MSNBC: The Russians are coming!

It says, "Our women would be helpless beneath the boots of Asiatic Russia.'
‘Our women would be helpless beneath the boots of the Asiatic Russians.’

Robert Parry in Consortium News:

If you were living in Crimea, would you prefer to remain part of Ukraine with its coup-installed government – with neo-Nazis running four ministries including the Ministry of Defense – or would you want to become part of Russia, which has had ties to Crimea going back to Catherine the Great in the 1700s?

Good question, and one that is rarely if ever addressed at mainstream news outlets, including MSNBC, home of reputedly progressive talking heads who seem content to repeat the same anti-Russian propaganda you can hear on other channels, including Fox News.

Last night, in typically long-winded fashion, Rachel Maddow rehashed an old report on Abkhazia and South Ossetia, tiny territories in Georgia that Russia recognized as independent states after it intervened on their behalf in a brief war with Georgia in 2008. Maddow segued to an on-air interview with NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel, who suspects the upcoming referendum in Crimea is part of a long-range Russian plan to reclaim more territories lost when the Soviet Union imploded.

At one point, referring to Russia’s possible annexation of Crimea, Engel portentously said, “The question is, does [Vladimir] Putin stop there — does Russia stop there.” In other words, maybe Crimea is a prelude to a Russian takeover of the rest of Ukraine (the part that’s actually Ukrainian). And who knows what’s next, Richard. Maybe the rest of the freaking free world!

“What in the hell we watchin’?” my friend Swamp Rabbit said. “I thought the Cold War was over and done. This Engel guy sounds like he wants to be John Foster Dulles.”

The segment, it turned out, was called “Crimea feared as first step in Russian land grab.” Amazingly, Maddow and her guest never once addressed the fact that Russia is reacting, at least in part, to non-stop anti-Russian activity by the United States and NATO in countries that border Russia. Not one word, not even about Kosovo, the territory that broke away, with lots of help from the American military, from Russian-allied Serbia.

Maddow does a great job with domestic stories about the rights of minorities. She has helped shine a light on the dirty governing style of Chris Christie, an elected official who arguably is even more piggish than Putin.

“But why is she harping on the Russian menace, given the fact that American foreign policy is even more pernicious?” I asked Swamp Rabbit. “Sounds like she’s playing into the hands of the neocons who have pressured Barack Obama into talking like a Cold Warrior. Not that he needed much pressure.”

“Well, there’s your answer,” the rabbit said.

11 thoughts on “MSNBC: The Russians are coming!

  1. Wiki knows all: “Asked about her political views by the Valley Advocate, Maddow replied, “I’m undoubtedly a liberal, which means that I’m in almost total agreement with the Eisenhower-era Republican party platform.”[10]”

    It’s deja vu all over again.

  2. “…beneath the boots of the Asiatic Russians…”

    Well, yeah. But how about the European Russians? Maybe they’re real charmers.

    Oh, the part about the American men being sterilized? Do you suppose the inference was to some big mean Russian dude coming around with “snips” after the war? Or that after a big exchange of nukes during the war we’d all end up sterile anyway?

    Sad that a segment like this was on Maddow’s show. She used to be one of my heroes.

  3. I like how the “Ukrainian government is run by neo-Nazis! Idea keeps being circulated around despite being repeatedly debunked. You know, never mind that the leaders of the Ukrainian Jewish community support the current government and believe that anti-semitism is being stirred up by Moscow to discredit the new government.

    It’s also not entirely accurate to describe the current government as “coup-installed.” What happened is the Yanukovych government sent in his special forces to clear the Maidan of protests, which meant sending snipers to shoot unarmed people. After about 100 people were killed with shots to the head and neck–including several elderly people–the country was outraged by Yanukovych’s brutality and his own personal security detail abandoned its post outside his home. Yanukovych fled and his own political party stripped him of his party leadership because it needed to distance itself from the atrocity. The parliament then voted to install Yulia Tymoshenko, the leader of the opposition party who Yanukovych had jailed, as the interim President until new elections were called.

    You can say that the transition of power was unusual and somewhat ad hoc. But it was not extra-legal in sense of what we normally call a “coup,” like what happened in Egypt last summer (when a military leader simply seized power, without any constitutional basis for doing so). Yanukovych fled rather than risking arrest and murder charges. His political party removed him as their leader and the parliament formed a new government with other parties, as required by the Ukrainian constitution. Putin, of course, referred to it as a “coup,” and the pliant Russian media has repeated that label. Just as it reports that Pussy Riot are a bunch of “hooligans.”

