*But were afraid to ask
AJC Boone is back with the kind of post that is destined to become the default reference for everyone trying to separate propaganda from empirical reality over the manufactured Ukraine crisis. A former diplomat, Boone is very much on her home turf here, and it shows: for the first time you will read about the real nature of Ukraine – its history, culture, leadership disaster and political corruption; and you can follow the evidenced blow-by-blow story of just how little Putin really ‘wants’ in relation to the country – as well as just how much diplomatic demonisation has been used by American and European media-military machines in search of an ethereal ‘threat’. In a theatre where Truth long ago left by the back door, Amy Boone is a class act. Enjoy.
Updated as at 13.30 CET 8th February 2022
Green Acres on the Dnieper: War & Ukraine
I had been waiting for two weeks, mallet in hand, for this little story to emerge fully from its hole. Then, with some help from Ukraine’s own President Volodymyr Zelensky at his Friday 25 January press conference, the “Great Ukraine War of January 2022” finally revealed itself to consist – surprise, surprise – not of war, but entirely of fog-of-war.
(In a parallel universe, an impressed George Orwell is tweeting about us.)
My biggest fear, and this fear has not been entirely put to rest, is that the pretext of “Russian attack!” would be used as cover for something truly ghastly and personally relevant like sarin sprinkles in the London Tube, blamed on the Kremlin, but in fact the handiwork of our own “chestny Chekisti” in the western secret services and Porton Down. On social media many are recognising that a red herring of Moby Dick proportions might be required to distract from a foreseeable collapse of the COVID hoax and the revolutionary fury which it may unleash in even so inert a society as the demoralised Western one of the 21st century.
Back to Ukraine, mere analysis of the immediate subject – the “he said, he said” of the NYT/WaPo headline parade that we are meant to be rattled by – would be unedifying.
I’ve decided to offer, instead, a “vaccine” consisting of history and observation. Like genuine vaccines, this will render you immune to future frantic pointing at “Russia!” with vague but highly emotional intimations of something Very Bad in the works. You will thereafter have no reaction upon exposure to hysterics, but instead you will ask “But why exactly would Russia want to do that?” and your pulse and blood-pressure will remain normal as you wait for a plausible answer. (It’s not completely impossible, after all, that in future Russia may be minded to do what she is continually and erroneously accused of doing at present.)
Let’s start with a little local colour. Feel free to read the following aloud and at breakneck speed (which is how I do it) and decelerate when you get to something you hadn’t known already.
On the Edge of Empire, or Location, Location, Location
I was briefly posted to the US Embassy in Kiev in the early 1990s, subbing for a cultural/press attaché on extended home-leave. Kiev was quite a pretty town for an ex-Soviet capital. It featured the standard military-parade avenue and square, imposing 19th century town-centre buildings (for Party elites, ministries, and snipers), and a pastel smattering of churches, villas, shop-fronts, the occasional High-Soviet brutalist atrocity, etc., all in a predictable state of decrepitude. Kiev’s famous monastery (with its catacombs full of bones of believers and beatified) dozed on a hill overlooking the Dnieper River, which meanders broadly along one side of the city. The people, in an unfair generalisation, gave the impression of being more comely than Einsteinian. The big old-fashioned circus-tent food market was, as it had been in the Soviet 1980s, plentifully stocked (for added excitement, my colleague’s father clocked mushrooms and beetroot with his Geiger-counter, this being not yet a decade past Chernobyl); it was a market befitting the Bread Basket colony of an empire.
“Ukraine” is indeed the sort of name that is bestowed by distant imperial overlords, derived, presumably, from “by the edge” – “у края” (oo-CRY-a). The territory’s mobile boundaries generally contained a great swathe of Black Earth top-soil from the Don to the Carpathians. In keeping with our theme: a disparaging German idiom for “in the back of beyond” is “in the Carpathians”. While a euro-Slavic mix (Ruthenian to Moldovan) populated the north and west, and was periodically incorporated into the territory of a Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the area’s eastern and southern reaches held tribe-like communities of Mongol-Tatar-descended Cossacks (“freemen”) who did their best to dance to their own tune while sticking two fingers up to the imperial Ottoman sultan to the south, or to Slavic overlords to the north, or perhaps to the Russian tsars to the east, for whom the Cossacks’ patch of anarchy served as a valuable buffer zone, and with whom they were therefore locked in a love-hate relationship.
