Putin: The Reluctant Annexationist

The news from Ukraine comes from the UK’s State Broadcasting agency, the BBC. The BBC constructs its news via journalists relaying the propaganda produced in Kiev and analysis from a network of British state security think tanks.

Tom Stevenson, in reviewing a recent book written by one of the chief Ukraine analysts for the BBC, Lawrence Freedman, for the London Review of Books, 6 October 2022, described the people and networks who lie behind the construction of the British State narrative that the BBC presents to its public:

“Many countries find a special place for civilians who share the interests of the state’s military, intelligence and diplomatic bureaucracy but operate outside its hierarchy. In Britain they are spread among a network of security think tanks and academic departments that include the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House) and the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. From fine old buildings in Whitehall, Temple, St James’s Square and the Strand, they shape much of the foreign and defence policy analysis produced in Britain. Each institution has its own flavour (the Chatham House sensibility is more mandarin than military), but they have a great deal in common. All have close connections with the intelligence services – after John Sawers retired as head of MI6 in 2014, he took up posts at King’s and RUSI – and an equally close relationship with the national security establishment of the United States.

Among the British defence intelligentsia, Atlanticism is a foundational assumption. A former director of policy planning at the US State Department and a former director at the US National Security Council are on the staff of the IISS. Until he stepped down in July, Chatham House was led by Robin Niblett, who spent time at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. RUSI’s director-general, Karin von Hippel, was once chief of staff to the four-star American general John Allen. In 2021, RUSI’s second largest donor was the US State Department. (The largest was the EUCommission; BAE Systems, the British army, the Foreign Office and some other friendly governments account for most of the remaining funding.) IISS’s main funders – aside from the EU Commission, the State Department and, notably, Bahrain – are mostly arms companies. Chatham House gets more money from the British government and oil companies than from arms sellers, but its list of backers is similar. Despite these US links, however, and despite the fervency of their commitment to American national security priorities, British security think tanks have next to no influence across the Atlantic. Staff from UK think tanks sometimes take temporary jobs in more prestigious offices in Washington, but they very rarely become insiders.”

It is basically British Intelligence, acting for British and US State interests, that owns and forms the narrative about Ukraine that is presented to the British public.

It is, therefore, highly unlikely that what we hear about Ukraine is objective, realistic or informative.

Another important element of news management and control, along with misinformation and disinformation, is that of deliberate omission and suppression of information.

On 6 October, President Zelensky dropped a bombshell when he told the Australian Lowy Institute that NATO must carry out preemptive strikes against Russia so that it “knows what to expect” if it ever uses its nuclear arsenal. He claimed that such action would “eliminate the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons,” before he recalled how he urged other nations to preemptively punish Russia before it launched its military action against Ukraine. Zelensky stated: “I once again appeal to the international community, as it was before February 24: Preemptive strikes so that [the Russians] know what will happen to them if they use it, and not the other way around.”

This was a clear acknowledgement that Kiev had been agitating for a pre-emptive strike on Russia by Western Powers prior to the Russian invasion of February 24. Lavrov immediately pounced on this admission by Zelensky, saying that the plea by the Ukrainian President for NATO members to deploy nuclear weapons against Russia was a reminder why Moscow had launched military action against Ukraine: “Yesterday, Zelensky called on his Western masters to deliver a preemptive nuclear strike on Russia” and “showed to the entire world the latest proof of the threats that come from the Kiev regime.” Lavrov reminded the West that Russia’s Special Military Operation had been launched after Zelensky had “declared in January Ukraine’s intention to acquire nuclear weapons” and to neutralize such potential threats.

Zelensky’s reckless statement (perhaps under the influence of too much cocaine) was a bombshell in the West. The Western media largely suppressed it in news coverage. It was covered in the non-aligned global South, however. Afterwards, it is clear that Zelensky’s sponsors got concerned about how this would play out amongst their populations and got the BBC’s pompous John Simpson (who had famously fallen foul of Putin and been put in his place at a press conference years ago) to conduct a timely interview where he performed to script to “clarify” a “mis-translation” to assuage the sensibilities of the West.

A number of highly provocative acts, outside the normal course of affairs on the battlefield, including the assassination of Daria Dugina, the Ukrainian bombardment of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Zelensky’s call for emptive strikes on Russia, and the “human bomb” attack on the Kerch Bridge, linking Crimea to the Russian mainland, seem to be aimed at getting Putin to over-react or to generate pressure from Russian society on the Russian President to over-react. Why? Is Kiev frustrated at the level of Western direct involvement in the war and does it want to provoke a dramatic escalation in the conflict that will draw Washington in?

