Beating the drums of war on Ukraine

It is being endlessly repeated: “Russia must be dissuaded from invading Ukraine”. “Russia must understand that there will be serious consequences if it invades Ukraine”. “The G7 must warn Russia of the consequences of invading Ukraine”, “The UK is urging other countries to join a united front against a Russian invasion of Ukraine”, “An invasion is expected in January, intelligence reports”.

The last one is telling – as the “intelligence” referred to seems to be Ukrainian intelligence – which, objectively speaking, is just as likely to be playing information games as offering disinterested analysis.

Is Russia really preparing to invade Ukraine? This is extremely unlikely. Why on earth would Russia want to invade Ukraine? They would have to occupy a country where millions, in the West and centre, more or less despise them. There would be no economic benefit – the economy of Ukraine is far behind that of Russia. It would be impossible to manage; they would have a partisan war on their hands (with the partisans supplied by the West with the latest weapons). It would be insane. Furthermore; I think there is zero demand in Russia for a Russian invasion of Ukraine – people would be bewildered. This of course contrasts with the annexation of Crimea after a popular vote and Russian support for the rebel regions in Donbass – both of which were/are hugely popular actions in Russia, and with all generations.

Russia has said that if Kiev tosses out the Minsk agreements which they signed up to and tries to retake Donbass militarily they will intervene militarily to defend the people in this region (many of whom are now of course Russian citizens since Russia started giving out citizenship to these people in April 2019). Ukraine as a country is split; it is true that people in the West and centre prefer a “European future”. It is equally true that people in the East tend more to look to Russia and identify with Russia. The forces on the border are there to protect these people (and arguably Russian prestige).

The Western political classes and media sing as always with one united voice. The media, at least 90% of it, simply voices the same narratives as the politicians. Indeed it is hard to know where the insanity starts; with the media or the politicians. Even “intelligence” seems to be infected and to believe delusionary narratives rather than providing objective analysis. For example; don’t they even have people in Russia whose job it is to read the public mood? If they did they would know what I have said above; the Russian population would be bewildered if Russia “invaded” Ukraine.

Russia is not an expansionist power. Russia is in defensive mode. Crimea is full of ethnic Russians, and has a key strategic naval base. Taking Crimea after an illegal coup in Kiev was not expansionist; it was defensive. Support for South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the 2008 war with Georgia can be interpreted as preventing Georgian expansion; at any event these are small enclaves on the border and can hardly be seen as Russia being expansionist; (the combined population of the two regions is about 300,000). It is inevitable that after the collapse of the USSR there should have been some disputed areas on the borders of now Russia. Where has Russia “expanded” to? Against whom has Russia “aggressed”? In all the supposed cases any historically-informed analysis shows us that they are in fact no more than Russia defending what it sees as its key interests – consolidating what it has; not expanding. We can add that Putin fully understands the limits of his military power; he claims it is sufficient to defend Russia but he knows Russia is not a world military power.

One problem seems to be that Western “intelligence” and NATO hold the delusion that Russia is “expansionist” and “aggressive”. Where have they got this from? Most likely it is a simple projection of their own aggression and imperialism.

Back to Ukraine and Donbass. It is likely (as I said in a previous post) that Kiev is trying to prepare the ground for an action against Donbass – and they can then present a Russian intervention to protect the people of Donbass as a “Russian invasion”. The headlines in the West should be screaming “Ukraine must not attack Donbass” not “Russia must not invade Ukraine”.

Final note; the Western media is increasingly going along with the increasingly blatant attempts by Kiev to wriggle out of the Minsk agreements which they signed up to and which were co-signed by France and Germany. The Minsk agreements foresee substantial autonomy for Donbass – the only viable solution to this conflict. This is an example in the Guardian: “the crisis is at its worst since 2015, when Moscow staged a large-scale incursion into Ukraine, clandestinely sending tanks and artillery to encircle Ukrainian troops and compelling Kyiv to sign a peace agreement in Minsk”. (The extent of Russian military support is not clear and is certainly not established in the way that Roth claims, though in reality it seems likely that there was some direct military support as the battlefield situation did suddenly turn in favour of the rebels). At any event; Kiev signed up to Minsk and it was backed by France, Germany and the OSCE. So; that is the deal. If not Minsk (i.e. autonomy for the disputed regions) then what? What does Roth suggest? As far as I can see the only alternative is war in Europe.

Ukraine and Russia – crisis in the Donbass heating up

The problem is that the West seems unable to grasp that the people who are in power in Kiev – who came to power as the result of an illegal coup against an elected President – are, at least on the basis of their current actions, a liability. A liability in as much as they are still dreaming of retaking Crimea and recapturing Donbass on their terms. (It is true of course that there has been an election since the coup – but this happened after the country was already fragmented. If the clock could be rolled back to 2014 any democrat would say that the best thing to have done would have been to wait until the Presidential elections, which were due in 2015 anyway, could settle the question of an alignment with the EU, rather than drive Yanukovych out in an illegal coup).

