Ukraine: the elephants in the room

24 Feb

The Economist today, February 25, 2022:

… on a gloomy grey morning on February 24th, the onslaught against Ukraine ordered by Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, had acquired a sickening inevitability. Yet nothing about this war was inevitable. It is a conflict entirely of his own making. In the fighting and the misery that is to come, much Ukrainian and Russian blood will be spilled. Every drop of it will be splattered on Mr Putin’s hands.

For months, while Mr Putin had remained in seclusion, amassing roughly 190,000 Russian troops on the borders with Ukraine, the question had been: what does this man want? Now that it is clear he craves war, the question is: where will he stop?

I beg to differ. Other than to the misinformed and the wilfully obtuse – a large constituency, I grant you – the question of what Mr Putin wants has always been clear. See in this respect what he said two days before Christmas in an eight minute reply to a British journalist’s question.

And now we are where we are. Russia’s move, whether “special operation” or full invasion, has taken me by surprise. I’d thought it possible but unlikely. Do I condemn it? Below, drilling down from global through regional to local aspects of the matter, are the reasons why I’m more likely to stick pins in my eyes:

  • Global: the USA and its junior partners, collectively and euphemistically known as The West, constitute an empire in decline. The two powers at either end of the Eurasian land mass, by contrast, are not only in the ascendant but have been pushed by every Washington administration since Reagan into one another’s arms. 1 Given these two realities – and given that, for reasons set out often on this site, 2 media independence falls by the wayside on subjects where serving truth cannot be squared with serving power – nothing they tell us about China or Russia can be trusted.
  • Regional: successive waves of NATO expansion constitute (a) a promise broken not once but many times, and (b) a situation the USA would not for a moment tolerate – both Latin American history and the Monroe Doctrine show this – on or near its own borders. Yet our “free press” is either silent on such matters, or derides them as mere pretexts for Kremlin devilry.

  • Local 1: Ukraine’s current boundaries are a recent affair. When its ethnic Russians say the country is a Russian – or Soviet – creation they speak the truth. Lenin then Stalin ‘gifted’ Russian territories to Ukraine, but it was Kruschev who in 1954 added Crimea.
  • Local 2: The Maidan coup of 2014 which overthrew Moscow leaning Yanukovych was orchestrated in Washington and executed by Hillary Clinton’s deputy in Kiev, Victoria Nuland. Everyone half ways switched on is aware of Nuland’s “fuck the EU” comment but the leaked phone call – hear it now – in which she made it offers a remarkable window on empire cynicism. Her calm discussion with US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, on who shall and who shall not lead a post-Yanukovych regime in Kiev speaks volumes on Washington’s weaponising of ‘democracy’.
  • Local 3: the string of post Maidan administrations in Kiev have offered fascism, anti-semitism and, most significant here, strident Russophobia. This is part of the context, incidentally, for Crimea’s overwhelming vote to secede to Russia. As the neofascists of the Azov Battalion terrorised the peninsula, Russia – no doubt mindful of the need to secure one of the two military bases outside her borders (America has 800) – annexed Crimea. The need to protect – or is R2P a one way street? – aside, the risk of the Hitler idolising Azov getting its hands on nuclear weapons eclipsed all other considerations.

  • Local 4: the same Kiev Russophobia also alarmed the majority populations of Luhansk and Donbas in the far east of Ukraine. Since they declared independence, also in 2014, those populations have been surrounded on all sides barring the eastern border with Russia, and subjected to artillery bombardment costing thousands of lives: an eight year old infamy receiving scant attention in Western media. It seems to me that Putin’s recognition on Monday (February 21) of the two territories as sovereign is long overdue. Given the domestic pressure on him to “do something” about the Ukrainian Russians’ ordeal, it speaks volumes on the restraint of Putin, Lavrov et al that they did not act sooner.

For these reasons I shall not be joining the chorus of condemnation – which to my dismay but not my surprise many on the Left have joined 3 – of Russian “aggression”. Now where did  I put those eyeball pins? 4

* * *

  1. A discussion of the significance of a simultaneous challenge, from Eurasia’s eastern and western poles, to US supremacy is given in my January post, Eurasia’s rise is unstoppable.
  2. See for instance Monolithic control at the Guardian and Britain decides. Though their titles seem rather specific, what is discussed is applicable to all corporate media in the West.
  3. For a master class in false moral equivalence, see the ‘plague on both houses’ piece on World Socialist Website today. It counters both western imperialism and “the reactionary ideology” of Russian capitalism with the rising up of the global working class to make genuine, 24-carat socialism. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for that. It’s just that it’s about as likely as the second coming of Elvis, and to posit it as a solution to all and any problem in the here and now at best a childish fantasy; at worst a cynical and cowardly cop out from making tough choices.
  4. For a lengthier consideration of these matters, see Dee Knight’s 2900 worder, three days ago in Covert Action Magazine: Is it too late to avert a war with Russia?