It is clear to the present writer that the driver of the conflict in Ukraine, from 2014 onwards, has been a group of people in Washington. Since the Biden Presidency that group has won over the US administration to its project.

Biden promised that “America is Back!” after the shameful Trump interregnum and that promise has been more than delivered in Ukraine. Washington has taken over Ukraine, as if it were the 51st state of the Union, financing its economy and war effort and commanding and controlling a new NATO army made up of Ukrainians. The political leadership in Kiev and military leadership of Ukrainian forces are now integrated into Washington’s operational and strategic plan aimed at weakening Russia, knowing that if they are not they will suffer defeat. They are the willing and enthusiastic instruments of Washington geopolitics and they have made the Ukrainian people hostage to fortune.

The Kremlin has been all along the reactive force, the responder to the actions initiated from Washington and from Kiev. Moscow’s responses to the escalating situations that have confronted it are presented by the Western political class and its media as forms of aggression and escalations. But it is clear that the shots are being called in Washington and London in order to provoke reaction in Moscow and to open up divisions in Russia around whether such responses are adequate, inadequate or unwise.

Putin, throughout his career, and in relation to the Ukraine problem, has constantly shown himself to be a minimalist and conservative in policy. He has under-reacted in every circumstance presented to him. That is why there was such surprise and pleasure in the West when Putin ordered the Special Military Operation/invasion of Ukraine back in February. There was great satisfaction that the combination of pressures Washington and Kiev had presented to the Russian leader had finally provoked a decisive reaction by him. Was this self-fulfilling prophecy or Thucydides Trap or both?

The Associated Press reported on 30 September:

“Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties on Friday to illegally annex more occupied Ukrainian territory in a sharp escalation of his war. Ukraine’s president countered with a surprise application to join the NATO military alliance. Putin’s land-grab and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s signing of what he said is an “accelerated” NATO membership application sent the two leaders speeding faster on a collision course that is cranking up fears of a full-blown conflict between Russia and the West. Putin vowed to protect newly annexed regions of Ukraine by “all available means,” a renewed nuclear-backed threat he made at a Kremlin signing ceremony where he also railed furiously against the West, accusing the United States and its allies of seeking Russia’s destruction.”

In February 2008, when Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia without holding any kind of referendum, the US recognised the declaration against repeated UN resolutions upholding the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia. Under international law, Kosovo was part of Serbia. The US was detaching another country’s territory by force – just as it is now accusing Russia of – and then recognising its independence – just as it is now accusing Russia of. Richard Sakwa pointed out that the US endorsed “the infamous advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice … that Kosovo’s declaration of independence ‘did not violate general international law’.” (Frontline Ukraine, p.110)

Seeing Washington ripping up International Law, Putin responded by recognising the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in August 2008. The Kosovo precedent has long been quoted by the Armenian separatists of the former Nagorno-Karabakh oblast, in support of their detaching of this region from the territory of Azerbaijan. During the Karabakh war the Armenians appealed to their CSTO ally in Moscow to intervene to save the separatists. Putin in rejecting their pleas made it clear to Yerevan that “Artsakh” was not Armenia, Karabakh is Azerbaijan!

The US has been careful not to recognise the Armenian separatists but it hasn’t stopped Washington from firmly coming down on the Armenian side, as was demonstrated recently by the Pelosi visit to Yerevan and the Resolutions of Congress.

The arbitrary nature of Washington’s position on separation, depending on US foreign policy interests, is exposed by President Biden’s insistence three days before the Russian annexation of Ukrainian territory that “Taiwan makes their own judgments about their independence. … that’s their decision.” Presumably it doesn’t violate the UN charter if it works against China; it violates the UN charter if it works for Russia. Furthermore, the US has officially recognised other annexations, most recently the Moroccan annexation of Western Sahara.

Be that as it may, the annexation of another state’s territory is unquestionably against international law. However, the interesting thing is how much Putin tried to avoid taking such a momentous step and how he was now been provoked into doing so by Washington’s ratcheting up of the conflict to test his mettle.

