European Theater

Great Game for Arctic in Ukraine struggle?

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his Western allies charge that Moscow has sent at least 1,000 regular army troops into the two easternmost oblasts of Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk, to back up the separatist rebels there. Russia's President Vladimir Putin responds with an outburst of presumably unintentional irony. He compared Kiev's encirclement of rebel-held Donetsk and Luhansk to the 900-day Nazi siege of Leningrad in which 1 million civilians died. Speaking at a pro-Kremlin rally at a lakeside youth camp, he also told supporters—some waving banners bearing his face—that Russia remains a strong nuclear power and therefore "it's best not to mess with us." He added that Russians and Ukrainians "are practically one people"—recalling his recent references to the disputed areas of southeastern Ukraine as "Novorossiya." So, let's get this straight... he accuses his enemies of being like the Nazis while enouraging a fascistic personality cult around his own leadership, while making claims to the territory of a neighboring country on ethno-nationalist grounds, and while threatening use of nuclear weapons. This is another example of what we call the Paradoxical Anti-Fascist Rhetoric of Contemporary Crypto-Fascism. Although in Putin's case, it is barely crypto.

Ukraine air disaster inter-imperial football (already)

President Obama in his statement on the downing of the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane in Ukraine emphasized that it was "shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine." He added that "we know that these separatists have received a steady flow of support from Russia." Vladimir Putin, of course, blamed Ukraine for the incident, saying: "Without doubt the government of the territory on which it happened bears responsibility for this frightening tragedy." Of course he was referring to Kiev's military offensive against the rebels, but Business Insider wryly notes that placing the blame on "the government of the territory" where the disaster occurred "technically points the finger at the rebels themselves, who have proclaimed the area 'The People's Republic of Donetsk.'"

Netherlands found liable in Srebrenica massacre

The District Court of The Hague ruled July 16 that the government of the Netherlands is liable for the deaths of 300 of the men and boys killed in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The lawsuit was brought against the Dutch government in April by Mothers of Srebrenica, a group representing mothers and widows of men killed during the massacre. The court found that the UN-backed Dutch troops failed to adequately protect the Bosniaks at the UN compound in Potocari, which was overrun by Bosnian Serbs in July 1995. The court did not hold the Netherlands liable for the deaths of the majority of the men killed in Srebrenica, as most had fled the UN compound and were apprehended in the surrounding woods.

Diaspora Jews feel Gaza backlash —again

The Abravanel synagogue in central Paris is under police guard after more than 100 youths tried to storm the building July 13, chanting "Israel murderer!" The incident—near Bastille Place, on the eve of Bastille Day—followed a march protesting the Israeli air-strikes on Gaza. After the demonstration, a large group headed to the synagogue, where some 150 people had gathered for a memorial service for three Israeli teenagers murdered in the West Bank. Witnesses said the protesters grabbed chairs from a cafe nearby and used them as weapons as they tried to break through a police barrier outside the synagogue, where worshippers remained trapped for several hours. Six police and two members of the Jewish community were reportedly injured, and six protesters arrested. Some protesters were said to be armed with axes and knives. A private security unit employed by the synagogue was also engaged in the fighting. One day earlier, in the Parisian suburb of Belleville, a protest demonstration reportedly featured chants of "Kill the Jews!" The day before that, July 11, a firebomb was thrown at the synagogue of Aulnay-sous-Bois, another Paris suburb, causing damage to the building's facade. The National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism (BNVCA) reports that on July 8, a, 17-year-old Jewish girl was assaulted on a Paris street near the Gare du Nord train station by a man who blasted her face with pepper spray. The girl, identified by her initials, JL, wrote in her complaint to police that the man shouted: "Dirty Jewess, insh'allah you will die." (The Guardian, EJP, July 14; JTA, July 13)

Sarajevo at 100: ready for World War 5?

June 28, St. Vitus' Day, marks a century since the Serb nationlist Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire, thereby starting World War I. Commemorations in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, the scene of the 1914 assassination, were predictably—indeed, inevitably—contested by the two political entities that make up contemporary Bosnia: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, supported by Muslims and Croats, and the Republika Srpska or Serb Republic. (See map.) The Institute for War & Peace Reporting notes that the commemorations were boycotted by Serb leaders, who instead held an alternative event in the Republika Srpska. Aleksandar Vucic, prime minister of Serbia, charged that what was supposed to be a joint commemoration had been co-opted by the Federation. Serbia's President Tomislav Nikolic said the event amounted to an "accusation" against his people. Nebojsa Radmanovic, Serb member of the tripartite Bosnian presidency, declined his invitation in a letter to Austria's President Heinz Fischer, stating that the Sarajevo city government had abused the commemoration and "subordinated its meaning to the context of the 1990s civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina."

UN: breakdown of law and order in east Ukraine

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on June 18 issued a report that cites increasing evidence of abductions, detentions, torture and killings in the two eastern regions of Ukraine where armed groups hold control. The report also cites a number of worrying trends emerging in Crimea. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged the armed groups in Donetsk and Luhansk to "stop taking themselves, and the people living in their regions, down this dead end, which is leading simply to misery, destruction, displacement and economic deprivation... [A]ll they have achieved is a climate of insecurity and fear which is having a hugely detrimental impact on many thousands of people."

Europe's fascist resurgence: East and West

The May 24 shooting at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels, that left three dead, is greeted by the usual ridiculous bet-hedging. CNN typically writes: "The circumstances of the shooting have raised suspicions that it may have been an anti-Semitic attack, but no motive has been determined." Once an anti-Semitic motive is finally conceded, we will next be assured that it was the work of a lone nut with no organizational ties. How many commentators will tie the attack to the terrifyingly good showing that far-right "anti-Europe" paties made in the next day's EU parliamentary election? In France, Front National leader Marine Le Pen, daughter of xenophobic party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, boasted as the exit polls rolled in: "What has happened tonight is a massive rejection of the EU." In Britain, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) is on course to win, displacing Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives and burying their coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats. (Globe & Mail, CBC) And think there's a wide gap between the "anti-Europe" ideologies of the Front National and UKIP and the anti-Semitic doctrines of classical fascism? Think again...

Ukraine: Blackwater versus Cossacks?

That's about the most depressing headline we could imagine, but there might be something to it. Blackwater in Ukraine? That's the claim in German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, citing unnamed sources in the BND, Germany's intelligence agency. Actually, the company is now called Academi in the latest name-change game to stay ahead of bad press, and it is said to have 400 "mercenaries" in Ukraine. The Russian official press, e.g. Russia Today, jumps on the claims with glee, saying the mercenaries are "taking part in the Ukrainian military operation against anti-government protesters in southeastern regions of the country." (Note that the armed separatists are referred to as "protesters" by the same RT that played up the role of militias in the Maidan protests.) The claims have also been seized upon by the foreign press that is sympathetic to Russia (TeleSur) and the "alternative" press in the West (World Socialist Website, Indymedia). Acedmi in a press release denies everything, and also states that it "has no relationship with any entity named Blackwater or with the former owner of Blackwater, Erik Prince." But later in the press release, it states: "Erik Prince sold the company (which he had renamed 'Xe') in 2010 and retained the rights to the 'Blackwater' name. The new management of ACADEMI has made tremendous efforts to build a responsible, transparent company ethos..." So, it actually is the same company, under new management. Back on March 13, RT also aired claims that "mercenaries" were backing up the Maidan protesters—based on an interview with Yanukovich's ex-intelligence chief, Aleksandr Yakimenko, not exactly the most objective source. 

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