Peter Lavelle is joined by:

Alexander Mercouris, writer on legal affairs and analyst

Christopher Walker, former bureau chief of the Times in Moscow

Charles Bausman, editor of the new website Russia Insider

 

Soundbites

CB: “It’s slipped out of the headlines a little bit in the mainstream media but it’s definitely going to come back because this story is much-much bigger than people have even realised until now. The country is literally coming apart at the seams…

“One thing I strongly believe about Ukraine is that it’s going to turn into a much-much bigger debacle for US policy makers. The western media hasn’t really understood what’s happening there and it’s much-much worse than they ever thought it would be.”

AM: “From the western point of view this story has gone horribly wrong. If you go back to what happened in February, there were very high expectations that Ukraine was going to become this European country that was going to associate with the European Union, distance itself from Russia, establish a democracy and all the rest and that has not happened. We’ve had an economic collapse. We’ve also had a civil war which the government in Kiev has lost. We’ve had the secession of the Crimea. All kinds of other problems that are now brewing with the eastern regions… This isn’t a story that I think western media, and indeed even western governments, have really managed to get on top of. They don’t really know what to say and how to explain it.”

CW: “The fairy-tale has turned into a nightmare, so let’s forget it and turn the page…

“To be fair to the ever-hungry 24 hour media, we have got, one – an enormous plague that seems to be spreading over here from Africa and has got everybody in a state of absolute panic; two – you’ve got the Middle East not only in its usual flames but much worse, and three – a huge terrorist plot discovered only this week in London, in which Tony Blair was going to be blown to pieces – a lot of people might like that, but not everybody who writes the headlines…

“I’m old enough to remember Northern Ireland when it started. When the first solider was killed they stopped editions of then-papers to put in extra pages and the whole thing went on and on, and there was a wonderfully titled movie on one of our drama programmes – Last Night, Yet Another Soldier. It’s started to get one paragraph and Sir Reginald Maudling, who was one of our more corrupt Tory home secretaries who was known to say, when he got on a plane, so fed up with the place – ‘well, at least it’s an acceptable level of violence there’… That’s really how the newsrooms are seeing Ukraine at the moment. They are not seeing the politics and economics – they want the bang-bang.”

CB: “The media’s lack of desire to discuss this now and that things hadn’t turned out the way they were hoping they would, this fairy-tale… it says a very important thing about how the media has approached this, because they’ve approached the Ukraine story with their typical ideological blinders and the major blinder that these people have is that they are liberals and they think in terms of ‘rainbows’ and idealistic ideas about how wonderful the world could be if only people would do what they’re told. That narrative was wrong from the beginning, and it was very inaccurate. Now when things are spiralling out of control and accelerating in terms of unpleasantness – they honestly do not understand what is going on and they don’t know what to say. So it’s not any degree of shame on their part; they’re just having to reassess all of their assumptions and start over. I think there’s going to be a pause and then they’re going to come back and say – ‘well, actually there’s some other stuff going on here which we didn’t realise at first’…”

AM: “The Ukraine is going to get much worse and it is probably, in the end, the biggest story of them all in the sense that, if this thing turns into a real disaster in the fringes of Europe, we have a potential there for all sorts of things going wrong in the Russia-West relationship and of course, we have major economic impacts from this and major political impacts too.

“It is dangerous that this story is not being covered properly because western publics and western elites are not being prepared for the disaster that is coming…”

CW: “The European Union is really reverting to the mess that it was in before the Ukraine crisis arose – it’s very-very serious. They haven’t got time really for dealing with Ukraine.

“It’s a sign of the most severe and real problems in Europe at the moment – economic problems, organisational problems - but they are not interested in the Ukrainian business.

“Fingers were burnt, and I know there are many differences with the Arab Spring. They are beginning to realise ‘oh my god, we backed the wrong horse again!’ We did it in the Middle East and now we’ve done it in what they might call the Near East.

“The only story that has got any traction here in the last few days after weeks of silence is the fact that the ultra-Nazis in Kiev are causing a great deal of trouble again. They have actually got the Maidan into sort of action after its somnolence.

“It’s a bad story all around – people have got enough bad stories! They are desperate! Even the future Queen of England has been sick producing her baby! They can’t write about that either!”

