Picture: Saint Michael the Archangel, Patron Saint of Ukraine
“War means delusion… and no humane person, or group of persons, can believe themselves or their country to have had a share in bringing war about. From this universal assumption of innocence, unquestioned as soon as war starts, arise all the conceptions of the enemy as the guilty party; then follows naturally, in the minds of sensitive and liberally inclined people, the immense myth of the Holy War. The logic of the feelings supplants the logic of fact and reason. Loss, risk, sacrifice… consecrate and sanctify the cause. The greater the sacrifice, the holier the war, the more Satanic the enemy… War plays the devil not only with bodies but with minds, and the ensuing intellectual deterioration being less obvious than the physical deterioration is so much the more dangerous.” (Irene Cooper Willis, England’s Holy War, Introduction, 1927)
Truth is the first casualty of war. Ukraine has not disappointed on that score. Churchill noted that truth in wartime needs to be surrounded by a bodyguard of lies.
Debate about the conflict in Ukraine has been largely shut down right across Europe and a single demonising of Russia narrative has been established. The idea that the conflict might have come about through NATO expansionism, which was gaining purchase in the West, has been successfully closed off in almost universal moral hysteria. The instituting of a single narrative can only be described as totalitarian in its character, despite taking place in the Western liberal democracies. No dissent has been permissible without fear of sanction. Social media and its effect on the masses has played a large part in the spread of moral poison and disinformation.
Alone in the West, it is in the US that some sense of proportion, truth and facts are still presented. But only by the few who have kept an eye on things for a decade or more.
The Cancel Russia Campaign
It is noteworthy how Western Governments have sprung into action with unprecedented, rapid and co-ordinated force to launch an economic war on Russia. What has been truly amazing has been how corporations and civil society have behaved like a lynch mob on cue. Across the “free world” that has been marshalled in the “Get Russia” campaign, private companies have gone beyond the call of duty in sanctioning all aspects of things Russian, following their governments and superseding them in zeal.
Nothing of this kind has happened perhaps since 1914. A popular witch hunt has been inaugurated that gathers greater and greater momentum and power by the day. Anything Russian or associated with Russia is fair game. Russian vodka has been cleared from the shelves, Russians cats banned from cat shows, music with the letter Z forbidden. Politicians, media, churches, charities, schools and private individuals are all enthusiastically engaged in cancelling Russia and treating anyone associated with it as lepers. Those who dissent from this vast display of moral intimidation are with the Devil Himself, and we all know WHO that is.
The unprecedented Covid virus controls that governments in the West have instituted over their own populations – much greater than those that existed in totalitarian states – have been a magnificent preparation for this situation. The pandemic has magically disappeared but the management of the populace, trained in self-management, has stuck. Populations have fallen into line instantly and there are no anti-war protests of any kind. If protest is a sign of democracy Russia has suddenly reversed positions with the West.
The economic linkages developed since Russia became capitalist have been cut down to only energy and a few other commodities and chemicals that Europe is dependent upon Russia for. Political, social, sporting and cultural ties are being severed to a high degree. Bruno Le Maire, French Finance Minister, told a Radio show this week:
“We will provoke the collapse of the Russian economy. We are waging total economic and financial war against Russia, Putin and his government, and let’s be clear, the Russian people will also pay the consequences.” (Financial Times 5.3.22)
The main plank of this, to go with the widespread sanctions, is the freezing of the Russian central bank’s overseas assets to prevent it supporting the economy with its $600 billion of accumulated reserves.
This is the economic, political and social war front against Russia. The Ukrainians provide the military front.
