Thanks to Iraq’s latest woes, it’s getting pretty hard to pay attention to all that unrest in the former Soviet Union.

Remember those poor Ukrainians? All they want is to be independent and left alone. Or at least that’s what they claim.



In truth, many also want natural gas from Russia, but simultaneously desire access to Europe’s energetic economy and open borders. Conversely, some prefer closer ties with their Russian ancestry and that skimpy but real safety net that comes with the Russian economic system. Still others, it’s painful to say, wish to reprise the fascist governance of the Nazis and early post-war eras.

But that’s just the Ukrainians themselves. Other, more powerful, forces have their own plans for the country, and are mobilizing. The United States has already stationed ground and air patrols in Poland, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. The Pentagon believes Russia is heavily arming Ukrainian separatists and estimates that as many as 50,000 Russian troops are now stationed on the border.

And now, Washington sees the conflict as heralding a promising new market for American fracked natural gas.

Also, it looks like Ukraine is splitting into separate geographic segments. A U.S.-backed billionaire won election to Ukraine’s presidency, though only people in the western half of the country seem to have voted. In the eastern half, Russia orchestrated a referendum, which overwhelmingly called for the independence of that region.

The Western segment seems pretty much under the control of Ukraine’s amateur army, supported by the CIA, various U.S. mercenary forces, and the fascist militias who for some reason thrive in that region. After this faction massacred all those pro-Russian protesters in such startlingly brutal fashion in the Odessa Trade Union Building, the starch seemed to go out of the opposition.

Anyhow, it sure looks like the Obama administration helped to forcibly drive out a duly elected corrupt pro-Russian government and replaced it with an interim and fascist-laden corrupt government.

And a newly elected third government has prudently assigned the fascists to important but lower visibility posts. Will this proxy U.S.-NATO amalgam, led by “chocolate king” Petro Poroshenko, be able to consolidate control over the Russian-leaning East? Probably. In time, we can supply the massive money and guns to eventually do the trick, unless the Russians get really testy. This could happen with their arch enemy right on their border.

Is this really a resumption of the Cold War? Mostly, no, because of the lack of a communist context. But in the sense that the Cold War was always chiefly about empire, yes indeed. The West gaining control of Ukraine reduces Russia’s empire and expands ours. It’s like a giant game of Risk.

Even Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin are mere chess pieces, just like those Ukrainians whose names we’re unlikely to learn.

Whether the conflict is in Europe, the Middle East, or anywhere else, it’s the empire that calls the shots.

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William A. Collins

OtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut.

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