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How Western elites exploit Ukraine Reality is manipulated to strengthen their regime

An entirely predictable and avoidable tragedy. Credit: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty


March 5, 2022   8 mins

The war in Ukraine poses a palpable threat to Western democracies, but this has little to do with Russia posing an inherent strategic threat to the United States or its European allies. No — more so than the Russian state, the threat to the West comes from within, a consequence of our congealing perceptions towards the conflict.

Bombs are not raining down on our cities; instead, what we are experiencing is the psychological weaponisation of war — and its exploitation as a tool of indoctrination and statecraft in the hands of the establishment.

The Ukraine crisis is undoubtedly a tragedy, but it is merely the latest in a series of geopolitical events stretching back at least 20 years in which the media coverage has been biased, one-sided, and ideological. All of these instances — Iraq, Libya, Syria, and the Afghanistan Withdrawal — were riddled with “structural information traps” that we ignored at our peril.

With each of these conflicts, the coverage gets worse, and the traps become ever more luring and incendiary. In each case, a narrative is constructed and transposed over the reporting, reinforced by sensationalist imagery that could rationalise an intervention and perhaps military action. But none compares to Ukraine. Here, we have witnessed the media of the Free World disseminating dishonest or otherwise uncritical coverage, fake news, Ukrainian disinformation, and propaganda aimed at conditioning the public to internalise the establishment’s Manichean narrative of a deranged madman’s random war of aggression.

Not only has the Ukraine coverage been highly charged, morally self-righteous, and plainly political, it actively demands a collective suspension of disbelief as it cultivates and redirects a natural reaction of sympathy felt by all into a moral outrage that insists on certain retaliation. Some, such as the former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, have irresponsibly vilified the entire Russian population. Others, such as The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum, have begun to senselessly demonise prescient realist American academics for daring to shed light on Russia’s basic national security interests and the possibility of a confrontation if they go unrecognised.

So far as the Western legacy media is concerned, we really do live in the post-historical age Francis Fukuyama triumphantly proclaimed in 1989, with liberal internationalism the only acceptable paradigm through which to understand the world. Alternative views are now tantamount to championing tyranny. In each instance, the dictator comes to personify internationally Hegel’s thymotic, if savage, primitive man — the inhumane antithesis of the “last man” —  fighting maniacally against liberal democracy, the march of modernity, and progress itself. Assad, Ghaddafi, the Taliban, and Vladimir Putin all fit this archetype as reactionary actors par excellence necessitating a holy alliance to confront and civilise.

Such a melioristic framing of international politics justifies and indeed privileges a Manichean narrative of good and evil. In this context, rationality itself is bound to the good, defined as effective conformity with liberal hegemony.

This is how the permanent members of the ruling class view the world. The former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, for instance, has made the enlightening observation that the years-brewing war in Ukraine was a result of Putin simply becoming “unhinged”, suggesting he might be suffering from neurological problems. Not to be outdone, Condoleezza Rice, one of the architects of the Iraq War and the ill-advised 2008 Bucharest declaration (which affirmed Nato’s “open door” towards Ukraine and therefore helped to spark this most recent conflict), bemoaned Putin’s “delusional rendering of history” and “erratic” behaviour.

Perhaps, given the profound crisis of meaning in the West and the gap in solidarity and social cohesion, we should not be surprised. Living under the conditions of rootlessness, spiritual emptiness, and angst, every crisis is an opportunity for mythopoesis. Tragedy is reborn, and we are easily enthralled by the periodic cycles of worship and hero-making. Our faith in the cult of expertise, meanwhile, blinds and lulls us to the potential dangers of such black and white thinking.

As good Straussians, American neoconservatives were among the first to intuit this fact: that owing to disenchantment and the dissolution of our “sacred canopy”, the myth — or the Platonic “noble lie” — can be used to strengthen the Regime. Through their co-option, they would ensure the inherent power of the “noble lie” would be harnessed to regularly generate casus belli for global liberal imperialism. After all, what better unifying force than the “grand American project” of war to energise one’s desire for national greatness and the need for the regimentation of life in a disordered, chaotic Zeitgeist. Led by America, the grand mission of the Anglosphere would therefore have to be “to advance civilisation itself”. Not to mention, heroes also need villains, and it does help that in the Ukrainian archetype, ‘evil’ is not an intangible virus but can be personified onto an ‘other’ — in this case, Vladimir Putin.

This is the fake, performative, and internationalist nationalism of the American elite class: they use emotional triggers to rally the people behind the flag of the state in the name of lofty humanitarian causes which mask their own self-importance and narcissistic greatness. In fact, the systematic and periodic milking of tragedy to sow mass hysteria and manufacture support for the liberal imperium and its rulers has become the modus operandi in Washington. The consequence is not only further empowerment of the martial state, but also the enabling and even the ennobling of America’s war machine.

But so what? So what if our information ecosystem in the West is substantively flawed and prejudiced? Is this kind of systemic information bias, unbalanced coverage, and outright favouritism not endemic to all culture-complexes, prevalent also across state-run media in China, Iran, and Russia? The answer is certainly yes, but with an important qualification: the latter are not liberal democracies.

Some might say the foreign policy hawks have not learned from their catastrophic regime-change wars in the Middle East. But they have. They learned the importance of narrative control and information warfare targeting domestic audiences: consolidating the media, tightening their hold on information, marginalising the few investigative journalists that remain, and nullifying scepticism as examples of appeasement or Putinism. Undoubtedly, the situation seriously endangers civil liberties and freedom of thought in the Anglosphere, undermining the very foundation of Western democracy.

But wedded to a disturbing, yet ascendant, neo-McCarthyism, the homogenisation of the Western media environment could ultimately prove more ominous than simple government censorship à la North Korea or Iran. At its core, the phenomenon aims to condition public opinion into “correct” acceptable speech patterns in the service of the “noble lie” — using the good heart of most ordinary citizens and their repulsion at human suffering as bait.

This noxious development, unless fully defanged and neutralised, could yet tear the very fabric of Western society, unleashing the dystopia of internalised totalitarianism, wherein the public-private boundaries disappear and citizens — even informed ones — can hardly distinguish between planted or socially-reinforced information and their own views. In such a world, the only choice is to virtue signal and self-censor.

Gone unchecked, it could amount to mass indoctrination around key national security questions and spell the end of democracy — in spirit if not procedurally. This is the ultimate fog of war.

Despite their litany of failures, the lesson drawn by the foreign policy establishment from their calamitous interventionism under the banner of democracy and freedom (“democratism“) was not to abandon their evangelical crusades for empire and to affirm restraint, moderation, and prudence. It was, instead, a desire not to be caught in the lie, as they were with their patently false claim about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD). To achieve this, the military-industrial-congressional complex and the professional-managerial class that runs it had to dominate a new battlespace: information. Not for foreign audiences, in which Western intelligence has had a long track record, but to domesticate, intellectually sterilise, and effectively neutralise their own citizens.

To guarantee the continuation of its globalist misadventurism, the establishment had to control and limit the political discourse at home. It has done so largely in two ways. The first was to claim monopoly over ‘truth’, and to discredit anyone who might not go along with the endorsed narrative by doubting their patriotism and brandishing them as appeasers, apologists, and/or outright traitors. The second was to ensure a total consolidation of national security narratives — so that even when instances of falsehood and misinformation are discovered, this would not receive much exposure but be shunned to the darkest corners of the internet.

Any war is a tragedy. We should work to de-escalate and see it end in Ukraine. But there are always at least two sides to a conflict: two agendas, not counting the designs of external actors. War does not occur in a vacuum. It often betrays (and is the culmination of) a long history of grievances and distrust.

Having claimed over 14,000 lives since 2014, the conflict in Ukraine is not about Vladimir Putin and his character but realpolitik, national interest, and great power rivalry. Countries have genuine security interests, some of them existential. They have real red lines.

“No Russian leader could stand idly by,” Putin told William Burns, now the director of the CIA, and accept Nato membership for Ukraine, Georgia, or Belarus, or allow Western weapons systems into these countries. As one of American greatest strategists and the architect of “containment” against the Soviet Union, George Kennan’s reaction to the Clinton administration’s insistence on Nato’s enlargement is particularly telling: “I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the founding fathers of this country turn over in their graves.”

Almost 25 years on, such sober-minded analysis is increasingly rare. And this sidelining of neutral, dispassionate scrutiny in the Russo-Ukrainian War is particularly alarming because this is not America’s war. The North Atlantic has little vital geostrategic interest in Ukraine other than in trying to avoid a refugee or energy crisis. Yet many in Washington, London, or Brussels have goaded and encouraged, and are now revelling in, the conflict — convinced as they are that an extended quagmire there could become the kind of vulnerability for Russia that Afghanistan was for the Soviet Union, a malignant tumour metastasising to the whole of the Russian body politic and instigating regime change.

While diehards may desire a West-East clash packaged under the tired rubric of Democracy versus Autocracy to prove their machismo, the situation in Ukraine is boiling over — and it is still early days. Things are about to get far more dreadful. Ukraine is a small state neighbouring a great power, a historical buffer and bridge between Russia and the West. “To Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country,” wrote Henry Kissinger in 2014. “Russian history began in what was called Kievan-Rus,”. The sooner we heed and accept this fact, the sooner we can sensibly gauge the situation as is and review our commitment critically.

Statesmanship is the art of not letting emotions drive policy. Sentimentality is the enemy of reason, all sense of proportion, and limits: in short, it kills realism and breeds wishful thinking. Such utopianism is senseless and dangerous: it will prolong the conflict and get lots of innocent civilians needlessly killed. Meanwhile, fomenting false hope in the public domain could further fan the flames of war, entangling Europe and the US in a confrontation with nuclear Russia — an Armageddon the tale of which we will likely not live to tell.

War is not sports-betting, where one can feel good about siding with the underdog from the comfort of a couch or a bar. It is geopolitics in its most visceral, existential form: wagers have real costs involving human lives, and they are settled only with power and political will.

The point is that this tragedy was entirely predictable and avoidable. We invited (if not compelled) conflict with our politics of intrigue and meddling in Eastern Europe, our disregard for Moscow’s security interests, and our moral grandstanding over items like Nato’s eastward expansion, Ukrainian neutrality, and demilitarisation. Any seasoned diplomat of the Cold War would be left utterly mystified. This was and remains political and strategic malpractice.

The question now is whether we want to put millions of Ukrainian lives in jeopardy simply to keep it as a Western Bulwark on Russia’s frontier and a dagger at Moscow’s throat. The Russo-Ukrainian War must be condemned and brought to an end using diplomacy, but the West must accept a degree of culpability for leading the Ukrainians “down the primrose path” and egging on their showdown with their giant neighbour to the east. Any attempt to escalate and prolong this conflict by giving false hope to the Ukrainian people with tough rhetoric, moralistic bluster, lethal arms, and economic sanctions, the brunt of which will be felt by civilians on both sides, is irresponsible and callous. It would only ensure more death and suffering.

As former US Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor contended in a recent television interview: “I see no reason why we should fight with the Russians over something that they have been talking about for years, [and] we simply chose to ignore
 We will not send our forces to fight, but we are urging Ukrainians to die pointlessly in a fight they can’t win. We’re going to create a far greater humanitarian crisis than anything you’ve ever seen if it doesn’t stop.” Only this time, our liberal conceit and messianic delusion could potentially spiral a regional conflict into a global maelstrom that would exterminate humanity in a nuclear apocalypse.

The road to hell, as the wise aphorism has it, is paved with good intentions. Unless we course-correct now, we could soon find ourselves in a Huxleyan Brave New World that exploits the illusion of freedom while normalising the sophistic manipulation of public discourse to manufacture consent around the establishment’s liberal internationalist foreign policy.