This has been clear since the present conflict began in 2014. The Euromaidan protests took place in late 2013 after President Victor Yanukovich refused to sign an association agreement with the EU. Yanukovich was not in any way a Kremlin stooge. Moscow would have preferred to do business with his main rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, who was a stronger leader and had done the gas deal with the Kremlin in 2009. But Yanukovich won the Presidency in 2010 and was the leader who was placed on the horns of a dilemma when the EU came bearing gifts in 2013 and split the country between those who wanted Western integration and those who believed in the balanced policy that had maintained good but uneasy relations with Ukraine’s powerful neighbour.

The Euromaidan rallies went on for months in Independence Square in Kiev. By mid-February they were taken over by radical nationalist groups and on 18 November up to a hundred people died after Far Right agent provocateur snipers opened fire. The government was blamed for the deaths of those who became the scared victims of the revolution. The Euromaidan revolutionaries seized government buildings and President Yanukovich fled the country.

The overthrow of the elected government of Ukraine led to protests in the Donbas, which had voted heavily for Yanukovich. Ukrainian paramilitary groups called the volunteer battalions, including Azov, arrived in Donbas to suppress the protests. In March 2014 the radical units were incorporated into the official forces of the State by the new regime.

The Donbas Russians did not see the Donbas as Ukrainian. They saw their region as New Russia, encompassing a large territory to the North of the Black Sea, annexed to the Russian Empire in the 18th Century during the Russo-Turkish wars. This was the Crimean khanate of the Tatars, which extended into the Donbas. During the 19th Century the Tsarist authorities gradually displaced the Tatars, forcing them toward Ottoman territories and replacing them with Russians.

In 1922 the Bolsheviks gave most of the lands of New Russia to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and banned the term New Russia. There was opposition to being part of a Ukrainian state in 1922 and an attempt to form a separate Donbas Soviet state but this was suppressed by the Bolsheviks. In 1922 Crimea remained part of Soviet Russia, but it was transferred by Khrushchev to Soviet Ukraine in 1954 to increase Russian numbers in the Ukraine.

Ukrainianisation was carried out as part of the Soviet nationalities policy. The President of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, noted that “we would likely not be independent had it not been for the Soviet education program’s support of Ukrainianisation. Tens of millions passed through the schools of Soviet Ukraine. The education they provided would prove to be the most important element in instilling a durable Ukrainian identity.”

The Soviet Union was the nation-builder of the Ukrainian State. The Russian Bolsheviks not only provided the Ukrainian state that left the USSR with its extensive territory but helped build the Ukrainian national identity. While there were Ukrainian nationalists before 1922, they proved incapable of constructing a Ukrainian state or giving the people cohesion as a national body. The Ukrainian nationalism that existed in 1922 was largely a product of the Polish and Hapsburg Empires, and was much more developed in the west of the country.

New Russia was seen as including 8 regions of Ukraine: Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkov, Kherson, Zaporozhye, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa and Nikolaev. In 2014, as a result of the Euromaidan Kiev coup, a “Russian Spring” developed with activists demanding incorporation of New Russia into the Russian Federation. 2 of the 8 regions of New Russia held referendums of independence in 2014. However, the separatists did not want independence. They wanted incorporation into Russia. Independence was only declared to escape from the authority of the new anti-Russian regime in Kiev that was in place as a result of the Euromaidan coup.

Local militias developed to defend the Donbas from Kiev’s attempts to suppress the protests and impose its authority. These militias were local developments and not supported by Moscow, although volunteers from Russia arrived to support them. Most famous was Igor Strelkov and his 200 volunteers in the Crimea Company. They were largely Russian nationalist ex-servicemen, veterans of the Chechen wars and the Crimea rising earlier in the year which Moscow had responded to.

In May 1997 Russia had secured basing rights for the Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol, in the Crimea. This was through the conclusion of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership with Kiev. The Treaty codified the principles of Russian-Ukrainian relations based on respect for territorial integrity, sovereignty, inviolability of borders and non-use of force. Upon Ukrainian independence Russia had found itself with a large fleet and nowhere to anchor it. During the Georgia-Russian war President Yushchenko, a strong supporter of NATO membership, issued 2 decrees terminating Russia’s leasing rights to Sevastopol from 2017. In April 2010 President Yanukovich overrode the decrees of his predecessor by signing an extension to the Sevastopol lease until 2042, with the option of another 5 years after that. This was part of the Kharkov Accords in which Ukraine received a very generous discount on Russian gas supply.

