Ukraine: what does Mr Putin have to say?

27 Feb

A striking feature of corporate media propaganda blitzes is that the targets are not only highly personalised, and often as not likened to Hitler. They are also assiduously deplatformed. How many of the scores of millions of Westerners who rely entirely on said corporate media for their window on the world, and now dutifully assure one another this man is the devil incarnate, have read or heard a word – other than curated and contextually doctored sound-bytes – of Vladimir Putin unmediated?

Given the potentially thermonuclear stakes, that the number is vanishingly small is horrifying. It also speaks volumes about our ‘free press’ and – since consent at the ballot box is meaningless if uninformed – the hollow nature of our parliamentary democracies.

At six am Moscow time on February 24, the day Russia finally moved on Ukraine, the Russian  President gave a closely argued but heartfelt address to his people. The transcript given below is some 3500 words, so no two minute read. I’ve seen it described by a Guardian columnist – I forget who – as “rambling”.

Really? On this matter of more than passing interest, why not judge for yourself?

*

Kremlin, 24/2/22, 06:00 Moscow time

NB – the piece being lengthy, I’m dispensing with my normal practice of using a red typeface, left indented, to distinguish quoted words from my own. All that follows, though in standard black and not indented, is one hundred percent Putin, mediated only by translation into English.

Dear citizens of Russia! Dear friends !

Today, I think it is again necessary to return to the tragic events unfolding in the Donbass and to the essential questions for ensuring the security of Russia itself.

I will start with what I said in my speech on February 21 of this year. I speak of the fundamental threats which, year after year, step by step, are being created by Western politicians against our country. I am referring to the NATO bloc’s eastward expansion, bringing its military infrastructure closer to Russia’s borders.

For 30 years we have tried patiently to reach agreement with the main NATO countries on the principles of equal and indivisible security in Europe. In response, we have constantly encountered deceit and cynical lies or attempts to pressure and blackmail, while the North Atlantic Alliance, despite our protests and concerns, continues to grow. The war machine is in motion and, I repeat, is getting closer to our borders.

Why? Why this cheeky way of speaking to [us] from a position of exclusivity, infallibility and permissiveness? Where does this indifferent and dismissive attitude towards our perfectly legitimate interests and demands come from?

The answer is clear and obvious. The Soviet Union weakened in the late 1980s before collapsing completely. The whole sequence of events that then unfolded is a lesson for us today; it shows convincingly that paralysis of power and will is the first step towards total degradation and disappearance. All we had to do was lose our confidence a while, and lo and behold, the balance of power in the world was upset.

This has led to the fact that previous treaties and agreements are no longer effectively enforced. Persuasion attempts and demands are useless. Anything that does not suit the Powerful is declared archaic, obsolete and useless. And vice versa: whatever seems advantageous to them is presented as ultimate truth, to be passed on at all costs, without consideration, by any means. The opponents are broken.

What I speak of is not just about Russia. These concerns are not just ours. They concern the whole system of international relations, and sometimes even the allies of the United States themselves. After the collapse of the USSR, a redistribution of the world began, and established norms of international law, adopted at the end of WW2, began to hinder those who declared themselves victors in the cold war.

Of course, in practical life, in international relations and the rules governing them, changes in the world situation and the balance of forces must be taken into account. However, this should be done professionally, smoothly, patiently, considering and respecting the interests of all countries and understanding its own responsibility.

But no – a state of euphoria born of absolute superiority, a sort of modern absolutism, moreover, against a background of low levels of general culture and the arrogance of those who prepared, adopted and pushed through decisions profitable only for themselves. The situation began to evolve in a different way.

You don’t have to look far for examples. First, without any authorization from the UN Security Council, they carried out a bloody military operation against Belgrade, using planes and missiles in the heart of Europe. Several weeks of continuous bombardments were carried out on cities and infrastructures essential to life. We recall these facts, because some Western colleagues do not like to remember them, and when we talk of them, they prefer to point the finger not at the norms of international law, but at the circumstances, which they interpret as they see fit.