When all roads lead to interventionism and war, pause, think, and consider how we got to where we are. Ask yourself who designed this dystopian city of lies and to what purpose — before it is too late.


Arta Moeini is the Director of Research at the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy and founding editor of AGON.

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J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago

Thank you for this essay. I renewed my Unherd subscription today and am glad I did.
What might save us from attempted indoctrination by the legacy media at the behest of the liberal elite is the sheer clumsiness of the attempt. Wherever I look on the internet the news articles about Ukraine are hyperbolic and hysterical. They are almost parodies of news reports in the traditional sense. Hopefully enough thinking people will recognize they are on the receiving end of propaganda.
The Western liberal establishment may yet pay a price for their hysteria mongering of the Ukraine invasion. They can’t protect the public from the inevitable inflation, energy price shocks and even food price shocks. They’ll try to pin the blame on Putin, but here in the US we have midterms in November and I suspect voters will blame the party in power, or maybe that’s just wishful thinking.
My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine. They’re having their lives turned upside down.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

“My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine. They’re having their lives turned upside down.”

Don’t you think the ominous, hysterical, dinosaur-like groan of Grad rockets being fired up, in their rows and columns, like fire-breathing dragons, might just lead to 
. dramatic headlines? To a “Read all about it!” by the squawking boy paper seller? If hysteria is the reaction, it is only because of the hysteria of military conquest.

People around the world were caught unawares, even with prior and publicly available evidence of the massive Russian build-up, but they are genuinely shocked. There is not a feeling, however, among westerners generally that they have been led up the garden path by their governments on the Ukraine question.

Last edited 2 years ago by Dustshoe Richinrut
Tom Jennings
Tom Jennings
2 years ago

It took two years for many westerners to figure out they were being led down the primrose path on covid. My guess is that they will catch on quickly this time.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

“My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine. They’re having their lives turned upside down.”

By what? By whom?

Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago

By war.
By countries with different ideals fighting for power.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Not countries but by one man who has not accepted that Ukraine has moved on from wanting to be part of Russia. The article would only have a point if public opinion in Ukraine was in favour of re-unification with Russia. The West made a mistake in not accepting Crimea were probably happy to be part of Russia. NATO made a mistake in not accepting it could defend Ukraine without aggresive weapons in Ukraine. It compounded the mistake by then saying it would not defend Ukraine. However Putin would still have wanted control on Ukraine. I do think the article is paranoid about curbs on free speech in the West. I am more concerned about inadequate research.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

I think you are missing a very significant historical context, and that is that Ukraine (and Kiev) is the birthplace of Russian civilization. The term “Russian” comes from “Kievan Rus”. So perhaps one might also view it as a civil war of secession. When this happened in the US in 1860, there was a civil war. The southern states called that war the war of northern aggression. But the north won so gets to write history and Lincoln is considered the greatest of all our presidents. For all those decrying Russia and Putin right now, where would you stand if the US civil war was occurring now instead of in the 1860s. It’s worth thinking about a little because, while not exact, there are points of commonality.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The Kyivan Rus realm was from the 800’s to the 1200’s. In 1200 modern Greece was governed from Constantinople, most of the Balkans were under Hungary, and Holland, Belgium, eastern France, and most of Italy were under the Holy Roman (i.e. German) Empire. You would not use those borders as a justification of modern land claims,

The ‘birth place of Russian civilisation’ is important, yes, but not as a political reality, Only as part of the Russian national myth – which is another way of saying that the self-esteem and sense of nationhood of the Russian government demands that they dominate a lot of people and lands who want nothing to do with them and where they have no rights whatsoever.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Is that why so many parts of Ukraine are pure Russian speakers. Is it also why Odessa was built by Catherine the Great. Is it also why Ukrainian is to Russian what Dutch is to German. i.e. very similar indeed.

Chris Clark
Chris Clark
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

You clearly have no grasp of norms of language accommodation, diversity and bilingualism in Ukraine and across many other post-Soviet states. This is so much more complex than so many commentators and commenters understand.
As Rory Finnin said: ‘We cannot afford to retreat to stale intellectually lazy and above all dangerous cliches about Ukraine’s ‘pro-EU’ and ‘pro-Russian’ halves.”

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Russians moved there after the 1869s to work in the coal and steel industries set up Hughes , a Welshman, in the Donbas Region of East Ukraine. Prior to this period, few people lived in the region. Few Ukrainians chose to work in the coal and steel industries.
Some of what Putin says is historically true but he has altered much. This does not justify invading Ukraine and killing people.
No doubt Russia has some valid claims against the Ukraine and The West but this is like someone causing grievous bodily harm because they spilled a drink on them.
What Putin lacks is a sense of proportionality, balance and perspective which is common to most dictators.

Simon Diggins
Simon Diggins
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Look at the map of majority Russian speakers in Ukraine; it is a small area and minority. However, that has stopped the Russians from attacking Kharkiv, a majority Russian-speaking city, nor the people of Kharkiv defending themselves.

I don’t think anyone pretends that Ukraine is a perfect democracy like 
.err, the US, Britain or France, however the majority of Ukrainians believe, with some justification that: a. they don’t wish to be a Russian satrapy like Belarus; b. that however difficult things are, they can be ameliorated, unlike in Russia. That is why they are fighting and, I would argue, the real reason why Putin has invaded. Ukraine is not ‘Anti-Russia’; it is though a standing rebuke to the polity that Russia has allowed itself to become.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Good point. And it makes the author’s reference about war being “ the grand American project” seem rather silly given the wee age of the U.S. of A.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

And you might still get a serious move for secession by some states in the US

patrick macaskie
patrick macaskie
2 years ago

still quite unlikely but you offer an argument that illustrates democracy is still alive in America (and only a narcissist would try to persuade people otherwise), especially at a time like this. Some States chose an alternative path for dealing with Covid, no doubt sparking a lively debate in the State media. if those States prove their point, the necessary lessons will be learnt (and there is evidence of this already happening). It is hard to see this happening in the Russian Federation

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

Last time I looked secession was being mooted for certain democratic states and it had nothing to do with Covid

patrick macaskie
patrick macaskie
2 years ago

I am sure it is being mooted and I think I can guess exactly which types are doing the mooting….but this amounts to a hill of beans. I don’t know much about US politics….but I wouldn’t be surprised if the right and left are both going to split. the electorate is split down the middle …..which demands a reformation…..there is clearly some flotsam that both sides badly need to jettison. the Ukraine crisis has put a much sharper focus on this . even the NY Times has been making sense in the last few days. I admit a swallow does not make a Spring. we need a Roosevelt (trust busting and sensible on social issues) . . Bernie (or worse) is what you will get if this reformation doesn’t happen. the social contract is very stretched already and this is in a time of full employment. some of the Donald’s support base is only there because he is the enemy’s enemy….this is not enough….(and to my eyes he is too crass to be the man that rebuilds America)….this can be no more than a detached view for what it is worth

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

In my view Roosevelt was a disaster for the US. He was the president who was key to hugely expanding the state putting in place the system of elites that we now have.

patrick macaskie
patrick macaskie
2 years ago

at the moment capitalism is acquiring itself a bad name. This is not capitalism’s fault…we have state mediated capitalism, causing big problems everywhere we look…..the place where this is most manifest is the interference in the the pricing of risk; the central banks are suppressing interest rates and risk premia through asset purchases and the “Fed put”. This leads to perverse incentives, misallocation of resources and huge barriers to social mobility. Worse still they act as an accelerant for the disrupters. Your hero the Donald never stopped complaining about China and Amazon (a truly great business) . He was right because both are monopolistic and use predatory pricing, (which is great for consumers and bad for producers) but Donald was skin deep in his thinking about how to deal with this. If the “Right” doesn’t clean up capitalism, the left will persuade people they have the answers.
Interestingly inflation is one of capitalism’s corrective mechanisms and the fed is out of dry powder. Powell can only huff and puff in the hope successive crises will mask his nakedness.
The enlargement of the state you talk of is a cat that can’t be put back in the bag until we clean up capitalism. Strip it down and you will see “end demand” is teetering and reliant on stimulus of multiple kinds. Like many a person, I would accuse you of being angry to the point of self harm about the manifestations but in denial about the causative problems …..which are as much about capitalism as the big state!

Last edited 2 years ago by patrick macaskie
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

I agree with most of what you have written, save that Trump is not my hero. I just seem to loath all those who hate him.
However, I do no think you agree with yourself. You are absolutely right that we have state mediated capitalism causing big problems everywhere we look, but then how can that be as much about capitalism as the big state?
What does make me angry is the prescription that what we need is more state.
There has to be a role for the state but what we have now has grown beyond any rational proportion.

patrick macaskie
patrick macaskie
2 years ago

I appreciate your response to my huge digression and agree with most of your points, including the fact I was presumptuous to describe Trump as your hero….I think we are nearer to Weimar Germany than people think …..it is the behaviour of people that gives the game away, long before there is any understanding of the cause. as in 1922, there is nobody in officialdom that will admit that the pursuit of full employment and pro growth strategies can bring down whole civilisations, if they involve destroying the contract between today and tomorrow. I often feel there is no one I can talk to who understands.

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

No one seceded. The Soviet Union dissolved into its constituent republics. So you’ve heard of Kievan Rus? Maybe learn a bit about history since the twelfth century.

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Stop spouting Russian propaganda.
Kievan Rus has nothing to do with Moscovy.
Which till 14/15th century was a vasal of Tatars.
Kievan Rus was destroyed by Mongol invasions of 13th century and Ukraine was not incorporated into Russia till 18th century.
Ukraine has distinct language and culture and now I fighting for their national survival.
Putin’s stooges and appeasers like you are not only dishonest about history and current Russian policies but enablers of genocide.
No different from Hitler appeasers and we know where that policy led.

Philip L
Philip L
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Ah so we’re back at Hitler. It’s almost cosy, isn’t it.

Tom Jennings
Tom Jennings
2 years ago
Reply to  Philip L

“Cosy” makes the point quite nicely.

patrick macaskie
patrick macaskie
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew F

completely agree. it would be nice if JS had the courage to use his real name; assuming this is indeed a pseudonym.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago

Oh, he didn’t write the…

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Nobody is repeating Russian propaganda. Ukrainian is not really a distinct language. It is like Dutch is to German, very similar indeed, or perhaps a heavy Yorkshire accent to a London one.
You state that Ukraine was not incorporated into Russian until the 18th century. So what’s your point. The 13 original states were not incorporated into the United states until the late 18th century. Scotland was’t incorporated into the Great Britain until the 17th century. Italy was still composed of fully independent autonomous states in the 19th century as was Germany. These latter two countries were only united under Garibaldi and Bismarck, respectively. Does that mean that North Rhein-Westphalia can suddenly decide to become separate from the rest of Germany.
Lastly, you really need to stop with the Hitler nonsense. Not only is it unhelpful but it is extremely dangerous as all it does is stoke up war mongering, jingoism and hysteria. Putin is absolutely not Hitler. Sure Putin is a thug, and sure he assassinates political rivals, as does Xi in China no doubt. But neither is evil incarnate as Hitler was. The situation is absolutely not equivalent to 1936-1939 prior to WWII, and the current situation in Ukraine is not equivalent to the Sudetenland in 1938. It is equivalent to 1914. WWI had no good and bad sides, even if we the winners like to view the other side as bad. Quite different from WWII which was a battle between good and pure evil.
So my suggestion is you get a grip and actually start to think critically about the foreseen and unforeseen consequences of any actions on the part of the West. And that doesn’t just include direct conflict but sanctions as well, which I suspect will be counterproductive.
What you have to consider is the following: (a) Ukraine is not of any security interest to the West but it is for Russia. (b) How does one ensure the least amount of human suffering – pouring weapons into Ukraine only prolongs the agony and further engenders economic and financial instability in the West. (c) How does one achieve a diplomatic solution that leaves everybody at least partially satisfied. For starters there needs to be a pledge that whatever constitutes Ukraine in the future be a true neutral buffer state and that NATO and for that matter the EU stop encroaching Eastward.
Some commentators on Unherd have suggested that countries should be able to do exactly as they please, no matter how small they are and no matter who their neighbors are. But that’s not how the world works. One has to live with how the world actually is as opposed to what one would like it to be.
And lastly, you might also wish to consider that the US (and U.K. since they have followed the US into many overseas adventures) have rendered death and destruction wherever they’ve intervened. Think Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria to name but a few over just the last 20 years. So probably best not to hold ourselves up in the West as paragons of virtue.

