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Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
10 months ago

It seems that Ukraine is similar to vaccines in that there is only one opinion allowed. If you question that one opinion, even in the slightest, you are labelled a conspiracy theorist, a Putin apologist, an antvaxxer, a commie sympathiser, a far-right nutjob, etc.

Surely any remotely intelligent person realises there are arguments for and against vaccines, that the virus probably did come from a lab in Wuhan, that Ukraine isn’t the faultless democratic utopia it is being painted as, that there are global elites who make billions from mandatory vaccines and wars, that there are politicians and leaders of 3-letter organisations that may have their own agendas, etc.

All of these issues should be open for debate. We might still arrive at the same conclusion as we have now, but we would do so in the knowledge that we have investigated the issues and thought about them thoroughly, rather than just blindly believed whatever the media is tellng us.

These are serious issues that will have long term repurcussions. Surely we owe it to future generations to discuss and debate them, and to try to establish the truth and the best way forward and not just joining whichever side we are brainwashed into taking, and then blndly putting a Ukranian flag, a BLM fist or an ‘I’ve been vaxxed’ image on our sicial media profile.

That is one of the reasons I like Unherd as not only does it provide me with thought provoking articles from different sides, but it also gives me access to the combined and often brilliant knowledge and opinions of the readers. The comments on here are sometimes better than the articles themselves.

Last edited 10 months ago by Paul Smithson
Richard Powell
Richard Powell
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

The standard view on Ukraine is that an imperfect democracy has been brutally but ineffectively invaded by its colonialist neighbour, and that we should do what we realistically can to support that country in its time of need. I don’t believe I have been brainwashed into accepting that, and I am not aware of intellectually or morally credible alternative views.
As for the comments here sometimes surpassing the articles, I disagree. There is the occasional dud article, but the proportion of wacky comments by self-congratulatory “contrarian” cranks with too much time on their hands sometimes makes me embarrassed to be a subscriber.

Warren T
Warren T
10 months ago
Reply to  Richard Powell

With due respect, who are you to proclaim what the “standard view” should be on any subject, unless you are a Chinese Communist Party official? Besides, the idea of the “standard view” has been completely shattered as of late with several incredible recent examples:

  1. Hunter Biden’s laptop story is Russian propaganda, which even the NYT finally acknowledged as genuine just yesterday
  2. Covid came from a wet market in Wuhan
  3. Trump colluded with Russia to steal the election
  4. “You won’t get Covid if you take the jab”
  5. Putin is unhinged

And to think many brilliant people have been “de-platformed” over questioning the “standard view”. That is hardly a democratic ideal.
As to point #5, by not acknowledging, or completely ignoring, Putin’s warning, for about a decade, that having a NATO state on his Western border is perceived as an existential threat, the West has completely blundered itself into a potential WWIII, while proclaiming loudly that we don’t intend on entering such war. That doesn’t mean I support Putin, it just means I am a critically thinking human being who doesn’t glare into a device for information and simply nod in lockstep.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
10 months ago
Reply to  Warren T

Sadly, Putin’s “perception” has led to the destruction of a good portion of his army.
Moreover, without organized reserves, his only recourse is to keep throwing missiles at Ukrainian cities–while the Ukrainians grow stronger and better armed each day.
If there was any “existential threat” to Russia here, it was Putin’s delusions about the “Russian World.” The danger now is that his whole edifice may collapse. Still worse, a Ukrainian offensive to retake the lost territories might well result in the death and displacement of millions.
For someone who admires both Ukraine and Russia, that would be the ultimate tragedy of this needless fiasco. We need to end this now.

Last edited 10 months ago by Martin Logan
Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
3 months ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

And do tell us HOW we are going to “end this now”. By standing on the side-lines wringing our hands and uttering vapid platitudes about how terrible it all is?  

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago
Reply to  Warren T

Funny how those who are oh so sceptical and critical of western politicians seem so often utterly gullible when it comes to the self justification of our authoritarian adversaries. Ukraine isn’t actually a NATO state and has no prospect of becoming so. (Do you by the way feel that the USA should be able to veto Brexit?). It is more important of course to pursue a navel gazing culture war to call Biden senile or indeed blame Trump.

What Putin says – among other things ‘the breakup of the Soviet Union was the biggest geopolitical disaster of the 20tu century (no, not the Holocaust, the Holomodor, not even the Second World War, but the end of probably the worst ever single tyranny the world has seen). And of course ‘Ukraine doesn’t really exist’.

And it is rather off the mark to drag covid into the argument, when Putin himself cringes before it!

Last edited 10 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
10 months ago
Reply to  Warren T
Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
10 months ago
Reply to  Warren T

The fact is that everyone knows about the things you list because like you we all glare into a device.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
3 months ago
Reply to  Warren T

Oh get off your false-equivalence high horse, would you? He’s not “proclaiming” the standard view, merely recognising that a standard view exists. That is the view of many middle-of-the-road people in the West. The contrary, pro-Putin view, is one espoused by cranky but influential minorities on the hard right and hard left alike.  

Nic Cowper
Nic Cowper
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Beautifully put. The problem with opinion is simply the word binary.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

“… Ukraine isn’t the faultless democratic utopia it is being painted as..”
Who has said that it is?
Does a country have to be such a thing to qualify to be free from invasion by less democratic countries?

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
3 months ago
Reply to  Alan Hawkes

Seemingly so. The “logic” appears to be – “oh look, you’re not perfect; shame on you; as punishment, you should be invaded by a gang of drunken rapists, led by a murdering thief”. Putin’s apologists – both hard-left and hard-right alike – are greasy and gutless in equal measure.

