Ukraine — the new Greece

THE INTERNATIONAL Monetary Fund and the European Union have wasted no time in showing their true face to the people of Ukraine, offering them a bailout of up to $27 billion — that comes with austerity conditions that make those imposed on Greece seem mild in comparison. Pensions will be cut by 50 per cent will domestic fuel prices will rise by 50 per cent.

According to Olga Kovitidi, the Deputy Prime Minister of Crimea, the tentative IMF agreement involves handing over Ukraine’s entire gas pipeline for free to the American company Chevron. She also claims that the owners of the Mariupol, Zaporizhzhya, and Dnipropetrovsk steel mills will be required to give up 50 per cent of the ownership stakes to German company Ruhr.

The Finnish subsidiary of Ruhr, according to Kovitidi, will inherit the Donbass coal industry.

She also said that Crimean leaders have discovered that Kiev has promised western financial interests that it will impose “unpopular measures in order to fill gaps in the Ukrainian budget”. One of these unpopular measures will be the rollback of mechanisms functioning as gas subsidies, forcing the prices of gas for municipal companies to increase by 50 per cent and double for private companies.

Kovitidi also said that “Electricity tariffs will be raised by 40 per cent, housing utility tariffs will be raised, too, gasoline excises will go up 60 per cent and transportation tariffs 50 per cent, while state support for childbirth will be cancelled, the free distribution of textbooks will be annulled at schools and the VAT (Value-Added Tax) relief will be scrapped in rural regions.”

A VAT is also being planned for medications. She also claims that there is a plan to sell off Ukraine’s very rich and fertile farmland to international corporations and foreign countries. Kovitidi states: “The planned annulment of the moratorium on the sale of farmland looks appalling. The selloff of Ukraine’s black soil zone, including to foreign countries, may have disastrous economic and social consequences.”

Added to all this, the Ukrainian people stand a good chance of ending up a pig-in-the-middle of a sanctions war between the West and Russia over the referendum in Crimea resulting in a landslide vote to secede from Ukraine and to revert to being part of Russia.

The chances of the unelected putsch government in Kiev surviving long are now very low while the chances of a civil war are growing.

Meanwhile the US ruling class is divided over Ukraine. The military industrial lobby is looking for “a new big war”, according to political analyst Patrick Hennigsen, to justify the vast US government expenditure on weaponry. This lobby is also baying for Ukraine to be brought into Nato as soon as possible.

Some say the “War on Terror” has been quietly dumped as an embarrassing failure and the old “Cold War” is being revived with Russia as the main target of the war mongers.

But opposed to this lobby are a growing number of big US industrialists who have vested interests in Russia and who will suffer much more from any sanctions their government imposes on Russia than the Putin government will.

Russia’s economy is a lot stronger than America’s — and it always has the choice of doing business with China instead.

Some in the US are realising just what a terrible mistake their government has made but the powerful influence of the military industrial complex allows no back-tracking.

US capitalism could break itself on this issue but in the meantime the people of Ukraine are suffering a nightmare they never imagined or deserved.