Simon Diggins
Simon Diggins
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

You lost me after your first sentence. If you don’t know that Dutch is a different language to German, then why should anyone read anything else you write?

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Excellent riposte! Well said

patrick macaskie
patrick macaskie
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

you make some good points in the second half….but the historic stuff at the beginning detracts….and suggests you support Putin’s pseudo historic justifications, which then takes you close to thing you deny in the first sentence. (incidentally cancel culture likes pseudo historic justifications).

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Not ignored, Kyiv is also important in the founding of the Russian Orthodox church. There is a history. The fact is that Ukraine did “cede” from Russia and the “civil war” is limited to the SE. Putin might have thought he was liberating Ukraine for the Ukrainians but there is an abscence of evidence that a majority of Ukrainans want that.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

That may well be true. But it wasn’t true for Crimea and it clearly isn’t true in the Donbask. Truth is we have little clue. For sure, now it doesn’t appear to be true. But the fact remains that Ukraine is very much a security interest of Russia but not the West. It is also true that the Russians are pursuing their own version of the US Monroe doctrine. And I’m pretty sure the US would not tolerate a Mexican state that was part of a military alliance with Russia or China.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

And Germany was the birthplace of the Franks, who conquered Gaul.
So is Germany France? Or is France Germany?
These 19th C historical fantasies have killed more people than religion or greed ever have.
And now we have one more sub-normal fool trying to recreate something that never was.

David Bell
David Bell
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Your analogy is falacious. For one thing, there are no slaves to be “liberated”. On the contrary, the defenders are resisting their would-be enslavers.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

My sentiments exactly.

P.J. van den Broeke
P.J. van den Broeke
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Cowardness brings slavery. This is cold war thinking of Arta Moeini, to let the old rethorics, based on old ideologues get back in play, by sacrificing a democratic county like Ukraine, as a wiedergutmaching to Putin is cynical Cold War thinking. Arta Moeini a Berkeley alumni is confusing identity political with freedom. I hereby recite a poem of a Dutch resistance fighter during WOII of the Netherlands:

A nation that succumbs to tyrants

All who are here together
the living, the dead,
the handbread that divides us is small,
We have been summoned together to the judgment…

Remember the love that lies here,
the brother, friend or father,
but grant Your eyes wider view,
behold the land and all men,
hear this message:

We stand together for the judgment
to choose good or evil,
a nation that succumbs to tyrants,
will lose more than body and good,
then the light goes out.

Last edited 2 years ago by P.J. van den Broeke
Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago

Berkeley…
Figures…

Sasha T.
Sasha T.
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I completely agree. Such blatant propaganda from most of the media reveals their disdain for truth/context/history and also their contempt for the general public.

Art Johnston
Art Johnston
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

“:My heart goes out the the people of Ukraine”? With friends like J Bryant and Moeini, who needs enemies? Just let all the Ukrainians die and let Putin continue being a bloodthirsty murderer and start the largest war since WWII. Oh, that’s right, this war is all “hyperbole and hysteria” and caused by the “Western liberal establishment”. What an apologist for murder.

Last edited 2 years ago by Art Johnston
Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Art Johnston

Easy to say from the comfort of your living room, no doubt in some tony flat in London! What is being proposed in the West is only going to prolong the suffering in a conflict we in the West have no business interfering in. We are not the world’s policeman. The only reason people are so hysterical and jingoistic about the current situation is that this conflict involves Europe, albeit Eastern Europe, and the people look like the majority of us, as opposed, for example to the people in Yemen where a war has been waged for many years now, but nobody in the West cares in the slightest.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Agreed, why is it no one makes a fuss about the poor Yemenis, maybe the same reason few made a fuss about the deaths of Nicolle Smallman and Bibaa Henry, the two sisters murdered in London, whilst Sarah Everard is recognised by all?

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Carl Valentine

For the same reason nobody cares about all the black lives that get extinguished every single weekend in Chicago. It s all about “the narrative”.

RD Richards
RD Richards
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

What might save us from attempted indoctrination by the legacy media at the behest of the liberal elite is the sheer clumsiness of the attempt. Wherever I look on the internet the news articles about Ukraine are hyperbolic and hysterical. They are almost parodies of news reports in the traditional sense. Hopefully enough thinking people will recognize they are on the receiving end of propaganda.
Yes, exactly. When the New York Times allows comments on news articles, it usually selects a handful as “Times Picks,” which then go up in a category of their own. Here are two from yesterday:
Times Pick:
The Ukrainians have tasted freedom and democracy and love it. They do not want to go backwards. They are a smart and fearless people and know what they want and no one should rule them but themselves. President Zelensky has been a true leader and has shown strength and perseverance. We need more leaders like him in our world who are not afraid to stand up for what is right and true.
Times Pick:
May the moral flame the Ukrainians fueled this week still burn strong, in the end!
Out of the 1700-some comments on this article, these are among the handful that the paper has identified as most important.

Last edited 2 years ago by RD Richards
David Bell
David Bell
2 years ago
Reply to  RD Richards

Quite right,too, although it pains me to concur with anything printed in that wretched rag.

mike otter
mike otter
2 years ago
Reply to  RD Richards

Spot on: only the morally and intellectually bankrupt media-politico kabal believe their own lies and the presence of the internet and smart phones makes it harder for their lies to stick. And wow are they clumsy, like they just discovered 1930s propaganda. Kim Jong Un and Putin appear on horseback, in tanks or fighter jets and Johnson follows. Even before covid i caught the tired tone of the BBCs news mouthpieces – like the Russian TV in the late 80s they no longer believe their own propaganda. Their lack of reason and logic is a real risk to their hegemony: I oppose the far right Ukrainian nationalists with their swastikas and racist dogma, and i also oppose Putin’s narrow Russian nationalism and his gangster-communist dogma. This can no longer compute in the western rulers’ minds. As such they are not functioning moral beings. At best they are simply educationally sub normal, adult bodies with minds of most 4-8 year olds. At worst they are criminally insane. Either way they are an easy mark for people like Putin and his Ukrainian equivalents in the Azov battalion and Svoboda.

Last edited 2 years ago by mike otter
Art Johnston
Art Johnston
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

US midterms are coming up. Yes. A week ago, that it was a slam dunk to get a new Congress that would neutralize the bumbling idiots in the White House.
But in the last week, that is now unlikely. Trump, the supposed leader of the opposition, refuses to condemn Putin and has become a laughing stock and nothing but an apologist for Putin, the mass murderer. Those, like Moeini and too many of the commentators, have now joined forces with the socialist, the AOCs of the world, and all the other anti-Americans. Maybe they were always there
It was easy to win the midterms when the only issues are gender junk, cancel culture, covid, and bumbling idiots. But those on these pages, that are dismissing the obvious hell that has been unleashed in world, are now part of the bumbling idiot crowd.

Josie Bowen
Josie Bowen
2 years ago
Reply to  Art Johnston

I read somewhere that the majority of US citizens believe Putin’s forces would not be in Ukraine if Trump was in power.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Josie Bowen

Never mind what’s behind the curtain, just keep walking.

David B
David B
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I renewed a few days ago and I totally agree – worth the entrance fee alone!

Graham Strugnell
Graham Strugnell
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

What total rubbish. Why this tortuous apology for Putin’s fascism was published here is a mystery and to the editor’s discredit. In Orwellian fashion, the writer tries to prove that white is black and up is down and wrong is right. Every one one of the writer’s ponderous points attempt to reverse the actual truth, a truth that is evident to anyone not drunk on the Kremlin’s propaganda.

Last edited 2 years ago by Graham Strugnell
Simon Diggins
Simon Diggins
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

One million refugees, mostly women and children, rockets and artillery indiscriminately being used in towns and cities, nuclear power stations being fired upon: this is not ‘hysteria mongering.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Diggins

You are a victim of the hyperbole, apparently. The nuclear power plant was not attacked. It caught some stray fire and is completely functional. Saying otherwise is a classic example of the hysterical fear-mongering you deplore.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I think you struck the motherload when you wrote, “hopefully there enough thinking people
”
This is most certainly the crux of the problem. We don’t think anymore. Our eyes simply glaze over what we are fed and we give it a like or dislike and believe we are engaged.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
2 years ago

Why does everybody seem to think that it is the ‘potential’ expansion of NATO that is the principle cases belli for Russia ? Even if it is the story that Russia tells everyone else.
I think it much more likely, and realistic, that Russias beef wasn’t NATO at all, but rather Ukraines gradual slide towards a ‘Western’ influenced state, possibly, and more probably a member, or associate member, of the EU and the EU’s sphere of influence and values. I’m pretty sure Putin, Russia, saw that as just as big, if not a more likely, threat as any notional Ukraines joining of NATO

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

And, as Putin might have seen it, Ukraine soon becoming the West Germany to his East Germany?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

I agree with that angle.
The possibility of Ukraine joining an EU which goes on to develop its own army – or later develops significant integration with NATO – may well be the main consideration in Putins mind.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

I somehow doubt it. Not only is Ukraine even more corrupt than Russia, but economically Ukraine wouldn’t qualify for membership in the EU for many many years to come. Yes, now the EU wants them to join, but Ukraine would simply be a drain on every other EU countries economies.

domtuck
domtuck
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Ukraine more corrupt than Russia? Do you have anything to back that statement up?

dave fookes
dave fookes
2 years ago
Reply to  domtuck

Do you have anything to back up your counterview?
My view, is that the article is absolutely ‘spot-on’ – particularly in regards to western media propaganda. I think many of us have once again been ‘media-misled’ about this conflict, as many of us have been apropos the pandemic.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Good point.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Russia asked repeatedly going back to Yelstin not to expand NATO
Putin didn’t show aggression towards Ukraine pre 2014, during 15 years of power
The Russians started placing demands for neutrality only after 2014 when the US “inspired” coup made NATO in Ukraine a possibility.
For years leading upto the war, they consistently said the red line was NATO

Makes sense, the motive behind Russia attacking must be unrelated to their clearly stated concerns on NATO.
It wasn’t the thought of NATO missiles and bases next door, losing access to the key ports, etc. Putin was just terrified they might build a Disneyland in Kiev.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

I think, the way I look at it is. NATO sticking a great big FU flag in Ukraine, and basically saying to Russia “Come on, if you think you’re hard enough” was always doubtful, even if, as a sovereign state, Ukraine might have been eligible, but as diminished as Russia might be, compared to days gone by, it isn’t enfeebled. NATO isn’t what it once was either, underfunded and partners who are under commuted. An agreement of understanding, a live and let live policy prevailed, even if pushed and shoved.
Liberal Western values, on the other hand, could sneak in, under the barbed wire, and Russian regional hegemony, without a gun being fired, or an angry word spoken. It would be as harmful, probably more so, to Russias position than any number of tanks stationed across the fence. The ‘old bold’ Cold War wasn’t won by dropping bombs, or firing bullets, it was won with blue jeans and rock an roll. Putin isn’t stupid, I’m sure he’s well aware of this and the last thing he wants is a power block, whether it be of values, or a common market, on his doorstep.
Not everybody subscribes to the ‘West is Best’ mantra, as strange as that might seem to lots of Westerers.

mike otter
mike otter
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Blue jeans and rock and roll helped but Reagan’s poker playing with “star wars” was wot won it. Gorbachev had to fold as had nothing left to bet with, and could not be sure Reagan’s hand was fake. I expect he was gutted when he found the “star wars” hand was a 9 high not a royal flush!