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Unherd wouldn’t be as good as it is without the comments.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

You rather spoil your good point by erecting the flimsiest straw man argument about Ukraine. I have heard no one arguing that Ukraine is a spotless democratic liberal nation, any more than Poland was in 1939. It is however undergoing reform and has properly meaningful contested elections, which certainly cannot be said of Russia, which is sadly drawing ever closer to an unbridled tyranny. But in any case, Ukraine poses no threat to Russia, except possibly by example, while the latter is trying to destroy IT.

The stark nature of this completely unprovoked invasion seems to have has completely thrown some of those who think ‘the West’ or major parts of it, whether ‘woke’, ‘Trumpist’ or whatever, are the main cause of most of the world’s ills and that, for one example, ‘vaccine mandates’ (which I do not support), represent the acme of tyranny.

Last edited 10 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

I am having trouble understanding how you have 144 upvotes. Most commenters seem to buy the propaganda and get upvoted too. This is odd. Is it a conspiracy to say the US has been following the DC think tank Rand corporation’s plan to weaken Russia? Has the CIA been arming and training the Azov battalion since 2014? Where the Azov battalion shelling civilians in the Donbas leading up to the Russian invasion? Did the Azov battalion capture and torture pro Russian Ukranian citizens leading up to the Russian invasion? Did the US per the Rand corporation desire this outcome? Spoiler alert… at least according to Rand it was desirable to have small incursions into Ukraine to counter the Azov battalion which the US could use to gather Nato support and arm sales. Before feb 2014 the Ukranian population was split 50/50 on joining the West. The far Western parts very anti Russian. The Eastern part itself part pro Russian and part wanting some integration with the West but maintaining its independence. Why isn’t this discussed? With Crimea returned to Russia and a civil war in the Donbas Western Ukraine controls the governmemt. The elections lost that large group of support for the other side. The country has already changed. Russia celebrated the 8th year of Crimean freedom on Thursday. There was huge public Russian support for it. Putin gave a speech. You can see it on youtube. If anybody hasn’t seen the Rubio/Nuland exchange on the biolabs they can see that on youtube too. If that doesn’t make you uneasy about the US federal governmemt nothing will.

https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR3063.html

Last edited 10 months ago by Dennis Boylon
Kerry Godwin
Kerry Godwin
10 months ago
Reply to  Dennis Boylon

“Uneasy” is a very accurate description.

Adam Bacon
Adam Bacon
10 months ago

The author, in describing the ‘anti anti Putin’ brigade is clearly aligning to the ‘kneejerk’ brigade – ie Putin is pure evil, and any attempt to understand his motives is Putin apology.

Yes Putin is a malevolent dictator, but with the nuclear threat always in the background, de-escalation of the current situation is essential. That cannot be done without getting off your outraged high horse, and at least attempting to understand your enemy’s perspective.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
10 months ago
Reply to  Adam Bacon

Your last paragraph is extremely reasonable, but what if one succeeds in understanding your enemy’s perspective, and find that it is unreasonable?
What if one’s enemy intends to destroy you, and that what you say is useful only if it aids him in his intention?

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
10 months ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

Quite…if every time he invades somewhere he threatens nuclear war and the chin scratchers urge everyone to back down then pretty soon he’ll be bombarding Riga, Sofia or Berlin.
Of course Ukraine is not in Nato and of course we won’t be *going in*, but trying to pretend we ‘don’t see things from Putin’s side’ would be more persuasive if Russia had genuine elections and we could be sure the whole nine yards of Putinism was fairly contested every 4 or 5 years.

Dan Croitoru
Dan Croitoru
10 months ago
Reply to  Adam Bacon

So what’s the difference between a malevolent dictator and a benefactor dictator?

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
10 months ago

hypothetical biological warfare laboratories“? Those so-called hypothetical labs were confirmed under oath during Senate testimony last week by none other than Victoria Nuland, Deputy Secretary of State. It doesn’t do the authors argument any good when he himself muddies the waters by inserting pure disinformation. That’s especially so when the US is seriously worried about the dangerous pathogens in those labs falling into Russian hands. And make no mistake the pathogens being worked upon in those labs are easily weaponized, including Anthrax, bubonic plague and tuleremia, among many others.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
10 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The labs were established to stop diseases in swine. For Ukraine, as one of the most important agricultural nations in the world, that is a vital task.
Moreover, whatever one thinks about the Russian invaders, they are not swine. Indeed, bio-weapons are largely ineffective in combat, which is why their use in war has rarely if ever been documented. Most significant, employment on one’s own soil (in this case Ukraine) can lead to far more deaths of one’s own people. Even the Azov Regiment doesn’t want to die from their own pathogens.
Javelins and stingers are far more effective against hapless Russian conscripts than pathogens ever could be.
So, must Ukraine cease all attempts to eradicate animal diseases, simply because a single deluded man in the Kremlin claims they might be “weaponized?”

Last edited 10 months ago by Martin Logan
A Spetzari
A Spetzari
10 months ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

Thankfully a more informed view.
To those thinking it’s some CIA/US conspiracy to outsource weapons manufacture to Ukraine – ask yourself a few important questions:
1 – why base them within a few miles of Russia’s border, easily overrun in an invasion?
2- If so and it’s some evil CIA plot to use chemical weapons against Russia, why have they not been used? Surely the invasion would have been a good opportunity?
3 – Which nation has a recent track record of using chemical weaponry? And which nation has recently used supposed evidence of their enemy having chemical weapons to then launch their own chemical weapons attack?

Last edited 10 months ago by A Spetzari
Warren T
Warren T
10 months ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Why is it that when someone agrees with someone else, they are “informed”. However, when they have a very legitimate counter argument, they are labeled as a conspiracy theorist?

Michael K
Michael K
10 months ago
Reply to  Warren T

Because thinking is hard.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
10 months ago
Reply to  Warren T

I see a lot of false binary choices here.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
10 months ago
Reply to  Warren T

Not because it agreed – but because it stuck to the facts. Biolab = bad isn’t an argument.

