|Out Of Patience: Putin’s weary anger said it all. The Ukraine and Russia are one. The West cannot have her. If NATO is determined to fight, then Russia will fight back. And, if Russia falls, she will not fall alone.|
ON CHRISTMAS EVE 1991, Germany and Austria, without warning or consultation, recognised the independence of Slovenia and Croatia.
Six months earlier, on 25 June 1991, these hitherto constituent republics of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had declared themselves independent states. Naturally, the Yugoslav Government objected in the strongest terms and sent its army north. NATO’s Secretary-General, the former British Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington, attempted to negotiate a peaceful settlement.
Sufficient progress was being made for the Yugoslav Government to order the army’s tanks back to their bases. Its consternation, when the newly re-united Germany recognised the breakaway republics’ independence, and Austria partially mobilised its armed forces along the Slovenian border, is readily imagined. The Americans, the EU, and the United Nations were equally non-plussed.
Yugoslavia may have been crumbling, but the unilateral recognition of Slovenian and Croatian independence by Germany and Austria undoubtedly hastened its disintegration. The tragic consequences: civil war, murderous ethnic cleansing, NATO’s assault on Serbia (the largest of the Yugoslav successor states) cost tens-of-thousands of innocent lives.
Were Germany and Austria punished for their deliberate fracturing of another European state? Did the United States, the EU and NATO impose a devastating regime of sanctions upon them? Were massive supplies of weapons shipped to Yugoslavia in an attempt to keep its fragile constitutional architecture standing? Was the German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, vilified across the Western news media as another Adolf Hitler? Did his neighbours manoeuvre hostile battle-groups along his country’s borders?
Of course not. Indeed, it is highly unlikely than more than one in ten of the people reading this post will even remember Germany’s and Austria’s flagrant breach of international law – or care.
Those belonging to the realist school of international diplomacy may have raised an eyebrow at the two German-speaking nation’s uncharacteristic departure from international diplomatic norms, but they didn’t engage in hysterical name-calling or fill the airwaves with dire predictions of European war. (Even if the more perspicacious among them, remembering the fraught history of the Balkan states, foresaw only bad things flowing from Germany’s and Austria’s rash decisions.)
It was clear to everyone that the Yugoslavia forged by Marshall Tito in the white heat of the Second World War and, while he lived, a remarkably successful experiment in multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and socialist co-operation, was unravelling at an alarming rate. Old crimes were being remembered, vengeful ghosts were rising from the killing fields of the German occupation. Few international scholars, and even fewer experienced diplomats, were surprised that Catholic Slovenia and Croatia wanted out, or that they fell gratefully into the nearest pair of outstretched arms.
The contrast with the present hysterical condemnation of Russia’s recognition of the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk could hardly be clearer. There is precious little evidence of hard-headed realism in the West’s diplomacy, only inchoate rage at Russia’s stubborn refusal to become the vassal of a declining American super-power and its dangerous kennel of NATO attack-dogs.
Vladimir Putin was absolutely correct to describe the break-up of the Soviet Union as a geopolitical catastrophe. The Russians had done the world an enormous favour in taking responsibility for the cutthroat nations of Eastern Europe and the Baltic littoral.
Few people in the West now recall how many of these states allied themselves with Nazi Germany during World War II. But the Russians have not forgotten whose soldiers were positioned on the flanks of Stalingrad as von Paulus’s Sixth Army closed in for the kill. Nor have they forgotten how eagerly the Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians and, yes, the Ukrainians, helped the Einsatzgruppen murder two million of their Jewish neighbours.
Setting these bloodlands free was always a risky proposition.
Not that the NATO Alliance had many thoughts to spare for the recent history of Eastern Europe. As the Soviet Union fell apart and the elites of its constituent republics seized the moment to make their fortunes, the Americans and their European vassals could only look on in awe at the world of rich geopolitical pickings opening up before their eyes.
The wildest dreams of Western geopoliticians, dating all the way back to the end of the First World War, could now be realised. Georgia, the Caucasus, Moldova, Belarus, and the geopolitical jewel in the crown, Ukraine: all of them were up for grabs – daggers pointed directly at the heart of Mother Russia. “Come one, come all!” cried Washington and Brussels – “NATO’s door is always open!”
