Alan Stevens - AWAH - Libertarianism, Freedom.
How the West Poked the Russian Bear
Western elites sought to provoke Russia, very possibly as a distraction from popular resentment over their proliferating failures. Vladimir Putin’s military response seems to have taken them by surprise.
Only a few days ago I was privately contesting, rather heatedly, the idea that Russian president Vladimir Putin intended to invade Ukraine. So now, perhaps I have some egg on my face. But I am not feeling particularly sheepish about any of this. The West, whether it realized it or not, has been begging for a Russian ‘invasion’ in the Ukraine for months. And Putin has been trying to avoid it, until he felt he could not.
In poking the bear yet again, Western governments wanted to direct media and public attention away from Davos’s failed Covid plandemic, from economic distress, and from looming financial system failure. As of a couple of weeks ago, the US president Joe Biden had been having quite a good Ukraine ‘crisis’ standing up to the nasty Russkies.
The tensions had already meant that Gazprom’s newly completed Nordstream 2 pipeline directly from Russia to Germany would not be supplying inexpensive Russian natural gas, at least in the immediate future. This was a major victory for the USA. The Americans have been trying to prevent Germany from regaining real independence, based on Russian trade, energy imports and cooperation.
The Germans originally begged the Russians to build Nordstream 2. German industry needs it to counter crazy energy costs caused by the Green’s anti-human obsession with unreliable ‘renewable’ energy. Now it is back on ice. German industry is furious (and may yet manage to salvage Nordstream 2 eventually). Meanwhile, Germany is said to be down to three days gas supply! The Americans can’t fill the gap with their (much more expensive) LNG.
But instead of taking their winnings, the Americans persisted in provocation. They refused to agree that Ukraine would never join NATO. They would not end the Ukrainian army attacks in the Donbass which have driven Russians off half the separatist republics’ territory, and would not discuss Russia’s proposals for a new system of mutual security in Europe. In doing this they drove Putin and Russia into a corner.
Putin has been patient and cautious in his dealings with the West over the past 20 years. It seemed possible that the Russians would again turn the other cheek for the time being. But something changed, perhaps very recently, to persuade them to adopt their plan B, military intervention. Maybe it was German Chancellor Stolz’s contemptuous dismissal of Russian deaths in the Donbass. The Western establishment got their ‘invasion’. It was, however, almost certainly not what the West expected, not least in its scope and in its rapid success.
Two weeks ago, Russia recognized the two breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine as independent states. At a minimum Russians could be expected to carry out a ‘limited invasion’ designed to protect them and expel Ukrainian forces from their territories. That includes, it turns out, areas of these republics retaken by the Ukraine since 2014.
However, Russian air strikes destroyed military targets all across Ukraine. They may have taken just a little over an hour to achieve this. Billions of dollars of Western supplied equipment seem to have been vaporized in a few hours, much to the chagrin of Western leaders, for whom the whole affair seems to be a causing a profound shock.
The Russians have also sent troops to surround cities across the rest of eastern Ukraine, including the capital Kiev. They have undoubtedly sent soldiers to fight the main Ukrainian army in the pro-Russian breakaway Donbass republics. By now the main body of the Ukrainian army, ten or more brigades or over 50,000 men, including the Azov brigade, is encircled and trapped near Maripol. It must in due course surrender or face annihilation.
There has been a gale of hysterical anti-Russian propaganda. The Ukrainians are supposedly resisting stoutly. Russia is said to be in difficulties. But the main signal from the alleged battle fronts is silence. But everyone has mobile phones. So by now heavy fighting should have generated a mass of video footage. So far it has not. The Russians have deployed limited numbers of second-tier troops and equipment to efficiently capture southern and eastern Ukraine. They seem to be encircling rather than attacking Ukrainian cities and units, and to be withdrawing tactically from any resistance.
Russia appears determined to minimize loss of life and property in what are, after all, former Russian territories. This gives a different tempo from, for example, the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003. There we just flattened cities as quickly as possible, showing our leaders’ contempt for civilian lives in the targets of their aggression.
