Rethinking Ukraine: Putin and the Mystery of National Identity 579


The genocide in Gaza – or more precisely the major NATO powers’ active and practical support for the genocide in Gaza – has forced me to re-evaluate my views on Ukraine in a manner more sympathetic to the Russian narrative.

In particular, I was complacent in my dismissive attitude to the argument that the Western powers would back ethnic cleansing and massacre in the Donbass, by forces including some motivated by Nazi ideology. The same powers who are funding and arming Ukraine are funding and arming a genocide by racial supremacist Israeli forces in Gaza. It is beyond argument that my belief in some kind of inherent decency in the Western political Establishment was naive.

I apologise.

This does not mean that I was wrong to call the Russian invasion of the Ukrainian state illegal. I am afraid it was. You see, the law is the law. It has only a tenuous connection to either morality or justice. A thing can be justified and morally right, but still illegal.

The proof of this is that we have an entire legal structure governing transactions which is designed to achieve massive concentration of wealth. In consequence, the world is predicted to have its first trillionaires inside the next five years, while millions of children go hungry. That is plainly immoral. It is plainly unjust. But it is not only legal, it is the purpose of the system of law.

I am, however, content that the “Right to Protect” doctrine has not become accepted in international law, because it is in general application neo-imperialist. It was developed by the Blair government initially to justify NATO bombing of Serbia and the British re-occupation of Sierra Leone, and was used by Hillary Clinton to justify the destruction of Libya on the basis of lies about an imminent massacre in Benghazi. We should be wary of the doctrine.

(That is the major theme of my book The Catholic Orangemen of Togo).

The causes of the Russian invasion of Ukraine are plain. Alarm at NATO expansionism and forward positioning of aggressive military assets encircling Russia. The Ukrainian coup of 2014. Exasperation at Ukrainian bad faith and the ignoring of the Minsk accords. The continuing death toll from shelling of Russian speakers in the Donbass.

The suppression of the Russian language, of Russian Orthodox religion and of the main pro-Russian opposition political party in Ukraine are simple facts. These I have always acknowledged: until I saw the positive enthusiasm of leaders of the Western states for massacre in Gaza, I was not convinced they could not have been addressed by diplomacy and negotiation. I now have to reassess that view in the light of new information, and I now think Putin was justified in the invasion.

It is not that any of the arguments are new. It is simply that before I did not believe that the West would sponsor mass ethnic cleansing and genocidal attack on the Donbass by extreme Ukrainian nationalist-led, Western-armed forces. I thought the “West” was more civilised than that. I now have to face the fact that I was wrong about the character of the NATO powers.

The alternative to Putin’s action probably was indeed massacre and ethnic cleansing.

The urgent need now is for negotiation to put an end to the war. On that my position has not changed. The war is a disaster for the people of Europe. The American destruction of Nord Stream has devastated the German economy and resulted in huge energy price increases for consumers all across Europe, including the UK. There was a step jump in food inflation which has not been pulled back.

The continuation of the war will of course prime the pump of the military-industrial complex. Massive defence spending is the most efficient way to ensure kickbacks to the political class who control the flow of state funds, through both legal and illegal forms of corrupt reward to politicians.

As Julian Assange said, the object is not to win wars: the object is forever wars, to keep the funds flowing.

The truth is that the longer the war persists, the less generous Russia will be over returning occupied territory to Ukraine. The deal which was torpedoed by the West nearly two years ago (and in truth the US played more of a role than Boris Johnson – I was actually there in Turkey) ceded only the Crimea to Russia, with a Minsk plus deal for the Donbass which would have remained Ukrainian. That is unthinkable now. The major question is how large a coastal corridor Russia will insist on keeping westward from Crimea, and whether Putin can be persuaded to accept less than the historical dividing line of the Dnieper.

I do not share the Russian triumphalism at the dwindling manpower resources of the Ukraine. With the obscene billions the West is pumping into remote warfare in Ukraine, that is not the factor you might expect. But the political will of the West to continue to pump in these billions is plainly sapping, as it becomes obvious there will be no successful Ukrainian offensive. Put simply, Russia will outlast its opponents.

It has always been the case that the sooner Ukraine and the West settle, the better deal they will get, and that is more true every day. But prolonging the war is an end in itself to those who make money from it.

Putin’s historical disquisition to Tucker Carlson opened some Western eyes to another national perspective, and gave rise to widespread claims by Western media that Putin was factually wrong. In fact almost all of his facts were correct. The interpretation of them, and the position of other facts which were omitted or given less weight, is of course the art of history.

There is no question I find more fascinating in history than the formation and dissolution of national identities.

My own perspective on this – and there is no subject on which it is more important to understand the vantage point of the person writing – is governed by two factors in particular. Firstly, I am a Scot and come from one of Europe’s oldest nation states, which then lost its independence and struggles to regain it after being submerged in a new “British” national identity.

Secondly, as a former diplomat I lived and worked in the political field in a number of countries with differing histories of national identity.

These include Poland, a nation state which the historian Norman Davies brilliantly quipped “Has emerged from time to time through the mists of history – but never in the same place twice”.

It includes Ghana, a state with an extremely strong sense of national identity but which was an entirely artificial colonial creation.

It includes Nigeria, another entirely artificial colonial creation but which has struggled enormously to build national identity against deep and often violent ethnic and cultural differences.

It includes Uzbekistan, a country which also has entirely artificial colonial borders but which the western “left” fail to recognise as an ex-colony because they refuse to acknowledge the Soviet Union was a continuation of the Russian Empire.

So I have seen all this, as someone with a training and interest as a historian, who has read a great deal of Eastern European history. I have also lived in Russia and was for a time both a fluent Russian and Polish speaker. I do not write this to claim I am right, but so that you know what has formed my view.

Putin argued at great length that there never was such a country as “Ukraine”. The BBC has run a “fact check” and claimed this is “Nonsense”.

There are several points to make about this. The first is that the BBC did not, as it claimed, go to “independent historians”. It went to Polish, Ukrainian and Armenian historians with their own very distinct agenda.

The second is that these historians did not actually take issue with Putin’s facts. For a fact-check it does not really examine any of Putin’s historical facts at all. What the historians did was put forward other facts they felt deserve more weight, or different interpretations of the facts referenced by Putin. But none argued convincingly for the former existence of a Ukrainian national state or even the long term existence of Ukrainian national identity.

In fact their arguments were largely consistent with Putin. The BBC quote Prof Ronald Suny:

Mr Suny points out that the inhabitants of these lands when they were conquered by Russia were neither Russian nor Ukrainian, but Ottoman, Tatar or Cossacks – Slavic peasants who had fled to the frontiers.

Which is absolutely true: 18th century Russia did not conquer a territory called “Ukraine”. Much of the land of Ukraine was under Muslim rule when conquered by Catherine the Great, and nobody  called themselves “Ukrainian”.

The BBC then gives this quote:

But Anita Prazmowska, a professor emerita at the LSE, says that although a national consciousness emerged later among Ukrainians than other central European nations, there were Ukrainians during that period.

“[Vladimir Putin] is using a 20th Century concept of the state based on the protection of a defined nation, as something that goes back. It doesn’t.”

Which is hardly accusing Putin of speaking “nonsense” either. Prazmowska admits the development of Ukrainian national consciousness came “later than other Central European states”, which is very definitely true. Prazmowska herself has a very Central European take – the idea of the nation state in England, Scotland and France, for example, developed well ahead of the period of which she was speaking.