Before the First World War, the British Admiralty conceived a plan to win rapid victory in the event of war with Germany, involving economic warfare on an unprecedented scale. This secret strategy called for the state to exploit Britain’s effective monopolies in banking, communications, and shipping—the essential infrastructure of the global market—to create a controlled implosion of the world economic system. The British political leadership believed that the systematic disruption of the global economy could bring about German military paralysis. After the outbreak of hostilities, the British government shied away from full implementation of the plan upon realising the extent of likely collateral damage—political, social, economic, and diplomatic—to both Britain and its allies. Nicholas Lambert has written a fascinating book, ‘Planning Armageddon‘, about the plan. It is evident that the US political establishment has not read it.
While Russia has made certain contingencies for what might have been unleashed against it, in the event of a military operation in Ukraine, it is clear that it may not have been prepared enough for the total economic war that has now confronted it. One question is where the Russian gold reserves are being stored? Are they in foreign bank vaults? After the confiscation of Venezuela’s and Afghanistan’s reserves that would not have been a good idea. Perhaps, it is also not a good idea to have a pro-Westerner in charge of the Russian Central Bank.
If this economic warfare and piracy is persisted with, Russia, to avoid financial collapse, will have to become economically and financially independent from the West, like Iran has made itself. The Central Bank will have to stop thinking that the fate of the Russian economy depends on foreign exchange and investment. Once Russia is sealed off from foreign capital, the Russian Central Bank will have to take the job in hand and finance Russia’s internal development. It should have learned by now that there is a price to pay when a state is dependent on the capitalist market controlled by the enemy dollar hegemon. It is the same price that Germany paid with its overseas trade in a world market policed by the Royal Navy.
Whilst Russia saw its energy resources, which Europe has depended upon, as security against economic sanction, China has infiltrated the global market to the extent that an economic attack on it is more risky. However, it is evident that the same weaponised economic and cultural war could also be turned on China and the other holdouts from US-led Western hegemony if the campaign against Russia is successful. China, which has stayed on top of its hill, while the tigers fight below, may have to come onto the plain before it had planned to.
So, there is also the possibility, if the game is played out to the full by Washington as in Britain’s economic Armageddon in August 1914, that the globalised market that came about as a result of the US victory over the USSR will be endangered. There may be the formation of a powerful defensive bloc organised around China and Russia, behind an Iron Curtain imposed by the West, for the purposes of survival and independence. Neutrality, of course, will be difficult to maintain in such a world. But it is clear now that national banks and reserves are no longer safe from the prying eyes and grasping hands of the US.
The globalised financial world, under US dollar hegemony, will have to be broken up by those who are serious about national independence. If not, battles will always be fought on a battlefield controlled by America and within the rules of the game written by those who can bend them to their interest.
It is possible that the globalised world announced in 1991 may have hit the buffers and a new geopolitical shift could be occurring out of the economic war waged on Russia. A new bi-polar world may come about, instead of the multi-polar one that threatened to emerge briefly out of the uni-polar one, after 1991.
A Conflict Made in America?
What should be first understood is that the crisis in Ukraine is very much rooted in the internal politics of the US and the “stolen election” that brought Donald Trump to power in 2016. The businessman Trump had commercial links to Russia and it was clear he admired strong men as leaders, even if the US wanted to disable their countries. He wanted to end the phase of US expansionism, invade no new countries and start no new wars. He even wanted to end the US wars of his predecessors. President Trump expressed open contempt for the Liberal order when campaigning for President in 2016 and after taking office pursued policies that seemed designed to undermine it. He was highly amoral and even disgracefully immoral in character. This was really an affront to US democracy and its universalistic mission to bring the US and its “progressive values” to the rest of the world – whether it liked it or not. US expansionism and war fighting is highly moralistic and even if Trump had been prepared to continue the mission of the “indispensable nation” across the world and its Manifest Destiny, he was unfitted to do so.
President Trump effectively disabled America and gave the rest of the world a break, much to the chagrin of the US political establishment and those in Europe who had made a habit of taking their orders from Washington and could not conceive of life outside of America’s coat tails.