Then came the turn of Iraq, Libya and Syria. The illegitimate use of military force against Libya and the perversion of all decisions of the UN Security Council led to its total destruction, creating a huge hotbed of international terrorism and plungingthe country into humanitarian disaster and the abyss of a long and still continuing civil war. The tragedy that condemned hundreds of thousands, millions of people not only in Libya, but throughout the region, created a massive migration from North Africa and the Middle East to Europe.

A similar fate was reserved for Syria. The military action of the Western coalition in this country, without the consent of the Syrian government and without the authorization of the UN Security Council, is nothing but aggression, intervention.

But the invasion of Iraq also ranks high on this list, of course without legal basis. The pretext was that the United States allegedly had reliable information about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. To prove it publicly, in front of the whole world, the American Secretary of State shook a kind of tube containing a white powder, assuring everyone it was a chemical weapon developed in Iraq. And then it turned out that it was a manipulation, a bluff: there were no chemical weapons in Iraq. Incredible, astonishing, but the facts remain the facts. Lies were told at the highest level of state and from the top of the UN rostrum. The result has been enormous loss of life, destruction and an incredible surge of terrorism.

Generally speaking, it seems that almost everywhere the West comes to establish its order, it leaves bloody, non-healing wounds, the wounds of international terrorism and extremism. The above examples are the most egregious, but far from the only examples of disregard for international law.

This includes the promise made to our country not to extend NATO one inch to the East. Again they tricked us or, in popular parlance, ripped us off. Yes, we often hear that politics is a dirty job. Maybe, but not as dirty as that, not that bad anyway. After all, such dice-piper behavior is not only contrary to the principles of international relations, but above all to generally accepted standards of morality and ethics. Where is justice and truth here? Nothing but lies and hypocrisy.

By the way, American politicians, political analysts and journalists themselves write and say that in recent years a veritable “Empire of Lies” has been created in the USA. It’s hard not to agree – it’s true. But, let’s face it: the United States is still a great country, a power at the base of a system.

All his satellites not only docilely approve of him, acquiesce, take up [his positions] at every opportunity, but also copy his behavior and enthusiastically accept the rules they propose to them. With good reason, it can be said with certainty that the entire so-called Western bloc, formed by the United States in its own image and likeness, is this same “Empire of Lies”.

As for our country, after the collapse of the USSR, despite the unprecedented openness of the new modern Russia and its willingness to work honestly with the United States and other Western partners, in conditions of truly unilateral disarmament , they [the West] immediately tried to ram us, finish us off and destroy us for good. This is exactly what happened in the 90s and early 2000s, when the so-called collective West actively supported separatism and mercenary gangs in southern Russia. What sacrifices and what losses it cost us, what ordeals we had to go through before finally being able to finally break the back of international terrorism in the Caucasus. We remember it and will never forget it.

In fact, until recently, attempts to use us for their interests, destroy our traditional values ​​and impose their pseudo-values ​​on us, which would eat away at us, our people, from within have not ceased. These attitudes they already aggressively impose in their countries and they lead directly to degradation and degeneration, because they are contrary to human nature itself. It’s not going to happen [here], it’s never worked for anyone. It won’t work now either.

Despite all this, in December 2021, we tried again to reach an agreement with the United States and its allies on the principles of security in Europe and the non-enlargement of NATO. All was in vain. The position of the United States has not changed. They do not consider it necessary to reach an agreement with Russia on this essential issue for us, they pursue their own objectives and do not take our interests into account.

And of course, in this situation, we ask ourselves the question: what to do next, what to expect? History tells us that in 1940 and early 1941 the Soviet Union tried to prevent or at least delay the outbreak of war. This includes trying literally until the last minute not to provoke a potential aggressor, not taking or postponing the most necessary and obvious steps to prepare to repel an inevitable attack. And the action that was finally taken was disastrously late.

As a result, the country was unprepared to face the invasion of Nazi Germany, which attacked our Fatherland without a declaration of war on June 22, 1941. The enemy was stopped and then crushed, but at a cost colossal. The attempt to please the aggressor on the eve of the Great Patriotic War was a mistake that cost our people dearly. During the first months of fighting, we lost vast, strategically important territories and millions of people. We will not make such a mistake a second time, we have no right.