I should address the weakness in Putin’s narrative, around the origins of World War 2. Russian nationalists have great difficulty in accommodating the Stalin/Hitler pact into the narrative of the Great Patriotic War, and while Putin did briefly reference it, his attempt to blame World War 2 essentially on Poland was a low point. But even here, there was a historical truth that the standard Western narrative ignores.

The Rydz-Smigly–led military dictatorship in Poland after the death of Pilsudski was not a pleasant regime. Putin was actually correct about Munich: both the UK and France had asked Poland to allow the Soviet army to march through to bolster Czechoslovakia against Germany, and Poland refused (Ridz-Smigly did not trust Stalin, and frankly I don’t blame him). But this is an example of part of Putin’s narrative that countered the received Western tradition, that most well-informed people in the West have no idea happened, and is perfectly true.

The fusing back then of Ukrainian nationalism with Nazism, and the atrocities of Ukrainian nationalists in WW2 against not just Jews but also Poles and other minorities, were also perfectly true.

It is a simple and stark truth there never was a Ukrainian state before 1991. There just was not. Lands currently comprising Ukraine were at various times under the rule of Muslim Khans, of the Ottomans, of Cossack Hetmans (possibly the closest thing to proto-Ukrainians), the Polish-Lithuanian confederation and Russian Tsars.

As I have stated on this blog before, the boundary between Polish/Lithuanian and Russian influence became settled on the Dnieper. I have also published this map before, showing that history resonates through the current conflict.

There is also the case of third-party recognition of the Ukrainian nationality. I have read, for example, the letters and memoirs, both published and unpublished, of scores of British soldiers and civil servants involved in the Imperial rivalry with Russia in Asia. Many had contact with Russian officers or diplomats. They did clearly recognise different ethnic identities within the Russian Empire. The Russian diplomat Jan Witkiewicz was described repeatedly by British officers as “Polish”, for example. “Cossack” and “Tartar” were frequently used. I cannot recall any of these British sources ever using the description “Ukrainian”.

Nor did British officers who actually passed through Ukraine, like Fred Burnaby and Arthur Connolly, describe it as such in their memoirs. Now I am not claiming that if British imperialists did not notice something, it did not exist. But if there were a centuries-old recognition by the rival Empire of the existence of a Ukrainian national identity, that would definitely mean something. There does not appear to be such.

I should be interested to know where Ukrainian nationalists claim their cultural heritage lies as proof of early national identity. What is the Ukrainian equivalent of Shakespeare’s John of Gaunt speech, of Scotland’s Blind Harry, or even of Poland’s Pan Tadeusz? (This is a genuine question. There may be areas of Ukrainian historic identity of which I am unaware).

Putin was not wrong about history (apart from the dodgy bit about origins of the second world war). But the correct question is whether any of this matters.

It is not whether Putin’s historical analysis is broadly correct, it is whether this matters. I am inclined to the view that Putin is correct that there is little evidence that the people living in Ukraine, hundreds of years ago, ever considered themselves a distinct national entity.

But they are all dead, so they don’t get a vote. The only thing that matters is the opinion of those living there now.

It seems to me beyond dispute that there is now a Ukrainian national identity. I know several Ukrainians who consider themselves joyously and patriotically Ukrainian, just as I know patriotic Ghanaians and even patriotic Uzbeks. The question of how this identity was forged and how recently is not the point.

I should add there are undoubtedly a great many Ukrainians whose sense of national identity is not linked to Nazism. There is a historical and a current strain of Nazism in Ukrainian nationalism, and it is far too tolerated by the Ukrainian state; that is certainly true. But to claim all Ukrainian nationalists are Nazis is a nonsense.

The formation of national identity is a very curious thing. Ivory Coast has just won the African Cup of Nations at soccer, beating Nigeria in the final. The competition arouses huge patriotic fervour throughout the continent of Africa. But the boundaries of all the African nations, except arguably Ethiopia, are entirely artificial colonial constructs. They cut right across ethnic, cultural and linguistic boundaries.

Much of modern Ghana was the old Ashanti kingdom, but that extended much further into now Ivory Coast. The coastal areas were never Ashanti. In the east, the Ewe people’s lands are cut by a completely artificial boundary with Togo. To the north, largely Muslim populations live a much more rural lifestyle. Yet Ghanaians are fiercely proud of this imposed state of Ghana. They are proud it was the first African state to attain Independence, they are proud of its heritage of supporting African liberation movements including the ANC, they are proud of its education system. They have a real sense of national identity that goes far beyond the passionate support of its sporting teams.

Ghanaian identity is modern, ahistoric, within entirely colonial boundaries. But it is real and valid.

In Central Asia, the boundaries of the “stans” are again colonial boundaries that cut right across the pre-existing Khanates. The boundaries of these ex-Soviet republics were carefully designated by Stalin not to be ethnically or culturally coherent, to guard against the development of national opposition. So the greatest Tajik cities, Bokhara and Samarkand, are not in Tajikistan but Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan has important similarities to Ukraine. Both are states with boundaries of Soviet republics, which have no relationship to any pre-existing state or nation. In both – and this may be a legacy of Soviet authoritarianism – the state has attempted to force national identity by compulsory homogeneity. So Russian language medium in education was first banned in Uzbekistan, and then Tajik. Ukraine has similarly banned the Russian language. This of course is nothing new in state behaviour, as Highland Scots well know.

Yet even in Uzbekistan, a passionate national identity has been created, even among Kazakhs, Tajiks etc who reside there. The alchemy by which this happens is mystifying; partly it seems to depend on a natural loyalty to whatever authority exists, which is a rather troubling thought. For Central Asia, Olivier Roy’s The New Central Asia, the Creation of Nations has some thoughts on the sociology of the process.

I am aware I need to read more on the creation of national identity, because most of my thought is based on simple observation. It is however entirely plain that national identity can appear, and can be genuine, and can do so in a period of merely decades. There is now a Ukrainian national identity, and those who subscribe to it have the right to their state.

That they have a right to the former boundaries of Soviet Ukraine is a different proposition. Given the reality that it is plain a significant minority of the population do not subscribe to Ukrainian national identity, that civil war broke out, and that this relates to historic geographic fracture lines, it seems that division of territory is now not only inevitable but desirable.

All people of good will should therefore wish to see an end to fighting and a peace settlement, of which the territorial elements are somewhere close to the current lines between the forces, with Russia giving back some territory in return for recognition of its gains. The alternative is more death, human misery and economic malaise.

 
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579 thoughts on “Rethinking Ukraine: Putin and the Mystery of National Identity

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  • Tony Brown

    This is a great post Craig, many thanks for publishing it, a couple of points to make.

    1] With regard to the question of Ukrainian identity, the great John Mearsheimer in his now-famous 2015 lecture shows the political map in Ukraine is essentially split down the middle, Ukrainian nationalists to the west and pro-Russian to the east of the Dnieper, it’s a clear dividing line.

    Of course, on the ground it’s not that simple, there were plenty of pro-Ukraine folks east of the Dnieper before the war, especially those born post-1991, but they were in a clear minority.

    To the pro-Russians Ukrainian nationalism is profoundly unacceptable, they cannot tolerate it any more than you’d expect Unionists in Northern Ireland to tolerate Irish nationalism.