  4. @Snuzy Mandrake. Your point of view is clear. From mine, you left out some details. e.g. the Vicky Nuland caper (hint: it wasn’t really about the f word), which clearly indicated that agents of the USGov were involved in “encouraging” the opposition to overthrow Yanukovych. e.g. the conflicting accounts of who fired the shots that killed and injured protesters. e.g. the similarities between the Egyptian coup and the Ukrainian whateveryawannacallit. (hint: both carried out with resources & cooperation of USGov and perhaps direct, explicit approval.) e.g. the clear illegality of the USGov approved standard historical procedure for overthrowing any government we don’t like. e.g. The question of what the USGov would do if a foreign power tried to overthrow, or even significantly influence, the government of a country on our borders (or even on our side of the ocean; see Guatemala, Panama, Chile, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Cuba, etc, etc).
    e.g. the fact that members of Pussy Riot are hooligans, and proudly so. e.g. ” In Ukraine, while the protests began with students, it’s true that they did soon broaden to include groups that might be labelled “fascist.”” (WAPO Feb 28)

    Vladimir Putin is a scumbag. The real problem is that he’s not our scumbag, and he’s a very bright scumbag. And in this particular case history and international law are arguably on his side. Not to mention economics, (see European dependence on Russian energy)

  5. Your point of view is clear.

    is it clear? Based on your response I don’t think it was. Rather, I think you’re just assuming where I am coming from based on a single comment that was directed at a specific point made in this post.

    It is true there “conflicting accounts of who fired the shots that killed and injured protesters”. The accounts of the people on the square (including reporters who filmed some of the deaths) are that snipers supporting the police who were moving to clear the square did it. The pro-Russian media identifies unnamed sources claiming that the protesters might have shot at themselves.

    But that doesn’t change my basic point that it was public revulsion against the brutality of those killings that caused Yanukovych’s security detail to abandon him, which is why he fled. It’s also why his own political party removed him as their leader. He was not arrested. He was not removed by any military (rather, the Ukrainian military tried hard to stay out of the Maidan protests). That is all quite different from what happened in Egypt. There was a legal process in Ukraine that is not present when there is a coup.

    And in this particular case history and international law are arguably on his side.

    History is never on anyone’s side. Different political factions just spin history to suit their particular political position. Russians can point to history that the Crimea is inherently “Russian” by pointing out that it was officially part of Russia until 1954. Tatars can point out that the Crimea was historically their land until Russia took it from them in the 18th century, and that Crimean Tatars were a plurality of the population until Stalin ethnicly cleansed them in the 20th century. (Which is why the Tatar minority in Crimea are strongly against what Russia is doing there now). Hell, you can also point out that before Ghengis Khan brought the Tatars there, Crimea was Greek, so let the Greeks decide! You have to close your eyes to most of history whenever you can claim that history is clearly on any side.

    As for international law, things are much clearer. Putin has violated the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, the 1994 international agreement in which Russia agreed to respect the then-current borders of Ukraine and to not use force or threaten to use force against Ukraine.

    The economics are also a bit more complicated than you present. Yes, Ukraine is dependent upon Russian gas, as is much of Europe. But Russia is dependent upon European gas payments (the Europeans are one of the few Russian energy customers who actually pay on time) and (at least until Russia’s new system of pipelines to bypass Ukraine are completed), Russia is dependent upon Ukraine to get its energy product to its best customers. So it’s more of a mutual tangle of dependency than a situation where Russia holds all the cards. On top of that, very few countries are fully siding with Russia in this conflict. there is a serious threat of economic sanctions against Russian holdings, and Russia’s disregard of the Budapest Memorandum jeopardizes its credibility in entering into a whole variety of trade deals that were previously on the table. That’s why the value of the Russian Ruble has sunk and the Russian markets tanked last week.

  6. @Snuzy: Thanks for taking time to respond in a reasonable and well-written comment. Your point of view is now even clearer.

    Your basic point is “… it was public revulsion against the brutality of those killings…” that started the chain of events which, in your opinion, led to Y to flee the country. If members of the opposition committed the killings to deliberately inspire that “public revulsion,” does that change your view of the legitimacy of the overthrow, and suggest that it was, indeed, a coup?

    My basic point is that US intervention in the affairs of sovereign governments, civil wars, and inchoate chaos around the world is not benign, un-self-interested, or, often, in the interests of the individual citizens of those countries. People from other nations with whom I communicate frequently see USFP, i.e the trumpeting of democratic capitalism and respect for the rule of law, as hypocritical and transparently benefitting US corporate interests.

    Perhaps we can agree that Vladdy is a (very talented) thug. I wonder whether we can agree that US involvement in this affair has the usual taint of covert influence masked by posturing of innocence and idealism.

  7. Debunked by whom? Huffington Post recently linked to a BBC story full of pertinent info. The new secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council is the same man who founded the Social National Party of Ukraine, “a fascist party styled on Hitler’s Nazis.” The Deputy Secretary of National Security is also the leader of the Right Sector – “a group of hardline nationalist streetfighters, who previously boasted they were ready for armed struggle to free Ukraine.” And the new Deputy Prime Minister is a member of the far-right Svoboda (the re-named Social National Party). Has Huff Post or the BBC retracted what it reported on these and other right-wing thugs in the new Ukrainian government? Not that I know of. I like the recent headline in Counterpunch: “The enemy of your enemy is not always your friend.”

    Yes, Russian provocateurs rather than neo-Nazis might have been responsible for recent assaults on synagogues in Ukraine, but who would seriously argue that Ukraine doesn’t have a shameful history of anti-Semitism and pro-Nazi sentiment? The Jews in Ukraine – there are a few hundred thousand left, at the most – have been persecuted and murdered by Stalinist Russians, Nazi Germans and native Ukrainian Christians, especially in the western part of the country, where collaboration with Nazi Germany in WW II was strongest.

