century style of great-power competition.”
Even Brzenzski’s voice was present in the chorus declaring a new Cold War: “Russia’s aggression toward Georgia should not be viewed as an isolated incident. The fact is, Putin and his associates in the Kremlin don’t accept the post-Soviet realities.The stakes are high. Ultimately, the independence of the post-Soviet states is at risk.” On August 11, 2008, George W. Bush said, “Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century…These actions have substantially damaged Russia’s standing in the world. And these actions jeopardize Russians’ relations – Russia’s relations with the United States and Europe.”
One day before the 7th anniversary of 9/11, the American Enterprise Institute’s Leon Aron published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal headlined “Russia’s Next Target Could Be Ukraine.” Aron opens the piece by saying, “Perhaps the most urgent question in the world affairs today is whether Russia’s invasion and continuing occupation of Georgia was a singular event. Or was it the onset of a distinct, and profoundly disturbing, national security and foreign policy agenda? Much as one would like to cling to the former theory, the evidence favors the latter.” He then reframes Ukraine’s internal oligarch war and the support for one side of it by Western imperialism as Kiev repeatedly defying and angering Russia “by the domestic politics of democratization.”
As Pijl notes, “Western policy planners no doubt realised that continuing economic relations between Ukraine and Russia would assist Moscow’s aspiration to emancipate itself from the role of a one-sided energy supplier, thus bolstering the Eurasian Union, and reinforcing its position among the BRICS.” Between 2010-2012, “there was no further economic shift to the West to speak of and the 1996 level of interconnection with the former Soviet economy remained.” However, Viktor Pinchuk, a Dnipropetrovsk oligarch and Kuchma’s son-in-law, was about to help change all of that.
After 2004, Pinchuk established the Yalta European Strategy (YES) to promote, “Ukraine’s European and global integration. Its annual meeting has become the main high-level platform in the region to discuss strategies for Wider Europe.” YES’s board of directors is currently chaired by former Polish president A. Kwasniewski and includes the former president of the French Rothschild group; the vice-president of French publicity conglomerate Havas; as well as Javier Solana (former NATO Secretary General and EU high representative for foreign affairs), and several other Eurocrats. Two years after establishing YES, Pinchuk created the Pinchuk Foundation which “supports the Clinton Global Initiative, the educational programs of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and of the Peres Center for Peace.” In 2007, Pinchuk, sold his Ukrsocbank, one of the largest in Ukraine to UniCredit of Italy for $2 billion. By 2008, Pinchuk had become, “a large benefactor to foundations backed by [George] Soros.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2008 Pinchuk pledged a “five-year, $29-million commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative…to train future Ukrainian leaders ‘to modernize Ukraine.'” Between 2009 and 2013, including when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, the Clinton Foundation received at least $8.6 million from the Pinchuk Foundation. Doug Schoen, a pollster who has worked for both Clintons, told the Journal that he and Pinchuk, “met several times with Clinton aides including Melanne Verveer, a Ukrainian-American and then a State Department ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues. The purpose, Mr. Schoen said, was to encourage the US to pressure Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych to free his jailed predecessor, Yulia Tymoshenko.”
In September 2013, when Western pressure on Yanukovych to sign up to the EU Association Agreement was at its peak, the Clintons, former Iraq commander and CIA director David Petraeus, former US Treasury ex-World Bank head Robert Zoellick, Larry Summers, Tony Blair, former IMF head Dominque Strauss-Kahn and Israeli President Shimon Peres attended the YES convention. As Pijl writes:
“Yanukovych himself was present too, as was the man who would eventually take his place after the first post-coup election, Petro Poroshenko. Bill Richardson, former US energy secretary, had come to speak on the shale gas revolution by which Washington hoped to reduce Russian influence, and in which Ukraine, too, was expected to join by developing its own shale gas resources in the east. However, the warning of Putin’s…Eurasian Union adviser, Sergei Glazyev, that by signing up to the Association Agreement…Ukraine would increase its budget deficit and become entirely reliant on foreign funding it would not be able to pay back, must have stuck in Yanukovych’s mind when he returned to Kiev.”