Here they are now, drafting an insulting letter to a sultan:
What evolved over time was a large, primarily agricultural space, with an overlay of sly bureaucrats honing their skills at the sort of squirrelly misbehaviour that happens way off on the periphery of empire, that is, where nobody’s watching and nobody’s held to account.
Slightly-Boring-but-Impactful Potted-History, cont’d:
Pre-revolutionary Moscow sent governors to run the province. Its “Bread Basket” character expanded in the 19th c to include coal-driven industrialisation in the southeast Donetsk Basin drawing a work-force from newly-freed serfs and the tsarist government’s deliberate efforts to populate and remake the anarchic Cossack zone as “New Russia.”
Ukraine entered the Soviet era after a messy and protracted post-1917 period of regional conflict, from Poland to the Black Sea, during which Ukraine’s eastern flank was fleshed out by Lenin officially stuffing much of the Donbass into it in the 1920s. Ukraine was also elevated from a status of province to that of independent state, primarily to boost the body-count in the Soviet Union’s vaunted international socialist alliance, and eventually to vote en bloc in the UN.
Ukraine’s population was sieved through the Holodomor (the “Great Hunger” of 1932-33 capping genocidal Bolshevik requisitions of agricultural produce), and once again by Nazi occupation (when those Jews who hadn’t fled via Odessa during the Revolution, or escaped some other way, were rounded up and shot into pits). Prolonged and repeated exposure to brutality had its consequences. Under the Nazi administration, seen not unreasonably as some kind of haven from Bolshevik extermination, Ukrainians in significant numbers applied for German citizenship, submitting their blondness to Nazi calipers for adjudication. Another sort of consequence was a friend’s grandmother telling of children during WWII using the frozen-solid corpses of German soldiers as toboggans. The Ukrainian who rose to the top as an archetype was a feral survivor disguised as a hayseed, someone like, say, Nikita Khrushchev.
Khrushchev scrambled to imperial leadership in 1953 after the death of Stalin, the previous general-secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR. Within a year, Khrushchev capriciously made a “gift” to quasi-state Ukraine of the territory of the Crimean peninsula (or not-so capriciously: the transfer was allegedly Khrushchev’s back-hander to those who assisted his ascent). Crimea had housed the strategic asset of the Russian Black Sea naval port of Sevastopol since the days of Catherine the Great, was patently not Khrushchev’s to give to anyone, and in 1954 belonged to the territory of the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic. Nor – and this is important – was the Crimean peninsula prior to 1954 ever “Ukrainian”. It was, historically, occupied primarily by Crimean Tatars of whom Stalin had killed & deported as many as he could. Since all the land in question was simply Soviet in the end, the arbitrary gift signifies as much as anything the triviality of the deed at the time.
Pictures Painting a Thousand Words
Let’s take a look at some maps. Start with the most recent (electoral map of 2019) and scroll down. See if you notice a sticky basic pattern.
