Posts Tagged ‘Ukraine and Russia’

Is peace in Ukraine even possible?

May 18, 2022

Peace does not require two individuals or two nations to like or trust each other. Peace requires that two sides decide the price of war is greater than the price of peace.

Defense analysts in Washington, D.C., are talking with relish about the possibility of Russia being drawn into a self-destructive quagmire war in Ukraine, like the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

I’m sure Vladimir Putin and Volodomor Zelensky are aware of these discussions. I don’t imagine that Putin wants Russia to be bled dry, or that Zelensky wants his country to be offered up as a sacrifice to U.S. geopolitical strategy.

Now maybe one side or the other thinks it can win a quick and decisive victory.  But, as things stand now, the USA is willing to provide Ukraine with modern weapons as long as it continues fighting, and China is committed to preventing Russia from going under.  So a quick end seems unlikely.

The alternative is some sort of compromise peace, in which neither side suffers complete defeat but each side gives up some of what it wants. In the previous post, I speculated on the possible elements of such a peace.

The odds are against such an agreement anytime soon. Both sides are in too deep, and have shed too much blood. But that is no reason to stop talking about it.

Remember that Zelensky, a political unknown, won a landslide victory in 2019 as a peace candidate.  He was the George McGovern of Ukraine.  Right now he is not a free agent.  He is trapped between his U.S. paymasters and the fanatical Banderite faction.  But even so, he has said he is open to negotiation.

Remember that Vladimir Putin spent 20 years trying to get the Western powers to accept Russia as an equal partner before he turned to war.

The Russian leaders believe they are fighting an existential threat of which Ukraine is only a part. It also includes missile launchers in Poland and Rumania, which could be used to launch hypersonic missiles against Russia.

A comprehensive agreement would have to include not only the dismantling of those missile sites, but the restoration of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty to remove Russia’s existential threat to Poland, Rumania and other non-nuclear European nations.

The U.S. government has a perceived interest in keeping the fight going. The goal of the U.S. national security establishment is to maintain its nuclear dominance and its economic dominance, so that the U.S. government has the power to threaten any opponent with nuclear war and economic war.

The question is whether we the American people are willing to pay the price of maintaining this dominance. We already see rising prices of gasoline, heating oil and food. The longer the war in Ukraine and the global old war continue, the worse this will get. So we, too, have an interest in peace.

(more…)

The case for peace in Ukraine

May 16, 2022

We are told that the Russian invasion is a failure, that Putin completely miscalculated, that Russian forces are crumbling and Ukraine’s victory is just around the corner.

We also are being told the USA needs to send another $40 billion in aid to Ukraine pronto and to completely disrupt world trade in grain, oil and gas.  Otherwise Russia may win.   Even so, some of our military leaders are saying the war will go on for years.

The independent military analyst Scott Ritter says the last is a real possibility.  Although he had been predicting a Russian victory, he now says that if the Ukrainian army can train in Poland and Germany, and receive potentially unlimited numbers of U.S. and other NATO arms, there is no telling how long they can hold out.

I consider Ritter an authority on the Russian military and on military science in general.  What his reassessments tell me is that war is, by its nature, unpredictable.  If the outcomes of wars could be foreseen with certainty, no nation would go to war in the first place.

Leaders of the USA and Russia should be concerned should be thinking about what they hope to achieve in war, and whether it will be worth the cost and the risks.

Biden’s stated war aim is not just to save Ukraine.  It is to weaken Russia to the point where it is no longer capable of waging war.  Also, to pressure Russians into replacing Putin with a leader wiling to beg for mercy.   

Putin’s stated war aim is not just to save the Russians in the Donbas.  It is to roll back NATO so that it is no longer capable of threatening Russia.

If neither of them gives in, it is very possible the result will be the bankruptcy or near-bankruptcy of the USA, Russia and many other countries, including some neutral countries, with Ukraine, including its Donbas region, left as a blood-soaked wasteland.  That is not the worst-case scenario.  The worst case would be a nuclear holocaust of most of Russia, Europe and the USA..

The best possible outcome would be a truce and a ratification of the previous status quo—neutrality for Ukraine, autonomy for Donbas, continuing Russian control of strategically vital Crimea.

