Thursday, May 1, 2014

Ukraine Updates May 1 , 2014 -- Another John Kerry controversy - Did he just confirm Putin's comment on the US being behind Ukraine " troubles " ? ? NATO must return to its original goal of fending off Russia, seizing the chance presented by the Ukrainian crisis to sever Europe from Moscow and move it closer to America, the US secretary of state said. Or else the bloc’s global leadership may be lost ....... Putin and Merkel continue phone discussions on stopping violence in Ukraine ........ News and views on Ukraine to ponder !

Late in the day news .....

Zero Hedge.....

Ukraine Admits "Helpless" Against Pro-Russian Forces; Reinstates Military Conscription

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Days after acting Defense Minister Mykhailo Koval warned "the Armed Forces are not ready for this," Ukraine has announced the return of military conscription. After Mr Turchynov admitted his security forces were 'helpless' to quash the pro-Moscow insurgency that has tightened its grip on the increasingly chaotic east of the country, Koval believes "if there were conscripts in military units, then the situation might be different." Of course, this is exactly what the IMF 'demanded' as yet more cities in the East fall to pro-Russian separatists. We can only imagine how pro-Russian 20-23 year old men will feel when they get their call-up papers to fight... against themselves.

As NRCU reports,
The Armed Forces of Ukraine could return military conscription, acting Defense Minister Mykhailo Koval has stated. "The army will be professional - this is the future of the Armed Forces. But now the Armed Forces are not ready for this. Therefore we might have to return 21-23-years-old men for a while, and they will serve the state," he told reporters in Kyiv on April 26.
According to Koval, the reckless policy of transition to contract service showed its negative sides, in particular, in Crimea. "If there were conscripts in military units, then the situation might be different,"the minister said.In addition, the minister said the Armed Forces of Ukraine have not created a good base for training and life-support of contract soldiers.
And then today, The Daily Mail confirms...
Embattled Ukraine today announced it was bringing back conscription as a mob of some 300 pro-Russian militants seized control of the prosecutor's office in Donetsk after overrunning police.
Coming on the heels of this...
But Mr Turchynov admitted his security forces were 'helpless' to quash the pro-Moscow insurgency that has tightened its grip on the increasingly chaotic east of the country.
And the previous details of the conscription plan...
The Ukrainian parliament has adopted a resolution recommending that acting President Oleksandr Turchynov resume mandatory drafting of conscripts into the country's army.
The resolution "on additional measures for strengthening Ukraine's defense capability in connection with Russia's aggression against Ukraine" was adopted on April 17.
Kyiv announced the last mandatory drafting of conscripts into the Ukrainian Army in October, saying that by the end of 2014 the Ukrainian armed forces would be comprised of professional soldiers only.
Ukraine -- which currently has the fifth-largest army in Europe, with 180,000 soldiers -- planned to decrease the total to 122,000 soldiers by 2017.
According to the old law, all male citizens between the ages of 18 and 27 must serve for one year in the national army or for 18 months in the Ukrainian Navy.

France Plays Russian Roulette: Why Europe Is Scared Of Sanctions Against Russia

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While everyone is by now fully aware just how dependent Europe is on Russia's energy supplies (and most are aware of the "nonsense" that the US will fill any gap if Russia steps up its actions - which Barroso said wouldn't happen because "Russia has self-interest not to play the energy card") but few are truly aware of the scale of contagious debt-driven defaultsthat could occur if the US (and a reluctant Europe) decide to undertake more aggressive economic sanctions, which, as Germany's Europe minister stated today, "are on the table." As the following chart ofEurope's domestic bank exposure to Russia show, Roth's warning that Russia's retaliation could mean "anything is possible," is a major problem for the Germans, Italians, and most of all - The French.
Germany is nervous...
Because they know what happens if this house of cards falls down...
As The Council for Foreign Relations notes,in the fourth quarter of last year, with tensions rising between Russia and the West over Ukraine, U.S., German, UK, and Swedish banks aggressively dialed down their credit exposures in Russia... but levels remain huge...
But as the graphic above shows, French banks, which have by far the highest exposures to Russia, barely touched theirs.  At $50 billion, this exposure is not far off the $70 billion exposure they had to Greece in 2010.  At that time, they took advantage of the European Central Bank’s generous Securities Market Programme (SMP) to fob off Greek bonds, effectively mutualizing their Greek exposures across the Eurozone.  No such program will be available for Russian debt. 

