The Maidan Square protests in the winter and spring of 2014 were transformative to Ukraine’s political, cultural and economic fabric, and one thing was fully evident from the start: Russia and the United States were in it as adversaries from the start. In truth, despite the bravery and passion of the vast majority of anti-government protesters and activists on both sides were being manipulated. The proxies of Russia and the United States were extremists who co-opted events and who encouraged violence, drawing the protest in Maidan from an initiative against political corruption and Russian interference in Ukrainian politics towards civil chaos seemingly constructed for the benefit of two antagonistic and historically competitive powers. Ukraine, in truth had little or no opportunity for reconciliation, coalition, negotiation or an exploration for charting the country’s future course.
Reaction to the protests opened the door to the possibility of exploitation. It seems clear that, at least from available evidence that both the United States, Russia and to a lesser degree the EU found ample opportunity. Public sentiment regarding the protests was sharply divided, with the country almost evenly split between supporting and not supporting the protests. By March Ukrainians supporting the Euromaidan protests approached 60%. But the population of Ukraine, including ethnic Russians in the East and in Crimea among the protesters was not as evenly represented. On February 6th a Kiev Post poll found that some 55% were from the western portion of the country, 24% from central Ukraine and 21% from the eastern portion of the nation.
The protests themselves were really rather benign and straightforward. What began in the late Autumn of 2013 over a refusal by Yankovych to sign association with the European Union. As part of that agreement the EU expected democratic reforms, including the controversial imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko for abuse of power with regards to gas deals between Ukraine and Russia. The proceedings were suspect from the start. According to a report in Germany’s Deutsche Welle, there were allegations of a young and inexperienced judge being appointed by Yanukovych, setting off a firestorm amid the negotiations between the EU and Ukraine. After clashes with police and escalating measures meant to end the protests the battle lines were drawn between the government and protesters.
From the start both Russia and the United States were deeply invested and more in the events unfolding in Ukraine. Audiences in both countries and Europe were fed alternative narratives on the protests, while behind the scenes not so subtle manipulation continued apace. Russia stopped the import of goods from Ukraine, a significant blow to the economy of Ukraine. By the time the protests began in November 2013 Ukrainian industrial production had slid by almost 6%, coupled with a nearly 2% fall from the previous year.
Seeing an opportunity, Ukrainian billionaire businessman and Foreign and Trade minister, Petro Poroshenko was boastful about the role his television network played in the protests. On December 11th, the same day Russia countered an EU loan offer of $10 billion USD with $15 billion without the EU’s required regulation changes, Poroshenko’s network broadcast and interview with the US State Department’s Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland and EU diplomat Catherine Ashton.
Mrs. Nuland was the wife of Robert Kagan, it should be noted, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, which advises and makes recommendations on foreign policy to congress, diplomats and the president of the United States. It was here, in 1947 that the term “containment,” with regards to American policy towards the Soviet Union was coined; a policy that seems to still be a component of the relationship between Russia and the US. Kagan also co-founded The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) with conservative commentator former Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. PNAC advocates a position of prominence with the US as the world’s preeminent superpower, and was influential in America’s invasion of Iraq in 2004, ostensibly to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein. It was a PNAC member, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who was a driving architect behind that war, and who, in a PNAC paper titled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” infamously wrote of the need for a ”catastrophic and catalyzing event— like a new Pearl Harbor.”
What that reveal is a systemic and institutionalized perspective with regard to narrow national interests. That narrow perspective was evident on both the American and Russian sides. Russia and the West abandoned diplomacy and started playing the angles. The angles all point to oil and gas.
But it appears that Europe was less fixated on wrestling for strategic resources and more concerned with stability, particularly as the world emerged grudgingly from a severe and prolonged global recession. Struggling economies like Greece and Moldova would severely impacted, their anemic recoveries threatened, halted or reversed. While falling on the side of Ukrainian sovereignty and democracy Europe refrained from the aggressive momentum of the United States, and often seemed to resist that momentum. Adding additional weight was the specter of a replay of the 2009 gas dispute between Ukraine and Russia which cut off badly needed Russian gas to Europe, which was resolved in an agreement between Putin and Tymoshenko, leading to her imprisonment on abuse of power charges.
The United States appeared to be losing patience over European intransigence. In early February a conversation between Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt was leaked to the media. There is a smaller contextual concern over the recording, part of a larger and broader discussion, which was obviously intended to embarrass the Americans, but the larger context remains, reproduced here in part:
Nuland: I think Yats(enyuk) is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. He’s the… what he needs is Klitsch (Kiev Mayor and one of three opposition leaders Vitaly Klitschko) and Tyahnybok on the outside. He needs to be talking to them four times a week, you know. I just think Klitsch going in… he’s going to be at that level working for Yatsenyuk, it’s just not going to work.
Pyatt: Yeah, no, I think that’s right. OK. Good. Do you want us to set up a call with him as the next step?
Nuland: My understanding from that call – but you tell me – was that the big three were going into their own meeting and that Yats was going to offer in that context a… three-plus-one conversation or three-plus-two with you. Is that not how you understood it?
Pyatt: No. I think… I mean that’s what he proposed but I think, just knowing the dynamic that’s been with them where Klitschko has been the top dog, he’s going to take a while to show up for whatever meeting they’ve got and he’s probably talking to his guys at this point, so I think you reaching out directly to him helps with the personality management among the three and it gives you also a chance to move fast on all this stuff and put us behind it before they all sit down and he explains why he doesn’t like it.
Nuland: OK, good. I’m happy. Why don’t you reach out to him and see if he wants to talk before or after.