Since only some of Russia’s perceived threats involve Ukraine, there would have to be a restoration of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty and a ban on missile forces from countries bordering Russia. 

Commentary by the Saker and Moon of Alabama’s Bernhard , and also the commentary by Scott Ritter and Ray McGovern on the video above, make me aware of why Vladimir Putin thinks Russia has been backed into a corner by the USA and NATO.

My readings of the Russian Dissent substack, Mezuda news service and Alexey Navalny videos also make me aware of the authoritarianism, corruption and cronyism of the Putin administration, and of misgivings about the war by ordinary Russians.

Russia and Ukraine may be separate countries, but many Russians and Ukrainians are related by friendship, lineage and marriage.  They don’t want war with each other.

Both Russia and Ukraine are cracking down on dissent, so it is impossible for outsiders to know how much potential opposition there is to the war on either side.

Here in the USA, the widening war in Ukraine provides an excuse to step up official and unofficial censorship, and to put off dealing with the pandemic, climate-related catastrophes, inflation, rising debt, business monopoly, labor abuses, and financial crime.

All the Democrats I would have hoped might stand up for peace—Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ihan Omar, etc.—supported the $40 billion appropriation for the war.

(more…)

Noam Chomsky on moral equivalence

April 19, 2022

Noam Chomsky in an interview condemned the Russian attack on Ukraine.  He said it is not only morally wrong, but a violation of international law.

He also said that Russia has not done anything that the USA has not done.  The invasion of Iraq was no less wrong than the invasion of Ukraine.  The bombing of Fallujah caused at least as much death and suffering as the bombing of Mariupol’.

Neither the Russia nor the USA accepts the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.  In 1984, the court condemned the United States for mining the harbors of Nicaragua as part of its covert war against that country, the U.S. government shrugged off that decision.

In 2002, the U.S. Congress passed a law authorizing the U.S. government to take military again to prevent any American or allied citizen from being tried as a war criminal.  President Biden has no standing to call for President Putin to be tried for violating international law the USA does not respect.

I believe that many consider it out of bounds for me, or for Prof. Chomsky, to weigh the crimes of the U.S. government in the same balance as the crimes of other governments.  This is “moral equivalence” or “whataboutism.”  Instead you’re supposed to be silent about U.S. crimes unless you have first researched and condemned every other wrong that may have been worse.

It can be argued that a murderer who kills one person is less of a murderer who kills ten people, but the first is a murderer just the same.  And the fact that one murderer gets away with their crime does not generate an entitlement to commit murder.

None of this is a justification for the invasion of Ukraine.  The ordinary people of Ukraine did not invade Iraq and Afghanistan.  They are not responsible for the persecution of Julian Assange.  They do not deserve to be killed, maimed and terrorized because of what the U.S. government has done.

The U.S. government has an obligation to provide the Ukrainians with the means to defend themselves, Chomsky said.  But he said it also has a duty to try to bring both sides to the negotiating table before Ukraine is completely ruined.  He’s right.

LINKS

Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Scahill on the Russia-Ukraine War, an interview for The Intercept.

Noam Chomsky on How To Prevent World War III, an interview for Current Affairs.  [Added 04/20/2022]

(more…)

Vladimir Putin is not a madman

April 11, 2022

I never thought Vladimir Putin would order a full-scale invasion of Ukraine 

My reasoning was that it was not in Putin’s or Russia’s interest to take responsibility for a country that, by most accounts, was even poorer than Russia itself and almost as corrupt.  Nor did it make sense for Russia to risk getting bogged down in a long quagmire war as it did in Afghanistan.

The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, had elected as a peace candidate with more than 70 percent of the vote, so there seemed like a possibility of negotiating the status of the Donbas secessionists and other issues.  

I thought Putin would take some limited action that would demonstrate Ukraine’s vulnerability and NATO’s lack of unity.

As a result of the invasion, members of NATO are more united against Russia than ever.  Sweden and Finland have abandoned their neutrality and may formally join NATO.  Countries not willing to fight Russia with troops are waging economic warfare against Russia.

So why did he do it? Was he crazy?

One of my rules of thumb is that when someone who seems highly intelligent does something that makes no sense to me, that person may have reasons that I do not understand.

