What Next for Europe?
The Greeks Have Shaken the Pillars of the Temple
In the aftermath of last month’s Greek election that vaulted the left anti-austerity party Syriza into power, armies of supporters and detractors—from Barcelona to Berlin—are on the move. While Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaueble was making it clear that Berlin would brook no change in the European Union’s (EU) debt strategy that has impoverished countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland, left organizations from all over Europe met in Barcelona to drew up a plan of battle.
As Schaueble was stonewalling Greek Finance Minister Yanis Karoufakis, the Party of the European Left (PEL), along with assorted Green parties, gathered for the “1st European South Forum” in Catalonia’s capital to sketch out a 10-point “Declaration of Barcelona” aimed at ending “austerity and inequality,” and promoting “democracy and solidarity.”
At first glance, the past two weeks look ominously like September 1914, with opposing forces digging in for a massive bloodletting.
On one hand the European Central Bank (ECB)—one of the “Troika” members, that includes the European Commission (EC) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—brusquely denied Greece the right to sell government bonds to raise money. Representatives of the Greek government also got little support from other leaders of EU member countries to reduce Athens’ unsustainable $360 billion debt. Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Osborne, grimly opined that “The standoff” between the Eurozone and Greece was “endangering the global economy.”
On the other hand, the Syriza government made it clear that Greece was finished with the austerity policies that crashed its economy, made more than a quarter of the population jobless, and shredded essential social services. And the Barcelona Declaration is a direct challenge to the economic formulas of the Troika and German Chancellor Andrea Merkel: “Merkelism is not invincible. Austerity can stop. Europe can change,” reads the document.
Behind the trenches, however, the situation was far more complex than two sides bunkered down in a winner-take-all battle, and the politics around economic policy more fluid than one might initially conclude.
While Greece will certainly not go back to the failed formula of selling off state-owned enterprises, huge budget cuts, layoffs and onerous taxes, neither is it eager to exit the Eurozone. The latter is composed of 18 out of the 28 EU members that use a common currency, the euro.
For all the sturm und drang coming from Berlin and EU headquarters in Brussels, Syriza’s program is anything but radical, more social democratic than Bolshevik. And a growing number of economists and Europeans are concluding that taking a hard line on Greece might, in the end, endanger the entire EU endeavor.
As a strategy for getting out of debt, austerity has an almost unbroken track record of failure, starting with Latin American in the late 1980s. It has certainly been catastrophic for Greece and, to a lesser extent, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain, and virtually no European country has dodged its impact on employment and social services.
“Austerity” is not just about cutbacks and budget tightening. By increasing unemployment, and introducing “temporary” labor contracts, it severely weakens unions and the ability of workers to bargain for higher wages and improved benefits. Indeed, according to the International Labor Organization, since 2007 wages have either stalled or fallen in most EU countries.
Austerity also accelerates economic inequality. According to the credit Suisse Research Institute, the top 1 percent now control 48.2 percent of the world’s wealth, and inequality in Europe is the highest it has been in a half century. More people are poorer than they were a decade ago, while a few are richer than ever. The latter will be reluctant to moderate the policies that have given them a half-decade of unalloyed profit making.
The Greek election was a shot across the bow for this strategy and a warning that, while wealth and political power may be related, they are not the same thing: Governments can be overturned.
But compromise on the Troika’s side will be difficult, in part because the austerity strategy has been so lucrative for the EU’s elites, in part because the intransigence of many EU leaders is driven by multiple devils.
There is the “why not us?” devil. The ruling parties in Ireland, Portugal and Spain are spooked, because if Syriza gets a deal on the Greek debt that doesn’t involve crucifying most its population, their own impoverished constituents are going to be asking some hard questions and demanding something similar.
Spain’s right-wing Popular Party is nervously looking over its shoulder at the growing strength of the anti-austerity Podemos party. It was no accident that the ELP chose Spain for its conference: Podemos is drawing 24 percent in national polls and is the only party in the country currently growing. It is now the second largest in Spain. With local and national elections coming up this year—the former in May, the latter in December—Spain’s two mainstream parties are running scared.
