Yanis Varoufakis is Naive on Ukraine
Not naive about the solution, but naive that the West wants a solution
Video responds to Russell Brand’s Under the Skin interview of Yanis Varoufakis, “Resolution, Russia & Ukraine.” The text below adds context, and is not redundant.
Yanis Varoufakis was the Greek Minister of Finance during the brief moment when the Syriza party challenged the “troika”—the IMF, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission. In my book, How to Dismantle an Empire, I have a chapter called Greece Lightning that examines the crisis leading up to the populist uprising. My focus is on economics, so one of the factors was Russian oligarchs hiding their loot in Cyprus, an island neighboring Greece. One oligarch alone was a 10% shareholder in the Bank of Cyprus, which had much of its holdings in Greek government bonds. Cyprus had been made a tax haven to attract Russian money-launderers and tax-cheats, and so its bank holdings equaled nine times the GDP. In a transfer of bank-gambling debts to national sovereign debts to IMF loans, this led to what Conn Hallinan called “savage austerity and sado-monetarism” imposed on Greece, Ireland, Spain, Cyprus, Portugal and other troika-strangled victims.
So on Ukraine, I expected a more in-depth analysis from Yanis than this:
Today we must stand with Ukraine, unconditionally. And we must say it out loud: Putin is a war criminal whose campaign sits in the same category as the Hitler-Stalin invasion of Poland or the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. No ifs, no buts. Our task must be one: To help Ukrainians gain their independence against a ruthless invader.
International law is a meaningless concept when it only applies to people the US power alliance doesn't like… Neither George W Bush nor Tony Blair are in prison cells at The Hague where international law says they ought to be. Bush is still painting away from the comfort of his home, issuing proclamations comparing Putin to Hitler and platforming arguments for more interventionism in Ukraine. Blair is still merily warmongering his charred little heart out, saying NATO should not rule out directly attacking Russian forces in what amounts to a call for a thermonuclear world war.
They are free as birds, singing their same old demonic songs from the rooftops.
If Yanis wanted to start naming war criminals, he might have started with US Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland, her husband Robert Kagan, and Dick Cheney for Iraq and Afghanistan, with Victoria Nuland and Hilary Clinton for Libya and Syria, and with Victoria Nuland and Joe Biden for Ukraine, as I discuss in my episode Escape from Azkaban.
But where I would expect him to be particularly savvy is on the savage austerity and sado-monetarism the EU & IMF offered to Ukraine in 2013—a small loan that would entail repayment of a predecessor’s larger loans, a 40% increase in oil and gas costs, freezing of pensions, cutting subsidies, and raising the retirement age. Russia offered a larger loan with no strings that would cut oil and gas costs by a third. The Ukranian President, although desperate to make a deal with the EU, rejected their lousy terms. And the rest, as they say, is history—or as they don’t say but cover up.
This led to the Maidan Square protests IN FAVOR of the benevolent troika, friend to would-be Eurokranians and Greeks alike. And yet, reason might still have prevailed if it weren’t for Nuland and her merry band of neo-Nazis, Islamic jihadists, and the pureblood supremacists called the Right Sektor. And it STILL might not have worked if it wasn’t for the neo-Nazi’s false-flag sniper attack on their own protesters, killing over 100, and blaming it on the President. Within a day of the attack he reached an agreement with the opposition, mediated through the EU, to move the elections up by nine months and limit his power for the remaining three.
In phrases from the infamous leaked phone call between Nuland and US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, the factions “midwived” by Biden and Nuland stepped up their violence, eager to “glue this” and “get it off the ground before Russia torpedoed it.” They overran government buildings so that the President fled one day before the Winter Olympics ended in Sochi, Russia. Nuland’s pick was installed as his successor.
So in this video, I state that Yanis is naive in four of his assumptions:
That it was an unprovoked invasion.
That this is Putin’s war and not Russia’s.
That Yanis is consistent in his position on sovereignty, as he claims.
That Yanis should know better than anyone not to trust the EU/IMF.
I talk about how the right of secession protects sovereignty—otherwise it’s like having marriage with no right of divorce. Since the US-backed coup, Lugansk and Donetsk declared independence but have been under economic and military siege by the Kiev regime. Does Russia have an obligation under the Budapest Memorandum to defend their soveriegnty?
I quote from 19 different Western strategic thinkers who had warned of Ukranian conflict (a compilation by @RnaudBertrand). Yanis isn’t wrong that NATO membership should be taken off the table, but it’s obvious that would lead to conflict with Russia and the US dangled it anyway … it’s naive to think that wasn’t the intent.
When Yanis gives his diplomatic solutions, he adds this caveat:
Here, I must confess to a serious ethical conflict in my heart and mind: I am desperate for Ukrainian fighters to not give in, to continue to fend off Russian troops heroically – as they have been doing so far. I salute and celebrate them. But I know who Putin is. Putin is a ruthless killer… This is not to suggest that the Ukrainian fighters should surrender. No, if I were them, I would keep fighting come-what-may, to the bitter end. What I am saying is something different: That a diplomatic solution needs to be found as soon as possible. That we, from the comfort of our own peaceful surroundings, must push for a solution that spares the lives of thousands and prevents the occupation of Ukraine.