    Yanukovych was brutal and inept and deserved to be overthrown, but I think usage of the word “coup” is entirely appropriate.

    The American media is no less pliant than the Russian media, and American leaders are no less indifferent to injustice than Russian leaders. I’ll bet Pussy Riot, if it was fighting for the rights of imprisoned Americans rather than imprisoned Russians, would get zero response from Obama. Less than zero.

  8. There’s also the minor detail that Crimea is slightly-majority ethnic Russian, whereas Kosovo is something like 90% ethnic Albanian who are related to Thracians (as far as I know, which isn’t very far). They’re definitely not Slavs, let alone anywhere near Serbs on ethnographic trees. So Crimea wanting to stay Russian, and Kosovo wanting nothing to do with Serbia makes sense from a local perspective, even without US realpolitik.

    Of course, US going into Iraq with its large ethnically American population makes way more sense than Russia and Crimea. :rollseyes:

    The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend, indeed.

  9. @Adams

    My basic point is that US intervention in the affairs of sovereign governments, civil wars, and inchoate chaos around the world is not benign, un-self-interested, or, often, in the interests of the individual citizens of those countries.

    I totally agree with that. But I also recognize that most of the stuff that happens in the world is not controlled by the U.S. The U.S. tries to influence events, sometimes openly and sometimes not (actually, most of the time a mixture of both), but the world is a chaotic place. The fact that the U.S. government tried to influence events does not mean that it is the puppet master. That has always seemed like a rather simple-minded way to view the world.

    And Ukraine is a particularly bad example because the U.S. and EU negotiated a resolution of the Maidan protests just before Yanukovych fled. Under the U.S./EU plan, Y would have stayed in power for a few more months and then transitioned out with new elections. That all went out the window when Y ran away, the U.S. was left as flat-footed and unprepared as everyone else.

    But no, I don’t think it was a “coup” because Yanukovych was formally removed by his own political party and because the remaining political parties in parliament formed a new interim governing coalition. It was after Y’s disappearance (at that point it wasn’t clear where he was), but it did follow the rules under the Ukrainian constitution. I understand why people calling it a “coup” as part of their political spin because they oppose the new government in Ukraine (and that is what the entire Russian media establishment has been calling it). But it is not accurate in my opinion. A coup is a change in regime that violates the existing constitution and laws. No one has pointed to any provision of the Ukrainian constitution that was violated. (Which is not the case with Crimea right now. Crimea has its own constitution that allows for referenda on the status of the territory, but only with the approval of the national parliament in Kiev. What is going on there now is clearly illegal, but they are doing it anyway)

  10. This has been an interesting conversation, and I have learned some things. Chaos, complexity, realpolitik, I get it.

    However, while I know nothing about the constitution of Ukraine, I would find it exceedingly strange if, pursuant to that constitution, it were legal for an unelected opposition to conspire with foreign powers to encourage protests aimed specifically at forcing a duly elected president from power. I’m pretty sure that would be highly illegal here in the G.O. US of A. It’s almost as strange as if it were deemed legal to assassinate a sitting president as long as the opposition followed the duly constituted process for succession or replacement.

    Which raises another interesting (to me) question. Is there no specific succession clause in the Ukrainian constitution? How is it that the US/EU’s chosen conspiritors ended up in power? This looks much more like an overthow of the entire government than the deposition of one individual, leaving the legislative bodies in place for window dressing to bless a clearly undemocratic process.

    There’s something rotten in (Ukraine). And the USGov is in bed with it.

  11. it were legal for an unelected opposition to conspire with foreign powers to encourage protests aimed specifically at forcing a duly elected president from power.

    That’s not really what happened. The protests happened on their own, but once they occurred the powers that be (i.e. the U.S., the E.U. and Russia) all tried to used the crisis to advance their own interests. (Frankly, I find it tiresome whenever anyone characterizes people who risk so much to mark on the streets for a better life as nothing but stooges for foreigners. That’s what happens every time anyone hits the streets, whether we’re talking about Ukraine, the Arab Spring, or OWS. So I reject that premise)

    And you’re wrong that the opposition was “unelected.” The people who formed the new government were themselves elected and had served in parliament as the official opposition.

    Is there no specific succession clause in the Ukrainian constitution?

    I think what you’re missing is that Ukraine follows the parliamentary system of democracy, not our presidential system. Under a parliamentary system, the chief executive is whichever party holds a majority in parliament. If the party loses a majority, or fails in a no-confidence vote, then the government “falls” and the members of parliament try to form a new coalition to govern until new elections can be held. That is all part of the regular political process in a parliamentary democracy.

    As Yanukovych fled, his own party removed him as the head of the party. Without a standard bearer, he legally ceased to be President and the members of the Parliament had to agree to a new governing coalition. Which is what they did. It was unusual only in the sense that the chief executive was missing when it happened. If Y’s party fired him, the same process would have removed him from office even if he was sitting in his Presidential palace the whole time.

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