So, too, are the governments in Portugal and Ireland that went along with the austerity demands of the troika and now face expanding anti-austerity parties on their left.
Another devil is the right, although last May’s European parliamentary elections demonstrated that when the left clearly articulated an anti-austerity program, voters picked it over the right. What those elections also showed, however, is that when the center-left went along with austerity—as it did in Britain and France—the right made gains.
German Chancellor Andrea Merkel is apprehensive about losing votes to the right-wing, anti-EU Alternate Party for Germany. British Prime Minister David Cameron is trying to fend off the rightist United Kingdom Independence Party, and French President Francois Hollande is running behind Marine Le Pen of the anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic National Front Party.
There are strong right-wing parties in Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands, although, in the latter two, their poll numbers fell in the European parliamentary elections.
What those last May elections suggest is that any effort to co-opt the right’s politics or base by moving in its direction does little more than feed the beast. Greece’s experiences are instructive. The neo-Nazi New Dawn Party is also anti-austerity, but Syriza trounced them in last month’s election. At the same time, Syriza’s warning that austerity fuels the politics of the right is almost certainly true. In an economic crisis there are always those who turn to the dark side and its simplistic explanations for their condition: immigrants, Roma, Jews, and “slackers.”
While the European right is worrisome, it has generally lost head-on battles with the left, because the right has little to offer besides the politics of racism and xenophobia.
And Europe needs answers. The Greek crisis is a crisis of the entire EU. To one extent or other, every country—even Germany, the EU’s engine—is characterized by falling or anemic wage growth, increasing economic inequality, spreading deflation, and an overall decline in living standards. It is this general malaise that the Barcelona Declaration is taking aim at.
Pierre Laurent, head of the French Communist Party and president of the ELP, told the Barcelona forum that “2015 is a decisive year, the year of change,” and that Syriza’s victory will “have a huge impact throughout Europe because for the first time since the crisis, it will force all European governments to discuss and alternative to austerity.”
The Declaration proposes a program for relieving unemployment, creating sustainable development, expanding credit, resisting “racism and xenophobia,” and a European debt conference along the lines of the 1953 London Debt Agreement that relieved Germany of half its post-World War II debts.
How the Greek debt crisis will play out over the next few months is not clear.
The troika may take a hard line, in which case Greece may be forced to leave the Eurozone, a move that Berlin claims would have little impact. Other analysts are not so certain.
“The predominant German view” that a Greek exit would be a “minor shock for the Eurozone and a non-event for the global economy” says Financial Times analyst Wolfgang Munchau, “could not be more wrong.”
Faced with a possible meltdown of the European Union or the Eurozone and a growing insurgency on its left, the Troika may blink and give the Greeks part of what they want: a reduction in the interest rate on the debt—maybe even a write-down on some of it—and an extension of the payment schedule. What they will not get—because the Greek electorate has made it clear they will not accept—is more austerity.
That is the contagion—sometimes called the “Greek virus””—that is already spreading to Spain, Portugal and Ireland and which is likely to jump to Italy, France and Central Europe.
The Greeks have shaken the pillars of the temple. Inside the mighty tremble.
Archive for February, 2015
Posted in Austerity is dead., tagged austerity, Barcelona, European Union, Eurozone. EU, Greeks, Ireland, Merkelism, Minister Wolfgang Schaueble, Portugal, Spain, Syriza on February 16, 2015| Leave a Comment »
What Next for Europe?
“What governments need to pay extra attention to should be high unemployment rate; with a large population of an educated youth force with shattered expectations, and an uneven distribution of wealth. These problems are also faced by democratic governments as well. With the use of new information technologies to quickly spread news and images to help organize street protests, no government will be able to escape the wrath of the citizens.”
“Those governments who objectively understand the existence of the problems within their societies will be able to find remedies, in time. Those who are blind and deaf to the realities within society, those government leaders who love to hear sugar coated lies from their snake oil salesmen advisors, those leaders who are way removed from the “real” people and are surrounded by cheerleaders are bound to repeat the usual historical mistake. False sense of security cannot replicate the reality. Neither Zine Al-Abiidine Ben Ali nor Hosni Mubarak thought that they will be kicked out so quickly by the same people that they had oppressed for long and had taken them for granted.”