Michael K
Michael K
10 months ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Wow, it’s extremely easy to find responses to those three arguments.

1.) To make sure that if there’s an accidental outbreak it hits Russia first, and can then be blamed on them. And/or as a provocation. Given the history of Ukraine and Russia, the fact that there is a biolab close to the border is either incredibly stupid, or incredibly intentional.
2.) Maybe they weren’t finished? And even if so, how do you know they haven’t been used or at least tested, or will be used in the future? The point of chemical weapons, and especially biological weapons, isn’t to drop them over a few enemy units. You could do that less controversially with a bomb. The point of such specialized weapons is to spread them among soldiers and civilians to cause chaos and mayhem. Read up on the Spanish flu to find out what disease can do to an army.
3.) China, in all likelihood, just released a dangerous pathogen from a biolab which was funded by the US. And even if they didn’t, there was (probably is) gain-of-function research going on, so at the very least it’s a future possibility at this point.

Ask yourself this question: why does the US fund gain-of-function research in a lab in China? Because China has different laws than the US. Ok, so why does the US fund biolabs in Ukraine?
Wait, I know. It’s because Ukraine has a lot of pigs.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
10 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

Sorry no.
1 – ok so the US are both so genius and all powerful that they plan this secretly across continents without anyone’s knowledge – but then are so incompetent that they don’t achieve the one thing they set out to do when they are attacked and then go on to “reveal” it all by mentioning it in a public hearing. Which is it?
2- I know a thing or two about CBRN weapons and their usage – this is not like that. Mostly open source so urge you to look it up. Nothing to do with a viral pandemic from 1918. Again where is the track record of the US creating a supervirus (or similar) in order to deliberately spread them around the world? The US proportionately suffered worse from covid than their rivals (China and other autocratic regimes) so why would they try and repeat this in such an amateurish and uncontrolled fashion? Also where is the evidence for this as it’s not in that senate hearing. It’s only from Russian insinuation in propaganda and imagination.
3 – Because a global pandemic of a flu-like virus might have come from one gain of function laboratory in china, doesn’t mean that another bio lab across the world in Ukraine is therefore planning the next pandemic. There’s a biblically large leap of logic there.

Not saying that the US is always innocent, or right. But in this case none of the evidence supports the Russian claims – coming also from a country that pathologically lies in every statement. Remember that according to them they haven’t invaded Ukraine right? Do you believe that too? If not why not?
Now if we find any evidence or even basic logic pointing the other way – I’m all ears. But nothing is pointing that way right now.

Last edited 10 months ago by A Spetzari
Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
10 months ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

I tend more towards your point of view on this… some people can construct a conspiracy out of anything.

Warren T
Warren T
10 months ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

Perhaps I am not a card carrying member of the elite intelligentsia, who apparently have a different set of facts than the rest of us peasants, but I am quite certain that biology applies to humans as well as animals. The Wuhan lab’s work on bat coronaviruses, which made significant news over the last 2 years, is just one recent example.

Michael K
Michael K
10 months ago
Reply to  Warren T

I hold a PhD in a health-related field, and have not seen a difference in informed decision-making between people who do research in the field of immunology/virology, and may even teach the subject on an academic level, and people who only have an intuitive understanding of the immune system. You would think that extensive education in a relevant field makes you immune to propaganda; but on the contrary, so many of these educated (and yes, they are educated!) people just copy the propaganda in the belief that their education allows them to think less rather than more.
I get that universities have been especially stringent with measures because they are often state-funded and very sensitive to politics. But if not even the head of the microbiology departments speak out against wearing masks that in everyday use CAN NOT be sterile you know that our education system has failed us. It’s not education itself that is lacking, but the ability to question and sapere aude.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
10 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Hypothetical biological warfare laboratories
Russia have pointed to biological laboratories, alongside their other borderline unhinged accusations, as hosting US chemical weapons manufacture.
If you had watched the whole Senate testimony you would know it was being discussed in the context of using these labs as casus belli for their own chemical attacks. Russia did this repeatedly in Syria – where they used alleged chemical weapon attacks by rebel forces to justify their own use of chemical weapons in retaliation (and then flatly denied this). This is what happened. And the Senate testimony was discussing the possibility of their use in this conflict.
As I said the other day Glen Greenwald and others should know better than to drop segments full of insinuation – relying on peoples fear of anything biolab related (especially post-covid) to do the rest.
There are hundreds of biolabs everywhere. My partner works in one. They also deal with coronavirus, and cancer diagnostics among other things. To illustrate the widespread ignorance and fear over what research entails, during covid many couriers refused to deliver to her lab because they heard that the lab ‘dealt with coronavirus’. Which is absurd – as they were merely processing tests.
Point being a biolab is a biolab and there are many types.
I might be wrong, but at the moment anyone who is using this senate testimony as evidence is currently deciding 2+2 = 200 – as that testimony alone is no smoking gun to confirming what is almost certainly Russian propaganda.

Last edited 10 months ago by A Spetzari
Michael K
Michael K
10 months ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

US-funded biolabs in Ukraine, a country where you can do stuff that isn’t allowed in the EU or the US. Surely nothing is going on there. And it’s a coincidence that they are now trying to destroy material, or have already destroyed it, so it won’t fall in the hands of the Russians, who could do dangerous things with… a new method of COVID diagnosis? Sure…

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
10 months ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

You are totally incorrect here. Ukraine is not a hotbed of biotech or advanced scientific endeavor. At least in Wuhan the NIH had the excuse that the bats haboring corona viruses were in China.
So there is absolutely no reason for the US to fund regular biological research in Ukraine. That is just nonsense. Further, while they may be working on swine pathogens, they also just happen to have anthrax and other nasty pathogens there as well. It doesn’t mean that they were ever going to use them. But the US wasn’t funding research there for nothing, especially when all biological research can be done vastly better with vastly better scientists in the US.