Those who aspire to world domination declare publicly, with impunity and, I stress, without any justification, that we, Russia, are their enemy. Indeed, they now have significant financial, scientific, technological and military capabilities. We are aware of this and objectively assess the threats that constantly sound to us in the field of the economy, as well as our ability to resist this impudent and permanent blackmail. I repeat, we assess them without illusions and extremely realistically.

In the military sphere, modern Russia, even after the collapse of the USSR and the loss of much of its potential, today is one of the most important nuclear powers in the world and, moreover, has definite advantages in a number of advanced armaments. In this regard, no one should doubt that a direct attack on our country would lead to defeat and disastrous consequences for any potential aggressor.

However, technology, including defense technology, is changing rapidly. Leadership in this area has changed and will change hands [often]. But the military development of the territories adjacent to our borders, if we allow it, will continue for decades, perhaps even forever, and will pose an ever-increasing and totally unacceptable threat to Russia.

Already today, as NATO expands eastward, the situation in our country is getting worse and more dangerous every year. Moreover, in recent days, NATO leaders have explicitly spoken of the need to accelerate, to force the infrastructure of the alliance to the borders of Russia. In other words, they strengthen their position. We can no longer just watch what happens. It would be completely irresponsible on our part.

The further expansion of the infrastructure of the North Atlantic Alliance and the military development of the territory of Ukraine are unacceptable to us. The problem, of course, is not the NATO organization itself – it is just an instrument of US foreign policy. The problem is that on the territories adjacent to us – I want to clarify, our historical territories – an enemy “anti-Russia” is created, placed under total external control, which is intensively colonized by the armed forces. NATO countries and which is force-fed with the most modern weapons.

For the United States and its allies, this is a so-called policy of containment of Russia, an obvious geopolitical dividend. For our country, it is ultimately a question of life and death, the question of our historic future as a Nation. And that’s not an exaggeration – it just is. This is a real threat, not only to our interests, but also to the very existence of our state, to its sovereignty. It is the red line that has been mentioned on several occasions. They crossed it.

In this context, [let’s come back to] the situation in Donbass. The forces that carried out a coup in Ukraine in 2014, seized power and retained it through essentially decorative electoral procedures, have definitively refused to resolve the conflict peacefully. For eight years, eight infinitely long years, we have done everything to resolve the situation by peaceful and political means. In vain.

As I said in my previous speech, it is impossible to look at what is happening there without compassion. It just couldn’t be tolerated anymore. This nightmare, the genocide against the millions living there, must be stopped immediately. They only hope [in help from] Russia, they only hope in you and me. It is these aspirations, these feelings and this pain of the people that pushed us to take the decision to recognize the People’s Republics of Donbass.

The main NATO countries, to achieve their own goals, support ultra-nationalists and neo-Nazis in Ukraine, who, in turn, will never forgive the inhabitants of Crimea and Sevastopol for their free choice to reunite in Russia.

They [ultra-nationalists and neo-Nazis] will, of course, try to infiltrate Crimea, as they did in Donbass, to wage war there and kill defenseless people.

All this as the punitive bands of Ukrainian nationalists, Hitler’s auxiliaries during the Great Patriotic War, were made. They also openly claim a number of other territories from Russia.

The entire course of events and the analysis of the information reaching us show that the confrontation between Russia and these forces is inevitable. It is only a matter of time: they are preparing for the right moment. Now they also claim possession of nuclear weapons. We will not allow this to happen.

As I said before, Russia accepted the new geopolitical realities after the collapse of the USSR. We respect and will continue to respect all newly formed countries in the post-Soviet space. We respect and will continue to respect their sovereignty, and an example of this is the assistance we have provided to Kazakhstan, which has faced tragic events and challenges to its statehood and integrity. But Russia can’t feel safe, cannot develop, cannot exist with a constant threat from the territory of present-day Ukraine.

In 2000-2005 we responded militarily to terrorists in the Caucasus, defended the integrity of our state and preserved Russia. In 2014, we supported the people of Crimea and Sevastopol. In 2015, we used our armed forces to put up a reliable barrier to terrorist infiltration from Syria to Russia. There was no other way for us to defend ourselves.

