On 6 July President Putin made a significant speech in the Kremlin’s St Catherine Hall. Putin was meeting with the leaders of the State Duma and the heads of party factions of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. Here are the important sections of the Russian President’s speech:
“The so-called collective West led by the United States has been extremely aggressive towards Russia for decades. Our proposals to create a system of equal security in Europe have been rejected. Initiatives for cooperation on the issue of missile defence were rejected. Warnings about the unacceptability of NATO expansion, especially at the expense of the former republics of the Soviet Union, were ignored. Even the idea of Russia’s possible integration into this North Atlantic alliance, and good relations with NATO, apparently, seemed absurd to its members…
We are being told that we started the war in Donbass, in Ukraine. No, the war was unleashed by the collective West, which organised and supported the unconstitutional armed coup in Ukraine in 2014, and then encouraged and justified genocide against the people of Donbass. The collective West is the direct instigator and the culprit of what is happening today.
If the West wanted to provoke a conflict in order to move on to a new stage in the fight against Russia and a new stage in containing our country, we can say that it has succeeded to a certain extent. A war was unleashed, and the sanctions were imposed. Under normal circumstances, it would probably be difficult to accomplish this.
But here is what I would you like to make clear. They should have realised that they would lose from the very beginning of our special military operation, because this operation also means the beginning of a radical breakdown of the US-style world order. This is the beginning of the transition from liberal-globalist American egocentrism to a truly multipolar world…
Everyone should understand that this process cannot be stopped. The course of history is inexorable, and the collective West’s attempts to impose its new world order on the rest of the world are doomed…
To reiterate, even in the countries that are still satellites of the United States, there is a growing understanding that their ruling elites’ blind obedience to their overlord, as a rule, does not necessarily coincide with their national interests, and most often simply and even radically contradicts them. Eventually, everyone will have to face this growing sentiment in society…
Today we hear that they want to defeat us on the battlefield. Well, what can I say? Let them try. We have already heard a lot about the West wanting to fight us ”to the last Ukrainian.“ This is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but that seems to be where it is going. But everyone should know that, by and large, we have not started anything in earnest yet.
At the same time, we are not rejecting peace talks, but those who are rejecting them should know that the longer it goes on, the harder it will be for them to negotiate with us.”
While this is a good statement of the Russian position, which the West ignored for years in favour of marching its forces up to the borders of Russia, the sentence that stands out is the one that states “everyone should know that, by and large, we have not started anything in earnest yet.“
There has been much derision from the West at the Russian insistence that it is conducting a “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine – as opposed to waging a war. However, it has become clear in the course of that military intervention why Moscow has made that distinction. What we see in Ukraine is a limited Russian military intervention by an expeditionary force of around 200,000 made up largely of interior security forces. In other words, the bulk of Russia’s army, the other four-fifths, is being held in reserve for either a future full-scale war in Ukraine or one with NATO. Whether the limited Special Military Operation becomes something more depends largely on what the West does in support of Kiev. However, it seems that the major effect of the delivery of the Himars and other longer range US missile systems to Kiev has been to provoke an extension of the geographical area of the Special Military Operation.
The indications are that Putin will offer Kiev an opportunity to escape the conflict in the near future. This will probably be the last chance for a negotiated settlement, but it will be a settlement reflecting the military balance and on Russian terms.
Russia is likely to make an offer to the Ukrainians when the Donbas region has been largely secured by Russian forces. That is probably going to be soon. Once the Russians overcome the fortress towns of the Donbas, which have been built up over the last 8 years, it is open country toward the Dneiper. Most of the present fighting is being handled by the Russian-oriented Ukrainians with the Russian army held in reserve, resting for a break-out offensive.
There are suggestions that the outline of the offer has already been communicated by diplomatic means, through third parties. It will involve the Ukrainians accepting the loss of Lugansk and Donetz and pulling any remaining forces out of these provinces. Referendums/plebiscites will be conducted on the question of future status within these territories with the distinct possibility that these parts of the Ukrainian state will be absorbed into the Russian state. All other areas occupied by Russian forces are also likely to be retained. There will be an insistence on a declaration of neutrality inserted into the Ukrainian constitution as well as a bar on fascist elements becoming part of the Kiev administration.
