Putin’s Victorious Defeat 238

Just a month ago, Putin had one of his pet oligarchs, the firmly pro-Russian multi-billionaire Yanukovich, in power in Ukraine.  Putin had been to an awful lot of trouble to ensure that Yanukovich got elected.  It is undoubtedly true that the United States and its allies funded various pro-western groups in the Ukraine – my friend Ray McGovern, former senior CIA, put a figure of US$100 million on it, and he should know.  The resources Putin poured in to ensure Yanukovich’s election were more in kind than financial, but were not on too different a scale.

In earlier attempts to put Yanukovich in power, Putin had in 2004 helped organise massive electoral fraud, and Putin’s secret service had attempted to assassinate Victor Yushchenko.  The 2010 election of Yanukovich also involved a great deal of fraud.  Russia is an influential member of the OSCE, Ukraine is also a member and that organization is notably mealy-mouthed in pointing out the derelictions of its own members. Nonetheless its observation mission of the 2010 Presidential elections stated:

 “The presidential election met most OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections and consolidated progress achieved since 2004. The process was transparent and offered voters a genuine choice between candidates representing diverse political views. However, unsubstantiated allegations of large-scale electoral fraud negatively affected the election atmosphere and voter confidence in the process.”

That is about as close as the OSCE has ever come to accusing one of its own members of fraud.  International organisations have their obvious limitations.

Putin had put years of effort into getting the President of Ukraine which he wanted, and he had him.  Yanukovich attempted to steer an even-handed path between Russia and the West, while putting his main effort into acquiring an astonishing personal fortune.  Putin lost patience when Yanukovich appeared ready to sign an EU association agreement, and put extremely heavy pressure on Yanukovich over debt, energy supplies, and doubtless some deeply personal pressures too.  Yanukovich backed down from the EU Association agreement and signed a new trade deal with Russia, appearing on the path to Putin’s cherished new Eurasian customs union.

The west – and not only the west – of Ukraine erupted into popular protest.  The reason for this is perfectly simple. Income, lifestyle, education, health and social security for ordinary people are far better in western and central Europe than they are in Russia.  The standard of living for ordinary Polish people in Poland has caught up at a tremendous rate towards the rest of the EU.  I am not depending on statistics here – I have lived in Poland, travelled widely in Poland and speak Polish.  I was professionally involved in the process of Polish economic transformation.  There have been a large number of commenters on this blog this last few days who deny that the standard of living for ordinary people in Poland is better as a result of EU membership, and believe life for ordinary people is better in Russia than in the west.  I also of course speak Russian and have travelled widely in Russia.  Frankly, you have to be so ideologically blinkered to believe that, I have no concerns if such people leave this blog and never come back; they are incapable of independent thought anyway.

Undoubtedly pro-western groups financed by the US and others played a part in the anti-Yanukovich movement.  They may have had a catalytic role, but that cannot detract from the upswell of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who were not paid by the West, and drove Yanukovich from power. It is true that, when the situation became violent some very unpleasant nationalist, even fascist, groups came to the fore.  There is a great deal of extreme right wing thuggery in all the former Soviet Union – ask Uzbeks who live in Russia.  The current government in power in Kiev seem a diverse bunch, and seem to include some pleasant people and some very unpleasant people.  Elections this year will make things clearer.   It is also true that corruption is the norm among the Ukrainian political elite, across any nationalist or ideological divides.

In a very short space of time, Putin went from the triumph of killing off the EU Association agreement to the disaster of completely losing control of Kiev.  But for reasons including trade, infrastructure and debt, the new government was bound to come back to some relationship and accommodation with Putin eventually.  It just needed patience.

Instead of which, Putin decided to go for a macho seizure of the Crimea.  There is no doubt that the actions of surrounding military bases and government buildings by Russian forces, and controlling roads and borders, are illegal under international law.  There also appears little doubt that a large proportion of Crimea’s population would like union with Russia, though whether a genuine majority I am not sure.  I am sure under these circumstances of intimidation and military occupation, the referendum will show a massive majority.  Hitler pulled the same trick.

So now Putin can stride the stage as the macho guy who outfoxed the west and used his military to win Crimea for Mother Russia.  But it is an extremely hollow victory.  He has gained Crimea, but lost the other 95% of the Ukraine, over which one month ago he exercised a massive political influence.

The western powers will not bring any really effective sanctions that would harm the financial interests of the interconnected super-rich, be they Russian oligarchs or City bankers.  But they will now do what they were not prepared to do before, provide enough resources to make Ukraine politically free of Russia.  The EU has already agreed to match the US$19 billion in guarantees Putin had promised to Yanukovich. Before the annexation of Crimea the EU was not prepared to do that.

The Crimea was the only ethnic Russian majority province in Ukraine.  Donetsk does not have an ethnic Russian majority, only a Russian speaking majority – just like Cardiff has an English speaking majority.  The difference is key to understand the situation, and largely ignored by the mainstream media.  Without Crimea, the chances of the pro-Putin forces in the rest of Ukraine ever mustering an electoral majority are extremely slim.  Putin has gained Crimea and lost Ukraine – has he really won?

