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Will Zuzak | 23Feb2014 | to Amy Goodman,  [2] Timothy Snyder,  [3] Nicolai Petro vs. Timothy Snyder

A New Cold War? Ukraine Violence Escalates, Leaked Tape Suggests U.S. Was Plotting Coup

Dear Amy Goodman:

I was appalled by the sickening Ukrainophobia expressed in your 20Feb2014 interview with Stephen Cohen. Have you forgotten the 30Jan2014 debate that you hosted, where Anton Shekhovtsov corrected many of Stephen Cohen's biased views?

You denigrate the hundreds of thousands of peaceful demonstrators on Euromaidan, who aspire for freedom and democratic values. Then you try to legitimize the corrupt Yanukovych regime and his mentor Vladimir Putin, who aspire to establish a brutal terroristic dictatorship in Ukraine. As of today, 23Feb2013, it appears that Mr. Yanukovych may be gone for good. Surely, you are aware that since his election in 2010, Viktor Yanukovych had been increasing his own dictatorial powers (and wealth) and had rolled back any democratic progress achieved since Ukraine's independence in 1991. You must be aware of Mr. Putin's KGB past, his orchestrated Moscow bombings in 1999 to justify his invasion and continuing destruction of Chechnya, his assassinations of Anna Politkovskaya and other journalists, and his poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive polonium. Mr. Putin would have no qualms in implementing such scenarios in Ukraine.

You call yourself "Democracy Now" and yet you support dictatorship and corruption. And you have the gall to ask people to donate to your cause. If you were truly interested in DEMOCRACY, you would laud the efforts of the people of Ukraine. You would recognize the concept of the Euromaidan as a useful mechanism to throw off corrupt dictatorship. You would encourage people in countries around the world suffering from governmental tyranny -- including the United States and the Russian Federation -- to emulate the Euromaidan.

Near the end of the video, the three of you snicker cynically amongst yourselves at the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine -- just as Ukrainians are mourning and preparing to bury their dead heroes. Would any "human" human being snicker as she/he watches and listens to this video?

To enlighten yourselves on the situation in Ukraine, I invite you to click on the link below, where I have added appropriate comments and video links in the color fuchsia throughout the text of the transcript. Furthermore, please read the appended article "Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine" of your co-religionist Timothy Snyder, who obviously understands the situation in Ukraine much better than you do.

Deeply disappointed
William Zuzak; 2014.02.23
[Archived at http://www.willzuzak.ca/tp/ukrainophobia/zuzak20140223Goodman.html ]

Democracy Now | 20Feb2014 | Stephen Cohen [37:24]

A New Cold War? Ukraine Violence Escalates, Leaked Tape Suggests U.S. Was Plotting Coup

A short-lived truce has broken down in Ukraine as street battles have erupted between anti-government protesters and police. Last night the country’s embattled president and the opposition leaders demanding his resignation called for a truce and negotiations to try to resolve Ukraine’s political crisis. But hours later, armed protesters attempted to retake Independence Square, sparking another day of deadly violence. At least 50 people have died since Tuesday [18Feb2014] in the bloodiest period of Ukraine’s 22-year post-Soviet history. While President Obama has vowed to "continue to engage all sides," a recently leaked audio recording between two top U.S. officials reveal the Obama administration has been secretly plotting with the opposition. We speak to Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University. His most recent book, "Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War," is out in paperback. His latest Nation article is "Distorting Russia: How the American Media Misrepresent Putin, Sochi and Ukraine."


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A short-lived truce has broken down in Ukraine as street battles have erupted between anti-government protesters and police. Last night, the country’s embattled president and the opposition leaders demanding his resignation called for a truce and negotiations to try to resolve Ukraine’s political crisis. But the truce only lasted a few hours. The last three days have been the bloodiest period of Ukraine’s 22-year post-Soviet history. Over 50 people have died, including at least 21 today. The truce ended today when armed protesters attempted to retake Independence Square. Both sides have accused the other of using live ammunition. A Ukrainian paramedic described the chaotic scene.

    UKRAINIAN PARAMEDIC: [translated] Some bodies are at the concert hall. Some are at the barricades. Now there are maybe around 15 or 20 dead. It is hard to count, as some are carried away, others are resuscitated. Now, as far as I know, three dead people are at the city hall, and two more dead are at the main post office. There are so many at the concert hall that we didn’t even take them.

AMY GOODMAN: The Ukrainian parliament, Rada, and Cabinet buildings have reportedly been evacuated because of fears they could be stormed by protesters. The street clashes are occurring while the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, is meeting with the foreign ministers from Germany, Poland and France.

The Obama administration stepped up pressure on the Ukrainian government Wednesday by announcing a visa ban on 20 members of the Ukrainian government. The U.S. is also threatening to place sanctions on the Ukrainian government.

The protests began in late November [21Nov2013] after President Yanukovych reversed his decision to sign a long-awaited trade deal with the European Union, or EU, to forge stronger ties with Russia instead.

[W.Z. True, and they were completely peaceful until the Berkut forces brutally attacked the demonstrators at 04:10 AM on 30Nov2013 (see [06:34] and [01:09] videos within the multiple videos file). Immediately, the focus of the demonstrations switched to a protest against the corruption and brutality of the Yanukovych regime. As the multiple videos demonstrate, the brutality of the Yanukovych regime escalated until the deaths of Serhii Nihoyan, Mikhail Zhyznevsky and others on 22Jan2014. The final straw was the shootings by professional snipers on 18/20Feb2014 -- resulting in a death toll of some 83 individuals. On 22Feb2014, Viktor Yanukovych fled and a new Ukraine was born.]

To talk more about the latest in Ukraine, we’re joined by Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University. His most recent book, Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War, is now out in paperback. His latest piece in The Nation is called "Distorting Russia: How the American Media Misrepresent Putin, Sochi and Ukraine."

So, talk about the latest, Professor Cohen.

STEPHEN COHEN: Where do you want me to begin? I mean, we are watching history being made, but history of the worst kind. That’s what I’m telling my grandchildren: Watch this. What’s happening there, let’s take the big picture, then we can go to the small picture. The big picture is, people are dying in the streets every day. The number 50 is certainly too few. They’re still finding bodies. Ukraine is splitting apart down the middle, because Ukraine is not one country, contrary to what the American media, which speaks about the Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. Historically, ethnically, religiously, culturally, politically, economically, it’s two countries. One half wants to stay close to Russia; the other wants to go West. We now have reliable reports that the anti-government forces in the streets -- and there are some very nasty people among them -- are seizing weapons in western Ukrainian military bases. So we have clearly the possibility of a civil war.

And the longer-term outcome may be -- and I want to emphasize this, because nobody in the United States seems to want to pay attention to it -- the outcome may be the construction, the emergence of a new Cold War divide between West and East, not this time, as it was for our generation, in faraway Berlin, but right on the borders of Russia, right through the heart of Slavic civilization. And if that happens, if that’s the new Cold War divide, it’s permanent instability and permanent potential for real war for decades to come. That’s what’s at stake.

[W.Z. Stephen Cohen is willing to support a brutal dictatorship in Ukraine (and the Russian Federation) to prevent a "new Cold War". He obviously does not support the democratic aspirations of Ukrainians.]

One last point, also something that nobody in this country wants to talk about: The Western authorities, who bear some responsibility for what’s happened, and who therefore also have blood on their hands, are taking no responsibility. They’re uttering utterly banal statements, which, because of their vacuous nature, are encouraging and rationalizing the people in Ukraine who are throwing Molotov cocktails, now have weapons, are shooting at police. We wouldn’t permit that in any Western capital, no matter how righteous the cause, but it’s being condoned by the European Union and Washington as events unfold.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And when you say the Western countries who bear some responsibility, in what sense do they bear responsibility? I mean, clearly, there’s been an effort by the United States and Europe ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union to pull the former Soviet states into their economic sphere, but is that what you’re talking about?