Presidential Elections, 2019. (The Crimean Peninsula and two self-declared “independent” regions all in dark turquoise did not participate)
Presidential Elections, 1994. Source: https://www.e-ir.info/2015/03/13/understanding-the-other-ukraine-identity-and-allegiance-in-russophone-ukraine/
The map below reveals some fascinating, centuries-old DNA of the above stubborn electoral divide (in case the linguistic map was insufficient to make the point): it is a map of the “Wild Fields” (дикие = “wild” as in “savage or crazed”, not as in “wildflower”), the region in yellow is the semi-governable Tatar and Cossack region from the seventeenth century:
What I Saw Then
In my Kievan summer of 1992, the US embassy was staffed largely by the diasporan-offspring of WWII Displaced Persons, slavically world-weary Americans called Ihor and Natalja and Bohdan. The subject of lunchtime chatter in the canteen ambled from no-goodnik relatives nicknamed “Snake,” to the unwelcome prospect of obligatory visits to country-cousins at the weekend. My own three staffers were not Americans but local-hires. These included an administrator-of-a-certain-age with dreamy blue Mitford eyes, who sighed like a Xanaxed Chekhov sister over lost romance; and soon-departing Oleh, who on the basis of his Jewish ethnicity had finagled permission to emigrate to Israel. This felt like a Willy Wonka Golden Ticket escape from a place whence there literally was no escape (the USSR a mere three years before had been exactly such a place). I could hardly imagine that any Jews survived the predations of the 20th c in this part of the world. Oh, hang on a second, Oleh was not, strictly-speaking, Jewish, I learned. His wife, from whom he was long-divorced – she was Jewish…. Oh.
Onto this Green Acres tableau of lassitude and mischief came a hard-assed US Ambassador, Roman Popadiuk. Formerly President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary, Popadiuk spoke quickly, walked briskly, and grilled his team of diplomats at morning meetings with the surly impatience of a Very Important Person who still expected to be called at any moment to the Situation Room under the West Wing. Emigré Popadiuk spoke native Ukrainian in meetings with actual Ukrainian functionaries who, characteristic of the residual Soviet elite, preferred to speak Russian.
I thought at the time that it must be Popadiuk’s peculiar self-regard that drove his outsized (not to say delusional) diplomatic expectations, so ill-matched to the place where he was stationed. He seemed occasionally to notice the mismatch himself, as his voice would taper off in mid-soliloquy, a sour twinkle in his eye reflecting the dawning realisation of the frankly comical limits of his environment. I now realise that Popadiuk was far more likely to have been carrying Washington’s brief than any private one. Popadiuk was therefore not so much an ambitious eccentric, as a man dangling in the abyss between what Washington needed Ukraine to be, and what Ukraine actually was.
What Washington has needed Ukraine to be since the end of the Cold War – given President George Bush Sr’s Administration’s fateful and oft-quoted (by Russians) promise to Gorbachev that NATO would not extend itself “eastward by a single inch” – is a plucky little damsel-in-distress, a restless democratic republic yearning-to-breathe-free, who will invite the Americans in to rescue her from the big bad monster next-door. In rescuing the damsel/Ukrainian land-mass, the US-NATO alliance will be able to snuggle right up against the pancreas of its old Soviet foe. And everybody will cheer and hoist the FBI/CIA operatives on their shoulders…
What I’ve Noticed Since
As for what Ukraine actually is, I offer this little string of pearls:
-In 1996 the mideast-born head of an important international finance institution confided to me that the corruption in Ukraine was so Byzantinely impenetrable that his Kiev office, in desperation, imported Pakistani advisors specifically to help unravel the logic of who-is-connected-to-whom. (They failed.)
-In 2000 a Ukrainian investigative journalist with a Georgian name, Gyorgy Gongadse, went missing while working on a big story to expose corruption. His body was found, headless, in a ditch, and Ukraine’s President Leonid Kuchma himself was implicated in the crime through tapes recorded secretly in the president’s office. A fall-guy went to prison; the widow was presented with a state award.
Ex-President Kuchma, meanwhile, went unpunished, indeed, barely investigated. On the contrary, his son-in-law, Victor Pinchuk, became one of Ukraine’s wealthiest players (along with Rinat Akhmetov who rose through the ranks of the Tatar clan and owns London’s Hyde Park One, reportedly; and Konstantyn Zhevago, a former parliamentarian appearing not only on “Ukraine’s Richest” lists but also on international Most Wanted lists) in what Forbes Magazine demurely calls Ukraine’s “oligarch-dominated economy.” Pinchuk has been a big swinging donor – as generous as he is low-profile – to things like the Clinton Foundation and the Brookings Institution. (The latter was the source of both the guts of the absurd Steele Dossier and of the apparent General McMasters mole, Fiona Hill, sent into the Trump White House to destroy US-Russia relations to the best of her ability. Read her book.).