Kidane Via Professor Mekonen Haddis
“Just like the Orange fruit, the Orange Revolution’s spoilage was influenced by acid, temperature, anti-microbial compounds, etc. That is how an orange rots.”
Professor Mekonen Haddis
Posted in Uncategorized on February 9, 2015| Leave a Comment »
Kir and Machar are playing a sick game of power and money at the expense of the lives of the South Sudanese people.
Professor Mekonen Haddis
Sunday 8 February 2015
Troika nations demand release of AU report on South Sudan
February 7, 2015 (JUBA) – Members of the Troika nations have demanded the release of the African Union Commission of inquiry on South Sudan report, saying publication of the inquiry’s findings and its recommendations on accountability are necessary to ensure that such violence against civilians cannot be undertaken with impunity.
“The people of South Sudan and in particular the victims deserve no less and it will in the long run enable greater accountability and give rise to more robust political stability,” the Troika said in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune.
The Troika members expressed disappointment after South Sudan leaders failed to reach a comprehensive deal at the recent peace talks.
South Sudan’s leader, Salva Kiir and armed opposition leader, Riek Machar inked an agreement on the proposed Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) last week in Addis Ababa.
The Troika nations, however, expressed disappointment that South Sudan’s leaders failed to achieve significant progress toward a final peace agreement, after the last round of peace talks mediated by the East African regional bloc (IGAD) in Ethiopia.
“Ignoring the untold suffering of their people, South Sudan’s leaders have refused to make the necessary compromises to reach a peace agreement for the people of South Sudan who deserve and expect nothing less,” says the 6 February statement.
“We call on the parties to fully respect the Cessation of Hostilities agreement of January 23, 2014, and avoid all further violence,” it adds.
Over a year of conflict in the young nation has seen millions displaced and tens of thousands killed in its worst outbreak of violence since seceding from Sudan in 2011.
They urged the parties to return to negotiations on 19 February prepared to compromise to achieve a peace agreement by 5 March and form a transitional government by 1 July.
Posted in Uncategorized on February 6, 2015| Leave a Comment »
The Real Reason Washington Feels Threatened by Moscow
The Fallujah Option for East Ukraine
“I want to appeal to the Ukrainian people, to the mothers, the fathers, the sisters and the grandparents. Stop sending your sons and brothers to this pointless, merciless slaughter. The interests of the Ukrainian government are not your interests. I beg of you: Come to your senses. You do not have to water Donbass fields with Ukrainian blood. It’s not worth it.”
— Alexander Zakharchenko, Prime Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic
Washington needs a war in Ukraine to achieve its strategic objectives. This point cannot be overstated.
The US wants to push NATO to Russia’s western border. It wants a land-bridge to Asia to spread US military bases across the continent. It wants to control the pipeline corridors from Russia to Europe to monitor Moscow’s revenues and to ensure that gas continues to be denominated in dollars. And it wants a weaker, unstable Russia that is more prone to regime change, fragmentation and, ultimately, foreign control. These objectives cannot be achieved peacefully, indeed, if the fighting stopped tomorrow, the sanctions would be lifted shortly after, and the Russian economy would begin to recover. How would that benefit Washington?
It wouldn’t. It would undermine Washington’s broader plan to integrate China and Russia into the prevailing economic system, the dollar system. Powerbrokers in the US realize that the present system must either expand or collapse. Either China and Russia are brought to heel and persuaded to accept a subordinate role in the US-led global order or Washington’s tenure as global hegemon will come to an end.
