From Amy Boone
Ukraine, 25 February 2022
Before I can finish typing “It has started,” I already need to back it up and type “It is well underway,” and before long may have to replace that with: “It is over.” Events are moving quickly. Military infrastructure all over Ukraine has been blitzkrieged. Russian tanks seem to have arrived in Kiev; unconfirmed reports are coming in that the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) building itself is being stormed at this moment, and that Ukraine’s President Zelensky is in a bunker, and hundreds of Ukrainian fighters died defending Gostomel airbase northwest of Kiev.
All wars are hideous, but the least-bad war is the shortest one. Let’s first of all pray for that.
Starting with a few notes on my last piece:
-I argued that ethnopolitically-divided and ungovernably-corrupt Ukraine represented more an indigestible nuisance to Russia than an attractive take-over target. I still believe that is the case, and that an extended occupation of Ukraine is not Russia’s objective, though the degree to which the US has enabled and facilitated the cesspit-ification of Ukraine, for the fun and profit of DC Beltway elites – and the degree to which Putin will no longer tolerate it as it also morphs into a security threat to Russia – is as yet unclear. Perhaps a period of occupation of Ukraine by Russia is in the cards, though anything stretching into months stands to become a Northern Ireland-type nightmare.
-I explained how Russia understood Crimea: namely, as neither ethnically nor historically (aside from an anomalous period of Soviet folie) Ukrainian, and holding a critical national strategic-asset (the Black Sea port of Sevastopol) which Russia will not forfeit to enemy hands,
-and how Russia understood its stewardship of Russian-ethnic minorities of eastern Ukraine: as a natural and inalienable responsibility, and menaced as long as Kiev refused to implement the long-ago signed Minsk Accords.
-I pointed out that the inexorable eastward march of NATO – complete with repeated, mammoth trans-regional exercises war-gaming a Russian enemy – discomfited Russia, as did NATO’s dissembling, for decades, about its immediate and long-term intentions.
-And I quoted at length a sampling of the ad hominem and humiliating vitriol directed towards Vladimir Putin personally and towards Russia itself (a “gas-station masquerading as a country”) which the highest-ranking, institutionalised “Russia hands” in America routinely merchandise as political analysis.
I also drew attention to a striking sin-of-omission in news coverage of the Russia-Ukraine situation, namely, that it ignored completely the casus belli of March 2021, when Ukraine officially declared its shocking intention to reintegrate Crimea into the Ukrainian polity.
The less-forgiving nit-pickers among you may point out that I failed to predict a wholesale invasion of Ukraine by Russia – mea maxima culpa – but I suggest we take some consolation in the fact that the overall gist of the piece was on the same page as, and key specific points I alerted you to were cited explicitly by, Vladimir Putin in his 21 February speech in which he explained to the Russian people, the Ukrainian people, and the world-at-large, why the status quo was no longer tenable.
That was the speech in which Putin officially recognised the “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Lugansk, with the concomitant promise to come to their aid if needed.
In a subsequent press conference on 22 February, Putin repeated four points required for Russia-Ukraine relations to be normalised.
⦁ Crimea and Sevastopol can not be a target for reintegration into Ukraine.
⦁ Ukraine will not be a member of NATO.
⦁ The Minsk Accords should be abided – though Putin acknowledged these Accords are essentially dead, having been abandoned by Kiev.
⦁ Ukraine will be demilitarised.
Watch for those goals to be Moscow’s non-negotiables, going forward.
Additional Hidden Triggers and Provocations just prior to theInvasion
You should be aware of a few other activating factors that appeared last weekend, before Putin’s speech. First was a ratcheting up of rhetoric, as Boris Johnson (reported and amplified by Reuters and Yahoo News), ex-National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice (via CBC), a New York Times analyst, and NBC “Sunday morning news” panelists repeated the key-phrase “Putin is irrational.”
Note the implications of this particular contumely: it’s no mere shin-kicking insult. Can you reason with an irrational person? Can you adopt his/her perspective? “Irrational,” moreover, means unmanageable. It points to the singular solution of obliteration and rules out accommodation. And it pre-programmes perception of the actions of a so-labelled person as those of a “madman.”
The orchestration of this specific message across outlets and nations implied its importance to the Narrative-managers, whoever they are. Maybe it alerted Putin to the reality that he was now being put inescapably into the US/UK/NATO cross-hairs.
The normally thoughtful Douglas Murray and New York Post took the bait.
A second point, unreported (in another news media sin-of-omission) though luckily not completely unnoticed, occurred along the ceasefire-“Line of Contact” down the middle of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk provinces. The OSCE’s (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) regular monitoring of the line registered a leap in the number of ceasefire violations in recent days, as artillery explosions rose in mid-February, “from 80 per day to over 1,200 per day over the last week” in the days just prior before Putin’s speech. Casualties were overwhelmingly on the side of DPR and LPR civilians.