-Circa 2004, the “Orange Revolution” was a dress rehearsal for “colour revolutions” globally, in which sophisticated public relations campaigns run by tight-knit bands of trained young locals marinaded in Soros money and National Endowment for Democracy talking points about the “triumph of democracy” execute Dulles Brothers Specials in the 21st century. In which, after more or less bloodshed, US-friendly incompetents appear at the helm of state, and everything else remains pretty much the same, or gets worse. Or here, let this Guardian correspondent explain how it works:
-Circa 2008, my research for a status report on Ukraine led me to successive IMF reports in which the authors baldly, and almost in so many words, beseech Ukrainian functionaries to stop stealing long enough to enact the reforms that the IMF is proposing, among them a basic land cadastre so that citizens might know for certain what actual real estate belongs to whom, and be able to trade on that basis. During my lunch-break, to lighten the mood, I would check in on UNIAN Ukrainian news service to see if fisticuffs had broken out in the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) that day. Because often they had.
-Circa 2011, a DC public relations outfit was contracted to rehabilitate the reputation of the beautiful Yulia Tymoshenko, who had morphed in a decade from democratic Ukrainian parliamentarian to firebrand prime minister (and Dick Cheney favourite). In between, she had amassed a fortune as “deputy prime minister for the fuel and energy sector,” perfecting the art of stepping on the old Soviet pipeline that passed through Ukraine to bring Russian gas to European customers, and thus making possible the extraction of rents from both defamed supplier and inconvenienced buyer. (The point of the subsequent NordStream pipeline projects was to by-pass Ukraine for this very reason.)
Tymoshenko’s husband was – you’ll never believe the coincidence – an energy oligarch; and her own hard-earned nickname was “Gas Princess.” When she ended up in prison, the Washington firm placed op-eds in major serious newspapers under a bio marketing Tymoshenko as a human rights activist/political prisoner. A Beltway player on her p.r. campaign conceded with a schoolboy giggle that his own Ukrainian-born wife’s nickname for Tymoshenko was “banditka,” which I don’t suppose requires translation.
-In November 2013 through 2014 came Ukraine’s second, uncoloured, “colour revolution,” the Euromaidan coup/massacre ousting President Victor Yanukovich and replacing him with a rickety NATO/EU-friendly coalition. This episode exists in two versions. One is the wikipedia/New York Times best-selling fiction (feel free to google it). The truth-based alternative is sketched here by investigative journalist Lee Smith: (link: https://www.theepochtimes.com/did-democrats-secret-deals-with-ukraine-put-america-on-road-to-conflict-with-russia_4236722.html?&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Enews&utm_campaign=etv-2022-01-27) and looks more like a DeepState-rigged project.
In contrast to the mostly Kiev-based 2004 “revolution,” the 2014 events (inadvertently) led to a violent bolt for autonomy in two of Ukraine’s eastern border districts, where anger over years of negligence ending in mine catastrophes, gangland battles over industrial assets, and anti-Russian language/educational policies sharpened into civil war with thousands dead, infrastructure wrecked, and the appearance of two new ethno-linguistically Russian, would-be autonomous “people’s republics.” Russia is reported to have supplied (at a minimum) materièl and humanitarian aid.
The “Minsk Accords” signed in February 2015 by Ukraine, Russia and an OSCE ambassador theoretically ended hostilities, though Russia accuses Ukraine to the present day of failing in its sworn tasks in the Accords (which reaffirm Ukrainian national control over the regions, much as Russia has national control over non-Russian semi-autonomous zones, like Tatarstan or Chechnya, in its own territory), leaving the contested region in limbo and subject to episodes of violence.