This is why hostilities in East Ukraine have escalated and will continue to escalate. This is why the U.S. Congress approved a bill for tougher sanctions on Russia’s energy sector and lethal aid for Ukraine’s military. This is why Washington has sent military trainers to Ukraine and is preparing to provide $3 billion in “anti-armor missiles, reconnaissance drones, armored Humvees, and radars that can determine the location of enemy rocket and artillery fire.” All of Washington’s actions are designed with one purpose in mind, to intensify the fighting and escalate the conflict. The heavy losses sustained by Ukraine’s inexperienced army and the terrible suffering of the civilians in Lugansk and Donetsk are of no interest to US war-planners. Their job is to make sure that peace is avoided at all cost because peace would derail US plans to pivot to Asia and remain the world’s only superpower. Here’s an except from an article in the WSWS:
“The ultimate aim of the US and its allies is to reduce Russia to an impoverished and semi-colonial status. Such a strategy, historically associated with Carter administration National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, is again being openly promoted.
In a speech last year at the Wilson Center, Brzezinski called on Washington to provide Kiev with “weapons designed particularly to permit the Ukrainians to engage in effective urban warfare of resistance.” In line with the policies now recommended in the report by the Brookings Institution and other think tanks calling for US arms to the Kiev regime, Brzezinski called for providing “anti-tank weapons…weapons capable for use in urban short-range fighting.”
While the strategy outlined by Brzezinski is politically criminal—trapping Russia in an ethnic urban war in Ukraine that would threaten the deaths of millions, if not billions of people—it is fully aligned with the policies he has promoted against Russia for decades.” (“The US arming of Ukraine and the danger of World War III“, World Socialist Web Site)
Non-lethal military aid will inevitably lead to lethal military aid, sophisticated weaponry, no-fly zones, covert assistance, foreign contractors, Special ops, and boots on the ground. We’ve seen it all before. There is no popular opposition to the war in the US, no thriving antiwar movement that can shut down cities, order a general strike or disrupt the status quo. So there’s no way to stop the persistent drive to war. The media and the political class have given Obama carte blanche, the authority to prosecute the conflict as he sees fit. That increases the probability of a broader war by this summer following the spring thaw.
While the possibility of a nuclear conflagration cannot be excluded, it won’t effect US plans for the near future. No one thinks that Putin will launch a nuclear war to protect the Donbass, so the deterrent value of the weapons is lost.
And Washington isn’t worried about the costs either. Despite botched military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and half a dozen other countries around the world; US stocks are still soaring, foreign investment in US Treasuries is at record levels,, the US economy is growing at a faster pace than any of its global competitors, and the dollar has risen an eye-watering 13 percent against a basket of foreign currencies since last June. America has paid nothing for decimating vast swathes of the planet and killing more than a million people. Why would they stop now?
They won’t, which is why the fighting in Ukraine is going to escalate. Check this out from the WSWS:
“On Monday, the New York Times announced that the Obama administration is moving to directly arm the Ukrainian army and the fascistic militias supporting the NATO-backed regime in Kiev, after its recent setbacks in the offensive against pro-Russian separatist forces in east Ukraine.
The article cites a joint report issued Monday by the Brookings Institution, the Atlantic Council, and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and delivered to President Obama, advising the White House and NATO on the best way to escalate the war in Ukraine….
According to the Times, US officials are rapidly shifting to support the report’s proposals. NATO military commander in Europe General Philip M. Breedlove, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey all supported discussions on directly arming Kiev. National Security Advisor Susan Rice is reconsidering her opposition to arming Kiev, paving the way for Obama’s approval.” (“Washington moves toward arming Ukrainian regime“, World Socialist Web Site)
See what’s going on? The die is already cast. There will be a war with Russia because that’s what the political establishment wants. It’s that simple. And while previous provocations failed to lure Putin into the Ukrainian cauldron, this new surge of violence–a spring offensive– is bound to do the trick. Putin is not going to sit on his hands while proxies armed with US weapons and US logistical support pound the Donbass to Fallujah-type rubble. He’ll do what any responsible leader would do. He’ll protect his people. That means war. (See the vast damage that Obama’s proxy war has done to E. Ukraine here: “An overview of the socio – humanitarian situation on the territory of Donetsk People’s Republic as a consequence of military action from 17 to 23 January 2015“)
Asymmetrical Warfare: Falling Oil Prices
Keep in mind, that the Russian economy has already been battered by economic sanctions, oil price manipulation, and a vicious attack of the ruble. Until this week, the mainstream media dismissed the idea that the Saudis were deliberately pushing down oil prices to hurt Russia. They said the Saudis were merely trying to retain “market share” by maintaining current production levels and letting prices fall naturally. But it was all bunkum as the New York Times finally admitted on Tuesday in an article titled: “Saudi Oil Is Seen as Lever to Pry Russian Support From Syria’s Assad”. Here’s a clip from the article:
“Saudi Arabia has been trying to pressure President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to abandon his support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, using its dominance of the global oil markets at a time when the Russian government is reeling from the effects of plummeting oil prices…
Saudi officials say — and they have told the United States — that they think they have some leverage over Mr. Putin because of their ability to reduce the supply of oil and possibly drive up prices….Any weakening of Russian support for Mr. Assad could be one of the first signs that the recent tumult in the oil market is having an impact on global statecraft…..
