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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  • Marlin

    Craig, I would appreciate it if you could provide a link for a single “uprising” against the Ukranian government in the east. One that garnered more than a few people. By gvernment, I mean the one that existed before the western engineered, neo-fascist led coup d’etat. I have heard of just a couple of “gatherings” in the East. may be not enough of the “Right sector” and “svoboda” types there?

    I realize you don’t like oligarchs. So what do you think when the so-called new regime (cf. coup installed) has as one of its first acts, the isntallation of oligarchs (one not even residing in the Ukraine) as “governors”? quite confidence inspiring, and oh so brilliant. Almost as brilliant as having a western favored oligarch as the new “president”, and a cuddly IMF favorite as the prime whatever (“minister” i think they call it).

    Sorry to see you so anti-Russian (yes, I know you’ll say it’s just Putin, but Putin IS what the Russians wanted, and for a good reason – they were under the reign on that yeltsiin idiot robbed blind by the lovable “west” and their own nouveau riche oligarchs. Some were kicked out, some imprisoned, and some are still around. what else is new? and how is this different than the West especially the US where the top 1% own over 40% of the wealth?).

    Just saying.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    Karel – who seems well acquainted with Craig’s travel history – writes:

    “I agree that Poland is somewhat better off, although I know many Poles who are less convinced than you. What you present here is a faulty extrapolation of how Ukraine may hypothetically prosper by joining (well not for a long time) the EU while using Poland as an example. Hmm, what a pious thought. What about the other so called “new” EU members? How have Bulgaria, Romania, or the “old” member Greece prospered after joining EU?”

    1/. Poland is a lot better off than “somewhat”, I think.

    2/. Could you explain in more detail why you think Craig’s “extrapolation” is faulty in your opinion?

    3/. Conditions – including economic – in Bulgaria and Romania are improving, but the process takes time. If you like, take Austria as an example – it was still a relatively poor country well into the 1960s but look at it now.

    4/. The other EU member state you mention is Greece. I don’t know if you followed Greece since the fall of the dictatorship, but anyone who did – including by actually visiting the country – could not have failed to notice the astonishing improvement in living standards and prosperity until the recent crash. As evidenced, inter alia, by the very steep decline in the number of people emigrating for economic reasons.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    “Zionists don’t like Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, reason, he tells the truth about Israel.”

    Fair enough, it’s a free country. Ron Paul likes Paul Craig Roberts though, and Paul Craig Roberts is quite a fan of Ron Paul. Hmmmm….

    Anyway, let’s stay on topic, shall we?

  • Clarence


    “Russia transports its gas to Germany through the Nord Stream.” Maybe the aim of the zios is to ensure that Germany should never again have access to gas in case they misuse it.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    Do commenters feel that it would be a good idea if OSCE observer teams were allowed into the Crimea in the run-up to, and during, the forthcoming referendum?

  • Clarence

    @John Goss,

    Thank you for tour link.

    I am not a young man and happily went along with events as they were reported. I considered myself moderately right wing economically and left wing socially. I was content to read the Spectator weekly and the Guardian daily to keep up to date; and of course I believed everything I saw on BBC (or ABC since I emigrated).

    The events of – and especially the reporting of – 9/11 changed everything. My eyes were opened. All we are told now is spin and lies, and once you realise that you begin to check out past historical events, particularly wartime reporting. All is propaganda I soon discovered. It is difficult to go into more detail in a blog message but please take the courage to check all of the facts, especially historical “facts” that are proscribed without risking legal pursuit, at least in Europe. I truly was utterly shocked, considering how I was brought up (? brainwashed) in post-war Scotland.

    It is sad for me to see that Craig has apparently relapsed and now believes the current spin. Maybe Putin fucked his wife or something.

  • Clarence

    @ John Goss,

    It was not a joke and not intended to be funny. Just sad, so sad, and not much different from a sad clown, not really funny.

  • John Goss

    Clarence I am not young either. 9/11, together with the legitimacy of government in the Ukraine and the murder of Mark Duggan, are among the very few issues on which Craig and I disagree. I would not insult him or make nasty comments about his wife however frustrated I am. I think you should apologise for that.

    While you and I share common ground over 9/11 and the Ukraine I think it is important that respect is shown to others. After all we are allowed to comment here largely without restriction and I think especially that people who share my ideas should show respect to those who don’t because otherwise we are unlikely to win over public opinion.

    Otherwise I’m with you, and have recently changed my own opinion in now believing that an independent Scotland is the way forward. Perhaps the rest of us can learn from it.

  • Richard

    Russkies are a proud tribe, bright, educated and funny, with a long history centred somewhere around Kiev, Novgorod and Vladimir/Moscow, a world-class literature and a well-recognised love for the arts. Whenever I’ve met one I’ve usually liked ’em and I urge anybody who reads these scribblings to take that prejudice into account. One way or another, then, I’m sure that Mr. Murray is right when he says that Russia is a member of the European family.

    However, I am not sure why that would automatically make membership of the E.U. desirable – after all, it doesn’t for Norway or Switzerland.

    Then there is the factor of Russian nationalism – one which isn’t attenuated by playing geopolitical games with them and trying to hem them into a corner – albeit a very large one. Mr. Murray has also mentioned some rather unpleasant domestic aspects of Russian nationalism; do we want to incorporate that into our nice little family?

    E.U. membership would also mean that the Fourth Reich extended from Kerry to Vladivostok and no doubt took in Ukraine and Moldova and quite possibly Georgia and Armenia as well. At what point does all this become unmanageable? There would be a fairly porous border with the ‘stans’ of Central Asia as well. Remember, too, the disputed border with China in the far east – a large and expanding population on one side and a sparse population on the other. I think we’d be safer leaving that one to Moscow and Peking to sort out.