And much of France’s Russia exposure is illiquid, such as Société Générale’s ownership of Rosbank, Russia’s 9th largest bank by net-asset value ($22 billion).

With the Obama Administration and the European Union threatening to dial up sanctions on Russia, is it time for U.S. money market funds and others to start worrying about their French bank exposures?
The bottom line - it's all well and good to let the people starve, freeze, or stagnate amid a lack of energy supplies... but start fucking our banking exposure and Russian sanctions just got real

IMF Warns Ukraine: Fight For The East Or No Money

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IMF approved the $17bn tranched loan to Ukraine last night, Gazprom gets paid; Ukraine gets its cash; and the door's wide open for the US and EU to pour more 'controlling influence' into the divided nation... Except there's one thing:
Which, roughly translated, appears to mean go to war with pro-Russian forces (and thus Russia itself if Putin sees his apparent countrymen in trouble) or you don't get your money!
Some other items of note include:


Russia Today ....

Trans-Atlantic global leadership at stake in Ukraine – Kerry

Published time: April 30, 2014 07:07
US Secretary of State John Kerry (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)
NATO must return to its original goal of fending off Russia, seizing the chance presented by the Ukrainian crisis to sever Europe from Moscow and move it closer to America, the US secretary of state said. Or else the bloc’s global leadership may be lost.
John Kerry delivered the confrontational call in a speech to the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, DC. He said the stand-off in Ukraine had resulted from a “uniquely personally-driven set of choices” and is “a wake-up call” for NATO. He added that now the military bloc must turn the page on two decades of focusing on expeditionary operations and take a stand against“Putin’s Russia.”
“After two decades of focusing primarily on our expeditionary missions, the crisis in Ukraine now call us back to the work that this alliance was originally created to perform,” Kerry told the audience.
NATO’s original purpose was to oppose the Communist Soviet Union, giving the West the military backbone to the ideologically-driven stand-off with the East. Kerry described it as “to defend alliance territory and advance trans-Atlantic security.”
“Today, Putin’s Russia is playing by a different set of rules,” the secretary stated. “Through its occupation of Crimea and its subsequent destabilization of eastern Ukraine, Russia seeks to change the security landscape of Eastern and Central Europe.”
“Together we have to push back against those who try to change sovereign border by force. Together we have to support those who simply want to live as we do,” he added.
Federalization supporters gather outside the regional government headquarters in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, April 29, 2014. (Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko)
Federalization supporters gather outside the regional government headquarters in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, April 29, 2014. (Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko)

Kerry didn’t mention NATO’s own operations against Yugoslavia, which helped change sovereign borders in Europe. But he said NATO must not allow the situation continue to develop as it is, because Russia is challenging the position NATO members held since the end of the Cold War.
“Our entire model of global leadership is at stake. If we stand together, if we draw strength from the example of the past and refuse to be complacent in the present, then I am confident that NATO, the planet’s strongest alliance, can meet the challenges, can absolutely take advantage of the opportunities that are presented by crisis,” he stressed.
Kerry suggested three points on how trans-Atlantic partners can preserve their leadership and contain Russia. He said all NATO members must comply with alliance’s benchmark of 2 percent GDP defense spending, which is not observed by many European members of the alliance, including European economic powerhouse Germany.
“Clearly, not all allies are going to meet the NATO benchmark of 2 percent of GDP overnight or even next year,” Kerry said. “But it’s time for allies, who are below that level to make credible commitments to increase their spending on defense over the next five years.”
NATO members must also help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian energy and develop economic ties with America by speeding down the pipeline the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement, Kerry said.
The agreement would certainly give more access to European markets to some US corporations, as it would require freeing up European regulations on things like fracking, GMOs, copyright and finance.
Lithuanian soldiers and US soldiers stand in front of an aircraft of the US air force at the air force base near Siauliai Zuokniai, Lithuania, on April 26, 2014. (AFP Photo)
Lithuanian soldiers and US soldiers stand in front of an aircraft of the US air force at the air force base near Siauliai Zuokniai, Lithuania, on April 26, 2014. (AFP Photo)