Poor, deluded Mikhail Gorbachev: how could he possibly have been so innocent as to take on trust George H. W. Bush’s pledge that NATO would not advance “one inch” beyond the River Elbe? Had the combat boot been on the other foot, would the Soviet Union have given such a pledge? Or, if it did, would it have felt bound to honour it?
Some have laughed at Putin’s rambling history lesson of 22 February, preliminary to his signing of the documents recognising the breakaway Donbass republics. He was not, however, joking. His criticism of Lenin and the Bolsheviks was entirely serious.
As good socialists they were determined to honour the principles of national self-determination. Putin’s argument is that by doing so they made the later disintegration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics a great deal easier than it should have been. Had the Bolsheviks treated Ukraine and the other constituent republics in the same way as the Tsarist regime: beloved provinces of one great, indissoluble nation – Russia – then the almost casual agreement of August 1991 to break up the Soviet Union might have been averted.
But, we are where we are. Like a baited bear, the Russian Federation has watched through small, black eyes as NATO’s attack-dogs crept closer and closer. Unlike the doomed creatures chained by neck and ankle in the bear-pits of yesteryear, however, the Russian Bear is constrained only by how many of these slavering curs it is willing to kill, and how.
Putin’s weary anger said it all. The Ukraine and Russia are one. The West cannot have her. If NATO is determined to fight, then Russia will fight back. And, if Russia falls, she will not fall alone.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Thursday, 24 February 2022.
When Im mistaken I admit it - I didnt think Putin would invade.
I wasnt wrong..... - just mistaken.
It appears from the latest accounts that Russia is seeking to take the whole of Ukraine, not just the "breakaway" enclaves along Russia's border. That is incredibly dangerous. Even if they succeed militarily, it will require massive repression to keep the whole of Ukraine under Russia's yoke. Ukraine will become a weeping sore, right up against NATO's borders. This is a disaster happening before our eyes.
"Nor have they forgotten how eagerly the Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians and, yes, the Ukrainians, helped the Einsatzgruppen murder two million of their Jewish neighbours."
Given the anti-Semitism present in Stalin's Russia, I doubt somehow if the USSR cared about the murder of Jews. And I must confess that with the way that Stalin treated his minorities it doesn't surprise me that they initially at least welcomed the German army.
And you've already said Chris that Yugoslavia among other countries could only be held together by some sort of strongman, so it was reasonably inevitable that absent the strongman it was going to split up, given the animus between the various ethnic groups stemming largely I understand, from World War II.
Seems to me that there are parallels with the 1930s. Putin is a gambler similar to Hitler although he doesn't have quite Hitler's recklessness given the West's weakness. And of course Russia is somewhat paranoid having been invaded numerous times. But that's an explanation, not an excuse.
Perhaps that map speaks loudest. A Ukraine membership of NATO would be seen by Russia as an unacceptable advance of hostile military forces underpinned by the United States, still currently seeing itself as the planet’s policeman, threatening heartland Russia and its Black Sea ports. The idea of any United States military base on land or coast in Ukraine would be the stuff of nightmares in Moscow, just as the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba was in Washington in 1962.
The world still is in the grip of realpolitik rather than international law unfortunately. Any Russian movement into the Russified areas of Ukraine is of course illegal, just as the United States-supported Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba was...but Hey!
The eastern frontier of Ukraine is about the same distance from Volgograd, as Napier is from Wellington, and Volgograd, once Stalingrad, was the high tide mark and turning point of World War Two, and it took the Germans over a year of hard slog to reach there then. We may not be cognisant of these things, but the Russians are as they listen day by week to the drumbeat of hostility from the White House.
Iceland recognised the new countries the day before Germany and Sweden the same day as Germany. There had been a great deal of discussion and much of that had been started by the German Greens. Yugoslavia had been crumbling for years, held together by the extraordinary strength of Will of Tito.