I believe Putin has made this high-stakes gamble because he believes the actual existence of Russia is at risk.  I believe he further believes that the danger is growing and he had to act before time runs out.   

He has been saying for years that the goal of the U.S.-led alliance is to put itself in a position to be able to successfully attack Russia.  He may be mistaken, but he has reason to think so.

Notice that the ultimatum he issued last year is not limited to Ukraine.  It contains for main demands (1) Ukraine neutrality, (2) autonomy of Donetz and Luhansk, (3) no missiles in Poland or Rumania and (4) NATO troops back to 1991 limits.

Notice also that Russia has not used its full military might in invading Ukraine.  That means Putin may be holding back troops to enforce the rest of his ultimatum.

∞∞∞

When Russia withdrew its troops from East Germany and other satellite countries in Eastern Europe in 1989, Secretary of State James Baker allegedly promised Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO troops would not move “one inch” to the east.  There’s argument as to what he really said.  But many people, myself included, hoped for a new era when the USA and Russia were at peace with each other.

In 1999, NATO expanded.  Putin protested and was ignored.  In 2004, NATO expanded again.  Putin protested and was ignored.

In 2008, NATO announced an intention to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO.  Putin said that was a red line that Russia would not tolerate.  

I can understand why.  If you look at a map of Europe showing the peak of German conquests during World War Two, and compare it with a map of NATO with Ukraine and Georgia, you will see they are almost the same.

In 2014, a pro-American faction seized power in Ukraine. Since then, Ukraine has been a NATO member in all but name.

A missile defense system is being placed in Poland and Romania, which could be made capable of launching nuclear missiles. The U.S. meanwhile has exited the Anti-Ballistic Missile agreement and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces agreement.

Soon the United States will have duplicated Russia’s hypersonic missile, which means that a nuclear warhead launched from Poland or Rumania could hit Moscow in a few minutes.

(more…)

The search for truth in the Ukraine war

April 9, 2022

I think the world is at a major historical turning point.  China and Russia, with their allies and vassals, have begun an attack on a system of economic and military power dominated by the United States, which probably will succeed.  The Russian attack on Ukraine is a ramping up to that larger conflict.

That is why I am so obsessively focused on the war in Ukraine.  Trying to understand the conflict allows me to overcome my feeling of helplessness in the face of the coming catastrophe.

This video interview of Scott Ritter from last Wednesday is a good summary of the situation in Ukraine, which is different from the propaganda version in most U.S. newspapers and broadcast networks.  The meat of the interview begins at the seven-minute mark.  You don’t have to watch the whole thing to get something out of it.  

I think that Scott Ritter, Michael Hudson and the Naked Capitalism bloggers have the best handle on what’s going on.  Both Ritter and Hudson are giving video interviews to virtually anybody who will talk to them, and these interviews should be easy to find.  

Of course what they (and I) say is based on uncertain and incomplete knowledge.  The verdict of history may be different from what I (or you) think now.  But time spent trying to learn and understand is not time wasted.

LINKS

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Perspective by Scott Ritter for Energy Intelligence.

The American Empire Self-Destructs by Michael Hudson.

Craig Murray on inconvenient truths

April 7, 2022

Craig Murray, a former British ambassador, who has paid a price in his own life for inconvenient truth-telling, published a list of true statements about Russia, Ukraine and the West.

a) The Russian invasion of Ukraine is illegal: Putin is a war criminal
b) The US led invasion of Iraq was illegal: Blair and Bush are war criminals

a) Russian troops are looting, raping and shelling civilian areas
b) Ukraine has Nazis entrenched in the military and in government and commits atrocities against Russians

Craig Murray

a) Zelensky is an excellent war leader
b) Zelensky is corrupt and an oligarch puppet

a) Russian subjugation of Chechnya was brutal and a disproportionate response to an independence movement
b) Russian intervention in Syria saved the Middle East from an ISIS controlled jihadist state

a) Russia is extremely corrupt with a very poor human rights record
b) Western security service narratives such as “Russiagate” and “Skripals” are highly suspect, politically motivated and unevidenced.

a) NATO expansion is unnecessary, threatening to Russia and benefits nobody but the military industrial complex
b) The Russian military industrial complex is equally powerful in its own polity as is Russian nationalism

I agree with all these statements.  I don’t question your good faith if you happen to disagree with any of them or all of them.  I just think it is highly unlikely, with nations as with individuals, that one side is completely good and the other completely bad.  It is hard to stand aside from propaganda and judge for yourself.  