STEPHEN COHEN: I mean that. I mean that Moscow -- look at it through Moscow’s eyes. Since the Clinton administration in the 1990s, the U.S.-led West has been on a steady march toward post-Soviet Russia, began with the expansion of NATO in the 1990s under Clinton. Bush then further expanded NATO all the way to Russia’s borders. Then came the funding of what are euphemistically called NGOs, but they are political action groups, funded by the West, operating inside Russia. Then came the decision to build missile defense installations along Russia’s borders, allegedly against Iran, a country which has neither nuclear weapons nor any missiles to deliver them with. Then comes American military outpost in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, which led to the war of 2008, and now the West is at the gates of Ukraine. So, that’s the picture as Moscow sees it. And it’s rational. It’s reasonable. It’s hard to deny.

But as for the immediate crisis, let’s ask ourselves this: Who precipitated this crisis? The American media says it was Putin and the very bad, though democratically elected, president of Ukraine, Yanukovych. But it was the European Union, backed by Washington, that said in November to the democratically elected president of a profoundly divided country, Ukraine, "You must choose between Europe and Russia." That was an ultimatum to Yanukovych. Remember -- wasn’t reported here -- at that moment, what did the much-despised Putin say? He said, "Why? Why does Ukraine have to choose? We are prepared to help Ukraine avoid economic collapse, along with you, the West. Let’s make it a tripartite package to Ukraine." And it was rejected in Washington and in Brussels. That precipitated the protests in the streets.

And since then, the dynamic that any of us who have ever witnessed these kinds of struggles in the streets unfolded, as extremists have taken control of the movement from the so-called moderate Ukrainian leaders. I mean, the moderate Ukrainian leaders, with whom the Western foreign ministers are traveling to Kiev to talk, they’ve lost control of the situation. By the way, people ask -- excuse me -- is it a revolution? Is it a revolution? A much abused word, but one sign of a revolution is the first victims of revolution are the moderates. And then it becomes a struggle between the extreme forces on either side. And that’s what we’re witnessing.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to the Ukrainian opposition leader, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who admitted earlier today the opposition does not have full control of protesters in Independence Square.

    ARSENIY YATSENYUK: The only chance to do it is to stop the riot police, to stop the protesters, to impose a DMZ, like demilitarized zone, and to move this conflict from the streets to the Parliament.

    REPORTER 1: Parts of the protesters are out of control?

    ARSENIY YATSENYUK: No one -- I would be very frank, that the government doesn’t control the riot police, and it’s very difficult for the opposition to control Maidan. And there are a number of forces who are uncontrolled. This is the truth.

    REPORTER 2: So, Ukraine is in chaos now.

    ARSENIY YATSENYUK: Ukraine is in a big mess.

[W.Z. Yes, of course. The Maidan has categorically and repeatedly stated that they represent the Ukrainian people and not any politicians, political parties or Oligarchs in the country.]

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Ukrainian opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Professor Cohen?

STEPHEN COHEN: A moderate.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go --

STEPHEN COHEN: Who wants to be president.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to President Obama. He’s in Mexico for the big Mexico-Canada-U.S. summit talking about Ukraine.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: With regard to Ukraine, along with our European partners, we will continue to engage all sides. And we continue to stress to President Yanukovych and the Ukrainian government that they have the primary responsibility to prevent the kind of terrible violence that we’ve seen, to withdraw riot police, to work with the opposition to restore security and human dignity, and move the country forward. And this includes progress towards a multi-party, technical government that can work with the international community on a support package and adopt reforms necessary for free and fair elections next year. Ukrainians are a proud and resilient people who have overcome extraordinary challenges in their history, and that’s a pride and strength that I hope they draw on now.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s President Obama in Mexico, Professor Cohen.

STEPHEN COHEN: What are you asking me to comment on?

AMY GOODMAN: Your response to his response.

STEPHEN COHEN: To what he just said? Shame. Shame. He is saying that the responsibility for restoring peace is on the Ukrainian government, and it should withdraw its security forces from the streets. But let me ask you, if in Washington people throwing Molotov cocktails are marching on Congress -- and these people are headed for the Ukrainian Congress -- if these people have barricaded entrance to the White House and are throwing rocks at the White House security guard, would President Obama withdraw his security forces? This is -- this is -- and do you know what this does? And let’s escape partisanship here. I mean, lives are at stake. This incites, these kinds of statement that Obama made. It rationalizes what the killers in the streets are doing. It gives them Western license, because he’s not saying to the people in the streets, "Stop this, stop shooting policemen, stop attacking government buildings, sit down and talk." And the guy you had on just before, a so-called moderate leader, what did he just tell you? "We have lost control of the situation." That’s what I just told you. He just confirmed that.

So what Obama needs to say is, "We deplore what the people in the streets are doing when they attack the police, the law enforcement official. And we also don’t like the people who are writing on buildings 'Jews live here,'" because these forces, these quasi-fascist forces -- let’s address this issue, because the last time I was on your broadcast, you found some guy somewhere who said there was none of this there. All right. What percent are the quasi-fascists of the opposition? Let’s say they’re 5 percent. I think they’re more, but let’s give them the break, 5 percent. But we know from history that when the moderates lose control of the situation, they don’t know what to do. The country descends in chaos. Five percent of a population that’s tough, resolute, ruthless, armed, well funded, and knows what it wants, can make history. We’ve seen it through Europe. We’ve seen it through Asia. This is reality. And where Washington and Brussels are on this issue, they won’t step up and take the responsibility.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, even in most recent history, whether you look at Libya or whether you look at the situation in Syria, where those presidents warned that there were extremist elements inside a broader popular movement that were eventually going to gain control, this seems like a replay in terms of what’s going on here in the Ukraine of a popular movement, but yet a very, very, as you say, right-wing movement -- not only a right-wing movement, but a fascist movement with a history. Ukraine has had a history of a fascist movement going back to the days of Nazi Germany.

[W.Z. Mr. Gonzalez is obviously demonizing the Ukrainian independence movement of the 1930's and 1940's led by OUN-UPA. To enlighten themselves on the subject they should listen to or read the English-language translation of the lectures of Ivan Patrylyak on the Relations between OUN-UPA and Germany.]

STEPHEN COHEN: Let’s go to real heresy. Let’s ask a question: Who has been right about interpreting recent events? Let’s go to the Arab Spring. Obama and Washington said this was about democracy now, this is great. Russia said, "Wait a minute. If you destabilize, even if they’re authoritarian leaders in the Middle East, you’re not going to get Thomas Jefferson in power. You’re going to get jihadists. You’re going to get very radical people in power all through the Middle East." Looking back, who was right or wrong about that narrative? Have a look at Egypt. Have a look at Libya. Who was right? Can Russians ever be right about anything?

Now what are the Russians saying about Ukraine? They’re saying what you just said, that the peaceful protesters, as we keep calling them -- I think a lot of them have gone home. There were many. By the way, at the beginning, there were hundreds of thousands, tens of thousands, of very decent, liberal, progressive, honorable people in the streets. But they’ve lost control of the situation. That’s the point now. And so, the Russians are saying, "Look, you’re trying to depose Yanukovych, who’s the elected government." Think. If you overthrow -- and, by the way, there’s a presidential election in a year. The Russians are saying wait 'til the next election. If you overthrow him -- and that's what Washington and Brussels are saying, that he must go -- what are you doing to the possibility of democracy not only in Ukraine, but throughout this part of the world? And secondly, who do you think is going to come to power? Please tell us. And we’re silent.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to the famous leaked tape right now. The top State Department official has apologized to her European counterparts after she was caught cursing the European Union, the EU, in a leaked audio recording that was posted to YouTube. The recording captured an intercepted phone conversation between the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, and Victoria Nuland, the top U.S. diplomat for Europe. Nuland expresses frustration over Europe’s response to the political crisis in Ukraine, using frank terms.