Crimeans voted 80% to join Russia. The 80% has been subsequently confirmed by multiple polls by Western organisations. The East of Ukraine has always been more Russian leaning; the West more inclined to lean towards Europe. Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions had more support in the East. A Gallup poll in April 2014 makes it very clear how Ukraine is split between a pro NATO/EU West, a pro-Russia East and a more balanced centre. [1] Ukraine as a country is riven by a fault-line – facing both East and West. The crisis in 2014 was prompted by the EU and Russia fighting over Ukraine; they put pressure on the country and the fault-line came into the open.

The situation now reflects this split. Crimea is with Russia. The Donbass would like to be. (It is anecdotal of course but the one person I know from the Donbass assures me that her family would rather be part of Russia than Ukraine). The political elite in Kiev cannot accept this reality and dream openly of reconquering Crimea and they seem unable to accept that they will have to grant Donbass substantial autonomy to settle the conflict. This is unrealistic.

The West should tell their clients in Kiev to implement the Minsk agreements and quickly offer the Donbass region substantial autonomy. Instead they supply them with weapons and military trainers and support them in their belief that the crisis in Donbass has been instigated by Russia (rather than reflecting the actual feelings of the people in that region). This creates an unstable situation.

The media of course in the West drills its readers daily in “Russian aggression”. It is highly unlikely that the Kremlin would want to take Ukraine; the country is a basket case with a far lower GDP per capita than Russia and problems with corruption. Russia will act militarily to protect the citizens in Donbass if Kiev breaks Minsk and tries a military adventure. They have said so. Again – the capitals in the West should act responsibly and disabuse their clients in Kiev of the notion that they can retake Crimea on any terms and the Donbass militarily. Any other course leads to real danger of war. And it will not be “Russian aggression” that got us there. But Western intransigence. This fatal inability to clearly analyse situations and instead to mistake the echo-chamber of their own propaganda and imperialistic delusions for an ‘analysis’ of the situation.

(For what it is worth it is my view that Russia has no right to say that Ukraine can’t be part of NATO – though they can advise that if Ukraine did become part of NATO they might have to put more weapons near the border).

Notes

  1. https://www.usagm.gov/wp-content/media/2014/06/Ukraine-slide-deck.pdf

Propaganda is not a joke

Standard delusional fare from the Guardian on Russia.

I don’t know if this kind of garbage matters. It won’t have an effect on Russia. It is about media management for a domestic audience. Were war to break out they have primed the population to believe that it is all the fault of the evil enemy. The usual primitive stuff. Clearly possessing a University degree and/or journalistic training does not prevent you from engaging in this kind of magical-primitive thinking. (Unless the deployment of primitive types of their-tribe-bad / our-tribe-white-as-the-driven-snow is a tactic they’ve learnt from the intelligence services to manipulate the population and they know what they are doing – but I don’t think so).

Absent from the piece is any factual acknowledgement of the build-up of NATO forces in the area, or of the fact that the US has supplied significant new weapons to Ukraine or of the recent use of a drone by Kiev in violation of the ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine. Nor is there the slightest mention of the agreed peace process – the Minsk accords – which Kiev has not even started to implement. Or, to be more accurate, some of these facts (the build-up of NATO forces) is alluded to by being presented as an “accusation” of Russia – as if it were either not true or mere opinion. This presenting of inconvenient objective facts as opinions voiced by the other side is a part of how this kind of propaganda is written; it allows them to be mentioned (for the appearance of balance) and discredited at the same time.

The quote which is supposed to show that Putin supports tension on Russia’s borders looks like a garbled translation (via an online translator?) and doesn’t make sense. As it stands is unintelligible. It is possible that Putin was referring to Russian forces in Russia near Ukraine and pointing out that these might have a deterrent effect on Kiev. (In which case Roth is using the garbled text to mischievously produce fake news).

Finally notice that “truth” for the journalist comes from the military of the regime in Kiev. That is probably unwise.

The Georgian 2008 war should in fact be a lesson. Georgia provoked a war in 2008 no doubt hoping that NATO would fly to its aid. Kiev is more than capable of trying the same gambit.

Analysis of Guardian/NATO agitprop against Russia

One of the Guardian’s chief agitprop writers on Russia shows the usual cynical imperialistic double-standards in this piece.

Putin this weekend complained of Ukraine’s use of Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone strikes in Donbass, saying that they violated a 2015 ceasefire agreement.

This is actually a standard narrative tactic they use quite a lot. Of course – Kiev’s attacking positions in Donbass with drones was a blatant violation of the ceasefire. But this is normal; if the militias in Donbass were doing it it would be reported as “a violation of the ceasefire”. But when their ally does it they bury that fact by saying that the ‘enemy’ (Putin in this case) has said it violates the ceasefire – thus turning an objective fact into subjective opinion.

In general of course the reporting is ludicrously one-sided. We hear so much about apparent Russian troop movements in these NATO propaganda outlets but radio silence on the build-up of US warships in the Black Sea or the supply by the West of lethal arms to Ukraine. This enables them to project what is probably a cautionary defensive move by Russia as ‘aggression’.

It is all so obvious.