The same is happening now. You and I simply have had no other opportunity to defend Russia, our people, than the one we will be forced to use today. Circumstances require us to act decisively and immediately. The People’s Republics of Donbass asked for help from Russia.

In accordance with Article 51 of Part 7 of the UN Charter, with the authorization of the Russian Federation Council and in accordance with the Treaties of Friendship and Mutual Assistance with the Donetsk People’s Republics and Luhansk ratified by the Federal Assembly on February 22 of this year, I took the decision to carry out a special military operation.

Its purpose is to protect people who have been subjected to abuse, genocide by the Kiev regime for eight years. And to this end we will demilitarize and denazify Ukraine, to bring to justice those who have committed numerous bloody crimes against civilians, including citizens of the Russian Federation.

Our plans do not include the occupation of Ukrainian territories. We do not intend to impose anything on anyone by force. At the same time, we hear more and more often lately in the West that the documents signed by the Soviet totalitarian regime, which enshrine the results of the Second World War, should no longer be applied. What could be the answer to this question?

The outcome of World War II is sacred, as are the sacrifices made by our people on the altar of victory over Nazism. But this does not contradict the high values ​​of human rights and freedoms, based on the realities of the post-war decades. Nor does it nullify the right of nations to self-determination enshrined in Article 1 of the United Nations Charter.

Let me remind you that neither when the USSR was founded nor after the Second World War, no one ever asked the inhabitants of the territories that make up present-day Ukraine how they wanted to organize their lives. Our policy is based on freedom, the freedom of choice for everyone to determine their own future and that of their children. And we believe it is important that all peoples living in the territory of present-day Ukraine, all those who wish, can exercise this right – the right to choose.

In this regard, I also appeal to the citizens of Ukraine. In 2014, Russia had an obligation to protect the people of Crimea and Sevastopol from what you yourself call “nazillons”. The inhabitants of Crimea and Sevastopol have chosen to be with their historic homeland, with Russia, and we have supported it. Again, we just couldn’t help it.

Today’s events are not intended to harm the interests of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. It is about protecting Russia itself from those who have held Ukraine hostage and are trying to use it against our country and its people.

Again, our actions are in self-defense against the threats we are being faced with and against an even greater calamity than is happening today. As difficult as it is, I ask you to understand it and I call for cooperation so that we can turn this tragic page as soon as possible and move forward together, without allowing anyone to interfere in our affairs, in our relations, but building them independently, in order to create the necessary conditions to overcome all problems and, despite state borders, to strengthen ourselves from within as a united entity. I believe in this – this is our future.

I must also address the servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Dear friends ! Your fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers in their time fought the Nazis, defending our common homeland, it is not for the neo-Nazis to take power in Ukraine today. You have sworn your oath to the Ukrainian people, not to the anti-people junta, which is stealing from Ukraine and mistreating this same people.

Do not carry out the criminal orders [of this junta]. I call on you to lay down your arms immediately and go home. Let’s be clear: all members of the Ukrainian army who comply with this requirement will be able to leave the war zone unhindered and return to their families.

Let me insist once again: all responsibility for any possible bloodshed will rest entirely on the conscience of the ruling regime in the territory of Ukraine.

Now a few important words, very important for those who might be tempted from the outside to interfere in the unfolding events. Anyone who tries to interfere with us, let alone endanger our country and our people, should know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to consequences you have never faced in your history. We are ready to deal with any development of events. All the necessary decisions have been taken in this regard.

I hope I will be heard.

Dear citizens of Russia!

The wellbeing, the very existence of entire states and peoples, their success and viability are always rooted in their cultures and values, in the experience and traditions of their ancestors, and of course they depend on their ability to adapt quickly to ever-changing life, on the cohesion of society, on its willingness to consolidate, to gather all the forces to move forward.

We always need forces – always – but forces can be of different qualities. The “Empire of Lies” policy I referred to at the beginning of my speech is based above all on brute and direct force. In such cases we say, “You have strength, you don’t need intelligence.”