I too, had been full of admiration for the steadfast patience of Vladimir Putin and Russia in the face of merciless geopolitical hazing by the United States and NATO. I didn't see Russia's recognition of the DPR and LPR coming, despite the pleas of both territories these last eight years. The eight year hiatus led us to believe it might yet last another eight.
But I think the thing goes further that Russia's demand: 'you can't have Ukraine.' I believe, quite firmly, that Russia would have been quite glad for Ukraine to remain an independent nation - and I'm not talking Russia's client, here - at least, not unless Ukraine felt the need for it. But what is wrong with Ukraine being part of Russia's sphere? The United States has the whole of the Americas as just part it its sphere.
All Ukraine had to do was retain its ethnic Russians as full citizens, with full citizens' rights, including their language. It was only the insensate policy - 'policy', forsooth! - of persecution, disenfranchisement and murder of their own Russian countryfolk (the same accusations levelled at e.g. Bashir al-Assad in Syria in re the Kurds). I sometimes wonder just who started that particular hare in Ukraine. Just what was the role of the US in bringing ethnic differences so bloodily into the open? If US agents provocateurs really did foment the whole thing, no doubt we'll find it out sooner of later. They can be relied upon eventually to brag about it. They can't help themselves.
The West has deliberately ignored the fact that Russia declined for 20 years to act upon Crimean people's demands to rejoin Russia - the peninsula gifted to Ukraine by the Ukrainian Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev in 1953, for which in return the Soviet Union had access to naval facilities in Sevastopol and Odessa. Come the election in 2014, the majority of even the ethnic Ukraine people of Crimea (who total one-sixth of the population) voted to (re)join Russia. Only the Crim Tartar population (who total about 1/8 of the Crimea population) tended to vote remain. Of course the 2/3 Russia majority weren't going to vote any other way. Not given attitudes in Kyiv.
The return of Crimea to Russia was not an annexation; it was a repossession - the same kind of repossession that sees expensive household items removed in default of payment.
That Russia did not move upon annexing or possessing the Donbass Republics for eight whole years has I believe to do with President Putin's genuine regard for law - domestic and international. Yes: I fully believe this. It seems that at last he has found a legal formula, if not quite 'de rigueur', that at least has precedents. I do believe he would have preferred Kyiv to see sense - but with the West egging on the Ukraine politicians and Neo-Nazi and US mercenary groups, that was never going to happen. I guess US bribes were more compelling rewards than the economic benefits to the nation of Donbass industry and Crimea's tourism.
Ion A. Dowman
But there has to be more to this than Ukraine, and within whose 'sphere of influence' Ukraine lies. It is of course quite possible that certain covetous Western eyes have been cast upon the Donbass and its industrial wealth and resources. But that is by way of an aperitif. The REAL feast is Russia itself. Guided by the certain Yankee 'economists' of the Chicago School (Milton Friedmanite economic saboteurs, vandals and incompetents of the same ilk as Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson), US corporates zoomed in upon Russia's wealth and resources. Of course, being closer to hand, the Russian oligarch hogs got in the front row at the trough.
The unspeakable crime that Vladimir Putin committed was to draw a line in the sand: 'here it stops'. If he couldn't transfuse back the bled out wealth, he could at least apply a tourniquet. The West were denied something they greatly desired, and that greed for Russia's wealth and resources has since abated not one jot. Vladimir Putin committed the crime of saying 'no' to the United States - the same crime committed by Saddam Hussein, Col Muammar Qaddafi, Nicolas Maduro, and several other heads of state whose nations were despoliated and destroyed by US malice.
Ukraine has simply been a cat's paw in all this. The respect that the US and NATO has for that country is commensurate - lip service, and there it stops. NATO (i.e. the US - you can forget about what the other 'members' think) might welcome Ukraine's membership; The EU doesn't. Ukraine has nothing that the EU wants.