More from Murray:

One final thought on the tone of the coverage of the war both of the media and of supporters of the official western line on social media.  Though affecting to be sickened by the atrocities of war, their tone is not of sorrow or devastation, it is triumphalist and jubilant.  The amount of war porn and glorying in war is worrying.  The mood of the British nation is atavistic.  Russians living here are forced on a daily basis to declare antagonism to their own people and homeland.

I have had great difficulty in writing this piece – I have worked on it some three weeks, and the reason is a deep sadness which this unnecessary war has caused me.  In the course of my typing any paragraph, somebody has probably been killed or seriously injured in Ukraine, of whatever background.  They had a mother and others who loved them.  There is no triumph in violent death.

[Afterthought 04/09/2022].  On thinking things over, I have some reservations about some of the things on Murray’s list.  But I agree with the spirit of what he wrote.  The fact that one side in a conflict may be bad does not make the other side good.

LINK

Striving to Make Sense of the War in Ukraine by Craig Murray.  A long post, but worth reading the whole way through.

What is Russian exceptionalism?

April 6, 2022

LOST KINGDOM: The Quest for Empire and the Making of the Russian Nation from 1470 to the Present by Serhii Plokhy (2017)

Serhii Plokhy is professor of Ukrainian history and director of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University.  His book,  Lost Kingdom, is about Russian exceptionalism—that is, Russia’s historic claim to lead and rule the eastern Slavic peoples and the pushback from Ukrainians and Belarusians.  

Kievan Rus’

It is an important and complicated story—full of ironies, zigzags and contradictions, and historical turning points that could have turned out differently from what they did.  It provides interesting background to the current war in Ukraine, although I do not think it is the final word on that topic.

Russia, Ukraine and Belarus all trace their origins to the culture Kievan Rus’ and the conversion of Prince Vladimir of Kiev to Christianity in 987.  The Kievan Rus’ lands stretched from the Black Sea to the Gulf of Finland and were regarded as a unity.  But most of them were overrun by the Mongol-Tatar Golden Horde in 1237-1239.  

The book’s story begins when Prince Ivan III of Muscovy, a vassal of the Golden Horde, married Sophia Palaiologos, a princess of the Byzantine Empire, which  had fallen to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.  

Ivan claimed his marriage made Muscovy “the Third Rome,” the successor of the Byzantine and Roman empires.  This was bold talk for the ruler of a relatively small principality.   

Europe in 1470.

Muscovy expanded, step by step, although with a lot of back and forth struggle.  Its rulers adopted the title of Tsar, which is Russian for Caesar.  Muscovy conquered the independent Republic of Novgorod and warred against Tartars, Ottomans and the great and powerful Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.  

On the vast Eurasian plain, there were few obstacles to conquest, but also few barriers against invasion.  A Polish army occupied Moscow in 1610-1612 and a Swedish army occupied Ukraine in 1706.   Later on a French army reached Moscow in 1812, and German armies occupied Ukraine in 1918 and 1941.  It’s easy to understand why questions of allegiance and national unity were life-and-death issue.

Plokhy wrote that from earliest days, there was a recognized difference between the Great Russians, Little Russians (Ukrainians) and White Russians (Belarusians).  I recall that the Tsars claimed to be rulers of “all the Russias”—implying that there was more than one.

One turning point was the reign of Catherine the Great (1762-1796).  She was of German origin, and came to the throne after the murder of his husband, so her legitimacy was questionable.  Although she toyed with the ideas of the European Enlightenment, she doubled down on promoting Great Russian national identity and Eastern Orthodox religion.  

She joined the rulers of Austria and Prussia in partitioning Russia’s old enemy, Poland.  Russia got more than half of Poland, including its capital, Warsaw.  

In the ensuring years, the Polish nobility, remembering their former power and greatness, resisted Russian rule as best they could, while the Russian government tried to Russianize the Poles.

The Russian government began to look on Ukrainian language and culture in a new way, as a possible source of Polish-like nationalism.  This wasn’t altogether wrong.  

