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UKRAINE: NEW GEOPOLITICAL FLASH POINT by Ken Howell

posted 10 Mar 2014, 07:54 by Gerry Kangalee
A political crisis which could have serious consequences for the working people the world over is now brewing in Eastern Europe. If we are to believe the western news reports this crisis developed because of the change of heart of Ukraine's ousted President Viktor Yanukovych who at the last minute decided not to sign the European Partnership agreement on the eve of the Conference which was to take place in Vilnius the capital of Lithuania.

 

President Yanukovych attended the conference but held off on signing the agreement. It would appear that representatives of the European Union were shocked by his decision so to do. Clearly, they did not cater for the interference of Russia. Probably, they were led to believe all along that Russia, following the collapse of socialism is not interested in what goes on in its sphere of influence. The federation which was formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, without a doubt, is the realm of Russia. Anything which happens within the member territories of the federation must have the blessings of Russia.

 

You see Russia has strategic interests to protect and it views them in the same light as America views it's interests in the Caribbean and Latin America. Ukraine depends on oil and gas from Russia just as Europe does. So that when these discussions began between Ukraine and the EU it is now clear that Russia was playing dead to catch cobo alive. In other words, they waited until the real intentions of the EU and its supporters, the USA and the UK, were revealed and then acted by putting pressure  on President Yanukovych.

 

The crisis which resulted and which led to the violent overthrow of the government was precipitated  by the high level of corruption and the resultant loss of confidence in the government, thereby creating the opening for nationalists, Nazis and other extreme right wing elements to take the lead in the protest action and eventually seize power. I would not be surprised if the hand of some foreign power was found to be operating behind the scenes fanning the flames of protest because the stakes are high.

 

The European foreign policy initiative, according to Dr Frank Umbach who is a member of the new Ukraine 2020 Task Force, “was to create a geopolitical process to draw in these countries and promote  major political and economic reforms for sustainable development” One might ask, well what is wrong with sustainable development and political and economic reforms? The answer is that the EU, the USA and the UK, want to leave Russia out.

 

Ukraine is currently facing a very serious financial crisis the result of a drop in the price of steel and steel products on the international market. As a result, it is unable to pay its debts.  This situation presented the opportunity for the European Union to step in as the “Receiver” whose job is to foreclose – to put Ukraine up for sale. In the case of a country, the international lending institutions usually send in a team of experts to make an assessment of the extent of the indebtedness and to recommend steps to be taken to recover the funds owing to the creditors.

 

You would recall that Ukraine was a former Soviet state and therefore many of the enterprises are still owned by the state, well the plan was to sell these enterprises cheaply to multinational corporations. But Russia had offered Ukraine financial assistance in the sum of 15 billion dollars and it had utilized about 5 billion already when the EU called in their debt.

 

Russia saw that move on the geopolitical draft board as an attack on its reputation, strategic interest and, as we would say, they want to make people feel that Russia soft. Well of course, Vladimir Putin not taking that; the man is a former KGB Officer and an expert in judo.

 

Russia had warned the Ukraine that if it signed a free trade agreement with the EU, Russia would impose trade restrictions to prevent an influx of cheap European goods via Ukraine. Some people might ask why all the fuss about the Ukraine? Well, Ukraine is one of the largest countries in Europe, with a population of approximately 46.5 million.

 

According to Eka Tkeshelashvili President of the Georgia Institute of Strategic Studies, “for the European Union, Ukraine was the key to the plans to set up the trade pact” since it was expected that Georgia, Moldova, and Azerbaijan would have followed. They were seen as being significant to the final outcome. Because, it was felt that Armenia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan who are currently members of the Customs Union (Eurasian Union) would have eventually followed their neighbours into this new arrangement. It would appear that the whole thing back fired on them thereby leading to a dangerous geopolitical situation.

 

What is noticeable in all of the protests which occurred was the absence of the voice of labour.  We don't know the position of labour with respect to the current situation. It would be useful to hear what the labour movement has to say, since its members would be affected by the outcome, one way or the other. What we are witnessing, is the hand of finance capital at work seeking out new markets to exploit. For quite some time now they have been in search of markets where the labour force is still relatively young. Why? Because the labour force in Western Europe is ageing and people are living longer and the population of young people is growing slowly, because people are not having children as quickly as in other parts of Eurasia.

 

In addition, in the Encyclopaedia of Ageing 2002, it was said in a different way; that “The growing insecurity of financial and labour markets, stemming from global economic restructuring and the changing nature of families” dictated the need to search for markets to exploit. In Western Europe, the population is ageing and measures taken to increase the pensionable age met with protests in some countries. By increasing the age to retirement of the labour force say from sixty to seventy five, you would have bought fifteen more years in which to buy and sell goods and services.

 

What must be recognised, is the fact that where the labour force is growing old the cost of maintenance would be high, resulting in low returns on investment in that jurisdiction. Therefore, the capitalist is always looking for young, cheap labour to exploit. If you can have a labour force from which you can get fifty seven years of labour it means that a lot of profit can be realised from ones investment. 

 

In the 1960s and 1990s the Middle East, Africa and Asia were the sources of cheap labour, but the experiment with that idea proved to be difficult, as it brought with it certain cultural and religious problems. After the fall of the Soviet Union, citizens of those countries that were its members were encouraged to migrate to countries in Western Europe. However, it appears that most of them had decided to go to Russia instead. The problem is that Russia considers all of what was the former Soviet Union as it's backyard and make no mistake it will defend it.

 

Mark my words: this situation has the potential to become extremely violent thereby escalating into another war over markets and countries will have to take sides, based on certain treaties and trade agreements which they signed, such as the European Partnership Agreement. We need to pay close attention to how this situation is unfolding because the repercussions for countries in this region could be significant. Let us hope for the best.  

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