Kerry’s policy remarks are in line with those made recently by some other members of the US political establishment. For example Senator John McCain, one of the most vocal critics of Russia, went on the same lines of presenting Russia’s stance on Ukraine a personal choice by President Vladimir Putin and calling for more defense spending in Europe in his speech at Vilnius University, Lithuania, on Wednesday last week.
“Considering what President Putin is doing right now in Ukraine, it is more important than ever for every NATO ally to spend at least 2 percent of its GDP on defense,” McCain said. “I'm pleased that Lithuania has pledged and is planning to do this, and the sooner you follow through on that commitment the better.”
The US and Russia have been trading accusations of meddling with Ukrainian crisis lately. Washington says Moscow is sowing dissent in eastern Ukraine, fanning up anti-government protests there. Russia says the US sponsored the February coup in Kiev, which brought into power the current Ukrainian central authorities and has been playing a dominant role in defining the policies of the new government.

Zero Hedge....

Putin: 'US Behind Ukraine Crisis From The Beginning...Now Leading It'

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Having decided counter-sanctions are useless for now, reflecting on the uselessness of Western sanctions against his nation, Vladimir Putin warned, however, that if they continue he would "have to think about who is working in the key sectors of the Russian economy" - in other words, protectionism is coming. However, it is his ominous words regarding Washington's involvement in the crisis that appear to have fallen on deaf ears among the mainstream media... though will be no surprise to ZH readers "what is happening now shows us who really was mastering the process from the beginning. But in the beginning, the United States preferred to remain in the shadow." As Seregy Lavrov also added later in the day, the way the situation in Ukraine is reported in mainstream media indicates that "unfortunately, the information machine of our Western colleagues is working at full capacity."

The US has been behind the Ukrainian crisis from the beginning, but was initially flying low, Russian President Vladimir Putin has told journalists, adding that he called on Kiev to establish an all-Ukrainian dialogue and find a compromise.

I think what is happening now shows us who really was mastering the process from the beginning. But in the beginning, the United States preferred to remain in the shadow,” Putin said, as quoted by RIA Novosti.

Putin stated that since the US has taken a lead role in resolving the political crisis in Ukraine, it is “telling that they originally were behind this process, but now they just have emerged as leaders” of it.

The "Maidan cookies" policy paves the way to a broader crisis, Putin warned, referring to US officials showing up in central Kiev and encouraging protesters during demonstrations.

“It is necessary to understand that the situation is serious and try to find serious approaches to the solution,” he said.

Putin said that he has called on Kiev to start an all-Ukrainian dialogue, adding that other countries should not be blamed for the crisis.

“[They should] treat equally the rights of those living in other areas of Ukraine, first of all, I mean, the east and southeast, establish a dialogue, find a compromise," he told journalists while speaking about the measures necessary to put an end to the crisis. “Here's what you need to do; searching for the guilty outside Ukraine is wrong.”
More "costs" as the West tries to wriggle its way from the under the pile it has created and scapegoat an unwilling to play Russia...?

Washington's approach to the events in Ukraine is not fueled by concerns about the fate of the crisis-torn state, but rather by the desire to prove it is still running the show worldwide, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

The way the situation in Ukraine is reported in mainstream media indicates that “unfortunately, the information machine of our Western colleagues is working at full capacity,”Lavrov said following talks with his Chilean counterpart, Heraldo Munoz, in Santiago.

The US is trying to shape public opinion in a specific manner “because they are not concerned by the fate of Ukraine in the first place, but have strong desire to prove that it’s them who decides how things should be – always and everywhere,” Lavrov stated.

Itar Tass.....

Putin calls stopping violence in Ukraine most important thing in conversation with Merkel

 May 01, 15:28 UTC+4
In March and in April the Russian president and the German chancellor spoke six times on the phone over the situation in Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

© ITAR-TASS/Alexei Nikolsky
MOSCOW, May 01. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that today the most important thing for the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis was the withdrawal of military units from the country’s southeast, cessation of violence and an extensive national dialogue. The Kremlin press service reported this on Thursday, adding that the conversation took place at the initiative of the German side.
“The discussion of the crisis socio-political situation continued. Merkel requested to provide assistance in the release of military observers from a number of European counties, including Germany, who were detained in the southeast of Ukraine,” the press service said.
“Putin stressed that the main thing today is to withdraw troops from the southeast regions of the country, stop violence, immediately launch an extensive national dialogue that would involve all the regions and political forces,” the Kremlin stressed.
“Both sides noted the importance of the maximum use of the mediator potential of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) throughout Ukraine,” the press service said.
The leaders of Russia and Germany arranged to hold another telephone conversation shortly.
Putin and Merkel permanently keep in touch in connection with the Ukrainian crisis: in March and in April the settlement of this situation was the subject of six telephone conversations.
On Wednesday, Vladimir Putin held a telephone conversation with British Prime Minister David Cameron. The leaders agreed that the political confrontation in Ukraine could be overcome exclusively by peaceful means.

