A long read on Ukraine

6 Nov

Who’s up for a 9150 word read, for no good reason beyond my recommendation and its subject being a wholly avoidable bloodbath, on whose causes we’ve been lied to by criminals and their useful idiots, and which may yet take us to WW3?

(If Middle Eastern genocide and its consequences don’t get us there first.)

Yes, I mean the US war on Russia in Ukraine. It hasn’t gone away. With the world’s attention on Gaza – meaning now’s a good time for the West to bury what it deems bad news on that other inferno of its own making – influential sections of corporate media are leaking stories aimed at dampening then snuffing out expectations of a Ukraine victory those same influencers had once assured us was a slam-dunk.

September 19 seems aeons ago but on that day, in a footnote to the trial by media of Russell Brand, I wrote that:

… on some matters right wing voices – Peter Hitchens on Syria, Tucker Carlson on Russiagate – get closer to the truth than does the centre-left …

A low bar, admittedly, but today’s read does a lot more than clear it. Its authors are Christopher Layne and Benjamin Schwarz – respectively a Distinguished Professor of International Affairs & Chair in National Security at Texas A & M University; and a former editor of The Atlantic and The World Policy Journal – it appeared three weeks ago in the American Conservative, a source I do take seriously.

Do I endorse this piece entirely? As usual I have reservations. As I wrote to my friend and steel city reader Dave Hansell, who alerted me to it:

The authors have an ideological outlook which fails to site the Ukraine war in the context of the decline of a hyper-financialised USA. They also make one or two statements I categorically disagree with – most egregiously that Russia foot the bill for rebuilding post war Ukraine!

To which I’ll add a further caveat: this essay would benefit by acknowledging the eyewatering price paid by a Europe betrayed by leaders with neither the nous nor the courage to prioritise the interests of their own citizens over those of Washington.

But it gets far more right than it gets wrong. My closing words to Dave?

… these things notwithstanding, it’s a masterful essay. One I intend to promote as a steel city long read!

On which note, let me hand over to Professor Layne and Mr Schwarz …

The American Origins of the Russo–Ukrainian War

Washington’s explanation for the Russo–Ukrainian war is simple. As President Biden told the United Nations General Assembly in September 2023, “Russia alone, Russia alone bears responsibility for this war.” As we demonstrate, this simply is not true. To understand why the Russo–Ukrainian war began, and the obstacles to ending it, it is necessary to examine the war’s American origins. These are: the George H.W. Bush administration’s failure to give more economic assistance to support Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s economic reforms; the failure, at the Cold War’s end, to dissolve the two hostile alliance systems it spawned and replace them with a new post–Cold War European security architecture; the decisions of the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations to undertake NATO expansion; Washington’s specific promise, first made at NATO’s 2008 Bucharest summit and repeatedly reaffirmed, that Ukraine would become a NATO member; and the strategic and ideational underpinnings that have guided U.S. grand strategy toward the Soviet Union/Russia since the 1940s.

The Biden administration and the broader foreign policy establishment dismiss the notion that the causes of this war are complex. Rather than multiple causes, they believe the Russo–Ukrainian war’s cause is simple: Vladimir Putin. Discussions of the war are framed solely around Putin as an individual. An example is the frontpage headline in the December 18, 2022, New York Times promoting an eponymous special section of the paper: “Putin’s war.” The U.S. foreign policy establishment apparently has forgotten that Russia is a state, the policies of which are shaped by its history, geography, and political culture. Indeed, it would not be a surprise to learn that the denizens of the foreign policy Blob have removed the word “Russia” from their maps and rechristened that geographic space “Putinania.” As Washington sees it, the Ukraine war stems solely from the actions of an aggressive autocrat. This view neatly fits the Biden administration’s narrative—deeply rooted in America’s foreign policy tradition—that international politics are reducible to a struggle of  “good” states (democracies) versus “bad” states (non-democracies).

The focus on Putin as the sole driver of events misses a lot of the story. To be sure, as Russia’s leader, his decision to greenlight the all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 (and the 2014 seizure of Crimea and support for the Russian separatist uprisings in Donbas) is indeed the conflict’s proximate cause. He makes a convenient villain, though nothing like the overwrought comparison some make with Adolf Hitler. However, as important as Putin is, his views are not anomalous among Russians. By pinning the blame for the war on Putin alone, in effect personalizing the conflict, American and European policymakers have shorn the war of its geopolitical and historical context. The exclusive focus on Putin as a causal agent also distorts how the American foreign policy establishment thinks about both the war’s conclusion and Russia’s future. This was evident during the June 2023 Prigozhin mutiny, which raised short-lived hopes that Putin would fall from power and the door would be open to the emergence of a liberal democratic Russia.

Even if Putin were removed from power in the Kremlin—which seems to be one of the Biden administration’s unstated war aims—Russia’s foreign policy would not change much. As Georgetown University professor Angela Stent, who was national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia in the George W. Bush administration, wrote in her book Putin’s World (2019), singling out Putin as the necessary and sufficient cause of Moscow’s foreign policy “oversimplifies how Russia is ruled. Behind the new tsar stands a thousand year-old state with traditions and self-understanding that precedes Putin and surely will outlast him.” For these reasons, Stent writes, “it is an illusion to believe that Russia will markedly change in the course of the twenty-first century.”