    2] With regard to the war, the western media has completely – and quite deliberately – misled people about the reasons for the war; they spin the bullshit narrative that Putin is an impulsive war monger when, in fact, he is an ultra cautious man who has shown huge restraint since the Maidan coup.

    The real reason, and Putin has said this himself, is that NATO membership for Ukraine would allow the US to put nuclear missiles right on his border in Kharkiv Oblast, meaning they would be less than eight minutes from Moscow and the Russians would be defenceless against them in the event of an attack. That is what all this comes down to.

    If anyone thinks for a single second that the Americans would allow Chinese or Russian missiles on the US border then they are a damned fool.

    Effectively, the Ukrainian nationalists forged an unholy alliance with the US State Department to try and force Russian influence out of Ukraine and check-mate the Russians in the ‘great game’ – but Putin called their bluff and now we have 500,000 dead Ukrainians and an enlarged Russia.

    The whole thing is an absolute disaster. It was all completely avoidable but, as we all know, the US State Department and foreign policy ‘blob’ has no ability to execute diplomacy; with these people it’s their way or the highway, as we have seen time and time again.

    • Nev

      Tony wrote
      “NATO membership for Ukraine would allow the US to put nuclear missiles right on his border in Kharkiv Oblast, meaning they would be less than eight minutes from Moscow”

      Sumy Oblast to Moscow ~ 450 kms
      Less than 8 minutes
      Latvia border to Moscow ~600 kms
      Less than 11 minutes

      Difference ~ 150 kms or 3 minutes

      Why would Putin go to war over a 3 minute difference when 8 minutes is enough time to intercept US missiles anyway?

      Who knows what motivates Putin? 🤔

        • Tom Welsh

          Kaliningrad is an exclave, not part of Mother Russia. It is in the same class as, say, the Falkland Islands or Guam. An attack on those territories would not be quite the same as an attack on the British Isles or the continental USA.

          Which is not to say that such an attack would be tolerated; it would not. Kaliningrad has value as an outpost and tripwire.

          • Lyudmil Mitev

            You misunderstand the situation. Kaliningrad is indeed an exclave. Just like Alaska in the USA. This means it is not connected by land to the rest of the Russian Federation but it is part of it as a federal oblast. All Kaliningrad citizens have full and equal rights under law as the rest of the russians – unlike americans of Guam who have the right to full citizenship only if they move to one of the 50 states of the USA.

            On top of that most russians in Kaliningrad are members of the sizeable military stationed there. There is a nuclear weapons storage facility in Kaliningrad, nuclear-capable missiles of hypersonic, medium and long range varieties, a full-strength motorized rifle division (up to 24 thousand soldiers), two air force divisions and a competent baltic sea fleet.

            This allows Russia to threaten 3 NATO capitals and Stockholm within a minute’s notice. This has been a fact for decades and it’s capability to strike even into the UK is frequently shown on Russian national television. It is not a tripwire.

      • Tony Brown

        I am no expert in these matters, but my understanding is that every second is critical in being able to intercept these missiles, so a three minute difference may not seem a huge amount but apparently it really does make a big difference in terms of being able to intercept an incoming missile.

        Moreover, I think politics plays a part here too, Putin wouldn’t be too concerned about Latvia launching a nuclear strike, via NATO, because he knows that they know Russia could wipe them off the map in return, he also knows that the Baltic governments are generally quite sober moderates.

        He doesn’t have the same confidence in the Ukrainian government which, as he sees it, was installed in an illegal coup by the US, and is virulently anti-Russian and, using that logic, would be only too happy to attack Russia with nuclear weapons if it had the chance, that’s why Ukraine membership of NATO would be such a problem for him.

      • Allan Howard

        The following is an extract from an article John Pilger posted on February 17th, 2022:

        «Today, neo-Nazi Ukraine is seldom mentioned. That the British are training the Ukrainian National Guard, which includes neo-Nazis, is not news. (See Matt Kennard’s Declassified report in Consortium 15 February). The return of violent, endorsed fascism to 21st-century Europe, to quote Harold Pinter, “never happened … even while it was happening”.

        On 16 December, the United Nations tabled a resolution that called for “combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism”. The only nations to vote against it were the United States and Ukraine.

        Almost every Russian knows that it was across the plains of Ukraine’s “borderland” that Hitler’s divisions swept from the west in 1941, bolstered by Ukraine’s Nazi cultists and collaborators. The result was more than 20 million Russian dead.

        Setting aside the manoeuvres and cynicism of geopolitics, whomever the players, this historical memory is the driving force behind Russia’s respect-seeking, self-protective security proposals, which were published in Moscow in the week the UN voted 130-2 to outlaw Nazism. They are:

        – NATO guarantees that it will not deploy missiles in nations bordering Russia. (They are already in place from Slovenia to Romania, with Poland to follow)
        – NATO to stop military and naval exercises in nations and seas bordering Russia.
        – Ukraine will not become a member of NATO.
        – the West and Russia to sign a binding East-West security pact.
        – the landmark treaty between the US and Russia covering intermediate-range nuclear weapons to be restored. (The US abandoned it in 2019)

        These amount to a comprehensive draft of a peace plan for all of post-war Europe and ought to be welcomed in the West…… »

        If the West/Nato – and the US especially – were remotely interested in trying to create a peaceful world, and have a peaceful relationship with Russia, then there is no reason why they couldn’t have addressed Russia’s security concerns. Anyway, I came across the following article from June 2022 when I did a search in respect of the point you made:

        Putin explains how Finland, Sweden membership in NATO different from Ukraine’s.

        Russian president says Moscow views Scandinavian nations’ accession to NATO differently, unlike Ukraine, since it has no territorial disputes:

        https://www.aa.com.tr/en/russia-ukraine-war/putin-explains-how-finland-sweden-membership-in-nato-different-from-ukraines/2627019#

        • Tom Welsh

          “If the West/Nato – and the US especially – were remotely interested in trying to create a peaceful world, and have a peaceful relationship with Russia, then there is no reason why they couldn’t have addressed Russia’s security concerns”.

          Quite so. The difficulty lies in the words “the West/Nato – and the US especially”. Those words suggest the existence of entities that do not actually exist in reality. They imply that “the West” and “the USA” are single, monolithic entities capable of having wishes and intentions. That is not the case.

          What really exists is a number of small, highly vicious cliques that have acquired almost total political power over the countries that are considered part of “the West”. (I prefer the more accurate phrase “the golden billion”).

          I suppose that the huge majority of the people of those nations would, if properly informed about the facts, very much prefer to live in peace with Russia and other countries. But they are systematically, cleverly, and quite expensively misinformed. And even if somehow the scales could be made to fall from their eyes, they would be powerless unless they were brave and determined enough to carry out violent revolutions.

          The rather bitter joke is that Russia and China, which are democracies – if imperfect ones – are accused of being totalitarian tyrannies by Western states that actually are totalitarian tyrannies.

          One of the many reasons why the Russian government has moved so gradually against the Kiev junta, and done its very best to minimise the violence necessary, is that it has to answer to the Russian people. Whereas Western governments, if you will think about it for a moment, do not. If they want to attack someone, or even to wipe them out, they simply do so. No citizen has any power, or even influence, over them.

          • Stevie Boy

            Yes.
            In reality, IMO, the West (EU, Five Eyes, Israel) and NATO are all just facets of the USA. Without the USA all of these component pieces would fall apart. They all have weak and corrupt leaders who are incompetent and follow the USA’s lead without question or recourse to their own sovereignity; and, all their economies depend on the printing presses that generate the mighty Dollar.
            BRICS is quite possibly going to undermine this club, which will impact us massively in the short term, but could be our saviour in the long term.