There is also the influence of an even more anti-Russian oligarch, Ihor Kolomoiskiy, and his stake in Ukraine’s largest natural gas company, Burisma, to consider. According to Pijl:
“In 2012 the Ukrainian Anticorruption Action Center found out that the director of a state-owned Donbass coal mine who wanted to privatise it, was asked to first incorporate nine gas fields into the mine, and then upon privatisation (in 2011), hand over four of them to Management Assets Corporation (MAKO). MAKO is the holding of the Yanukovych family, headed by the president’s son, Oleksandr, then on a rampage that would catapult him into the top-100 richest Ukrainians. However, in this case, the five other, far more productive fields were obtained by Ukrnaftoburinnya, which is 90 per cent owned by a Cypriot company, Deripon Commercial Ltd. The final owner of Deripon is the Virgin Island-based, Burrad Financial Corp., a company in the orbit of the Privat Group and Ihor Kolomoiskiy. Burisma was founded in 2002 and registered in Cyprus in 2004 after the Orange Revolution.”
Kolomoiskiy would go on to recruit American directors for Burisma with connections to the highest levels of the Obama administration, including then-Vice President (and current US President) Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. The oligarch was also involved in the country’s largest airline company, Ukrainian International Airlines (MAU), through Ontobet, a company headquartered in Cyprus which is the property of the Privat group. Pijl notes that, “Privat also owned Dniproavia, based at Dnepropetrovsk Airport, and a few other small airline companies operating from Borispol and Donetsk airports and in Scandinavia, but these all went bankrupt in 2012.” These connections, as well as Privat’s links to Israeli security firms with airport facilities across Europe, make it extremely likely Kolomoiskiy was involved with the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 as it flew over eastern Ukraine in 2014, an incident which has been widely blamed on the Russian military.
In addition to Pinchuk and Kolomoiskiy, the oligarchs controlling Ukraine’s food and agriculture industries, including post-Euromaidan president Petro Poroshenko, have promoted more aggressive intervention into Western markets since the early 2010s. As one study by a Polish think tank noted in 2013: “Confectionery giant Roshen, owned by Petro Poroshenko, given that [its] products are levied import tariffs of about 35–40 percent in the EU” would benefit greatly from such an arrangement. “Lifting import duties would also be beneficial to the Kernel group, owned by Andriy Verevskiy, as his company exports about 17 percent of its grain and oil to the EU. Likewise, Mironivsky Hliboprodukt [poultry], owned by Yuri Kosyuk, could gain from the elimination of both sanitary barriers and import duties, to increase its fowl exports to the EU from the meagre share of 5 percent.”
After Yanukovych defeated Tymoshenko for the Ukrainian presidency in 2010, the Donetsk clan, its Party of Regions and the managers of RosUkrEnergo gained a total monopoly on political power. By 2011, many of the rival Privat oligarchs defected from Tymoshenko’s camp and in August of that year she was sentenced to a seven year prison term for abuse of office. By 2012, the Party of Regions held 42% of seats in Parliament, had branches in 17 of the 27 administrative regions, and had 11,600 local chapters. Russian was federally recognized as a regional language and a new law made any language spoken by at least 10% of the population in a particular region an official language next to Ukrainian. Russian acquired that status in 13 of Ukraine’s 27 oblasts.
However, not only was the Fatherland Party remaining competitive in parliamentary elections, but Svoboda had managed to win 10.4% of the vote in 2012. When a UN resolution against the glorification of the Nazis and members of the Waffen-SS was adopted that same year, the United States, Canada, Britain, Denmark and Sweden voted against, whilst most EU countries abstained (it should be noted that Canada has a historically large Ukrainian emigre community that has spawned numerous foreign chapters of Ukrainian neofascist organiations over the years).
Within the Donetsk bloc, divisions and competition emerged. Yanukovych and his two sons formed a subgroup of the oligarchs known as “the Family” which parasitized RosUkrEnergo while Rinat Akhmetov pushed for a truce with what remained of the Privat-Fatherland bloc. As the Baltic bloc in the EU (Poland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) tried to convince Ukraine to sign a version of the EU Association Agreement that would effectively make the country a North Atlantic protectorate and a bulwark for the West against Russia, Yanukovych tried to play both sides.