There seem to be no Russian soldiers in the western, non-Russian, inland half of Ukraine. There is some indication of smaller Russian forces securing the Russian speaking areas all along the Black Sea coast with little or no interference.
Meanwhile, the Western media has been promoting the idea that Ukraine is some sort of long-established nation state like England or France, which the Russians want to conquer out of sheer imperialist ambition and nastiness, and that that Ukraine is the innocent maiden chained to the rock and Russia is just the sea monster bent on devouring her.
This is nonsense based on self-interested Western Deep State agendas combined with Western officials’ and leaders’ arrogant ignorance of other countries and their past. Ukraine has almost never existed as an independent state. Yet NATO and the US neocons seem to have staked their future on winning in Ukraine. That particular deep-state gravy train may well not survive if Russia is successful. Hence the palpable fear in western bureaucracies.
In this post I will rehearse the historical background to all this from the Russian point of view which is naturally rarely covered by Western mainstream media. I hope it will serve as something of a corrective to the prevailing mainstream media narrative.
A BRIEF HISTORY
I attach above a link to an article from Martin Armstrong which contains more background about the recent past in the Ukraine. It also contains a map of the Ukraine which I would encourage you to open, on another device because, in so much of history, geography is all.
Of particular importance is the linguistic contrast. On the one hand the western and northern sections of the Ukraine are solidly Ukrainian speaking, or perhaps one should say stoutly non-Russian speaking. But the provinces along the Russian border and along the Black Sea coast are solidly Russian speaking. Leaving aside a minor Hungarian minority in the extreme west of Ukraine, the population seems to have split roughly 60:40 Ukrainian and native Russian speakers upon independence in 1991. This split has historic roots.
The grassland Steppes running north inland from the Black Sea are the likely cradle of Steppe Nomadism as a way of life and indeed of the original Indo-European language from which half the languages of the world derive, including English and the Slavic language group to which Russian, Ukrainian and Polish all belong.
North of the Steppes there was less open land. It was less suitable for, or vulnerable to, nomads. The relevance of this is that the nomads prevented large agrarian populations from developing in the southern Ukrainian Steppe well into the eighteenth century. New agrarian settlements were simply destroyed by the nomads and their populations enslaved.
In the eighteenth century the area was kept depopulated by the nomad Tatars, living in the Crimea under Turkish protection. The Tatars were the successors of the Mongol hordes which destroyed the original Viking Kievan Rus state and drove the Orthodox Russians northwards, eventually to rebuild their civilization in Muscovy, the area around Moscow.
Famously, boundaries in eastern Europe are fluid but in the open Steppe grasslands of southern and eastern Ukraine there were no boundaries. There was an emptiness contested by Tatars and their Slavic equivalents the Cossacks. But further north out of range of the nomads’ raids, what is now inland central and western Ukraine was well peopled and belonged to the immense Polish/Lithuanian state, as did White Russia (Belarus), both areas speaking Slavic languages that were neither Russian nor Polish.
In the 1660s Kiev was still a Polish possession, though not a Polish speaking one. But a little over a century later Poland had been entirely gobbled up by Russia, Austria and Prussia. Warsaw was now a Russian possession, but not a Russian speaking one. Western Ukraine, and its principal city of Lvov – then Lemberg - became part of Austria-Hungary. Ukrainian identity was officially encouraged as part of Austria’s attempts to counter Russia.
RUSSIA SETTLES THE STEPPES
In the late eighteenth century, as Poland was being erased from the map by its neighbours, Russia under Catherine the Great finally mustered the military power to defeat the Tatars and conquer the Crimea. For good measure, in 1783, they also bought it from the Tatars’ Turkish overlords. Finally, the Russians had the longed-for Black Sea warm water port. They established the key naval base at Sebastopol (‘City of the Empress’).
The Russians were led by Catherine’s favorite (and probable husband) Prince Potemkin. He set about settling the vast empty Steppes of what is now the Ukrainian Black Sea Coast with immigrants from the Russian heartlands much further north.