Anti War ... Ukraine can't stop protests ( paging Nato .. )  , Kerry spouts off again.....

Ukraine Admits Troops ‘Helpless’ Against Eastern Protests

Troops Continue to Probe Sloyvansk for Ways to Attack

by Jason Ditz, April 30, 2014
Days after ordering the “liquidation” of the protest movement in the eastern provinces of the country, Ukraine interim President Oleksandr Turchinov has conceded now that his military is “helpless” to stop the protesters’ control of those areas.
Turchinov was quick to suggest that something untoward was responsible for the inability of his military to silence dissent, saying he believed some of the police were “actively colluding” with the protest movement.
Not that the military has completely given up on attacking protesters, and the troops are said to be “probing the defenses” erected around the outskirts of the city of Slovyansk, and managed to take down a couple of makeshift checkpoints there.
That the military has been trying for weeks to retake a city of a little over 100,000 people and now can’t even seem to get past the makeshift barricades on the outskirts does not seem to bode well for Turchinov’s predictions of an imminent World War 3-style war with Russia.

In “Private,” Kerry Claims Secret Proof of Russian Involvement in Ukraine

Taped Conversation Claims Interception of Phone Calls

by Jason Ditz, April 30, 2014
The Daily Beast continues to release leaked excerpts from Secretary of State John Kerry’s confidential comments at last week’s meeting of the Trilateral Commission, today focusing on a claim Kerry is said to have made about Russian involvement in the Ukraine.
While Kerry has publicly, repeatedly presented Russian involvement in the eastern Ukraine protests as “undeniable,” at the commission he claimed to have secret proof to back up those claims, in the form of intercepted Russian phone calls of “operatives taking their orders from Moscow.”
Such evidence would be potentially persuasive, assuming it actually exists. A previous US government release of proof collapsed fairly quickly when it was revealed the photographs were falsely labeled and didn’t prove what they were claiming to prove.
This round of proof has to be taken with a further grain of salt, as not only has the proof not been released for scrutiny, Kerry hasn’t even publicly affirmed that he is claiming the proof actually exists.

Grain War for Ukraine  ?  EX SKF and Consortium News


'Cui Bono' Over Ukraine: Monsanto Setting Up GMO Seed Corn Business in Ukraine

US President Obama sure works hard for biggest multinationals, as can be inferred from his recent sushi dinner with Japan's prime minister.

And Monsanto? His food safety 'czar', of all people, is a former Monsanto Vice President. Monsanto was also the winner of 27th Annual World Food Prize by the US State Department in 2013.

Several articles on GMO corn in Ukraine below, from the time the US was showing renewed interest in the domestic affairs in Ukraine, with Republican Senator John McCain greeting the head of one of the neo-Nazi groups and US Assistant Secretary of State Nuland handing out cookies to Kiev protesters in December 2013:

From Interfax Ukraine (11/5/2013; emphasis is mine):
Large Ukrainian agricultural associations have prepared draft amendments to the law on the state biosecurity system in creating, testing, transportation and use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) regarding the legalization of genetically modified seeds.

President of the Ukrainian Grain Association (UGA) Volodymyr Klymenko said at a press conference at Interfax-Ukraine that the relevant appeal to the president, the head of the Verkhovna Rada and the heads of parliamentary factions was signed by six agricultural associations.

"We could mull over this issue for a long time, but we, jointly with the associations, have signed two letters to change the law on biosecurity, in whichwe propose the legalization of the use of GM seeds, which had been tested in the United Stated for a long time, for our producers," he said.

According to the UGA president, currently the GM seeds of corn and soybeans are used in the country in spite of the legislative ban. Talking about the use of foreign experience in this field, Klymenko said that "we will never take someone's seeds and will never be able to study them,because this requires decades. Ukraine's way forward in this issue is either to agree or not to."According to the expert, the United States produces about 75% of corn and 95% soybeans from GM seeds. The European Union banned the cultivation of GM crops, but GM products are imported and used, in particular, in animal breeding, added Klymenko.