34 Replies to “Ukraine: the elephants in the room

  1. Oppose Putin’s despicable, reckless attack on Ukraine… solidarity with the workers and people of Ukraine!
    Beware false friends – NATO has as little regard for Ukrainian people as the white Russian chauvinists!
    That’s what I said on my Facebook page and on Twitter in response to Putin latest crimes (and these go back a long way – think of the levelling of Grozny during the war in Chechnya, his support for Milosevic and his thugs during the siege of Sarajevo, his brutal repression of the Tatar people during the annexation of Crimea).
    And I accompanied this with an extremely interesting and relevant background article: ‘Ukraine nation flourished in ’20s after revolution – Lenin’s fight for Ukrainian sovereignty, voluntary union destroyed by Stalin murder machine’ (May 12, 2014
    Dear Phil, your support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is disgraceful. I urge you not to put pins in your eyes, but to open them.
    Nearly all of the reasons you give to justify your stance is true, yet your argument amounts to pure sophistory, because you leave out some crucial facts, most importantly is the Putin clique’s utter contempt for Ukrainian sovereignty. This is in complete continuity with Stalin’s brutal – and yes, genocidal – policy towards Ukraine, a complete reversal of the Bolsheviks’ support for Ukrainian self-determination discussed in the above article – and Stalin’s policy was itself a reversion to czarist white Russian chauvinism.
    A lot of what you said is true – yes, the US imperialists cynically used the 2014 Ukraine crisis to assert their preeminence over their NATO ‘allies’, just as they used the breakup of the Yugoslav Socialist Federation for the same end. Yes, capitalist regimes in Kyiv have been deeply reactionary and corrupt – so disgusted were the Ukrainian people with their leaders that they elected a comedian, proof that bourgeois democracy is as much a joke in Ukraine as it is in the UK.
    But you are completely wrong to regard the Ukrainian people as either a bunch of fascists or as a completely inert people who have no agency of their own. This reflects the same chauvinist mentality that guides Putin. It is a slander to say that the Maidan protests were fascist-led and/or were orchestrated by Washington. The mass uprising against the detested, brutal and incredibly corrupt Yanukovic regime was deeply popular, and workers and their unions played a central part in it, although they were not able to build a political leadership capable of taking power. Here’s an article that explains this truth and exposes your lie:
    The truth must be the whole truth, or it is not the truth. A half-truth is like half a worm in an apple – when you find one you shouldn’t swallow, and then blame others for the bad taste in your mouth.

    • You and I are way too far apart to agree on this John. I do not share your optimism in a third way, i.e. international socialism, dealing with the existential threat posed by US imperialism.

      A few specifics. One, I do not call all Ukraine people fascists – that’s ridiculous. Two, I did not support Yanukovych but that’s a wholly separate question from the fact – I’m amazed you dispute it – that the Maidan Coup was orchestrated by Washington. As with the 2012 Daara protests in Syria, I do not doubt the genuine feelings that brought people onto the streets in February/March 2014. My point is the hijacking of both for criminal ends.

      Yours is the second comment today to lecture me on truths. I do not expect to win friends on this blogsite but I speak the truth as I sense it, strive always to deepen and widen that sense, and will indeed read the brief Militant piece you sent. Will you read all the sources I have cited on this matter?

      • “I do not share your optimism in a third way, i.e. international socialism” – well, thanks for your frankness. In a nutshell, you are a socialist who has given up on socialism, so you’ve chosen barbarism. You may regard this as an ad hominem attack, but It is not, it is an attempt to drag you away from your embrace of a stinking corpse.
        I do read most of your posts and recommended sources. Some of them I agree with, many contain interesting half-truths, often I feel like expressing my disagreement with your rejection of revolutionary principles in favour of realpolitik. But there’s only so many hours in the day.
        Below is a passage from the current issue of the Militant, I urge you to reflect on it.
        Yours sincerely

        Putin blames Lenin for Ukraine
        The Russian president’s speech attacked Ukraine’s right to exist, denying it had achieved “stable statehood.” He claimed it was “an inalienable part” of Russia’s history and culture. He condemned “the severing of what is historically Russian land” by the Bolshevik Revolution.
        There was a brief period during the early Russian Revolution — in the 1920s while Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin was alive — when the independence, the culture and the languages of Ukraine and other oppressed nationalities were encouraged. This was the Ukraine of which Lenin was “the author and architect,” in Putin’s words. This was brutally reversed as part of a bureaucratic counterrevolution against Lenin’s policies led by Joseph Stalin.
        Putin, harking back to the Russian Empire, is driven by the expansionist appetite of Russia’s capitalist class to try to restore its domination over oppressed nations that were formerly part of the Soviet Union. Putin said that it was “madness” in 1991 for Moscow to give “these republics the right to leave the union without any terms and conditions.”
        The nationalist “disease” Lenin and the Bolsheviks fought against was Great Russian chauvinism, the nationalism of the oppressor at the heart of the domination by the Russian Empire, both under the czars and later under the Stalinized Soviet Union. (

        • Sounds like a parting of the ways, John. You’ll go your way and I’ll go mine. But no, I have not chosen barbarism, nor given up on socialism. Nor have Dave, bevin and – I dare say – others on this thread.

          As you say, only so many hours in the day.

  2. It’s difficult to know where to begin. Let’s start with two wrongs don’t make a right. Even if all the above is true, how does it justify an invasion by armoured columns of a sovereign country? If this was the US as the invader, you, and I, would rightfully be condemning it. But here we find you trying to argue your way into justifying a violent attack which has resulted in casualties (by which I mean human beings, like you are I, most almost certainly with no responsibility for any of the above, have been killed or injured) on the basis that because the West are guilty of similar actions, it’s OK. If it is not OK for the US or the UK, or Ukraine, it is not OK for Russia.