The Ukrainian Steppes were so empty that Potemkin resorted to creating fake ‘Potemkin Villages’ comprised of Hollywood-style facades to impress his Empress as she travelled south to inspect progress. But in due course the Steppes were settled with ethnic Russians. They became the nineteenth century breadbasket of Europe, and despite everything Ukraine has become a major grain exporter again since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
All of this is by way of explaining why the part of modern Ukraine all along the Black Sea coast is solidly Russian in language and sentiment.
THE RESTORATION OF POLAND
And then, after a century of Czarist success, came crippling defeat by Germany and the Communist Revolution in October 1917. Lenin immediately ceded roughly modern Ukraine to Germany as the price of peace. After Germany’s own defeat in 1918 its new Ukrainian province descended into chaos. The Poles sprang back into geopolitical life. They formed a new state from the ethnically Polish territories that Austria-Hungary, Russia and Germany were obliged to vacate. And they set about occupying the White Russian and Ukrainian speaking areas that the Poles used to dominate. They nearly (re)captured Kiev.
The Poles were driven back by the Red Army all the way to Warsaw. There they rallied. At the battle of Warsaw in 1920, the Poles won one of the most striking, decisive and remarkable victories of all time. This battle is almost forgotten, but it saved Poland (for a time – there may be no lasting cure for being stuck between Germany and Russia). It also averted a Communist Russian invasion of newly demilitarized and hyperinflating Germany.
Western Ukraine spent the interwar period back under Polish control. But Lenin recovered the area around Kiev. In 1923 he allocated the Russian lands settled by Potemkin over a century before along the Black Sea coast to Ukraine, which was by then a part of the Soviet Union. Lastly, in the 1950s, Khrushchev also transferred the Crimea (with its solidly Russian and Tatar population) to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic to bolster support for his leadership of the Soviet Union.
HATRED AND LOATHING IN SOVIET UKRAINE
The Russian Revolution was Marxism’s first opportunity to demonstrate its penchant for mass murder, impoverishment and atrocity. Stalin starved to death seven million Kulak farmers in Ukraine. He needed their food to deceive the cities into believing communist agricultural policies worked. But it was also about the hatred that Marxists and their Fascist/Corporatist equivalents have for responsible self-sufficient and productive people. They give the lie to collectivist fantasies. (The Covid lockdowns showed the same bureaucratic zeal to wreck the lives of working people and small business owners.)
It is hard to convey the horror of life in totalitarian states which are by, definition, lawless. Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago (1973) however did manage it, and thereby eliminated Soviet Communism as a credible ideology forever, or so one hoped.
Under Stalin, provinces in the Soviet Union had an annual quota of ‘Enemies of the Revolution’ to be shot. Imagine life under a regime where bureaucrats are looking everywhere to find a few more thousand people to shoot to meet targets. Only rarely were the people executed guilty of anything other than attracting official attention. Officials extracted sexual and other favours from those whom they threatened to shoot. One provincial head jokingly agreed to double his quota of thousands of executions with Stalin.
In late 1939 the Soviets seized the eastern half of Poland, including what is now the western part of Ukraine, under their recent treaty with Hitler. They executed many thousands of bourgeoise - professionals, small business owners and intellectuals. They also killed 22,000 Polish army officers who fell into their hands, as part of a campaign to Sovietise eastern Poland and perhaps as payback for their defeat at Warsaw.
Long story short, when the Germans marched into the Soviet Union in July 1941 many people hated the Russian dominated Soviet Union. The Germans were often initially welcomed. Many Ukrainians took the opportunity to exact vengeance on Communists, and Russians in general, under the aegis of Nazi ideology. In particular, an unpleasant pro-Nazi Ukrainian movement appeared under one Stephan Bandera. He is something of a Ukrainian cultural icon.
The returning Red Army repaid the favour amply and stimulated guerrilla resistance which continued long after the war. The KGB killed Bandera abroad in 1950. Nastiness all round, again.