But you and I know that real strength lies in justice and truth, which are on our side. And if that is true, then it is hard not to agree that strength and the will to fight is the foundation of independence and sovereignty, the necessary foundation on which alone one can build one’s future, one’s home, one’s family, his country.

Dear compatriots!

I am sure that the soldiers and officers of the Russian Armed Forces who are loyal to their country will fulfill their duty with professionalism and courage. I have no doubt that all levels of power and specialists responsible for the stability of our economy, the financial system and the social sphere, as well as the leaders of our enterprises and the entire Russian business community will work in a harmonious and efficient. I am counting on the consolidated and patriotic position of all the parliamentary parties and the public forces.

After all, as has always been the case in history, the fate of Russia is in the good hands of our multi-ethnic people. This means that the decisions we have made will be implemented, our goals will be achieved, and the security of our homeland will be reliably guaranteed.

I trust in your support and in the invincible strength that love for our country gives us.

13 Replies to “Ukraine: what does Mr Putin have to say?

  1. Rambling seems a fair description. It’s what I would expect from a politician. A careful curation of history to present the perspective that serves his interests, mixed with populist appeals and alarm raising. The first part chimes with what many on the left here would think. later, when discussing Russian history and actions, he veers towards outright propaganda, such as in his description of what happened in Chechnya.

    He also selectively chooses which parts of the Soviet Union he will allow as independent states and which not. Although Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan etc as far as I am aware never existed as states, they are acceptable, but Ukraine, apparently is not. The caucasus he calls “Southern Russia”. What about Byelarus? I am sure that historians could argue over this for years, but he presents no evidence and anyway, isn’t it up to the people who live there to decide?

    Then he launches into veiled threats and posturing before returning to a sort of solidarity plea to his “fellow” citizens. In many ways he could be a sort of anti-Johnson, in that BJ aims for witticisms, catch-phrases and random episodes from the classics to spice up his speeches otherwise full of bluster, appeals to patriotism and misrepresentations, whereas Putin just runs with the patriotism, victimhood and “look how misunderstood and mistreated I am, it’s time people took me seriously with my nuclear arsenal” in amongst the earnest and dull exposition of a very particular view of history.

    If Biden or Johnson gave this speech, we would rightly dismiss much of it as self-serving selectivity and self-justification. That’s not to say he doesn’t have a point about NATO expansion and Western hypocrisy, but that he is using these legitimate points to cynically justify a totally illegitimate action. If he wanted to protect the Donbas & Luhansk regions he could have sent his troops there. Instead he has chosen to directly attack Kiev and other major cities, using fairly standard arguments from the US playbook. Namely – their government is undemocratic/fascist/dictatorial/neo-nazi/commie and we are really liberating them, not invading, and we won’t do any harm, well, just a little, and try not to kill anyone – but if we do its their fault and they deserved it. Its the same guff and bullshit we hear from our lot time after time.

    • Problem here is, once again, the narrative does not fit the facts.

      This is not about Ukraine per se. As previously spelled out Janet and John style its an existential matter which is best articulated in this piece:

      https://www.indianpunchline.com/india-shouldnt-miss-world-war-pointer/

      … the tragic vivisection of Yugoslavia, including the NATO’s barbaric 78-day bombing of the capital city Belgrade without a mandate from the UN, it did not occur to our ruling elite that a blood-dimmed tide had been loosed in the world order and a ‘rough beast, its hour come round at last / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born’ — to borrow the chilling lines from the poem Second Coming by Irish poet WB Yeats.

      That beast, with the shape of a lion’s body and ‘a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun’ has since moved from devouring the carcass of Yugoslavia into Afghanistan, Iraq, Georgia, Libya, Syria, Somalia, et al, and arrived in Ukraine in 2014.

      It eyes the vast luscious Eurasian landmass eastward where there are many multiethnic, plural societies like Yugoslavia, big and small, with internal contradictions that make them vulnerable to dismemberment.

      Russia is not at war with Ukraine, but is locked in an existential struggle to avoid the fate of Yugoslavia. Period. The spectre that is haunting Putin is NATO membership for Ukraine, which the Americans have been orchestrating.

      To dismiss this reality as the ramblings of someone with a ‘victimhood’ complex takes willful obtuseness off the scale.

