Ukraine: A Clash of Capitalisms

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Special for The Greanville Post & Cyrano’s Journal Today


Yeltsin: the personification of a corrupt party bureaucrat, he delivered Russia to the tender mercies of brutal free-market capitalism, a phase in which economic consultants like Jeffrey Sachs acted as the new Jesuits for the poisoned paradigm. (Click to enlarge)

[W]orld War I has been interpreted in a variety of ways, from the “Accidental War” to a continuation of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.  But at its base it was a conflict between three imperial powers working together, Great Britain, France, and Russia, against the other three major ones of the time, Prussia, the Ottoman Empire, and the grandiloquently named Austro-Hungarian Empire.  World War II has also been characterized in various ways, from the “fight against fascism” to the battle to protect and defend “freedom and democracy.”  In reality, at least from the time that France quit, it was the battle of Great Britain to defend its Empire, then the battle of the Soviet Union to defend its territorial integrity and its dismantlement into the jaws of a rapacious, genocidal Nazi Germany, and finally, with the US entry into the war, the first major stage in the establishment of the US World Empire.

Similarly, the current conflict in and around Ukraine has been variously characterized, from the battle of Ukraine to wrest itself from the control of a “rapacious” Russia, to a battle of the Russian-speaking Ukrainians of the Eastern part of the country to preserve their culture and a certain degree of political independence, to an attempted takeover by Russia of Eastern Ukraine, beyond the Crimea and its naval base at Sevastopol (which just happens to be Russia’s most important warm-water port and has been in Russian hands for centuries).

What is actually happening on the ground in Ukraine is a matter of intense international debate.  Certainly the Western Powers, led by the United States dominate the narrative, at least in the United States.  But we do know about certain facts on the ground, either because even the Western media have reported on them (emphasis on the “even”), or because certain stories have been dropped, and quite precipitously, in the Western media, so the alternate possible interpretations are very likely true.  So we do know that the former Constitutionally elected (and quite corrupt and incompetent) government of Ukraine was overthrown in a coup, not because of its corruption and incompetence, but because the former President decided that if Ukraine was going to enter into a trade pact with other countries he might as well at least explore other options beyond the European Union, namely the one offered by Russia.


Mikhail Prokhorov, President of the Onexim Group. At 44, with Est. Net Worth: $17.9 billion, and with his fingers in Metals, gold, real estate, he typifies the aggressive newly-minted Russian oligarch. As is true for his fellow billionaires around the world, stupid self-indulgence runs deep, he just moved to acquire a U.S. basketball team, the New Jersey Nets for $200 MM. It remains to be seen if his class is just out to ape Western plutocrats or if Russian nationalism and loyalties run deeper.

We know that in the early days of the coup, openly and self-acknowledged fascist elements of the Ukrainian opposition were active in the coup and now occupy key posts in the post-coup government.  (John [Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran, Bomb Syria, bomb everything] McCain famously posed in photographs with them.) We can assume that the sniper-massacre in the early days of the coup came from the fascists, acting as agent-provocateurs, because that story was dropped precipitously by the Western media.  The same can be said for the burning alive of protesters against fascist elements (in Odessa), and the shooting down of MH-17, which stories also disappeared precipitously from the Western media when real facts began to emerge.

We also know that from the early days of what can be described as the Ukrainian civil war, both the separatist fighters and the Russians have been proposing negotiations, obviously with a goal of creating some kind of Federal republic, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said, along the lines of Germany.  This was not widely reported in the Western media.  Rather the separatists were termed “terrorists,” as they were by the usurping Ukrainian government, and it was always Russia that was the “aggressor,” even while the Western Ukrainian offensive in the East was rolling towards Russia.

It was only when things turned around militarily, either without Russian assistance (the Organization for European Cooperation and Security itself said that there was no evidence of same), or with it at some level [while the NATO side had been all along covertly and openly helping and advising the Kiev regime from the start] that all of a sudden Ukraine was coming to the negotiating table.  And so now there is a cease-fire, although you can be sure that the same false-flag operators who created the sniper-massacre that was first blamed on opponents of the coup and then shot down MH-17 trying to make it appear that either Russians did it or Ukrainian separatists armed with Russian missiles did it, will do their damnedest to undermine the cease-fire and further negotiations for peace.  That peace would necessarily be based on Federalism, the possibility of splitting the country economically between the European Union and Russia’s mini-EU, the Eurasian Union, the preservation of the Russian language as an official one, at least in the East, and so on and so forth.  But what is possibly of even more interest is what is going on here between Russia and Western Imperialism, led by the United Sates.