Pyatt: OK, will do. Thanks.
Nuland: OK… one more wrinkle for you Geoff. [A click can be heard] I can’t remember if I told you this, or if I only told Washington this, that when I talked to Jeff Feltman [United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs] this morning, he had a new name for the UN guy Robert Serry did I write you that this morning?
Pyatt: Yeah I saw that.
Nuland: OK. He’s now gotten both Serry and [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday. So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and to have the UN help glue it and, you know, Fuck the EU.
Pyatt: No, exactly. And I think we’ve got to do something to make it stick together because you can be pretty sure that if it does start to gain altitude, that the Russians will be working behind the scenes to try to torpedo it. And again the fact that this is out there right now, I’m still trying to figure out in my mind why Yanukovych (garbled) that. In the meantime there’s a Party of Regions faction meeting going on right now and I’m sure there’s a lively argument going on in that group at this point. But anyway we could land jelly side up on this one if we move fast. So let me work on Klitschko and if you can just keep… we want to try to get somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing. The other issue is some kind of outreach to Yanukovych but we probably regroup on that tomorrow as we see how things start to fall into place.
Nuland: So on that piece Geoff, when I wrote the note [US vice-president’s national security adviser Jake] Sullivan’s come back to me VFR [direct to me], saying you need [US Vice-President Joe] Biden and I said probably tomorrow for an atta-boy and to get the deets [details] to stick. So Biden’s willing.
That winter, amid Nuland’s controversial remark, 44 year old Hunter Biden, son of then Vice President Joe Biden was in discussions with the Ukrainian gas firm Burisma Holdings Ltd., based out of Limassol Cyprus, according to Businessweek, engages in a broad spectrum of gas and oil exploration and production. In May of that year it was announced that Biden had been appointed to Burisma’s board, which drew attention and immediate criticism around the globe. The timing was certainly notable and advantageous to US energy interests which had been deeply invested in Ukraine for some time. The U.S. energy firm Vanco won a contract to extract gas from the Black Sea in 2007. Initially the deal was approved by Yanukovych, but then later cancelled by his predecessor, Yulia Timoshenko.
And while the Obama administration insisted there was nothing untoward in Biden’s appointment it is curious that Burisma is controlled by a close confidant of Viktor Yanukovych, Wall Street Journal, and former government official, Nicholai Zlochevsky. In a press conference following the appointment, White house Press Secretary Jay Carney said that “Hunter Biden and other members of the Biden family are obviously private citizens, and where they work does not reflect an endorsement by the administration or by the vice president or president.” Carney added that there was no connection between Biden’s appointment to Burisma and US Policy.
While there were no accusations of illegality, for an ethical and perhaps even moral standpoint it raises strong concerns. But the United States, which has often been criticized for unfairly furthering its economic interests in pursuit of its ever growing energy demands, was playing a duplicitous game. The issue here was one of access, and that multiple lines of access directly between energy strategy, the Obama administration and Ukraine can be clearly and distinctly distinguished. Biden, the son of a sitting American Vice President was at the table of Ukraine’s energy concern in a time of war, with access to the highest levels of power in both governments. Meanwhile a second American also joined Burisma. His name, Devon Archer, a former partner of Biden’s at Washington D.C. based equity firm Rosemont Seneca partners. The company is half owned by Rosemont Capital a private equity firm founded by Devon Archer and Secretary of State John Kerry’s stepson, Christopher Heinz.
“The primary problem here is the fact that Hunter Biden has set up a financial arrangement with someone who might have business pending before this administration,” Craig Holman, an ethics expert with Public Citizen, a Washington-based government watchdog group told the Associated Press.
Furthermore, the appearance of an incestuous relationship between Ukrainian energy concerns and the administration risked damaging American credibility with regard to the growing crisis. It appeared to be only the latest and most aggressive step in a rush to secure and control gas deposits in the region.
Adding fuel to that flame was the deal between Kiev and the US-based Chevron in 2013 to extract Shale gas in Western Ukraine, and a failed deal by ExxonMobil to extract gas in the Black Sea. In the United States there was hardly any mention of hunter Biden’s appointment.
In June 2014 Hunter Biden, sporting an American flag lapel pin attended the inauguarion of Petro Poroshenko as Ukraine’s new president, telling the new leader, billionaire and businessman that “there is a window for peace and you know as well as anyone that it will not stay open indefinitely … America is with you.”
The announcement of targeted sanctions by the United States seemed intended in disrupting Russian efforts in exploiting exploration and drilling. It comes as quite a coincidence that the coveted and embattled eastern regions also boast substantial gas reserves. Among the companies holding permits to develop gas fields in the Dneiper-Donetsk region is Burisma. The embattled city of Slavyansk rests upon the Yuzivska shale gas deposit, estimated at more than 4 trillion cubic meters, which In May 2012, Shell, owned jointly by great Britain and the Netherlands won the competition to develop. 40 miles to the southeast lies the field where MH-17 will ultimately come to rest.
WC Turck is an author, artist, playwright and talk radio host in Chicago. He has been called the most dangerous voice on the Left. He is currently working on a new book “Shoot Down: An unflinching look at the events leading up to the shooting down of Malaysia Air Flight 17.” His first novel, “Broken” was recommended by NAMI for its treatment of PTSD. In 2006 he published “Everything for Love,” a memoir of his experiences during the siege of Sarajevo. He wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” He works with the homeless and foreclosure victims in Chicago. He partners in a weekly radio show dedicated to issues, society and politics with cohost, activist and artist Brian Murray For more information, past shows, videos and articles, visit www.revolutioandbeer.com