As with other subjugated and divided peoples in 19th century Europe, Ukrainian intellectuals began to study their cultural and national roots and think about independence and unification.    Academic studies of linguistics and ethnography in one generation became nationalistic intellectual weapons in later decades.  I think this was the real origin of Ukrainian and Belarusian nationalism.

(more…)

What is Ukraine?

March 30, 2022

FRONTLINE UKRAINE: Crisis in the Borderlands by Richard Sakwa (2015, 2016)

The Ukrainian flag consists of a field of blue, symbolizing the sky, above a field of yellow, symbolizing a field of wheat.

To Richard Sakwa, a scholar specializing in Russian and European politics, the flag also symbolizes the two schools of Ukrainian nationalism.

The blue sky symbolizes a unified blood-and-soil nationalism, the idea that Ukraine belongs only to those of Ukrainian lineage who speak the Ukrainian language, and everybody else is a lesser citizen or a foreigner.

The yellow field of wheat symbolizes a pluralistic nationalism, one that respects the cultures of all the peoples who live in Ukraine, not just Ukrainians and Russians, but Poles, Jews, Tatars and other minorities.

In Frontline Ukraine, Sakwa traced the history of Ukraine from 1991, when Ukraine become an independent nation, to 2014, when anationalistic anti-Russian government took power, and Ukraine was set on its present course of irreconcilable conflict with Russia and its own Russian-speaking minority.

Europe 2014. Click to enlarge.

He said Ukraine’s problems are due to a shift from the yellow to the blue.  I think this is true as far as it goes.  But Ukraine’s problems are not all of its own making.

One is that Ukraine’s boundaries were not determined by Ukrainians.  They were drawn by Joseph Stalin, and were created with the intention of making trouble down the line.

When the Soviet Union was formed, V.I. Lenin promised the Russian Empire’s former subject peoples that they could have self-government.  Stalin was given the job of drawing the boundaries of the new Soviet republics.

As someone pointed out to me, these boundaries were drawn so that each of the republics would have a large minority group and so would lack national unity.  The result has been frozen conflicts and ethnic clashes all across the former Soviet Union.  In many cases, they invited—or provided an excuse for—Russian intervention.  

Ukraine was part of this pattern.  Its eastern boundary was set so as to include many ethnic Russians.  Then, following the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, Polish and Rumanian territories were added to Ukraine in the west, 

However, Stalin was careful to keep Crimea, with its important naval base and Russian-majority population, as part of the Russian Soviet republic.  It didn’t become part of Ukraine until 1954, by decision of Nikita Khrushchev, an ethnic Ukrainian.

But the real explanation for the intensity of Ukrainian anti-Russian nationalism lies in what Ukrainians call the Holodomor, the deliberate killing of millions of Ukrainians by Stalin’s government in 1929-1933  This was twofold: an attack on independent peasants, who were the majority of the population of Ukraine, and a specific attack on Ukrainian culture and nationality.

 Robert Conquest’s Harvest of Sorrow tells the story of the Holodomor.  It makes extremely painful reading.  The consequence was that some Ukrainian nationalists saw the Nazi invaders as a lesser evil than the Soviets.  Their legacy continues to this day.

(more…)

The music of Peter Tchaikovsky is universal

March 20, 2022

From a letter by Peter Tchaikovsky to a friend:

We must always work, and a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood.  If we wait for the mood, without endeavoring to meet it halfway, we easily become indolent and apathetic.  We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination.  

A few days ago I told you I was working every day without any real inspiration.  Had I given way to my disinclination, undoubtedly I should have drifted into a long period of idleness.  But my patience and faith did not fail me, and today I felt the inexplicable glow of inspiration of which I told you; thanks to which I know beforehand that whatever I write today will have power to make an impression, and to touch the hearts of those who hear it.

I was indignant all the cancellations of performances of works by Russian composers, and demands that Russian musicians and singers denounce Vladimir Putin and the invasion of Ukraine.

I think my own government is wrong in a lot of ways, but, if I were abroad and people demanded I broadcast a denunciation of, say, Donald Trump, I would not do it.

Forced loyalty oaths are bad enough, because they do not signify loyalty, only that you are willing to bow to pressure.  Forced denunciations of one’s own government are even worse for the same reason.