From Bloomberg News (1/6/2014; emphasis is mine):
China Rejecting U.S. Corn as First Shipment From Ukraine Arrives

China continued to reject corn cargoes from the U.S. that contained an unapproved genetically modified variety while accepting a first bulk-carrier shipment of the grain from Ukraine.

Genetically modified corn and corn-derived products totaling 601,000 metric tons were rejected in 2013, the official Xinhua News Agency reported today, citing the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. A Panamax-sized shipment of non-genetically modified corn from Ukraine entered the country on Dec. 6, according to a statement dated Dec. 25 on the website of state-owned China National Complete Engineering Corp.

The quarantine agency’s newest figure cited by Xinhua was 56,000 tons more than it announced on Dec. 19, showing the government’s continued screening of U.S. corn and and dried distillers’ grains, or DDGS, for the unapproved insect resistanr MIR 162 gene. Net corn sales to China from the U.S. in the seven days through Dec. 26 dropped by 116,000 tons from the previous week, according to a report on the website of U.S. Department of Agriculture.

China National Complete Engineering carries out overseas engineering projects, often funded by Chinese government, according to its website. It began to market grain from Ukraine last year under a contract that became effective December 2012, according to the Dec. 25 statement.

China’s Ministry of Agriculture said in May 2012 the country agreed to finance $3 billion worth agriculture projects in Ukraine in exchange for terms including rights to sell Ukrainian farm products.

Ukraine may export 18 million tons of corn in 2013-2014, tying it with Argentina as the third-biggest supplier behind the U.S. and Brazil, the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast in December.

From CNBC (3/18/2014; part, emphasis is mine):
...Now everything from an unstable currency to tight credit threatens the spring planting season, and the uncertain outlook for the Ukrainian economy is a longer-term threat to the prediction by some of the biggest agricultural companies that a future Ukrainian corn belt will rival the U.S. market.

Ukraine and, to a wider extent, Eastern Europe, are among the most promising growth markets for farm-equipment giant Deere, as well as seed producers Monsanto and DuPont, said Michael Cox, senior analyst and research director at Piper Jaffray. Ukraine's growth is becoming even more important, as it will serve to counterbalance the South American farm markets, where overseas growth has been increasing in places like Argentina and Brazil for these companies.

..."It's the Western corporate farm operators that are pushing these new techniques,'' Cox said. "The U.S. has made this same transition. It took several decades, but that's as the technology was being developed. Since the technology and tools are readily available now, the improvement in yields could progress much faster in Eastern Europe.''

DuPont already has a corn seed production plant in Ukraine. Monsanto is building a $140 million seed plant that isn't open yet. Last week DuPont said in a regulatory filing that first-quarter earnings forecasts would be "challenged'' by the Ukraine crisis, which has caused delays in shipments of corn seed from its plant in Ukraine.

Here's Monsanto's current job openings in Kiev, Ukraine.