In 2011, rather than fully accept the EU agreement, Yanukovych made an offer that would give Ukraine, and indirectly, the EU, free access to the Eurasian Customs Union, to be established in between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. On the advice of Poroshenko, Yanukovych even made his first foreign visit to Brussels rather than Moscow. However, Yanukovych would not take a firmly and totally anti-Russian stance, and signed an an agreement in Kharkov with then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to renew the lease of Sebastopol for another 25 years (until 2042), in exchange for a discount on the gas price.
In February 2011, ExxonMobil already signed an agreement with Rosneft to explore deposits in the Sea of Azov and Crimea. A year later, Shell won the contract to develop the Yuzivska gas deposit (est. 4 trillion cubic meters) under Slavyansk in the east, and at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2013, it signed an agreement for shale gas exploitation in the presence of Prime Minister Rutte and President Yanukovych. EU external relations adviser Pedro Serrano testified, “the ‘first inklings’ of trouble from the Ukrainian side came in September 2013” when Yanukovych indicated that “it would be difficult for him to sign the [Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area Agreement].” As Pijl writes, “The fate of Ukraine’s industry was obviously a key concern. The DCFTA’s provisions for a sweeping liberalisation acquire their full significance in the context of the top-secret negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) then in progress.” In January 2014, NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen noted that an Association Agreement with Ukraine would be a huge boost to “Euro-Atlantic security.” By then, Putin had returned to the Russian presidency.
During the inter-Putin years, the Obama administration attempted a “reset” with Russia under Dmitry Medvedev (which probably had something to do with donations to the Clinton Foundation by the Russian state-owned nuclear company, Rosatom). This “reset” attitude was exemplified by Obama’s rebuttal Republican rival Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential election debates that the latter’s hawkish foreign policy views on Russia were outdated. “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back,” Obama said, “because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.” This “reset” coincided with an even further deepening of the EU’s energy dependence on Russia. Work on the compressor station on the Russian end of South Stream began in December 2012, while Russia also started to make new military deals with Central Asia.
However, from the outset Obama’s administration kept on numerous Bush officials, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. By 2013, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had onboarded Samantha Power, and Victoria Nuland to the Obama administration. Power’s selection was lauded by neocons such as Max Boot, Joe Lieberman, Alan Dershowitz, and John McCain while Nuland’s husband, the aforementioned dyed in the wool neocon Robert Kagan, started a more bipartisan successor to the Bush-era Project for a New American Century called the Foreign Policy Initiative.
Another foreign policy think tank, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), opened just before the Obama administration took power, receiving massive donations from the Open Society Foundation, defense contractors such as Northrop Grumann, Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Bae Systems, and oil companies such as Chevron, BP’s American branch, and Exxon Mobil. Nuland would eventually serve as CNAS’s CEO. Toward the end of 2014, Kagan and other neocons began to advocate for Hillary Clinton’s burgeoning Presidential ambitions. As one analyst wrote, “These neocons have a point. Mrs. Clinton voted for the Iraq war; supported sending arms to Syrian rebels; likened Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, to Adolf Hitler; wholeheartedly backs Israel; and stresses the importance of promoting democracy.”
Ever since September 2012, the State Department had hosted a “TechCamp” at the Master Klass Cultural Center in Kyiv which marked, “the 14th TechCamp supporting Secretary Clinton’s Civil Society 2.0, an initiative which builds the digital literacy of civil society organizations around the world” by pairing “leaders in the technology community with civil society organizations to provide training, resources, and support that enable civil society organizations to harness the latest connection technologies to build capacity and advance missions.”
As a document from the US Embassy in Kiev elaborates: “Civil society leaders received hands-on training in a variety of areas including using Facebook for social media engagement, increasing outreach through online collaborative learning, filming low cost video for outreach and engagement, creating effective websites for NGOs, making use of mapping data to advocate for change, and encouraging transparent governance to improve education…TechCamp participants first brainstormed and then identified the specific problems that they faced and wanted to tackle. The formulations of these problems included such questions as: ‘How do you generate public interest in the activities of NGOs in Ukraine and Belarus?’” In a speech before a Washington business conference sponsored by the US-Ukraine Foundation and Chevron in December 2013, Victoria Nuland said that the US had spent $5 billion in Ukraine since 1991 to “promote democracy.”