So when Joe Biden saw off Trump in the 2020 election and ended the peace interlude there was great appetite for the US to resume its interventions in the World and to do further Good in it again. America was back and it was time for the US to lead again – as Foreign Affairs said in an avalanche of articles. And it was also time to tackle the authoritarians again and flex the muscles of democracy. But then came the debacle in Afghanistan that didn’t get Biden off to a great start.
President Trump had realised that America’s future geopolitical rival was China and he had begun a re-orientation in US foreign policy. He had pivoted East and took some economic measures against the rising giant that the US itself had helped grow. But Biden wanted to make an impact for democracy after the failure in Afghanistan and chose to target Russia in Ukraine where there was unfinished business from 2014 and his time in the Obama administration.
President Biden upped the ante with increased arms and training for the Ukrainians from late 2021. In the 7 years from 2014 to 2021 Ukraine received $2.5 billion in military aid from the US. Over the past 2 months it has received a massive $1.6 billion. The British foolishly sailed a destroyer up to the Russian base on the Black Sea and the US flew bombers over the same area to test the Russian will. All these provocations were aimed at ratcheting up the pressure on Putin, hoping to goad him into military action.
Russophobia is extensive in the US for a number of reasons. LGBT assertiveness cannot be underestimated in this regard. But the main driving force has been Trump and the “stolen election” which connects Biden/Democratic Party to Putin/Russia and Ukraine.
The British have been consistent US lackeys since the Cold War but the EU/European conversion to the line of duty has been the most staggering development. The British have been put in the shade by the Europeans with the outbreak of hostilities. With Mama Merkel out of the game, and the feminist Ursula von der Leyen in charge, hysteria has replaced realism in Europe and concerns for economic self-destruction waved aside in the cause of a good moral and progressive war.
Ironically, President Trump has achieved one of his main goals after he has left office. Trump was annoyed at the US shouldering the burden of NATO for its allies – mainly the Europeans. NATO had lost momentum and as it had done so it became less relevant to Europeans. The EU started taking up its own expansionary work to the East. Now the Europeans are willing and eager to bear their share of the NATO burden from the US and they have been brought back into line by Washington.
NATO’s persistence after the Cold War and its expansion into Eastern Europe is not just about geopolitics, of course. It is also about the US and its allies working to expand the Western order into a global Liberal International order. It might be imagined that advancing NATO eastward was a simple deterrence strategy aimed at containing a geopolitical enemy, that though vanquished might rise again. But it was much more than that, because it is a fundamental part of US strategy to make the world secure for its dominance by universalising Liberal Democracy. That was what the “end of history” was all about, after all – a utopia in which traditional societies and their cultures were eradicated and right-thinking “humanity” adjusted to progressing along lines determined in East Coast United States and California.
The US, if it were to return to duty in leading humanity with a bang, required a willing accomplice and a battlefield on which to do battle against the forces of evil/authoritarianism. It struck gold with the simple-minded Ukrainians and their actor/comedian leader Vlodymyr Zelensky, who came to power under the tutelage of the mysterious oligarch, Igor Kolomoisky. As Brendan Clifford has noted: “President Zelensky… seems to have lived in an American cultural bubble of the most superficial kind until he was chosen to be President.” (Irish Political Review, March 2020, p.22) Zelensky is the perfect modern man – all Facebook/Twitter style and little substance. All emotion and no thought. A walking catastrophe in the making. He may have had his own ideas at the outset, and was full of good intentions, but he has become a prisoner of other interests while acting the part of a free man.
Matt Frei in the BBC programme ‘Zelenskyy: The Man who took on Putin’ enthused about his subject: “Over the past few weeks he has given the performance of his life.” That seems to have been the sum total of his achievements as President of Ukraine since May 2019. Everything else he has attempted has been botched. Before the war there were suggestions of replacing him when he made suggestions of resolving the conflict in the East through negotiations with Russia.