      Neither this reality nor any of the questions previously posted are tackled here. We are merely presented with a simplistic caricature designed to parrot existing Official Narratives and justify an untenable position.

      Indeed, the only way to shoehorn this caricature narrative into the discourse is to blatantly ignore the fact that instead of lancing the boil in 2014 another eight years of diplomacy was attempted in addition to the previous years of failed attempts to reach a sensible deal with a bunch of children and their cheerleaders who think they are exceptional.

      As detailed by Scott Ritter here:

      https://www.energyintel.com/0000017f-307c-d3e7-a17f-f1fdfee40000

      and Paul Craig Roberts here:

      https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2022/02/24/they-didnt-hear-what-we-told-them-they-had-better-hear-this-time/

      This years and years of attempts to reach a sensible agreement do not fit the simplistic caricature which is presented.

      it would seem reasonable to conclude that the consistent rejection of these realities and constant attempts to ignore awkward questions by reframing everything to fit a predetermined narrative – pre-assuming what one aims to deduce – provides sufficient evidence of bad faith engagement.

    • “their government is undemocratic/fascist/dictatorial/neo-nazi” – well, you got that bit right.

      As for “trying not to kill anyone” – there is a very marked difference between the Russian approach in Ukraine, where they are definitely holding off from attacking population centres and instead concentrating on military targets, and the approach of the US, where hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed in the taking of Baghdad, or even going back to Vietnam where civilians were actively targeted by chemical warfare.

      And: “isn’t it up to the people who live there to decide?” Yes, so why is the US telling the Ukrainian government what it can and can’t do?

      What you are giving us is, as you say, “the same guff and bullshit we hear from our lot time after time”.

        • Doctorow, Pat Armstrong and PC Roberts are near the top of my ‘real news’ bookmarks, along with MoA and yersel, Phil (+ Dissident Voice, International Clearing House, the Saker, Novara Media, New Eastern Outlook and Strategic-Culture, and of course, Caitlin). Some of these have of course to be used with caution, but that’s par for the course.

  2. The elephant in the room is the ever-growing threat of catastrophic climate change which cares nothing for ideology or military power. This is a group of bald giants fighting over a comb, meanwhile stamping all over the human race. West, East it makes no difference while the CO2 level inexorably rise until the tipping points flip over. Once that happens its hello to a long slow armageddon.

    Welcome to the future…

    • The threat of climate change and of environmental threats in general require an end to the the Empire ruled from Washington. It was this empire which created the conditions in which the environment’s degradation is neither controlled nor monitored by the imperial ruling class.

      The notion that the world is dominated by ‘bald giants’ assumes a multipolarity that has not existed for decades: the empire, aspiring to full spectrum domination will not abide by decisions made collectively at the UN. It will not abide by international law. It puts the ‘interests’ (idiotically short term and suicidal) of the corporations which dominate the oligarchy which dictates policy to the imperial government, above the obvious interests of the great mass of humanity. There is nothing accidental or arbitrary in this: the rulers of Washington, the proprietors of the propaganda machine it runs and those controlling the vast military power of the hegemon wannabe are utterly indifferent to the welfare of ordinary people at home or abroad.

      The threat of climate change is no threat to them; they believe that they have sufficient resources to thrive in any environment. This is the madness of the capitalist system of which the Empire is the crown.

      The necessary condition of any serious and popular campaign to control and then to reverse climate change is the defeat of the imperial system which not only insulates the climate changers from regulation but subverts democratic impulses wherever they arise by a wide variety of means including direct corruption, criminal gangs and militias, often organised around faux religious claims, coups and regime changes, riots and reactionary ‘revolutions’.

      The history of the last century has demonstrated that the first victims of imperialism are working class movements, socialist parties and independent working class cultural centres. The appeal to the working class to seize power is meaningless when it is clear that the working class movement in the imperial metropoles has never been weaker, less organised, less able to hold its own in the face of neo-liberal face grinding offensives. At a time when nationalised industries are being privatised, the Health Service and education systems crumbling, Unions back in a pre Taff Vale box and the social democratic parties transformed into Starmerism there is no possibility, so long as the Empire holds power, of seizing power in the metropole.