          • Nota Tory Fanboy

            The idea that Russia has done its very best to avoid Ukrainian civilian casualties is nonsense.

            Equally nonsensical is the idea that Putin has the Russian people to answer to: how many mothers of dead, young, Russian soldiers do you think he’s willing to see broadcast across Russia calling for peace?

            He is as much at fault for continuing a war he started, as the West are for continuing it.

      • J Arther Nast

        Nev
        I think you are correct. The Americans have Moscow covered from Latvia, but the whole point of nuclear first strike is to avoid trading New York for Moscow. Having launch capability in Ukraine would give the Americans more capacity to destroy Russia’s retaliatory ability deployed throughout a great deal more of Russian territory.
        It’s a mad game.

      • Clark

        “Why would Putin go to war over a 3 minute difference when 8 minutes is enough time to intercept US missiles anyway?”

        Can you show us the error bars please, for intercept time on both individual and combined attacks? With numbers this small and potential consequences so large, it’s essential to see the degrees of uncertainty.

    • Tom Welsh

      Well said, Tony! I completely agree.

      “The real reason, and Putin has said this himself, is that NATO membership for Ukraine would allow the US to put nuclear missiles right on his border in Kharkiv Oblast, meaning they would be less than eight minutes from Moscow and the Russians would be defenceless against them in the event of an attack”.

      Unfortunately, NATO forces in the Baltics and Finland are even closer – each about 150 km from St Petersburg. Even a slow subsonic cruise missile could cover that distance in 20 minutes. And there is no military solution to that problem.

      Fortunately, even if St Petersburg were utterly destroyed, NATO would have accomplished little except to commit a gigantic act of vandalism that would never be forgotten. Just imagine! to do what the Nazis failed to do for for four long years!

      Russia cannot be protected from all harm that NATO could do. But it will always retain the ability to strike back, and that is what will give the Western warmongers pause. Not only would their own cities be destroyed just as thoroughly, but they themselves would be hunted down wherever they hid. As Mr Putin has repeated several times, “Who would want to live in a world without Russia?”

      Just yesterday I saw a report that Mr Medvedev had promised that, if Russia were invaded or seriously harmed, all major Western cities would die. Berlin, Paris, London, Washington…

      • Lapsed Agnostic

        Re: ‘And there is no military solution to that problem.’

        One military solution was developed by the Soviets in the 1970’s, Tom*:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tor_missile_system

        Re: ‘Who would want to live in a world without Russia?’

        I’d imagine that plenty of people would. Unfortunately for them, I think Russia will be with us for a long time yet.

        * On the subject of cruise missiles, I wonder whether you now have time to disabuse me of my ‘uninformed’ views of the Kh-22 ‘Kitchen’ – specifically, that it’s very old and not very accurate.

  • Opport Knocks

    I live with an ex-pat USSR partner who is 50% Russian and 50% Ukrainian. She agrees that the shortened version of history from Putin is correct.

    The key point though, comes from her work in Canada assisting recent immigrants and refugees with getting employment and other key settlement services. All of the recent Ukrainian arrivals say they were betrayed by their government(s). The majority of the Ukrainian population wants everyone to “just get along”, but these people are of no interest to the propagandists that control the western news cycle.

    Minsk 1-2, bilingual federalism, just like French/English have used successfully here in Canada for 150+ years, was the ideal solution. It is clear that the Ukraine political class, who were bribed/extorted by western interests had no intention in implementing it, in spite of the overwhelming vote for “peace candidate” Zelensky in the last presidential election.

    • Tony Brown

      This is a great point, many people are neither pro-Ukrainian or pro-Russian, they just want to get on with their lives in peace.

      • Tatyana

        Absolutely true.
        Before the war, somewhere on social media I met this said by an Ukrainian:
        Our national idia is ‘please do fuck off’, it is more expressive in Russian and Ukrainian language ‘наша национальная идея – отъебитесь от нас’

    • Akos Horvath

      I would add that there ~300,000 Hungarian-speakers in Transcarpathia (Kárpátalja in Hungarian), whose land was attached to Ukraine after WW2 by Stalin. Hungarian-language education was also banned post the Maidan coup. In fact, the very first act of the post-coup Kiev parliament was to outlaw minority languages.

      The Hungarian minority has been constantly harassed in other ways too since 2014. Historical Hungarian monuments are regularly burned down and destroyed, minority leaders have been dragged to the Kiev SBU in a clear attempt at intimidation, and the forced conscription of Hungarians into the Ukrainian army is highly disproportionate.

      Multilingual federalism would have been the only way to keep this patched-together country in one piece. The extreme Ukrainian nationalists, a significant portion of whom are simply neonazis, however, opted for violent Ukrainization, egged on by their American/NATO curators.

      After the violent breakup of Yugoslavia, this is the second bloody conflict in my neighborhood. In both cases, the famed EU conflict management utterly failed. In fact, the West has cynically and deliberately aggravated the problems both times.

  • Bob

    Sorry, Craig, but you’ve still not quite got it. Russia did not invade Ukraine (except for an initial feint toward Kiev). They INTERVENED at the request of the independent states of the Donbas. This is why they first recognized that independence.

    OK, granted, their incursion into Zaporizhzhia and Kherson and Kharkiv goes a bit beyond Luhansk and Donetsk, but as the referenda show, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson were quite happy to join Russia. I suspect that Kharkiv will as well. So now, by Russian law, it is Ukraine that is invading Russian lands.

    The truth is there is no law. It’s an illusion. There are many different versions of “law” and it depends who’s talking, who has the power, and whose ox is getting gored. The Russians have been very careful to do everything legally according to their own interpretation of the law. Hence, no invasion. You can’t invade yourself.

    The West, of course, has a completely different interpretation of the law — the law that they make up as they go along and which always seems to serve their own interests. Funny, that. I see no reason to believe that the West’s interpretation is any more “legal” than the Russian interpretation, and many reasons to consider that it is not.

    In the end, history will decide. The US and its proxies and satraps and puppets have spent their entire history engaged in plainly illegal activities. So maybe we should just ask, What is the MORAL course? and leave it at that.

    • craig Post author

      Bob,

      In international law there was no independent republic of the Donbass. It was not recognised by the UN General Assembly. You argue for anarchy and might is right as though that were some kind of moral position. But if that holds, then there is no reason Israel cannot do what it does in Gaza.

      • Ali

        The two republics were party to Security Council resolution 2202 upholding the Minsk accords, and whilst this isn’t the same as recognition of statehood in the post WWII UN order, it’s pretty close. If we go back just a little before the UN recognition of statehood had to come from only one other state.

        In the end I would have preferred open referenda in these break aways, without a rule of law imposed by some military, with neutral observers, etc etc

        But that wasn’t possible. And it wasn’t the Russian side that was absolutely against it.

        There’s a reason Poroshenko called his operation and Anti Terrorist Operation, and we all know, we “can’t be going around negotiating with terrorists”.

        From the point of view of the republics, after 2014, sovereign statehood was a de facto reality. By being recognised by Syria, NK (or the very few countries that have done so up till now), it is a de jure reality, outside of the history of the UN, which is frankly boring now, as we can see it has done nothing to uphold its principles since its foundings.

        Maybe the pre UN definition of a state is better?