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

That star wars R&D didn’t end, BTW. It set into motion a lot of new weapon ideas many of which are now being realized. The counters to much of that were then developed as well, flying above us now. So the counter-counters will follow in the world we have created. Kissinger’s economic entanglements missed Russia however.

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

I agree, it is ‘Western’ as in US/EU.

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

It’s both.

David Bell
David Bell
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Exactly. Russia’s tyrants always end their reigns by making catastrophic mistakes.

Tom Jennings
Tom Jennings
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

I would suggest that you not limit the possibilities to one or the other. My view is that Putin is operating from two primary motives and several secondary motives.
The first is the restoration of a “Greater Russia”. He is on record as having described the dissolution of the USSR as a geopolitical disaster. I believe you can safely consider Putin to be a revanchist hell-bent on regaining lost territory.
The second is to put some hundreds of miles of buffer territory between the western border of Russia and the eastern border of Germany. Putin is a native of Leningrad/St Petersburg. Depending on who you read, the 1941-1944 German siege of Leningrad caused the death of between 1.2-1.5 million Russians in the greater St Petersburg area. Putin was born in 1952 and likely has a distrust of Germany in his DNA.
The western drift of Ukraine likely also plays a role as does the Orange Revolution which took Ukraine out of friendly hands.
Just some thoughts. Tom

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago

John Mearsheimer (who the author reports is being vilified by The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum) has been making the same three points for years:

1. Trying to build liberal democracies in the Islamic world at the end of a gun will lead to disaster
2. Encouraging Russia’s neighbours to aspire to join the EU and NATO will lead to disaster
3. Allowing China to sell into Western markets and grow rich and powerful will lead to disaster.

Three huge strategic mistakes that the US elected to do. We have seen the effects of number 1. We are now seeing number 2. I pray we don’t reap the whirlwind of number 3.

As for his critic Anne Applebaum, please! She was a cheerleader for all three.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt M
Bill W
Bill W
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

Which makes one wonder why have these policies been pursued?

Neven Curlin
Neven Curlin
2 years ago
Reply to  Bill W

Because chaos and war are good for the military-industrial complex.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Bill W

Because the US State Department is divorced from reality. Not for nothing is it known as the blob

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
2 years ago

The Blob never learns from its screw ups and finds things backfiring in its face time and time again.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt Hindman
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

And doubles down

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

Whilst the media may be guilty of talking up Ukraines chances in the conflict, I don’t think they’ve been guilty of what the author is implying.
It’s been stated on numerous occasions that Putin is blaming NATO for his invasion of Ukraine, despite the fact Ukraine isn’t a member and isn’t any closer to being so than it has been for years. He also claimed he was protecting the Russian speaking minority from oppression when he annexed Crimea, and east and the Georgian regions, although to me this is also a rather flimsy pretext.
It’s important to hear both sides of a story, but that doesn’t mean both sides are equally valid, a scenario which I believe applies here. In my mind this was a completely unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation by a dictator who never got over the removal of the pro Russian leader in the popular protests and doesn’t believe sovereign neighbours should be able to choose its allies.
Perhaps Russia should look at its own actions as to why all the ex Soviet republics were desperate to join NATO, rather than blaming the west for the countries unpopularity. Let us not forget NATO also had no weapons or battalions in the eastern nations until Russia annexed Crimea in accordance with Russias wishes, and Russia promised to respect Ukrainians sovereignty in exchange for them giving up their nuclear stockpile. The Russians blaming broken promises for their attack is a bit rich in my eyes

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

..nah, you need to delve deeper into this BB.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  Bernard Hill

Big Brother?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

Brian Blessed

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Bernard Hill

This excellent article sums up how easily people are influenced to think in a certain way and to not delve deeper. Alas it seems on this occasion Billy is a good example.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

I’m quite capable of making up my own mind thank you, and personally I don’t believe Putins reasons are sufficient for invading another nation completely unprovoked

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You think you are capable of making your own mind up but unfortunately you have been bamboozled by moral righteousness in an area and region you know nothing about. The author’s analysis is absolutely spot on.
Nobody is in favor or war. And war is horrific and horrific things are happening in Ukraine. It could all have been avoided if NATO and the US had categorically stated that Ukraine will never be able to join NATO and will remain neutral. In our moral superiority we, the west, refused to budge on this point. For what, when Putin clearly stated exactly what he was going to do if we didn’t. The result is that it is quite possible that any miscalculation on the part of the West might lead to a major conflagration similar to WWI, but this time with nuclear weapons.
You should realize that things have gone too far and hysteria has taken over when the Met yesterday canceled their top Russian soprano because she refused to issue a statement condemning Putin even though she condemned the war. This is insanity.
As others have pointed out, Kiev and Ukraine are the birthplace of Russian civilization. So the situation is far more complex than you might think. But right now, we in the west are prolonging the agony and suffering of the Ukrainian people for nothing. And they are the ones suffering, not you sitting on your comfortable couch in the U.K.

Luke I
Luke I
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

You accuse BB of being blinded by moral righteousness, though you appear to be myopic yourself.

The narrative that wanting to join NATO causes war is incredibly reductive and inadequate. The Baltics have fully joined NATO and… they’re not at war. The idea that Putin doesn’t want NATO on his borders, so by taking Ukraine he can share a border with Poland and Romania, is blatantly nonsense.

None of what BB has said supports the mainstream media. They can be hysterical in their coverage, but there can still be an underlying set of principles that are truthful, even if the agendas that couple themselves to it are not.

Such as the principle of self-determination. Who is it for Russia, or for any other country, to dictate what Ukraine can and can’t do. Joining NATO and the EU are the most outward symbols of becoming “Western”. Surely the greatest risk is that Ukraine’s pivot west leads to peace and prosperity: Ukraine could follow the Baltics on a trajectory that makes the Russian people envious, or at least question their own leadership and society.

So whilst BB is at least capable of looking beyond childish narratives of “Ukraine belongs to Russia, so Ukraine can’t join NATO”, you are so used to seeing the lies in the mainstream media that you’ll adopt any narrative to oppose them.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

So for Russia to not invade Ukraine, all Ukraine had to do was essentially give up its sovereignty and become a Russian vassal state similar to Belarus? The Ukrainians clearly don’t want that as can be seen by their determined efforts to repel the Russian invasion, but Putins wants should take priority over those of the population in your opinion?
Your point about Russia having claim to Kyiv due to the borders of the 13th century is also incredibly flimsy. By that reckoning most of Europe would still be under the control of the Holy Roman Empire.
The fact is Ukrainians wanted very little to do with Putins Russia, and will want even less after this unprovoked invasion.

Agnes Barley
Agnes Barley
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Finland is not a vassal state

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Agnes Barley

During the Cold War Finland effectively had its airwaves censored by the Soviets, blocking any broadcast that was critical of the USSR and allowing Soviet propaganda in exchange for not being invaded. That’s a strange kind of sovereignty in my eyes

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I guess by your argument Scotland should secede from the UK. Or perhaps the Southern states in 1860 should have been allowed to secede from the Union rather than Lincoln fighting a civil was to preserve that Union.
The problem with you line of thinking is that you’re living in a post-modern, post-historical world. yes everybody would like it if we all lived at peace with self-determination, etc…. But the real world with real powers isn’t quite cooperating is it. Those powers, Russia and China, each loaded with enough nuclear weapons to blow us all up to kingdom come many times over, are not prepared to play by our western rules. They prefer to play by the 19th century big power rules.
I also wouldn’t discount what the Russian people may feel about Ukraine. I have no idea what this is. But I do know, from many conversations, that highly westernized, highly trained and sophisticated Chinese, who have become US citizens, ardently believe that Taiwan belongs to China and should rightfully be part of China. I’ve also got no doubt that the Taiwanese would be none too happy about that.
So the real world is perhaps a little bit more complicated than one might like, and it seems to me that we, in the West, would do well not to interfere in regions that we (a) know nothing about, and (b) are not a security concern.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

If Scotland democratically wishes to leave the union then it should be allowed to do so, it’s already a country and they voted to stay as part of the UK. States seceding from countries is a rather more tricky proposition to deal with, and I won’t pretend to have the answer to that as each case would likely have many different scenarios.
Ukraine is a seperate country to Russia, therefore if they decide they want nothing to do with Russia then that should be respected rather than Putin shelling their major cities. Your “might has right” approach to world affairs I find extremely distasteful and downright dangerous

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

So if Scotland leaves the union, becomes impoverished (likely) as the EU wouldn’t have them (Catalonia), would we be ok Nicola Sturgeon inviting in Chinese companies and all it’s trappings? hmmm?

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Lesson to be learned is “big power rules”.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

1) It is highly dubious that Putin would be happy with an independent Ukraine as long as it was not in NATO. More likely he would demand that Ukraine be completely controlled from Moscow, like in the god old days of the Russian or Soviet empire. A neutrality declaration would not have helped, unless it clearly gave Russia a free hand in controlling Ukraine.

2) The west, meaning Europe, has a lot of business in the affairs of Ukraine. If you do not believe in talk about helping like-minded neighbours and good commercial relations, you might consider Europe’s security interests – we have them too – which are not well served by having an aggressive imperialist Russia too close to our borders.

Last edited 2 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The West sure does have a lot of business with Ukraine. Read this article by Mark Steyn to see just what sort of business Washington DC has had with Ukraine: https://www.steynonline.com/12187/war-in-europe-day-five

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Yawwnnnn!

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

How would America react if Mexico joined a Russian alliance, which meant that Russian missiles and military camps would be located on the border with California? And then they propose to do the same in Canada? Would they just calmly accept Mexico and Canada’s right to choose? What if Cuba chose to link up with Russia and become a missile base? Do you think America would say “no worries, go for it”.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Except no missiles were placed in the former Soviet republics until Russia annexed Crimea

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

One way to see through the “fog of war” is to look at what the media is pushing. If it’s all going in one direction, you can almost be certain the true story goes in another. Good article, this.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago

Some people automatically follow the herd. Other people automatically go in the opposite direction. Both are sheep, just different kinds.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I fear you’re correct, which is why I’m withhold judgement on Ukraine and Russia for now. I know next to nothing of this situation.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The interesting thing about this whole mess is how the West views themselves as morally superior and Putin’s Russia as evil….
And then acts surprised and outraged when Putin behaves just like the West would, under a similar situation.

The concept of free nations didn’t exist when overthrowing elected governments such as Allende, Lumumba and Mosaddegh. Or when waging brutal wars on dozens of countries ranging from Vietnam, Iraq to Yemen.

What’s noteworthy is that in each of those ghastly incidents, the strategic threat to the West was far lower than what Russia faced.
This is the situation Russia was supposed to accept gracefully:
– coup against an elected pro-Russian leader (admittedly highly corrupt) backed and financed by the US
– Ukraine joining NATO and hostile forces / ballistic missiles at the borders of Russia
– Loss of access to critical warm water ports
– putting majority Russian regions such as Donbass under a regime that’s anti Russian, views the likes of Bandera as heroesand is trying to suppress Russian language.