Corporate Interests Behind Ukraine Putsch

Behind the U.S.-backed coup that ousted the democratically elected president of Ukraine are the economic interests of giant corporations – from Cargill to Chevron – which see the country as a potential “gold mine” of profits from agricultural and energy exploitation, reports JP Sottile.
By JP Sottile
On Jan. 12, a reported 50,000 “pro-Western” Ukrainians descended upon Kiev’s Independence Square to protest against the government of President Viktor Yanukovych. Stoked in part by an attack on opposition leader Yuriy Lutsenko, the protest marked the beginning of the end of Yanukovych’s four year-long government.
That same day, the Financial Times reported a major deal for U.S. agribusiness titan Cargill.
A screen shot of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland speaking to U.S. and Ukrainian business leaders on Dec. 13, 2013, at a session sponsored by Chevron.
A screen shot of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland speaking to U.S. and Ukrainian business leaders on Dec. 13, 2013, at an event sponsored by Chevron, with its logo to Nuland’s left..
Despite the turmoil within Ukrainian politics after Yanukovych rejected a major trade deal with the European Union just seven weeks earlier, Cargill was confident enough about the future to fork over $200 million to buy a stake in Ukraine’s UkrLandFarming. According to Financial Times, UkrLandFarming is the world’s eighth-largest land cultivator and second biggest egg producer. And those aren’t the only eggs in Cargill’s increasingly-ample basket.
On Dec. 13, Cargill announced the purchase of a stake in a Black Sea port. Cargill’s port at Novorossiysk — to the east of Russia’s strategically significant and historically important Crimean naval base — gives them a major entry-point to Russian markets and adds them to the list of Big Ag companies investing in ports around the Black Sea, both in Russia and Ukraine.
Cargill has been in Ukraine for over two decades, investing in grain elevators and acquiring a major Ukrainian animal feed company in 2011. And, based on its investment in UkrLandFarming, Cargill was decidedly confident amidst the post-EU deal chaos. It’s a stark juxtaposition to the alarm bells ringing out from the U.S. media, bellicose politicians on Capitol Hill and perplexed policymakers in the White House.
It’s even starker when compared to the anxiety expressed by Morgan Williams, President and CEO of the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council — which, according to its website, has been “Promoting U.S.-Ukraine business relations since 1995.” Williams was interviewed by the International Business Times on March 13 and, despite Cargill’s demonstrated willingness to spend, he said, “The instability has forced businesses to just go about their daily business and not make future plans for investment, expansion and hiring more employees.”
In fact, Williams, who does double-duty as Director of Government Affairs at the private equity firm SigmaBleyzer, claimed, “Business plans have been at a standstill.”
Apparently, he wasn’t aware of Cargill’s investment, which is odd given the fact that he could’ve simply called Van A. Yeutter, Vice President for Corporate Affairs at Cargill, and asked him about his company’s quite active business plan. There is little doubt Williams has the phone number because Mr. Yuetter serves on the Executive Committee of the selfsame U.S.-Ukraine Business Council. It’s quite a cozy investment club, too.
According to his SigmaBleyzer profile, Williams “started his work regarding Ukraine in 1992” and has since advised American agribusinesses “investing in the former Soviet Union.” As an experienced fixer for Big Ag, he must be fairly friendly with the folks on the Executive Committee.
Big Ag Luminaries
And what a committee it is — it’s a veritable who’s who of Big Ag. Among the luminaries working tirelessly and no doubt selflessly for a better, freer Ukraine are:
–Melissa Agustin, Director, International Government Affairs & Trade for Monsanto
–Brigitte Dias Ferreira, Counsel, International Affairs for John Deere
–Steven Nadherny, Director, Institutional Relations for agriculture equipment-maker CNH Industrial
–Jeff Rowe, Regional Director for DuPont Pioneer
–John F. Steele, Director, International Affairs for Eli Lilly & Company
And, of course, Cargill’s Van A. Yeutter. But Cargill isn’t alone in their warm feelings toward Ukraine. As Reuters reported in May 2013, Monsanto — the largest seed company in the world — plans to build a $140 million “non-GM (genetically modified) corn seed plant in Ukraine.”
And right after the decision on the EU trade deal, Jesus Madrazo, Monsanto’s Vice President for Corporate Engagement, reaffirmed his company’s “commitment to Ukraine” and “the importance of creating a favorable environment that encourages innovation and fosters the continued development of agriculture.”
Monsanto’s strategy includes a little “hearts and minds” public relations, too. On the heels of Mr. Madrazo’s reaffirmation, Monsanto announced “a social development program titled “Grain Basket of the Future” to help rural villagers in the country improve their quality of life.” The initiative will dole out grants of up to $25,000 to develop programs providing “educational opportunities, community empowerment, or small business development.”
The well-crafted moniker “Grain Basket of the Future” is telling because, once upon a time, Ukraine was known as “the breadbasket” of the Soviet Union. The CIA ranks Soviet-era Ukraine second only to Mother Russia as the “most economically important component of the former Soviet Union.”
In many ways, the farmland of Ukraine was the backbone of the USSR. Its “fertile black soil” generated over a quarter of the USSR’s agriculture. It exported “substantial quantities” of food to other republics and its farms generated four times the output of “the next-ranking republic.”
