As tragic as the invasion of Ukraine is, bombing campaigns and invasions of Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya were no less sinful, but they were conveniently justified by their authors as inevitable or belatedly and quietly acknowledged as misled.
I did not think I should write on the topic of the current war while being deluged with reports, analyses and opinion pieces about this dramatic event. However, as thoughts and recollections piled up in a corner of my mind, I thought a few reflections might be timely at least for those who are still open to another point of view.
In Europe, where I am now, information is being increasingly replaced by moralistic or rabid comments about Putin’s “criminal” behaviour and about Russia’s alleged ethical problems inherited from the Communist ideology and even from its Tzarist past. The West is once again claiming the moral high ground, as if it were a cure for the fashionable guilt about colonialism, sexism, patriarchy and other ills enforced by woke ideologues. Nationalism, at least in Ukraine, is lent a new coat of respectability after being condemned for several years. Politicians can think and act in geopolitical terms when their interests are at stake but revert to high minded rhetoric about peace and accommodation when unfriendly states behave in undesired ways. As tragic as the invasion of Ukraine is, bombing campaigns and invasions of Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya were no less sinful, but they were conveniently justified by their authors as inevitable or belatedly and quietly acknowledged as misled. The same powers-that-be are now crying foul and vying to strangle the Russian economy; they ostracise Putin and Russian government and business figures while refusing to seriously look into the long-standing causes of the crisis. The official western view is that the Russian “dictator” is both bad and mad, though from a dictator this was to be expected and therefore requires no further explanation. The well-known prominence of Neo-Nazi militias in Ukraine on the other hand is quietly accepted and only incidentally mentioned in the media. That tactical toleration from the outspokenly anti-Fascist EU is a reminder that, after the Second World War the victorious allied powers recruited thousands of “former” Nazi officials in Central and Eastern Europe and employed them, in Europe as well as in the US, mainly to help defeat the new Communist enemies.
The current eruption of self-righteousness in countries that rarely hesitated to attack and take over recalcitrant states while threatening and starving several others in order to force them to comply with their requirements should come as no surprise, but it leads many citizens of our sententious democracies to wonder about the sincerity of their leaders, in the wake of the authoritarian measures that were taken in complete disregard of democratic rights and national Constitutions during the coronavirus epidemic. The official brutality and dishonesty, manifested in the domestic repression that citizens recently endured is now exploding in the Ukrainian theatre. All things are connected, as ecological philosophy demonstrates. The West castigates Russia every day for controlling the media but pro-Russian channels are now being banned in our “free democracies”, which want their citizens to be exposed only to the “correct” western alliance narrative. We do indeed have ministries of truth nowadays in liberal societies.
Ukraine, whose name means “borderland”, disputed by definition, is not a union but a division. That state cobbled together by international agreements was made by the western alliance a de facto member of NATO even before the Kiev Maidan foreign-supported coup in 2014, though it does not meet the criteria to be eligible for inclusion. The US and British Governments in particular have used and are using Ukraine as a casus belli with Moscow and its allies in the CSTO, refusing to embrace less conflictive alternatives. The intention in Washington and London is avowedly to besiege and bleed Russia and additionally weaken the EU, economically and socially by getting it fully enmeshed in a protracted confrontation in the East which will make member states increasingly dependent on the Anglo-Saxon alliance. A French politician recently confided he had observed the palpable British desire to bring the EU, and Germany in particular, down several pegs after Brexit, both to get even and to provide more room for the United Kingdom on the world scene.
Events are moving at the speed of electronic communications and supersonic flights so that one can’t expect to be up to date by the time writing is in print. However, some statements should remain enduringly valid:
The Ukraine crisis has been simmering and occasionally boiling over since several years and President Putin has attempted many times negotiating a modus vivendi with the NATO bloc in Eastern Europe, but western leaders, smugly confident of their innate moral superiority and economic advantage made such endeavours fail.
The US under Biden and his woke liberal team, bent on leading a “league of democracies” against “authoritarian and rogue regimes” did not countenance any agreement with a Russian government they despise and they draw legitimacy at home from their purported crusade against the old Soviet “Evil Empire”, reincarnated as Putin’s dispensation.
