Cancelled for speaking the truth and other news and analysis on Ukraine

This is an absolutely amazing story in the Guardian. The chief of the German navy – a vice-Admiral, not some low ranking officer – has said (I am repeating the Guardian and Al-Jazeera reports [1]) that the idea that Russia wants to invade Ukraine is “nonsense” and that all Putin wants is “respect” which he “probably” deserves and giving someone respect is low-cost. (Al-Jazeera reports the vice-Admiral’s remarks at more length; apparently he said that even the idea that Russia wants to take Donbass is “nonsense”).

Not surprisingly the vice-Admiral has tendered his resignation. He is off-message, out of the psychotic group-think, and had to go. Not a good idea to tell these people the truth.

Of course Russia does not want to invade Ukraine. It is incredible that people can (if they are genuine) really delude themselves into believing this. Think it through; what would a Russian “invasion” of Ukraine look like? Firstly; there would be a lot of fighting and thousands of Russians and Ukrainians would die. Putin thinks of the Ukrainians as part of the Slav family – of course they don’t want to kill them! An invasion would cost not just thousands of Russian lives but also a lot of money. The Russian domestic population would be utterly bewildered. And then – once they had ‘won’ they would be faced with ruling a country where they are loathed by the majority, at least in the centre and West of Ukraine. They would face a partisan war and would only be able to rule like the Nazis – with constant terror. The Russian population would not stand for it. And what would they gain? Ukraine is a poor country (far poorer than Russia) with no noticeable resources to steal. (Ukraine gets a lot of income from transit of Russian gas; of course that income would end and indeed the pipelines would probably be shut down). Europe would almost certainly stop buying Russian gas transited through an occupied Ukraine, which would be a catastrophe for the Russian budget, even before any new sanctions. Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, said it would be a “quagmire”. She hasn’t thought it through; it would be far worse. It would be a total disaster. If the supposed aim would be to defend Russia’s borders from NATO – all they would have done is shift the border further West, and extended it, making it harder to defend! Of course that would be an illogical military strategy. It might well result in the end of Putin’s government. Of course it is complete nonsense.

Continue reading “Cancelled for speaking the truth and other news and analysis on Ukraine”

Louder and louder

Beat the drums of war.

I wish these people would think through what they are doing.

This is another ill-informed piece in the Guardian:

Even as Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin were sitting down to talks meant to end the crisis, Russia was inching closer to being ready to launch a full-scale ground invasion of its neighbour

The narrative chunk that Russia is about to “invade” Ukraine has been repeated in the Guardian 100 times so now it is the “truth”.

Are these people stupid or evil? Either they really believe this dirge – an “aggressive” and “expansionist” Russia wants to re-establish the Soviet Union and “invade” Ukraine. Or – they understand that this media line about an imminent invasion is a ploy by Kiev to put pressure on Russia ahead of a possible attack by Kiev on Donbass and they are playing along…. I don’t know.

Putin may still decide not to launch an invasion

Honestly. Talk about the echo chamber. They’ve been talking about the “invasion” for two weeks now and now they absolutely believe it…

And Putin said that the situation in eastern Ukraine “looked like genocide” in a recent meeting, raising fears he could seek a pretext to send his troops into the country

The possibility that Putin simply meant what he said – that the behaviour of Kiev’s battalions (some of which were even too close to Nazism for the US Congress to fund) towards the citizens of Donetsk and Lugansk smacks of genocide – does not seem to have entered the writer’s head.

Putin has spent the last two decades trying to fight Nato expansion, but the possible accession of Ukraine into the military alliance has always touched deeper emotions, and in part motivated him to order the annexation of Crimea and provoke a war in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 14,000 people.

This is a hideous lie and the author’s writing hand is covered in the blood of innocent children. He is attributing all the deaths in the war in Donbass to Putin. He claims that Putin “provoked” the war – without offering any evidence to back this up. I don’t know to what extent Russian intelligence liaised with local leaders in the Donbass in March 2014. But I do know (because I have read up on the subject and talked to people i.e. done what a journalist should do) that there are millions of people in Eastern Ukraine who would prefer closer ties with Russia and who were effectively disenfranchised when the elected President, who had a strong electoral base in this region, was toppled in a Western-backed coup in Kiev in 2014. The problem as always with these journalists is they simply de-exist the human beings who don’t agree with their Western imperialist worldview. This is a form of genocide in itself. The journalist is adopting the line from the regime in Kiev that 100% of the impetus for the uprising in the East came from the Kremlin. But the reality is that people in this area don’t share the same European dream as the people in the centre. After the Maidan coup committed Ukraine to a European future and, for that matter, immediately tried to pass legislation to downgrade the use of the Russian language in Ukraine, the people in the East, naturally enough, (and incidentally democratically), rebelled. A tiny bit of journalism – for example reviewing this Gallup (US) survey will confirm this. [1] Or this UN source which confirms that Yanukovych’s pro-Russia Party of the Regions was stronger in the East and South – and that it was overthrown in an anti-democratic coup. [2]

In Ukraine, support for joining Nato has jumped considerably in recent years as the country has sought protection from an increasingly aggressive Russia.

This is delusional. He means of course in the centre and West of Ukraine. But then in a way it is logical since the people in Donetsk and Luhansk, where support for NATO probably isn’t growing as they are being killed with Western supplied weapons, don’t exist for him. “Increasingly aggressive Russia” – well, yes, keep repeating it and it becomes “true”.

And the idea of mustering nearly 100,000 troops within striking distance of the Ukrainian border (the US has said that Russia could increase that number to 175,000 by the end of January) just to hold talks with Biden has struck western observers as overkill

The possibility that the troops are here to protect the people of Donbass against aggression from Kiev has not it seems entered the journalist’s mind. But then remember “Russia is aggressive” – and everything Kiev says is just taken as truth. The thing about psychosis is it is always logically internally coherent.

Putin could pull back, but it would be embarrassing to do so without a solid win in hand. And Russia’s demands look impossible to fulfil for the west

Why embarrassing? As we have already been told (by the same newspaper) this is the second time this year that Russia has built up forces in the area.

This journalist seems to have really talked himself into the notion that Russia is about to “invade” Ukraine. Just for the sake of it. Because Russia is, well, “aggressive” and “expansionist”. It just isn’t clear to me if he understands that there is a difference between an invasion of Ukraine for the sake of conquest (which seems to be what he is suggesting) and Russian forces acting to protect the citizens of Donbass if Kiev breaks the internationally mediated Minsk agreements and launches an attack. As I say – either he is playing a cunning hand amplifying the war misinformation of Kiev or he really believes, because he has swallowed the line from Kiev, that at this moment Russia has nothing better to do than conquer Ukraine (a desperately poor basket-case of a country). I think basically that the problem is there is no serious analysis here. Chunks of narrative are being assembled and reassembled but investigation, getting at the truth, analysis. No.

Finally – despite the title of the Guardian piece “New Arms arrive on border” the author manages to get through the article without once mentioning the US weapons which have just arrived in Ukraine. One sided? But this is how this kind of thing works; if you don’t mention the US weapons then the Russian build-up can be presented to readers as “aggressive” rather than perhaps the counter-balance it is. They haven’t told an explicit porky – but nonetheless they have managed to twist reality on its head.

Notes

  1. https://www.usagm.gov/wp-content/media/2014/06/Ukraine-slide-deck.pdf
  2. https://www.refworld.org/docid/5797736f4.html

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