So why has Russia recognised the republics now? Apart from the reasons given out by Vladimir Putin, I suspect that he finally decided to cause a crystallizing out (as I call it) of a very fluid and murky situation. By clarifying Russia's own position, he is forcing the West to declare theirs. Given musclebound and brainless global 'policy' (Putin called it!) of the administrations headed by Joe Biden, Jens Stoltenberg, Boris Johnson, Scott Morrison and Justin Trudeau - what a crew: a kakistocratic rogues' gallery - who knows what will happen?
Ion A. Dowman
The Warsaw Pact no longer exists, so what is the purpose of NATO?
The USA is too used to fighting brush wars against Third World countries. They have not been in a real shooting war since Korea.
The last war the USA won without allies was the Spanish-American War at the end of the 19th century. I would say Grenada, but they did have some token support from a few Caribbean islands.
The war in Ukraine is proof of the USA's military impotence against a country that can fight back.
And I bet most Americans could not find the Ukraine on a marked map. Nor could the Americans - one of the world's most insular states - give a shit.
A voice from Kiev "They are our brothers..............."
"...the cutthroat nations of Eastern Europe and the Baltic littoral."
I guess there are different ways to characterise sentiments such as this. One might be to say: repugnant, essentialist claptrap.
Once in the 1990's, before he became Russia's president, Putin was asked by a reporter if he planned to organize a coup d'état against the serving president, Boris Yeltsin. Putin replied, "And why do we need to organize a coup d'état? We are in power now." - Cullen Murphy, God's Jury 
To get an understanding of Putin, we need to look at power, not territory. Simply google for a map showing those in Ukraine that identify as Russian speakers. You will see the Russian recognized breakaway states to the east, you will see the Russian annexed Crimea, another less dense sprinkling in the south east circling the Black Sea towards Transnistria, another breakaway region. Control of these areas gives Putin greater control over the Black Sea, a series of buffer states, and possible future annexation.
I would imagine, regime change in the Ukraine would be desired, but effective control of client states to the west and south is the end game.
Tripe. Donetsk and Luhansk, and now Ukraine -- defend that. The Balts and Ukrainians don't want Russia. Let alone the Hungarians.
In the 90s before the internet I loved Chekhov's description of ... my province. Since then I've believed Russia is up to democracy ( despite Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Solzhynitsyn). Would a democratic Russia give a crap about this? Russia is ready for democracy now.
Are you a rationalist or a rationaliser, like those down in Wellington, Chris?
I can never be favourable to totalitarian regimes, no matter the central truth of power politics.
Why does Putin have integrity in your eyes when he's the richest man in his country, and shy about revealing it?
When there is the guy in Uruguay who rides around in his volkswagon, for his country's best interest.
Guiding light, always my eclectic family library as a child. In this instant the middle volume of the then Foundation trilogy. 'The Mule' whose mutancy the Han Seldon folk hadn't foreseen. I think of Putin there. After the empire an essential feebility lording it up big before being swotted away.
Is the Russian economy really only as big as Australia's?
Good analysis Chris. I don't support Putin's invasion of Ukraine but you are right about NATO, Donnetsk and Lugansk. Another point is, how would the USA like Russia to have a military alliance with Cuba?
So Russia invades Ukraine?
1. Set up a Human Right Commission: Identity is a social construct.
Catch cry: :"humanity".
Ban talk of "great replacement"
2. Use the media - stress the benefit of Russianness - marginalise opposing voices
Align capitalist interests with Russianness "confident outward looking nation/property development".
Buy them off.
Take over the schools
Promote activist academics (social justice over truth)
2. Use Ukraine on Air to break the [insert perjorative term] narrative.
Control the algorithms - fluffy ducks and lost cats.
3.Distance popular leader from all the changes ("oh they are doing that? -- It's just the way the world is going).
4. "Ukrainian supremacy kills".
You can see NZ has a lot to offer?
Chris ... in your haste to defend Putin your overlook the obvious. This has huge ramifications for this part of the world. Clearly China has Russia's back in this and the 'sanctions' so called will be actively circumvented by Beijing. But more to the point. Beijing will be emboldened by the success of the invasion despite any short term pain and will now move to forceably annex Taiwan long foreshadowed.
How would you feel about this style of analysis being applied to Britain militarily seeking to recover its former empire?