      • MrShigemitsu

        If recent events in the ME do not demonstrate that international law doesn’t actually exist, and that every university course that pretends to teach it is wasting its time and may as well close down, then I don’t know what does!

        • Aule

          It means that the law isn’t *working* properly.
          It still exists, however. As long as superpowers don’t throw their weight behid one side or the other it’s capable of managing interstate relations to some extent.

      • Tom Welsh

        “In international law there was no independent republic of the Donbass”.

        So much the worse for “international law”. Apart from providing a comfortable living to various parasites, what is it good for?

        Doesn’t your argument apply equally to the USA? Why does it exist if the Donbass republics don’t? If in doubt, please look at the famous US Declaration of Independence which explains the matter quite thoroughly. (Even if the US government responded to the Confederate States’ attempt to rely on that Declaration by killing their citizens until they surrendered. Civilisation in action again!)

        I take an operational view of the matter: if some alleged thing has no perceptible effect in the real world, it might as well not exist. Indeed, metaphysicians could well dispute whether it even does exist – except as a fog of verbiage.

        “Might is right” (what I cite as the Melian Dialogue) may or may not be a moral position. It doesn’t matter in the least. As for your final sentence, have you read it back? In fact there actually is no reason Israel cannot do what it does in Gaza. Who is doing anything to stop it? “Condemning” the acts of states, as politicians so often like to do, means nothing. Stopping those acts would be constructive.

      • Pears Morgaine

        ” there was no independent republic of the Donbass ”

        There still isn’t. Like Crimea, instead of independence they’ve got direct rule from Moscow under a Kremlin
        apparatchik.

      • LeeJ

        Israel is doing what it is with no sanction from the West which clearly shows that International law is just theatre. As they don’t condemn Israel they have no justification to condemn Russia.

      • Stevie Boy

        IMO, the UN and it’s composite agencies have been totally corrupted over the last decade. We’ve seen the results from Iraq, Serbia, Libya, Syria, Israel, et al. Not to mention the WHO. Can ‘international law’ now be trusted ? This seems doubtful. ‘British Law’ will be in the dock over the next two days, will that be found wanting as well ?

      • Yuri K

        Well, this may be true in the times of Bangla Desh recognition, however, after the exile of Boutros Ghali by Clinton administration, UN is mostly a US puppet, except for Security Council. Compare Kosovo and Abkhazia, for example. Why the former is independent while the latter is not? The international law essentially follows “who do we, the USA, love and who do we do not love” rule. They buy small nations to vote with them, and whoever votes against them get sanctioned. Which, btw, is against the UN laws.

        I personally believe that the international law should be the same for all and it should be based on “Sidgwick Rule”: the land goes where the people who inhabit the land decide to go. There is a fundamental contradiction between democracy and borders integrity. Thus, if you put democracy 1st, you can’t insist on never changing borders, and if you put borders integrity 1st, you need to realize that sometimes only a strong dictatorship can keep peace among the ethnic divides.

        • Tom Welsh

          Actually the UN was already a US puppet in 1947 when it passed resolution 181 setting forth a proposed partition of Palestine. Most world opinion was against the idea, which was actually strongly opposed by the US State Department. After a Jewish businessman handed President Harry S. Truman, who was facing a hopeless re-election campaign, a suitcase contining $2 million in cash, a frantic campaign was launched to gather votes in favour. Eventually the resolution was narrowly passed. Wives of most of the UN delegates were sent fur coats – only the Cuban lady returned hers – and many delegates received incentives and threats of various kinds.

          And President Truman was re-elected. Everyone was overjoyed, except for the Palestinians – the only ones who had a legitimate interest in the matter.

          Never let anyone tell you that money can’t bring happiness.

          • Lysias

            Opposed not just by the State Department but also by the recently created Defense Department. Probably what accounts for the highly suspicious death of SecDef Forrestal.

        • Tom Welsh

          Amusingly, democracy and human rights are also incompatible. If the people have power to do anything, there is nothing to stop them from contravening human rights. And if you want human rights to be enforced everywhere and always, you must override the will of the people.

          • Yuri K

            I find 3 major flaws in Democracy:

            1. People are ignorant and elect demagogues.
            2. People are also mean-spirited, greedy and xenophobic, so they do not necessary vote for common good.
            3. Elected politicians do not have to follow their promises and can flip-flop as much as they wish (just look at Zelensky and Giargia Meloni, for example). So voters do not get what they voted for.

            The 1st one comes from Socrates, the other 2 from myself.

          • Lysias

            In Socrates’ Athens, most officials were chosen not by election, but by lot (sortition). The chief exception was the 10 generals, who were indeed elected, but there were 10 of them, which tended to reduce the power of any one of them. But that didn’t stop a man like Pericles from amassing a great deal of power by being repeatedly re-elected general. So, even that system wasn’t perfect, but it still has been the best system so far devised for limiting power.

          • Bob

            Democracy is a system whereby we vote to indicate our preference, and in so doing we agree to obey the will of the majority no matter how foul their decision. Hence, EVERYONE VOTES FOR THE WINNER. If you vote in an election or referendum in which one or more options are immoral or even heinous, then you’ve agreed up front to accept those options. Isn’t that the deal when you vote? That you must accept the outcome no matter what?

            So voting is not acting responsibly; it is the most irresponsible thing you can do. The point of voting is to blame-shift. You agreed to do the evil deed, but you think saying “I voted against it” is a get-out-of-jail-free card.

            In any vote that requires less than complete consensus, injustice is done. Therefore, democracy as practiced is an unjust system we invented to permit us to avoid accountability while pretending to respect the “sovereignty” of the people.

            There is no answer to this argument except the pathetic “but there’s no better system” – an answer that indicts the poverty of human imagination. Surely we can do better than this.

            A friend gave a great example of this. Suppose your son comes home from school and says that they’re having a vote in the Rape Club to decide whether to rape 30 girls a month or 60. So of course you tell him he MUST vote for 30, right?

            If you can’t see the problem there then there’s not much hope for you. People say that they have to vote for the lesser evil, but they are legitimizing evil. They are not saving lives. They are killing people. No such system should ever be legitimized by your participation.

          • Laguerre

            re Lysias

            Important to remember that the Athenian democracy did not last very long. That’s not good news for modern-day democracy. It wasn’t a stable system.

          • Tom Welsh

            Moreover, almost from its inception the Athenian democracy behaved like a mad dog, continually launching vicious attacks on other states. They sent an expedition to Cyprus to conquer it from the Persians, and were defeated. Then they sent another expedition to Egypt! They were heavily defeated. Finally, they decided to attack the only other major democracy in the Greek world – Syracuse. As well as being a large, wealthy city with some of the most powerful fortifications in the known world, Syracuse was a colony of Sparta! The Athenians sent two huge armies and fleets to Syracuse, both of which were utterly destroyed. The few survivors were worked to death in the Syracusan silver mines. Athens was left almost defenceless, and after a few more years of desperate struggle capitulated to Sparta, which forced the Athenians to destroy their own walls and garrisoned the city with Spartan soldiers.

            So far, the USA is following the example of Athens quite faithfully. One may think of Russia, China, Iran and others as being roughly analogous to Sparta and Syracuse.

          • Lapsed Agnostic

            Rather than telling him that he must vote for the ’30’ option, Bob, I would advise my hypothetical son not to be a member of the Rape Club, and also inform him that rape is a serious criminal offence in the UK with severe penalties. I would also be writing to the head of his school to inform him or her about the existence of this club, and that if they don’t shut it down post-haste, I will be informing the ‘feral’ (copyright Tony Blair) British tabloid press about it.