Although Ukraine’s agricultural output plummeted in the first decade after the break-up of the Soviet Union, the farming sector has been growing spectacularly in recent years. While Europe struggled to shake-off the Great Recession, Ukraine’s agriculture sector grew 13.7% in 2013.
Ukraine’s agriculture economy is hot. Russia’s is not. Hampered by the effects of climate change and 25 million hectares of uncultivated agricultural land, Russia lags behind its former breadbasket.
According to the Centre for Eastern Studies, Ukraine’s agricultural exports rose from $4.3 billion in 2005 to $17.9 billion in 2012 and, harkening the heyday of the USSR, farming currently accounts for 25 percent of its total exports. Ukraine is also the world’s third-largest exporter of wheat and of corn. And corn is not just food. It is also ethanol.
Feeding Europe
But people gotta eat — particularly in Europe. As Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors assessed in 2011, Ukraine is poised to become Europe’s butcher. Meat is difficult to ship, but Ukraine is perfectly located to satiate Europe’s hunger.
Just two days after Cargill bought into UkrLandFarming, Global Meat News (yes, “Global Meat News” is a thing) reported a huge forecasted spike in “all kinds” of Ukrainian meat exports, with an increase of  8.1% overall and staggering 71.4% spike in pork exports. No wonder Eli Lilly is represented on the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council’s Executive Committee. Its Elanco Animal Health unit is a major manufacturer of feed supplements.
And it is also notable that Monsanto’s planned seed plant is non-GMO, perhaps anticipating an emerging GMO-unfriendly European market and Europe’s growing appetite for organic foods. When it comes to Big Ag’s profitable future in Europe, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
For Russia and its hampered farming economy, it’s another in a long string of losses to U.S. encroachment — from NATO expansion into Eastern Europe to U.S. military presence to its south and onto a major shale gas development deal recently signed by Chevron in Ukraine.
So, why was Big Ag so bullish on Ukraine, even in the face of so much uncertainty and the predictable reaction by Russia?
The answer is that the seeds of Ukraine’s turn from Russia have been sown for the last two decades by the persistent Cold War alliance between corporations and foreign policy. It’s a version of the “Deep State” that is usually associated with the oil and defense industries, but also exists in America’s other heavily subsidized industry — agriculture.
Morgan Williams is at the nexus of Big Ag’s alliance with U.S. foreign policy. To wit, SigmaBleyzer touts Mr. Williams’ work with “various agencies of the U.S. government, members of Congress, congressional committees, the Embassy of Ukraine to the U.S., international financial institutions, think tanks and other organizations on U.S.-Ukraine business, trade, investment and economic development issues.”
As President of the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council, Williams has access to Council cohort — David Kramer, President of Freedom House. Officially a non-governmental organization, it has been linked with overt and covert “democracy” efforts in places where the door isn’t open to American interests — a.k.a. U.S. corporations.
Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy and National Democratic Institute helped fund and support the Ukrainian “Orange Revolution” in 2004. Freedom House is funded directly by the U.S. Government, the National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Department of State.
David Kramer is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and, according to his Freedom House bio page, formerly a “Senior Fellow at the Project for the New American Century.”
Nuland’s Role
That puts Kramer and, by one degree of separation, Big Ag fixer Morgan Williams in the company of PNAC co-founder Robert Kagan who, as coincidence would have it, is married to Victoria “F*ck the EU” Nuland, the current Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.
Interestingly enough, Ms. Nuland spoke to the U.S.-Ukrainian Foundation last Dec. 13, extolling the virtues of the Euromaidan movement as the embodiment of “the principles and values that are the cornerstones for all free democracies.”
Nuland also told the group that the United States had invested more than $5 billion in support of Ukraine’s “European aspirations,” meaning pulling Ukraine away from Russia. She made her remarks on a dais featuring a backdrop emblazoned with a Chevron logo.
Also, her colleague and phone call buddy U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt helped Chevron cook up their 50-year shale gas deal right in Russia’s kitchen.
Although Chevron sponsored that event, it is not listed as a supporter of the Foundation. But the Foundation does list the Coca-Cola Company, ExxonMobil and Raytheon as major sponsors. And, to close the circle of influence, the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council is also listed as a supporter.
Which brings the story back to Big Ag’s fixer — Morgan Williams.
Although he was glum about the current state of investment in Ukraine, he’s gotta wear shades when he looks into the future. He told the International Business Times, “The potential here for agriculture/agribusiness is amazing … production here could double.  The world needs the food Ukraine could produce in the future. Ukraine’s agriculture could be a real gold mine.”
Of course, his priority is to ensure that the bread of well-connected businesses gets lavishly buttered in Russia’s former breadbasket. And there is no better connected group of Ukraine-interested corporations than American agribusiness.
Given the extent of U.S. official involvement in Ukrainian politics — including the interesting fact that Ambassador Pyatt pledged U.S. assistance to the new government in investigating and rooting-out corruption — Cargill’s seemingly risky investment strategy probably wasn’t that risky, after all.