Saul D
Saul D
10 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The US DOD has issued a response about the labs. The labs get Pentagon funding and are described as being used to monitor and study pathogens to improve early detection and diagnosis for both human and animal health (eg Plague or Anthrax). Online there is a lot of background material on their role as anti-plague labs in the Soviet era, how they struggled for funding in the 1990s and so how the US stepped in to maintain disease surveillance from around 2005 onwards.
Being defence funded, and not health/CDC funded, gives a strange appearance, but I guess that’s because, in the DODs own words, there is a risk that the pathogens under study “could be misused, stolen or accidentally released” making control and study of the pathogens a security issue. Nevertheless, the Russians have also been complaining about the US defence funding since at least 2013. So yes, biolabs that research pathogens funded by the Pentagon in Ukraine, but no evidence of this being for weaponisation or warfare.
https://media.defense.gov/2022/Mar/11/2002954612/-1/-1/0/FACT-SHEET-THE-DEPARTMENT-OF-DEFENSE%27S-COOPERATIVE-THREAT-REDUCTION-PROGRAM-BIOLOGICAL-THREAT-REDUCTION-PROGRAM-ACTIVITIES-IN-UKRAINE.PDF

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
10 months ago
Reply to  Saul D

I’m sure they are not weaponized yet. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be. Further, if the DOD is funding labs in the Ukraine, don’t you think it’s perhaps because it’s illegal to do that sort of research in the US. As I mentioned above Ukraine is not a hot bed of scientific endeavour or biotech. i.e. Ukraine is not Boston or Palo Alto.

Saul D
Saul D
10 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The labs were set up for monitoring and prevention. As soviet money dried up, the US stepped up to continue the funding of a number of such monitoring labs across former USSR with a long stated aim to watch for disease vectors crossing from Asia into Europe, and to be ready in the event of a breakout. Ukraine has had anthrax outbreaks for instance, and Odessa was original set up by the soviets to monitor for plague coming in on ships from across the Black Sea.
On bioweapons, obviously I can’t say, but it makes no logical sense for the US to have a black-op bioweapon lab running in Ukraine. Ukraine is highly connected to Russia, with a history of corruption, so an extremely strong chance that information and technology would leak to an enemy. And if the lab has an accident that then escapes into Russia, then you have potential major US-Russian conflict. If you make a hypothetical that the US wanted to build an off-the-books biolab, it would be way more likely that they would put it on an island somewhere much closer to the US that they could control and protect, than putting it on the doorstep of a long term adversary.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
10 months ago
Reply to  Saul D

And the US has no reason to fund any biological research of any sort in Ukraine or anywhere else. How about funding research in the US. Do you realize that the success rate for NIH R01 individual investigator grant funding is somewhere around 10-15%? And don’t you think that emerging infectious diseases can be monitored from the US by US scientists?

Saul D
Saul D
10 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Someone has to collect the samples. Those scientists need training, knowledge and skills about what they are handling. And you’d analyse locally first, not just send potentially pathogenic material out by plane. These aren’t necessarily academic biolabs, but practical labs with a key surveillance task.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
10 months ago
Reply to  Saul D

Give me a break. The US doesn’t fund any labs overseas unless there is a very good reason to. And Ukraine is not somewhere that the US would fund biological research unless something untoward is involved. Just as for the Wuhan lab.

Saul D
Saul D
10 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Try this from 2005 – US is one funder, EU is another and it’s a bigger programme than just Ukraine. It’s not the same as academic medical research being offshored to get around US ethics rules. https://www.nti.org/analysis/articles/anti-plague-facilities-soviet-union/

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
10 months ago
Reply to  Saul D

Sounds too much like common-sense to me to have any chance of cutting through to the conspiracy theorists. A few weeks ago more than a few thought the Spetsnaz would assassinate Zelensky and others..the Russians get a welcome in the East..and within days a sock puppet in Kiev.
At which point the entire Keystone Kops idea of a Black Op would be a) exposed and b) all the results etc in the hands of the Russians.
Of course that didn’t happen and we are now three weeks in and the clanking Russian Army is down to it’s 1945 play-book of annihilating non combatants in order to degrade the will of the military.
Which…what luck!… means the bio labs have the opportunity to *destroy all evidence* … Or maybe Putin is working for the CIA or whoever, and slowed his advance to allow the evidence to be destroyed?
You never know.

David Yetter
David Yetter
10 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

But you are missing the point. Putin’s rhetoric justifying the unjustifiable is a deliberate parody of rhetoric used by Western powers to justify their invasions of Russia’s traditional and current allies (Serbia and Iraq, respectively). Breathless, false claims of genocide were the justification for NATO forcibly detaching Kosovo from Serbia. Breathless never-substantiated claims of a program to develop weapons of mass destruction were the justification for invading Iraq.
(Yes, I drew a distinction there. Saddam Hussein’s behavior gave every intelligence service in the world reason to believe he had a WMD program, which indeed he may have, given reports of much truck traffic between Iraq and Syria in the run-up to the invasion and the fact that every tank truck in the length and breadth of Iraq, regardless of its usual use, had been rinsed out with gasoline when the US troops arrived, on top of which there were several instances of American soldiers being sickened with symptoms consistent with nerve gas exposure when investigating some Iraqi military facilities — hastily declared after the fact to have been dues to organophosphate pesticides being stored in bulk at those facilities.)

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
10 months ago

“We are currently experiencing a moment of rare political unity on the subject of Putin and Ukraine…”

Along with a systematic and ruthless attack on all opposing voices from both right and left, which hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Last edited 10 months ago by Derek Smith
Martin Logan
Martin Logan
10 months ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

IOW, having a different opinion from yours is “a systematic and ruthless attack?”