    VICTORIA NULAND: So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and have the U.N. help glue it. And, you know, [bleep] the EU.

AMY GOODMAN: While Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland’s comment about the EU dominated the news headlines because she used a curse, there were several other very interesting parts of her conversation with the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

    GEOFFREY PYATT: Let me work on Klitschko, and if you can just keep -- I think we want to try to get somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing. Then the other issue is some kind of outreach to Yanukovych, but we can probably regroup on that tomorrow as we see how things start to fall into place.

    VICTORIA NULAND: So, on that piece, Geoff, when I wrote the note, Sullivan’s come back to me VFR saying, "You need Biden?" And I said, "Probably tomorrow for an attaboy and to get the deets to stick." So Biden’s willing.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Pyatt, speaking with Victoria Nuland. The significance of what she is saying? She also had gone to Ukraine and was feeding protesters on the front line.

STEPHEN COHEN: Cookies, cookies. Well, here again, the American political media establishment, including the right and the left and the center -- because they’re all complicit in this nonsense -- focused on the too sensational, they thought, aspect of that leaked conversation. She said, "F— the European Union," and everybody said, "Oh, my god! She said the word." The other thing was, who leaked it? "Oh, it was the Russians. Those dirty Russians leaked this conversation." But the significance is what you just played. What are they doing? The highest-ranking State Department official, who presumably represents the Obama administration, and the American ambassador in Kiev are, to put it in blunt terms, plotting a coup d’état against the elected president of Ukraine.

Now, that said, Amy, Juan, you may say to me -- neither of you would, but hypothetically -- "That’s a good thing. We don’t like -- we don’t care if he was elected democratically. He’s a rat. He’s corrupt." And he is all those things. He is. "Let’s depose him. That’s what the United States should do. Then the United States should stand up and say, ’That’s what we do: We get rid of bad guys. We assassinate them, and we overthrow them.’" But in Washington and in Brussels, they lie: They’re talking about democracy now. They’re not talking about democracy now; they’re talking about a coup now.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, this is more from --

STEPHEN COHEN: And we -- excuse me -- and we should -- we, American citizens, should be allowed to choose which policy we want. But they conceal it from us. And I’m extremely angry that the people in this country who say they deplore this sort of thing have fallen silent.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Let’s listen to little bit more of the leaked conversation between the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, and Victoria Nuland, the top U.S. diplomat for Europe.

    VICTORIA NULAND: Good. So, I don’t think Klitsch should go into the government. I don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t think it’s a good idea.

    GEOFFREY PYATT: Yeah. I mean, I guess, you think—in terms of him not going into the government, just let him sort of stay out and do his political homework and stuff. I’m just thinking, in terms of sort of the process moving ahead, we want to keep the moderate democrats together. The problem is going to be Tyahnybok and his guys. And, you know, I’m sure that’s part of what Yanukovych is calculating on all of this. I kind of—

    VICTORIA NULAND: I think—I think Yats is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. He’s the guy—you know, what he needs is Klitsch 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.

[W.Z. Goodman/Gonzalez/Cohen are making a mountain out of a mole hill. What do they expect Nulan/Pyatt to talk about? They are simply doing their job -- discussing the situation in Ukraine and expressing how the United States should react should Yanukovych be deposed. It seems that they would prefer to deal with Arseniy Yatseniuk; whereas European politicians prefer Vitali Klychko. So what?]

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Victoria Nuland, the top U.S. diplomat for Europe, speaking with Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine. Stephen Cohen, this -- this chess game --

STEPHEN COHEN: You don’t need me here. What do you need me for?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ:  -- this chess game that they’re conducting here?

STEPHEN COHEN: There it is. There it is.

AMY GOODMAN: But explain the names. Who is Klitsch, Yats?

STEPHEN COHEN: All right. And notice the intimacy with which the Americans deal with the two leading so-called "moderate" -- and these are big shots, they both want to be president -- Ukrainian opposition. Klitschko is Vitali Klitschko, a six-foot-eight former -- he resigned his title two months ago to enter politics -- heavyweight champion of the world. His residence has been Ukraine -- I mean, Germany. He plays -- he pays taxes in Germany. He’s a project of Merkel. He represents German interests. I’m sure he’s also faithful to Ukraine, but he’s got a problem. Yatsenyuk, however -- not Yatsenyuk, but the other guy she calls "Yats" is a representative of the Fatherland Party. It’s a big party in Parliament. But Washington likes him a lot. They think he’ll be our man. So you could see what they’re saying. We don’t quite trust Klitschko. Now, if you want to get esoteric, that’s the tug between Washington and Berlin. They’re not happy with Merkel, the chancellor of Germany. They don’t like the role Merkel is playing, generally. They think Germany has gotten too big for its britches. They want to cut Merkel down. So you noticed Klitschko, the boxer, is Merkel’s proxy, or at least she’s backing him. You notice that they say, "He’s not ready for prime time. Let him do his homework."

Now, this guy -- I’m bad on Ukrainian names. Tyagnybok, that they say has got to play a role, he’s the leader of the Freedom Party, the Svoboda Party, but a large element of that party, to put it candidly, is quasi-fascist. And they’re prepared to embrace this guy. This is the guy, by the way, that Senator John McCain in November or December went to Kiev and embraced. Either McCain didn’t know who he was, or he didn’t care. The United States is prepared to embrace that guy, too -- anything to get rid of Yanukovych, because they think this is about Putin. That’s all they really got on their mind.

[W.Z. Once more, these three gossipers are demonizing Oleh Tyahnybok and the Svoboda Party as being fascist, Judeophobic, etc.  They should listen to (or read the English-language translation of) the speech of Mr. Tyahnybok on 29Dec2013 to the Maidan demonstrators titled Solidarity against Terror.]

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, here you have President Obama, again, speaking yesterday in Mexico.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Our approach as the United States is not to see these as some Cold War chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia. Our goal is to make sure that the people of Ukraine are able to make decisions for themselves about their future, that the people of Syria are able to make decisions without having bombs going off and killing women and children, or chemical weapons, or towns being starved, because a despot wants to cling to power.

AMY GOODMAN: Who benefits from the instability, Professor Cohen, in Ukraine? And what does it mean for Putin? Is he concerned about this?

STEPHEN COHEN: Of course he’s concerned. It’s right on his borders, and it’s all tainting him. I mean, The Washington Post wrote an editorial yesterday. Putin is happy that the violence has broken out in the streets. Everybody understands, even The Washington Post understands, which understands almost nothing about Russia, but they got this, that during the Sochi Olympics, the last thing Putin wants is violence in Ukraine. So why is he happy about it? He deplores it. He’s unhappy. He’s furious at the president of Ukraine. He read him the Riot Act on the phone last night, that why doesn’t he get control of the situation? What is he doing? So Putin is not responsible for this. Can we speak about Obama?

AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly.

STEPHEN COHEN: Very quickly. I grew up in the segregated South. I voted for him twice, as historical justice. That’s not leadership. That’s a falsification of what’s happening in Ukraine, and it’s making the situation worse, what he says, is that we deplore the violence and call upon Ukrainian government to withdraw its forces and stop the violence. He needs to talk about what’s happening in the streets.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And is it conceivable, if Ukraine descends into a further civil war, that Russia might intervene?

STEPHEN COHEN: It’s conceivable. It’s conceivable. Here -- I mean, Yanukovych -- you might say, as an adviser to Yanukovych, the president of Ukraine, "Impose martial law now, because you’ve got bad PR in the West anyway, and you’re not in control of the situation." The problem is, Yanukovych isn’t sure he controls the army.