"Few people in the West now recall how many of these states allied themselves with Nazi Germany during World War II. But the Russians have not forgotten whose soldiers were positioned on the flanks of Stalingrad as von Paulus’s Sixth Army closed in for the kill. Nor have they forgotten how eagerly the Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians and, yes, the Ukrainians, helped the Einsatzgruppen murder two million of their Jewish neighbours."
Incredibly unfair and misleading. There were collaborators in all occupied countries, but few peoples sacrificed more to defeat Hitler than Ukrainians did. Compare the French, who history remembers as brave resistance fighters.
of course it is power, not territory that is the force majeure in the Ukraine
But Biden will be pissed.... it was the Ukraine that laundered his pension
And so, today, if the state can no longer appeal to the old moral principles that belong to the Christian tradition, it will be forced to create a new official faith and new moral principles which will be binding on its citizens.
— Christopher Dawson
So best of luck to all those who qualify to the left of center because in my 80 plus years of observation and what is presented now as being an alternative to bond to you don't stand a monkeys chance in hell.
Why does Putin have integrity in your eyes when he's the richest man in his country, and shy about revealing it?
When there is the guy in Uruguay who rides around in his volkswagon, for his country's best interest.
Money can represent capability to citizens. If he lived simply it might seem Putin had no ambition, strength for advancing, even maintaining Russia. He goes out in the wild and does he-man things. There are always ambitious men in the background, and Putin has to watch them and ensure that they don't think he is losing his grip.
Professor John Mearsheimer (University of Chicago) gave an insightful lecture on what was likely to eventuate with Ukraine six years ago. Well worth watching.
Lecture starts at 2:07 minutes.
Perhaps we should ask ourselves why all these countries bordering on Russia are eager to get into NATO. Could be that Russia isn't a particularly good neighbour?
What can we expect to result from this invasion?
It can't help but increase the calls for strengthened defensive capability from the former Soviet satellites and states. Ideally, as should have been done from the fall of the Soviet empire, the development of a pan Eastern European defense pact. Outside of Nato and the EU, perhaps, even a new economic and trade union as well.
Georgia, Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Czech republics, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania and possibly Greece and Finland represent a formidable buffer in their own right between a belligerent imperialist Russia and a culturally and economic imperialist Western Europe. Recent, foolish and insulting "progressive" cultural dictates (enforced with economic blackmail) from the EU towards it's Eastern members is deeply resented and has helped cultivate a measure of affinity with their conservative Russian cousins.
Anonymous 20.17 A hope in hell is where religion has left us. The behaviour of the Catholic Church with young women in Ireland at the Magdalena prisons for fallen women, awful.* Then there were the boy-fiddling at religious school sunder a sympathetic and mendacious hierarchy which allowed it to tacitly continue. Other religions have obvious continuing faults too. The Hindus in India have murdered Christians, possibly provoked. A Catholic priest in Rwanda encouraged anger that led to slaughter between Hutus and Tutsis (I think I have the spelling right).
The Church leaders are interested in land and finance and soaring spires, rather more than facilitating people to have lives of humanitarianism, goodness and enjoyment. Capitalism has wormed its way into religion. Here they pay little or no tax and that encourages church formation by ambitious, mendacious people who can draw people and mould them and their beliefs, following practices in other countries. There are agencies that can advise churches on how to build congregations so they become e business category. The Salvation Army here still interacts more with the people on a face to face basis, but can be officious and charge quite high prices in their second-hand op shops. Often the concerns seem to come from wanting to control people's sexuality to a strict moral code that crushes people and numbers of children are not a personal matter.
Today in NZ being married or celibate, respectable and conventional, giving a bit to overseas charities and to maintain the church roof seems to encompass religion's adherents. (For a look at medieval thought and practice of religion the book Knowledge of Angels by Jill Paton Walsh, written about 1994.) We have to work at getting a better system that does not use amount of money and privilege as 'the' yardstick; Grandpa Duck diving into his bins of gold should be just comic, not near or far cosmic reality.