THE SOVIET UNION COLLAPSES
Nearly fifty years later, the Soviet Union collapsed into hyperinflationary chaos as a result of chronic economic failure and misery. This was one of the greatest and most liberating revolutions of history, and mostly a peaceful one. The Russians, and their leader Boris Yeltsin, faced down an attempted Red Army coup to achieve it. They don’t seem to get much credit for it.
The process of internal decay had finally become evident with the relaxation of the Soviet grip on its Eastern European vassal states after decades of repression. In late 1989 the Berlin Wall came down and the question of Germany’s future arose.
The Soviets feared a reunified Germany. They had lost so many dead playing the major role in defeating the Wehrmacht (80% of German military casualties were on the Eastern Front in WWII). Nevertheless, they moved their soldiers out of East Germany in 1989, thus paving the way for German reunification. And the West promised not to expand NATO beyond East Germany.
This was a key event. It reassured the Soviets. But the Americans for years denied they had made this promise, until the then German foreign minister confirmed it. The Americans then said it hadn’t been made in writing so it didn’t count! Then it turned out that President Bush (senior), the heads of NATO, and of the UK, France and Germany, had all written confirming the promise.
Meanwhile in late 1991 the Americans decided that the new Russian state would be demonised as though it were the evil old Soviet Union in order to perpetuate the gargantuan Western military Industrial complex, and to avoid dissolving NATO. NATO always functioned as America’s means of controlling western Europe, especially Germany. It would be the same in eastern Europe.
CORRUPTION AND IMPOVERISHMENT IN RUSSIA AND UKRAINE
As the Soviet Union collapsed, the ‘non-Russian’ republics declared independence on the basis of their artificial Soviet Era boundaries. This left a rump Russian Federation of fewer than 150 million people. Many ethnic Russians were stranded in newly independent successor states, but only in Ukraine was the new country almost equally, and sharply, divided by geography and culture.
For a time in the 1990s, Ukraine and the Russian Federation shared the same unhappy fate. Western advisers and bankers worked with newly minted ‘oligarchs’ controlling hastily and dubiously privatised industries. They effectively looted both countries for mutual gain as they went through a profound societal meltdown after decades of Marxist deformation.
In Russia the nadir seems to have been when an inebriated Yeltsin sent off (I believe) $7 billion from an IMF loan to an overseas bank account. The American advisers then ratted Yeltsin out and tried to blackmail him into standing aside for an American nominated oligarch. But elements in the Russian elite, including the FSB (previously the KGB) quite understandably had had enough. They put in Vladimir Putin as part of a conscious project of Russian revival and reconstruction.
He was determined to get Russia accepted as a part of the West. He showed a serious interest in joining the EU and told President Carter that Russia wished to join NATO. He was rebuffed. He has had time to realise that the Western political elites have no intention of letting Russia into their club. They need the Russian bogeyman to keep their trillion-dollar deep-state in place.
The first public sign of this was president Bill Clinton’s decision to begin expanding NATO eastwards exactly contrary to the West’s promise not to do so. By the middle of the first decade of this century formal mention was made of incorporating Ukraine and Georgia in NATO.
Ukraine unfortunately remained mired in corruption and mismanagement. Let’s be clear about third world ‘corruption’. ‘Corruption’ is often when the ruler and his cronies simply confiscate part or all of successful businesses. It can happen where the legal system is itself bought and paid for. This was commonplace in Ukraine, and remains common in many poor countries (which is why they stay poor) including, for example, the Palestinian state under Arafat. The Ukrainian economy is now reportedly a third smaller than twenty years ago, and living standards are at thoroughly third world levels.
A good example is Ukrainian president Yanukovich. He had two sons who went around helping themselves to businesses lacking oligarch protection. Nor was corruption just a homegrown business. John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden, respectively American Envoy on Climate Change, Speaker of the House, and President, all have children working in Ukrainian Oil and Gas.
In Hunter Biden’s case the company transferred Russian gas, supplied at low rates to Ukraine, to the EU and re-imported it at higher ‘free market’ prices. When the Ukrainians tried to investigate, they were threatened with the loss of US aid. The prosecutor was taken off the case. It is a discouraging tale, but for some time western politicians have been retiring with much more money than can be explained by official salaries, as those in the Third World always have done.