Let’s talk a little about ruthless killers like the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion that implemented the 2014 coup.
Azov’s original leader, Andriy Biletsky—who served as a member of the Ukrainian parliament from 2014 to 2019—said that the mission of Ukraine was to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade … against Semite-led Untermenschen [subhumans].”
or like the neo-Nazi Yevgen Karas who bragged on Feb 27, 2022 that
…the West gives us weapons because we do the job. We have fun killing. We have started a war that hasn’t been seen for 60 years… We are a huge powerful state, not to join Europe but to create new political alliances. This was a nationalist movement and not as LGBT and foreign embassies say, ‘There were not many Nazis, only 10% were real ideological ones.’ Only a moron who didn’t understand war would [deny] those 10%, even 8%, are much more effective and without them, the effectiveness would have dropped by 90%. If not for nationalists, that whole thing would have turned into a gay parade.
One of their most horrific attacks was on a peaceful protest in the cosmopolitan port city of Odessa soon after the coup, where they were herded into a trade union building that was firebombed and then fire trucks were prevented from getting through. And lest you think this has nothing to do with the current administration:
Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s Interior Minister of 2014-2021 calls Azov Battalion members “patriots.” In his view, any effort to criticize them is part of a Russian disinformation campaign to weaken the Ukraine.
Though campaigning on an Obama-type platform of hope and change, Ukraine’s current president, Volodymyr Zelensky (2019-present), retained Avakov as Ukraine’s Interior Minister and in April 2021 appointed another far-right extremist, Serhiy Sternenko, as head of the Odessa security services.
Sternenko, as former head of the Right Sector in Odessa was implicated in the 2014 trade union house massacre of 46 people, and is a convicted criminal currently under investigation for murder.
Yanis ends with a patronizing list of conditions for Russian withdrawal:
What would an agreeable diplomatic solution entail? Three things: First, an immediate ceasefire followed by the withdrawal of Russian troops. Second, the opportunity for Putin to portray any such agreement as a form of victory – a deal that gives him something close to what he wanted. Third, it must be an agreement guaranteed jointly by Washington and Moscow, guaranteeing an independent and neutral Ukraine as part of a broader agreement that de-escalates tensions with the Baltics, Poland, around the Black Sea, across Europe.
Is there a chance that Putin would accept such a deal now, after his army has taken so much territory? I think there is. Putin maybe ruthless (remember Chechnya?), but he is not stupid… In this light, Putin will be tempted by any deal has Washington’s support that ends the sanctions and allows him to claim that he stopped America’s eastward expansion. A US-Russian summit would seal such a deal, which Putin can present as Russia getting the respect it deserves.
Such an agreement would leave everyone a little dissatisfied but also grant Ukrainians the chance to re-build a free, democratic and independent Ukraine. Many issues will have to be settled but, once de-escalation begins, a healing process can commence. For example, the EU can pour investments into Ukraine, well before any move to admit it into the EU. Once Washington and Moscow jointly guarantee a de-militarized zone along the Russian-Ukrainian border, the contested Donetsk-Luhansk region could be administered along the lines of the Northern Irish Good Friday agreement in a manner that guarantees the rights of all ethnic communities under the supervision of Kiyv, Moscow and the European Union.
Will Putin accept this? I cannot second-guess a ruthless killer. What, I do know is that the alternative is a long-term occupation spelling, in the long run (too long for Ukrainians to benefit), Putin’s end. The option of an independent-neutral Ukraine offers Putin a way out and grants Ukrainians the best chance of freedom. If Austria, Sweden and Finland could build successful democracies on the basis of neutrality (during the Cold War), nothing prevents Ukraine to do likewise in the future.
Why is this patronizing? Because a neutral, demilitarized Ukraine along the lines of Austria, Sweden and Finland is exactly what the Russian Foreign Minister and the Kremlin spokesperson are requiring, as I talk about in my episode Ukranian Peace & US Petropocalypse. It’s not allowing Putin to save face in retreat, it’s fulfilling the international agreements whose violations have forced his hand.
Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s chief negotiator, who earlier told Russian state TV that, “Ukraine is offering an Austrian or Swedish version of a neutral demilitarized state, but at the same time a state with its own army and navy.”
Ukraine has not confirmed it is willing to discuss neutrality, though President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday that his country’s membership in NATO is essentially off the table. Ukraine’s potential membership in the transatlantic defense alliance has been a key concern for Russia and was used to justify the invasion…
Austria, which Russia has cited as a potential model, is bound to neutrality by its constitution, which prohibits entry into military alliances and the establishment of foreign military bases on its territory.
Yanis’ version of this—the EU pouring investments into Ukraine ahead of EU admittance, a sliver of demilitarized zone along the Russian border, Donetsk-Luhansk ‘administered’ by Kiev with the US guaranteeing minority rights—is a milksop, toothless panacea that wouldn’t be worth the paper it was written on. And Yanis, of all people, should know that from his dealings with the empire and its two-faced functionary flunkies on Greece.