The Soros-controlled International Renaissance Foundation donated to Center UA, an NGO that is part of a larger network run by aforementioned Yuschenko lackie and necon favorite Oleh Rybachuk. Referring to Euormaidan, the Financial Times wrote that a campaign by Rybachuk’s New Citen NGO “played a big role in getting the protest up and running.” According to Rybachuk himself, between 2012-2013 he and his benefactors amassed, “150 NGOs in all the major cities in our ‘clean up Parliament campaign.” Referring to the Orange Revolution, Rybachuk said, “We want to do that again. And we will.”
Another major donor to Rybachuk’s NGO network was ebay billionaire and Peter Thiel associate Pierre Omidyar, who, along with Soros, visited the Obama White House more than any other American billionaire (It should be noted that Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, worked on behalf of the CIA-backed Ford Foundation, the US Agency for International Development, and the Asian Development Bank).
The European Union supplied a total of €1.3 billion to Ukraine between 2007 and 2014 for development and research and related projects. During 2013, the European Endowment for Democracy and the British Embassy in Kiev funded and organized various public relations campaigns aimed at building support for the DCFTA in Ukraine. “Stronger Together”, an astroturfed civil society movement for integration into the EU, was launched in Kiev on September 10, 2013.
One partner in “Stronger Together”, the government of the Netherlands, was also the biggest donor to Hromadske TV, an internet station live-streaming images of the demonstrations, thus ensuring a constant flow of new recruits to occupied squares in all the major cities. Hromadske TV was co-founded by the International Renaissance Foundation. Finally, as Pijl writes, “When Yanukovych announced he would not the sign the EU Agreement and instead accepted the Russian counteroffer of $15 billion and preferential gas tariffs, the acting leader of Yuliya Tymoshenko’s Fatherland Party, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, called for protests (dubbed #Euromaidan) on his Twitter account.”
Initially, Euromaidan was not entirely composed of neofascists. But the people controlling what direction the “movement” went in clearly descended from the lineage of Bandera and others discussed in the first part of of this essay. As The Nation pointed out: “Spearheading the clashes with police was Right Sector, a group with ties to far-right parties.”
Western media coverage of Euromaidan, “focused on the call for European integration and the struggle against the Yanukovich regime” while largely glossing over “the rise in nationalist rhetoric, often chauvinist, that has led to violence not just against police, but also against left-wing activists.” Nikita Kadan, an artist and activist in Kiev told the Nation that progressive activists had “to fight on two fronts, against a regime that supports harmful police violence … and also against extreme nationalism, which is recognized as legitimate on Maidan.” Said legitimacy stemmed largely from a media and educational campaign to resurrect Bandera and other World War 2 era fascists as national heroes under Yuschenko and Tymoshenko.
According to Rudling, “Yushchenko’s presidency represented the pinnacle of diaspora influence on history writing in Ukraine. It elevated the diaspora’s historical myths to state policy and provided state funding to institutions tasked with the development of legitimizing narratives which the cult of the OUN leaders required.” With the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists making up a large portion of Yuschenko’s Our Ukraine, his government had to,”manufacture an edifying Ukrainian national past, a patriotic narrative that could partially reconcile the cult of the OUN-B and the UPA with recognition of the Holocaust.” To carry out this task, three new institutions were created: The Institute of National Memory, the Center for the Study of the Liberation Movement, and part of the Ukrainian Security Forces (SBU).
Set up in 2006 and led by Social Nationalist Party of Ukraine sympathizer Ihor Yukhnovs’kyi, one of the first tasks of the Institute of National Memory was to petition Yushchenko to posthumously make Roman Shukhevych a national hero, which led, in 2007 and 2010 respectively to Shukhevych and Bandera being officially recognized as “national heroes of Ukraine,” with a similar title being given to Yaroslav Stetsko. Ironically, the new narratives being deployed by Yuschenko’s administration attempted to “divorce the OUN leaders from their fascist ideology and place them within a new, curious, philo-Semitic narrative, tailored to fit the expectations of their intended Western partners and to partly recognize the centrality of the Holocaust. This narrative denies the nationalist leaders’ commitment to mass murder and ethnic cleansing and presents them as good Europeans—democrats and pluralists—and the OUN-UPA as inclusive, tolerant organizations, champions of a multi-ethnic Ukraine.”