    Then we have the sickening comment that Putin has shown restraint. Just that is enough for me to realise that you have been blinded by your own convictions. Our system is corrupt and manipulative and has exploited the world for the past 200 years. A lot of what the “west” has done is shameful. All this is true. But that doesn’t mean that therefore anyone and any action that threatens, attacks or undermines the West’s dominance is automatically given a free pass on their behaviour. Attacking and killing ordinary people in pursuit of some geo-political masterplan is not acceptable, by anyone.

    I am sorry that we have been proven wrong on this topic because I am sure that like me, and any compassionate (and sane) person you wanted a peaceful outcome. I did not think Putin would invade Ukraine and send tanks to Kiev. I thought he might occupy the two areas he “recognised”, and probably would have argued that this was an understandable response to considerable provocation. But this is way beyond that. This indicates that invasion has been in the planning for a long time, and that it is about re-establishing Russia as a “great power” through military action. It suggests that with or without NATO expansion, Putin was always going to look to rebuild Russian spheres of influence and surround himself with a cushion of puppet states.

    I know you will say that he is only doing what the Americans have been doing. True, but if it is wrong for the yanks, then it is wrong for the Russians. You will say the Ukrainians brought it on themselves, and they were encouraged in their stubborn refusal to implement Minsk or declare they would not join NATO, by the US. While it is true that implementing Minsk and declaring neutrality would have been the prudent approach, it can’t be acceptable for Putin to respond by invading. If we accept his right to invade, we accept every invasion as justifiable – because there will always be circumstances which can be used as justification. Indeed, that’s exactly the approach the US and UK used to “explain” their attack on Iraq and numerous other actions.

    Your argument is weak and essentially is just trying to justify your previous position without acknowledging that this makes a mockery of your condemnation of the West’s behaviour by in effect supporting identical conduct just because it is the other side. Its tribalism of the most blinkered kind. I am saddened because I thought you were genuinely trying to look at the world open-eyed, but is seems you have just swapped one perspective for the opposite, and then looked for arguments to justify your position, rather than taking a position based on the strength of the argument. In effect you condemn everyone else for living in a deluded bubble, while happily wallowing in your own, similarly distorted one. It is deeply depressing.

    • You lost the plot in your first paragraph. There is no comparison between finally dealing with an existential threat on Russia’s own border, and US invasions halfway across the planet.

    • As Phil says, there is no comparison with what the US has done all over the world, and what Russia is doing to a US manufactured and manipulated and very real threat to Russia. This has been the case since US inspired NATO started to move nearer and nearer to Russia’s borders, bringing tactical missiles along too. It is the case also that published US think-tank documents call for the dissolution of Russia into small statelets, and this aim has been taken up by a number of US politicians. Russia just now is in the same position as Britain and France were in just before WWII – only difference is that Russia is in a position to do something to save itself.

      Your position is utopian – sure, it would be better if there were no wars anywhere, but the US will not allow this as long as there are profits to be made by Lockheed-Martin, BAE et al.

        • Not sure what specifics you refer to here. I am saying, in case it isn’t clear, that Russia invading Ukraine should be condemned rather than excused. Isn’t that specific enough for you?

  3. Re Phil’s comment about the left. I see that Keir Starmer threatened to withdraw the whip from 11 MPs who’d signed a Stop The War statement which criticised Nato’s actions past and present. It also called for Russian troops to withdraw. I understand all eleven have agreed to remove their names.

    And apropos Boris Johnson’s statement that ‘the whole world’ condemns Russia, I’ve just seen a statement from CodePink, an organisation I’d not come across before but is a US women’s peace and anti-militarist organisation. Taking the line ‘No to Nato and No War War in Ukraine’ they say they stand with all the nations who reaffirmed the Minsk Protocol at the emergency UN meeting as recently as 4 days ago – seeing it as the only legitimate framework for diplomacy and peace. They call on Biden to show ‘real leadership’ by using all means to back this and not set on a set on a path that could go from sanctions to nuclear war.. They also call for a ‘re examination’ of Nato, as having long outlived any useful purpose it might have had and for initiating serious nuclear disarmament talks immediately. Well, even this late in the day………

    • It’s a terrible situation, Ros. But none of my many critics have even tried to show me how, taking everything into account, Moscow had an acceptable alternative to (a) recognising Donbas and Luhansk, and (b) protecting the citizens of those territories.

      • How is attacking Kiev protecting Donbas and Luhansk?

        I hope you aren’t including me as “one of your many critics”. I disagree with you on this key point. In my view, Putin and Xi are just as unpleasant, egotistical and power hungry as any Western leader, and just as uncaring for the ordinary person. My enemies enemy is NOT my friend. I choose my friends more carefully.