Reverse the situation say with Mexico and the Soviet block in the 70s, and what do you think would have happened?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Calling the protests that forced the resignation of Yanukovych (himself elected under a cloud of voting irregularities and alleged voter intimidation) a coup betrays your affiliations on the matter. The fact is he tried to drag the country towards Russia against the wishes of a majority of the population and paid the price for it. I personally believe his ousting was the catalyst for what we’re now seeing in Ukraine, Putin losing his pick as leader.
Blaming NATO is nonsense, Ukraine wasn’t any closer to joining before the invasion than it was 20 years ago, and no NATO forces or weapons were placed near Russias borders until its annexing of Crimea. The fact is that Russias actions will more than likely push Ukraine further towards the west and NATO than if it had simply respected its sovereignty.
Russia has almost half the worlds nuclear warheads, nobody was ever going to invade it so claiming it was fearful of nations on its borders simply doesn’t wash with me.
Ultimately I feel he gambled that after suffering no real pushback after Crimea and the eastern regions he felt he could do the same again, but the bravery of the Ukrainians, the arms supplied by the west, lack of support from China and sheer scale of sanctions will have taken him by surprise. I hope beyond hope the Ukrainians can repel the Russian invaders, but I’m sceptical as to how long they can hold out unfortunately

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You really are delusional or have simply fallen for western and Ukrainian propaganda. It doesn’t matter whether Ukraine was going to join NATO sooner or later, the threat was there, and further an agreement crafted in the 2008 Bucharest declaration.
As for the so-called 2014 popular uprising, it was fomented by western NGOs and the CIA. Everybody in Ukraine knows this. The truth is the west and the US should stay well out of countries they have no business interfering in. And in this regard the Arab Spring, again sponsored by western NGOs and the CIA has led to more chaos. Do you really think that Libya and Syria are better off now than they were previously. As for Egypt, all that happened is an autocrat, Mubarak, was replaced by a truly odious organization, the Muslim Brotherhood. Fortunately, the Egyptian arm remained strong and was able to overthrow the Muslim Brotherhood.
And let me reiterate for you, I am not a Putin apologist. What I am is a realist and I consider the valid concerns, founded in a long history, of the other side. Incidentally, as for Crimea, Crimea was gifted to Ukraine in 1955, and the huge majority of people in Crimea voted to rejoin Russia in a referendum. But of course you think that referendum was completely phony. Why? because you display the typical condescension and arrogance of western elites, so well summarized in the above article.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

For what it’s worth I think maybe holding legitimate referendums regarding independence/Russian subordinate status or remaining part of Ukraine for Crimea and the eastern regions could be part of the peace settlement. I’m not saying it’s right, but the facts on the ground are that they’re majority Russian speaking and Putin isn’t going to relinquish control so they’re effectively gone anyway. Give Putin the Russian looking east of the country giving him his buffer he claims to require and the rest of Ukraine can be free to join the EU and NATO if they wish

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

They are not the only regions in Ukraine that are majority Russian speaking. So is Odessa (in the south west), and until relatively recently was 100% Russian speaking.
The truth is you have no clue about Ukraine. And for that matter nor do I. What I do know is that the West should keep well clear of countries and regions that are of no concern of ours. Otherwise we are no better than the Old Soviet Union that sought to impose world communism through revolution. We in the West should not be in the business of imposing our values on everybody else. That’s how we get into trouble. At least I leant my lesson from Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2003, I was all for the Iraq invasion, and I naively thought that if we overthrew an odious and evil tyrant (Saddam Hussein) and installed a democratic polity, all would be sun and roses. Well look how that turned out.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

That puts me two points ahead of you. I was against the Iraq war (to the point of participating in about the only demosnstration in my life) because – odious dictator or not – you cannot just invade countries and start wars because you do not happen to like their government. Intervening in an existing civil war to prevent massacres and, yes further your worldview and interests, is another matter. That goes for Libya, Yougoslavia, Mali, and Syria (both sides). Like the old Christian concept of ‘just war’ one criterion is that you are aiming for a moral outcome and have a reasonable prospect of success. Yougoslavia was a success, Libya, Syria (and Afghanistan) were failures, but whatever the practicalities, leaving Ghadaffi, Milosevic, and Assad to do their worst to the people around them is not obviously the more moral choice.

As for Ukraine, it is clearly not up to us to inflame the Ukrainians to wage a bloody insurgency that they may well lose – but then we do not need to. They are fighting of own their own accord. Giving them as much of the help they want as we feel we can, and trying to deter Russia from a continuing program of conquests among our neighbours (who’s next?), does not sound immoral to me.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Did the U.S. have no business with intervening in “Europe’s war” around 1940?

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Cut out the “betrays your affiliations on the matter” stuff.

The massive issues with Yanukovych or the fact that he had to go were undeniable. And he would have been dumped in the next election anyway.

But so is the fact that he was elected, while his departure was a coup, not an election (and incidentally, Yanukovych had stepped down peacefully in 2004 after the courts had deemed his win in the original election invalid)

Or that he had to run for his life, or that the other, less Russian government sees Bandera as a hero, imposed restrictions on Russian language and was the only govt along with US to oppose the UNGA resolution against glorification of Nazism.

It isn’t easy and simple. At least, not as simple as “we can invade Iraq illegally using lies and justification, for no strategic benefit, destroy the country and still pretend to be the moral authority on not waging war”

And ultimately, you can speculate, what their motives were, and how Putin is a cartoon villain.
But bottomline is, if I were Russian I would not want my leader to accept the catastrophic option of NATO coming to Ukraine…..
just like Americans would not accept Chile turning communist even if it meant replacing an elected govt with a butcher.

Last edited 2 years ago by Samir Iker
Jem Barnett
Jem Barnett
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The US was absolutely involved in that regime change/colour revolution. Oliver Stone’s documentary ‘Ukraine on Fire’ shows who some of the players were. Even if you think his documentary is heavily biased (fair comment) the actual facts are not in dispute, it would be a dispute simply about whether other things should be said alongside as well, to widen the lens.

Perhaps it would it be fairer to state that Ukraine had a corrupt pro-Kremlin puppet government, which we participated in removing, in order to install a corrupt pro-Western puppet government?

Disagree with you rather vehemently re NATO, but largely agree with your final para.
I was taking to a Chinese friend and she said something interesting. She said Westerners continue to misunderstand that China is a purely mercantilist regime. We continue to project emotions and values onto their actions, seeing the world of foreign policy as we wish it to be, rather than as it is. She said she expects China to do as they always do and act solely in their own interests, which in this case would mean buying up all the oil, gas, wheat, and interests in companies that will be sold cheaply due to sanctions forcing divestment. They will do this for as long as possible as the Chinese understand that wealth, resources and military might is true, hard power. Everything else is nonsense. Then she expects at some point China may offer to host talks/negotiations if they see that the conflict may escalate to a degree that it would threaten Chinese interests, but they would not do so out of goodwill, only good sense. Interesting view.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jem Barnett
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Jem Barnett

Interesting comment. But the extremely heavy-handed Chinese reaction to anyone who says the wrong thing or allows a few pro-Tibet demonstrations suggests that China has a great deal more in mind than just her economic interests. Regrettable, actually. Mercantilism you can deal with, a nuclear-armed power who insists on pain of heavy sanctions that you must parrot their lies is a lot harder to live with.

Jem Barnett
Jem Barnett
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Things that are only ok when we do them:

  1. Illegal, violent invasions on false pretences
  2. Self-serving regime change operations

:/

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Exactly. A very muddled and one-sided piece, though endearingly reminiscent of 1968 protest language with its furrowed-brow thymotic/performative/melioristic jargon. The Russian state has no monopoly on ‘national security concerns’.

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago

…’very muddled and one-sided’ in an attempt to TRY to highlight what is actually happening. Clearly failing with many.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
2 years ago
Reply to  David Owsley

Indeed, that’s absolutely my point! But we disagree about the success of his attempt because we disagree about the fundamentals of the situation. Incidentally I think neither of us can claim to know what is ‘actually’ happening, we just take a view of the likely accuracy of the sources we use.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

The Russian state has no monopoly on ‘national security concerns’.
Too true, but we have all seen what happens when US interests are threatened.
Why is what Russia is now doing any different?

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

But Russia never annexed eastern Ukraine, the Georgian war was a result of Georgia shelling South Ossetian civilians, after South Ossetia and Abkhazia had declared independence from Georgia back in 1992. Georgian fighters went to help Ukraine after 2014, the papers proudly note. And fight whom?The eastern provinces of Ukraine wanted a say in the revolution, and were surprised when their protests were met with tanks and shells. About 9000 civilians have been killed by the forces of democratic Ukraine since 2014. The OSCE observers listed almost 1000 civilians killed in the Donbass in the three months alone at the end of 2019 . Genocide and the Hague, anyone? Where are the photos of little children, grannies, destroyed villages? If the media had bothered to report this conflict, we might not now have this dreadful war. And, oh yes. Medical supplies, benefits and pensions were cut off to the region by Poroshenko. Was this to punish the huge phantom army of Russian soldiets? I think not.

Sally Owen
Sally Owen
2 years ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

Well said Anna, it surprises me why nobody anywhere is relaying these facts!


Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Sally Owen

Probably because most of them aren’t facts anywhere except on Russia Today

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

then maybe talk to the people on the ground to find out what’s true. But what Anna said was absolutely correct.

Su Mac
Su Mac
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

“why all the ex Soviet republics were desperate to join NATO” I guess it is a question of whether you hold to the “popular protests” line or the “USA formented regime change” line and personally it seems impossible to ignore the evidence for the latter. Khazakstan and Belarus are examples where this regime change of ex Soviet republics was recently attempted and failed.

Jem Barnett
Jem Barnett
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

There are two links I can drop that I found interesting, others might as well…

Glenn Greenwald’s look at some of the messaging, and parallels to other conflicts – I found this to be informative:

https://greenwald.substack.com/p/war-propaganda-about-ukraine-becoming?s=r

Oliver Stone’s 2016 documentary about Ukraine, and some of the events that provide context for current events:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHH10jIRJmQ
Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Remember – Russia (Yeltsin) signed the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, which did not limit NATO’s right to expand and specifically said that Russia has no veto over NATO’s right to expand. So all this blather about how Putin/Russia were stabbed in the back by NATO is nonsense Putin is violating this agreement, violating the agreement with US UK and UcrĂąnia that, in exchange for giving up the Soviet era nukes, Russia would not invade them and the US et al would defend them.

Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago

A voice of reason, thank you.

Richard Powell
Richard Powell
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Hahahahaha!

Hendrik Mentz
Hendrik Mentz
2 years ago

Indeed, or as the Paul Joseph Watson Twitter meme put it: ‘Russians are the new unvaccinated’.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  Hendrik Mentz

Unfortunately, for Russians, the shot-in-the-dark decision to invade Ukraine, coming off the view at presumably the highest levels of power that it would be a shot in the arm for all who love Russia, was motivated by some kind of scorn for, or distrust of, Ukrainians for having of late given their attempts to build up their own nation state, their own inner strength, their best shot.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago
Reply to  Hendrik Mentz

It is amusing how every Russian is responsible, but when you have massive numbers of terror attacks, grooming gangs, ISIS volunteers, hate speeches in mosques, widespread support for Sharia law….”not every xyz you islamophobic bigot”

Looking beyond geopolitics and Ukraine, that’s the biggest issue tearing apart the West. It is absolutely fine to be bigoted and against a class of people and attack them – Russians, white males, Israelis, Asians, unvaccinated…..as long as it’s “approved”

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

I don’t believe anybody is blaming every Russian citizen for the actions of their dictator, they merely use Russians to describe those invading as it’s easier

Leto McAllister
Leto McAllister
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Oh really, Billy Bob. Russian Standard vodka taken off the COOP shelves, Baltika beer off Wetherspoons (highly moral establishment!), most Russian sportspeople banned from participating in any ongoing events, awards stripped, a chorus of international organisations expelling and cancelling Russian membership, including feline breeding alliance and children cancer patient placements. Cannes festival, Eurovision, FIFA, Microsoft, Adidas, Jaguar and dozens other virtue signalling corps. Do you think they hurt Putin personally, or Russians? I’ve heard from several Russian acquaintances in London, including students that they are becoming subject of bullying and physical attacks. Consultancies, architects have been jostling for years to get a bit of the Russian market, suddenly they “have no projects and never intend to”. Have any of these people changed overnight, or do you hold each and every Russian born individual to each and every foreign policy decision? And who is going to suspend our memberships over Iraq?

