Who Are the Men Behind the Masks in Eastern Ukraine?

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Here is what I gather from an informative article appearing in the New York Times that sought information on this question by sending reporters into the region.

The men behind the masks in eastern Ukraine who are standing up against Kiev’s injection of military forces are local militia. According to the New York Times, they or some of them have Russian ties but they have not been sent in by Russia, do not take orders from Russia and are not part of the Russian military. They have a variety of political motivations but they are united as a militia. If there is evidence that suggests otherwise, I’d like for the Ukrainian authorities and the U.S. to provide it so that we can accurately understand the events now occurring.

The members of the militia are not terrorists or militants or even rebels — as a group. As a group, they do not want to take over the Kiev government, although some may want this. The modal goal is probably a substantial degree of local autonomy while still remaining part of the Ukraine. The modal goal that unites them is probably also opposition to heavy-handed decrees from Kiev and being treated as second-class citizens. Their taking to arms has been motivated by either denial of rights or threats of denial of rights or fear of denial of rights, brought about by the Feb. 21 coup in Kiev and subsequent interim government actions.

The U.S. government supports Kiev’s injection of military forces and its suppression in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. State Department is saying that Kiev is acting with restraint, when it is suppressing a militia whose motivations cannot justly be treated as inferior to those of many ordinary citizens who demonstrated against the preceding government. And their seizure of public buildings can’t be treated by the U.S. as something to be condemned as against “law and order” when the U.S. approved of the disintegration of law and order that brought in a new government in Kiev.

The interim government that the U.S. supports claims Russian forces are at work in Ukraine and has taken to calling the opposing forces “terrorists” and “militants”. The militia denies that Russian forces are at work. Evidence of Russian forces in Ukraine has not been released by those making the charge and was not found by the New York Times’s reporters. The militia’s arms are old arms, not modern arms of the Russian military. It may also have captured Ukrainian arms.

A German tabloid reports that the U.S. has teams of FBI and CIA agents in Kiev. The U.S. continues to insist that Russia controls the men behind the masks in eastern Ukraine, but it has not provided evidence to support this charge.

U.S. government meddling and no doubt advice has now led to the Ukrainian interim government attacking and killing its own people, calling them terrorists, when they are not. The U.S. government has condemned such attacks on one’s own people in the past but now approves of them when it suits its political aims.

The men behind the masks are not terrorists. They are not bombing civilian targets in the rest of Ukraine. There are no suicide bombers reported or car bombs or roadside improvised explosive devices reported, not that escalation couldn’t produce such more extreme violent methods. At this time, freedom fighters and militia are better terms to describe them. Why else would men take up arms as political events unfolded in Kiev and governmental changes occurred that they saw as threats to their way of life?

Without a doubt, there are all sorts of Ukrainians who don’t want to see a civil war. There are those who wouldn’t dream of taking up arms. There are those who see the militia as law-breakers. There are those who want one united Ukraine. There are those who see the hand of Russia or even have evidence of it. Situations like this have all sorts of complications and views.

Into this complexity jumps the U.S., singling out one group to support while confronting Russia. High U.S. officials fly to Kiev. IMF support is forthcoming. U.S. senators indulge in inflammatory language against Russia, branding it an aggressor and seeking escalation. Why? For what possible gain to Americans?

Consider the language and views of Senator Paul. He has written

“Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is a gross violation of that nation’s sovereignty and an affront to the international community.”

What invasion? There hasn’t been any! What international laws have been broken by Russia? Indeed, the U.S. has broken international laws in Ukraine by interfering in its domestic politics.

“His continuing occupation of Ukraine is completely unacceptable, and Russia’s President should be isolated for his actions.”

What occupation? Crimea? Does Paul place no weight at all on the Crimean referendum or on Russia’s historic links and interests in that region? Does Paul seriously want to isolate Russia until it gives up Crimea? That means indefinite bad relations, and that’s to the detriment of everyone concerned. And if something is “completely unacceptable”, doesn’t that mean that the U.S. won’t accept it and will do whatever it takes to stop it? This language is way too extreme. Why make a mountain out of a molehill?

“It is America’s duty to condemn these actions in no uncertain terms.”

Really? Where is this “duty” spelled out? In the Constitution? It’s not there. What “actions”? The non-existent invasion?

“It is our role as a global leader to be the strongest nation in opposing Russia’s latest aggression.”

Where did this role as global leader come from? Is it not self-assumed by the U.S. government? To what good end? So that the U.S. would be at war constantly, and constantly attempting to act as the world’s policeman, prosecutor, court, judge, jury and enforcer, even executioner if so desired? A phrase like “global leadership” is in the same category as “national security”, a Pavlovian bell that causes listeners to salivate and nod their heads in approval of the War Party’s leadership and policies.

Paul doesn’t call for military action, writing “This does not and should not require military action.” But his position leads ineluctably to military action or to its equivalent or to actions that can lead the other side to military action. How can Paul be for strong opposition to aggression and then not follow through with effective means? McCain and others are already calling for military steps. They will drive Paul to the right or else marginalize him because he isn’t calling for strong actions consistent with his words.

“Putin must be punished for violating the Budapest Memorandum, and Russia must learn that the U.S. will isolate it if it insists on acting like a rogue nation.”

The U.S. as schoolmarm of the world must make Russia stand in the corner because it’s a rogue pupil. Whoever heard of such nonsense parading around as mature and sensible judgment? And I have chosen Senator Rand Paul as an example here because of his clear words and easy access to his essay. We can find similar sentiments being expressed in many places.

Judging from who the men behind the masks really are, America and Americans are facing no threats from Ukraine, mortal or otherwise, and none from Russia either. All such rhetoric and sentiments are based on flights of fancy that are divorced from reality and from the interests of most Americans. The men behind the masks in Ukraine, so far as I can tell at this time, are militia. They are freedom-fighters who chose to use force of arms. This, in my opinion, was a mistake. It has elicited a military response from Kiev. In this day and age, such “battles” should be first waged using communications, organizations and the tactics of peaceful resistance. The battles should if at all possible, be moral ones, fought out in the hearts and minds of the people concerned. Those who experience injustices frequently cannot win justice by force of arms, and the resort to arms often makes a bad situation worse. They can win by peacefully showing their opponents to be morally wrong.

9:00 am on May 6, 2014