This essentially made the Russia population in Ukraine into hostages – and it escalated harm to them as an unmistakable provocation.
How to understand what is going on now in Ukraine
There are those who claim that western intel knew all about what is going on; and/or that the Kremlin actually wanted them to figure out there was a battle-plan in order to increase pressure towards last-minute reconciliation; that Lot Airlines weeks ago blocked the sale of tickets to Belorussia for these specific spring months while happily selling for travel before and after; that the whole invasion has been ein Theaterstück from top to bottom, coordinated by Washington and Moscow.
I have no inside track on any of that.
But as a kind of counter-exhibit, there sticks in my mind the posture and tone of Vladimir Putin in his address on 21 February, where we see a man incandescently angry but disciplined and prepared to make his response, long pent-up and righteous, fuelled by years of blatant abuse and injustice. He seemed to me as I watched him to be staring into the same reality that has confronted us all in the past several years, namely, the crescendo of malicious deceit picking up speed and volume to fight Brexit, to hobble and destroy Trump, and to put over the evil sci-fi project of COVID and “health-security-fascism”.
It is as if Putin finally saw unambiguous proof that, for those at the pinnacle of Western power and decision-making, “Peace and Prosperity for All” comes a poor and distant second to “Goodies for the Elites and the Rest of You Can Hang”.
A follow-up speech on 24 February was, if anything, an even more dramatic tearing-away of the curtain of tactful niceties. Putin’s blunt language carries the shock of things normally left unsaid. As a one-time US diplomat, I find his words horrifying, but as someone who craves and reveres truth, I worry they will not reach anywhere near enough people. Putin is surely burning bridges among the powerful, assuming that after launching a war there remain any bridges unburned. Here is an excerpt (but do read the whole thing):
Back to the subject at hand, let us proceed as if we were not on the Truman Show, but in something more like real-life. I have the following to offer.
Here is a map “The Military Operation in Ukraine 24 February 2022” on the site of Kommersant, the Russian analogue to the Wall Street Journal. It will be close to useless as a progress-of-hostilities map, but gives an indication of the multi-front event taking place – the list of Ukrainian losses in the bottom left started with military and communications infrastructure. I have seen elsewhere that priority targets were the securing of power stations, and the Dniepr-based water source for Crimea, which had been disabled by Ukraine, and remained unavailable, since 2014. I was struck by how small the contested area looks within the larger theatre of war.
One final thought on the fighting itself. The regular armies are one thing, but the seeding of the Ukrainian armed forces with highly-motivated corps of neo-Nazis since 2014 adds an element of fanaticism to terrorise Ukraine’s adversaries. I am reading that the Russians are deploying their own brand of fanatical fighting-crazies, in the form of ten thousand Chechen fighters heading to Ukraine.
Do not forget the abiding lesson of our age, which is that we live in an information war. (Or, to use the phrase Putin cites: our postal code is “Empire of Lies”) The news-consuming public, as usual, is currently being drowned in emotion-drenched Narratives to push an agenda, and the first principle of propaganda is to set false terms-of-debate. Of these, the PutinMan bad core tenet does the most heavy-lifting. Also, the It’s Russia against the plucky little Ukrainian nation is a second false trope – this one even being championed by those who should know better like Jack Posobiec, for whom I have great respect. This mischaracterises the reality that this conflict is both smaller and larger than that: it is a war to end the civil war against Russian-Ukrainians within Ukraine, and it is a war to put an end to the US-backed geopolitical gamesmanship and deception using Ukraine as a pawn.
Now that the shooting has started, the public will be bombarded with depressing and heart-rending imagery, including wherever possible, compelling fakery in the hoary tradition of WWI-Germans-bayonetting-Belgian-babies, and nurseries and neonatal units being alleged to have been blown to smithereens. The “Here, look! More Russians committing atrocities!” label slapped on unsourced videos will no doubt be a staple. Recall the Kentucky firing range subbing as a “North Syrian attack on our Kurdish brothers”. This article has some specific Russian examples already being deployed (and can be translated with a button)
Time is short before false terms of debate permeate the thinking of even the sceptical and discerning portions of the public.
Here are some sources I find useful. As always, caveat emptor:
-Anyone interested in this subject should seek out Putin’s speeches themselves and assume “excerpts” will be designed to create a deceptive impression.
-Blogger Sundance at The conservative treehouse
-Robert Barnes (on Locals, at vivabarneslaw.locals.com) gave an excellent summary of causation and events here: (it may or may not be available to non-subscribers)
-I am seeing a lot of instant video and crowd-sourced raw journalism from the Telegram account “Intel Slava Z”. Again, proceed with caution.