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago

Problem with appeasers is that they basically say “allow Russia what they want”.
If we accept that confronting Russia militarily in Ukraine is not desirable, then sanctions are the way.
We need to show Russia that invading smaller nations has a price.
In that case boycott of products, end to holidays in Europe and study in Europe, cancellations of residence permits and citizenships.
Waging War of conquest has consequences.
If Russian feel hard done by sanctions they know who to blame.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Wait until the Chinese decide to impose sanctions on us, given that we have lost almost our entire manufacturing base to the chinese.
One should also stop using terms like appeasers and deniers. It’s really unhelpful and doesn’t lead to critical thinking.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You do realize that while Putin is a thug and an autocrat, he has massive support within Russia. Around 90% I believe. Our western leaders could only wish for such popularity. So perhaps it’s best not to throw terms like dictator and Hitler around so lightly. The Russians, unlike many westerners, are nationalistic and supremely proud of their long history. At the very least one should realize that.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

You might be right, but still – who told you? A Russian government source?

Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Good question.

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Another lie Johann.
Not even Russian government claims this.
Yes many Russians, but not 90%, support idiotic narrative about Russia being in danger of Western invasion.
Obviously ignoring their. Own role in starting ww2 with Hitler and enslaving Eastern and Central Europe while USA rebuild Western Europe and provided security through NATO against Russian aggression.
I find people supporting and justifying Putin completely disgusting.
If German politician claimed that fall of Nazi 3rd Reich was “geopolitical disaster” he would be, rightly, vilified.
Putin claiming the same about murderous, inhumane Soviet Empire was given free pass.
Double standards….

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

In that case the Russians will have to put up with the economic pain caused by the sanctions then won’t they, if they are that in favour of Putins regime

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

They will indeed, but it is quite likely that we in the West will suffer equally from those sanctions. Russian oil and gas anybody, when under the current enlightened Biden presidency the US has gone from complete energy independence to complete energy dependence in the space of less than 1 year. And, of course, the Germans relay on 40% of their energy from Russian. Then cut Russia out of SWIFT sounds like a really great move until one thinks of the consequences such as the rise of an alternate system (actually already in place) from China. The result is that the dollar may well loose its international currency status, and then things may well tumble rapidly downhill given how much debt burden the US is under. So before going all gung ho on sanction, perhaps it would be better to go all in on trying to achieve a peaceful resolution in an area of the world that is not really our concern.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Which peaceful solution didi you have in mind? ‘Everybody surrender to Russia’?

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Where’s that 90% figure from? Can’t check right now but I believe the Edelman Trust barometer is around 31% for Russia in 2022 (China tops the list at 90% but who knows what the penalties are there for wrong answers).

David Bell
David Bell
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

If Putin is really that popular why did he feel the need to crack down on any dissent, to the extent of locking up grannies and children with placards? Not to mention closing newspapers and TV/radio stations?

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago
Reply to  Hendrik Mentz

A bit tactless, no, considering that the vaccination date in Ukraine is 33%, mostly with Sinopharm

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Hendrik Mentz

Say what you like about Putin but singlehandedly he bought an end to the pademic

Tom Jennings
Tom Jennings
2 years ago

It is quite amazing. We go from one 24-7 crisis to the next with barely a moment to catch our breath and reflect. One might be forgiven for thinking it is deliberate.

Igor Resch
Igor Resch
2 years ago
Reply to  Hendrik Mentz

This is so damn stupid. Some people cannot get out of their limited frameworks and need to refer anything to Covid, Trump and Wokeism. I’m sure I share all the priors of conservatives on those topics but the war that Putin is waging has nothing to do with all of that and people who want to claim that are either stupid or grifters (Watson is certainly the latter).

John Montague
John Montague
2 years ago

So from this we should deduce that Pugin is doing the bidding of a western cabal of elites. He’s invading another nation, bombing cities and nuclear power stations in order to allow greater media control over western populations. Or he was afraid of NATO expanding (which they had stopped for over a decade) and Russia becoming what… An actual democracy with all its attendant cultural negatives and positives.
The commencement of analysis in some corners now which reaches the excruciatingly extended position that Putin was in some way justified in invading Ukraine, also Georgia and Crimea is yet more navel gazing.
Yes….decisions were made in the past which were not ideal. I haven’t seen any which justify the current invasion. I can’t see how the author can say without a huge dislocation that we’re subject to sensationalist imagery….that moves quite close to Putin’s claim that the coverage of his armies depredations is Ukrainian propaganda.
There was a good article in the Speccie a few days ago by Lionel Shriver which I thought read where we are now quite well. The theme being that we’re suddenly seeing, close to home, Actual Bad….and this has surprisingly tipped into requiring doing something about said Actual Bad. There are many discussions to be had about why and how nothing was done about other places in the world where something could have been done…. Syria, Grozny, amongst many others… And some where something was done badly for the wrong reasons…..Iraq, Libya etc….
None of this should blind us to the reality of that Actual Badness when it jumps up in front of us and says…. “so, what are you going to do”
No..we should not put boots on the ground in Ukraine nor start shooting down Russian planes over that poor country….a country which has been so massively battered over the last 110 years. But we should be united in our response, our criticism and our strength in opposing this evil….and position as it is…evil, whatever the justification for that in some people’s eyes.
Then when, eventually beaten…as we will beat it….then work out the mistakes that lead to the happening… And for once learn from it.
But I cannot get on board with an analysis which says that the war in Ukraine is basically a manipulation of a schwabian manichean elite.
There is Shrivean Badness in the world, in humanity, and sometimes we have to face that too.

Last edited 2 years ago by John Montague
Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago
Reply to  John Montague

I think Putin was bonkers to actually invade – going all-in, I can’t see a long term scenario with any benefit for him, and sabre rattling seemed to be enough.
In contrast to some other commentators, I do think the Nato/EU expansion was a big issue for Russia, and the US/NGO flipping of Ukraine in 2014, US interference in the 2012 Russian election, war in Syria – Russia’s last remaining military base on the Mediterranean, and ongoing war in Donbas and demonisation of Russia as a state, have all played a part in Putin becoming the bogeyman he is now (until Syria and Euromaidan he was curmugeonedly, but compliant to what the West were doing – the West was extremely surprised at the force of Russia’s reaction to Euromaidan in 2014 – Putin was supposed to be controlled opposition).
The Ukraine Invasion though was a terrible step, with horrible costs and no forgiveness or pardon to come. Open aggression, and not necessary. Since it wasn’t provoked, Putin must have some plan and some sort of reading that gives a Russia a long-term benefit, when all I can see at the moment is long term cost and pain to Russia whatever the outcome – even if they ‘win’. That probably means I’m missing something about how Putin is expecting this to play out, and I wonder if bigger wheels are moving more slowly behind the scenes – China and Asia ascending over Europe, with Ukraine as a stage one for much larger shifts in the geopolitical balance. America certainly seems weakened, and Europe looks impotent, with economic shocks still to hit. The rules have changed, and I doubt Ukraine will be the end of it.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

One reading might be that Putin felt his window was closing, and expected the invasion would be fairly quick and painless like Crimea: Not much resistance, a puppet government installed, everybody capitulating before the obvious hopelessness of confronting the Russian was machine – and fait accompli. When that failed he just kept doubling down, given that pulling back would be an unbearable humiliation.

As for the 2014 ‘flipping’ of Ukraine, surely the most obvious reading is that Putin was determined to accept nothing less than full control of Ukraine, but until 2014 thought he could do it by subversion, like in Belarus. Once that failed, it was no to a new strategy.

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The speed would be irrelevant. Putin must have been aware of the implications of crossing the border. Russia was hit with the Magnitsky Act 2012 and the sanctions after 2016. So he has taken action despite the signposted, predictable reaction of the West.
Maybe in 2014, his revenge for flipping Ukraine did have a target for the whole of Ukraine – I’ve no idea, but Crimea is hugely important strategically to Russia. That still doesn’t explain why make an invasion now, unprovoked? Or why Putin has moved despite the obvious cost? He’s not stupid. So what’s the play?

Last edited 2 years ago by Saul D
R Wright
R Wright
2 years ago

What a phenomenal essay. It perfectly encapsulates my views. With this dire state of journalistic affairs it says a lot that the best sources for news on the war are anonymous imageboards filled with contrarians and schizophrenics.

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago
Reply to  R Wright

Indeed, my thoughts entirely. What amazes me is the number who simply accept the MSM [sometimes blatantly obvious pap] as pure fact and the only truth.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
2 years ago
Reply to  R Wright

Setting aside the essay’s examination of the coverage of the Ukraine crisis and war, I found the sections on the broader collapse of objective independent news reporting in the West utterly chilling when one applies these trends to the reporting of Covid and Net Zero. Something terrible is unfolding.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  R Wright

I whole heartedly concur, and it’s exactly why I subscribe to Unherd. Too many are sheep following the herd and believing whatever they read in the Guardian, Times, Telegraph or Daily Mail, let alone the New York Times and Washington Post, or for that matter see on the BBC and the US MSM TV outlets.

Last edited 2 years ago by Johann Strauss
Jem Barnett
Jem Barnett
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Glenn Greenwald’s substack is quite good. He doesn’t post daily, but when he does it’s usually well researched. I like that he goes after both sides (ie. he has fixed principles), which is a rarity these days.

Spectator do a bit better than the mainstream dross, they ran some brave pieces during Covid.

There are 2 youtube news segments I think are good also:
Kim Iverson for The Hill…which is the segment hosted by Kim about current events. She’s rather good, asks some interesting questions. Example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98cXig0hOVw

Facts Matter with Roman Balmakov …which is an offshoot of Epoch (not a big fan tbh) but this guy’s segments are actually really well researched, and he links to every source referenced so I can check myself, or do some wider reading for context. I appreciate that attempt to stay honest. Example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BXrz91nHms

Anyone else got some good news sources to share? …they’re few and far between these days.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jem Barnett
Su Mac
Su Mac
2 years ago
Reply to  Jem Barnett

I will have a look at those Jem – I also admire Greenwald for his diligence and principles. I find TheAutomaticEarth a great collator of articles from lots of varied sources. And TheDailySceptic is more British oriented and run by Toby Young of Spectator and Free Speech Union. Very low key on “conspiracies”… I got annoyed with Speccie however when they refused to even discuss USA election fraud stories and I cancelled my subs.

domtuck
domtuck
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

You sound like a conspiracy theorist, so sure about all this and obviously ‘done your own research’
.

D Bagnall
D Bagnall
2 years ago
Reply to  R Wright

Yet here we are, we skeptics, disagreeing and learning from each other. And aren’t the voices dissenting from the establishment and it’s MSM growing?  I gather hope that the answer is, “yes.”

Su Mac
Su Mac
2 years ago

Despite a few annoyingly obscure words (thymotic anyone?) I found myself reading well crafted paragraphs of reasoning out loud to Husband. It is hard to feel positive about the immediate future but as a painful, upsetting lance into the boil of the globalist, WEF, American hegemony project this sad episode does at least change the direction of things. There is no shortage of places to read counter narrative information – let us hope the growing numbers of “independent thinkers” continues to swell until we can do something structural about it…

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago

Gone unchecked, it could amount to mass indoctrination around key national security questions and spell the end of democracy — in spirit if not procedurally. This is the ultimate fog of war.