Saudi Arabia’s leverage depends on how seriously Moscow views its declining oil revenue. “If they are hurting so bad that they need the oil deal right away, the Saudis are in a good position to make them pay a geopolitical price as well,” said F. Gregory Gause III, a Middle East specialist at Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service (“Saudi Oil Is Seen as Lever to Pry Russian Support From Syria’s Assad“, New York Times)
The Saudis “think they have some leverage over Mr. Putin because of their ability” to manipulate prices?
That says it all, doesn’t it?
What’s interesting about this article is the way it conflicts with previous pieces in the Times. For example, just two weeks ago, in an article titled “Who Will Rule the Oil Market?” the author failed to see any political motive behind the Saudi’s action. According to the narrative, the Saudis were just afraid that “they would lose market share permanently” if they cut production and kept prices high. Now the Times has done a 180 and joined the so called conspiracy nuts who said that prices were manipulated for political reasons. In fact, the sudden price plunge had nothing to do with deflationary pressures, supply-demand dynamics, or any other mumbo-jumbo market forces. It was 100 percent politics.
The attack on the ruble was also politically motivated, although the details are much more sketchy. There’s an interesting interview with Alistair Crooke that’s worth a read for those who are curious about how the Pentagon’s “full spectrum dominance” applies to financial warfare. According to Crooke:
“…with Ukraine, we have entered a new era: We have a substantial, geostrategic conflict taking place, but it’s effectively a geo-financial war between the US and Russia. We have the collapse in the oil prices; we have the currency wars; we have the contrived “shorting” — selling short — of the ruble. We have a geo-financial war, and what we are seeing as a consequence of this geo-financial war is that first of all, it has brought about a close alliance between Russia and China.
China understands that Russia constitutes the first domino; if Russia is to fall, China will be next. These two states are together moving to create a parallel financial system, disentangled from the Western financial system. ……
For some time, the international order was structured around the United Nations and the corpus of international law, but more and more the West has tended to bypass the UN as an institution designed to maintain the international order, and instead relies on economic sanctions to pressure some countries. We have a dollar-based financial system, and through instrumentalizing America’s position as controller of all dollar transactions, the US has been able to bypass the old tools of diplomacy and the UN — in order to further its aims.
But increasingly, this monopoly over the reserve currency has become the unilateral tool of the United States — displacing multilateral action at the UN. The US claims jurisdiction over any dollar-denominated transaction that takes place anywhere in the world. And most business and trading transactions in the world are denominated in dollars. This essentially constitutes the financialization of the global order: The International Order depends more on control by the US Treasury and Federal Reserve than on the UN as before.” (“Turkey might become hostage to ISIL just like Pakistan did“, Today’s Zaman)
Financial warfare, asymmetrical warfare, Forth Generation warfare, space warfare, information warfare, nuclear warfare, laser, chemical, and biological warfare. The US has expanded its arsenal well beyond the traditional range of conventional weaponry. The goal, of course, is to preserve the post-1991 world order (The dissolution up of the Soviet Union) and maintain full spectrum dominance. The emergence of a multi-polar world order spearheaded by Moscow poses the greatest single threat to Washington’s plans for continued domination. The first significant clash between these two competing world views will likely take place sometime this summer in East Ukraine. God help us.