  4. It is a sad time for ordinary Ukrainians, caught between an arrogant world hegemon and Russia with a nationalist leader trying to protect it’s borders. I struggle to understand how NATO/the US and EU continued to poke the Russian bear after the breakup of the Soviet Union. This Chris Hedges piece may go some way to explain it:

    It also chimes for me just now as I am reading Less is More which has given me the insight that capitalism just can’t help itself. Capital “needs” to grow whether by exploiting resources, creating markets, exploiting cheap labour or endless war and reconstruction. The fallout on the planet and ordinary humans is horrendous

    • Thanks for the Hedges link, Gerald. I often follow him but this one passed me by. I look forward to reading this evening.

      I agree totally with your second paragraph, btw.

  5. Excellent piece Philip. The imperialists knew that Russia was about to invade Ukraine because they made it impossible for them not to do so – the nuclear threat, in a country where the final power lies with Nazi death squads, was the clincher.

    That it involved denouncing the Budapest agreement, of which Ukraine was a signatory, was rubbing salt in an open wound. Ukraine also signed on to the Minsk Accords and then denounced them. The pattern here is that it doesn’t matter what the Ukrainian government says, the real power is shared between the NATO states and the Nazi militias. And neither of those parties wants peace.

    In the wider context this is the first act of resistance from the Eurasian powers for decades. It has to continue: the Empire’s time is over. Humanity simply cannot afford to risk its future by allowing the Empire of Lies, and we all know how apposite that description is the power, to decide.

    Saddening today has been the way in which, like the SDP in the Reichstag in 1914, so many ‘socialists’ have fallen in with the imperial line.

    If I might do so allow me to recommend the Belgium based US businessman Gilbert Doctorow’s latest blog entry.

    Finally let it never be forgotten that this is in sharp contradistinction to the hoaxes in Benghazi used as excuses for regime changing interventions – a genuine case in which a vulnerable population was under daily attack by forces which modelled themselves and honoured genocidalists who actually killed tens of millions of Russians in our fathers’ lifetimes.

    • Thanks bevin. Could you supply the Doctorow link? I’ve recommended him before on this site but the piece you allude to passed me by.

      it doesn’t matter what the Ukrainian government says, the real power is shared between the NATO states and the Nazi militias. And neither of those parties wants peace

      Indeed. A truth from which tens of millions of BBC/CNN/Guardian/WashPo/Economist consuming Westerners have been astutely – corporate media’s greatest lies being lies of omission – shielded.

  6. Following the recognition of the Donbass Republics by Russia this was the casus belli for the West’s ideologues who scented blood at this point knowing that their intransigence and hysteria was backing Russia into a corner where they calculated that the new security treaty between Russia and the Republics could be triggered forcing Russia to intervene to protect the Republics giving them the invasion that their propaganda demanded. This culminated a list of provocations by the West to force Russia’s hand in the following order:

    Intent of Ukraine and US, to bring in NATO and surround Russia on several fronts). Ukraine’s Constitution declares it must join NATO. East Europe NATO countries demand US, France, Germany extend NATO. Increasing provocations by Ukraine VSU on LOC. NATO war hawks (including US Demo. party politicians) at Munich meeting project unanimous agreement NATO is destined for Ukraine no matter what Putin does. NATO Secretary, Stoltenberg, and US VP Harris declare Russia’s actions now ensure NATO will allow Ukraine to join soon. Zelenskys precipitate announcement that Ukraine would go nuclear.

    We witnessed prior to the Russian announcement on22/02/2022 increasing provocations by the Ukraine VSU in east Ukraine on the LOC in tandem with growing US/UK Russian invasion war rhetoric. The sudden recognition of the republics initiated a big rise in number and weight of provocations (including use of Grad rocket artillery to saturate residential areas causing maximum casualties) signalling that US had given the green light to the ultra nationalists to inflict heavy causalities on Donbass civilians. A war crime further compounded by knowledge that this would force Russia to intervene resulting in greater levels of conflict and violence to the detriment of Russia and the satisfaction of the US/UK war hawks.

    • Excellent points, Rick. All of which Zoltan, as is his wont, ignores. For his part John Smith – for whom I have great respect: see my review of his book on modern imperialism – and a huge swathe of the west’s Left, have yet, as I said in reply to Ros, to say what they think Russia should have done in the circumstances.

      • You seem to be making sweeping judgements on me based on a few comments I posted here. Fascinating.

        My point would be that now that Russia has invaded, is this more or less likely to encourage NATO expansion? Do you think Finland and Sweden might now think they need to join pretty quickly? How will Putin maintain a “friendly” government in Ukraine without occupation? Is this not playing into the US and NATO’s hands?

        It would have made more sense to have sent troops into the newly “recognised” republics and kept them there. In the same way he did with Crimea. Instead, he now has to deal with a situation he can’t control. Which could escalate. Seems like a very high risk, and unnecessary gamble – which others will pay for with their lives.

  7. Before making some observations: seeing as I like to post substantiating links and this site, for whatever reason, only seems to allow two or three at a time its likely some of those links will have to be provided separately.

    Three themes occur.

    Firstly, it seems reasonable to commence with the suggestion made about ‘the truth must be the whole truth.’

    Secondly, it also seems reasonable to observe that, arguably, the key issue being contested is based on comparisons between specific events by specific actors/agents.

    Finally, it further seems reasonable to test some of the assumptions, both explicit and implicit, in regard to the actions which are the subject of this discussion.