But then it occurred to me that Tchaikovsky could not be canceled.  All his works were available online to me, and to anybody else with a computer.  I in fact could have listened to great music by great composers, including Russians, every night of my life, and I never took advantage of it.

I spent yesterday evening listening to a YouTube collection of short sections of Peter Tchaikovsky’s works.  I am not a great concert-goer or music-lover, and I was surprised at how familiar so much of this music sounded to me.  His music is part of world culture, including U.S. culture.  It will be remembered when Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky are forgotten.

LINKS

Putin’s Russia vs. Pushkin’s Russia by Gary Saul Morson for Quillette.

The Cancelation of Russian Culture by Gary Saul Morson for First Things.

Classical Music Cancels Russians by Heather MacDonald for City Journal.

Not everyone in the Western music world has lost courage and humanistic values by Gilbert Doctorow.

Examples of sanity in a mad world

March 18, 2022

Sister Cities of Rochester responds to war in Ukraine by Peter Lovenheim for the Rochester (N.Y.) Beacon.

Russia and Wrath by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.

Who’s winning in Ukraine?

March 14, 2022

Not Ukraine.

Ukrainian forces are outnumbered and outgunned.  President Zelensky is arming untrained civilians, including convicts, and calling for volunteers to come help, including anti-Russian jihadists from Syria.  This is evidence of desperation, like the German arming of teenagers and the elderly during the last days of World War Two.

Until now, Russians have held back, in the false hope they could accomplish a relatively—I said, relatively—bloodless conquest and reconcile Ukrainians to defeat.  Military analyst Scott Ritter said the Russians wanted to give Ukrainians one last chance to surrender.  If that fails, Russians will wage war as they did in Afghanistan and Chechnya, which, as he said, will turn Ukraine into “hell on Earth.”

Not Russia

Hardly anybody expected a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine, because hardly anybody outside President Putin’s circle thought it would make sense.  Evidently Putin expected a weak resistance, after which the Ukrainian government would surrender and agree to stay out of NATO, recognize the independence of the Donbas republics, and accept Russian rule of Crimea.

This didn’t happen.  Putin is using Chechen and even Syrian fighters against his supposed Ukrainian brothers.  So much for Russian-Ukrainian brotherhood!  This is a sign of lack of Russian enthusiasm for the war.

Probably Russia will defeat the Ukrainian forces in the end.  Then Russians will face a protracted resistance movement in Ukraine, supported by the Western powers, and a long period of economic warfare that will strain Russian society to the limit.

Not the USA

The clash between Russia and the USA involves much more than Ukraine.  Russia’s aim is to challenge the military security structure that makes the U.S. the world’s dominant military power, and the financial structure which makes the U.S. the world’s dominant financial power.  The present conflict may stretch that power to its limit.

No nation in Latin America, Africa or Asia, with the exceptions of Japan and South Korea, has been willing to join the United States is imposing economic sanctions against Russia.  Russia can count on the support of China, the world’s most powerful manufacturing nation, and others who’ve been alienated from the U.S. system.

Russia has been planning for years on how to withstand a siege.  The USA is unprepared.  President Biden has swallowed his pride and asked for help from Iran and Venezuela, two nations he and his predecessors have literally been trying to destroy with economic sanctions.  What will we Americans do a year or so from now, if gasoline costs double or triple or ten times what it does now?

###

One side or another may claim victory, by some criterion.  But all will be worse off than they are now.

“A strange game,” said the machine intelligence in the movie, War Games.  “The only way to win is not to play.”

(more…)

Why are Nazis acceptable in Ukraine?

March 4, 2022

Azov Battaltion insignia and Nazi symbols

One of Vladimir Putin’s demands is that Ukraine “de-Nazify.”

These days the word “Nazi” is often a general purpose insult with no specific meaning. except “very, very evil.” But there are Nazis in Ukraine, and they are the real thing.

I don’t want to exaggerate.  

Ukrainian neo-Nazis are few in number. Most estimates put hardo-core Nazis at less than 2 percent of the population.  The extreme nationalist Svoboda and Right Sector parties each received less than 2 percent of the vote in recent presidential elections.  

Volodymyr Zelensky, the current President of Ukraine, is Jewish, and he received more than 72 percent of the vote.  Most of the rest went to the incumbent.