THE RUSSIAN REVIVAL
Meanwhile Russia has gone through a genuine, if under-reported, national revival. Oligarchs have been expelled, killed, imprisoned or otherwise held to account. Helped by Western sanctions on trade, the country now has an efficient import-substituting manufacturing sector. It has forged ahead in developing new military technologies, especially missiles such as its S300, S400 and S500 surface to air systems and hypersonic missiles. Russian submarine technology is believed to make their submarines undetectable – making the USA vulnerable to nuclear attack from off its coasts.
Living standards have risen greatly in stark contrast to the continuing depression in Ukraine. At the same time, Russia has experienced a renaissance in its Orthodox faith and in what western conservatives would call traditional values. With this revival has come a recovery in self-confidence and an increasing determination not to be pushed around by the West.
In the latter, Russia has been greatly helped by the support of China. When the Soviet Union collapsed, China was an economic back water. Now it is the biggest economy in purchasing parity terms. It is a market for the hydrocarbons Russia no longer needs to sell in the West.
If one fact should convince the reader that our Western leadership class is incompetent, it is the failure to invite Russia into NATO and the EU when it sought to join. By mindlessly demonising Russia as though it were the Soviet Union, the West drove it into the arms of China and created a bloc which the West cannot defeat by conventional means.
THE UKRAINIAN COLOUR REVOLUTION IN 2014
The pivotal year was 2014. Ukrainians elected president Yanukovich. His support came largely from the ethnic Russian provinces. He was not ‘pro-Russian’ – given the Ukrainian speakers are 60% of the population – that would be difficult. But he did try to balance the West and Russia. He secured the offer of a Russian ‘alliance’ which he preferred to the EU’s overtures.
The upshot was the 2014 Colour Revolution culminating in chaos at the Maidan in Kiev. Yanukovich had to flee. A militantly ethnically Ukrainian government was established which immediately moved the country back into the West’s orbit. After decades of failure under a corrupt class of oligarchs, it was quite understandable that Ukrainians should be genuinely fed up. However, the Americans did plough $5 billion into the uprising, and they nominated the members of the new government. It certainly looked like a Western coup, especially to the Russians.
The new government banned the use of Russian in public life and set out on a campaign of forced Ukrainization. The Russian speakers grew restive. Successful secession referenda were held in the two easternmost Donbass coal mining provinces, and in the Crimea.
The Crimea has the base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol, a solidly Russian (and Tatar) population, and a living memory of being part of Russia until the 1950s. The Crimea was admitted to the Russian Federation, but the seceding Donbass provinces were not.
It soon became clear that the Ukraine would attempt to reclaim the Donbass provinces by force, whilst leaving the Crimea alone. The Ukraine had lost up to five million Russian speaking inhabitants. This meant that the remaining Russian speakers had less political weight in Ukrainian elections, and that cultural Ukrainization became more viable politically.
By 2022 Ukrainian armed forces had pushed the separatists out of half their original territory. In the process it is likely that more than 10,000 Donbass Russians have died at the hands of the Ukrainian forces, especially the notorious ‘Azov Brigade’.
The Russian response to the challenge of protecting the Donbass republics was brokering two successive Minsk agreements in 2014 and 2015 under which the Ukrainian government and its western sponsors agreed to a timetable of talks agreeing a measure of autonomy for the Donbass as part of Ukraine. But no such talks actually occurred. It is clear they were never going to.
NATO MOVES ITS NUKES CLOSER TO RUSSIA
As the Russian separatists in the Donbass continued to give ground under Ukrainian attack, Russia felt threatened by the installation of American nuclear missiles in Rumania and Poland.
The original Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 started when the Americans put nuclear missiles in Turkey and Italy. The Soviet Union retaliated to this heavy-handed provocation by unwisely moving missiles into Cuba. The Americans understandably became very angry. However, Kennedy and Khrushchev managed to avert disaster. The Soviets publicly backed down and the Americans secretly agreed to remove their offending nukes from Europe.