    In regard to the first theme, ‘the truth’, we hit an immediate problem. A problem which the late Terry Pratchett describes as “A lie can be three times around the world before the truth has got its boots on.”

    Point being is that if we are going to proceed from this “whole truth” starting point premise the evidence is that we cannot rely on accurate or complete information from Western based media – both Corporate and increasingly ‘alternative/left’.

    You could pick any number at random, even a ridiculously high and fantastical number, and it would be possible to find at least the equivalent number of instances limited just to my lifetime of blatant lies of omission and commission in which the Western Corporate media completely misled its populace on any issue you care to mention. Because, as consistently detailed and analysed just on this blog alone, its all about selling a particular narrative.

    Whether its foreign policy – Iraq WMD’s/Kuwaiti Babies ripped from incubators/Gulf of Tonkin et al; – domestic – Hillsborough/Stephen Lawrence/Saville/N.Ireland; – or a plethora of other issues you will find no reliable information here from which to proceed on the basis of ‘the whole truth.’

    And unfortunately, there are increasingly too many self-referencing alt/left sources more than happy to parrot Official Narratives [1]. All competing for the same space.

    The sting in the tail here is that any information/non Official Narrative which is not sourced or approved by those pushing those Official Narratives – Corporate or self referencing ‘left’ – is simply waved away and dismissed as ‘take your pick of who’s propaganda.’ Talk about wanting your cake and eating it.

    If any sources provided hence fall victim to this then it would seem reasonable to conclude I’ve wasted my time. But hey ho.

    So lets proceed as best we can onto the second theme: Comparisons.

    I’d like to commence with a comparison of my own before proceeding further with the main meat of this theme. Because I’ve got some questions I’d like to raise – though the fact I’ve raised similar in other contexts and been met with tumbleweed means I’m not holding my breath.

    Over the past few days I’ve received what I would consider to be a ‘trickle’ (so far) of emails in my inbox which, based on previous experience, I’m anticipating turning into a bigger deluge than that produced by Storm Eunice.

    These are all asking me to sign a petition over the current Russian Federation action in Ukraine or donate money to Ukrainian refugees/Westerners trying to raise money to leave etc.

    Which I, unapologetically, find somewhat odd.

    Question 1: What I want to know is why I and anyone else have not been receiving similar emails for the past eight years?

    Because people have been dying in the Ukraine – mainly in the Donbass Republics – since 2014. I hear stuff about Trade Unionists and workers and if we are proceeding from the premise of “the whole truth” its reasonable to expect some consideration of both context, to take just two examples, the forty odd working people slaughtered in Odessa when Nazi thugs burnt down a Trade Union building in 2014; and the disproportionate number of workers shelled to buggery by the “Sovereign Government of Ukraine”; and practicality – more on that shortly.

    The OSCE (Organisation for Security Co-operation in Europe) have had monitors on the ground at the Donbass/Ukraine contact line for years. They report daily and two relevant data sets – a map of artillery shelling last week and a chart which shows since 2018 81% of civilian deaths from military activity either side of the contact line are in the Russian speaking Donbass side. Go figure!

    See here:

    Perhaps its because they are ‘White Russian Chauvinists” that I’ve not had any appeals on their behalf in the past eight years and recently; or seen much in the way of consideration of their problems and practical ways to address them beyond a simplistic ‘plague on both your houses’ approach which offers no practical solutions? Again more on that shortly. Too many people being more concerned with following the Official or their own Narratives?

    We’ll park that one for now.

    The main problem with the comparisons being made is that they are not comparing like with like.

    The shock and awe we watched on our TV screens with so called “precision missiles” in Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Syria produced unbelievable amounts of civilian maiming and death as well as destruction of vital infrastructure. We were told this would not happen. But it did.

    And if anything were occurring on that scale in Ukraine this week with the RF we would hear about it because the whole TV schedule would be cleared to show it wall to wall 24/7.

    Military facilities including command and control centres have been destroyed by precision non-nuclear cruise missiles. But not military barracks – which house families of military personnel.

    The Russian Ministry of Defence claims Russian aircraft have destroyed, 83 ground targets, 2 Ukrainian Su-27s, 2 Su-24s, 1 helicopter, 4 Bayraktar TB-2 drones. One Ukrainian Su-27 has landed in Romania. [2]

    The water supply to the Crimea, which the ‘Sovereign Government of Ukraine’ cut off the other year is reported to have been restored. Funny thing! I never heard much in the way of complaints about the effect on people in Crimea of that action depriving them of water. Seems to me much of what passes for progressivism in the West in terms of Human rights is more concerned with the top levels of Maslows hierarchy of needs rather than the basics. Perhaps those in the Crimea, being ‘White Russian Chauvinists are the ‘undeserving working class? Who knows?

    It is claimed that Ukrainian troops who lay down their arms are being provided with passage back to Ukraine. It seems reasonable to anticipate if any had been shipped off to a gulag equivalent of Guantanamo we will soon hear about it in the reliable media I mentioned earlier.

    Directly arising from the official Statement at the Munich Security Summit by President Zelensky of the Ukraine of their seeking to acquire nuclear capability it is reasonable to anticipate that one objective is to secure Chernobyl and other nuclear facilities.

