With Russia tanks now rolling into Ukraine and Russian parachutists descending from the skies our thoughts must be with the people of the Ukraine defending their homeland. Putin’s pretext for invasion (that various staged explosions in the East, and the staged bussing out of a few hundred civilians to Russia, all detailed in advance by American intelligence, constitute Ukrainian aggression) reminds us of Hitler’s pretext for invading Poland in 1939, when German soldiers dressed in Polish uniforms crossed the border in front of conveniently located German film cameras. Just as Hitler accused the Poles of ethnic cleansing of Germans living in Poland, Putin accuses the Ukrainians of genocide against ethnic Russians. It is crude beyond belief.
The Ukrainians themselves have little reason to love the Russians who, courtesy of Stalin, inflicted a real genocide on them in the form of the Holodomor, the terrible famine of 1932-3, in which an estimated 10 million are thought to have perished, directly and indirectly.
Nevertheless, there is a Russian side to the story. The Ukraine is not just ‘a faraway country of which we know nothing’. Its history and culture are inextricably bound up with those of Russia. Kiev is the spiritual home of Russian orthodox Christianity, the mother city of the Eastern Slavs, founded by the semi-mythical Prince Oleg. Like most Russians, Putin himself believes that the Russians and Ukrainians are one people sharing the same ‘historical and spiritual space’, the motherland, the ‘Mother Russia’ beloved of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.
Like it or not, the Russians are suspicious of the West. However unjustified, they fear encirclement and they fear NATO. Perhaps it is the legacy of the Cold War. Perhaps Germany’s murderous invasion of Russia in 1941, which lives on in the Russian psyche, has something to do with it.
For all these reasons, the prospect of NATO expanding to incorporate the Ukraine, with American missiles stationed right on the Russian border, is the ultimate provocation. The equivalent would be something like the people of Hawaii or a Spanish-speaking majority in Texas declaring independence and then opting to form a military alliance with Russia. The stationing of Russian missiles in Cuba, just off the American coast, would, one suspects, go down no better with the Americans now than it did in 1962.
Of course, it is Russian aggression. But equally, we asked for it. The tragic victims are the Ukrainians.
I strongly recommend Tim Black’s article on the Lethal Stupidity of a No Fly Zone at Spiked On Line.
They make a desert and call it sovereignty.
NATO is unwise to keep stoking a civil war by providing arms against Putin’s forces. He cannot benefit by dominating a hostile population amid mass destruction and must realise this.
The best outcome would be a compromise with the land east of the Dneiper going to Russia, and the west becoming a neutral Ukrainian state, plus military withdrawal of western forces seen as potentially hostile to Russia. Maybe China will offer its services. Once again the western nations pay for the earier myopia and cowardice of their politicians.
This is a good article.
I agree with PJR that sanctions are worthless. The rich can easily setup shell companies to move money around. It hurts the poor, and probably radicalizes them. One of the reasons Nazi Germany came to power was because they felt everyone was against them (debt, threatining occupation of the rhineland for failure to pay, perceptions that the world was trying to keep them down, etc).
John, I agree that Donbas deserves the right to self determination, but I don’t think Russia should have involved themselves. Imagine if the UK got involved in the American civil war? We can express our opinions through diplomatic channels, but we shouldn’t choose a side.
“The tragic victims are the Ukrainians.”
Everybody who dies in this war, on either side, is a tragic victim. It’s a war Ukraine can’t win, and Ukraine ought to surrender ASAP to prevent further loss of life. And the UK and the USA ought to stop pretending that Putin will be bothered if they impose various trivial economic sanctions. The only thing that will bother Putin is massive military mobilisation. So we in the UK can perhaps play our part by sending HMS Troutbridge to the Baltic Sea. Because Boris’s pseudo-Churchillian rhetoric isn’t backed by plausible force, and “a bit of the old left hand down a bit” is all that our once glorious navy has to offer. Let’s not kid ourselves: we are spectators and our grumblings are insignificant.
Good piece Alistair and good comment John. Ukrainian politics is pretty corrupt I think, and there’s been a lot of skulduggery going on, with not too much consideration for what happens to the ordinary people I’d say. The Bolshevik orchestrated famine in the 30’s would have been run by local officials on the ground in the Ukraine, many, if not most of whom, would probably have been Ukrainian and Bolsheviks themselves. Also I’d still like to know just who the air traffic controllers were who gave that Malaysian airliner the ok to fly over what was an obvious war zone, that the Ukraine air force had also been using I think, to attack the separatists. I flew through there twice in the same year via Sing. Air and also the previous year, and we were going a little north from memory, just over the border in Russia, rather than the usual route across the Ukraine.
I couldn’t disagree more. If you look at this objectively, without a cold war mentality – common amongst the baby boomer generation – its not quite so simple. The people in Donbas want the right to self-government and self determination. They view the 2014 riots as a coup, not liberation. Because they’ve sought to separate themselves from the administration, they’ve been bombed for almost 8 years, and Russia has tried to negotiate now for 8 years on behalf of Donbas. Over 1.5B of arms were sent to Kiev, which mostly ended on the doorstep of those in the Donbas region. And yeah, of course Russia provided weapon sales. But if we calculate the total cost of weapon sales, we can conclude that the 1.5B in arms from NATO far exceeds what Russian companies sent to Donbas. anyways, the point is that after eight years they were not able to reach any agreement. Zelensky thought that NATO’s economic interests would protect his bombings, but he miscalculated. Now he needs to stop firing shells on those people and leave them alone. If Putin stays and occupies he’s wrong. But if he leaves, I believe he did the right thing. He is protecting those people and forcing Kiev to recognize their autonomy. They deserve that after 8 years of fighting. And quite frankly, I feel no sympathy for Zelensky. If you bully a subsection of the population for eight years, then a bigger bully bullies you — you probably deserve it. There is a lot of talk about “false flag operation”, but there is no hard evidence. Just rhetoric.