These Russian demands will be a pitter bill to swallow for the Zelensky government. It is extremely likely that they will not be prepared to swallow it and Washington will urge them to fight on. The US Embassy in Kiev has instructed all Americans to leave the country on their own volition, using privately available ground transportation, as soon as possible. This suggests that the battle lines are expected to move in only one direction in the foreseeable future, or that escalation is planned.
The million strong army announced to replace the original Ukrainian army, which has been three-quarters destroyed, is yet to materialise and reports are circulating that young men are resisting the draft in increasing numbers as news filters through about the appalling losses that are lately being suffered at the fronts. The Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south, which was widely advertised, has not taken place, as yet. In fact, throughout the war the Ukrainians have not recaptured any territory which the Russians have not given up voluntarily in order to transfer troops elsewhere to fight battles of greater strategic importance.
The price Kiev will pay for a refusal to accept these demands will probably be a Russian advance to the Dneiper which cuts Ukraine in two. There is likely to be a Russian offensive to the West of Odessa, along the line to Transnistria, cutting it off from Ukraine and securing the whole of the Black Sea coast for Russia. Ukraine will become a rump state, reduced to its Western nationalist core. The Ukrainian state built by the Soviets will be dismantled and it will give way to a Ukrainian nation state that reflects the desire to be part of Europe and the West. What Samuel Huntingdon suggested for Ukraine in his Clash of Civilisations will come to pass.
President Biden and other Western leaders have promised to support Kiev “for as long as it takes” for Ukraine to “win.” Already the United States alone has committed $53 billion to support Ukraine’s war effort. Kiev has demanded that it must be supplied with $5 billion per month indefinitely to continue fighting (along with an estimated $750 billion as a first instalment toward reconstruction costs after the war).
However, continued Western support for the war will necessitate a continued Russian advance across Ukraine to end it, particularly to neutralise the long-range weapons that have been supplied to Kiev. With this the West will have to drastically escalate the war if it wants to win it. It may have to be prepared to fight a world war and risk nuclear exchange to do so. Is the Biden administration willing to do this?
On a visit to Britain, to review the training of Ukrainian forces there, Volodymyr Havrylov, Kiev’s Deputy Defence Minister said that “Ukraine is preparing to destroy the Russian navy’s Black Sea fleet with western weapons and take back Crimea.” (The Times 19 July) The British Foreign Secretary has backed this objective, and she may be the British Prime Minister soon.
It seems that some people are willing to sacrifice the whole of humanity for the Donbas and Ukraine! While that seems ridiculous it should be pointed out that World War II, which resulted in the deaths of 50 millions, was fought over the Danzig Corridor.
All the indications are that Washington will escalate the conflict having staked so much on it already. It will need to do this, at least incrementally, if it is to keep the Ukrainians in the field, with the continued will to fight and die. Only that can stave off the big dilemma that will confront Washington, if and when the Ukrainian lines begin to break, when self-preservation prevails over self-sacrifice.
The present writer has emphasized one fundamental thing in this series of articles: The government in Kiev was badly mistaken in lending its people and territory to Washington for a geopolitical war on Russia. It was always likely that such a war would be fought for Western geopolitical interests and concluded as such, and not for the benefit of Ukraine or the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians were likely to be the collateral damage in such a war, whose primary purpose was to depose Putin and to weaken Russia, at the expense of Ukrainian lives and territory.
Credit, of course, should be given to the Ukrainians. They are the best army that the US could have mustered anywhere in the world against the Russians. They have done their duty, directed by Washington’s command and control, to the letter. The famous line, “Ours not to reason why, ours just to do and die” comes to mind. The Ukrainians have sacrificed themselves with extraordinary willingness in the “battle for democracy” when others would have quickly disengaged after being confronted with the awful reality of what they had embarked upon. Nobody can ever deny that these Ukrainians made the supreme sacrifice for those unwilling to fight themselves, but who provided the maximum moral, military and economic support to keep them fighting until they could fight no more or were no more. Let us salute them, speak of their deeds in awe, and pray to God more peoples will never have to emulate them.