Excellent article! I am afraid the indoctrination is all but complete with the vast majority (maybe just as relief from the Covidmania indoctrination?) taking every word of Western MSM at face value. Laughable and sad.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  David Owsley

As some one else put it, turning 90% of the population of the West into NPCs (None Player Characters)

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago

It is worth asking about the people living in what Russia sees as its private security zone. Do the Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Georgians, not to mention Poles and Finns want to live in a nation controlled from Moscow, like Belarus? Looks like no. If the author could take time off from blaming his own side for everything bad that has ever happened, it would be useful if he could propose some political arrangement that he thinks would satisfy Russia – so they were not tempted to go to war to get more – and comment on the price that he wants people of Eastern Europe to pay for it.

Last edited 2 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Well perhaps for starters Clinton should not have reject Russian’s request to join NATO in the 1990s, and after the end of the Cold War, the US should have institute a Marshall Plan for Russia just as it did for defeated Germany after WWII. And my reasoning is very simple. The Russians are Europeans. Their culture is part of the Western canon, and in the case of literature and music it is central to the western canon and western civilization.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

“Should have” is normally a waste of time. We do not have a time machine. What would be interesting to hear is what kind of accommodation the author wants to make with Russia. If the proposal is that Ukraine – and Poland? – should live under a Russina client dictator like Belarus, well it might or might not be the least worst option. But at least the author should have the honesty to say it straight out to those whose future he is sacrificing.

As for Russia joining NATO or making a Marshall plan, well, Russia would still have the same security problems and the same great-power ambitions. Having Russia in NATO would render it useless, much like having Al Capone as Chief of Police.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Two mistakes. (1) Poland was never part of Russia! You might not realize this but Ukraine is not really some separate country from Russia. It was the equivalent of a US state. (2) NATO is already useless and it is well past its sell by date. The fact is nobody is going to go to war for Latvia, Estonia or Lithuania, countries that few in the UK or US could even place on a map. The eastward expansion of NATO has made it effectively useless.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Poland was part of the Russian empire, under the Tsar. So was Finland. The distinction between ‘part of Russia’ and ‘part of the Russian empire’ is meaningless in the case of an empire.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Up until, say 2008, I would have said NATO was indeed past its sell-by date.
Today, I would say that if NATO didn’t exist, then it should be created as an emergency, and members required to spend 5% of GDP on defence.

Last edited 2 years ago by Colin Elliott
Tom Jennings
Tom Jennings
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The borders of Poland have moved a number of times over the last few hundred years. Be careful putting “never” and “Poland” in the same sentence.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

If we are talking about the Russian *political* culture, you can make a good case for saying that it owes a lot more to Djenghis Khan and the Mongols (who conquered and governed Russia) than it does to anything from Europe.

Last edited 2 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Really. You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Well Tsarist Russia was part of Europe wasn’t it? Other than the UK and US, democracy is rather a new phenomenon in the majority of western european countries. And whether you like it or not Communism was a European philosophy of government and economics. After all Marx and Engels were German, and Marx wrote most of Das Kapital in the British museum in Bloomsbury. Further, Russia fully entered Europe during the time of Peter the Great.

Last edited 2 years ago by Johann Strauss
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Russia had a fairly distinctive political culture even back in the middle ages. As they taught me at school, the old Kyivan Rus realm was very democratic for its time, but then it got conquered by the Mongols who were notoriously authoritarian and bloodthirsty, even for the time. Subsequently, as my teachers told me, there were two schools of historians. The Soviet historians, who claimed that as soon as the Mongols were gone Russia reverted to being the most democratic and advanced state around, And everybody else, who claimed that there was a substantial continuity with the authoritarian and bloodsoaked style of the Mongols that endures to this day.

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Another brilliant post.
Claiming that Russian despotism is part of European tradition past 18th century is another lie of Putin appeasers.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

I would say democracy is an untried phenomenon in the US

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

Just like it is not really a capitalist society.

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Exactly, pretending that Russia was ever part of European political culture post Enlightenment is another lie.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

I’ve answered this question several times here and on other fora. Who, in their right mind, locks the fox in the henhouse?

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Another lies of yours.
Germany joined democratic World after ww2, Russia had no real intention of doing that.
Their approach then and now was to avenge humiliation of collapse of Russian empire by waging war on countries which wanted to be independent like Georgia and now Ukraine.
Idea that Russia should be allowed to join NATO, organisation set up to stop Russian aggression is just nonsense.
It is like putting fox in charge of the hen pen.
Some Russians are European in outlook but many are supporters of despotism which is defining feature of Russia history.
Arguments about Russian literature and music are another attempt to justify Putin aggression.
Should we accept that Hitler was right to attack Poland (with Russia) because Germans created great music and literature?

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Your comments are insane beyond belief and reflect the mindset of so many in 1914 that led to WWI. My advice: stop with the jingoism and propaganda and get a grip. because this time a WW could well involve nuclear weapons, and no doubt London and Washington DC would be one of the targets. So personally, I prefer not to be incinerated by interfering in a country where we have no interests whatsoever.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

If I had been Clinton, I too would have rejected Russia’s request to join NATO, since it was only created in response to a threat from the USSR. One might then ask why it was not terminated, and I don’t know why not, but probably it seemed sensible to retain, but all it members then proceeded to successfully reduce their defence budgets, calling it ‘the peace dividend’.
The USA increased its defence expenditure substantially in 2001, and clearly has other areas of growing concern, namely Iran, North Korea and China, but it reduced its European forces.
It was obviously a good idea to invite Russia to establish good relations, and this happened, but these ended in 2014 when Putin became openly aggressive, and it’s now puzzling to me why this didn’t happen sooner.

Last edited 2 years ago by Colin Elliott
John Montague
John Montague
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Hey Rasmus – I don’t often agree with you on Unherd, but that’s the good thing about Unherd – we hear and see opposing voices and logics. On this occasion though you are absolutely spot on. What has happened in Ukraine will also speed the Finns and Sweden straight into beefing up their defences, along with Germany, and then joining NATO as well. As obviously not joining NATO and trying to stay neutral is a very poor idea indeed.
The problem though with satisfying Russia is that it’s not really satisfying the majority of Russians, who were happily pottering along joining in with holidays, corporate capitalisms, luxury goods and all the other elements of modern life both positive and negative and slowly becoming more western (it takes many, many decades for this to happen and you can’t force it as the US has found out to it’s cost) – it’s pacifying Vladimir Putin who has shown no wish to be pacified and wants to rearrange Europe back to some point in the past either soviet or tsarist because he thinks that’s the way it should be and the way he thinks Russia should be.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  John Montague

Indeed

Jem Barnett
Jem Barnett
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Other neighbouring countries have joined NATO and Russia did not throw any toys out of the pram. Ukraine is different for 2 reasons:

  1. A disarmament treaty was signed (which both sides have violated the terms of FYI), but Russia was clear over many years that they felt we were violating the treaty, and specifically how, even raising these issues to the UN repeatedly. The deal signed meant both sides were to leave Ukraine alone and not supply it with weapons or use it as a pawn in empire-building games. From the Russian perspective (which of course plenty will disagree with, but this is their view) the west arming and training the Ukrainians, and installing pro-western leadership to pull Ukraine into the ‘western sphere’, both politically and militarily.
  2. A good portion of eastern Ukraine is ethnically Russian. Of course this issue matters, and makes it a different situation from Hungary or Poland etc.
Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Jem Barnett

You don’t quote a treaty in your first point, but let me quote one; the Budapest Memorandum 1994.
The parts currently occupied by insurgents are quite small. To refer to ‘ethnic Russians’ is misleading, and it’s also misleading to assume that all Russian-speaking Ukrainians think of themselves as thwarted Russians. Zelensky is a native Russian speaker.
Language isn’t everything. Think of, say, English and the relationship of the United Kingdom and the USA (1776?), or with the desire for many Scots to be independent, or the status of German in several European countries.
Besides which, nationalist sentiment is a curious thing; it can decrease, or increase over time, and Ukraine has steadily drifted apart from Russia ever since their referendum in 1991, with increasing numbers of citizens never knowing the USSR, and many of those that do not having happy memories. They welcome becoming more European like Poland.
This is what Putin fears, as well as coveting their rich and strategically well-placed land.

Last edited 2 years ago by Colin Elliott
Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Jem Barnett

You are exactly correct.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago

There does seem to be a rather important point missing from this analysis, and it’s that it matters what people actually want. You can construct the most sophisticated explanations for the actions of media, politicians and despots that you want, but you cannot use it to override the obvious fact that Ukrainians do not want to be ruled by Russia, and that in this view the West is on their side, while Russia is not. So while I have some agreement with the deconstruction of the behaviour of our media-political complex, I do not go as far as the part about the falsity of the Manichean divide: there is a genuine division of right and wrong here, and Russia is in the wrong no matter what its provocation, you only have to look at its methods to see this.

However, I agree mostly with the second half of the article. It is not acceptable for we in the West to complacently behave as if we’ve done nothing wrong either. Just because Russia is routinely horrid to its neighbours and satellites does not mean that the West can wash its hands of the problems and challenges this brings: good statecraft was always needed following the collapse of the USSR, and it was lacking far too often. The quote from George Kennan, which I first came across in Lord Owen’s excellent book on Brexit, is at this stage rightly seen as prophetic. It may be difficult to accept, but the West and NATO may very well be a the peak of its powers in merely maintaining places like Ukraine as a buffer zone between Western Europe and Russia.

The problem, of course, is that Finland and Sweden are very unlikely to wish to maintain their present position of neutrality in light of Putin’s actions, so Ukraine’s status may only be the first of a series of difficult choices.

Last edited 2 years ago by John Riordan
Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I suspect that Sweden and Finland will remain neutral as they have been for a long time, precisely because they do not wish to end up like Ukraine.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

So…. The Finns are not thinking of joining NATO? I think that Finland and Sweden are looking at some sort of tie-up with NATO as a hedge against their “Ukrainianisation”

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Putin has just proved that not being a NATO member in no way guarantees non-aggression from Russia.

Last edited 2 years ago by John Riordan
Jem Barnett
Jem Barnett
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The Finnish PM is currently Sanna Marin, a WEF plant. She announced the other day that they may seek NATO membership now… which is unsurprising. A cynic would say, that’s exactly what she was put there to bring about…

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

I see, so countries should do what Russia wants, so they do not get invaded?
It is up to Sweden and Finland to choose their foreign policy but being neutral in view of what happened to Ukraine is not a sensible choice.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Very good post.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

No it does not matter what people want, what matters is what is realistic.
For the last 75 years we have been force to imbibe US Kool-Aid because it has been deemed by our neutered elite to be the least worst alternative and for the reasons identified by the author we have not been allowed a glimpse behind the screen.
In this world either you have an empire or you are in one an it is unrealistic to posture otherwise

Last edited 2 years ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
John Montague
John Montague
2 years ago

Seriously…. so might is right? that’s all there is? The “realism” of my neighbour is bigger than I so I must do what he says? that road leads to a Darwinian dystopia, arms races and eventually armageddon. Your posture has no morals or humanity engrained within it.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  John Montague

Might cannot be ignored an has to be take in to account. Do you think it was our idea to invade Iraq or were we just looking to demonstrate fealty to our putative masters.
What do you think the US would have done if the postwar Atlee government had cosied up to the Soviet Union? Every major decision our Government takes has to weighed up to see how it will play in the US, and look at their blatant interference in NI.
Morality has nothing to do with it. In fact, it was reckless an not particularly moral for the Ukraine to cozy up the EU the US knowing what the consequences might be, and it was certainly not moral of the US and EU to bait them into doing so whilst having no intention of protecting Ukraine if push came to shove.