    There is also the reported issue of the number of Western bio-labs:

    Point being that just on casualties and intent alone the premise that this is in any way comparable with the mayhem and destruction of life unleashed by the West across much of the globe does not stand up in the terms of some of the commentary.

    Which brings us to the third, related, theme, assumptions.

    Implicit in the line taken from the statement “the Putin clique’s utter contempt for Ukrainian sovereignty are a number of assumptions which require testing.

    Proceeding on the basis of the premise suggested of “the whole truth” it would seem reasonable to firstly make explicit some contextual truth.

    Which is that in the past 300 years or so Russia has been invaded on three occasions from and by the West. Sweden in the early eighteenth century. Napoleon in the nineteenth century. The Germans in the twentieth. Arguably, the foreign troops which made up the White army attempting to overthrow the Bolsheviks might also count.

    The German invasion, as with the previous ones, was not just one against the leaders of the regime but against the very existence of the people – many of them workers themselves – in the Eurasian landmass. They lost tens of millions of troops and civilians. That kind of experience has an effect on the collective psyche of populations across generations. They will be sensitive to their security.

    And reasonably – but NOT arguably – so. They have every reason, on the basis of mounds of evidence, that their right to exist as a people and as a Country are not regarded by the elites and those who vote for them in the West necessary and desirable.

    Secondly, lets consider a relevant military reality, along with some related truths to throw into the mix. Scott Ritter, among a host of others with expertise, experience and knowledge in the field have written extensively on the present superiority of the RF military over that of NATO. Not in terms of global power projection but in terms of its near abroad and asymmetrical capabilities.

    Indeed, US regular war gaming confirms this:

    Which leads to two questions.

    Question 2A: If that superiority were the other way around right now does anyone doubt that the US and NATO would be invading Makinder’s Heartland to secure more profit markets and resources for rentier elites?

    But, hey ho. They are only ‘White Russian Chauvinists.’ So much for solidarity and all that.

    Question 2B: Given that: (i) The RF could, if it so wished, get all the way to Lisbon and forcibly kick NATO out of Europe, and (ii) the “Putin clique” is only interested in empire building (like its ‘counterparts’ in the West) WTF are they? What’s keeping them? Because it ain’t NATO.

    In similar vein lets consider a few more “truths” to add to the pile. Along with other unasked, so far, questions which arise:

    In the context of three Western Invasions in three hundred years; A military block which promised not to expand but which has not only done so but stationed nuclear weapons just over the RF border; Is currently flying nuclear bombing practice runs within 20 miles of the RF border; Armed a bunch of Nazis to the teeth and subjugated anyone in Ukraine who disagrees – banning media and the Russian language etc (serves them reet eh, those White Russian Chauvinists in the Donbass – bugger their workers); Supplying bio-labs within striking distance of the RF:

    Question 3: Why has “the Putin Clique” spent eight years trying to negotiate the Minsk Accords in the face of very obvious intent not to accept them by tbose on the other side of the negotiating table? Workers in the Donbass have spent eight years being bombed and this could have been avoided if the ‘Putin clique’ had recognised them as independent states in 2014 rather than leave them to suffer.

    Hardly the action of someone with no interest in the borders of the Ukraine? That line just does not stand up to objective scrutiny.

    Why has that ‘clique’ tried for over two decades to negotiate a reciprocal security deal with the West? (Having failed to be accepted in NATO when Clinton was POTUS).

    If, as implied, its is equally malevolent with the West why is it bothering and not resorting to that simplistic caricature? It has the military capability to enforce its requirements.

    The whole premise is absurd. It does not fit the whole truth premise. It picks and chooses to suit its own subjective narratives rather than objective reality.

    Which brings us to the final question:

    Question 4: In the light of the facts, the missing bits of “the truth”, what practical steps and solutions are being offered?

    Its all very well sitting in an armchair with a keyboard wailing and knashing teeth over this issue. TRUTH is negotiations over years and years have got nowhere. The Native American and other Aboriginal peoples across the world and the global South will attest that the RF is dealing with people who are not and never will be Agreement capable. That’s why Anglo-Saxons have been referred to down generations as ‘Perfidious Albion.’

    Presumably, millions of people have got to just put up with the very real existential threat from outside their borders and do sod all about it. It would be useful to know from the armchair experts what practical solutions they should adopt? Go away and die? Line up for slaughter? Wave a magic wand? Pick up a rainbow flag? What?

    On the basis of past evidence – eg Georgia and South Ossetia, once the objectives have been achieved there is every likelihood of the stated withdrawal. Yes, its not an acceptable situation. Unfortunately, the practical alternatives are even worse. That’s the problem with objective reality and “the whole truth” its messy. Its not neat and tidy. It doesn’t fit into comfortable narratives.

      • Great post Dave. You have skewered the hypocrisy neatly. (Do you have your own blog? It would be worth reading alongside of Phil.)

        • Sorry Jams. No.

          The nearest I can offer can be accessed via the first substack link in that appendix.. At present there are only three articles available going back to last July.

          I’m working on another at present but its taking a bit longer due to other commitments.

          • Just wondering if you type standing up on the battle field, or sitting down in a chair?

            You and Phil seem fond of using armchair as a sort of disparaging adjective. You might be surprised to learn that some of the wisest people who ever lived sat and thought a lot.

