Tuesday, January 25

The Seven O'clock Intelligence Briefing

"Pundita, I don't know which upset me more, the Friday State Department briefing about Ukraine or Jamie Glazov's symposium on Ukraine. I have never read discussion that is so far from the main point, so full of inaccuracies, and which omits so many key facts--and that's just from Rachel Ehrenfeld's side [in the symposium] and she was making an honest attempt at objectivity! As for [John] Radzilowski, who's clearly an agendist, his discussion about Ukraine and Europe's role is so far off base it's frightening. You were right; the United States is left holding the bag for the machinations in Ukraine while Putin lectures us and western Europe shakes its head and says tsk tsk."
[Signed] Ann in Cincinnati"

Dear Ann:

If you really want to get your blood pressure elevated read Jonathan Steele's analysis of the Ukraine situation.

He writes, "The European Union has been weak and divided, missing the chance to exert a strong European line in the face of US strategic meddling."

Weak and divided, huh? Has this man never heard of the EBRD? He's right about the meddling "template" that's been used but not a word about George Soros's role so of course not a word about Soros's connection with State.

Even Stephen Cohen, who is remarkably objective in his analyses of Russia and other FSU countries, tiptoes around the subject of State in his latest writing about Ukraine for The Nation. It's the US media's cold war, not State's, to hear Dr. Cohen tell it. He did briefly mention Soros and the State Department during one discussion with John Batchelor in late November 2004. So, it could be that the editorial board of The Nation, which has received funding from a Soros organization, is reluctant to bring up the S word in a critical light.

However, Soros is not central to the discussion; he became so influential because his money and contacts were useful to the NATO-oriented viewpoint of State and other NATO member governments. And as my last post mentioned the US Establishment media outlets that Cohen complains about in his latest writing are also oriented to the NATO view. That means they cannot automatically be considered reliable sources if you want to know what's going on in Ukraine or any FSU country.

I've mentioned before that to pick up the thread one has to go back carefully over what happened to Kuchma. It might also be illuminating to study how the World Bank's PAL project, which was greatly concerned with assigning title to land in Ukraine, impacted the issue of land ownership in western Ukraine and along the Ukraine-Polish border.

This is a guess, but the property title issue might be a significant part of the story underlying clan wars that broke out and which helped Kuchma's fall from grace in Washington. Keep in mind that under the Soviet system the people did not have their own land. Once the Bank decided to apply De Soto's observations to Ukraine, this might have touched off an uproar.

I repeat, I am guessing. In any case, arguing about what the US and Europe did or didn't do to influence the Ukraine election is arguing after the fact. The ship had left the pier before the time Yushchenko threw his hat in the ring. Again, the real story is found in events leading up to Kuchma's fall from grace.

This said, Rachel Ehrenfeld got in the last word during the symposium and her word is on the money--literally.

Ehrenfeld: I agree, the people of Ukraine have the right to determine their own future for better or worse. But these elections were anything but fair, and contributing to the fraud were large contributions from the West–according to thousands of “orange demonstrators” who were paid $150 per day (!) for weeks, to stage demonstrations...Thus, the Ukrainian people know, first hand, that democracy can be bought. Is this the lesson the West wanted them to have? These elections left many Ukrainian confused. And rightly so. When mental hospitals are used to falsify election results, what can you expect?

I too, wish the Ukrainians democracy, freedom, and free market economy. However, I think that the way the regime change was enforced, will make their goal more difficult to achieve.

Think about the dollar figure Rachel mentions, applied to a country where the monthly income ranges between $30 and $120. For $150 a day those Ukrainian demonstrators would have voted for Donald Duck.

The debate between Radzilowski and Ehrenfeld is instructive reading for Americans trying to get better informed about international affairs. They both get in their licks. Radzilowski has thought-provoking observations about the wisdom of trying to bring several FSU countries into the European Union. However, the omissions and distortions that upset you can be applied to a major flaw in US news reporting.

Rachel is a good analyst but her expertise is money laundering. I am not familiar with Radzilowski and haven't bothered to research him, but he's surely an expert on East Europe/EU politics, from his discussion during the symposium.

If you put those two areas of expertise together and let them debate the Ukraine, well of course there's going to be gaps and distortions in the picture.

If you throw in Stephen Cohen, who is a historian specializing in FSU countries, you'd have illuminating background and analysis but still a narrow, distorted picture of the recent situation.

Add an expert on the lending to Ukraine by West Europe's version of the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and you'd start getting the picture. The EBRD (of which US is a member) is the largest single investor in former Soviet countries.

If you throw in a World Bank director who oversees departments making Bank loan projects for Ukraine and an IMF director specializing in the region, things would start clarifying with amazing speed.

Toss in a summary of the history and makeup of Polish, Russian, Ukrainian clans and the oligarchs/crime bosses with the greatest interest in Ukraine.

Add an "oil patch" expert--someone who knows the oil and gas business.

Add detailed information about the State Department's "America Desk" involvement in the Ukraine during the past decade. [See Pundita posts on the desk.)

Last but not least corral someone who can explain in plain English what the BIS (Bank for International Settlements) has been telling Russia and Ukraine during the past two years about their balance of payments situation.

Then you'd have the picture, after you integrated all those knowledge bases. It might seem that the analysis and data collection (or expert collection) I've listed are daunting; they are, if you have to gather them all within a very short period of time and start analyzing from zero. But heck, this situation with Ukraine had been building for more than a decade.

News producers would argue that I'm talking about intelligence analysis and data collection, which don't constitute news. The argument is sophistry. Innumerable incidents during any 24 period can be called "daily news." Yet people don't turn to the news media to get a hodgepodge of data. They want to be informed about situations as long as they're paying attention to a news show.

Think of the amount of time Americans have wasted reading and watching the skewed news stories about Ukraine since November and the daffy editorials Cohen lambastes in his latest writing. Think of all the time we've wasted listening to American Talking Heads and congressionals argue about Ukraine when their opinions are so poorly informed they're on the moon.

If our news media had done their job during the past decade we could have had the story straight after only a few minutes of taking in the news about the Ukraine election. They didn't do their job. So now any American who wants to know what was really going on in Ukraine has to invest hundreds of hours in research and become an intelligence analyst.

But if the American news Establishment wants to split semantic hairs, okay let's rename the Seven O'clock News. We'll call it, "The Seven O'clock Intelligence Briefing."

That would put the news media on notice that we expect them to do the job they're getting paid for, so the rest of us don't have to add their job to our daily To-do list.

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