      At the same time it should be obvious, after years of ‘colour’ revolutions and Maidan style uprisings that to call for revolution in Russia and China (or Iran or Venezuela) in current political conditions is profoundly reactionary and precisely what the CIA wants.

      • The appeal to the working class to seize power is meaningless when it is clear that the working class movement in the imperial metropoles has never been weaker, less organised, less able to hold its own …

        My sentiments exactly. This is where I part company – and indeed seem to have rather badly fallen out – with John Smith (see our exchanges under Ukraine: the elephants in the room). But for all the severity of the break between John and me, he is a man I take seriously as a sincere class warrior. I cannot, alas, extend that courtesy to Zoltan. As Dave (above) says, his comments on this site – he declined an earlier offer to write a guest post above the line, an offer I will not make again – “provide sufficient evidence of bad faith engagement”.

        I will no longer engage with him.

        • I declined it on the grounds that I was not an expert on the topic and while I enjoy a robust discussion, I don’t pretend to have any special knowledge that might offer a unique insight into the matter.

          I am sorry you won’t engage with me and I am surprised to be accused of bad faith. That is a strange accusation to make of a person adding comments expressing their views on an open blog. perhaps you could elaborate?

  3. Thank you, Phil, for providing readers with the full length of Putin’s speech. However it may be interpreted, one thing it clearly is not is the ‘ramblings’ of a ‘madman’. It was also useful to see in its full context the one comment that has been picked up by most of the British media about ‘denazifying’ Ukraine.

    Thank you also for providing Scott Ritter’s detailed commentary about the number of times Putin ‘was not bluffing’ when he raised with Nato countries how he saw Nato expansionism.

    This linked with the evidence Putin offers in his speech of Nato acting as an offensive, rather than a ‘defensive’, force. I’m not convinced about his justification for Russia’s role in Syria. I have also heard on the British left some convincing justification for Nato’s role in Yugoslavia which is similar to Blair’s i.e. waging a humanitarian war against fascists – although I did demonstrate against it myself at the time.

    But Putin certainly has a point about all the other examples he gives of Nato agression and invasion. I would also add the arming by the US and UK of e.g. Saudi Arabia and the 7 year war in Yemen and the current desperate humanitarian crises in both Yemen and Afghanistan. Not to mention UK arms to Israel etc etc.

    In that context, I also note Putin’s reference to the effect of World War 2 on Russia – which I think is so often downplayed and dismissed by the UK and US, countries which never experienced Nazi invasion themselves, let alone the extraordinary levels of privation and starvation that ensued. Not to mention by far the largest loss of life of any country in the war. So it not surprising that Putin should make this comparison with what he sees as the ‘encirclement’ of Russia in the current situation – and which, of course, has a long history from a Russian perspective, dating from the War of Intervention from British and other allies returning from WW1.

    Nevertheless, I still don’t think this context in anyway ‘justifies’ Putin’s invasion of Ukraine nor his terrifying threat today of nuclear war. For I believe he has become, in the last analysis, a gangster capitalist, whose sense of Russian patriotism has become massively tainted and overlaid by the same corruption that infects ‘the West’ But I do think the history that Putin’s speech recalls does require ‘the Nato Terrain’, (as a British general described it this week, as if this is ‘obviously’ and uncontestably what all Europe and the US is and should remain) to recognise its huge responsibility in provoking the current situation. And, that the US and the UK military-industrial complex in particular might urgently reflect upon its role as, in effect, the Frankenstein who created ‘the Creature’ in its image who then went on to become ‘the Monster’ who turned against them. – And very much for similar reasons to those Mary Shelley originally outlined……

    • Re the “denazification” aspect, Ros, this piece in One Nation by Lev Golinkin makes chilling but thoroughly documented reading.