*The Magdalene Laundries in Ireland, also known as Magdalene asylums, were institutions usually run by Roman Catholic orders, which operated from the 18th to the late 20th centuries. They were run ostensibly to house "fallen women", an estimated 30,000 of whom were confined in these institutions in Ireland.
Magdalene Laundries in Ireland - Wikipedia
The USA is not a particularly good neighbour either, just ask the Mexicans. Ask the inhabitants of the Latin American countries that had US marines turn up in to protect the interests of US banana growers. Just ask the Hawaiians who lost their independence to white sugar plantation owners.
Maybe we should ask the Native Americans.
Even Canada got invaded during the War of 1812. Of course the British retaliated by burning down Washington DC.I suspect a lot of Americans would appreciate the British army doing it again.
Normally I would say that Putin is being an arsehole - because he is - but I can see his position. How would the USA react to Russian troops being based in Mexico or Canada?
Judging by their reaction to the USSR's attempt to base nuclear missiles in Cuba, I would suggest they would go bat shit.
My heart goes out to the unfortunate people of the Ukraine.
Anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles would be of more use to the Ukraine than the standard "thoughts and prayers".
Rumours of Russian troops are mutinying in Belgorod. If true, maybe their fathers and older brothers have been telling them what it was like in Afghanistan – or Chechnya – it's certainly different to Hungary in the 1950s.
C.S. Lewis.... Perhaps
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive..”
While Putin may be everything the media portray him to be, is Trudeau any better? Are any of the Western governments and their Presidents/Prime Ministers/Chancellors and the oligarchs of the likes of the WEF any better than Putin when it comes to how they treat their citizens? Which leaders have been treating their citizens far more poorly for the last two years and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future?
Anyone local come to mind?
Greywarbler, integrity is the same everywhere, as are ideals. Your view of Russians suggests they don't know virtue. They know it better than us, putting up with the opposite too many, well, centuries. There's this universal truth thing that can guide us more or less. Japan can deal with its own problems for better or worse, since she is no longer prepared to strike out to solve them.
"The Ukraine and Russia are one."
Have you asked the Ukrainian people about that, Chris?
Just to add to my contribution above.
By recognizing the nationhood of Donetsk and Luhansk, and already stripping away Crimea, Putin has signaled that he has given up on democracy returning a pro-Russian Parliament. Without those regions density of Russian speakers voting in Ukraine, the Ukrainian speakers of west Ukraine will have a clear majority if a democratic vote is held. Even a pseudo-election such as Belorussia holds would be untenable.
Moscow could force this Ukrainian parliament and president out, they could force a new Parliament into promises. But then you cannot have pretense of democracy while similarly siphoning areas of Russian support into break way states that will no longer vote in the Ukraine.
If the consequences are that the rest of the Russian speakers will always be a national minority, leaving Putin looking to consolidate them as majorities in the other south and eastern areas as similar break away areas, These are the Ukrainian Black Sea ports. If they are drawn into Russian supporting states, Russia can link with Transnistria - a Russian breakaway state from Moldovia. The Ukrainian East and South become ethnic Russian states that are clients states of Mother Russia, This gives Russia absolute control of northern Black Seas and buffer zones to the European west and south of Russia.
Even if Ukraine regroups as a democracy based on the Ukrainian speakers of western Ukraine, the economy is based on their Black Sea ports. This means Russian economic control of any further Ukrainian nation democratic or not.
"Are any of the Western governments and their Presidents/Prime Ministers/Chancellors and the oligarchs of the likes of the WEF any better than Putin when it comes to how they treat their citizens? "
I don't think too many people in western countries are being jailed for expressing opposition to the government – quite yet. No one's been hauled off and jailed for demonstrating, although there is far more justification for it here than in the USSR. No one has been poisoned, or dismembered, or shot for expressing opposition to the governments of the West, by and large.And all the comparisons between mask mandates in Nazi Germany are so much hyperbolic fluff.So the answer to your perhaps rhetorical question is yes. They are.
"Anyone local come to mind?"
No. Arderne has been treating the various idiots in this country with kid gloves unfortunately.
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