AMY GOODMAN: He just fired the head of the army yesterday.

STEPHEN COHEN: Yeah, we don’t know what it means, but it indicates he’s not too sure about the army. But, by the way, you asked, would Russia intervene? Would NATO intervene? NATO is all over the place. NATO was in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Ask yourself that: Would NATO send troops in? Is that, yes, you think they would?


STEPHEN COHEN: We don’t know.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We don’t know, yeah.

STEPHEN COHEN: And we’re not going to be told, just like we’re not being told what’s going on in these private conversations about deposing the president of Ukraine. If they depose—

AMY GOODMAN: Unless they’re leaked again.

STEPHEN COHEN: Yeah, and if the Russians leak them, it doesn’t count. Is that right?

AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. can hardly protest, given the whole scandal with the NSA recording conversations.

STEPHEN COHEN: Yeah, well, you know what they said. They said -- they said, when this got leaked, that this is a low point in statecraft. After Snowden? After Snowden? I mean, what did Tennessee Williams used to say? Mendacity? Mendacity? The mendacity of it all? Don’t they trust us, our government, to tell us a little bit of the truth at last?

AMY GOODMAN: Stephen Cohen, I want to thank you for being with us. We’re going to move onto Venezuela. Stephen Cohen is professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University. His most recent book, Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War, it’s just out in paperback. His latest piece in The Nation is "Distorting Russia: How the American Media Misrepresent [Putin], Sochi and Ukraine." This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.

[W.Z. Near the end of the video, Goodman/Gonzalez/Cohen laugh cynically at the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine -- just as Ukrainians are mourning and preparing to bury their dead heroes.]


New York Review | 19Feb2014 | Timothy Snyder

Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine

This article will appear in the coming March 20, 2014 issue of  New York Review.

The students were the first to protest against the regime of President Viktor Yanukovych on the Maidan, the central square in Kiev, last November. These were the Ukrainians with the most to lose, the young people who unreflectively thought of themselves as Europeans and who wished for themselves a life, and a Ukrainian homeland, that were European. Many of them were politically on the left, some of them radically so. After years of negotiation and months of promises, their government, under President Yanukovych, had at the last moment failed to sign a major trade agreement with the European Union.

When the riot police came and beat the students in late November, a new group, the Afghan veterans, came to the Maidan. These men of middle age, former soldiers and officers of the Red Army, many of them bearing the scars of battlefield wounds, came to protect “their children,” as they put it. They didn’t mean their own sons and daughters: they meant the best of the youth, the pride and future of the country. After the Afghan veterans came many others, tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands, now not so much in favor of Europe but in defense of decency.

What does it mean to come to the Maidan? The square is located close to some of the major buildings of government, and is now a traditional site of protest. Interestingly, the word maidan exists in Ukrainian but not in Russian, but even people speaking Russian use it because of its special implications. In origin it is just the Arabic word for “square,” a public place. But a maidan now means in Ukrainian what the Greek word agora means in English: not just a marketplace where people happen to meet, but a place where they deliberately meet, precisely in order to deliberate, to speak, and to create a political society. During the protests the word maidan has come to mean the act of public politics itself, so that for example people who use their cars to organize public actions and protect other protestors are called the automaidan.

The protesters represent every group of Ukrainian citizens: Russian speakers and Ukrainian speakers (although most Ukrainians are bilingual), people from the cities and the countryside, people from all regions of the country, members of all political parties, the young and the old, Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Every major Christian denomination is represented by believers and most of them by clergy. The Crimean Tatars march in impressive numbers, and Jewish leaders have made a point of supporting the movement. The diversity of the Maidan is impressive: the group that monitors hospitals so that the regime cannot kidnap the wounded is run by young feminists. An important hotline that protesters call when they need help is staffed by LGBT activists.

On January 16, the Ukrainian government, headed by President Yanukovych, tried to put an end to Ukrainian civil society. A series of laws passed hastily and without following normal procedure did away with freedom of speech and assembly, and removed the few remaining checks on executive authority. This was intended to turn Ukraine into a dictatorship and to make all participants in the Maidan, by then probably numbering in the low millions, into criminals. The result was that the protests, until then entirely peaceful, became violent. Yanukovych lost support, even in his political base in the southeast, near the Russian border.

After weeks of responding peacefully to arrests and beatings by the riot police, many Ukrainians had had enough. A fraction of the protesters, some but by no means all representatives of the political right and far right, decided to take the fight to the police. Among them were members of the far-right party Svoboda and a new conglomeration of nationalists who call themselves the Right Sector (Pravyi Sektor). Young men, some of them from right-wing groups and others not, tried to take by force the public spaces claimed by the riot police. Young Jewish men formed their own combat group, or sotnia, to take the fight to the authorities.

Although Yanukovych rescinded most of the dictatorship laws, lawless violence by the regime, which started in November, continued into February. Members of the opposition were shot and killed, or hosed down in freezing temperatures to die of hypothermia. Others were tortured and left in the woods to die.

During the first two weeks of February, the Yanukovych regime sought to restore some of the dictatorship laws through decrees, bureaucratic shortcuts, and new legislation. On February 18, an announced parliamentary debate on constitutional reform was abruptly canceled. Instead, the government sent thousands of riot police against the protesters of Kiev. Hundreds of people were wounded by rubber bullets, tear gas, and truncheons. Dozens were killed.

The future of this protest movement will be decided by Ukrainians. And yet it began with the hope that Ukraine could one day join the European Union, an aspiration that for many Ukrainians means something like the rule of law, the absence of fear, the end of corruption, the social welfare state, and free markets without intimidation from syndicates controlled by the president.

The course of the protest has very much been influenced by the presence of a rival project, based in Moscow, called the Eurasian Union. This is an international commercial and political union that does not yet exist but that is to come into being in January 2015. The Eurasian Union, unlike the European Union, is not based on the principles of the equality and democracy of member states, the rule of law, or human rights.

On the contrary, it is a hierarchical organization, which by its nature seems unlikely to admit any members that are democracies with the rule of law and human rights. Any democracy within the Eurasian Union would pose a threat to Putin’s rule in Russia. Putin wants Ukraine in his Eurasian Union, which means that Ukraine must be authoritarian, which means that the Maidan must be crushed.

The dictatorship laws of January 16 were obviously based on Russian models, and were proposed by Ukrainian legislators with close ties to Moscow. They seem to have been Russia’s condition for financial support of the Yanukovych regime. Before they were announced, Putin offered Ukraine a large loan and promised reductions in the price of Russian natural gas. But in January the result was not a capitulation to Russia. The people of the Maidan defended themselves, and the protests continue. Where this will lead is anyone’s guess; only the Kremlin expresses certainty about what it all means.

The protests in the Maidan, we are told again and again by Russian propaganda and by the Kremlin’s friends in Ukraine, mean the return of National Socialism to Europe. The Russian foreign minister, in Munich, lectured the Germans about their support of people who salute Hitler. The Russian media continually make the claim that the Ukrainians who protest are Nazis. Naturally, it is important to be attentive to the far right in Ukrainian politics and history. It is still a serious presence today, although less important than the far right in France, Austria, or the Netherlands. Yet it is the Ukrainian regime rather than its opponents that resorts to anti-Semitism, instructing its riot police that the opposition is led by Jews. In other words, the Ukrainian government is telling itself that its opponents are Jews and us that its opponents are Nazis.