CB: “Germany is very much a consensus society and their media tends to walk and lockstep either in one direction or the other. There isn’t a lot of debate with contradicting points of view. You look at their history; they’ve been this way before in the past, very much so. Secondly, they’ve got a serious problem where their journalistic elite is seriously infiltrated with secret service US operations – I mean, it sounds absolutely crazy to be talking about this and that this could be happening today, but there’ve been some serious revelations over the last few weeks with top German journalists claiming that this is the case, that people are being paid off to follow a certain line…

“The German public is very far away from what the German media is telling them. It’s turning into a political problem – you can already see politicians and media executives back-paddling and trying to get out of an embarrassing situation. I tell you, there’s going to be a straw that breaks the camel’s back and when it happens, Germany is going to turn on a dime and they’re going to really drop those Nazis in Ukraine.”

AM: “It isn’t going to be a meaningful election in any democratic sense. The Communist Party has been banned; all kinds of people who are considered opponents have been violently assaulted, they’ve been thrown into litter bins and there are all sorts of awful things happening, and of course, the Party of the Regions, which a year ago was the Ukraine’s biggest party, has been effectively dismembered. We have a situation where there is a virtual media blackout on any opposing voices.

“The problem with these elections in terms of the way the West sees them is that they will deliver an outcome. Given how much the West has invested in Ukraine ideologically and politically it is almost obliged to interpret that outcome as a democratic one even though to any objective observer it isn’t.

“These people – and we’re talking about Victoria Nuland and all her fellow travellers in the media and all the rest - are never the people who have to face the consequences for these disasters. That has been true of the Middle East and it is going to be true of Ukraine as well.”

CW: “This blaming of the Russians is a growing phenomenon and it’s going hand in hand with the total way that Ukraine has been swept under the media carpet. The new black is to say – ‘Putin’s trying to rebuild his empire’, it’s all happening on the fringes and Ukraine is just a part of it! They’ve sort of, as it were, gone down a different path.

“You’ve got to remember another thing when talking about the media and even the great Mr Murdoch – whose pound I once used to share - they haven’t got the money! They can’t even get enough people into Syria and afford to keep them there let alone wipe their hands of those guys and girls who were covering Ukraine in a reasonably fair play at one time and then they started getting these names like Donetsk – ‘where’s that? Oh god, we can’t find it on the web! Oh let us pull her out and send her somewhere that we know about!’

“You should have given him [Chris Cuomo] a map – he wouldn’t have found it [East Ukraine] anyway…”

CB: “Russia’s playing the long-game and they’re just watching the West tie itself up in knots and make one disastrous mistake after another, and they’re just going to come in and sweep the situation up within six months or a year. I predict that the country of Ukraine will by the time this thing is over will be largely back in the Russian camp with perhaps the exclusion of some Nazi regions in the far west.

“I think she [Nuland] has a huge amount to lose – not only she, but also Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s hopes for winning… There are plenty of American politicians who have lost their jobs and ruined their careers by getting foreign policy wrong – you can start with Lyndon Johnson and you can go back to Jimmy Carter. The Republicans are going to make such an issue out of this in the next election – that the democrats totally screwed this up.

“It’s going to be a much-much worse and bigger situation within a year and the US would have really lost influence in the Ukraine. They would’ve lost control of entirely the whole country and they would have really irritated – really-really-really irritated their European allies. France and Germany are going to be furious with the US within a short amount of time for having dragged them into this boondoggle. I don’t that message is getting out that much. I don’t think people realise just how much egg the US is going to have on its face when this whole thing plays out.”

AM: “Ukraine is not a faraway country of which Russians knows little. It is a country where people speak the same language as they do, go to the same churches as they do, they look like them and were part of the same country only a comparatively short time ago. So what they are seeing in Russia, and we’re talking about ordinary people now, every day, on their television screens night after night, week after week, people like themselves being bombed, attacked, killed, and the West seemingly cheering it on, blaming and sanctioning Russia for it. It is entirely understandable that at a popular level it is creating an anti-western reaction amongst ordinary Russians and it would be incredible if it didn’t.”

CW: “In the short-term the Poroshenko regime in Kiev is quite stable. In the long-term, it is totally unstable.”

CB: “It’s going to have a very short lifespan. It’s not a long-term thing and it I think he [Poroshenko] could be out within a couple of months.”

AM: “I don’t think Mr Poroshenko will be here for very long. Look at how unstable the Ukraine is! It’s had six defence ministers in the course of a year – a calendar year… Mr Poroshenko is the third person to hold the office of president this year. We have this constant volatility in the Ukraine and if you look at the politics, Mr Poroshenko and the people who support him – I think it is unsustainable.”

CW: “She [Nuland] is an awful, not an aberration, but a loud-mouthed fool. I hope she is forgotten before Poroshenko is!”

(VoR)