The ambition to install nuclear missiles near to a potential opponent is a clear demonstration that highly centralised mega-state structures come to be dominated by sociopaths and lunatics. It is, on its own, enough to discredit the myth of the desirability of the state. Well, it should be.
Here’s why. In the early 1980s Soviet radars picked up an American nuclear first strike. The Russians ordered their nuclear missiles to be fired before the American missiles arrived in thirty minutes time. Fortunately, a senior officer, of great courage, was able to delay the Soviet missile attack long enough to ascertain that their radars were malfunctioning. There was no US attack.
Disaster was averted on that occasion.
But now the US has nuclear missiles next to Russia in Rumania and Poland, which the Russians have asked them to remove. They are technically defensive anti-ballistic missiles (ABMs), but they can be converted in hours into regular ballistic missiles capable of nuking Russian cities. They could hit Russia within five minutes of being launched.
If the Russians detected missile launches from so close, they wouldn’t have time to check for computer glitches. They would have to launch their nukes immediately. That is a dreadful thing. Only people without decency or humanity would want to create such a situation – but then those are the kind of people who accumulate in the upper echelons of governments. I hope, and believe, that we are at peak statist lunacy. Humanity cannot survive this kind of farce indefinitely.
One has only to imagine how the Americans would react if Mexico or Canada became a member of, for example, a Chinese military alliance to see the validity of Russia’s concerns. Clearly what the Americans have been doing in Ukraine is something that they would never tolerate for a minute in either of its neighbours, or even in nearby territories like Cuba. The whole thing is hypocritical. So too is propaganda outrage about quite limited Ukrainian casualties, but silence about millions of deaths caused by our callous use of airpower across the Middle East.
At the end of 2021, the Russians reluctantly accepted that the Minsk agreements would never be implemented by the West. They wrote to the Americans, side-lining the EU, asking for discussions on a new military security architecture in Europe. Under it, the missiles would be removed from Poland and Rumania. Western military forces would be withdrawn to the NATO boundary of the 1990s before NATO’s eastward expansion. Ukraine and Georgia would never be invited to join NATO. And there would be a final settlement protecting the Donbass republics.
A key development may have been Ukrainian president Zelinsky’s declaration a few weeks ago that Ukraine should have nuclear weapons. These are banned under earlier agreements between Russia and the Ukraine. It could be possible for NATO to move missiles and soldiers into Ukraine. It would be very difficult for Russia to remedy the situation without starting a general war with all the members of NATO. NATO membership for Ukraine is regarded by Russia as a whole as an existential threat.
The West has simply refused to take Russia’s concerns seriously. It seems clear that the dominant factions in the West, including the Davos Crowd and its fellow traveller politicians, wanted to provoke a Russian error in the form of attempting a brutal Anglo-Saxon style invasion. Russia’s measured, careful and effective military action may have come as something of a shock.
Let’s leave with a question. What would have been so bad about making a settlement along the lines proposed by Russia? Russia’s proposed European security architecture could have brought about an era of peace to a world that the West seems determined to plunge into chaos.
It all looks like a terrible missed opportunity. If peace is to be restored on a long-term basis after this mess, it will not be achieved by our current crop of leaders.
WAR IS THE HEALTH OF THE STATE
Oh, and by the way, let me once again point out – from the libertarian viewpoint - how strange it is that there exist huge, unaccountable, heavily-armed and over-centralised military machines which repeatedly engage in dangerous confrontations. They are frequently run by very fallible, dishonest, corrupt and sociopathic people. They have strong personal incentives to engage in aggression and thereby court destruction.
Nobody sensible wants this. It only happens because ‘we the people’ have been brainwashed into believing that we need the state in our lives. In this area, as in every other area of life, including ‘Public Health’, there is plenty of damming evidence to the contrary.
For more on this please see my www.awah.uk posts ‘War is the Health of the State – the History’ and ‘Defending Freedom against State Aggressors’, written in September 2020.