The Center for the Study of the Liberation Movement, meanwhile, served as an OUN-B “facade structure” that linked young Ukrainians sympathetic to the OUN-B with diaspora nationalists among the postwar wave of émigrés. The Center is a partner of the CIUS, the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute (HURI), as well as diaspora nationalist organizations, such as the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) and the OUN(b)-dominated Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA). In turn, the Center is closely link with the Ukrainian Security Forces (SBU) which was tasked with guarding, “the memory, the institutions, resources, and archives of the Ukrainian security forces.” Sofia Hrachova emphasizes that “the SBU enjoys a monopoly on information and uses this monopoly to political ends, publishing selections of documents that represent historical events according to the current official perspective, and authorizing the official position on controversial issues.”
The propaganda disseminated by these institutions between the Orange Revolution and the Euromaidan is oxymoronic. It’s based on portraying a Ukrainian famine that was certifiably not a genocide as such while simultaneously participating in Holocaust denial by dismissing of the proven collaboration of OUN-B with the Nazis. As Rudling points out, the director of the Center for the Study of the “Liberation Movement”, Volodymyr V’iatrovych, “has made no effort to consult memories of Holocaust survivors who recall the OUN and UPA with terror and fear and describe the organization as deeply anti-Semitic. He avoids the topic of how UPA leaders were trained by Nazi Germany and collaborated in the Holocaust and ignores evidence of UPA mass murders of Jews found in Ukrainian and German archives.” Omitting a significant body of literature, which testifies to the opposite, V’’iatrovych concludes that “all-in-all, from the publications of the leading ideologues of the movement, their programmatic statements, [one can only conclude that] the ideology of the Ukrainian nationalists did not take positions that justify accusations that the OUN was anti-Semitic.”
As Himka explains: “V’’iatrovych manages to exonerate the OUN of charges of antisemitism and complicity in the Holocaust only by employing a series of highly dubious procedures: rejecting sources that compromise the OUN, accepting uncritically censored sources from émigré OUN circles, failing to recognize antisemitism in OUN texts, limiting the source base to official OUN proclamations and decisions, excluding Jewish memoirs, refusing to consider contextual and comparative factors, failing to consult German document collections, and ignoring the mass of historical monographs on his subject written in the English and German languages.”
A public hearing organized by the SBU in 2008 had the effect of rewriting the history of Ukrainian neofascism as one of a valiant struggle against Russian imperialism (then in the form of Soviet expansion) by Ukrainians and Jews: “Today, we are making public documents about Ukrainians and Jews who fought together after the great Famine against the totalitarian and communist regimes. That historical truth has been brutally suppressed and mythologized. In a cynical and evil fashion, the KGB tried to stir up unnatural hostility between the Ukrainian and Jewish peoples. Such a myth, created and sustained over several decades, has no right to exist.” The hypocrisy and projection on display here is jaw dropping.
As Rudling points out, “Even if we were to take the most optimistic assessments of the legitimizing historians, include the forgeries and accept at face value their assertions regarding the Jewish identity of all the unnamed people V’’iatrovych claims fought in the OUN and UPA, the number of Jews in those organizations still constitute a minute fraction of the total UPA membership (between 0.001 and 0.1 percent).” When we return to reality, a reality which V’iatrovych has omitted, we see that “50 percent of the UPA leaders had a background as collaborators within the military, police, or punitive organs of the Nazi German occupants and played key roles in the implementation of the Holocaust in the occupied Soviet Union.” Rudling, who wrote his original analysis of the resuscitation of Ukrainian fascist narratives in mainstream culture three years before Euromaidan, noted that:
“…this enchanted narrative has found a receptive audience beyond the circle of the nationalist true believers and started to take on a life of its own. The legend of the UPA as an inclusive, democratic force where Jews fought side by side with the OUN against Hitler is already making it into popular culture. In 2010, Oksana Zabuzhko, perhaps Ukraine’s most popular fiction writer, published a massive book [The Museum of Forgotten Secrets] in which the major heroine is a Jewish nurse in the UPA….For her research, Zabuzhko relied partly on material provided to her by the Center for the Study of the Liberation Movement and its museum in the former Lontskyi Prison, where on the request of V’’iatrovych center, the book launch was held. The first edition sold out in three days. Reviewers received the book very well.”
