Facebook Twitter Google+ Shout YouTube SoundCloud RSS

WHO WANTS THE UKRAINE – AND WHY

Andrew_McKIllop-2Andrew McKillop
21st Century Wire

 Unless you’ve been in an underground bunker for the last month, you’d have heard that the Ukraine has gone topsy-turvy lately.

They seem to have escaped one old Soviet Union, only be reeled in by a new Soviet in the EU. There is also the problem of organized crime syndicates who have overrun the country.

Understanding the country’s recent history and following the money is important if you want to see which way the wind is blowing in Kiev…

1-UKraine-EU-riots
EU RIOTS: Western nation-builders are dangling the faux EU carrot in front of Ukrainian millennials.

Stalin and Krushchev Wanted Ukraine

For most Europeans, Ukraine is a gas transport corridor for bringing expensive Russian gas to Europe and Ukraine either overcharges Gazprom for gas transit fees, or does not pay Gazprom for the gas it takes for national consumption.

This Russian-Ukrainian gas game occasionally tips into gas embargoes – hitting consumers further down the line. As a geopolitical bargaining chip, conversely, Ukraine had considerable import  – and weight – during the Cold War period which tapered off in 1989-91. Relatively quickly, Russia withdrew “nearly all” of its nuclear-tipped missiles, atomic warheads and nuclear military equipment and component inventories from Ukraine, in the 1990s.

That said, Ukraine is listed by human rights and corruption watchdog NGOs as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, tied with Bangladesh, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Syria.  Its postwar history following the defeat of Nazi Germany is a tragic story of Soviet megalomania, paranoia and oppression. The Nazi Germans probably killed about 15% of the total population, but about another 600,000 Western Ukrainians were arrested between 1944 and 1952, one-third executed and the remainder imprisoned in Soviet gulags or exiled to the eastern Soviet empire. Among their crimes was “non-performance” in agricultural output.

Administered by the rising political star and soon-to-be rival of Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khruschev, firstly in eastern Russian-speaking Ukraine, the kolkhoz collective-farm system was operated by chiefs selected by Khruschev. He empowered them to expel residents who “under-performed”. The kolkhoz chiefs quickly turned this into a racket protection and vendetta system for expelling their personal enemies, and the weak, the old and other “misfits”.  Well over 10,000 were exiled to the eastern parts of the Soviet Union. For Khruschev, this was a highly effective policy which he recommended it for adoption across the USSR to Stalin, despite it periodically resulting in wide-area famines.


Similar to the “agro-towns” attempted by Ceaucescu of Romania, Khrushchev further destabilized Ukraine’s slowly recovering agricultural output with his scheme for population regrouping, which he later applied in Russia when he became Praesidium chief on the death of Stalin, following a classic Mafia-style power struggle with NKVD chief Beria. Beria was shot and killed with five of his associates by order of Khrushchev in Dec 1953. One of Beria’s proposed post-Stalin reform ideas was to liberate either or both East Germany and Ukraine, in exchange for cash payment by the West

Crime Syndicates want Ukraine

On the surface, mainstream media tells us today’s conflict in the Ukraine pitches the Russian-speaking half of the country in the east (where ailing president Yanukovich’s main support base is) against the more pro-Western, and alleged pro-EU, Ukrainian-speaking half in the west (where imprisoned Yulia Tymoshenko’s main support base is). More precisely, the Ukraine’s rapidly-deteriorating economic situation reflected by rapidly-rising interest rates on its sovereign debt bonds and Fitch’s recent downgrade, and its near-civil war street rebellion have reinforced its organized crime syndicates. Its organized criminals, and their enemies-and-allies in Russian, Bulgarian, Romanian and other east European organized crime syndicates, are vying for control of the State itself, to widen and deepen their lucrative activity.

The past week has seen President Yanukovych accept the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet, repeal anti-protest laws, provide an amnesty to detained protesters, and offer senior government jobs to the opposition – offers that were rejected. Moscow for its part has threatened it may hold back some or all of a promised Ukrainian bond-bailout package and a promised cut in gas prices for Ukraine until a new government is formed. The gas price cut and the loans, totalling $15bn (11 bn euros) were agreed in December, and widely seen as rewarding Yanukovich for Kiev’s rejection of an EU associate country deal for Ukraine.