The 2014 Maidan coup also occasioned Russia’s decision to end the prospect of permanently losing its Black Sea naval asset in Crimea to an EU-controlled government in Kiev. Russia’s use of the Sevastopol port since the end of the USSR had relied on periodically-renegotiated rental agreements with serial Ukrainian governments. Fully aware of the western opprobrium it would unleash, and choosing national interest over international popularity (Russian pundit chatter at the time made this dilemma clear), Russia simply unilaterally annexed the territory of the Crimean Peninsula. It then held an ex post referendum in the 75+% native Russian-speaking territory certifying popular approval, and (of course) failing to please nay-sayers.
-Circa 2015. A domestic helper arrives at her London workplace in tears. The Ukrainian civil strife in the east of the country had led to her west-Ukrainian home village being pressed to send military recruits to the Ukrainian army. For that reason, among others, she and her husband (like many other Ukrainians) had fled to employment in London’s hotels and construction sites. But she had just received news from her mother that a village boy she knew had volunteered to fight, was sent off and was promptly killed in action. In addition, to compensate the government for missing recruits, the village sent Kiev money for uniforms and basic equipment, though through their letters home, it was evident that the village recruits never saw any evidence of any money sent.
-In spring 2016, Mikhail Saakashvili, the ex-president of neighbouring country Georgia and once-BFF of Beltway war-cowboys like John McCain, was recruited by new Ukrainian president (ex-chocolate bonbon mogul), Petro Poroshenko, to be governor of the southwestern Ukrainian state of Odessa. Within mere months, in November, Saakashvili gave an emotional press conference throwing in the towel and throwing as well a bit of shade, as the expression goes, on Poroshenko: “What difference for Ukrainians does it make who will treat them like dirt: Poroshenko or Yanukovych; what difference who will steal from them?… [Poroshenko] has not moved a finger to make this project work,” he said. “I just want to ask: how much can you lie and cheat?”
-2018-2019. Just how much, indeed. The question was again asked and answered during the farcical American “Ukrainegate” of summer and autumn 2019. That was when the Deep State operation to smear and unseat the once-again blindsided Donald Trump, leveraging his perfectly normal telephone call with Ukraine’s newest president, comedian (no, really) Volodymyr Zelensky, neatly boomeranged into revealing the Biden family’s well-paid influence-sinecure from Ukrainian company Burisma, a firm with prior rumoured connections to the son of another DemParty stalwart, globe-trotting John Kerry.
The rolling fiasco even brought to light an actual 2018 video of Joe Biden regaling Beltway insiders with the tale of his ultimatum to withhold a billion dollars in US/IMF aid funding until Ukraine fired a pesky prosecutor sniffing too close to Burisma. “Well, son-of-a-bitch, they fired the guy,” Biden punchlines, as Council on Foreign Relations head, Richard Haass, below, in lavender tie and sea-sick expression, personifies what British football fans call “squeaky bum time”.
What Russia Wants: Less Than You’ve Been Led To Believe
The above history-anecdote pastiche can be condensed to the two-pronged verdict that in thirty years of “democratic independence” Ukraine has shown itself to be 1) congenitally-divided and 2) ungovernably corrupt. It should moreover reinforce the impression that there is no reconciling the actual Ukraine with the US/NATO Establishment’s mythology of a budding democracy, a responsible NATO partner, and an imminent EU inductee.
It should also put to rest the outlandish but persistent cliché that Ukraine, with its fundamental culturo-geographic schism and “oligarch-dominated economy,” presents some kind of tempting morsel for a hungry Russian bear. The bear has its own nine time-zones’ worth of rotted infrastructure, institutions of misgovernance, ethnic multiplicity, and cowboy economy to grapple with without adding more. But the metaphor is evergreen among self-styled 5-D geopolitical-chess bores who stroke their chins and won’t quit asking “But what is Vladimir Putin’s angle in all of this?”
Russia has never made any particular secret of its “angle”. Russia’s relevant bedrock diplomatic concerns are 1) the steady approach of NATO towards its western border, and 2) the protection of ethnic Russians in the post-1992 “Near Abroad.” A third element, to do with Ukraine exclusively, is Russia’s insistence that Kiev take seriously the implementation of the signed Minsk Accords to normalise the status of Donetsk and Lugansk within Ukraine.