That Russia and Ukraine came to blows will not have surprised anyone with knowledge of the tumultuous period between the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the Soviet Union’s breakup in December 1991. The potential for war was foreseeable, and foreseen, in Moscow, Kyiv, and Washington …

Read the full piece at American Conservative … 1


Now, for anyone in doubt as to why I so often use the term, imperialism, let’s move to the kind of armed robbery Latin America has been subjected to for decades. I get alerts from Progressive International. Today’s had this to say:

A US company, Próspera Inc, is suing the Honduran people for $10.7 billion – two-thirds of its 2023 budget. For what? For losing the right to steal Honduran resources and exploit its people. 

It’s a shocking story of corporate colonialism that the Honduran people and government are fighting. Learn more about this brazen act of modern-day colonialism, the Honduran people’s resistance to it, and our global campaign. Watch and share our video today.

The film makers know their craft. Amazing how much invaluable info they’ve packed into a video of under five minutes.

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  1. Top tactics for top tacticians: for longer online reads I copy and paste to a Word document, then send to my Kindle. Here’s how.

5 Replies to “A long read on Ukraine

  1. The groundwork for the excuses is starting to be laid. From RT today:

    “Early in October, Politico reported that Washington was “far more worried about corruption in Ukraine than they publicly admit.” The magazine cited a sensitive document it had obtained suggesting that the widespread graft in Ukraine could ultimately force Western allies to abandon Kiev in its fight with Russia. “

    And from (my) posts on ‘naked capitalism’ that, due to the diverse and disempowered nature of NATO:

    “the US is a necessary part of a resolution to the Ukraine war. Whether it is willing to take on such a part depends on whether the US government becomes able to recognise actual ‘reality’, or whether it still believes that it can ‘make its own’. How long can an empire survive if it is not based on a firm grasp of reality? Perhaps we are about to find out?”

    • Ample grounds for saying reality is catching up with Uncle Sam, Jams. At a blistering pace.

      Let me amend that RT quote:

      … graft in Ukraine could let Western allies put a face-saving spin on abandoning Kiev …

      there; fixed it.

  2. Layne and Schwarz article is excellent (and it’s publication perhaps indicative of the US establishment beginning to allow itself to consider alternative narratives to we must support Ukraine against Vlad the Bad regardless). Your comment on right of centre commentators sometimes getting closer to the truth than left of centre ones is pertinent – although this article falls short of the Michael Hudson gold standard for economic context, it does at least make plain the US driver of weakening Russia. Many otherwise excellent commentators (eg Sachs, Mecouris) seem to view US foreign policy to be largely the product of incompetence.

    • “Many otherwise excellent commentators (eg Sachs, Mecouris) seem to view US foreign policy to be largely the product of incompetence.”

      Others, notably Andrei Martyanov, go further by arguing both explicitly and implicitly that the absence of competence (knowledge + expertise + experience) is not limited to US foreign policy but is instead not a standard feature across all sectors, organisations, and institutions of the Collective West.

      To be frank, having experienced daily over a thirty five year working stint (since the blessed frau Roberts was elected) the systematic managing out of all competence – and not just in BT, the company I worked for – I can find no solid evidence to disagree with Martyanov on this point.

      Which raises a number of practical problems. Not least of which, despite the observations of the two Alex’s at the Duran vis a vis Trump over Biden/Starmer v Sunak, is that we are very close to, if not already arrived at, the point where there is insufficient/no competency capacity within any of the systems, organisations and institutions of the Collective West.

      This example relating to Britain provides a historical contextual background:


      Take the example of the current reports of the US looking to pressure Zelensky to sign a petace deal with the RF. The problem here is; a) the RF are not going to negotiate with the monkey and b) there is no rational reason to think that the RF will even bother talking seriously with a US organ grinder which they deem agreement incapable and which they know has less competency than a Walter Mitty/Don Quixote Hybrid.

      In fact somewhere in the past day or so – I can’t recall where – I’ve seen a report suggesting that the RF are looking to downgrade or even sever its diplomatic relations with the USA.

      Which then raises the question of by what process the two current conflicts (Ukraine and the Near East) and the one still on the back burner (Taiwan/China) are going to be resolved?

      Scott Ritter, in a video interview over last weekend following the Hezbollah leader speech in Beirut last Friday, made two stand out relevant contextual points.

      The first was the argument that the US had not actually lost any of its wars – eg Vietnam, Afghanistan – on the grounds that whilst they had not actually won those wars the ‘enemies’ they had been fighting had not occupied Washington and instigated a regime change/clear out of those who had waged those wars.

      The second was the claim that there seems little likelihood of any such regime change – in which the Deep State (Trump’s ‘swamp’) is eliminated* via internal mechanisms and processes. ie The masses are either insufficiently capable or not interested in serious change**.

      Which seems to leave two options: Externally imposed change in the way in which Germany and Japan experienced following their defeat in WW2 or changing the internal conditions sufficiently to instigate internal systemic collapse not just in the US but across the entire collective West in order to instigate/encourage regime change.

      • 1. correction: that should read:

        “but is instead a standard feature across all sectors, organisations, and institutions of the Collective West.


        * A bully can be dealt with by putting the bully on the ground. Sociopaths and Psychopaths, however, can only be dealt with by putting them in the ground.

        ** Too many of which are irretrievably sold on the notion of the US/Collective West being ethnically, culturally, socially, politically, morally and economically superior to all other people and systems. Or in other words; The Biggest, Baddest and Bestest.

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