    I think it is worth factoring in to this equation the fact that fossil fuels and certain natural resources are running out quite quickly. That means that our current idea of economic “advancement” upon which many programmes are implicitly predicated are completely unsustainable. In a hundred years, people could look back on us as we look back on World War One and wonder what the blazes we thought we were playing at.

  • Clarence

    Ok John,

    I duly do apologise to Craig – although I think he is very wrong on this I have no idea as to his thoughts or motives. But is still a sad day when such a noble man starts defending the MSM/NATO crap.

    As to your post, please keep the pressure on by repeated links, and please do consider looking into the WWII lies and exaggerations,particularly if 9/11 is shown to be a nuclear event, See:

  • John Goss

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

    This statement I agree with, it is the means in which it is being done that is wrong. In a way I think up to this crisis Putin was going about democratising Russia to make it compatible with the better-governed western-European countries in the right way. To suddenly bring it all the benefits of the west: massive unemployment, unpayable debts, destruction of press freedom, war and the stealing of resources, all at once it is being done gradually. I don’t like the new UK. I can remember when public utilities were nationalised, when bills rose in line with erarnings, and bankers were not payed enormous bonuses for destroying economies. If the change was too sudden in Russia people would think back to the days when there were no university fees, public transport was affordable, everybody had work, and so on. To force the issue is only likely to raise the hackles of the Russian government.

    Why I believe it necessary that Russi “one of the greatest of European cultures” should be a member of the European Union is because we need a huge power block to oppose the imperialist aims of the United States. But we also need to get rid of the Neo-cons and Zionists that have ruined Europe.

  • Phil

    Someone 8 Mar, 2014 – 7:45 am

    The NYT article you link to seems to be behind a paywall. The first half is mostly about how the naughty UK is not supporting the brave US in sanctions against Russia. Here’s the second half. Pretty funny coming from the NYT but undeniably has the ring of truth:

    Tony Blair is the latter-day embodiment of pirate Britain’s Sir Walter Raleigh. The former prime minister now advises the Kazakh ruler Nursultan Nazarbayev on his image in the West. Mr. Blair is handsomely paid to tutor his patron on how to be evasive about the crackdowns and the mine shootings that are facts of life in Kazakhstan.

    This is Britain’s growth business today: laundering oligarchs’ dirty billions, laundering their dirty reputations.

    It could be otherwise. Banking sanctions could turn off the financial pipelines through which corrupt officials channel Russian money. Visa restrictions could cut Kremlin ministers off from their mansions. The tax havens that rob the national budget of billions could be forced to be accountable. Britain has the power to bankrupt the Putin clique.

    But London has changed. And the Shard — the Qatari-owned, 72-floor skyscraper above the grotty Southwark riverside — is a symbol of that change.

    The Shard encapsulates the new hierarchy of the city. On the top floors, “ultra high net worth individuals” entertain escorts in luxury apartments. By day, on floors below, investment bankers trade incomprehensible derivatives.

    Come nightfall, the elevators are full of African cleaners, paid next to nothing and treated as nonexistent. The acres of glass windows are scrubbed by Polish laborers, who sleep four to a room in bedsit slums. And near the Shard are the immigrants from Lithuania and Romania, who broke their backs on construction sites, but are now destitute and whiling away their hours along the banks of the Thames.

    The Shard is London, a symbol of a city where oligarchs are celebrated and migrants are exploited but that pretends to be a multicultural utopia. Here, in their capital city, the English are no longer the ones calling the shots. They are hirelings.

  • Daniel

    “Craig’s version of events may be true but it omits a key factor from Russia’s point of view – NATO.

    Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Kremlin has suspected that NATO (ie the US) was determined to move its forces ever closer to the Russian border in order to maximize its military and political leverage over Moscow.

    Who can blame them? The world is dominated by an imperial power to an extent hitherto unknown in human history, and that power has been intent on “containing” Russia and China – its only potential rivals – for the past 70 years. Would British “leaders” have reacted differently in the same circumstances, given that Obama was pressing Kiev to permit NATO military exercises in Ukraine?

    (By the way, it may be satisfying to compare Putin’s actions to those of Hitler in the 1930s, but it doesn’t get us anywhere. The US invaded Mexico in the 1840s and annexed much of what is now the American West, to the enduring chagrin of the Mexicans. Britain spent much of the past 200 years invading, occupying and despoiling places all over the world. By these standards, Putin has committed an unfortunate indiscretion).”

    Andy’s commentary above is a necessary corrective to Murray’s otherwise informative piece. In my view, Murray’s analysis didn’t give sufficient attention to what I regard as ‘the elephant in the room’ relating to overriding American geostrategic imperatives.

    It’s worth remembering that this crisis would not have happened had the United States not ingratiated itself in the sovereign affairs of the democratically elected government of Yanukovych in the first place.

    Victoria Nuland’s notorious “fuck the EU” phone call leaked last month, in which she can be heard laying down the shape of a post-Yanukovych government – much of which was then turned into reality when he was overthrown after the escalation of violence a couple of weeks later – has been missing from almost every mainstream analysis. One of the few exceptions was Seamus Milne’s excellent piece in the Guardian:


  • Clarence


    Thanks for the video link. I have only watched 10 minutes but have bookmarked it and will watch it all soon.

    As a good site documenting the oligarth looting of Russia under Yeltsin (with the advice of Rubin and Harvard ‘economists’), have a look at the archives here:


  • craig Post author


    Not that I know of – comments with too many links get blocked, could that be it?

    I have however deleted a second “Black Jelly” comment for referring to “yids” and banned his IP address, though doubtless he will pop up again.

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