The accusation that Russia wants instead to annex, or in Fiona Hill’s expression in recent congressional testimony, to “salami slice” Ukraine’s Russia-bordering territories for easier digestion is a ludicrous reworking of the trope of neo-Kremlinology-quackery that Russia, and Putin personally, is scheming to reconstitute the USSR under the Russian flag. Only people who know or care nothing about Russia-the-country (as opposed to “Russia the bogeyman”) can imagine such a thing. And if Russia had wanted to annex Ukraine’s eastern-most, ethnic-Russian provinces, Russia could easily have done so long ago, which no serious person disputes.
There is a quick way to cut through the misconstrual of Russia’s genuine concern for what Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (repeating Putin) referred to again just days ago, the “25 million people (maybe more) [who] found themselves abroad, outside their country overnight” when the USSR vanished as a political entity. And not just “abroad” but in potentially hostile territory of new countries actively discarding “Russianness” to establish their post-Soviet identity. Russia’s impulse to come to the aid of stranded compatriot communities is identical to what stirred the United Kingdom to launch a war to protect three thousand sheep-farming inhabitants of Las Malvinas in 1982. This is only hard to understand if Russian motives are relentlessly impugned.
As for how Russia views NATO expansion, consider the following. Russia saw SecState James Baker’s 1992 promise not to expand NATO east of the Oder-Neisse broken within a decade by the addition of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in 1999, then broken again with seven more countries in 2004 (Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia), two more in 2009, and latest additions in 2017 and in 2020.
The consolation offered to Russia, and linked to Istanbul (1999) and Astana (2010) protocols, established the “principle” that none of the signatory states may bolster their own security in a way that compromises another signatory’s security. And yet in 2021, it became clear that even that consolation has been withdrawn by the sudden appearance of a quite new doctrine (reiterated in policy papers and even in UK PM Boris Johnson’s remarks in Kiev in the last week of January 2022): that it is a birthright of any free country to join any security alliance it fancies. Full stop. So much for “spheres of influence” Realpolitik that has shaped American foreign policy since the Monroe Doctrine.
Russia, not unreasonably, feels its security compromised by Ukraine or Georgia joining NATO and becoming a staging ground for NATO’s weapons systems aimed at Russia. It moreover has been actively schooled to doubt that any promise made by the NATO alliance or the US or UK individually was either made in good faith or will be fulfilled, and it must act accordingly.
And Russia is by no means without tools at its disposal. It has already begun to push the US into regretting its short-sighted new axiom that “any free country can join any security alliance it wishes” by pursuing security talks with Latin American countries.
What the US Wants: to Relive the Glory of Cold War Certainties and Supremacy
Donald Trump’s April 2016 foreign policy statement pointed out that the US political Establishment has never properly taken up the task of redefining its foreign policy goals for a post-Cold War era. Trump was ultimately barged off formulating and pursuing a bigger vision himself, but he did articulate a novel modus vivendi that informed the first half of his tenure,
“… to live peacefully and in friendship with Russia and China. We have serious differences with these two nations, and must regard them with open eyes. But we are not bound to be adversaries. We should seek common ground based on shared interests.
….I believe an easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia – from a position of strength – is possible. Common sense says this cycle of hostility must end…”
Indeed. And the opposite of common sense would be courting global annihilation via a phony war with neither a proximal cause, nor basic proof of allegedly causal ill-intentions. Which is where we are now.
Neo-Containment, and the First Shots Fired In Our Phony War
Hostilities in our current phony war actually started in Washington a year ago, in January 2021, with the incoming Biden Administration’s reversion to type in relations with Russia. The party of power renewed its commitment to obsolete Cold War platitudes in a signal article in Foreign Affairs authored by Obama’s ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul.
Attempting to leverage the seriousness of mid-century figures like George Kennan, McFaul manages only to deploy undergraduate sanctimony and witless broad-sides aimed at Putin and Russia, “a gas-station parading as a country,” while tossing in tell-tale kudos for the “incredible (and underused) capabilities of the U.S. intelligence community”.