While this propaganda coup against Ukrainian national memory of World War 2 was taking place, a similar public relations gambit was playing out with the concept of the Intermarium. Stratfor, “a private intelligence think tank whose customers include large corporations as well as government agencies such as the US Department of Homeland Security, the Marines, and the Defense Intelligence Agency” started to revive the Intermarium.
According to Laruelle and Rivera: “The earliest Stratfor email mentioning the notion of Intermarium dates from 2009 and advanced the concept in the context of Poland’s solidarity with Georgia following the August 2008 war with Russia. A total of 394 Stratfor emails up to December 2011… contain the term ‘Intermarium.’” In 2015, one year after the conclusion of Euromaidan, Stratfor recognized in its Geopolitical Diary web project that “it has been discussing an alliance system called the Intermarium for quite a while” and referred to Piłsudski’s original project:
“We have been arguing that, given the re-emergence of Russian power, the idea of the Intermarium—supported not by France, but by the United States, and focused on Russia—would become inevitable. [Former United States Army Europe (USAREUR) commander General Ben] Hodges’ statements on pre-positioning essentially announced the Intermarium, or its small beginning. The area in which the equipment would be pre-positioned stretches from the Baltic states through Poland and then skips to Romania and Bulgaria on the Black Sea. It signals to the Russians that whatever happens in Ukraine, the next line of countries is the line that triggers the alliance.”
George Friedman, the Hungarian born founder and first leader of Stratfor, sees Poland and Romania—the two closest military allies of the U.S. in the region— as the “two foundations of the Intermarium” and does not hesitate to hope that the Intermarium would challenge the “hegemony of the 1950s-style corporations that dominate European economics” and promote an economic model that would be “more entrepreneurial, more closely resembling the United States.” Robert D. Kaplan, Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security and member of the Defense Policy Board at the Pentagon while Robert Gates was Secretary of Defense, became a board member of Stratfor around this time and used the concept of “Greater Intermarium” to refer to the region.
The Institute for World Politics bolstered Stratfor’s work with its own late 2000s-early 2010s resurrection of Intermarium. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, besides having authored a book on the subject, directs the Institute for World Politics Center for Intermarium Studies whose mission is: “to champion the continuity of Trans-Atlantic relationships to re-stimulate US-European amity, and to reconfirm America’s commitment to Europe—a Europe that includes the Intermarium. This is particularly crucial in the era that needs reminding that America’s systemic arrangements, institutions, law, and culture were transplanted from the Old Continent and the Mediterranean Basin. The spirit of Jerusalem-Athens-Rome via London arrived in the New World to forge a new nation.”
Chodakiewicz had previously been appointed by George W. Bush as president of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, a decision criticized by groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The SPLC pointed out that Chodakiewicz was a frequent commentator on right-wing Polish media, such as the weekly Najwyzszy Czas!, “the magazine of the Real Politics Union party, a fringe, pro-life, anti-gay marriage, pro-property rights, anti-income tax group,” and the far-right Polish website Fronda.pl. In 2008, Chodakiewicz was one of the many conservative political pundits who accused Barack Obama of being a Kenyan-born Muslim and secret communist.
