Kiev junta: corrupt from top to bottom
The consequences of Ukraine’s trans-formation into a vassal state of NATO have been brought into sharp focus recently by the revelations of former wheeler-dealer Aleksandr Onishchenko. When capitalist thieves fall out their mutual recriminations can offer a useful glimpse into the sick and corrupt world which they all inhabit.
If you believe the Kiev junta, this former Ukrainian MP, currently holed up in Britain, is a criminal escaping justice. The way the newly coined National Anti Corruption Bureau tells it, Onishchenko organised the embezzlement of state funds in cahoots with the gas company UkrGasVydobuvannia, siphoning off about £50 million. Bureau detectives seized ten flats, nine houses, ten plots of land, thirty-nine bank accounts and eleven cars owned by him and his associates.
Sadly for the Kiev junta, however, the errant MP is now challenging his former boss, Poroshenko, to make out an extradition order, giving him the opportunity to tell his side of the story in an English court of law. He claims to have been hired by Poroshenko to further the president’s corrupt interests and to run dirty tricks campaigns against the president’s rivals.
Sadly for imperialism, these very public levels of corruption could prove counter-productive to its own game plan. IMF gauleiters tasked with smoothing the way for privatisation may not be best pleased to hear from Onishchenko that “Poroshenko is in control now [of] all the state’s companies. It’s the biggest business they’re doing. It’s a chemical factory in Odessa, a lot of state energy companies… They use this money for political [advantage] for voting, for supporting … they use this money to make Poroshenko stronger” (‘Poroshenko fuels war and corruption with IMF money’, RT, 6 December 2016). The IMF’s goal is supposed to be to facilitate the unfettered penetration of the Ukrainian economy by foreign monopoly capital. Whilst it is to be expected that the puppet government will cream off a percentage, the lion’s share is supposed to go to imperialism, not to the jackals!
Onishchenko’s testimony throws much light on the rampant corruption that reigns throughout the body politic. He told a Russian TV reporter that “The credits received from the IMF [were stolen]. There were so many contracts to pay inflated prices in budget money. It is simply being washed out of the budget and used by Poroshenko” (‘I rigged parliament votes for President Poroshenko’, RT, 5 December 2016). He also claimed to have bribed MPs to vote the right way in crucial votes, such as the vote to sack the public prosecutor and replace him with Poroshenko’s hireling.
Most politically destabilising of all is Onishchenko’s claim to have been given a $3m a month budget to destroy the political reputation of Poroshenko’s former prime minister and rival, Yatsenyuk, bragging that “I killed him in one year.” In a further useful lesson in how ‘popular protests’ can be turned on and off like a tap, he says he funded protest rallies against Yatsenyuk and paid ultra-nationalists to attack the govern-ment, helpfully explaining: “You have to pay people to come, and you have to pay the TV to cover it. The same as you have to buy advertising or something” (‘Bags full of bank notes and a plot to bring down a prime minister’, RT, 2 December 2016).
Onishchenko is doubtless no less of a liar and charlatan than his former gangland boss, Poroshenko, but the one clear picture that emerges from all this internecine mudslinging is of a society that has been profoundly corrupted by its abusive relationship with the EU, IMF and NATO. All that keeps its economy afloat are the millions of dollars periodically doled out by the IMF to pay for the cruel war of attrition against the people of the Donbass.
Corruption and war
It was a bloody fascist coup that catapulted the ultra-nationalist junta into power, and it is only by dragging out the ensuing bloody war that the junta can prolong its diseased existence. As Onishchenko says, “All the contracts for this war, even the smaller [ones], like weapons, or some stuff for the army, they [are going through] the companies which are close to [Poroshenko]. They are just [laundering] money … for them the war is like business.” In short, “Most of the money they use for the war. I think that Poroshenko is very interested to keep the war” (‘Poroshenko fuels war and corruption with IMF money’, RT, 6 December 2016).
Yet this war of national oppression being waged against the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, this same war which has proved personally so profitable to Poroshenko and his gang, and without which his junta could no longer count on the support of imperialism, is taking its toll on the Ukraine army. Whilst the junta continues to drag its feet over implementation of the Minsk accords to which it is a signatory, refusing to honour its pledge to enter into autonomy negotiations, its armed forces are obliged to fight a war of attrition which is as unwinnable as it is unjust.
Unlike the people of the Donbass, who are fighting a just war against fascism and national oppression and who can draw strength from the sure knowledge that their struggle is rooted in the revolutionary tradition of the brave partisan struggle of the Great Patriotic War, the Ukrainian army has nothing more inspiring to nerve them up than the bankrupt tradition of Stepan Bandera’s collaboration with the Nazis, so roundly seen off by the glorious Red Army. And now, as the war against the Donbass passes through its third winter, the corruption allegations and counter-allegations being freely traded at the highest levels of the Ukraine state can hardly be enthusing the ranks in their efforts.