After the Euromaidan coup in Kiev, Putin decided to take the strategically vital Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. He got legal formality for the use of the Russian military on the territory of another state through the Yanukovich Letter. The Ukrainian President wrote a letter on 1 March requesting Moscow use the Russian military “for the restoration of law, peace, order, stability, and the defence of the people of Ukraine.” This was before Moscow had recognised the new President Poroshenko, so the Kremlin was responding to a request from whom it regarded as the legitimate governing authority. Poroshenko had not been elected as President at that point. The letter was presented to an extraordinary meeting of the United Nations Security Council to justify the legality of the intervention. 

The letter gave Moscow the opportunity to intervene in Ukraine and Putin said in an interview that: “We reserve the right to use all available means we have to protect… ethnic Russians and Ukrainians, and the Russian-speaking people living in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine in general.” The Russian government began to talk about New Russia and ethnic Russians for the first time and Putin’s speech in the Kremlin after the annexation of Crimea sounded like a Russian nationalist manifesto. 

The Donbas rebels, seeing the annexation of Crimea, proclaimed the Donetsk and Luhansk Republics and occupied government buildings in the region. They seized arms and watched events in Crimea with enthusiasm, expecting the Russian Army to arrive to take over the buildings they held. But the Russians never came.

The Donbas rebels complained at Moscow’s refusal to regard them as Russian. It was clear that Moscow did not initiate the separatist movement in Donbas and only reacted to it – hoping it would subside. In early September 2014 Moscow ordered the separatists to stop flying the Russian flag. They told Strelkov and the Donbas fighters to cease calling for the Donbas incorporation into Russia and required them to demand a federal Ukraine instead. When Sergei Glazyev, an adviser to Putin, demanded a no-fly zone over Donbas airspace he was heavily censored by the Russian media who claimed he was risking nuclear war with the West. Alexander Dugin was dismissed from his position at Moscow State University for his support for New Russia and Eurasianism.

On 13 April 2014 Kiev launched the “anti-terrorist operation” to return the Donbas to its authority. It officially lasted 4 years. It labelled the Donbas as an occupied region. The war that continues today in enhanced form, began that month.

On 17 April Putin said: “Let me remind you that in Tsarist times… New Russia – Kharkov, Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, Nikolaev, Odessa – was not considered part of Ukraine. Those were territories that were transferred to Ukraine in the 1920s by the Soviet government. Why they did it, god knows. These lands were taken after the victories of Potyomkin and Catherine II in famous wars based on New Russia. Hence New Russia.” 

Referendums were held on 11 May 2014 on the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples’s Republics in the parts held by the separatists. Around 75 per cent of people cast votes and 90 per cent voted for independence. 

Glazyev, Putin’s adviser, assured the separatists in Donbas that help was coming from Russia.

Putin could have used the Yanukovich Letter at this point to take Donbas. But he chose to use the letter only in relation to Crimea. Moscow then moved to shut down the New Russia project. The “Russian Spring” became the “Crimean Spring”.

Putin charged his assistant, Vladislav Surkov, to come to an accommodation with Kiev involving a ceasefire and demilitarisation leading to autonomy for Donbas as part of the Minsk agreement. Putin ordered the separatist leaders Strelkov and Bolotov to unmask themselves to show they were locals and not Moscow’s men. The Russian President instructed the Russians of the Donbas to “proceed realistically” claiming that the Donbas had a 50/50 population of Russians and Ukrainians, not an overwhelmingly Russian population, like Crimea.

By 7 May Putin had made it clear that he was not in favour of DPR and LPR independence and instead favoured a federal solution within Ukraine for the breakaway areas. Putin denounced the independence referendums in Donetsk and Luhansk held on 11 May. On 25 June the Federation Council of Russia rescinded the decree authorising military intervention after recognising President Poroshenko as legitimate President of Ukraine on 26 May.

Some Russian troops were reluctantly and unofficially sent into Donbas in the Summer only after Kiev’s bombardments had led to hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming across the border into Russia. In August Putin held a closed meeting with 50 people from the Donbas. They all requested him to send troops into the region to protect people from Kiev’s forces. As a result the Ukrainians were pushed back from the border with Russia. The Minsk Agreements were signed in early September 2014.

The federation of Ukraine was favoured by Putin in order to temper the nationalism developing in Ukraine in order to make relations functional between the two states. The break up of Ukraine was not part of the Kremlin’s agenda despite the developing separatist insurgency in the Donbas. 