            Anyway, the point isn’t debating at length the many subtleties, nuances, opportunities and circumstances that have led to this, but that sending in columns of troops and armour, and blowing things up is not something we should condone. That seems fairly simple and basic to me. Self-defence only operates if you are using reasonable, proportionate and necessary force – and you are directly under actual attack. Or you are resisting occupation… That is not the case here for Russia.

            I condemn all those who kill others in pursuit of their own interests. Regardless of which flag they wave. Surely we can all agree on that?

            We can argue about what led to it, and what alternatives there were, but we can’t avoid taking a moral position on the use of violence.

            • The contemplative process described here does not seem to be working.

              Firstly, comprehensively describing something using an evidence based approach, along with context is necessary to comprehend the complexity of real world events and situations is just that. Confusing such an approach with approval or otherwise is simply to fall into the kind of propaganda narratives described by Glen Greenwald here:


              Secondly, whilst there is no explicit answer’s provided to the questions raised the position you have outlined – reducing that complexity down to a single individual, Putin’ concerned about a few missiles – provides sufficient between the lines information to conclude the following:

              – there is neither recognition nor acceptance that there exists an existential threat to Russia and its peoples in the same way as previously existed and was subsequently the outcome of that potential to the peoples of Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and a host of examples stretching back several centuries.

              Though, it should be noted, no evidence is presented to substantiate this.

              – arising from this position the answer as to what Russia and its peoples should do is thus obvious. They should accept their fate in the same way as those peoples in other recent and historical cases.

              – Faced with nuclear weapon’s within a few minutes striking distance on their borders;

              – with aircraft practicing nuclear exercises within 20 miles of their borders;

              – a state stuffed with these kinds of people:



              openly declaring they want access to nuclear weapons

              – having spent years and years trying the sensible diplomatic course (I accept here I’m making a big assumption because it seems more than reasonable to conclude that this fact is not accepted either) about this existential threat which you clearly do not accept exists.

              They are to do precisely nothing.

              Because in this supposed morality being presented here anything else is immoral.

              It seems to be an odd waste of good armchair time which produces an end result in which morality is couched in such selective and exceptionalist terms.

              But at least it allows for being able to virtue signal how deplorable it is for people to defend themselves against an existential threat rather than meekly follow previous cases down the same path even if it now no longer provides the same scope for the same empty platitudes to be tut tutted as occurred in those previous cases.

              It seems reasonable to conclude that no common ground either exists or will ever be possible in such circumstances. When evidence is rejected to suit comfort blanket convenience and attempts to realistically frame the situation – necessary to make progress in any complex or simple problem – are reduced to such simplistic caricatures there seems little prospect of any progress.

    • I echo Jams, Dave – great comment!

      Your Question 4 is especially pertinent for those on the Left denouncing Moscow’s action. I’ve yet to hear any of them say what – right now, not in some future paradise – Moscow should have done instead.

      (Minor point: there are no limits on the number of links a post may house, but a above a certain number – currently set to 4 – the comment’s publication will be held, pending moderation.)

      • Indeed. This post on the Saker site provides the kind of details and analysis which is too often conveniently ignored by what passes for the Western ‘left’ these days – too busy wallowing in its own sectarian narratives targeted at each other rather than where it should be focusing:

        Aside from securing the nuclear facilities to prevent the nutjobs running the ‘Sovereign Ukraine State’ building their own from Soviet era supplied material and taking out those Western bio labs it seems reasonable to conclude that degrading and securing airports was designed to achieve the objective of preventing war criminals from escaping capture.

        Those who are known to have committed these war crimes will be put on trial. And doubtless our email in trays will be filled with appeals to sign petitions and give money to defend them from organisations, institutions and individuals all claiming to be ‘left’ and ‘progressive.’

        Because, after all, their victims were only ‘White Russian Chauvinists’/Snow Niggers (as the Saker observes).

        But not to worry. There will doubtless at some point be various representatives from the Judean Popular Front/Popular front for Judea/Judean Peoples Front assuring us that those put on trial are the real victims.

    • Talking of South Ossettia and 2008: the Georgian government has been a model of common sense and calmness throughout this crisis. Of course Mikheil Saakashvili, the guy behind the 2008 attack is now in Ukraine working for Zelensky.

      The link to Doctorow is

      Another blog entry there today: The Russian Way of War.

      Then there is

  8. It’s interesting too that the Grauniad and other MSM sites are whining/hoping/requesting that China should intervene and castigate Russia on behalf of the ‘Empire of Lies’. However, the Global Times as the official organ of the CCP is clear that it supports Russian actions, regards them as legal, and is using the US unwillingness to actually support Ukraine while egging it on to further excesses as a stick to beat on the separatists in Taiwan. Hugely enjoyable.

  9. Phil, Dave and all,

    The Russian translator of my book (it’s now in press) has sent me a declaration by Roma Tisa, a Ukrainian Marxist and leader of group Vpered (Forward). Here is a rough translation into English.