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
10 months ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

contrarian narcissists who trade as “free-thinkers”
The writer says it clearly.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

No. I did not mean that. My opinion on this is irrelevant. My observation of how opposing voices are being treated is still relevant. There seems to be a requirement for everyone to be on-message over this war in a way that did not happen for the 2003 Iraq war. Why is that?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

How are opposing voices being treated? You’re still allowed to voice your opinion, the same is I’m allowed to voice mine. You seem to be upset that a majority of people think you’re defending the indefensible when trying to justify Putins invasion and the thousands of deaths it has caused.
You’d be hard pressed to find many people outside the contrarians talked about in the article who believe shelling civilian areas is a proportionate response to disagreeing with another sovereign countries choices

Dan Croitoru
Dan Croitoru
10 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Only that they are shelling those civilian areas where ukr armed forces chose to hide

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago
Reply to  Dan Croitoru

So the Russians attack and lay siege to the city and you blame the Ukrainians for being in the city the Russians have encircled to try and defend it? This is the kind of nonsense the article mentions in trying to deflect blame from Putin for the invasion.
Where do you think the Ukrainians should situate themselves to defend their cities? Perhaps they should simply stay in their bases and hope the Russians get lost on their way to Kyiv?

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
10 months ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

I can understand your irritation if a majority which holds a certain opinion overwhelmingly berates opponents, attributing bad motives, but there’s nothing new about that. I find it even more irritating, indeed worrying, when the opinion supported by the mass media is actually held by a minority in the country.
Systematic, it may well appear, but ‘ruthless’ should perhaps be reserved more for the actions of Putin than for verbal criticism. Or is my criticism too systematic and ruthless for you?

Last edited 10 months ago by Colin Elliott
Michael K
Michael K
10 months ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

When the opinion supported by the mass media is only held by a minority in a country, there is something wrong with the mass media, not with the country.
Generally people believe what they see on TV, if they don’t, that’s a bad sign for the credibility of what is shown on TV.

Miriam Cotton
Miriam Cotton
10 months ago

This article is undermined by its facetiousness. The central priblem with its argument is that Putin’s attack is unprovoked. It is many things – brutal, irrational, unjustified – but it is clearly not unprovoked. Affecting casual disdain for facts in an effort to make those who are concerned with them seem silly or paranoid doesn’t wash. Nice try. But it’s true that the left/right dichotomy has collapsed. Top and Bottom is the new political divide which is why a lot of people who previously might have despised each other on different pretexts are now finding common cause.

Last edited 10 months ago by Miriam Cotton
Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
10 months ago
Reply to  Miriam Cotton

But there was no provocation. Even Putin claimed he wouldn’t invade – up to the point he did.

Michael K
Michael K
10 months ago
Reply to  Roger Inkpen

Threatening to either join NATO or build nuclear weapons in a country that has let 14,000 of its inhabitants die in an 8-year civil war is not a provocation? Interesting view…

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
10 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

I think we see now why Zelensky very much wanted to join NATO.
And it was not to build nuclear weapons or bio-weapons.
To think that a nation of 40 million could ever be a satellite of a nation of only 140 million is delusional–and a perfect description of Putin’s present state of mind.

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
10 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

Nice try Comrade. How do you explain the past hundred years? Russia has a habit of invading, or just installing its own puppets under coercion, throughout eastern Europe. Any idea what happened to those independent Baltic states at the end of WW2? Or the people of Hungary or Czechoslovakia a few years later?
As we’ve just seen, the threat was always from Russia.
As for the civil war in Donbass leaving thousands dead – what part of ‘war’ don’t you get? Wars cost lives. As the Russian backed separatists knew full well when they declared ‘independence’ in 2014.
What other country would roll over and allow a breakaway republic? Certainly not Russia! They completely flattened Chechnya. And killed many times more than died in Donbass.
The only threat was to Russia’s deluded leader. Not from Nato but his own population, especially the young, who look to the west for democracy and free speech and a better life.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
10 months ago
Reply to  Roger Inkpen

Using your argument regarding the Donbass, don’t you see a little bit of cognitive dissonance there given that Russia considers Ukraine as part of mother Russia and not some separate country.

Andrew F
Andrew F
10 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

But is this view valid in 21st century?
It was clear from result of Ukraine independence referendum that they don’t want to be part of Mother Russia.
The way Ukrainians fight for their independence and freedom is confirmation of that fact.
What Russia wants is no different from what Hitler wanted.
Should we had accommodated Hitler, in your view?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

Ukraine (foolishly) gave up its nuclear arsenal in exchange for Russian guarantees not to invade and to respect its sovereignty including Crimea

John McKee
John McKee
4 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Per a nuclear scientist: the nukes were useless because the Ukrainians did not have the code for them. “I would never work on nuclear weapons for which I did not have the codes.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
10 months ago
Reply to  Miriam Cotton

Well said

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago
Reply to  Miriam Cotton

What was the provocation? Did the Ukrainians attack Russia? We’re they going to attack Russia in the near or distant future?
Or was the provocation simply that a tyrant was losing influence in a country he considered one of his colonies? Does that justify an invasion, thousands of deaths and shelling of maternity wards?

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
10 months ago

Does it even need mentioning that the WaPo is owned by Jeff Bezos?
A man so rich he doesn’t pay income tax. A man with so much money he blocks his employees from unionising and doesn’t let them take toilet breaks.
A man so concerned about the common good he flies to space in a giant phallus, while millions of children toil in sweatshops to manufacture the crap his company sells.
Can anyone working for his newspaper have an opinion on what is or is not ‘the Left’?