      • Melrose

        Mr Murray, how can you possibly write in your post:
        “You see, the law is the law. It has only a tenuous connection to either morality or justice. A thing can be justified and morally right, but still illegal.”
        and immediately afterwards reply to a commenter that his position is totally irrelevant because contrary to “international law”.
        This totally lacks consistency. But let’s blame it on your recent misadventures. Which hopefully won’t have you miss tomorrow’s main instance…

      • Bob

        The UN has long been controlled by the US/West and is not a fair arbiter. This should be clear from its history re Israel alone. And what of the ICC and its arrest warrant for Putin and others? Where is the warrant for Biden, Blinken, Nuland, etc.? Or every US president since, hmm, Washington?

        This is what I mean about your naïveté. I am not arguing that might makes right. I am saying that might makes irrelevant. Power does whatever it wants until stopped by a greater power. This has been true for all human history. Laws are used by the powerful to oppress the weak far more often than by the weak to protect themselves.

        The question here is: who is doing the right thing, morally? And in Ukraine it is clear that the Ukrainian government and the many neo-Nazis are very much in the wrong. And that the people of the Donbas, with the aid – at great expense to themselves, I might add – of the Russian peoples, are fighting for the lives of their children and their freedom, and are in the right.

        I repeat: the legality of the issue depends on whose interpretation of the law you are using. The Russian Federation put its case to the UN – something the US almost never does. When it became clear that they would not get a fair hearing (or a hearing at all), they acted anyway. To keep bringing up the “legality” without making clear that every honest human knows that there is no law is pretty disingenuous, I think.

        News flash! There IS NO REASON that the Israelis cannot do what they are doing in Palestine. That should be obvious from the simple fact that they are doing it, and no one is stopping it. Talk is cheap. The genocide of the Palestinian people, now in its 100th year give or take, proceeds apace despite it being not only utterly immoral and abhorrent, but also quite illegal by every honest interpretation of “international” law. So why give a shit what the law says? Screw the law. STOP THE GENOCIDE.

        So let’s put Russia’s intervention in Ukraine down as “civil disobedience” and leave it at that. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t you a lawbreaker?

      • Mark

        Craig,
        The Donbass may not be recognised by the UN as an independent republic, but could you comment on the failure of the UN to enforce the Minsk accords – and the consequent murder of over 10,000 civilians in the Lugansk and Donbass republics by the Ukrainian nationalist – which gave rise to the claim by Russia of acting in accordance with article 51 of the UN charter to protect those republics from persecution; giving them the legal basis for the SMO?

    • Twirlip

      You cannot coherently argue “The truth is there is no law. It’s an illusion” and “The US and its proxies and satraps and puppets have spent their entire history engaged in plainly illegal activities”. Make up your mind! Of course, you might also try to argue “The truth is there is no logic. It’s an illusion.” But then nothing makes any sense, there’s no point in anyone trying to argue with anyone else about anything, and we may as well all pack up and go home.

      • Bob

        Your response is illogical. That “the US and its proxies and satraps and puppets have spent their entire history engaged in plainly illegal activities” with NO REPERCUSSIONS proves that “there is no law”. It is a game they play with people. When it benefits them, well, now there is a law and they are right to punish you. When it is they who will be punished, well then, what law?

        The two statements not only fail to contradict each other, the latter proves the former.

        • Twirlip

          What you mean to say is that international law lacks an effective apparatus of enforcement. I don’t think anybody here would dispute that. But if you insist that there is no law, or that law is an illusion, then you cannot describe the actions of the US, for example, as “illegal”. It is intensely frustrating, depressing and demoralising that international law cannot be enforced, but it would be even worse if there were not even any law to enforce. Standards matter, even when, or especially when, the world does not live up to them. Disparaging the law altogether because of its lack of force only compounds our demoralisation.

  • Chima From Sharp Focus On Africa

    Great article. I am Nigerian, by the way. Eastern Nigeria, to be precise. The forging of an overarching national identity in the Nigerian Federation is still a work in progress. Many Easterners (excluding me) would gladly accept the reinstatement of the old, partially recognized Republic of Biafra if it were possible.

    • will moon

      Chima that is great-looking site you’ve got yourself there.

      Just read your “ECOWAS :A Primer”, which has been a blessed education. Even from this one report I have had that delicious feeling of a whole continent in motion. Your prose is smooth and your grasp of the current African scene, coupled with your confident handling of the history of the story is a real winner, generating murmurs of appreciation and understanding the deeper I got into the article and with a great selection of clips to support your text.

      You tell a great story – thanks

      Here is the link for anyone who wants a clear view
      https://sharpfocusafrica.substack.com/p/ecowas-a-primer

  • Lyudmil Mitev

    I believe there is nothing natural about the political map and the majority the countries’ borders can be argued to be “artificial”. Using the same arguments as you, I can argue that there are no such countries as Belgium, Uruguay, Northern Macedonia, Moldova, the list goes on. However, we are missing the very important point that contemporary Ukraine was made autonomous on purpose by the Moscow leadership, with no external pressure and they must, at all times, respect and honor the bilateral agreements written and signed. In the aftermath of World War II it was recognized that we need to prevent historical revisionism as a pretext for war and it seems to me that this was one of the founding principles of UN international law. Do we really want to throw that away because of an awkward episode of Putin History? Technically correct is the best kind of correct for cherry-picking facts to construct a propaganda piece, but to really learn history we need to put the facts into context. Here’s what I have learned:

    Ukraine was a separate founding member of the USSR from the very beginning of the Soviet empire in 1922, with a capital in Russian-majority Kharkov, right at the border with Russia – not anywhere close to the geographical center of the republic – Krivy Rih (Zelensky’s hometown). This was a deliberate decision made in Moscow and a lot of political engineering and effort went into implementing the Ukraine SSR as an autonomous but subordinate territory upon which various early communist political experiments could be made. The Donetsk and Lugansk Oblasts were given to Ukraine by Stalin on purpose — a deliberate Russification campaign aimed at countering the Cossacks in the neighboring regions. Crimea was also similarly transferred on purpose, after replacing the Tatars with ethnic Russians. There was significantly larger post-war repression in Crimea than other oblasts, because they were said to have resisted Nazi occupation too little.

    After the capitulation of Germany, Ukraine SSR’s territory was expanded with formerly Polish, Hungarian, Romanian and its autonomy was reiterated at the Charter of the UN and Statute of the International Court of Justice in 1945 [1]. In fact, at Yalta, Stalin wanted all SSRs to be separate members of the UN and have their own vote, but USA disagreed. Thus, a compromise solution for Belarus and Ukraine.

    Say what you will about the chaotic breakup of the USSR in the 90s, but Putin did personally go to Kiev in January 2003 and signed the border treaty with Ukraine [2] without protest or formal conditions about which alliances and unions Ukrainians were allowed in or not. Denying Ukraine’s legitimate existence and repeatedly asserting that it’s a “puppet state” of the USA denies their right of self-determination and ignores the century of direct interference, mismanagement, Holodomor, Chernobyl disasters, ethnic replacements and other crimes is, to put it mildly, revisionist and hypocritical.