Until the dawn of this century much talk was heard in Atlanticist business and political circles about the possibility of breaking Yeltsin’s ailing Russia up into various countries, to be ruled by West-friendly oligarchs like Ukraine is, and bringing largely desertic Siberia and its vast mineral wealth under the management of global financial institutions. There has been much disappointment since that tantalising opportunity receded into the far distance. The Americans found a compensation in Ukraine, where several politically influential families exploited the country’s dependency on the US government to extract substantial financial rewards. The best known case is President Joe Biden’s son. This cosy arrangement with Ukraine as a virtual US colony is now in jeopardy, which creates much anger in Washington’s ruling circles.
Western publics are fed a narrative of heroic little Ukraine facing the brutal Russian giant. Without disputing the bravery of sincerely patriotic Ukrainians we can still point out the geopolitical manipulation of which they are the victims. The military and paramilitary militias, supported and advised by western mercenaries, including those from Erik Prince’s Xe, formerly known as Blackwater, have been bombing and shooting at the Lugansk and Donetsk separatist enclaves for years while intimidating and often oppressing ethnic Russians in Ukraine but the NATO members have refused to act or even report on it, arguing that Ukraine is entitled to recover its illegally seceded territory. Yet the opposite theory was applied by NATO in Kosovo simply because an ethnic majority wanted independence. The US-led alliance, after forcing the breakup of Yugoslavia by the force of arms, bombed an entire country, Serbia to make Kosovo. a province which had belonged to it for centuries a sovereign country garrisoned by NATO forces. In that case as in several others neither the Americans nor their allies respected international law. The Europeans are proud to be together in a league running on a set of principles and agreements whose members eschew war among themselves but that was made possible by the American military protection and tutorship which are no longer reliable. It is also a fact that those old European imperial nations are no longer militarily strong enough to take on great powers. That limitation accounts for their preference for the rule of laws, usually enacted by themselves, but Francis Fukuyama’s dream did not last long and history does not end. The ongoing war reminds us once again that strategic realities endure.
The Russians know that who cannot defend himself will become a prey and they felt, rightly or wrongly that they had to march into Ukraine before that country, flooded with western weaponry turned even more threatening for them under NATO’s prodding. The Euro-American liberal establishment works on the intellectual premise that the global victory of its system is only a matter of time and that all countries will eventually be brought under its dominance. The West would never accept Russia’s taking back of Crimea and the Donbas (with overwhelming local assent) because it does not want Russia to maintain a dominant presence in the Black Sea and thereby a backdoor to the Mediterranean. The Ukrainian government did not implement the Minsk agreement as it did not intend to grant regional autonomy to its Russophone eastern region. Yet the people there for the most part do not regard themselves as Ukrainian and don’t wish to be absorbed into the European Union and even less brought under NATO’s aegis.
The western public is told by its governments that the world community is behind NATO in the righteous crusade to support Ukraine and inflict a major defeat on the Russian dictator who is represented as solely responsible for the war. These two claims are however inaccurate. Firstly, many developing countries are quite sceptical about the former colonizers’ version of events in view of the many self-serving lies the latter propagated in earlier conflicts. In an article published more than 15 years back, I warned that the emerging or re-emerging powers which were to form the BRICS might one day come together with much of the “developing world” to reject and challenge the Atlantic Coalition’s goals and strategies. Secondly, Russia’s commitment not to be encircled with inimical states that were for centuries part of its territory is supported by the vast majority of its population.
The next days and months will tell if the decision to invade Ukraine was strategically wrong, apart from being legally objectionable, but it is a fallacy to think that the problem lies only in Putin’s mind. The Russian ruling circles share his acute concern on this issue even when they may differ about the method to address it. That will not change anytime soon.
In conclusion, one can only worry about the extremist attitude taken by both sides in this conflict. We hear much about Russia’s threats but we should also note the Euro-American race to the bottom which is turning into a clumsy campaign of “de-russification”. The US is far away and can afford to stir the embers from a backseat, but the European NATO members may be shooting themselves in the foot by decreeing extreme sanctions and directing personal affronts at the Russian leadership in violation of diplomatic protocols.
Even if a wider military conflict is avoided, a lasting economic war with related cyber-piracy and other subversive operations could spell the collapse of the European Union and bring ruin to some of its already over-indebted and socially fraught member-states. Is Europe accelerating in a race towards suicide?