Zelensky has been embarrassingly called “the Ukrainian Churchill”. There are some parallels: Churchill was a ham-actor during World War Two, presenting a fantasy war. He had earlier described Bolshevism as “the world-wide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilisation” led by the “international Jews”. As a fierce anti-Bolshevist, who had previously invaded Russia, Churchill became a dependent ally of Soviet Russia in a world war against Germany. In “winning” that war he collaborated in the expansion of Bolshevism across half of Europe. Without US assistance it would have reached Calais. And then Churchill wrote history that has become the accepted standard narrative, although bearing little resemblance to the truth of the matter. Outside the land of make believe it is clear that it was Russia that won World War II in Europe and rescued Britain from defeat.
President Zelensky may emerge a victorious hero of the Ukrainian liberation war/war to rid the West of Putin, or he may die in a bunker, having destroyed his nation and made Kiev into Berlin 1945. War is a catastrophic activity and the margins of success or failure are often slim. But whatever the outcome he will have served his purpose for the West.
It is evident, but cannot be said at present, that the Ukrainian leadership, particularly its frontman, Zelensky, have behaved with utter recklessness in this crisis. First and foremost, they have offered up their country’s territory as a battlefield, and their people as cannon fodder, for the West’s geopolitical advance against Russia. They have known the consequences of this from day one, unless it is pleaded that in calling the Russians inhuman monsters, they were doing so in jest. They were told repeatedly by the West that it would not fight a wider war for them, but they persisted in goading the Bear nevertheless. Now they are constantly calling for military action from the West that would produce a European war, at the very least, and a World war, and nuclear Armageddon, in all likelihood, if things are played out to the full.
The Ukrainian leadership has also taken the grossly irresponsible step of randomly arming untrained and undisciplined volunteers with thousands of sub-machine guns. A BBC report described how these volunteers “mingle with the Ukrainian military”. In doing this the Ukrainians have blurred the distinction between combatants and non-combatants and between soldiers and civilians. This is effectively turning Ukrainian cities into armed camps. Under such circumstances they have legitimised the bombing of cities by the Russians and have increased the possibility of civilian deaths in fighting.
During the 1980s the Irish Republican Army received large shipments of arms from Libya. A discussion was had as to whether the Catholic population, which was under pressure from assassination squads run by the British military, should be turned into an armed militia. The IRA wisely decided that such a thing would be grossly irresponsible. No political control would be possible over a general population that was armed and it would lead to the general targeting of civilians on a mass scale. With the conclusion of the war and a peace settlement, the arms now lie in bunkers, safe for a rainy day.
Have the weapons been distributed among the civilian populace to make a negotiated settlement impossible? Certainly any Ukrainian government will find it very difficult now to come to terms without fighting a civil war against diehards, even if the US permits such a thing.
The handing out of weapons to the general public has the famous precedent of the Nazis in Berlin 1945. Hitler ordered this move not just to defend Berlin but due to his exasperation with the German people, who he believed had failed him, and who now could perish with him in the final battle against the Russian liberators.
The Ukrainians, one must presume, are either recklessly irresponsible or are happy to sacrifice as many of their people to help demonise the Russians through making an assault on Kiev like that on Berlin in 1945.
What triggered the Conflict?
While it has been the Ukrainian intention to recklessly expand the war it cannot be denied that the Russians have been careful to confine and limit it as much as is possible.
It was clear that prior to the Russian intervention in Ukraine the West was attempting to lure Russian forces into the breakaway provinces in the east by arming Ukrainian forces and encouraging them to mount a new offensive. They duly obliged. The Western calculation was that Putin could not afford to stand idly by while the Ukrainians rolled into the Russian populated regions and massacred its population as they had done to the trade unionists in Odessa and ethnic Russians in Donetsk in 2014.