The strange thing about the claim from Moscow is the political ideology of those who make it. The Eurasian Union is the enemy of the European Union, not just in strategy but in ideology. The European Union is based on a historical lesson: that the wars of the twentieth century were based on false and dangerous ideas, National Socialism and Stalinism, which must be rejected and indeed overcome in a system guaranteeing free markets, free movement of people, and the welfare state. Eurasianism, by contrast, is presented by its advocates as the opposite of liberal democracy.

The Eurasian ideology draws an entirely different lesson from the twentieth century. Founded around 2001 by the Russian political scientist Aleksandr Dugin, it proposes the realization of National Bolshevism. Rather than rejecting totalitarian ideologies, Eurasianism calls upon politicians of the twenty-first century to draw what is useful from both fascism and Stalinism. Dugin’s major work, The Foundations of Geopolitics, published in 1997, follows closely the ideas of Carl Schmitt, the leading Nazi political theorist. Eurasianism is not only the ideological source of the Eurasian Union, it is also the creed of a number of people in the Putin administration, and the moving force of a rather active far-right Russian youth movement. For years Dugin has openly supported the division and colonization of Ukraine.

The point man for Eurasian and Ukrainian policy in the Kremlin is Sergei Glazyev, an economist who like Dugin tends to combine radical nationalism with nostalgia for Bolshevism. He was a member of the Communist Party and a Communist deputy in the Russian parliament before cofounding a far-right party called Rodina, or Motherland. In 2005 some of its deputies signed a petition to the Russian prosecutor general asking that all Jewish organizations be banned from Russia.

Later that year Motherland was banned from taking part in further elections after complaints that its advertisements incited racial hatred. The most notorious showed dark-skinned people eating watermelon and throwing the rinds to the ground, then called for Russians to clean up their cities. Glazyev’s book Genocide: Russia and the New World Order claims that the sinister forces of the “new world order” conspired against Russia in the 1990s to bring about economic policies that amounted to “genocide.” This book was published in English by Lyndon LaRouche’s magazine Executive Intelligence Review with a preface by LaRouche. Today Executive Intelligence Review echoes Kremlin propaganda, spreading the word in English that Ukrainian protesters have carried out a Nazi coup and started a civil war.

The populist media campaign for the Eurasian Union is now in the hands of Dmitry Kiselyov, the host of the most important talk show in Russia, and since December also the director of the state-run Russian media conglomerate designed to form national public opinion. Best known for saying that gays who die in car accidents should have their hearts cut from their bodies and incinerated, Kiselyov has taken Putin’s campaign against gay rights and transformed it into a weapon against European integration. Thus when the then German foreign minister, who is gay, visited Kiev in December and met with Vitali Klitschko, the heavyweight champion and opposition politician, Kiselyov dismissed Klitschko as a gay icon. According to the Russian foreign minister, the exploitation of sexual politics is now to be an open weapon in the struggle against the “decadence” of the European Union.

Following the same strategy, Yanukovych’s government claimed, entirely falsely, that the price of closer relations with the European Union was the recognition of gay marriage in Ukraine. Kiselyov is quite open about the Russian media strategy toward the Maidan: to “apply the correct political technology,” then “bring it to the point of overheating” and bring to bear “the magnifying glass of TV and the Internet.”

Why exactly do people with such views think they can call other people fascists? And why does anyone on the Western left take them seriously? One line of reasoning seems to run like this: the Russians won World War II, and therefore can be trusted to spot Nazis. Much is wrong with this. World War II on the eastern front was fought chiefly in what was then Soviet Ukraine and Soviet Belarus, not in Soviet Russia. Five percent of Russia was occupied by the Germans; all of Ukraine was occupied by the Germans. Apart from the Jews, whose suffering was by far the worst, the main victims of Nazi policies were not Russians but Ukrainians and Belarusians. There was no Russian army fighting in World War II, but rather a Soviet Red Army. Its soldiers were disproportionately Ukrainian, since it took so many losses in Ukraine and recruited from the local population. The army group that liberated Auschwitz was called the First Ukrainian Front.

The other source of purported Eurasian moral legitimacy seems to be this: since the representatives of the Putin regime only very selectively distanced themselves from Stalinism, they are therefore reliable inheritors of Soviet history, and should be seen as the automatic opposite of Nazis, and therefore to be trusted to oppose the far right.

Again, much is wrong about this. World War II began with an alliance between Hitler and Stalin in 1939. It ended with the Soviet Union expelling surviving Jews across its own border into Poland. After the founding of the State of Israel, Stalin began associating Soviet Jews with a world capitalist conspiracy, and undertook a campaign of arrests, deportations, and murders of leading Jewish writers. When he died in 1953 he was preparing a larger campaign against Jews.

After Stalin’s death communism took on a more and more ethnic coloration, with people who wished to revive its glories claiming that its problem was that it had been spoiled by Jews. The ethnic purification of the communist legacy is precisely the logic of National Bolshevism, which is the foundational ideology of Eurasianism today. Putin himself is an admirer of the philosopher Ivan Ilin, who wanted Russia to be a nationalist dictatorship.

What does it mean when the wolf cries wolf? Most obviously, propagandists in Moscow and Kiev take us for fools—which by many indications is quite justified.

More subtly, what this campaign does is attempt to reduce the social tensions in a complex country to a battle of symbols about the past. Ukraine is not a theater for the historical propaganda of others or a puzzle from which pieces can be removed. It is a major European country whose citizens have important cultural and economic ties with both the European Union and Russia. To set its own course, Ukraine needs normal public debate, the restoration of parliamentary democracy, and workable relations with all of its neighbors. Ukraine is full of sophisticated and ambitious people. If people in the West become caught up in the question of whether they are largely Nazis or not, then they may miss the central issues in the present crisis.

In fact, Ukrainians are in a struggle against both the concentration of wealth and the concentration of armed force in the hands of Viktor Yanukovych and his close allies. The protesters might be seen as setting an example of courage for Americans of both the left and the right. Ukrainians make real sacrifices for the hope of joining the European Union. Might there be something to be learned from that among Euroskeptics in London or elsewhere? This is a dialogue that is not taking place.

The history of the Holocaust is part of our own public discourse, our agora, or maidan. The current Russian attempt to manipulate the memory of the Holocaust is so blatant and cynical that those who are so foolish to fall for it will one day have to ask themselves just how, and in the service of what, they have been taken in. If fascists take over the mantle of antifascism, the memory of the Holocaust will itself be altered. It will be more difficult in the future to refer to the Holocaust in the service of any good cause, be it the particular one of Jewish history or the general one of human rights.

-- February 19, 2014

Democracy Now | 24Feb2014 | Nicolai Petro vs. Tymothy Snyder [48:36]

A Coup or a Revolution? Ukraine Seeks Arrest of Ousted President Following Deadly Street Protests

Ukraine is in a state of crisis two days after the country’s democratically elected president was ousted following months of street protests that left at least 82 people dead. On Saturday [22Feb2014], Ukraine’s Parliament voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovych, a move Yanukovych described as a coup. Earlier today, Ukraine’s new leaders announced the ousted president was wanted for mass murder of peaceful protesters. Russia condemned the move to oust Yanukovych and recalled its ambassador to Ukraine. Meanwhile, Europe has embraced the new government. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is traveling to Ukraine today to discuss measures to shore up Ukraine’s ailing economy. One of Yanukovych’s main rivals, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, was released from custody. We speak to Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale University. His latest article for The New York Review of Books is "Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine." We also speak to University of Rhode Island professor Nicolai Petro, who is in Odessa, Ukraine.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Ukraine is in a state of crisis two days after the country’s democratically elected president was ousted following months of street protests that left at least 82 people dead. On Saturday [22Feb2014], Ukraine’s Parliament voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovych, a move Yanukovych described as a coup.