Last edited 10 months ago by Graham Stull
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
10 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

A man so rich he doesn’t pay income tax
This reminds me of that old saw:
If you owe you bank £1000 you have a problem. if you owe them £10,000,000, they have a problem

Michael K
Michael K
10 months ago

Must be really old. Nowadays, the bank would just print the £10,000,000 and the public would have a problem.

Sean Meister
Sean Meister
10 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Oh they absolutely can have an opinion, just remember that you are reading a Court Journalists piece about one of the higher nobility. Whether that opinion is then worth considering is up to each individual to assess (sadly many enjoy the typings of the Court, as divorced from reality as it may seem).

David Bell
David Bell
10 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

I’m curious, if he doesn’t allow toilet breaks what do the hapless employees do? Do they keep bottles or old-fashioned chamber pots under their desks?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago
Reply to  David Bell

Pretty much. There have been numerous reports of employees relieving themselves into bottles at their work station

Alexei A
Alexei A
10 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Bezos – yet another of America’s numerous tech tyrants who predicate all kinds of wokeness whilst wanting to shut down any and all dissenting voices. Like the Germans devotion to Russian energy, the US public are loathe to give up their dependence on the services these tyrants provide. They are like junkies and their dealers.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
10 months ago

Is it really so hard to understand that people wonder why the world suddenly cares about this conflict? Does the global money-laundering aspect have perhaps something to do with it? If the power elites didn’t have a financial stake (or corruption to hide) in this clash, we’d hear little, if anything, about it (see Yemen, Nigeria, Myanmar). Since the general public is so consistently lied to, as just the last two years demonstrated, being skeptical and cautious is the sensible response. The non-stop media coverage is, to me, a dead giveaway that we are, once again, not being told the truth.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
10 months ago

Not quite sure why this piece is generating so much ire – bit of a throwaway last paragraph sure, that lays out the author’s opinion. But it is after all an opinion piece.
The rest is an interesting analysis of left and right and all the myriad opinions in between that have all been tossed in the air by Ukraine.
I would agree with the author that some on the right (Tucker Carlson particularly) seem to have overstated their position. They are currently performing an inverse replica of the ‘Orange man bad’ lunacy that plagued the left and centre over the past few years.
That’s not to say there are not many many points to be made against a mindless support of Ukraine – Tucker made a few himself.
But the overriding impression from many on the right (by no means all) is that they are firmly setting up shop in opposition to Ukraine just because many of the people they disagree with on everything else have come out in favour of it.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

I agree, many seem to be opposing for the sake of opposing rather than because they believe Putins aggression is justified.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
10 months ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

“Not quite sure why this piece is generating so much ire” – describing Russell Brand as any sort of comedian did it for me, just for starters.

Mark Goodge
Mark Goodge
10 months ago

The left (or, at least, the extreme left) has a problem with Ukraine because – to be fair, like a lot of people – they are attracted by the doctrine of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”. But the extreme left’s biggest enemy is, and always has been, liberal, free-market democracy. So when someone appears on the global stage who challenges liberal, free-market democracy, then the extreme left sees them as a potential ally even if, on other facets of their beliefs, they are poles apart.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
10 months ago
Reply to  Mark Goodge

The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy. Nothing more than that and nothing less. At the same time, when someone says we should do something and it is in our best interests to do so, it does not always mean it is really in “our” interest. The last two decades have made that lesson painfully clear.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
10 months ago

Dear Unherd I read you publication to see different points of view from “mostly” intelligent people and be informed. I do not read your publication to sit through childish name calling, shallow strawmanning, and a refusal to address the arguments on hand. This was nothing more than a rant against anyone who questions the mainstream narrative on Ukraine (with not so subtle N**i and Communist insinuations). Lynskey does not bother to try to rebut any arguments or even make any of his own. This is the worst article I have read on Unherd since Åsne Seierstad’s article on Breivik.

Last edited 10 months ago by Matt Hindman
Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

I think there’s a clue in the term ‘opinion’. I also recommend you click on the link to Zosia Brom’s excoriating article.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

The piece used something called “evidence,” citing situations from various modern historical eras.
Whereas, you question the mainstream narrative–by using the terms “childish name calling,” “shallow strawmanning,” etc.
Lynskey used something called “evidence-based analysis,” which explicitly argues that, at any given time, one hypothesis is more likely to be true than all the rest. People in many parts of the world–with access to more information than at any time in human history–have concluded that the hypothesis that Russia is the aggressor is now most likely to be true.
Moreover, that Russia consistently denied it had plans to invade until 24 February is an excellent indicator that anything Russian officials say henceforward is a lie, and can be safely dismissed as deception and propaganda.
But, living in a rather free society, I still welcome your “whatabout,” as soon as it is convenient for you to post it.

Hendrik Mentz
Hendrik Mentz
10 months ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

Please help me: what ‘evidence’ does the author proffer that Carlson and Greenwald are simply ‘anti-anti-Putin’?

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
10 months ago
Reply to  Hendrik Mentz

One is a grifter, who makes increasingly ridiculous claims for the sake of ratings.
The other has sees any opponent of the West as an ally. The term “anti-anti-Putin” actually fits very well.

aaron david
aaron david
10 months ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

Yes, a clear rebuttal of a call for evidence with character assassination a lack of any evidence.
Bravo.

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Greetings, Matt —
How about this?:
Democratic Socialism – Oxymoron?“Democracy” contemplates decentralization. “Socialism” contemplates top-down, centralized control.https://dvwilliamson.substack.com/p/democratic-socialism-oxymoron

Milos Bingles
Milos Bingles
10 months ago

This article is fantastic. As a “Lefty / Blue Labour” it’s very insightful. I find George Galloway far more obnoxious than say, Kenneth Clarke.
“The Left-Right axis became popular because it helped to clarify existing political positions but now it obscures reality so frequently that I wonder we are so addicted to an archaic binary.”
I do think the First Past the Post System no longer adequately represents the breadth of political opinion in this country. Both on the left and right.
 

