Russia’s strategic objectives in Ukraine

I am in a state of shock. I did not expect the Russian “military operation” in Ukraine. I’m not surprised they have recognised LNR and DNR but a full-blown “operation” across Ukraine I did not expect. I think quite a lot of Russians were not expecting this either – though some probably had an inkling of what their government can do.

When the West said “invasion imminent” I was thinking in terms of Russia occupying Ukraine and annexing territory. I couldn’t see why they would want to do that – acquire a large poor country where half the population despise them. I wasn’t thinking of the question of NATO membership of Ukraine. In as much as I was I assumed that occupying Donbass would be regarded as sufficiently destabilising to prevent Ukraine ever joining NATO. (If Western intelligence understood that Russia would attack Ukraine in order to prevent it joining NATO they couldn’t say that – because that would be to admit that Russia’s actions were rational and not driven by pure ‘aggression’ which is the necessary narrative to disguise their own imperialism).

Anyway – this is the new situation. It does seem fairly clear that the Kremlin’s objective in Ukraine is to dismember the country so that it can never be part of NATO or even be under the influence of the West. In order to do this they are going to have to turn it into some kind of satrap – and then maintain that permanently, forever. Talk of “denazification” suggests a political regime change operation. (Or maybe they intend to annex large parts of it. At this stage I really don’t know).

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War journalism

One of the main themes of this web site is analysing how the Western media (the “free press”) curates the narratives of Western power, how it singularly fails in one of the primary functions of journalism – to question power.

Even I was surprised to find this in the Independent: after some emotive images of injured civilians there is a direct appeal to its readers to send money to an Ukrainian organisation which “fundraises for Ukraine’s military….including ammunition, shields and food”. This seems to cross a border from journalism into something else.

Over on an outlet which still practises journalism we find a excellent high-quality news report from Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Mariupol in Eastern Ukraine. It is worth watching anyway as an example of high-quality fact based, responsible journalism. However the reason I include it here is because of this comment by the journalist: “It is important to recognise that a lot of people in this area are very sympathetic to Russia as well. They have a cultural identify, a language that they use in common, Russian.. a lot of them do identify with Russia”. This of course is letting the cat out of the bag. The secret which the Western media successfully covers up 99.9% of the time. The secret which gives the lie to the claims by the Western political class that they must act to defend “the people of Ukraine”. The truth is some of them and, more accurately, those whom it is in their interest to defend. The West is not acting in Ukraine to defend “freedom” or “democracy” or “human rights” or even the “Ukrainian people”. They are acting, as they have been since at least 2014, and as they do everywhere else, to further their own interests.

(Which doesn’t necessarily justify the Russian operation. Indeed this operation is beginning to look like something out of the ‘Western playbook’ – for example the West’s regime change operation in Libya in 2011 – also ostensibly done to protect civilians).

The big lie on Ukraine

As we would expect the Western media propaganda operation is in full swing. The Guardian gleefully announces “first casualties in full-scale invasion”. [1] “full-scale invasion” is of course how the regime in Kiev is characterising it. The extent of the operation in fact remains to be seen. As far as casualties are concerned; it is a pity that the Western press has not been reporting on casualties in Donbass for the last 7 years. (Or that they did not report on the thousands of civilians casualties in Libya in 2011 or in Afghanistan with such readiness).

The big lie the Western media tell their audiences about Ukraine is that “the Ukrainian people” are ‘with us’ – i.e. pro NATO and the EU. So today Western leaders (the US, NATO for example) are making grand statements about how they will stand with “the Ukrainian people”. As this website has frequently pointed out the Western media (which is no more than the PR arm of Western finance capital who own them) and Western political classes (the very well rewarded servants of finance capital) have for the last 7 years simply denuded the people of Donbass out of existence. It is verifiable that many people, almost certainly the majority, in Eastern Ukraine are “pro-Russian”. Many in Donbass want to be annexed by Russia. But this is not just about Eastern Ukraine. There are also people in the centre who are “pro-Russian”. Ukraine has had a long history and has been fought over by rival Empires. In both World Wars people from Ukraine fought on both sides. The country is split between people who look West and those who look to Russia. Since before Maidan the West, especially the US, has been trying to make sure that Ukraine falls within its orbit. The Western backed coup in Kiev in 2014 was a key milestone in the campaign which also saw the US pump billions of dollars into the country to sway its population towards its way of thinking, and many Western countries send in weapons and military training. The West colluded in allowing the regime in Kiev to ignore Minsk 2 which could have solved the conflict in the East peacefully. Prior to the events of Maidan Russia of course tried to bribe the country with a huge loan to Yanukovych. After Maidan the EU signed a political agreement with a junta that came to power in a coup – an absolutely extraordinary move for an organisation which claims to be the benchmark of “democracy”, especially considering that Presidential elections were due in Ukraine just a few months away from when they had the coup.

When Western leaders and their PR team tell their publics that they are standing “for freedom” and “with the Ukrainian people” they are in fact engaged in an operation to take over Ukraine for Western finance capital. Where do the Ukrainian people stand on EU membership and NATO membership? This Gallup poll from 2014 shows minimal support in the East of Ukraine for EU and NATO membership (19% and 13% respectively) rising to 84% for EU and 53% for NATO in the West. The figures for the centre are: 43% and 32% (EU and NATO). [2] The reality is miles away from the narrative of EU and US political and (liberal) media classes. The facts appear to lend some support to the Russian narrative that Ukraine has been captured by the West and some Western leaning cliques – (who are really interested only in how much money they can get out of the West).