NOTE: The Novorussia Armed Forces (NAF) currently have 8,000 Ukrainian regulars surrounded in Debaltsevo, East Ukraine. This is a very big deal although the media has been (predictably) keeping the story out of the headlines.
Evacuation corridors have been opened to allow civilians to leave the area. Fighting could break out at anytime. At present, it looks like a good part of the Kiev’s Nazi army could be destroyed in one fell swoop. This is why Merkel and Hollande have taken an emergency flight to Moscow to talk with Putin. They are not interested in peace. They merely want to save their proxy army from annihilation.
I expect Putin may intervene on behalf of the Ukrainian soldiers, but I think commander Zakharchenko will resist. If he lets these troops go now, what assurance does he have that they won’t be back in a month or so with high-powered weaponry provided by our war-mongering congress and White House?
Tell me; what choice does Zakharchenko really have? If his comrades are killed in future combat because he let Kiev’s army escape, who can he blame but himself?
There are no good choices.
Check here for updates: Ukraine SITREP: *Extremely* dangerous situation in Debaltsevo
Posted in Uncategorized on February 6, 2015| Leave a Comment »
When Ukrainians Choose Not to Die in a War
“Imagine all the people, living life in peace.” Maybe John Lennon’s famous musical lyric can be called naive, but it’s a hopeful vision all the same. Antiwar protests, mass soldier desertions, refusal to serve and fight in defiance of government orders and repression—these have stopped many wars once people decide there is nothing righteous in killing their fellow humans.
The current war situation in eastern Ukraine and the decision of the government in Kyiv to begin a new, fourth wave of military conscription and mobilization is unleashing a firestorm of mass opposition and refusal to fight. Protest is rising in all the regions of the country. For sure, there are still nationalist fanatics and far-right militarists exercising violence and intimidation against antiwar protests, but their capacity to stamp out protest is diminishing.
Ukraine is historically a peaceful nation. For some time now, it has avoided military conflicts like those that have flared elsewhere in eastern Europe—Yugoslavia, Georgia, etc. That came to a crashing end last year when the Kyiv government launched its ‘anti-terrorist operation’ against the people in the east of the country. But from the beginning of the conflict, Ukraine has seen refusals by soldiers to fire on their fellow citizens, desertions from the army and refusals to show up for conscription. Women—the mothers, wives, sisters and daughters of military conscripts—have held protests and even riots against the war or against force military service.
The protests have been sparked, first of all, by the fact that many Ukrainians do not accept the interpretation of the war as offered by the government. They don’t necessarily see foreign (ie Russian) aggression. They only know that when a Ukrainian soldier lifts his gun or artillery barrel, it is a compatriot, a fellow Ukrainian, who appears in the gunsight.
Secondly, many people don’t want to die for the current government which they view as composed of extreme nationalists and neoliberals. They are unwilling to be cannon fodder dying for the interests of Ukrainian oligarchs whose only apparent interest is to pursue a civil war, siphon Western financial aid and suppress opposition to their rule. A young woman recently voiced this sentiment searingly at a rally held in her village in south-central Ukraine.
Last but not least, many ordinary workers and farmers, (contrary to middle-class, urban dwellers), preserve entrenched, regional identities. They consider their homeland to be a region such as Donbas, Bukovyna, Transkarpathia or Volhynia as much as, or perhaps even more importantly, it is the entity called ‘Ukraine’. It is harder to sell to such people the war’s patriotic, pro-Ukraine and anti-Russia message.
The astonishing fact that almost no one is coming voluntarily to the military recruitment offices in this fourth, latest round of conscription is causing panic in the government and top army command of Ukraine. They are appealing, as always, to patriotic and nationalist sentiments, but this is falling increasingly on deaf ears.
Men of conscription age are fleeing in the thousands, crossing Ukraine’s borders in all directions, or taking cover internally, to escape the clutches of the military recruiters. President Poroshenko has been obliged to order that, henceforth, only those men of military age with papers confirming they are duly registered with their military registration office will be permitted to leave the country.