Professor Richard Sakwa wrote in Frontline Ukraine at the time, explaining to the West:

“Putin… is not an ideologue… he remains rational and pragmatic… He was well aware that the US had lured the Soviet Union into the Afghan quagmire. The architect of that strategy was Zbigniew Brzezinski… His book ‘The Grand Chessboard’ has been translated into Russian and is part of everyday political discussion. Flushed with the ‘success’ of his Afghanistan strategy, he now argued in favour of the West arming forces within Ukraine… Putin was well aware of the dangers of being sucked into a war over Ukraine, which would be unwinnable and disastrous. The costs of maintaining even the two regions of the Donbas would be far beyond Russia’s limited capacities, while a full-scale occupation of Ukraine was inconceivable… the dangers of escalation and ‘mission creep’ were well known.” (pp.214-5)

Putin persisted with Minsk for 8 years. The Minsk I and II agreements required Ukraine to give the Donbas oblasts significant autonomy. The United Nations Security Council acknowledged and supported the agreements. But attempts to implement them were sabotaged by the US via the armed right wing movements that had considerable influence over the government in Kiev. The Kiev government obstructed any implementation and played for time.

The Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics defended their territories against persistent  Ukrainian attempts to solve the conflict by force. While the people in those territories had voted for the independence of their republics, and wanted to become a part of Russia, the Kremlin did not want this. It wanted the republics to remain within Ukraine and persisted with attempts to implement the Minsk agreements.

From 2015 the US and NATO started to build a new Ukrainian army and by 2021 it was larger than most armies of NATO countries. Plans were evidently made to launch a new offensive to reincorporate the Donbas republics within the Ukrainian State. In 2021 Russia became aware of this and large manoeuvres of the Russian military was organised near the border with Ukraine to deter any offensive. The situation temporarily settled down.

The Kremlin was very concerned at the developing threat. Any attempt by Kiev’s forces to overwhelm the Donbas, and what was likely to follow, would have created a situation in which the Russian government would be hard pressed by its own people to intervene. Despite Kremlin policy to acknowledge these people only as Ukrainians Russians saw the inhabitants of those areas as Russian people and would have demanded action to protect them. Failure to do so would have had serious consequences politically for Putin.

When the Kremlin learned of plans to attack the Donbas republics in early 2022 Putin finally made a stand, sending ultimatums to the US and NATO, demanding security agreements that would deny NATO membership to Ukraine. The ultimatums were rejected out of hand. On February 17 the Ukrainian army launched a fierce bombardment of the Donbas, indicating the imminence of a new offensive. Putin decided to act. On February 22 Russia recognised the independence of the Donbas republics and signed defence agreements with them. On February 24 it began the Special Military Operation.

The Special Military Operation was designed to intimidate Kiev, by a sudden, but limited show of force into a settlement with regard to Donbas and Crimea. It failed – but only just apparently.

In The World Putin Wants (Foreign Affairs, September 2022) Fiona Hill, formerly of the US National Security Council revealed:

“According to multiple former senior US officials we spoke with, in April 2022, Russian and Ukrainian negotiators appeared to have tentatively agreed on the outlines of a negotiated interim settlement: Russia would withdraw to its position on February 23, when it controlled part of the Donbas region and all of Crimea. and in exchange, Ukraine would promise not to seek NATO membership and instead receive security guarantees from a number of countries. But as Sergey Lavrov stated in a July interview with his country’s state media, this compromise is no longer an option…” (p.119)

This is an admission from top US sources that there was the basis of a settlement in April between Moscow and Kiev’s negotiators. But something, unmentioned, subverted it – that cannot be named, even to the Western intelligentsia.

I think that shows how carefully the narrative is constructed and how omission plays its part.

The Kremlin’s hopes for a speedy end to the conflict in Ukraine was disappointed when Zelensky suddenly rejected all the concessions his negotiators in Istanbul had apparently been willing to make in the draft Istanbul agreement. Following a phone call from the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to Zelensky on April 2 and Johnson’s unexpected visit to Kiev on April 9, Kiev stonewalled. Johnson communicated to Zelensky the message that if Ukraine was ready to sign an agreement with Russia, Washington and London were not. Zelensky would be on his own, without security guarantees, if he signed a ceasefire agreement that made any concessions to Russia. This made an agreement impossible. Zelensky therefore acquiesced in Washington and London’s desire that he continue the war with promises of greater support from the West.