Putin had no intention of invading Ukraine despite the Western provocations and the self-fulfilling prophesies of the White House announcing the imminence of Russian invasion. Putin would have known the great military, political and economic cost Russia would have to bear if it launched its forces across the border. It would have known about the quagmire that awaited it if it was drawn in and swallowed up by prolonged Ukrainian resistance. The British Foreign Secretary warned about that. It seems fairly obvious that the US aimed to do to the
Russians in Ukraine what they did to the USSR in Afghanistan.
Even if quickly successful the cost of running an occupation would be immense and sanctions would be severe and long-lasting. The Russians don’t have the means to occupy and control the whole country and the US would continue to pour in advisors, money, weapons and mercenaries into it. A simple cost/benefit analysis told Putin that he was winning if he stayed out and avoided being provoked into Ukraine. The existing narrative favoured Russia but if a war started it would instantly change and Russia’s good case would be buried by moral hysteria and the closing down of argument.
It was widely believed that Russia was just interested in defending or enlarging the two republics it was forced to recognise in the east. But Putin had a big surprise up his sleeve. His forces launched a much more extensive military operation that aimed at demilitarising Ukraine to the East of the Dneiper and perhaps aimed holding this area as a buffer against NATO expansion to the Russian border, if the Ukrainians did not come to their senses. This area, one could speculate, could then be held until the Ukrainians were prepared to enter into a peace settlement in which sovereignty is returned to Kiev in exchange for neutrality and friendly neighbourliness. The Minsk agreements would therefore be implemented through military persuasion where diplomacy had failed (as was the case in the Karabakh war recently, which Putin helped to manage a controlled conclusion to).
The other Russian strategic objective is the coastal strip to the South along the Black Sea. However, if things are played out to the full the Ukrainian state as a whole could even come into the balance.
Putin was placed in a dilemma over the past few months. Russia had been insistent even before the time of the 2008 Bucharest Conference, announcing the future ascension of Georgia and Ukraine to NATO that Russia would never permit such a thing. Putin made that clear in his famous Munich speech of 2007. From that point the West began seeing him as an ogre. They had wanted Putin to be a kind of sober Yeltsin who they could do business with as Russia was plundered. They realised that Russia had begun to resurrect itself and behave like a normal state again, protecting a sphere of influence around it, so that a hostile sphere of influence would not surround it, as normal powers do.
Russia drew a line in the sand over Georgia and Ukraine and made its position to the World clear. It had swallowed two earlier NATO expansions toward, and up to its borders, but enough was enough. A NATO expansion into Ukraine would more than triple the NATO/Russian line of contact making Russian territory much more difficult and expensive to defend. It would put Moscow within range of NATO bombers in less than 30 minutes.
In 2008 Georgia tested Putin with its NATO trained forces by assaulting South Ossetia. Russia defeated it in a week and could have done much worse as Tbilisi was wide open to Russian forces. But Russia made its point to Georgia and the World.
However, the lesson the West seemed to draw from this debacle was that in future a more serious force would be cultivated to produce a stronger test for Putin. And that led to battlefield Ukraine, once the right regime was installed.
According to Russia Today:
“Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that he chose to attack Ukraine beyond the borders of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) to prevent the West from ‘endlessly’ supplying ‘nationalists and radicals’ with various resources, such as weapons and money. He added that the Russian forces were ‘practically done’ destroying Ukrainian military sites, such as air defences and weapons depots.
“The president stated that he had ordered Russian troops to invade Ukraine last week in order to neutralise the ‘real threat’ coming from Kiev and NATO. Moscow has long protested the Western military infrastructure along its borders and Ukraine’s aspirations to join the US-led bloc.
“‘They began to say more actively that they will admit [Ukraine] to NATO. What will this lead to? All other members of the alliance must back Ukraine in the case of a military conflict,’ Putin said. ‘They will [attack] Crimea, and we will be forced to go to war with NATO. Do you understand the consequences?’ The president stated that he wanted Ukraine to become a neutral country.”