The real tragedy, of course, is that Ukraine’s relationships are viewed as a zero-sum game.  Russia has huge interests in common with Europe.  I hope to see Ukraine a member of the EU in the next decade, and Putin has made that vastly more likely than it was a month ago.  But why does that have to preclude a close economic relationship with Russia?  The EU should not operate as a barrier against the rest of the world, but as a zone of complete freedom within and ever-expanding freedom to  and from without.  And European Union will never be complete until Russia, one of the greatest of European cultures, is a member.





238 thoughts on “Putin’s Victorious Defeat

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  • mark golding

    The Washington/London plot to destabilise the Crimea using the same strategy used in Kiev was ‘thrown a monkey wrench’ by good intelligence. A reliable source has informed coia that well trained ‘mercenaries’ on £800/day plus expenses intended to fly to Simferopol airport and seize it and other strategic locations, such as Sevastopol, Kerch, Feodosia and Yalta where a meetup would occur in an abandoned warehouse. The plan was nullified when Flights were called back and others cancelled.

    We can presume these people and other jihadist including al-qaeda operatives from Saudi and Tatars trained in Turkey will attempt to disrupt the Crimea referendum to be held in 10 days time.

    The ultra-right-wing military organization known as Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian People’s Self-Defense (UNA-UNSO) is I believe part of a NATO GLADIO organisation based in Ukraine and it is this group that is tasked I am sure with coordinating others and faking a massive humanitarian crisis in Crimea before the Crimea people’s mandate.

    I have informed Moscow.

  • Kurtan

    Goodness me.
    I found this report in CNN.Fascinating to see them report the obvious.
    As for 95% Craig.Methinks your numbers are wrong.
    Ukraine is in the process of splitting.This process has precisely begun.
    The East of Ukraine is very Russian and with little effort it will join the Crimea.
    What is left over is a country with many problems and their new leadership is #1.
    IMF help is #2.And then there is an EU willing to print money and still woo the bride without her juicy bits.Sick at #3!number 4 and sitting in the back seat is Obama wanting an airbase on Russia’s doorstep.They will be agitating till it comes.
    I don’t think Putin has lost or will lose.We witnessed the bloody coup,and then we saw how the Russians do it.No soldiers, just local militia tovarich.

  • craig Post author


    Crimea is the only province which is majority ethnically Russian. Your “no Russian troops” claim is a stupid lie. People can believe and argue what they want, but deliberate lying is different.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    “And European Union will never be complete until Russia, one of the greatest of European cultures, is a member.”

    For this Russian mentality (and not only their elites) has to change a lot. For now I think it is probably that the gap between Russian and Europe is wider than between Europe and Turkey.

  • Enoch

    “they are incapable of independent thought anyway.” – or they are Zionists.
    Anyone who disagrees with you is a Zionist, or is incapable of independent thought, naturally.
    Do you ever wonder why your media interviews get cancelled? Is it all a Zionist plot, or have you become an embarassing tosser?

  • lucythediclonius

    What is ethnically Russian according to you Craig?If you had a Georgian mother and a Kazakh father and were born in Kiev would you be Russian ,Kazakh or other?

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    Your attempts to denigrate Putin go to extreme lengths.

    Putin did nothing to help Yanukovych get elected in 2004 or with the attempted assassination of Victor Yushchenko – just CIA propaganda, apparently from your buddy McGovern.

    This is Russophobia in spades.

    You should read something reliable about Putin, like Shevtsova’s book, and get over it.

  • craig Post author

    It’s purely a self-identification thing Lucy. Throughout the former soviet union, for official purposes people are asked their citizenship and their nationality – gradzvanstva and narodnosc. Everyone in the former soviet union knows what it means. People will answer “I am an Uzbek citizen of Tajik nationality” for example. Just as you may call yourself Welsh and be of goodness knows what ancestry. Self-identification, that’s all.

    But in the census of Donetsk, only about 20% of the population put themselves as Ukrainian citizens, Russian nationals. The large majority put themselves as Ukrainian citizens, Ukrainian nationals. They knew precisely what the question means. Crimea was the only region where most people answerd Ukrainian citizen, Russian national.

    Does that help you? I have not, I am glad to say, become a racial theorist!

  • Uzbek in the UK


    How would you respond to your own question?

    You only need to ask ethnically Russian if you (whose mother is Georgian and father is Kazakh) could call yourself Russian. Be prepared to put brave face when you are loudly laughed in your face.

  • Lawrence AB

    Craig, your last comment about the importance of Russia to Europe is spot on.
    Russia has been intimately involved in European affairs for at least 300 years. It has given us, and to the world, literature, political thinkers, poets, music, painters, of extraordinary quality, second to none. We have far more in common with Russia than with the currently degraded democracy across the Atlantic (I hope it regains its early values but signs are not good).
    We must be patient and persistent with Russia and always show our respect for the people, if not for the régimes. The Cold EWar rhetoric is unhelpful to say the least, downright stupid at worst. Anyone who has studied Russian history knows that a great pendulum swings through the decades between slavophils and zapadniki (wersternisers). We are in a Slovophil moment. It will change. We must encourage the change.