On the other hand the neo-Nazi parties are part of the Ukraine’s governing coalition.  The Azov Battalion, whose members are openly neo-Nazi, is an important part of Ukraine’s fighting force.  The “Overton window”—the range of ideas that are acceptable to discuss—includes neo-Nazis.

To understand how this can be, you have to know about the Holodomor, also known as the Terror-Famine or Great Famine, imposed by Joseph Stalin on Ukraine from 1929 to 1933.  

It was one of the 20th century’s greatest crimes against humanity.  A United Nations report estimates it cost the lives of 3 million to 10 million Ukrainians.  It is officially recognized as genocide by Ukraine and 16  other countries.

Joseph Stalin forced millions in Ukraine and other parts of the Soviet Union to starve to death in order to force the peasants into collective farms and gain control of the food supply.  He also suppressed Ukrainian cultural institutions.

Most historians interpret this as the Soviet Communist Party preemptively destroying all potential sources of resistance to the regime, including farmers who owned their land and individuals loyal to non-Russian cultures.

But there are those who see the Holodomor as an attempt by “the Russians” to destroy the Ukrainian race.  I’ve come across this meme serval times over the years while doing Internet research.  And I’ve also come across the meme that it was an attempt by “the Jews” to destroy the Ukrainian race.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s first look at the Ukraine terror-famine in all its horror.

(more…)

The war hawks’ view of the Ukraine situation

March 2, 2022

This panel discussion is interesting because it represents the thinking of the U.S. national security establishment.  I watched it with mingled anger and despair, but their ideas and opinions are important to understand.

The panelists point out that Vladimir Putin probably thought the invasion of Ukraine would reveal the weakness and lack of solidarity of NATO, but the result has been just the opposite.

The immediate result  has been to create a new sense of anti-Russian solidarity among the Ukrainian people and the NATO allies.  The NATO countries, particularly Germany, are remilitarizing.

The result of the invasion is the very thing Putin feared, an attack (although not a direct military attack) on Russia itself.  I think they’re right about that.

What the analysts say we can look forward to over the next few years is a long mutually destructive economic war, a dangerous cyberwar and a propaganda war.  But it’s all good, because Russia will suffer most and ultimately be defeated.

The cyberwar threat is the most worrisome.  The USA, other NATO countries, Ukraine and Russia are all dependent on electronic computerized systems that are vulnerable to being hacked, which would result in economic breakdown and chaos.

Both sides have held back because of the mutually assured destruction principle.  But now NATO and Russia are at war, so there is no restraining principle.

The panelists think Ukraine will be defeated militarily after a heroic resistance.  But it’s all good, because it means the U.S. government can support an insurgency, as it did against the pro-Russian government of Afghanistan in the early 1980s.

Even if the result is to leave Ukraine in ruins, it will bleed and destabilize Russia.

The problem, the panelists say, will be maintaining the will to wage economic war, psychological war and cyberwar for a period of years, and, for the Ukrainians and other front-line countries, to continue fighting and dying over the long term.

President Biden or some future president may prioritize his domestic agenda (i.e., the needs and wants of the unimportant American people) or the U.S. rivalry with China. That would be a problem, they say.

I can’t say their predictions are wrong.  I hate how comfortable and even pleased they are with the war, but as a description of the sad reality, they could be right.

But there are things they didn’t talk about.

(more…)

Shock and awe in Ukraine

February 25, 2022

Kiev early this morning.

At this point in time, the Russian invasion of Kiev reminds me of the initial phase of the U.S. invasion of Iraq—except that the Russians so far seem to be doing their best to avoid civilian casualties and refraining from destroying the electrical grid, water and sewerage systems and other vital infrastructure.

Looked at purely as a military operation, it looks like a brilliant success.  Of course so did the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan in their initial phase.

What made these wars disasters for the United States were the failed occupations and the unsuccessful attempts to establish friendly, self-sustaining governments.

President Vladimir Putin’s rule began with a bloody war to pacify the rebellious Chechen region.  Since then  Russia’s military occupations have been short and decisive.

Putin has stated he does not plan a permanent occupation of Ukraine.  He also says he plans to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine and to bring to justice all those who committed atrocities against Ukraine’s Russian minority.  Taking him at his word, is this possible without a long-term occupation?