“Each day, new facts about mass, draft evasion are emerging” reports the Ukrainian daily Korrespondent. It writes, “In the first wave of military mobilization in 2014, 20 per cent of those who showed up for the conscription call did so voluntarily. In the second wave the same year, it was ten per cent.
“This year, only six per cent of those conscripts showing up for the call to service have done so voluntarily“.
In the Trancarpathia region in western Ukraine, entire villages have scattered across various borders to escape conscription of their menfolk. The head of the village council of Kosiv district in Ivano-Frankivsk region reports that the entire population of the village booked buses and have moved to Russia to wait out the war.
In the village of Colchino, authorities could find only three of the 105 eligible males to whom to serve papers.
Chief Recruitment Officer for Trancarpathia, O.Boyko, told Korrespondent, “It may seem a paradox, but from the western Ukrainian region of Ternopyl, people have fled to Russia in order to escape army conscription.”
Many people are selecting east European countries as temporary refuges. Yuri Biryukov,an adviser to the Ukrainian president, has admitted, “In the last 30 days, 17 per cent of the total number of reservists of the entire region of Chernivtsy (western Ukraine) have crossed borders into other countries”.
“According to unofficial sources, the hostels and motels in the border area of neighboring Romania are overcrowded with Ukrainian draft evaders.”
In the Volhynya region of western Ukraine, villagers have blocked the attempts by authorities to distribute call-up papers. A news report by 112.ua explained, “On January 24, the residents of the villages of Melniki, Zatishye and Pishcha in Shatsky district of Volhynya region blocked cars of the district administration as they arrived. Inside the vehicles were representatives of the local administration and the military recruitment office, arriving to deliver call-up papers for the military mobilization.
“Protesters forced the authorities to tear up the papers. They were then allowed to leave and the people went at home.“
Authorities in that case struck back. “Three criminal proceedings have been opened under Article 336 of the Criminal Code (evasion of conscription)”, reported a local police official.
The Odessa publication Timer reports that on January 23 in the village of Kulevchi in Saratsky district of Odessa region, the local population revolted against the military mobilization and kicked representatives out of the local recruitment office.
The population learned that 240 call-up papers were en route to be served in their village. Within minutes, Timer explained, some 500 people gathered on the village square. Six officers of the recruitment office arrived with the papers but they found a less than welcome reception among the local people. When officials declared that refusal of conscription is punishable by criminal prosecution, the people began to shout “No war” and “We want peace”. They reminded the officers that Ukraine has not declared martial law and that the Minsk ceasefire agreement of last September has not been formally renounced by the Ukraine government. They called the new wave of military mobilization illegal and the recruiting officers were forced to leave the village.
O1.ua news outlet in Odessa city reports, “In the village of Limansky (Reni district), a representative of the military recruitment office arrived with call-up papers accompanied by two armed gunmen. It nearly cost them their lives. The peasant villagers almost lynched the three.“
Before the trip to the village, the military commissar of the district, Igor Skrypnik, was aware of the hostile attitude of the civilian population toward the mobilisation process. So he asked for protection while distributing mobilization papers. Two policemen armed with weapons were assigned. But it produced the opposite result.
“When two gunmen in camouflage appeared in the village, it immediately attracted people’s attention and caused a spontaneous riot,” said the acting chairman of the local state administration, Sergey Barinov. “About 200 residents of Limansky village surrounded the representative of the military and the armed police officers and threatened to punish them.“
“Deputy Chairman Ivan Stadnikov of the Reni district state administration and Military Commissar Igor Skrypnik immediately went to the village. After difficult negotiations, a compromise was reached. But then the local residents seized the call-up papers, defiantly poured gasoline on them and set them alight – right before the eyes of the officials who had brought the papers to the village.”
In some villages in Ternopil region, the heads of local councils did not even >participate in the distribution of call-up papers. Even more, when representatives of military recruitment offices were due to arrive, some local authorities in the region tipped off residents in order to give them the opportunity to avoid conscription.
The Russian news agency ITAR-TASS reports on January 27, “Ukraine’s male population has massively started leaving abroad in search of jobs to dodge the current mobilization campaign.