Since the end of the Second World War, with the elimination of the Japanese Empire and the soon to be total decline of the British and French Empires, the United States has become the next world Empire.  (The Prussian, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian Empires had gone out of business at the end of the First World War, and the Russian Empire had become the Soviet Union, but without further imperial designs.  Under Mussolini, Italy had tried to become imperial, but failed miserably, even before World War II came to a conclusion.)  US-led capitalist imperialism has spread all around the world, like a monstrous metastasis, more by economic dominance and the primacy of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency than by the physical holding of land in large amounts.  However, the US does have about 750 military bases scattered around the world and so retains a military presence just about everywhere, except for Russia, China and the Indian sub-continent. [And, as many alternate historians and journalists have documented, since the end of WW2 the US has not been shy in using its power and intelligence tentacles to stage coups in scores of nations, invariably supplanting the target government with an anti-democratic dictatorship entirely subservient to Washington. This route to empire has become a perfected art in the last 25 years with the rise of even more hypocritical forms of destabilization from “Orange” revolutions, right-to-protect interventions, and so on, to outright massive invasions under false pretenses, as we saw more recently in Iraq.—Eds]


Russia is famous for its oligarchs – and unsurprisingly so. Not only does it have a lot of them – Moscow is home to more billionaires than any other city on Earth – they also have a high profile abroad, thanks to their extravagant lifestyle and, increasingly, their interest in football. IMAGE: Yuri Milner, Russia’s pre-eminent high-tech tycoon. (

But US imperialism is entering the same stage of decline that every other imperial power since Rome has encountered (see Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Random House, 1987).  It has spread too far for the power of its military to maintain it, its expansion has been financed by debt and it refuses to support the continued expansion by taxing those who can afford to pay, it is losing allies, and in the case of the US it is more and more focusing on profit-making through the trade in pieces of paper and through dominance of the international supply of non-renewable energy supplies. With the dominance of the profits-at-all costs sector of the ruling class at home, domestically the US is also facing a rising Permanent Army of the unemployed, an exploding health care delivery system, widespread de-industrialization, a failing educational system financed more and more by private debt rather than government expenditure, a rapidly deteriorating infra-structure, from water supply to transportation, and so on and so forth.

But that doesn’t mean that capitalist imperialism does not continue to try to expand at all times.  The problem for the US is that the last sentence used to end with the “at all costs” phrase, but the US can no longer afford them.  Nevertheless, it is still trying, using both NATO and the EU to further its aims, through entry into Ukraine, in Russia’s backyard.  For one thing, Ukraine apparently has huge reserves of natural gas that can be released by the environment-destroying process of “fracking.”  For another, the Ukrainian venture, clearly spelled out by the “Yats’ is our guy” quote from the neo-con State Department functionary, Virginia Nuland and the work to undermine the then government of Ukraine by the mis-named “National Endowment for Democracy,”  clearly could be used to provoke Russia, starting with the threat to Sevastopol.

Russian capitalism is in the very early stages of development.  With the stealing of the productive resources of the Soviet people that had belonged to them collectively under the Soviet Union, facilitated by the US stooge, the alcoholic Boris Yeltsin, there was the instant creation of a 19th-centurty type of “Robber Baron capitalism,” dominated as it is by what are called the “Oligarchs” (“billionaires” in Western parlance).

It is hard to be sure how well the US interests predicted what the Russian response to the Ukrainian coup would be, but it could have certainly been predicted to be what it was, especially since the naval base at Sevastopol, held by Russia only under a long-term lease from Ukraine, was threatened.  Then the US would be able to move to economic sanctions.  In this space last Spring I wrote that I thought that the objective for the whole venture from the US point of view was to get the Oligarchs to overthrow the Russian nationalist Vladimir Putin and install a leadership that, with their cooperation, would open up all of Russia, along with its immense energy reserves, to US-led Western Imperialism, with the immature Russian robber-baron capitalism gradually being taken over.  In other words, two capitalist ruling classes are engaged in an immense battle, in a very small space, using very small proxy militaries, for a very large prize.

The United States is in the declining phase of Capitalist Empire (and that shall be the subject of another column down the road).  It can survive for a bit longer (in historical terms) only by gobbling up more resources and having access to more low-paid workers for manufacturing.  Russian robber-baron capitalism is clearly on the upswing.  Presently it has its huge energy reserves.  It has an industrial base dating from the time of the Soviet Union.  It is in desperate need of modernization but that can certainly happen if it is left alone.  Putin is no saint and neither is the Russian ruling class he serves a collection of them.  But he, and so far the Russian ruling class, is standing up to the US.

And so, if the possible survival of the world as we have known it until fairly recently, is dependent upon the decline, if not the fall, of US imperial power, then at this juncture at least we do have to hope the Russian robber-baron capitalism can win its struggle-by-proxy with US-led imperialist capital, in Ukraine.  Of course, for the long-term survival, not only of our species, but all the rest of the still-surviving ones on Earth, we then have to move on to the replacement of all brands of capitalism.  But that is another story.


Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being a Senior Editor, Politics, for The Greanville Post, (, he is Editorial Director and a Contributing Author for The Political Junkies for Progressive Democracy (TPJfPD) magazine (; a regular Columnist for BuzzFlash@Truthout (,; a “Trusted Author“ for Op-Ed News (; a Contributor to The Planetary Movement (; and an occasional contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter.

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