    Proclamation on the Russian invasion of Ukraine

    Published 26/02/2022

    To all people of good will

    Comrades! Citizens! Brothers and sisters!
    The invasion of the armed forces of the Russian Federation with the support of the “People’s Militia” of the Luhansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic, launched on the morning of February 24 this year, is a terrible political mistake and a crime against humanity. The leadership of the Russian Federation hypocritically calls it a “special military operation”, but in fact from the very beginning it was a full-scale war with the use of all types of conventional weapons.
    It is bitter to admit, but in February 2022 the Russian Federation repeated the “feat” of Nazi Germany in June 1941. Let’s remember the words of an old war song:
    “Kyiv was bombed; it was announced that war had begun.”
    It’s scary to think about it, I don’t want to believe it, but it’s true. I wish it was just a dream, but this is not a terrible dream – this is a terrible reality.
    The ideological cover-up of the war – “demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, liberation of Ukrainians from the yoke of the Kyiv regime” – is a fallacy. It is true that the ruling elite and the ruling class of the Ukrainian Republic are far from altruistic bearers of the ideals of democracy; Ukrainian democracy is far from perfect. The probable accession to NATO or the rise of nationalism in recent years is the last thing needed for the well-being of the Ukrainian people and for comprehensive human development in Ukraine. But it is not for the fascist regime of the Russian Federation, which stifles progress and freedom in its country, to determine the foreign or domestic policy of our country! Do not let invaders decide the fate of its leaders! Democracy does not fly cruise missiles. True democracy, equality and humanism will not come to Ukraine on Russian tanks. To think differently is a dangerous illusion and a crime is a crime against history. No matter what noble intentions and slogans cover up the intervention and occupation, the Ukrainian people will never accept it. The invader will be defeated. History does not know anything else – neither Ukraine nor other countries.
    It is clear that the Russian ruling elite is dreaming of an empire – a mixture of ideology “Orthodoxy, autocracy and nationality”, neo-Stalinism and Great Russian chauvinism. As for Ukrainian history and culture, it demonstrates only ignorance: Ukraine for her is “trousers, hopak and borsch with dumplings.” Russia’s ruling elite seeks to prove to themselves and to the world that they are at the helm of a powerful imperial state that decides matters in its “sphere of influence” from the Baltic to the Pacific. However, they will prove only their weakness and helplessness in the face of fierce popular resistance. A painful but inevitable awakening from illusions awaits. They will pay for removing the leadership; as always it will be those at the bottom who will pay with their blood.
    Seeking ideological cover for the war, the leadership of the Russian Federation is deceiving itself, its own people and the whole world. If this is a war to impose a puppet government on a united Ukraine, it is hopeless. If this is a war for the dismemberment of Ukraine, it is unjust. This war has no excuse. If it is a war among one people or between two fraternal peoples (the Russian leadership has repeatedly declared the brotherhood of Ukrainians and Russians), this fratricidal war is the most disgusting of all wars. If this is a war against an independent foreign state, it is a blatant, brazen violation of international law – the assertion of might is right.
    Every war brings death, physical injury and emotional pain. This war is no exception. Among other things, it is conducted against friendship between peoples. The February intervention killed the last vestiges of sympathy for Russia that lurked in the hearts of the Ukrainian people. Of course, reconciliation is possible in the future, but the longer the fighting continues, the longer the Russian interventionist is on Ukrainian soil, the more victims pile up and ruins multiply, the longer it takes for the wounds to heal, the longer will the enmity between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples last. This cannot be allowed. The only possible way out is peace as soon as possible and restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty.
    Get rid of foreign troops from the Ukrainian land!
    Death to the Russian occupiers!
    Shame on the henchmen of Russian imperialism in Ukraine and abroad!
    Long live the victory in the national liberation war!
    Long live the international anti-war movement and solidarity!
    Peace to workers and peoples – war on capitalism and imperialism!

    • This advances nothing. Roma Tisa tells us that demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine is an “ideological cover-up” and a “fallacy”. Alas, he does not say why. Nor, in common with swathes of the “Left” in the west, does he tell us how else Russia – by his own tacit admission goaded by Nato for decades, and dealt rebuff after rebuff in its attempts to get assurances vital to the security of a nation surrounded by a hostile alliance – should have responded.

      This adds nothing to the debate, I’m afraid.

    • The implied notion that the present Government of Ukraine is not already a puppet Government doing the bidding of a fascist based foreign power and its peoples being manipulated and subjugated and brutalised in order to further imperialist ambitions has the situation arse about face.

      Talk about being in hock to imperial narratives and projecting those positions onto others.

      There’s no recognition here of a single one of the inconvenient contextual facts and truths presented along with others too numerous to deal with in one post – such as published US policy to use the peoples of Eastern Europe to break up Russia into smaller state-lets to be more easily plundered. Picking and choosing to suit a single sided narrative with inconsistent application of principles. In terms of this myopic approach this, and the previous one from, as I recollect the US, Militant publication could have come from the Trilateral Commission led Labour Party, Bellingcat, or Guido Fawkes.

      No attempt whatsoever to objectively assess reality and analyse all the evidence. Just parrotting a selective line fed down from above which seamlessly dovetails with imperial narratives and objectives. Frustratingly like much else with many other issues presented these days from the Official self referencing ‘left.’

      Which seems more in tune with the zeitgeist of Corporate managerial hierarchicism than material practicalities. In the circumstances the observation made here is pertinent;

      But what do I know. I’m just a hairy arsed jointer.

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