The ideal outcome, from the Russian point of view, would be for the Ukrainian government to quickly surrender and agree to Russia’s terms.

What terms of surrender would Russia accept?  Would Ukraine be forced to become a puppet of Russia, like Poland during the Cold War era or the Central Asian countries today?  Or would Russia be willing to settle for neutrality, like Finland and Austria during the Cold War.

The least Russia would demand would be purging of Nazis from the Ukrainian government and armed forces, and turning over accused war criminals to Russia or to international tribunals.

This also would be the best outcome from the point of view of minimizing human suffering.  But it would leave Russia as the strongest—because most feared—power in Europe.

The risk Russia has taken is the possibility of getting bogged down in a long quagmire war, as the Soviet Union did in Afghanistan.

(more…)

Impeachment and the undeclared war with Russia

January 28, 2020

Historian Stephen F. Cohen pointed out in an interview how Rep. Adam Schiff frames the Trump impeachment in terms of the undeclared war with Russia in Ukraine.

President Trump is accused of pausing military aid to Ukraine for personal, political reasons.  Schiff said that undermines the necessary war against Russia “over there” so “we won’t have to fight them over here.”

In fact, what’s going on in Ukraine is a civil war.  An anti-Russian Ukrainian nationalist government, with Nazis in the governing coalition, came to power in a U.S.-backed coup.

Vladimir Putin seized control of Crimea, location of Russia’s main naval base in the region.  Russian-speaking areas in western Ukraine attempted to secede, provoking a civil war.  Putin has helped his fellow Russians defend themselves, but not march on Kiev.

The best solution would be some sort of compromise that would allow residents of the Donblass and Luhansk regions the minimum amount of autonomy and security they need to feel safe.

The best contribution the U.S. government could make is to join with Germany and France to help mediate between Russia and Ukraine.  But I know of no Republican or Democratic leader who supports this.

Of all possible criticisms of Donald Trump, the idea that he is insufficiently warlike makes the least sense.

Trump has canceled an important nuclear arms treaty with Russia, and seems ready to cancel the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (StART) when it come up for renewal in 2021.  This increases the danger of a possible nuclear war with Russia, a much more real possibility than “having to fight them over here.”

The main differences between the Democratic and Republican leaderships is that the one prioritizes military confrontation with Russia and the other prioritizes military confrontation with Iran.

I recommend watching the interview of Prof. Cohen by Aaron Maté on the video above.

The Ukraine’s familiar scenario

February 16, 2015

image-811111-panoV9free-stvuSource: Der Spiegel

Ukraine’s problems can be summed up thusly:

  • A national army that’s unwilling to fight.
  • Out-of-control fanatic militias unwilling to make peace.
  • An economy in a state of collapse.

Every country is unique, and so is every situation, but this sounds an awful lot like the situations in Iraq and other countries in which the United States has intervened.

In these countries, all factions are willing and able to fight except the faction aligned with the United States.

Also similar is the position of the U.S. government.  The President doesn’t want to accept defeat, but neither does he want to send more young Americans to another foreign land to die in a war that probably isn’t winnable.

So he ponders are compromise measures, such as sending defensive weapons that supposedly won’t be used for offense, and technical advisers that supposedly are not actually going to fight themselves.

The best thing that could happen from the standpoint of the United States would be for Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany to negotiated a compromise peace.  This would involve home rule for eastern Ukraine, and a federal system in which the Russian speakers could veto Ukraine joining NATO.

That would leave Ukraine proper in hock to the International Monetary Fund.  Paying off the IMF would mean higher prices, higher taxes and sale of Ukrainian national assets at bargain prices.  If Washington was truly interested in helping the Ukrainian people, it would try to help free them from IMF debt bondage.

It’s interesting, by the way, that one party in what supposedly is a civil war is absent from the peace negotiations.  The negotiating parties are representatives of France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia, but not of the separatists in east Ukraine.  Presumably they will have no choice but to accept whatever Russia agrees to.

LINKS

Can Merkel’s diplomacy save Europe? by the Spiegel staff.

Ukraine Denouement: the Russian Loan and the IMF’s One-Two Punch by Michael Hudson for Counterpunch.