VIKTOR YANUKOVYCH: [translated] I am absolutely confident that this is an example, which our country and the whole world has seen, an example of a coup. I’m not going to leave Ukraine or go anywhere. I’m not going to resign. I’m a legitimately elected president. I was given guarantees by all international mediators who I worked with that they are giving me security guarantees. I will see how they will fulfill that role.

AMY GOODMAN: Viktor Yanukovych speaking Saturday. He has not been seen publicly since then. Earlier today, Ukraine’s new leaders announced the ousted president was wanted for mass murder of peaceful protesters. Meanwhile, one of Yanukovych’s main rivals, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, was released from custody on Saturday. Russia condemned the move to oust Yanukovych and recalled its ambassador to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Europe has embraced the new government. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is traveling to Ukraine today to discuss measures to shore up Ukraine’s ailing economy. On Sunday, Ukraine’s interim president, Oleksandr Turchynov, said he would focus on closer integration with the European Union.

OLEKSANDR TURCHYNOV: [translated] Another priority is returning to the European integration course, the fight for which Maidan started with. We must return to the family of European countries. We also understand the importance of our relations with Russia, to build relations with this country on a new, just, equal and goodwill basis which recognizes and takes into account the European choice of the country. I hope that it is this choice that will be confirmed in the presidential elections on the 25th of May of this year. We guarantee that they will fully subscribe to the highest European standards. They will be liberal and fair.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about the crisis in Ukraine, we’re joined by two guests. Timothy Snyder is professor of history at Yale University, author of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. His latest piece for The New York Review of Books is headlined "Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine." He joins us from Vienna, Austria. And with us in the Ukrainian city of Odessa is Nicolai Petro, professor of politics at the University of Rhode Island. He has been in Odessa since July 2013 as a Fulbright research scholar.

Nicolai Petro, let’s begin with you in Ukraine. Do you agree with what the president, or now the former president, Yanukovych, said, that this is a coup?

NICOLAI PETRO: Yes, it’s pretty much a classical coup, because under the current constitution the president may be -- may resign or be impeached, but only after the case is reviewed by the Constitutional Court and then voted by a three-fourth majority of the Parliament. And then, either case, either the prime minister or the speaker of the Parliament must become the president. Instead, that’s not what happened at all. There was an extraordinary session of Parliament, after -- it was held after most members were told there would be no session and many had left town. And then, under the chairmanship of the radical party, Svoboda, this rump Parliament declared that the president had self-removed himself from the presidency.

AMY GOODMAN: And what are the forces that brought this about? And what’s happening right now in Ukraine? You’re not in Kiev; you’re in Odessa. What is even happening there?

NICOLAI PETRO: The situation here in Odessa is pretty quiet. I would say that what led up to this is a coalition of three distinct forces. One is the group that started at the end of November of last year, genuine civic frustration with the government’s decision to delay the signing of the EU Association Agreement. This was then seized upon by the parliamentary opposition, who joined belatedly and pressed the government for further concessions. And finally, the actual coup was accomplished thanks to the armed intervention of extreme nationalists, led by the Right Sector. And the fact that they were so instrumental in accomplishing this change of power has put them in the driver’s seat. From now on, whatever political decisions are arrived at will really be at the sufferance of the Right Sector.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Timothy Snyder, would you agree with this assessment of what’s taking place in Ukraine right now?

TIMOTHY SNYDER: I think parts of it are exactly right. I think I would disagree with certain parts of it. For one thing, when it comes to the question of how these changes came about, it’s a little bit reductionist just to mention opposition politicians, the right wing in Europe. The movement -- the protest movement at the Maidan included millions of people in Kiev and all around the country. It included people from all walks of life, both genders. It included people from -- included Muslims. It included Jews. It included professionals. It included working-class people. And the main demand of the movement the entire time was something like normality, the rule of law. And the reason why this demand could bring together such people of different political orientations, such different regional backgrounds, is that they were faced up against someone, the previous president, Yanukovych, whose game was to monopolize both financial and political as well as violent power in one place. The constitution, the legitimacy of which is now contested, was violated by him multiple times, and most of the protesters agree to that.

The second thing that I would modify a bit would be this idea that what happened is a coup, where now somehow everything is determined by the right. The Parliament does not -- is not represented. Nobody from the Right Sector is in Parliament. The people who are making the decisions in Parliament come from the conventional political parties. If you look at the people who are on top, who are they? The acting president is from the southeast. He’s a Russian speaker. He’s a Baptist pastor, by the way. The two candidates for president -- Klitschko and Tymoshenko -- are both Russian speakers. Klitschko studied in Kiev. Tymoshenko is from the southeast. Let’s look at the power ministries. If you were a right-wing revolutionary, this is the first thing you go for. Who now occupies the power ministries? The defense minister is a Russian speaker who is actually of Roma origin, of Gypsy origin. The interior minister is half-Russian, half-Armenian. And the minister of internal affairs is a Russian speaker from the far southeast, from Zaporizhia. So, it seems extremely unlikely to me that this government is something which could possibly have been dictated by nationalists from western Ukraine. This government, if anything, is tilted towards the south and towards the east.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think this could lead to a split between East and West Ukraine, Professor Snyder?

TIMOTHY SNYDER: No, on the contrary. The one thing which could lead to a split -- sorry, the one thing that could lead to a split between East and West Ukraine would be some kind of intervention from the outside. We have -- we have good polling data, taken over the course of the last 20 years, from all regions of Ukraine. In no region of Ukraine do more than 4 percent of the population express a wish to leave the country. I’m pretty sure in most states of the United States the percentage would be much higher than that. The normal response is about 1 percent.

Ukraine is a diverse country, but diversity is supposed to be a good thing. It’s a multinational state in which both this revolution and the people who oppose this revolution have various kinds of ethnic identifications, various kinds of political commitments. The person who started the demonstrations in November was a Muslim. The first people who came were university students from Kiev. The next people who came were Red Army veterans. When the regime started to kill people, the first person who was killed was an Armenian. The second person who was killed was a Bielorussian. In the sniper massacre of last week, which is what led to the change of power, which is what directly led to the change of power, one of the people who was killed was a left-wing ecologist Russian speaker from Kharkiv, Yevhen Kotlyar. Another was a Pole. The people who took part in this protest represent the variety of the country. The people who oppose these protests also come from various parts of the country. This is an essentially political dispute.

And I think the good news is that once Yanukovych was removed, violence ceased, and now we are on a political track in which power is no longer in the hands of an interior minister who is killing people and instead is within the chambers of Parliament. Parliament has renewed the 2004 constitution, which makes the system a parliamentary system, and has called for elections in May. And in those elections, people from all over the country will be able to express themselves in a normal post-revolutionary way. And then we’ll see where things stand.

AMY GOODMAN: Last week, Democracy Now! spoke to Russia scholar Stephen Cohen, who said Ukraine is essentially two different countries.

STEPHEN COHEN: Ukraine is splitting apart down the middle, because Ukraine is not one country, contrary to what the American media, which speaks about the Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. Historically, ethnically, religiously, culturally, politically, economically, it’s two countries. One half wants to stay close to Russia; the other wants to go West. We now have reliable reports that the anti-government forces in the streets -- and there are some very nasty people among them -- are seizing weapons in western Ukrainian military bases. So we have clearly the possibility of a civil war.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Stephen Cohen. Nicolai Petro, would you agree?

NICOLAI PETRO: Professor Cohen is right that there are very serious differences between the regions, and they go deep to the historical memory of not just what World War II was about, but what the end of the Russian Empire was about, what the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Poland, the parts of Ukraine that were under it, were about. Professor Snyder is, however, also correct on the fact that much of the country does not want to dissolve. There is a commitment to being Ukrainian. And it would be indeed to everyone’s advantage here if the country -- if the Parliament really did reach out to the segments of the population that are not -- that have been, effectively, disenfranchised by the last coup. And, however, I would tend to disagree, because the first steps, within 24 hours, that they’ve taken are exactly the opposite.