None of which is intended to justify the Russian “special operation”. At this stage the extent of this remains to be seen. I hope they aren’t trying to do a Western style regime change operation because I think that will likely end badly. But I just want to point out that this is a story with two sides. The West has tried to grab the whole pie. Had they been willing to share it matters might have worked out differently. (Only might; I don’t know if Russia would have been capable of sharing it any more than the West).

Notes

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2022/feb/24/russia-invades-ukraine-declares-war-latest-news-live-updates-russian-invasion-vladimir-putin-explosions-bombing-kyiv-kharkiv
  2. https://www.usagm.gov/wp-content/media/2014/06/Ukraine-slide-deck.pdf

How they distort the narrative on Ukraine

This is an example of how the Western media reports on the news so as to keep the central (NATO/US) narrative on track. The art is not (usually) to tell outright lies but to introduce distortions, change the context, emphasise this, omit that, and coat the already distorted report with an editorial gloss. The article is about the Munich security conference.

Scholz said it was unacceptable that a war in Europe was imminent over Russia’s demand that Ukraine’s path to Nato membership be blocked, when Putin knew such membership was not on the agenda. He also described as ridiculous claims by Putin that a genocide was under way in the Donbas.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/19/russia-johnson-munich-security-conference-putin-ukraine

Let’s look at the background to this.

Scholz is the Chancellor of Germany. Putin has recently commented that the situation in Eastern Ukraine is like “genocide”. Putin also made a comment about genocide following his meeting with Scholz in Moscow last week. It is important (of course) to report accurately. Some outlets manage a reasonable stab at this. For example this Turkish outlet reports:

Speaking about the possibility of a war between Russia and Ukraine, Scholz said a war in Europe is “unimaginable,” pointing out diplomatic possibilities for the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis are not exhausted. Putin opposed him, saying there was a war in Europe, in Yugoslavia, “unleashed by the US and NATO,” but Scholz argued that the situation was different there, there was a threat of genocide. To that Putin said what is happening right now in the east of Ukraine, “discrimination of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine, cemented in the country’s legislation” is “genocide” for Russia.

An exact transcript of the press conference remarks is available on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Olaf Scholz: I will emphasise that the situation in Yugoslavia was somewhat different. There was a danger and a threat of genocide, and this ought to have been prevented. I am very glad that everything is going peacefully there and that the Balkan nations have found a future in the European Union. All this is a very good sign.

Vladimir Putin: I will allow myself just to add that, in our view, what is happening in Donbass today is, in fact, genocide.

So. Putin did not spontaneously make a claim about genocide in Eastern Ukraine. Putin had brought up the bombing of Yugoslavia by NATO in 1999 which took place without a UN Security Council resolution. Scholz then claimed that that was justified because the Kosovo Albanians were threatened with genocide by the Serbs. Putin then replied that “in our view” what is happening in Donbass today is genocide. It is both a mild and intelligent point. He is responding to Scholz’s attempt to differentiate the situation in Serbia/Kosovo in 1998/99 from what is happening now in Ukraine/Donbass. Putin says that from the Russian point of view what is happening in Donbass is like how Scholz characterises what was happening with Serbia and Kosovo in 1998. You can argue about the extent of the atrocities in either case * but it is not unreasonable, since Scholz introduced the topic of Kosovo and genocide, for Putin to say that in our view that is what is happening in Donbass now. The situational contexts are similar; a breakaway region of a larger country with a separate linguistic and cultural (and/or ethnic – it is arguable) makeup is attacked by the larger country. It is of course not widely reported in the West but Ukraine has recently brought in a law requiring service staff to always greet customers in Ukrainian – clearly this is discrimination against the Russian speaking people in the East. [1] But the main point is that Putin was responding to a comment by Scholz about ‘genocide’ and Putin said “in our view”.

Of course the Western media-political apparatus has reported this completely without context as if Putin made an aggressive claim about “genocide”. The State Department has dismissed the claim (which Putin did not make in the way it is being reported) as “false and reprehensible”. [2] The BBC reports it as a “baseless claim”. [2] Of course it is not “baseless” to say “in our view this is genocide”. Furthermore the view itself is not baseless; it is a fact that Kiev has introduced legislation which discriminates against the Russian language – widely used in the East of Ukraine. Putin no doubt also has in mind the 2014 attack on the Trade Union building in Odessa in which dozens of pro-Russian anti-Maidan demonstrators were killed. One can argue of course whether this (and no doubt Putin has other factors in mind as well) reaches a bar to be called ‘genocide’ but to simply dismiss the view (not even presented as a fact) as “baseless” as the BBC does is rather sick. In fact it seems to support the ‘genocide’ argument since those who commit genocide always deny it.

Scholz’s remarks – based on a misrepresentation of the press conference remarks – are then amplified. The narrative is that Putin made a claim about genocide – the context of Kosovo, the fact that he was responding to a claim by the Chancellor of Germany who was trying to legitimize NATO aggression against Serbia, and the qualifier “in our view” is removed. The theatre is to present Putin as making an outlandish claim about “genocide” – which can then be mocked and/or used to claim that Putin spontaneously put it forwards as a pretext for war. As so often the constructed narrative (jointly constructed by the State Department and the ‘free press’) is more or less the opposite of the reality.

* The claims of atrocities and mass graves used to justify the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 were, as this Wall Street Journal article points out, wildly exaggerated. http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/pearl123199.htm

Notes

  1. https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210401-new-law-stokes-ukraine-language-tensions
  2. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60407010