Another think-tank, the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) has said that its mission is to promote the “strategic theater encompassing the region between Berlin to Moscow, and from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea, [as] represent[ing] an area vital of strategic interest to the United States. (…) From Wilson and Masaryk to Reagan, Havel and Wałęsa, CEPA works to preserve and extend the shared legacy of fighting for freedom, and America’s essential role in Europe, among a new generation of Atlanticists.” Which brings us back to Ukraine and Euromaidan. As Laruelle and Rivera note:
“The reintroduction of the Intermarium notion in Ukraine is closely connected to the broad rehabilitation of the OUN and UPA, as well as of their main hero, Stepan Bandera…This rehabilitation trend accelerated after the EuroMaidan. In 2015, just before the seventieth anniversary of Victory Day, Volodymyr Viatrovych, minister of education and long-time director of the Institute for the Study of the Liberation Movement, an organization founded to promote the heroic narrative of the OUN–UPA, called on the parliament to vote for a set of four laws that codified the new, post-Maidan historiography. Two of them are particularly influential in the ongoing memory war with Russia. One decrees that OUN and UPA members are to be considered ‘fighters for Ukrainian independence in the twentieth century,” making public denial of this unlawful. The second, ‘Condemning Communist and National Socialist (Nazi) Totalitarian Regimes and Prohibiting the Propaganda of their Symbols,’ formally criminalizes the entire Soviet regime in Ukraine, ordering the removal of any Soviet-era symbols and making any breach punishable by up to ten years in prison.”
In 2016, Andriy Biletsky, a member of parliament, lieutenant colonel of the police, and university instructor created the Intermarium Support Group (ISG). In his youth, Bilietsky was active in neo-Nazi circles, taking leadership of the neo-Nazi organization Patriot of Ukraine (Patriot Ukrainy) (1996-2014), which became a paramilitary wing of the Social-National Assembly (SNA). As Laruelle and Rivera write:
“In late November 2013, the SNA and Patriot of Ukraine created Pravyi Sektor, joined by other neo-Nazi groups such as White Hammer and C14, the neo-Nazi youth wing of Svoboda. When in April 2014 Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov authorized the creation of civil paramilitary units to help a weak Ukrainian army fight against secessionism in the Donbas region, the Asov Battalion was officially formed, with Biletsky as its co-founder and first commander. The Kyiv government began to provide it with arms and a few month laters incorporated it into the National Guard of Ukraine. In 2015, the SNA transformed into the political youth organization Azov Civil Corps (Tsivil’nyi korpus Azov) and then, in October 2016, into the National Corps political party, of which Biletsky is the current leader.”
The ISG, founded by a literal neo-Nazi, held a conference in 2016 with delegates from Belarus (Zmicier Mickiewicz, Belarus Security Blog); Croatia (Leo Marić, journalist); Estonia (Vaba Ukraina, or “Free Ukraine”); Georgia (Giorgi Kuparashvili, head of the Military School of Colonel Yevhen Konovalets); Lithuania (Gintarė Narkevičiūtė, International Secretary of the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats Party); Poland (Mariusz Patey, director of the Institute of Professor Roman Rybarski); Slovakia (Slovenská pospolitosť, or “Slovak Brotherhood”); and Sweden. It also included “military attaches of diplomatic missions from the key countries in the region (Poland, Hungary, Romania and Lithuania).”
Thus, the idea that Euromaidan was a struggle against Russian “totalitarianism” and “authoritarianism” by a popular front of democrats, liberals, and even punk rock anarchists, which was popularized in media such as Netflix’s pro-Ukrainian nationalist propaganda film Winter on Fire and in the pages of Vice magazine, is not only false, but covert apologia for neofascism.
Euromaidan was, in fact, a Color Revolution on behalf Western capital stoked by its business partners among the Ukrainian oligarchy who felt the Orange Revolution hadn’t fully displaced their rivals in the Donbass group. It was led by neofascist organizations descended from the Anti Bolshevik Bloc of Nations/World Anti-Communist League that served as a major postwar asset for Western imperialism during the Cold War and “civil society” groups directly funded by the State Department, EU and George Soros. It was used to promote a version of Ukrainian integration into the European Union that would have effectively created a new Intermarium-like bloc which could be used by NATO and Western capitalists as a springboard into the Russian Federation.
In December 2013, hardline neoconservative Senator John McCain took a trip to Ukraine. He told a Maidan crowd: “Ukraine will make Europe better and Europe will make Ukraine better.” McCain made his proclamation while being flanked by members of Svoboda, including its leader Oleh Tyahnybok.