A situation report from Lugansk on 13 December noted that a commission of inspection from Ukraine’s National Defence and Security Council has been dispatched to the front line to investigate the “increase in the number of crimes, the low moral and psychological level of personnel, the increased level of alcohol and narcotic substances intake, the growth of suicides rate and desertion of personnel in the Lugansk direction” (https://dnidefence.com/en/posts/lugansk-defense-situation-report-13.12.2016-2222/).
This is how matters stand now, whilst the US stands unequivocally behind the junta and identifies Putin as public enemy number one and whilst the US and Europe are unanimously committed to sanctions against the Russian Federation. A shift in these circumstances could rapidly alter the junta’s prospects however.
Trump: goodbye to sanctions?
Whilst EU members have agreed to extend anti-Russian sanctions for a further six months when they expire at the end of January, this fell short of the twelve-month extension demanded by some. Urging a longer extension, former NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen complained that “the six-month timeline is slowly becoming self-defeating. Every time sanctions have come up for renewal, the unity of European leaders has appeared a little weaker” (Anders Fogh Rasmussen, ‘Extend European sanctions to keep Russia in check’, Financial Times, 13 October 2016).
Indeed it is only by much arm twisting that member states like Hungary and Italy have been persuaded to sign up, painfully aware of the damage their economies are suffering thanks to Russian countermeasures restricting agricultural imports. Nor will many in Europe welcome the possible impact upon the transit of Russian gas to Europe of Kiev’s stiff-necked refusal to agree a contract with Russia over its own winter gas supplies. If Trump now decides, as seems possible, that it is time to pull the plug on sanctions, no leader in any European country is going to win an election by offering to continue the economic war against Russia unilaterally.
What the braggart Trump will actually do when he occupies the Oval Office remains to be seen, but he has already sent out enough signals to give the Kiev gang of warmongering oligarchs currently living high on the IMF hog plenty to worry about. The President-elect’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus recently told the Morning Joe programme that his boss was not yet sure whether he would keep sanctions on Russia in place; asked directly, Priebus said “You have to just wait and see.” Speaking more generally, Trump said back in April “If we can make a great deal for our country and get along with Russia, that would be a tremendous thing. I would love to try it.” (http://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2016/12/14/13940866/trump-rex-tillerson-sanctions-russia)
Exxon moves into the State Department?
Most disturbing of all for the junta (and Russophobes everywhere), Trump has selected for his incoming secretary of state the CEO of Exxon Mobil, Rex Tillerson. When the Crimean people voted to federate with Russia in 2014, Tillerson opposed the sanctions imposed upon Moscow. The reason is not hard to find: Exxon Mobil has heavily invested in Russian oil. From 2011 to 2013 the company concluded deals with state-owned Rosneft to drill for oil in the Arctic, one of the biggest untapped oil reserves left in the world, as well as tapping into Siberian shale oil and exploring the Black Sea. It is estimated that the Arctic oil alone would have been worth many billions of dollars stretching over many years. Tillerson was even awarded Russia’s Order of Friendship medal for his pains.
When sanctions hit in 2014, Exxon was in the process of sinking its first well in Arctic’s Kara Sea, sitting on a reputed 750 million barrels of oil. In September, after begging a grace period to wind down, Exxon quit the field and Rosneft mothballed the project. Exxon missed out on the fracking gravy train, so the Arctic bid had been seen as a way to catch up with rivals. With Exxon’s reserves of nigh-on 25 billion barrels, Exxon might seem to be sitting pretty. But because competition is so fierce, each company must demonstrate its ongoing ability to heap up ever fatter reserves in order to impress the market and keep share prices high. That is why missing out on the Russian Arctic deal has been so dangerous for Exxon, and why this company has more than a passing interest in seeing sanctions lifted, soonest, so that it can get back to the Arctic and carry on from where it left off.
If Trump decides to turn his back on the economic war with Russia, he will be met by the combined hostility of both the Democratic and the Republican party machines, plus the Pentagon, plus whichever sections within US ruling imperialist circles remain convinced that war with Russia (economic now, military sooner or later) is the least-worst gamble for US imperialism to weather the crisis of overproduction. But if the elevation of Trump means nothing else, it is that there is profound panic and contradiction within those ruling circles over what to do about anything, not least about the revolt starting to brew amongst the masses of which Trump is a freakish early portent.
Whether Trump engages in detente with Russia, or whether he opts to sink yet more millions of dollars into prolonging a war that imperialism cannot win, either way the people of Donetsk and Lugansk deserve the warmest support in their courageous struggle against national oppression.
Victory to the Donbass resistance!