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
10 months ago

It is clearly beyond the ability of anyone on the left to write an objective piece.
Even in this context it looks like author cannot help having a go at the right.
In my experience most people on the left are keen supporters of totalitarian regimes just so long as they pay homage to Marx, Lenin and Mao.
Given what we id in Iraq is there any basis on which we can take the moral high ground and is our insistence that we have the moral high ground an impediment to resolving the issue

Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
10 months ago

Good article. Rare political unity would come if a rogue asteroid was approaching or nuclear weapons were being deployed. People believe in god, no god, witch doctors, Marx, the free market, national sovereignty or a centralised Europe. The shame is that democracy, social justice and private opinions, left or right leaning, fit well with none of the above and we see uneasy compromise.
Whatever Ukraine may be guilty of in terms of corruption or western influence, there is no justification for Putin’s actions against civilians especially women and children. As soon as all this resolves, up will go the banners and the sniping as if nothing had happened.

Ben Dhonau
Ben Dhonau
10 months ago

There are occasions when one side is clearly in the wrong. Putin has committed inexcusable unprovoked aggression. There is no but to this and no .side other than the Ukrainian one that can be honorably supported,. There is an appropriate Irish expression: “sneaking regarders” .It apples to anyone who writes “Putin is wrong, but,,.”

Colin Brewer
Colin Brewer
10 months ago

Prof Hans Eysenck described the ‘horseshoe theory’ long before Jean-Pierre Faye did. He was hated by the left and was once physically attacked by one at a lecture – I think because he also argued, rightly, that intelligence (however defined) has a significant genetic component.

Sean Meister
Sean Meister
10 months ago
Reply to  Colin Brewer

That one issue ironically completely destroys any “horseshoe” theory in my view. The Right almost universally seem to embrace the genetic realities of hard biology, whilst the left reject it in favour of convoluted man-made social structures. Any similarities on perception of ideologies such as Imperialism are just window dressing.

Stephen Parsons
Stephen Parsons
10 months ago

not sure why a foto of russell brand was used to top this column

Vince B
Vince B
10 months ago

There is only the post-human, techno-corporate-capitalist Machine steamrolling our environment, communities, cultures, families, even our mindspace and spirit, this juggernaut we still self-flatteringly call “liberalism” – and resistance to it.
In regard to Ukraine, it may be right on fully condemning Putin for his actions, but wrong to pretend that pushing NATO up to his backdoor had nothing to do with his decision to invade.
Glad to see the reality of Ukranian suffering, but we’re being propagandized, nonetheless. If I see CNN profile that sweet little Ukrainian boy who walked 400 miles “with only a plastic bag full of belongings and a heart full of courage, back to you, Wolf!” I’m going to barf.
Simply put, it’s easy to be put into the “far left” or “far right” nowadays. All you need to do is criticize the Machine from a particular angle.

Hendrik Mentz
Hendrik Mentz
10 months ago

I’m not sure that this piece delivered on its title (‘Why the Left is split over Ukraine’) and doesn’t, itself, meddle in a bit of totalising ‘campism’. For instance how come, when quoting Orwell, the author omitted (my emphasis and parenthesis):

Orwell rejected the invitation on the basis that he didn’t agree with their objectives. Acknowledging that what they said was “more truthful than the lying propaganda found in most of the press”, he added that he could “not associate himself with an essentially Conservative body”, that claimed to “defend democracy in Europe” but had “nothing to say about British (US, Nato, etc.) imperialism

Positions adopted by many whom the author criticises, and who have had the courage to dig deeper.
To wit: I would myself have second thoughts unquestioningly supporting anyone who, as part of his election campaign, uses, a video of himself massacring his opponents: https://twitter.com/saluti37/status/1497895823962636290?s=20&t=lN70MTmtOWh1ca9KXISKsw (Source: Viganò, C.M. ‘ON THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE CRISIS: A Message from Abp. Viganò, Former Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S.’ in The Remnant, available online).

Sean Meister
Sean Meister
10 months ago

You know what I’ve noticed recently: the “extremes” are converging on the idea of nuance and establishment lies. Not that this is a new thing but certainly the Pandemic has accelerated. Not for the first time did both Left and Right stand on the same platform whilst everyone else hysterically ran around them reacting at the very latest events in the simplest way.

The Russia-Ukraine situation is also full of nuance and, all but that same hysterical left, it exposes many of the hypocrisies associated with American Soft Power that both Left and Right have highlighted recently.

Elena Lange
Elena Lange
10 months ago

“Left-Wing writers like Paul Mason and George Monbiot”, but Tulsi Gabbard, Russell Brand, and Matt Taibbi are suspicious, perhaps suspiciously right-wing. I see. Yet, what can be more right-wing than George “I hate the working class” Monbiot, or Mason’s neoliberal elitism? Tucker Carlson is to the Left of any Guardian writer in the last decade.

Alexander Morrison
Alexander Morrison
10 months ago

An excellent article, and an extremely disappointing response from UnHerd readers, who seem to be confirming a lot of the author’s arguments. I think an honourable mention should also go to the egregious Pankaj Mishra, who has not let his total ignorance of Russian and Eastern European history prevent him from pontificating about Ukraine in the pages of that ultimate coterie publication, the London Review of Books. In his view it is of course all America’s fault.

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
10 months ago

I suppose it’s all about perspective. Assuming the president was facing the French deputies, from his position revolutionaries were on the left and reactionaries on his right. But from the deputies’ point of view…

Thomas Cushman
Thomas Cushman
10 months ago

The real mussing point is: how many commentators, left, center, or right , know much of anything about Ukrainian history, not only over the long term , but since the dissolution of the USSR. Minuscule if that .