Zelensky’s rejection of the Minsk agreement was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back for Russia. Russian officials had worked for 8 years on Minsk, hammering out terms that would be agreeable to all parties concerned. Zelensky, who had come to power on the promise of easing tensions with Russia and finding an accommodation on the breakaway republics in east Ukraine, inexplicably rejected the agreement which was the only chance of achieving this. He then proceeded to deploy 60,000 troops to the line of contact in East Ukraine where they were poised for action against the ethnic Russians.
When the Ukrainian leadership signalled their intention of arming themselves with nuclear weapons that presumably also pushed Putin over the edge. The US, Russia and Ukraine had signed a Trilateral Statement in January 1994. Ukraine committed to full disarmament, including strategic weapons, in exchange for economic support and security assurances from the United States and Russia. The Budapest Memorandum, signed in December 1994, by the US, Britain, Russia and Ukraine confirmed the deal by which guarantees of Ukraine’s security and territorial integrity were made in exchange for Kiev transferring its nuclear warheads to Russia and accepting US assistance in dismantling missiles, bombers, and nuclear infrastructure and receiving compensation for the value of its enriched uranium. About 5,000 nuclear munitions were moved to Russia in almost 100 trains between 1994 and 1996.
President Zelensky in his speech of 19 February, at the Munich Security Conference, questioned whether Ukraine was obligated to retain its non-nuclear status. Zelensky argued, that the whole “package of decisions” in the Budapest deal, including Ukraine’s non-nuclear status, were “in doubt.” Zelensky said that “Ukraine received security guarantees for abandoning the world’s third nuclear capability… We don’t have that weapon. We now have no security.” He added: “The Minister of Foreign Affairs has been instructed to convene consultations. If they do not take place again or their results do not bring security guarantees for our country, Ukraine will have every right to believe that the Budapest Memorandum does not work, and all 1994 commitments will be called into question.” He previously stated in September 2019, in front of the UN, that he regretted that Ukraine had given up “its nuclear potential, which at that time was larger than that of the UK, France and China all put together.”
The statement of the President and the statements of other Ukrainians on arming his country with nuclear weapons was “crossing a red line” for Russia. Sergei Lavrov stated at the Conference of Disarmament in Geneva that Zelensky’s government threatened their neighbours’ and international security through embarking on “dangerous games related to plans to acquire their own nuclear weapons,” noting that Ukraine still had access to Soviet nuclear technologies and the means to deliver those weapons.
Ukraine did not have to join NATO for NATO to enter Ukraine. The US and its allies had transformed the country into a de facto member of NATO. As Prof. Mearsheimer has noted, Ukraine has already become in every sense a NATO country, but without the obligation for NATO to defend it, under Article V. And that is the best position for the NATO countries since they have strategic flexibility, as Britain had in 1914, to join a war, or not, on behalf of Ukraine, and determining its course. The West has not given a blank check to Ukraine, as Britain gave to Poland in 1939. It is not tied down by treaty obligations and retains the ability to act where and when it chooses against Russia without the unstable Ukrainians dictating the course of events.
The Russian Military Operation
The intervention in the Ukraine was called a “Special Military Operation” by Moscow. One assumes that this is to signify its limited character – both in substance and in ambition. The fact that it was greater in scope than a simple defence of the Russian areas in eastern Ukraine should not blur the fact that this was not an invasion with the intention of long-term conquest.
Col. Douglas Macgregor was interviewed by Tucker Carlson on Fox News on 1 March about the situation with Russia and Ukraine. Military people seem to be the most realistic and truthful people where war is concerned. Below is a part of the interview:
Col. Macgregor: “Well, the first 5 days, we saw a very slow methodical movement of Russian forces entering Ukraine…. They moved slowly and cautiously and tried to reduce casualties among the civilian population, trying to give the Ukrainian forces the opportunity to surrender. That is over. And in the phase which we find ourselves now, Russian forces have manoeuvred to encircle and surround the remaining Ukrainian forces and destroy them through a series of massive rocket artillery strikes, air strikes with Russian armour, slowly but surely, closing the distance and annihilating what’s left. So, this is the beginning of the end of the Ukrainian resistance.