However, the Ukrainians are in a bind. Kiev is now totally dependent militarily and financially on Washington and the West for survival. Any reduction in Western assistance will be fatal. So the Ukrainians have to constantly demonstrate they are worth supporting as an anti-Russian instrument. This has meant defending territory and sacrificing good units in needless and unprofitable stands, when retreat would be more advisable. And it plays into Russian hands since the degradation of Kiev’s military forces is the prime objective, rather than the taking of territory.
Prof. John Mearsheimer, who warned for years of the impending tragedy that the US was bringing on the Ukraine recently summed it up in the following way:
“Simply put, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine is a colossal catastrophe, which… will force people all over the world to look for its causes. Those who believe in facts and logic will quickly discover that the United States and its allies are primarily responsible for this… The decision taken in April 2008 on the accession of Ukraine and Georgia to NATO was destined to lead to a conflict with Russia. The Bush administration was the main architect of this fateful choice, but the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations intensified and aggravated this policy at every turn, and America’s allies obediently followed Washington. Despite the fact that Russian leaders made it abundantly clear that Ukraine’s accession to NATO would mean crossing Russia’s “most contrasting of red lines,” the United States refused to come to terms with Russia’s deep security concerns and instead moved tirelessly to turn Ukraine into a western bastion on the border with Russia.
The tragic truth is that if the West had not sought to expand NATO into Ukraine, it is unlikely that a war would have raged in Ukraine today, and Crimea would most likely still be part of Ukraine. In fact, Washington has played a central role in leading Ukraine down the path of destruction. History will severely condemn the United States and its allies for their strikingly stupid policy towards Ukraine.”
So far, the US strategy has been a military, economic and political failure in relation to Ukraine. The Russian advantage in industrial warfare which has given them superior quantities of artillery, equipment and ammunition against the Western suppliers of Kiev has been a decisive factor. The Russians have taken more than a fifth of the country, the sanctions have rebounded on the West and only a small portion of humanity has been bullied into supporting Washington, with open defiance from some significant allies like India and Saudi Arabia. Of course, if the US strategy was aimed at subduing any independent will Europe had in the world and wrecking the economies of a competitor it has been a great success.
If those who advise US administrations these days had read the history of Ukraine they would know why they were “leading Ukraine down the path of destruction.”
One such history, The Ukraine, A History (1940) by W.E.D. Allen is illuminating. Bill Allen, after a political career as MP for West Belfast and in Oswald Mosley’s party in Britain, took a keen interest in Russia and the Caucasus as well as the Ottomans. His 400 page history of Ukraine was written at the moment when the nationality question was being solved by Stalin and Hitler by cutting Poland down to size. Allen describes how the Bolsheviks put the Ukrainian state together after Ukrainian nationalism failed to take root in the peasantry, leading to anarchical fighting, mass killing and chaos in the Ukraine during 1918-19. He notes how the Bolsheviks then attempted to Ukrainianize Ukraine to build a Ukrainian state but afterwards had to repress Ukrainian nationalism when it threatened to destabilize the state. So, Allen believed that when Stalin (in conjunction with Hitler) managed to expand the Ukrainian state to its linguistic boundaries in 1939 he had solved the national question in Ukraine:
“The first result of Adolf Hitler’s understanding with Stalin was the fall of the Polish Republic, and the occupation of the Polish districts of White Russia and Galicia by the Red Army. The Soviet occupation of Galicia was a severe blow to the Ukrainian nationalist movement. Too late did the leaders of U.N.D.O. and U.N.U. come to appreciate the relative tolerance of the Polish system of government. At the same time both the Polish and Ukrainian questions have been potentially simplified. A revived Polish state will be a national state in federal relation to its neighbours rather than an outmoded ‘state of nationalities’. The fate of the Ukrainians becomes altogether a part of the obscure destiny of the nationalities at present under the rule of the Communist Government in Moscow. And the destiny of all these peoples must be a Russian destiny in the sense that the fluvial network of the Great Eurasian Plain is one geographical and economic whole out of which it is impracticable and would be unreal to attempt to carve separate and politically independent national units” (p.387)
When Ukraine was detached from the crumbling Soviet Union in the early 1990s and it attempted to carve out a separate and politically independent national unit it had to establish functional relations with its neighbour, the Russian Federation. That is what independent states are required to do in the world through statesmanship. The years from 1991-2013 saw Kiev managing to maintain the territory it had been bequeathed by the Soviets, including Crimea which had only come into its possession a generation previous when Khrushchev attached it to Ukraine to increase Russian numbers in the Ukrainian state. During this period it was, however, touch and go whether the Donbas and Crimea seceded from Kiev’s control. Only Kiev’s drawing back from measures that would have fully alienated these areas and the lack of a functional Russia to join, during Yeltsin’s disastrous administration, kept Ukraine together.