    To put it simply: It’s plain to see Moscow set up Ukraine to be prone to a civil war by installing a Russian majority in key strategic areas so that it could be a technically independent geopolitical entity, but forever subordinate to ethnic Russian domination. There were frequent fist fights in the Ukrainian Rada years before the annexation of Crimea and the occupation of Lugansk and Donetsk and it’s true that there was no strong sense of Ukrainian national unity until the battle of Kiev in 2022.

    Russia lost the battle of Kiev to the surprise of everyone, including the USA, who predicted the war was going to end in a matter of days; and we come to the present day, where Russia’s war aims have moved from a “3-day regime change” to “If we can’t have it, then nobody can have it”. Very much like Gaza, except the West argues that Ukrainians are allowed to fight back.

    PS: The Ukrainian-born American military analyst Michael Kofman first reminded in December 2021 that “the dissolution of the Soviet Union is a process and not an event because these are, fundamentally, wars of Soviet succession.” I tend to agree. The USSR was a far-reaching empire and its dissolution has far-reaching consequences. It’s not a simple narrative of nazism or national identities in Ukraine, it was not in Chechnya and it will not be in Belarus, Kaliningrad or even Tuva.

    [1] https://research.un.org/en/unmembers/founders
    [2] https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/No%20Volume/54132/Part/I-54132-08000002803fe18a.pdf
    [3] https://www.cfr.org/event/tensions-border-ukraine-russia-and-west

    • Akos Horvath

      A regime that bans languages and cultures has lost its right to govern the affected minorities. The Kiev regime should limit itself to govern only those whom it does not want to exterminate or ethnically cleanse. Apparently, these do not include Hungarians and Russians. Ukraine has declared several times its intention to be a huge Israel. In many regards it already is: it wants the land but not the indigenous people.

      Add to this that a regime that idolizes Bandera and Sukhevych, WW2 Nazi-ally mass murderers, is just plain odious. I do not want such a regime anywhere near the EU.

      Your military fantasies about ‘three days to Kiev’ and ‘the ghost of Kiev’ are just that, NATO propaganda. You will never retake any of the already lost territories and will likely lose more.

    • Philip Espin

      Did Russia lose the battle of Kiev? Or did it pull back as a confidence-building measure as part of the peace treaty it thought it had just negotiated with Ukraine, which was scuppered by the warmonger Johnson. The fourth suckering of Russia following the movement of NATO east and Minsk 1 and 2. This inability of the west to keep its word suggests to me there will be peace on whatever terms Putin decides. Who would trust the west again? Actually I don’t believe Putin was suckered. He merely sucked it up and bided his time until new weapons systems and military strength were developed which gave him the edge and confidence to act in the way he now is.

      Great post by the way, Craig. Many of us are surprised at the way the west has cleared the set and raised the curtain to reveal what lies behind the theatre. Frank Zappa was right all along.

      • Pears Morgaine

        Russia lost the battle of Kyiv. The intention was to surround the capital but it failed. Key to the plan was the capture of Kyiv’s two major airports which was delayed by stiff Ukrainian resistance which the Russians hadn’t expected. When they did finally capture them they’d both been heavily sabotaged and were unusable. Unable to fly in further supplies: fuel, rations, ammunition and reinforcements as planned they had no choice but to withdraw.

        Of course the pro-Russia lobby can’t accept that Russia suffered a reversal so excuses have to made. For many months we were assured the move on Kyiv was a feint, designed to draw attention away from the real offensive in the east.

        https://www.polygraph.info/a/fact-check-russia-ukraine-kyiv-attack/6743348.html

        Now in the past few weeks history has been re-written and those nice Russians, we’re told, withdrew as a good will gesture in connection with peace talks. If that was true why didn’t they turn around and go back when those talks failed? How is that the Kyiv campaign cost the Russians so many casualties if they withdrew in good order as we’re told?

        https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-war-battle-for-kyiv-dc559574ce9f6683668fa221af2d5340

        • Philip Espin

          I guess there will be a definitive answer on this in due course. It’s certainly possible the Russians could have used the offer and act of withdrawal in the negotiations to retrench an overextended position. It was discussed in media at the time that Johnson scuppered the peace talks and Ukranian officials confirmed it. History is rewritten pretty continuously these days. Especially since the Oslo Accords and the need to cover for genocide. It is now becoming pretty obvious most international agreements are just word salad for as long as they suit one of the parties.

          If Putin is not telling the truth why don’t the Ukraine/west produce the peace agreement to prove it?

          • Lyudmil Mitev

            War does not work that way. War is very simple. It is waged until one side can not take it anymore, is not able to defend itself and deliver counter attacks and concedes defeat. It’s up for the loser to decide when the war is over. Very much like a boxing match. And each round blood-thirsty observers bet money and reputation on the winner.

            It has always been that way.

        • Squeeth

          The fighting around Kiev was a coup de main which succeeded; the Russians would have needed far more troops to capture the city. Had the Russians not done this they would have been condemned for lack of ambition. When the Kiev junta proved more durable than the Russians hoped, they withdrew and concentrated their efforts where it mattered most, on the central front. The Russians sucked in Ukrainian military resources and destroyed them and then did the same to American Caesar’s. From being a war to protect the Donbas loyalists from the US-neo-nazi putschists it has become a war against Caesar and his Euro-lackeys, which the Russians are winning handily. This is good for everyone apart from the PBI and the American boss class.

          • Pears Morgaine

            ” the Russians would have needed far more troops to capture the city. ” Possibly why they needed the airports to fly in the reinforcements.

            The Russians had 30,000 troops and 700 vehicles to capture Kyiv which had a population of 3 million. In 2003 the same number of American troops captured Baghdad, a city of 5.6 million. Only took them nine days as well.

          • will moon

            Killing gazillions of Iraqi civilians in the Shock and Awe campaign when America took Baghdad is radically different to Russia’s behaviour in the SMO

            How many civilians did America kill? – 10, 000 – 20,000? we don’t know because they “don’t do body counts” but they certainly carry out mass murder on a biblical scale with gay abandon

            All the rest are just killers but America and now Israel, have revealed themselves to be psychokillers

            “America – Fuck yeah!
            Comin’ again to save the motherfuckin’ day, yeah
            America – Fuck Yeah!
            Freedom is the only way, yeah
            Terrorists, your game is through
            ‘Cause now you have to answer to
            America Fuck Yeah!
            So lick my butt and suck on my balls
            America Fuck Yeah!
            What you gonna do when we come for you now?”
            America Fuck Yeah Team America World Police (2004)

          • Pears Morgaine

            How many civilians did America kill?

            In Shock and Awe? About 6,600 which is less than Russian forces have killed in Ukraine. The bulk of Iraqi casualties occurred in the eight years of occupation. Ukraine hasn’t got to that stage yet.

            Casualties in the Battle of Baghdad were c.2,000 Iraqi and 34 coalition. Any idea how many died in the taking of Mariupol or Avdiivka?

          • Tom Welsh

            Pears, the total dead as a result of both US invasions of Iraq have been reliably estimated at well over 3 million. Please don’t say that not all of those were actually shot or bombed – as US Secretary of State General Colin Powell warned in 2003, “You break it, you own it”.