Let me give you an example. The repeal of the law allowing Russian to be used locally, that’s the main irritant in east-west relations within the Ukraine; the introduction of a resolution to outlaw the Communist Party of the Ukraine, which effectively is the only remaining opposition party in Parliament; the consolidation of the powers of the speaker of the Parliament and the acting president in a single individual, giving him greater powers than allowed under any Ukrainian constitution; of course, the call for the arrest of the president. Now we have, effectively, a Parliament that rules without any representation from the majority party, since most of the deputies of the east and the south of the country are afraid to set foot in Parliament. Meanwhile, all across the country, headquarters of parties are being sacked by their opponents. This is the stage which we have for the elections for May 25th. Will they be fair? There’s no money, according to the prime -- the acting president and speaker. Vigilante militias routinely attack and disperse public gatherings they disapprove of. News broadcasts -- yesterday Inter was interrupted by forces claiming to speak for the people. What do you think?

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going break and then come back to this discussion and talk about the significance of the release of the former prime minister, who was imprisoned and brought back in a wheelchair to Independence Square, where she made her re-emergence, this as the current president -- the past president was fleeing Kiev. We’re talking to Nicolai Petro, professor of politics, University of Rhode Island, speaking to us from Odessa in Ukraine. We’re also speaking with Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale University. He’s today in Vienna, Austria. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: Yes, it is Democracy Now!'s 18th birthday. We are celebrating it through this month of February, 18 years of Democracy Now! since we first went on the air on about eight community radio stations, February 19th, 1996. We're now broadcasting on over 1,200 public television and radio stations around the country and around the world. And if you want to send in your photo holding up why you need Democracy Now!, that’s what we’re showing during our breaks, and for folks listening on the radio, you can go to our website at democracynow.org, where we’re streaming the pictures. You can also send us video to tell us what Democracy Now! means to you. Check out democracynow.org. All the details are there.

Well, I’m Amy Goodman. This is Democracy Now! And we’re talking about the crisis in the Ukraine. We’re still with Professor Timothy Snyder of Yale University. He is in Vienna, Austria. His latest piece for The New York Review of Books is titled "Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine." And with us from Odessa, Ukraine, is Nicolai Petro, professor of politics at University of Rhode Island.

I want to turn to comments made by the former prime minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, following her release from jail on Saturday. She was addressing Maidan protesters in Kiev.

YULIA TYMOSHENKO: [translated] I know that all together we will be able to do it, and I personally will never allow anyone to let you down. I will never allow not a single politician, not a single official, to even touch nor even lay one of their fingers on your honor, on your life. Know that nothing in my life will be more important. May God give you good health. May you be happy in your country, and then all these sacrifices will not be in vain. Glory to Ukraine!

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the former Ukrainian prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko. Timothy Snyder, the significance of her release, how long she was held in prison, what she represents?

TIMOTHY SNYDER: Well, she was a political prisoner. She was the head of the major opposition party to Yanukovych’s party. She lost the last presidential elections to Yanukovych by a relatively narrow margin. For many years, she and Yanukovych were the two dominant figures in Ukrainian political life. So, obviously, most human rights observers, most governments in the West have been calling for her release for quite a long time. It’s a good thing that she was released. It’s a step towards the return of the rule of law in Ukraine.

What it means in political terms, I think, is rather more complicated. She has not been a part of these revolutionary events. She came to them at the very end. And what she said to the protesters in the passage you played is rather curious and, in a way, pre-revolutionary and anachronistic. I think the sense of the Maidan is that there is this -- there is a civil society. They’re self-organizing people who can stay and occupy a place in the middle of the winter for weeks upon end, which means soup kitchens. It means people cleaning up. It means people in hospitals. It means doctors. It means journalists. It means a movement in which millions of people took part. They’re not asking for someone to take care of them. In a way, that’s the old-style politics. And I think many people rightly associate Tymoshenko with Yanukovych and with politics of an old style. So it’s not clear to me that her return will be as significant politically as it might seem at the very beginning. This, of course, remains to be seen. I would stress, of course, that Tymoshenko, like everyone -- virtually everyone else we’re talking about, is a Russian speaker from the southeast of the country, so, again there, it’s not a matter of west versus east.

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking on Sunday, National Security Adviser Susan Rice warned Russia against sending in troops to Ukraine.

SUSAN RICE: That would be a grave mistake. It’s not in the interest of Ukraine or of Russia or of Europe or the United States to see the country split. It’s in nobody’s interest to see violence return and the situation escalate. There is not an inherent contradiction, David, between a Ukraine that has long-standing historic and cultural ties to Russia and a modern Ukraine that wants to integrate more closely with Europe. These need not be mutually exclusive.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Nicolai Petro, your response?

NICOLAI PETRO: Well, she’s right, but I don’t see what -- the discussion of the armed forces seems cavalier. I mean, no one’s even thinking or talking about that. I’d like to chime in, if I may, on the Tymoshenko question that you asked, and agree with Professor Snyder’s assessment. At least in this area of Ukraine, the south, she seems to not have any resonance. And the perspective is that this is very much -- her appearance is very much a blast from the past, if you will, sort of things that have -- we’ve all gone through that before. And the hope is that there can be more dramatic changes. A little bit of a disconcerting element to this is her usage of the familiar Svoboda refrain now from World War II, "Hail to Ukraine," which is becoming sort of the routine greeting for the revolutionaries now.

AMY GOODMAN: What is -- right now the Olympics are ending. How does Putin see the situation? They’ve pulled the ambassador back from Ukraine, the Russian ambassador to Ukraine back. Professor Petro, what would you say Putin sees in what has taken place? Is he concerned this will happen next in Russia?

NICOLAI PETRO: Oh, no, no, I don’t think that at all. What I think is, when people watch what’s happening here in Ukraine, in the former Soviet Union, they’re saying, "There but for the grace of God, you know, go we." This is a very -- a cautionary tale, if you will, against chaos and corruption, as well, leading to these sorts of extremes. Whether -- President Putin has already declared the government’s willingness to support Ukraine, to see the country prosper, and so far the only monetary -- and it’s worth pointing out, the only monetary contribution on the table right now is the $15 billion that have been offered in bonds and, in addition, even more significantly, the reduction in the price of natural gas that Ukraine is buying from Russia right now. Whether or not Europe or the United States or the International Monetary Fund will come up with anything comparable is much to be hoped for, but right now there’s a lot of dithering on the part of the West.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Timothy Snyder, your assessment of what this means for Putin right now?

TIMOTHY SNYDER: Yeah, I would agree completely that he has no immediate reason to worry that this will repeat itself in Russia. Russia is not Ukraine. But in a way, the fact that Russia is not Ukraine has been the problem for Russian foreign policy. The Russian money which was offered to Ukraine was offered as an alternative to the trade deal with the European Union, but it seems very likely that there was a price. The major package of $15 billion, which was referred to, preceded -- and I think it’s no coincidence -- the laws on the Russian model, for example, forcing non-governmental civil society organizations to register themselves as foreign agents, laws which ban freedom of expression, laws which turn people who manifested on the streets into extremists, which of course paves the way for martial law and such things. The whole package of laws on the 16th of January was the result. That failed. That made the protests much more aggressive and much larger. Then, when the Russians finally did release $2 billion of that, it was just a matter of days before the sniper attacks last week, which led to the political change that we’re talking about. So, the Russians did put money on the table, but there was a price. The price was to try to make Ukraine more like Russia. That has now failed, it seems, so the Russians have something to contemplate.