  • reliably


    I understand what you’re saying about Poland and agree with you. However, it also could be said that EU membership leads to IMF-type debt and a steady supply of ‘underclass’ for poorly-paid service work jobs in rich, financialized EU countries like the UK. I’m all for the free movement of people, but I’m not sure that migrations of the younger generations to rich EU nations to be exploited in dead-end jobs is the same thing as freedom.

    Putin’s Russia doesn’t operate so much on the financialization model. He seems to be more interested in resources and industry. Over time, this would seem to offer another path to prosperity, one that doesn’t involve predatory organizations like the IMF and the World Bank, and offers a real economy at home for those who don’t want to leave their country.

    Poland got into the EU before the financial crisis, and already had a fairly robust guest worker system in parts of Europe. The pressures on the richer economies today to sustain the giant, freewheeling casino of financialization are quite different than in 2004.

  • craig Post author


    “Putin did nothing to help Yanukovych get elected in 2004 or with the attempted assassination of Victor Yushchenko –”


  • craig Post author


    Putin’s economic model relies entirely on the massive export of raw commodities, especially metals and energy, which provides very little employment and concentrates super-profits in the hands of a tiny elite. Manufacturing and services are minute parts of the economy. What is the last thing you bought made in Russia? What is the last thing Putin or any of his oligarchs bought that is made in Russia?

    The system results in even worse wealth inequality than the terrible – and worsening – situation you rightly describe in the West

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Trowbridge H. Ford

    I would rather recommend you and other people to read another book about Putin. “Putin’s Russia” by assassinated (by KGB-however I realise that this will be dismissed as CIA propaganda) Anna Politkovskaya.

  • Herbie

    Does anyone remember how much it cost to unite East and West Germany.

    It’d cost a lot more than that to make Ukraine and particularly West Ukraine a part of the EU.

    And East Germany was way way ahead of where the Ukraine is at economically, and of course the ethnic ties were very different.

    You’re talking hundreds of billions, and I don’t think the EU wants to spend that much.

    I can see them plundering the place though.

  • Herbie

    “Putin’s economic model”

    It’s not his model. He has to work with what he has.

    The development of these other areas of economic activity takes time, and indeed evolves over time.

    Putin is currently rescuing the country from Yeltsin and the West’s shock therapy.

  • Someone

    “What is the last thing you bought made in Russia?”

    That could just about be said of the UK!.

    “The system results in even worse wealth inequality than the terrible – and worsening – situation you rightly describe in the West”

    Photo finish.

  • Uzbek in the UK


    “And East Germany was way way ahead of where the Ukraine is at economically, and of course the ethnic ties were very different”

    REALLY? East Germany AKA German Democratic Republic? You must have been dreaming at the (important) historical moment of German unification.

  • Uzbek in the UK


    “That could just about be said of the UK!.”

    So we all are driving Russian cars then, in the UK? Flying on Russian planes?

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Mr Murray

    Are not you tired arguing with the bluntly headed lefties? It seems not only they know very little about Russia and former USSR but also their knowledge of economic theory is questionable.

    I realise that I had to study Marx and Lenin and was not allowed to argue of their shortcomings. But why these people?

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    So if Putin tried to kill Yushchenko, why does Shevtsova not mention it?

    If Putin’s so-called “meddling” ( p. 274) in the 2004 election was so instrumental in Yanukovych’s victory, why did Putin have to threaten to cut off the gas in 2006 to get him on Russia’s side?

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Trowbridge H. Ford

    Yanukovich was Putin’s men but he was president of Ukraine where there were own elites and he also had to maintain that (as we have witnessed very fragile) balance between Ukrainian nationalists and pro-Russian Ukrainians. He could not always do 100% what Putin wanted him to do. And as soon as he has forgotten this, he was out.

  • lucythediclonius

    Yes thanks Craig it is somewhat confusing as are what exactly constitutes language in the region.Nothing inaccurate in your analysis but the east may be more Russian than you suggest.The western heartland of the fascist groups (Lviv) is Catholic and Polish in some ways.The borders were set when nationality wasn’t really an issue and a lot of people have family both sides of the border.

  • Herbie


    Are you disagreeing that East Germany was ahead of western Ukraine economically?

  • Black jelly

    The proof of the pudding is in the reaction of the massed ranks of the sayanim, how the Synagogue of Satan hates the man !! He has stumped their EVERY move for domination, so much so that the “Yats” have even had to resort to an alliance with Nazis in Ukraine to get at him.Its very simple, if the devils who have a proven long list of “credentials” including – King David Hotel,GoT,Kennedy,USS Liberty,911 NORAD,Ghouta,etc are after his ass – he must be an ANGEL !! Just the spin of the gaju devils in the Beeb has been enough to convince me Putin is da man !!

  • Uzbek in the UK


    Yes. In fact East Germany (despite being Germany) was one of the least developed eastern block economies could only be compared to Romania of that time. And it is despite it being flagship for soviets to prove that their economic model was better than western. Some current researches I came across suggested that it was due to German work ethics was incomparable with soviet. And it was soviet that was enforced on East Germans.

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