Tucker Carlson: What is Putin’s goal here?”
Col. Macgregor: “Putin set out to honour his word from 2007 at the Munich Security Conference where he said ‘We will not allow the expansion of NATO to a point where NATO is touching our border – specifically, Ukraine and Georgia. We see these as Trojan Horses for NATO’s military power and US influence… He repeated that over and over and over again, in the hope that he could avoid taking action to effectively clean out eastern Ukraine of any opposition forces whatever, and to put his forces in a position vis-a-vis NATO to deter us from any further attempts to influence or change Ukraine into a platform for the projection of US and western power into Russia.
Now his goal – as of today – is to seize this whole area of eastern Ukraine (east of the Dneiper River) and he has crossed the river where he is preparing to go in and capture the city (of Kiev) entirely. At that point, Putin has to decide what else he wants to do. I don’t think he wants to go any further west. But he would like to know that whatever emerges from this as Ukraine… is “neutral” non-aligned and, preferably, friendly to Moscow. That he will accept. Anything short of that, and his war has been a waste of time.”
The Russian military operation in the first week of war was more kid gloves than iron fist. Around 120,000 soldiers faced each other along the line of contact. The Russians matched or only just exceeded the Ukrainian forces in number. A 10 days military operation was aimed at degrading Ukrainian military capacity, supplied to it by NATO. Then an evaluation was planned as to the situation. After a week of the operation 200,000 soldiers on both sides faced each other on the line of contact which had been expanded to 3000 km by the Russian operation. Ukrainian defences were forced into being thinned out and spread.
The Russian operation seems to have been about locating where the Ukrainian forces were, surrounding them, destroying their headquarters, air and naval bases, along with supplies and ammunition depots. Russia gave every indication of hoping to avoid urban warfare for humanitarian, political and economic reasons. Russia, said Putin, was not going to conduct war indiscriminately as the US/NATO did in Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.
Western analysts have suggested that the Russian forces have underperformed because of little training, preparation or intelligence work. They have argued that that this has produced poor coordination between Russian air power and ground forces. They quote figures suggesting high Russian casualties and very few Ukrainian deaths. If this is to be believed it suggests that the Russian operation was improvised to a large degree, rather than long-intended, and that the Russians were keen to minimise Ukrainian losses, particularly civilian ones, even if it meant incurring more military casualties themselves. Observing the level of Russian casualties, Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, reportedly told Putin take off the restraints and let the armed forces conduct a full war. It made no sense, he said, to save Ukrainian lives at the expense of Russian ones.
During the first week the Russian air force was not used extensively after air superiority was achieved. It was employed in limited and targeted strikes against military targets. However, it would have been known in the West that if Russia did not attain its goals through the use of kid gloves the gloves would surely come off and the Ukrainians would increasingly suffer the consequences of a more intensive campaign. That is what appears to be happening now.
The Russians have created three cauldrons of encirclement. The principle one is around Mariupol where the main concentration of the Azov battalion, the fascist force, is located. Another is being established around the main concentration of the Ukrainian Armed Forces facing the LDPR. And there is another developing to the east of the city of Kiev.