Putin, we hear, is “highly motivated by a set of orthodox [sic, surely “Orthodox”?], illiberal, antidemocratic, anti-Western ideas.” Putin “deliberately tried to position himself as the leader of the illiberal, conservative world,” “no longer desires cooperation with the West,” “is an old man, set in his ways.” He “trumpets his definition of Christian, traditional family values, which he asserts are central to Russian identity…” “consistently acts belligerently” and “in his view, he is at war with the United States, its allies, and the multilateral institutions that Washington created and anchors.” etc., etc. That is just a sampling; the piece is worth reading in full for the sheer exoticism of its arguments.
Tellingly, when McFaul needs to move from mere ad hominem face-slapping to evidence, all he can offer is a would-be rap-sheet listing mischaracterisations and hoaxes: “annexing Crimea [see above, this essay], intervening in Middle Eastern civil wars [irony alert], stealing and publishing documents to try to influence the outcome of the 2016 US election [incorrect, Julian Assange made clear his source was not Russia, and implied strongly that Bernie Sanders’s murdered staffer Seth and brother Aaron Rich whistle-blew those documents to Wikileaks], and trying to assassinate Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom [if there exists a hoax with more plot-holes, I’m dying to see it].”
McAwful continues: “Biden and his team must accept that Putin will not end his assault on democracy, liberalism, and multilateral institutions anytime soon. They must therefore deter and contain Putin’s Russia for the long-haul.” So there it is, McFaul’s bid for a spot in the Political Science Hall of Fame, a shiny-new, déjà-vu policy: Neo-Containment. And Biden and his team will do the neo-containing. For the “long-haul.” Oh, my sides.
Had You Heard of Ukraine’s Pledge to Retake Crimea?
Within two months of McFaul’s article and the Democrats regaining power in Washington, Ukraine – seemingly all on its own – on 11 March 2021 declared a “strategy for the de-occupation and reintegration of the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol” – something the Russians could only understand as a declaration of war.
I first saw mention of this decree in a reader-comment on an obscure national security blog I follow. Even now I cannot find reference to it in the international press, though Ukrainian news reported it, as did one little industry title, Tech Start-Ups, which asks in a headline over a frantic April 2 story “Is the World Ready for WW3, as Ukraine’s President Signed a Decree to Retake Crimea from Russia…” Adding yet more pressure, the Ukrainian decree came just as massive NATO war-games “Defender Europe 2021” got underway.
To provoke an outraged response, and then portray the response as the initial aggression, is a classic play of dishonest statecraft, or sociopathology. Russia’s response to the Ukraine’s bold declaration that it would retake Crimea was to station 100K Russian troops near Ukraine to guarantee Ukraine’s decree would come to naught.
And sure enough, western “information sources,” even serious analysts (like military analyst Scott Ritter), refer to the March-April massing of “100K Russian troops” without mentioning the triggering antecedent which explains it. Because, of course without the explanatory virtual-declaration-of- war, the Russian troop movement can only be a provocation. Here is Wikipedia:
Looking back from early February, we see that the “100K Russians” amassing on the Ukrainian border last April were once again amassing in November, and that they have been amassing all through the month of January too. All this amassing of the same “100K”, strangely enough, has the news headlines and Establishment officials and pundits turning their panic-metre dials up to eleven.
Obama Administration national security staffer Evelyn Farkas wrote a 11 January piece entitled “The US Must Prepare for War Against Russia Over Ukraine,” that the US should be preparing its own and its allies’ troops for war “not just over Ukraine but about the future of the global order.”
The American ambassador to the UN told the “hastily convened” Security Council meeting less than a fortnight ago that
Russia’s actions strike at the very heart of the U.N. Charter. This is as clear and consequential a threat to peace and security as anyone can imagine… Russia’s aggression today not only threatens Ukraine. It also threatens Europe. It threatens the international order.
One last question: as you read those words, do you find that your pulse or blood pressure has risen? I’m guessing not. And you know what that means — the vaccine which I promised you, lo, those many hours ago, is working.