When Putin had resurrected Russia the landscape had changed. And it was at this very moment, proving Ukraine was essentially an anti-Russian instrument for the West, that the EU and Washington felt they should attempt to curtail the Russian resurgence by destabilising Ukraine and making it a problem for Putin.
A careful balance between West and East, between the Ukrainian nationalist West and more Russian-orientated East, was essential to holding onto the territory the Ukrainian state had been provided with by the Soviets. However, during 2013-14 the EU and US came bearing gifts, to prise Ukraine away from the Russian sphere, and the balance necessary to hold the state together was fatally upset. The elected government in Kiev was overthrown in the Maidan coup and the Eastern parts of Ukraine, including Crimea, which overwhelmingly supported the government it had elected began to secede, assisted by a resurgent Russia under Putin.
This was how the West began “leading Ukraine down the path of destruction” 8 years before the Russian Special Military Operation.
There was still time to rescue the situation after 2014 if a new security arrangement had been negotiated by the West with Russia or Minsk II had been implemented. France and Germany attempted to broker a deal but Kiev used the process merely as a holding operation, for NATO to arm and train its developing forces for an irredentist war on the lost territories. President Poroshenko, Zelensky’s predecessor admitted on June 17, 2022: “The Minsk Agreements did not mean anything to us, and we had no intention to carry them out… our goal was to remove the threat we faced… and win time in order to restore economic growth and rebuild the armed forces. We achieved this goal. Mission accomplished for the Minsk Agreements.”
The Ukrainian post-coup government rejected a deal that would have ensured territorial integrity (minus Crimea), with autonomy for Donbas. Kiev, with Washington’s blessing and support, played a game of double or quits with its territory, which it determined to incorporate through military force, with the Western assistance. And it is still playing that game, with its losses mounting and its chips declining.
Now Zelensky has fired (and then suspended after pushback?) his chief spy chief and the state prosecutor on the charge of tolerating widespread “treason and collaboration” with the Russians within state security. The 35,000 strong SBU is apparently riddled with informers and collaborators and a major purge is underway. This indicates an internal crisis of some kind (perhaps brought about by the alleged sale of a US Himars system to the Russians which Washington is understandably furious about). Previously, the chief opposition For Life party was banned by those “waging democracy’s battle” from Kiev. The Zelensky regime is reducing itself more and more to an exclusively Ukrainian nationalist constituency, in attempting to cohere the Ukrainian nation under the impact of war. It is running up against the historic problem of Ukrainian nationalism that all the will (and power) in the Western world can not overcome, but only exacerbate.
The Russian military intervention has undoubtedly assisted Ukrainian nation-building but Kiev is ensuring through its anti-accommodationist policy that the Ukrainian nation which survives will live within a much reduced territory as a consequence. And the final extent of that territory will most probably be determined by the length of time Kiev is willing to resist the Russians. Unfortunately for the Ukrainians the evidence suggests that the end product will bear a reverse relationship to the sacrifice made.