Putin may, or may not, have underestimated the substance of Ukraine, the nation. He may have thought, because the Soviet Union made the Ukrainian state, that Ukrainians were merely deluded Russians (as Irish nationalists underestimate the Ulster Protestant) who, given the shock treatment, would come to their senses. Alexander Powell in ‘Thunder Over Europe’ (1931) described the Ukrainians as having a “highly developed national consciousness, a language, a literature and a church of their own.” He compared them with the Irish, another oppressed people. However, Powell made it clear that the oppressors of the Ukrainians were not the Russians, but the Poles: “the Ukrainians of Galicia have had no sympathy with Communism, but in case the Soviets should launch an attack against Poland it would be surprising if they did not side with the Reds.” (pp.107-8) A decade later the four and a half million Poles of Eastern Galicia were indeed joined with the twenty million Russian Ukrainians to form the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Putin is not a Communist after all. The Soviets had a sounder grasp in handling the national and nationalities question. Even Khrushchev understood that Ukrainian nationalism was substantial and set out to undermine it through incorporating Russian populations within the Ukrainian SSR. Unfortunately for Ukraine its own nationalism has been found wanting and inadequate in incorporating them. It drove them back into Moscow’s arms for reasons of self-protection, assisting the Russian strategic interest.
The positive aspect to the Russians seeing the Ukrainians as brother Russians is that they are far more likely to be squeamish about killing them. The corollary to this is that the more Ukrainian resistance is seen as nationalist and anti-Russian the more Russians will cease to hold this view. But military activity against the Ukrainians will remain unpopular with the Russian people.
K.W.B. Middleton, writing about the 1918-21 period, when Poles and Germans thought of making something of the Ukraine, noted in his informative Britain and Russia: An Historical Essay:
“No Russian government, Red, White or other, could possibly tolerate a Poland extending to the Donetz Basin and cutting Russia off from the Black Sea, any more than a nominally independent Ukraine under German domination. It would mean the end of Russia.” (p.122)
Putin knows his geopolitics but Britain has evidently or conveniently forgotten its former understandings in cheering on the US in extending NATO into an area that would “mean the end of Russia”. Does anyone really know what Russia is anymore in the West beyond the caracatures?
Let us sum up the implications of all this: US policy is to remove Putin, the man who has resurrected Russia as a functional Power; it has succeeded in luring Russia into Ukraine so that a vast array of punitive measures can be instituted against it; these can be ratcheted up if the Ukrainians continue to fight and do not make a settlement; this will lead to an intensification of the Russian campaign, producing many more casualties and destruction; this will all be good for propaganda against Russia; Russia will have to get rid of Putin or go down with him; Ukrainians and Ukrainian territory can be sacrificed in increasing amounts to the greater good of vanquishing the Devil. That is the Holy war in Ukraine.
As has been said before, by the present writer, Russia has chosen to stand and fight in Ukraine. The Ukrainians have obliged the West, who as yet have declined to fight themselves, by providing the battlefield and human resources for that fight. Russia cannot afford to lose this fight, having taken up the gauntlet and there is no retreat. Ukraine is likely to pay a heavy price in blood, treasure and territory in such circumstances. And that will make great media against Russia.
In its own terms, the US has been greatly successful in what it has achieved so far: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya etc. have been forgotten in a heartbeat. US intelligence, which harmed its reputation by inventing the Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction story has seemingly recovered its reputation by predicted a Russian invasion (after all, the only true prophets are those who carve out the future they, themselves, predict). Washington has wiped out the Trumpian peace-mongering, democratic dereliction of duty, aberration in an instant. War and the Russian Devil have shepherded the European flock back into the fold and the US leads “the world” again. Everyone understands who’s boss and what the difference is between Good and Evil. The “Free World” has been successfully mustered behind the US in the fight against Evil, where it belongs.
Whether this situation persists, of course, is a different thing entirely. There is always the chance, if the Ukrainians get their way, that nothing will persist because nothing will exist. A rather striking Ukrainian female MP, when advised by the Channel 4 News interviewer that the calls for the West to directly intervene would lead to a third world war, told him that “Ukraine is already fighting World War Three.”
Perhaps in attempting to destroy the Devil the delusions of war may mean we all come to meet our Maker before the allotted time.
It’s good to read the other side of the narrative. One sometimes wonders about the integrity of BBC and other media.
Thank you for the illuminating article, no doubt only the ones who are open to debate will read and learn.
excellent essay, particularly your assessment of President Zelensky and the Ukrainian leadership