      On Yugoslavia, you and I have switched places. To my (mild) shame, I did not join you on the streets to protest the bombing of Belgrade. Lost in my personal explorations of ‘petit bourgeois life-stylism’, I swallowed hook, line and sinker what I read in the Guardian. The results – Milosovic show trial (the man now posthumously exonerated), creation of the corrupt state of Kosovo and deep exposure of Russia to threats from Western imperialism – speak for themselves. Plus, of course, with hindsight we can see it as dress rehearsal for more than two decades of US led carnage – in the name of freedom and in the interest of profits – in the middle east.

      I’ll pass on whether Putin is a gangster. I cannot know. I lack evidence. (Though burden of proof should by rights fall on his accusers, who for all their wall to wall smearing of the man – yes, it works: even on the intelligentsia – have signally failed to deliver, while the Pandora Papers found zilch.) As you know I deeply mistrust what Guardian, BBC etc tell me, and one reason I chose to offer readers the (criminally rare) opportunity to read the Russian President at source is that, as with Mr Lavrov and for that matter China’s senior politicians, what is striking is his greater intelligence, thoughtfulness and depth of culture when compared with the mediocrities in office in the West. I rather suspect that reflects the very different relationship between state and capital in Russia, and to greater extent in China.

      Has Putin’s move made nuclear war more likely? There’s a case for saying the opposite. Putin’s address refers tacitly to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Lefties in the West are used to having this flung in our faces as evidence of the evil Soviet Empire. But what Putin implies is an image of Stalin we are not conditioned to hear: that of the Foolish Appeaser, akin to Neville Chamberlain.

      In any case, on this we may have to agree to differ. Russia – having endured insult after insult, lie upon lie, promise on broken promise – has had enough. I cannot find it within me to condemn her leaders. The fault lies entirely with a criminal US-led empire: in the last decade of the twentieth century drunk on cold war victory; on what Mr Putin calls “modern absolutism” – aka US Exceptionalism … PNAC … and the chilling doctrine of “full spectrum dominance”. And now? With the Project for the New American Century already, two decades in, a grotesque caricature, the ruling classes of the US and its satellites – often referred to on this site as the criminally insane – look prepared to take us all out rather than accept their decline, and the rise of Eurasia.

      I realise I am in a minority over this, even on the Left. With some sadness I today broke with John Smith, author of an invaluable work on modern imperialism. Like so many of the “far left”, John looks to the rising up of the international working class to overthrow capitalism. Great – I’m all for it! Trouble is, he knows and I know and you know it isn’t going to happen any time soon. Meanwhile none of my socialist and communist critics have been able to answer one very simple question: given the existential threat facing Russia, not just in Ukraine but taking its most instantly perilous form in that hotchpotch of a ‘nation’; what would they have her do? I’ve asked this many times now. The silence is deafening.

      That said, thank you for your thoughtful and – as always – courteous comment. Keep ’em coming!

      • That final question seems to have been answered.

        Not explicitly but tacitly and implicit in the very obvious rejection that the actions which initially posed and subsequently produced an existential threat to Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Somalia (Syria would have gone the same way but did not for obvious reasons – go figure) and the peoples who lived in those lands are somehow not the same existential threat in this case.

        Not just rejecting that reality for those millions of people, workers, women, children, disabled, able bodied, minorities etc in Russia but reducing everything down to a simplistic caricature of a single individual in the term, almost spit out every time it is used, “Putin.”

        A pond shop version of the Official Narrative. The same process which reduces other complex situations to inane simplicities for the purpose of serving power interests – ‘Corbyn’, ‘The Looney Left’; ‘The Far Right’ whatever. Its just the same dog whistle.

        Refusing point blank to afford anywhere near the same approach taken to other victims of Western interventions – motivated not for genuine security or existential reasons but for profit for the few. Selectively picking and choosing where to apply the stated principles and where not to.

        Rejecting any notion of a similar existential threat genuinely felt as a mere ‘one individual being upset about being surrounded by missiles’ answers the question as to what those targeted in this instance should do.

        Which is to do what the populace of Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya et al had to do and which Palestinians continue to do. Sit there and take it so that some people in the West can virtue signal how deplorable it is whilst offering no practical solution to what those placed in that position should do to prevent that situation arising other than sit there and accept it.

        The actor Ricky Tomlinson coined a well known phrase in the TV situation comedy ‘The Royle Family’ which seems applicable here.

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