John Montague
John Montague
2 years ago

Morality has everything to do with the use and ability to use might. Everything. Basic ethics 101. I’d hate to live in a world populated solely by that logic. Derek Chauvin….he had might on his side…and he was immoral and wrong. There is no moral difference between individual small uses of might or a nations. Otherwise i can only infer you agree with Stalins aphorism about one death being murder, but a million is a statistic.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  John Montague

I can turn that on its head. The US government had might on its side and Derek Chauvin was railroaded

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago

You miss the point. I am referring to the author’s deconstruction of how western media and politics has supposedly twisted the narrative in describing good vs evil. I say that this is oversimplified because irrespective of the motives of the propagandists in question, the reality is that Ukrainians themselves want to be part of the West, not Russia. This matters if we’re going to have a debate about the moral dimension to this issue, and is separate to the realpolitik about whether Ukraine can escape the Russian bear in practice.

Su Mac
Su Mac
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Can we please all acknowledge that a sizeable chunk of Ukrainians do in fact want to be either Russia friendly, or if that is not an option to be actually ruled by them. THAT is how this all started…

teresa.m.skinner
teresa.m.skinner
2 years ago
Reply to  Su Mac

A sizeable chunk of Ukrainians – and the evidence you have of that is

..?
Plus ” let us hope the growing numbers of “independent thinkers” continues to swell until we can do something structural about it

and what do you and ‘Husband’ feel is a “structural response” ?

Su Mac
Su Mac
2 years ago

Can I leave you to read the Wiki pages for yourself Teresa regarding the ongoing civil war over the Eastern regions home to ethnic Russian Ukrainians” – the page on Donbas is helpful on polls showing pro-Russian sentiment. I would not usually cite Wiki as I’m sure it has a strong Western bias but nonetheless….
Regarding structural change I am hoping for a democratic shift towards more local, population driven politics rather than governments edging us towards the globalist goals of influential but unelected elites, supported by technocrats and a captive media.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago
Reply to  Su Mac

This “sizeable chunk” is still a minority, and if it was not, Putin would now be attempting his coup via democratic means instead of using force. Besides, while I’m not fan of the EU, has it not at least proved that Europeans can travel, work, and settle in other nations without this becoming an incitement to violence?

In other words, it’s irrelevant.

Last edited 2 years ago by John Riordan
Su Mac
Su Mac
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Maybe – that is the question isn’t it. Does an ethic minority in a country have a say over their region in which they are a larger proportion? What if the politics goes in the opposite direction to their views? I am sure there must be plenty of parallels including “ethnic British” Irish wanting Northern Ireland to stay British? Are they irrelevant?
Attempting a “coup by democratic means” must surely include Putin negotiating two treaties in 2014/15 namely Minsk Protocol and Minsk II in order to settle it?
I don’t have a personal stake in any of this but I know that NATO, the CIA and the EU knows exactly what Putin’s “red line” is regarding this border because he has told them repeatedly. And it is no different or more unreasonable than any other country. Countries who live next to the most powerful countries can’t necessarily do as they please, ask Mexico or most of South America. That is reality. Now the USA has led the EU here, in their goal to endlessly undermine Russia and Ukraine has realised they are all false friends leaving them to finish a fight they urged them start.

Igor Resch
Igor Resch
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Thank you for this comment. Some people are so in love with sophisticated arguments that they are willing to close their eyes in light of one country attacking another without trigger. Bonkers.

Neven Curlin
Neven Curlin
2 years ago

FINALLY, some interesting and original analysis on this subject. A most welcome counterweight to all the amateur psychology and hysterical warmongering articles of the past week, that meekly echo mainstream media propaganda, in which there is no room for nuance, context or neutrality.
I have nothing to add to the article, because I agree with every word of it.
Thank you, Unherd. Thank you, Arta Moeini.

RD Richards
RD Richards
2 years ago
Reply to  Neven Curlin

I agree with you Neven, and nice job with your framing: “Finally, some interesting and original analysis on this subject.” UH consistently publishes some of the best work on the internet. And I’d add one more TY–thanks to the commenters (in this case, “the Unherded”). This site consistently features excellent comments as well.

Last edited 2 years ago by RD Richards
Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
2 years ago
Reply to  Neven Curlin

Sump’n to that.
Let me pose a parallel idea: Neo-liberals and neo-cons can get behind the idea of extending “Our Democracy” to Ukraine and ultimately to Russia.
They’ve been trying to do this for 30 years. But, “Our Democracy” is the same very illiberal polity that we tried to hoist on Afghanistan and Iraq.
There is nothing democratic about it. Just look at Canada, New Zealand, Australia or any country in the Anglosphere.
If you’re interested: I elaborate on this point:
Our ‘Democratic Imperialism’ versus Their Old School Russian Imperialism: Will actual democracy in Ukraine escape being absorbed by either Imperium?
https://dvwilliamson.substack.com/p/our-democratic-imperialism-versus

John Potts
John Potts
2 years ago

Here, we have witnessed the media of the Free World disseminating dishonest or otherwise uncritical coverage, fake news, Ukrainian disinformation, and propaganda aimed at conditioning the public to internalise the establishment’s Manichean narrative of a deranged madman’s random war of aggression.
Could Mr Moeini tell me which images of destroyed buildings, missile strikes, ruined residential areas, burnt out tanks and etc are fake news and disinformation?
Then I’ll know which ones to ignore as being propaganda and part of a Manichean narrative, though I must say that in that case Ukraine is going to extraordinary lengths to condition me.

mrpaulnewton007
mrpaulnewton007
2 years ago

Thanks for that Arta. I haven’t laughed so much at an article in Unherd for a while now – you’ve got the dumb long words and tortous syntax down to a tee. That’s sticking it to the Millitary Industrial Complex. Hillarious!

Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
2 years ago

An overly wordy defense of the indefensible that makes one wonder if the author’s Peace Institute is a latter-day version of the Soviet-subsidized 1980s anti-nuke and anti-cruise missile movements in the West. The essence of his argument seems to be that we must respect Putin’s paranoia, avoid red herrings like fighting the Russians, and respect Russia as a “great power”. Economically, which is what counts in the end, Russia is a very minor power, and it’s hard to see how giving the Ukrainians aid will lead to us fighting the Russians; in fact, our aid is a repeat of what we gave Afghanistan when the Soviets invaded there. We gave the Afghanis Stingers too, and they worked.
That said, for the US to then invade Afghanistan was monumentally stupid, in view of both recent and remote history; and that was only one of several inane foreign policy debacles of recent decades. But even a lousy clock is correct twice a day, and it’s hard to see now why providing aid to the Ukrainians is such a dangerous thing.
Further, while advancing some very ancient history of connections between Russia and Ukraine, the author ignores that Ukraine has only been part of Russia since Catherine the Great’s conquest in the late 1700s, and what’s worse, the historical atrocities inflicted by Moscow on the Ukrainians. First, in the 1920s they welshed on their promises of Ukrainian independence; next, in the 1930s came farm confiscations and the Stalin-engineered famine known as the Holodomor, followed a few years later by the show trials and mass-murders. We’re talking about millions of dead Ukrainians here. It should not have been surprising that when Hitler’s troops reached Ukraine in the fall of 1941 many welcomed them as liberators — for some time, anyway.

Steve Roberts
Steve Roberts
2 years ago

This is an an excellent article.Little to disagree with and yet what is described is nothing less than what should be expected from Global Elites be they Russian. Ukrainian or Western It is not defeatism to accept that, it is realism. The point is, and i accept it is not the purpose of the article per se, is what is to be done about the global elites, they have all contributed to this catastrophe and will continue to do so.. Irrational, disproportionate and destructive inhumane actions are their tour de force presently and historically. The question is what are ordinary citizens to do with the elites in all our respective nations. They are the threat to humanity, taking sides with them is the death of opposition to them and what they cause.

Thomas Cushman
Thomas Cushman
2 years ago

This is an important essay: as a former Sovietologist, trained in the 1980s, and a scholar of post-communist societies, I have been horrified by the sheer ignorance of Western political and media elites, and the general public regarding Russia, the Cold War, geopolitical relations after the fall of the USSR, and – especially – the political realities of Ukraine. It’s hard to know where to start.
The author is quite right to focus on how Western audiences adopt easy moral Manichaean narratives about the conflict. In the US now, all serious debates on any sociologically relevant issues go immediately into the netherworld of morality dramas so that facts, especially uncomfortable ones that expose social, political, and cultural complexities, are resisted.
So this is no surprise.
I have searched far and wide for any analysis in the media about the political demography of contemporary Ukraine. As per the author’s argument, the media have conveyed a narrative of a united Ukraine, all supporting Zelensky’s pro-Western, pro-NATO, anti-Russian stances, which he tirelessly promoted before the current invasion and is pushing even now.
But this is a false narrative: Ukraine has always been divided on the issue of Western versus Russian alignment. The maps at the URL below indicate this in no uncertain terms.
http://cdn0.vox-cdn.com/assets/4251895/ukraine-map-composite.jpg
They are the single best graphic representation of the “civil war” that has been going on in Ukraine since the end of the USSR, and especially in this century: the 2004 and 2010 elections clearly indicated that the country was strongly divided on ethnic, linguistic, and political lines, with ethnic Russians in the East supporting the Putin-aligned Yanukovych and ethnic Ukrainians in the West supporting Tymoshenko. The Maidan movement of 2014 expelled Yanukovych and moved the country politically closer to the West, a position that Zelensky made central to his political agenda. But there is every sociological reason to believe that these divisions were as strong as they ever were leading up to the Russian invasion.
My main point here is that I have heard no reporting about these divisions. It might entirely be the case that pro-Russian Eastern Ukrainians did not support Putin to the extent that they welcome him as a liberator, but it is entirely clear this segment of the population has never supported Zelensky or his pro-Western agendas. I reckon that major media would not even entertain the idea of interviewing pro-Russian, anti-Zelensky Ukrainians. In the moral drama they have created, such people cannot even be acknowledged to exist, much less given any voice.
Let me offer the coda that my observations here in no way indicate that this invasion is justifiable. It is to point out that the idea of a “united Ukraine” is a myth that belies the central realities of Ukrainian society and the political sociology of the country.
As a sociologist, I would very much like to hear the opinions of nearly half the country who have in the past two decades declared their support of alignment with Russia and the authoritarian, pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians that have supported that alignment. My prediction is that such coverage simply “cannot” exist in the face of prevailing moral narratives.

Last edited 2 years ago by Thomas Cushman
Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Thomas Cushman

I could just as easily say that a ‘united Russia’ (and a host of other countries) is also a myth. Remove the jackboot and let Ukraine decide for itself!

James Watson
James Watson
2 years ago
Reply to  Thomas Cushman

Thank you for a clear, well-informed comment on an outstanding article. However, I think it should be noted that Zelensky was not the anti-Russian candidate in the last presidential election. In the second round he got heavy support from the pro-Russian areas, while Poroshenko won in the strongly anti-Russian west of the country, I understand Zelensky speaks Russian and made quite some use of it in his campaign. Hence his election with over 70% support needs to be interpreted as due to a combination of backing from the pro-Russian and the moderate pro-Western tendencies, It was after the election that he adopted Poroshenko’s anti-Russian stance,

Su Mac
Su Mac
2 years ago
Reply to  Thomas Cushman

Thank you for taking the time to write that!

It is all played as a morality drama, no nuance or balance. People who pick a side from their armchair think they are helping somehow but they are only helping bad actors whose agendas they do not understand.

Bronwen Saunders
Bronwen Saunders
2 years ago

The grandiloquent, sneering tone of this essay made it hard to stomach – all those clever words, all that high-minded opining. If the author believes that Putin’s invasion of another sovereign nation is justified and that Ukraine should capitulate forthwith (because responsibility for saving lives lies with them rather than with Putin, apparently) then he should say so outright.
Then we would have been spared the anguished sophistry, the bewailing of our “sentimentality” that “foments false hope” (of an independent Ukraine?), and the author’s poorly concealed contempt for the people of Ukraine, who in his eyes are utterly lacking in will or agency and are now being shot at only because they stupidly