“Entire villages are booking buses to dispatch their men as far as possible. Military committees are handing over the lists of fugitives to law enforcers to try and restrict the movement of men subject to conscription outside their native districts and areas”, TASS says.
Citing the Ukrainian Vesti news agency, TASS reported, “Natalya from Zaporizhia (south-eastern Ukraine) dispatched her son to Russia several months ago. The woman told Vesti on condition of anonymity that she had also sent her husband away (also to Russia) one week earlier. Men from western regions are leaving for Poland and Hungary. The city military committee in Ukraine’s capital Kiev is also complaining about draft dodgers.”
Anti-war protests are continuing in the areas of the Donbas region that are controlled by Ukrainian troops. In the city of Kramatorsk in Donetsk region, women staged a spontaneous rally in late January chanting “No war!” In a video of the> protest, at the 1’45” mark, we get a glimpse at how desperate the recruitment tactics of the authorities have become. A woman asks the military officer present, “Why are they beating on our doors at night and taking our men away to the army?”
In recent weeks, the neighbouring, small city of Debaltsevo has become the epicenter of the military clash between Donbas self-defense forces and the Ukraine army and militias. Thousands of Ukrainian troops are at risk of encirclement and capture. Most of the town’s residents have fled. There are only some 6,000-8,000 residents who are left, and they are living without electricity, heating and water supply. They are reduced to cooking their food over open fires.
The online Ukrainian media outlet Expres.ua reports that the mayor of Debaltseve was recently arrested by the Ukrainian Secret Service, accused of having sympathies with the pro-autonomy forces of Donbas. In the face of all this, the people rallied at the end of January, blaming the Ukrainian troops for their plight and demanding that they leave.
A protest of mothers and wives of conscripts was recently held in the village of Belovodsk in a government-controlled part of Luhansk region. The authorities arrived under the protection of machine guns to explain the conscription policy. The villagers answered that they did not vote for President Petro Poroshenko and they had no interest in sacrificing themselves for the interests of the oligarch Igor Kolomoisky (a well-know Ukrainian billionaire and advocate of war).
Social networks are responding to the mobilization by creating memes with titles such as the “Elusive Battalion”. The message is that it’s only in make-believe worlds that the children of high-ranking officials, parliamentary deputies, politicians and businessmen are serving in the military.
Writing in the Ukrainian web journal Liva, journalist Roman Lyubar explains, “Due to conscription, Ukrainian authorities have managed to unite the citizens of the country who are everywhere joining to boycott the military draft and increasingly protest against it. This despite the threat of criminal prosecution and militarist propaganda…
“Now Ukrainians see more clearly than ever that the poorest citizens face being cannon fodder and dying in a war while government officials and rich capitalists escape such a fate.”
Yevgeny Kopatko, a Ukrainian analyst and founder of the Research and Branding Group, told TASS, “More and more statements are heard in Ukrainian society about a readiness [by ordinary people] to sit in prison instead of going to fight. In this situation, the decision on more military mobilizations is another test for the Ukrainian authorities“.
Sergei Kirichuk, a leader of Ukrainian left organization Borotba, writes in a January 29 commentary, “Even pro-government politicians and analysts are saying that the current mobilization has failed. Some people will not come to the draft board, and others desert after they are signed up. Thus are ever more drops added to the cauldron of popular discontent.”
Under such circumstances, the Kiev government may resort to the policy of mass terror (with the help of Ukrainian far-right paramilitary organizations), forcing people to go to war at the point of a gun and murdering antiwar activists. But based on the experience of revolts and revolutions in Europe in 1917-18 during World War One, we know where such policy can lead. When people are armed and forced to fight against their will, when they are indignant, facing dire economic circumstances and demanding peace and yet their will is ignored, then the prospects of governments and private capitalist interests deemed responsible for the mess are not very bright.
Dmitry Kolesnik is a Ukrainian journalist, left-wing activist and editor of the web journal Liva.com (‘The Left’). The journal has an English-language page where it translates and publishes some of its original articles from Ukrainian and Russian languages.