Fiona Hill’s article in Foreign Affairs is mostly hysterical propaganda about Putin’s plans for world domination (like Napoleon and the Kaiser before him). But there is one interesting passage which acknowledges that the World outside the privileged West is not on America’s or Kiev’s side:

“Russia is still seen as a champion of the oppressed against the stereotype of US Imperialism. Many people in the Global South view Russia as the heir of the Soviet Union, which supported their post-colonial national liberation movements, not a modern variant of imperial Russia. Not only does much of the world refuse to criticise or sanction Russia; major countries simply do not accept the West’s view of what caused the war or just how grave the conflict is. They instead criticise the United States and argue that what Russia is doing in Ukraine is no different from what the United States did in Iraq or Vietnam. They, like Moscow, justify Russia’s invasion as a response to the threat from NATO.” (p.120)

I think it is very clear that the Russian military operation is nothing like the US wars against Vietnam and Iraq where indiscriminate slaughter of civilians through American bombing was a prominent feature. In 2003 US “shock and awe” warfare in Baghdad killed at least 10,000 people. The Washington Post has estimated the full Iraqi death toll at 600,000. It is widely accepted that between 1.5 and 2 million North Vietnamese civilians and soldiers were killed by US and allied forces. The World outside the West does not forget as easily as the Western public about its suffering and looks with scepticism on US wars “in defence of democracy”. It is among people from the post-Soviet states, who were insulated from Western Imperialism, that there are most delusions about US democracy.

The greater support from the West and the taking in hand of the Ukrainian army to make it a NATO army, commanded and controlled by Washington, paid dividends in September. The successful counter-offensives by Kiev’s forces meant that Moscow had to commit to full support for the Russian populations, who were being abandoned in some areas due to the lack of manpower in the expeditionary force.

The military way of rectifying this situation was in a new mobilisation. The political way of doing this was through annexation of New Russia, making it clear that Moscow intended to defend these regions with the same will as if they were part of Russia. Through this the Kremlin reluctantly acknowledged the people it had wanted to remain part of the Ukrainian State as Russians. And there was no going back in the conflict.

The annexations did not lead to a re-designation of the Special Military Operation to an “anti-terrorist operation” or full scale war. After the Kerch Bridge challenge Putin responded in typically minimalist style by launching 100 missiles against targets right across Ukraine. These seem to have been carefully targeted and resulted in minimal fatalities, considering the number of strikes.

Scott Ritter had said at the time of the annexations:

“I helped plan and implement a war – against Iraq, Operation Desert Storm. We initiated it with a strategic air campaign. We took everything out… We blew everything up, everything. We did that for 6 weeks and then when we rolled in it took us a hundred hours to get the Iraqis to surrender… and we killed 100,000 of them that quick. We could have killed 30 or 40,000 more if we had kept the war going another 24 hours. It was an annihilation… A one-sided fight…

When Russia decides it will no longer self-limit what you will see happen to Ukraine is what happened to Iraq. It will be one-sided, it will be devastating, it will be total… It’s going to be a completely different reality.”

Ukraine has not experienced the kind of warfare the US waged on the Iraqi people, as Scott Ritter predicted. Putin has proved true to form once again as the reluctant annexationist. But it should be clear now that he would probably be willing to go as far as Washington and Kiev care to push him.



  1. Hi Dr Pat, as you don’t provide source references could you answer a friend’s objection to my citing your post? He says,

    ‘The Ukrainian president didn’t say pre-emptive strikes. He said preventative strikes. He took great pains to qualify his statement later. That he was talking about financial measures and sanctions (strikes as they are known as) to prevent nuclear war, not precipitate it. I have read the diatribe that misquoted what was said and ignored the explanation for its own ends.”


    • Hi, the context of Zelensky’s speech was a reply to the Russian “nuclear threat”. That is very important in understanding what he was saying. He was quite obviously talking about military measures as there were already substantial Western sanctions on Russia. It would not make sense to call for something already in place. There is nowhere in the speech suggesting an increase in sanctions. Pre-emptive and preventative are practically the same. Putin launched in his terms a preventative/pre-emptive strike on Ukraine in the SMO. Would Kiev see any difference in the form of words. Zelensky made a mistake by admitting he was calling for military action by the West prior to the SMO and he had to row back. But his explanation is weak. It is hard to find Western translations of Zelensky’s speech on the media. I wonder why? Russian and Ukrainian Telegram channels were clear about the meaning as were Indian and other reports from the Global South.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you very much for taking valuable time to respond. My confrontational friend didn’t reply to my request for his source but I’ll post yours on the thread, as well as blog for my readers.
        You know, I’m blessed when opposed as the Lord always quickly gives me a related confirmation, as this time. It’s as t hough to say I’m ‘right on target’!


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