Ukraine is one of six post-Soviet nations – along with  Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia – to be invited to cooperate with the EU within a new ‘multilateral’ framework that is high on promises but slim on content. The framework seeks visa-free travel, better human rights, more democracy, and respect for the principles of the market economy and sustainable development – so say the EU websites, but the single most important economic content is a trade pact aimed at cutting tariffs and taxes, which are in any case decreasing on the Ukrainian side due to its membership of the WTO since 2009. Main EU exports to Ukraine include medicine, motor vehicles, mobile phones and other manufactured goods, while main EU imports were of low to mid-value: iron and steel products, vegetable oils, ferro-nickel ores, iron ores and crude oil.

Acting long before the Ukraine’s membership of the WTO, or the 2008 financial crisis – both of which spurred and favoured crime syndicate integration in east Europe, Russia and the EU – the present number of organized crime groups operating in eastern Europe is estimated at about 3,600 with each profiting from such prosaic products as household detergents, to fake medecines, human trafficking, prostitution and the Ukrainian favorites of hard drugs and firearms. Rob Wainwright, director of the EU’s crime-fighting agency, told the Financial Times in June 2013 that only concerning Europe’s black market in counterfeit foodstuffs, fake pharmaceuticals and substandard machine parts, this doubled in value to about €2bn since 2008.

Arms for Drugs and Arms for Cash

From, at latest 2002, US drug enforcement and security agencies warned the Bush administration of the Kiev-Tel Aviv-New York “Axis” of organized crime operating drugs-for-arms trades worldwide. This syndicate particularly focuses South American-source cocaine supplied by Colombia’s FARC and other Andean country crime entities, and Ukraine-source weapons and military equipment. Ukraine’s geographic role and location as a “window to the southern states” of the ex-USSR, makes it highly favoured for operating drugs-for-arms trades, today. Land-route heroin from Afghanistan, South American cocaine and Russian AK47s are the hard currencies featured by this trade.

Godfather of the AK47: Ukrainian Mikhail Kalashnikov.

Ukraine’s front-line status in the Cold War and its own arms-making industries made the country a major source for Russian licit and illicit arms exports, and Soviet-era materiel is still widely available. This ranges from the “iconic” AK47 rifle through to mines, grenades and military explosive-pyrotechnic devices, to night-sighting and communications equipment, and artillery pieces through the low-end range of 35mm-105mm, to also-iconic Soviet 72-ton T72 tanks, a highly depressed market where prices can be as low as scrap value only – about $3.50 per kilogram of weight.

Western security analysts, preferring not to have their names published, also point out that Ukraine is a “wonderland” of nuclear civil-military crossover materials and ordnance. Following the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown, then the collapse and break up of the USSR in 1989-91, they say that large amounts of unaccounted-for nuclear fuel rods, wastes and nuclear military components exist in the country. They also underline the increased technological sophistication of ex-Soviet national mafias and their Middle Eastern opposite numbers, able to produce “binary nuclear” weapons, from nuclear and non-nuclear components, transported separately to reduce detection for final re-assembly when required.

Ukraine’s now accelerating political destabilization creates a classic poker-game challenge for Vladimir Putin at this time. He can act to prevent the country “seceding to the West’, or being partitioned into its western and eastern parts.

Whether Putin clamps down or lets the country fall apart, or the domestic power struggle inside Ukraine continues with no clear winner, the transition interval will certainly feature action by organized crime to further and deepen its already-strong foothold.

READ MORE BY THIS AUTHOR AT: 21st Century Wire McKillop Files

READ MORE UKRAINE NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Ukraine Files

21wire

21wire

We are a North American and European-based, grass-roots, independent blog offering geopolitical news and media analysis, working with an array of volunteer contributors who write and help to analyse news and opinion from around the world.
21wire

@21WIRE

We're covering news you won't necessarily find in the mainstream, and things which regularly confuse career politicians, CNN and MSNBC viewers... #SundayWire
RT @21WIREWRITER: What really happened in Manchester? (Please Share)https://t.co/fxr0Bn7dKz @21WIRE @VanessaBeeley @TheDuran_com @haninelia - 4 hours ago
21wire