D Hockley
D Hockley
10 months ago

You have Hollywood living, rent free, inside your small brain…. Get out of here, you silly little man.

UNHERD….I pay to read this blog….shape up or I cancel.

Neven Curlin
Neven Curlin
10 months ago

Thanks to the author for expressing his superiority to us.

Paula Williams
Paula Williams
10 months ago

So the anti-imperialist left supports leftist Russian imperialism. Thanks, got it now.

Last edited 10 months ago by Paula Williams
Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
10 months ago

I’m afraid to say that I am unable to contemplate the existence of Russell far kin Brand without immediately becoming very, very angry.

Kerry Godwin
Kerry Godwin
10 months ago

Like Cinderella’s well-endowed step-sister, we try to fit our much-vaunted ideologies into the pragmatic glass slipper of reality. All I see is a lot of grunting, sweating, and confusion.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
9 months ago

All the while we are not allowed to criticise the people who encouraged the plunder of Russia in the ridiculous hope that a nation of 150m people and an imperialist tradition would not rise again as a military force.

Emre Emre
Emre Emre
10 months ago

Lots of good references in this article exploring an interesting topic.
For me all of this signifies the end of the Nixonite world order in several ways. One of them is end of the petrodollar based globalisation era explored in depth elsewhere.
The other is more subtle but oddly also goes back to the Kennedy/Nixon era. When Kennedy allied with the minority vote, Nixon in response accepted the southern Democracts who felt rejected, which created today’s heavily polarised American system. That system is also breaking today with both left and right dividing across another dimension. We have nationalist right (patriotic) and religious right (anti-patriotic) who are split differently. We also have identitarian left (patriotic) and anti-imperalist (anti-patriotic) left who are now also having to split two ways.
This can only be a good thing in reducing the polarisation in the political spectrum and bringing back some liberalism. Unherd seems to be positioning itself to align with the nationalist right interestingly judging by the last few articles.

Last edited 10 months ago by Emre Emre
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago

And the Putin apologists will start complaining that UnHerd is no better than the mainstream media in 3…2…1….

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
10 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Unherd consists in the main of commentators who like to discover the truth – whether it be boxed ‘left’ or ‘right’. They do not enjoy identity politics. They are people who like information, nuance, discernment and complexity.

Iris C
Iris C
10 months ago

Hear! Hear!

Last edited 10 months ago by Iris C
Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
10 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I don’t think Unherd readers are quite so easy to put in a box. Most appear to be independent thinkers who seek out a broad range of information rather than just rely on MSM for their viewpoint. In addition most are open to a wide range of views and would resist putting people in boxes with labels such as “Putin apologists” as these things are a lot more complex and nuanced.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

I was referring to a select few contrarians, rather than the readership in general. I agree with you most enjoy reading different points of view, however some seem to spit the dummy out and threaten to cancel their membership if they read something that goes against their predetermined view

Michael K
Michael K
10 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The word “putin apologist” is a tool only used by people who like to hold a debate on emotions rather than well thought-out arguments, so I guess you reap what you sow.

Aidan Trimble
Aidan Trimble
10 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

Nope, you don’t get to define what people can or can’t say.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

It’s not based on emotion at all, it’s merely a phrase used to describe those defending the actions of a man responsible for thousands of deaths by launching what in the eyes of the vast, vast majority of the population is a completely unprovoked invasion of a neighbouring country, one it had written guarantees not to invade in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Mostly agree – but same as A A I think some are indirectly proving the author’s point – by just opposing for the sake of opposing.
Konstantin Kisin’s video on covid and mistrust in institutions applies here I think. ( see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0ZY3VWYKzQ )
There’s been a lot of nonsense over the last few years from authorities – so mistrust and scepticism is expected and sensible.
But it doesn’t mean we should flat out disbelieve everything now instantly. Rely (as best we can) on what we do know and don’t.
Biolab furore is a good case in point.

Last edited 10 months ago by A Spetzari
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Being sceptical of the media is perfectly legitimate, I’ve no doubt they’re guilty of talking up Ukrainian victories and highlighting Russian struggles over the course of the conflict as a David vs Goliath type story sells papers. However just because you have to take western media with a pinch of salt doesn’t mean you should then uncritically take any nonsense coming out of the Kremlin as Gospel

John Grant
John Grant
2 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Belated comment, and by SEVEN months! I curse ALL the usual suspects: American oligarchs seeing an opening to expand their markets and their geopolitical influence; Russian oligarchs trying to hold on to their capital investments in the Ukraine, both in the Russian-speaking sectors and within the Ukrainian-speaking heartland; Ukrainian oligarchs wanting enough political fighting-room to navigate profitably between Russian and American capital … etc. etc.. “Democracy,” even assuming a very weak definition of that increasingly polysemous word isn’t in my equation. Russia’s “democracy” seems very limited under cowboy capitalism run by thugs; American democracy is an entirely relative beast.. incredibly limited for African-Americans; a corporate-controlled media; a corporate-controlled government, that outrageously undemocratic institution called the “electoral college”…..Ukrainian democracy? Let’s not even go there! What’s to choose from? Nothing. NONETHELESS my preference is for a kind of “critical support” for Ukrainian self-determination, Nazi worts, Oligarchs, thugs and all. The disputed territories in Crimea and the East, where an actual war has been going on since 2014? Some kind of UN-supervised vote has to take place. And, obviously, negotiations NOW involving Russia, the US, and Ukraine. War Crimes? To be consistent, that would require that something meaningful be done about OTHER far worse brutalities, e.g., US saturation bombing of Iraqis for starters. Since that’s not gonna happen, I’d rather leave that issue quietly “off the table.” Let’s not be hypocrites.