With the European Union, it has to be much more complicated. The European Union is not a petrol state which can just offer money here and there where it wants, the way that -- the way that Russian is. The European Union has to have guarantees that the money that’s spent will be in exchange for constitutional reform, in exchange for free elections -- I completely agree about the significance of that, including the importance of the participation of electoral observers -- and in exchange for thoroughgoing local reform which would make corruption -- and I also agree about the significance of corruption in Ukraine -- that will make corruption much less likely. Those discussions, however, are already underway. The European Union is about to announce its package. The IMF has already expressed its willingness. I completely agree that those things are essential.

Ukraine has been brought to a -- by its president, to a state of near bankruptcy. Yanukovych literally sat on gold toilets in his ridiculously extravagant residence. This is a country which needs to have not only political change, but financial backing for that political exchange -- for that political change. Otherwise, it’s not going to be able to happen. I would also stress that only financial backing of parliamentary democracy is the thing which can keep the extremes from making their way towards the center, but I think people in the West understand that now.

AMY GOODMAN: Nicolai Petro, there is an interesting picture in The New York Times today, the headline, "Fresh From Prison, a Former Prime Minister Returns to the Political Stage," and it is a picture of Tymoshenko, and she is flanked by both the American ambassador, Geoffrey Pyatt, and the European Union’s Jan Tombinski. Talk about the United States in all of this. We have played the clips of Victoria Nuland talking about who she wants in government and not, top diplomatic official in charge of this area that includes Ukraine, that these -- this taped conversation that somehow made it to YouTube. What about U.S.’s role? Of course, she was giving out cookies to the protesters on the front lines a while ago.

NICOLAI PETRO: Well, I must say that the United States, in my -- from my perspective, tried to play a role in the reconciliation process but was not terribly effective, because it does not have the necessary leverage. That is in -- the only country that has the leverage and the resources and knows the situation well is Russia. So, if there is a country with deep knowledge of this area, I would say it would be Russia, and I would hope that we would listen to the advice of our Russian partners in this.

But I do also believe there was an error in the assessment of one of the more significant, I think, and ultimately determinant groups in accomplishing the revolution. I clearly have to disagree with Professor Snyder. I ascribe a much greater role to the Right Sector, as they call themselves, the spearhead of the revolution. And given the hope of many in the West regarding this revolution, I think it’s especially important to note that this group is critical of party politics in principle. It is skeptical of what it calls imperial ambitions of both Moscow and the West to the Ukraine. The former are easier to understand. The latter try to sap the Ukrainian national spirit with all this talk of dialogue and compromise. So what they hope to see emerge out of this turmoil is a new Ukraine, as they put it, quote, "burnished by the flames of national revolution," able to stand up in opposition to the democratizers and their local lackeys. And I think there has been a strong underestimation of the influence of this right nationalist movement, not in terms of numbers, but in terms of street cred, in terms of the vision that they can offer which can inspire young people, really, especially in the West, but throughout the country, in terms of, you know, maybe we don’t even need a parliamentary system; let’s just do something that is more decisive and dramatic and can actually maybe move the country forward in a way, because it’s been stagnating for 20 years now.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Petro, when you talk about the right, who exactly do you mean, for an American audience who knows very little about Ukraine?

NICOLAI PETRO: There is a parliamentary party now, which could be called a right-wing party, and that is the Svoboda party. They’re the ones who, as I mentioned, convened the extraordinary session of Parliament that led to the ouster of the president. Now, how to exactly describe them, I will leave that to Professor Snyder. But I would simply note that there was an EU Parliament resolution of December 13, 2012, that drew attention specifically to the Svoboda party and called it racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic. Now, compared to Svoboda, the Right Sector, which has been active in all of the violence in the streets, is more radical, more militarily organized and more willing to use violence.

AMY GOODMAN: Final words, Professor Timothy Snyder, in understanding this, and who the right is and -- both opposed to Russia and opposed to the West?

TIMOTHY SNYDER: Thanks. Yeah, I mean, as Professor Petro probably knows, that’s the subject of my specialization. And, of course, I share his concern. Svoboda takes its example from the history of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, an interwar, extreme-right party which I would not hesitate to call fascist. The Pravi sector also refers to the same historical symbolism. Both of them speak of the necessity for a national revolution, especially Pravi sector. They are significant. They are less significant than the far right in Austria, where I am now. They’re less significant than the far right in France. They’re less significant than the far right in the Netherlands. But they matter.

And I think the crucial thing is to understand that they become more important when the system becomes a dictatorship. When the leader of the center-right -- that’s Tymoshenko -- is put in prison, then the far right of course is going to benefit as a protest party. When the situation is revolutionary, and these are the people who are willing to risk their lives, of course they’re going to become more important, which means that for all of us who are concerned about the return of normality, stability, the rule of law, it’s very important that this -- that the revolutionary character of this situation pass now into a normal political process, where we can agree or disagree about who should rule and who shouldn’t rule, but where decisions are made in Parliament, where decisions are made in the ballot box, and where decisions are not made in the streets.

In Kiev today, the metros are running. In Kiev today, there is no looting. The place is remarkably peaceful. The presidential residences are being visited peacefully, rather than looter-sacked as in other revolutions, or even the United States when we have a weather problem. The country is in an orderly position. If we want to keep both extremes at bay -- the extreme from the right, which I am indeed worried about, as well as extremists on the other side, with their support from Russia -- the most important thing to do is to back parliamentary democracy, back early elections, do the small things that we in the West can do to make sure that that’s the outcome -- a restoration of the rule of law, restoration of a parliamentary constitution, restoration of democracy. These are things that we can help achieve, and the Ukrainians themselves have already done the hard part. That’s where I would end.

AMY GOODMAN: Timothy Snyder, I want to thank you for being with us, professor of history at Yale University, speaking to us from Vienna, Austria. His book, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin; his latest piece in The New York Review of Books, "Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine." And Nicolai Petro, thanks for joining us from the Ukrainian city of Odessa. He’s a professor of politics at the University of Rhode Island.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we go to Britain to speak with Luke Harding. He says he has been surveilled as he wrote the book about Edward Snowden, The Snowden Files. We’ll find out what happened. Stay with us.

[W.Z.  According to Wikipedia, Nicolai N. Petro (born 1958) is an academic specializing in Russian Affairs, currently Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island, in the United States. He also served as the US State Department's special assistant for policy on the Soviet Union under President George HW Bush. He appears to be very pro-Russian and hostile to Ukraine as the following links indicate.]

Email: [email protected]
Website:  http://www.npetro.net/

As Power Shifts, Examining Ukraine’s Uncertain Future,” The Takeaway with John Hockenberry (NPR), February 24, 2012.

"A Coup or a Revolution? Ukraine Seeks Arrest of Ousted President Following Deadly Street Protests," Democracy Now! February 24, 2014.

"The Battle for Kiev," The Nation, February 21, 2014.

Crisis in Ukraine: The View from Beyond Kiev,” an interview with David C. Speedie of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, February 21, 2014.

Interviewed on Uptown Radio (Columbia University School of Journalism), February 21, 2014.

"From Ukraine: URI professor comments on country’s deadly protests," URI News, February 20, 2014.

"Ukraine's Political Violence Spurred by Cultural Divide," The Real News Network, February 19, 2014. (en Nederlands).

"Memory Management in Ukraine," electricpolitics.com, February 14, 2014.

"Ukraine's Culture War," the National Interest, February 7, 2014.

What’s behind the street protests in Ukraine? Global Journalist Radio, produced by the University of Missouri School of Journalism for KBIA, January 30, 2014.

"Defending Ukraine's Tough New Protest Law," the National Interest, January 22, 2014.

"How the EU Can Bring Ukraine into Europe," European Leadership Network, January 7, 2014.

"How the E.U. Pushed Ukraine East," International New York Times, December 4, 2013. (en français, po Polsku).