          • will moon

            Pears Morgaine sources? No wiki swill thanks

            How would you know? They DON’T do body counts, unless of course the corpses are white or Western. Remember a few weeks ago Mr Murray referenced “The Black Hole of Calcutta” as an example of media depictions justifying colonial slaughter? “Shock and Awe” was colonial slaughter

          • Squeeth

            There’s a rule of thumb about the number of troops needed to occupy a city of a certain size. If the Russians had intended to capture Kiev and hold it they would have needed about four times as many troops (going by memory). In a war of attrition, it doesn’t matter much where the attrition takes place. The Russians have been efficient in their military operations all along. Monty would approve (the general that is, not the uncle).

          • will moon

            Yea it’s fine but in what way are the SMO and “Shock and Awe” comparable. America targets civilians like Israel, like the Collateral Murder vid and calls it collateral damage. This is how these countries wage war. Russian has not been doing this. “Shock and Awe” is aimed at civilians. Where are the vids showing Russians soldiers/airforce personnel murdering civilians, children even, as we saw in the Collateral Murder vid?

            After two years of war in Iraq, what was the number of dead civilians, according to your source.

          • Laguerre

            Pears Morgaine

            “Iraq Body Count good enough for you?” No, it isn’t. It was an American-organised operation at arm’s length, intended to lower the figures, so there wouldn’t be too much protest. I remember at the time that they only read English-language reports.

            By the way Baghdad is not a good example of a large city taken by a small army. Although it’s rarely said these days, the Iraqis had had enough of Saddam and his disasters, and consequently did not fight the Americans, fools that they were considering the way they were treated by the US later.

          • Tom Welsh

            “Iraqi Body Count good enough for you?”

            Certainly not. “The IBC has a media-centered approach to counting and documenting the deaths. Other sources have provided differing estimates of deaths, some much higher. See Casualties of the Iraq War” (Wikipedia). IBC counted only deaths documented by Western media – most of whom were far too scared to venture anywhere near the danger zone – and, to make matters worse, they insisted on two sources for every death.

            Somewhat more reliable was the ORB report
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ORB_survey_of_Iraq_War_casualties
            which estimated roughly 1 million deaths by the end of 2006. In the past 17 years there have been many, many more – all caused by the criminal US attack. According to a Guardian article published in 2003, Iraqis regarded the USA as far worse, more oppressive and more lethal than Saddam Hussein had been.

            ‘One of the popular sayings I repeatedly heard in Baghdad, describing the relations between the US and Saddam’s regime, is “Rah el sani’, ija el ussta” – “gone is the apprentice, in comes the master.”‘
            https://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/sep/27/iraq.comment

            “Where’s the ‘reliable estimate’ of three million come from?”

            “Genocide in Iraq: The Case Against the UN Security Council and Member States” (2 volumes) by Dr. Abdul-Haq al-Ani and Tarik al-Ani.
            https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0985335300/ref=pe_385721_37038051_TE_3p_dp_2

            Read it and weep.

          • Squeeth

            Iraq and Baghdad had been under siege for years; the Iraqi army couldn’t poke holes in a paper bag.

          • Pears Morgaine

            I thought nobody wanted ‘Wikiswill’ but maybe you should’ve read to the bottom of the page:-

            The ORB poll estimate has come under criticism in a peer reviewed paper entitled “Conflict Deaths in Iraq: A Methodological Critique of the ORB Survey Estimate”, published in the journal Survey Research Methods. This paper “describes in detail how the ORB poll is riddled with critical inconsistencies and methodological shortcomings”, and concludes that the ORB poll is “too flawed, exaggerated and ill-founded to contribute to discussion of the human costs of the Iraq war”.[9][10]
            Epidemiologist Francisco Checci echoed these conclusions in a 2010 BBC World Service interview, stating that he thinks the ORB estimate was “too high” and “implausible”. Checci, like the paper above, says that a “major weakness” of the poll was a failure to adequately distinguish between households and extended family.[11]
            The Iraq Body Count project also rejected what they called the “hugely exaggerated death toll figures” of ORB, citing the Survey Research Methods paper, which Josh Dougherty of IBC co-wrote.[9] IBC concluded that, “The pressing need is for more truth rooted in real experience, not the manipulation of numbers disconnected from reality.”[12]
            John Rentoul, a columnist for The Independent newspaper, has asserted that the ORB estimate “exaggerate[s] the toll by a factor of as much as 10” and that “the ORB estimate has rarely been treated as credible by responsible media organisations, but it is still widely repeated by cranks and the ignorant.”

            Dr. Abdul-Haq al-Ani and Tarik al-Ani are referring to the 12 years of sanctions prior to the war and I still don’t see any mention of three million.

          • will moon

            Pears Morgaine, it is me who wants no wiki swill not Tom

            Once you spoke of the Russian “way of war”. Well it seems to me that it is different to America and Israel. The difference being the value placed on civilian life. America and Israel just kill and kill – without compunction, without a thought to the “inferior” brown people slaughtered – racist killers gone wild

            Are you trying to make an argument based on how many civilians were killed in ten days in Iraq or how many Israel has killed in a hundred or so days to how many Russia has killed in seven hundred or so days?

            America Fuck yeah

        • Urban Fox

          Why do think people this is some binary choice?

          It could just well be, the RF had multiple scenarios in mind. A couple of examples:

          1) The Maidan regime might fortuitously crumble, and they could just sweep in.

          2) The regime would be obliged to focus disproportionate efforts on Kiev, as Russia’s main early effort to secure a land bridge progressed.

          As for Iraq, they were badly mangled by the Iran-Iraq War, even before the First Gulf War etc.

          So Aytollah Khomeini (posthumously) the Iranian military and Revolutionary Guard Corps. Deserve more credit than the US itself for that fairly easy win.

          Not that the American state nor their line-takers, would ever dream of admitting that awkward fact in public.

          • Tom Welsh

            Exactly so, Urban Fox. A strong chess player does not always play the objectively best moves; against good opposition, such a strategy too often leads to a draw. Instead, the most successful players have learned to stick their necks out just far enough to tempt the opponent into rashness, which gives better practical chances of winning. Emmanuel Lasker, Mikhail Tal, and Viktor Korchnoi were noted exponents of this technique.

            The corresponding technique in warfare is to prepare a sheaf of alternative plans, so that whatever the enemy does a suitable response is immediately to hand. Given Mr Putin’s wish to overthrow the Kiev regime as quickly and painlessly as possible, it is very likely that he encouraged Stavka to try a lightning blow in the hope that the Ukrainian forces would crumble or surrender – or even arrest the Kiev gang. That didn’t happen, so they went to Plan B of the several alphabets of plans they would have prepared in advance.

            In the event, NATO has continually raised the stakes by supplying the Kiev junta with weapons, ammunition, technical experts, real-time intelligence, and very possibly actual attacks such as the sinking of “Moskva”, the bombing of the Crimea bridge, and the bombardment of Russian civilian areas. Only after two years of heavy and bloody fighting are the NATO countries weakening, as they run out of materiel and money.

            Nevertheless, Russia’s morale was never going to weaken, as the survival of their nation was – and is – at stake.

        • Baron

          Utter trash, Pears,

          The first article you furnish shows Ukrainian tanks on April 11, that’s close to two months after the invasion, the Russians were not repelled, they withdrew as a gesture of goodwill to enable the Istanbul agreement to get signed.

          Btw what were the two airports that were not usable? Furnish the names, please. Baron talked to someone that was there in place when the Russian got close to Kiev several days after they crossed the border, they stopped, nobody bothered them because there was nobody to bother them.

      • Lyudmil Mitev

        Yes, the Russian Armed forces lost the battle of Kiev. They executed attack operations on 3 ground axis of attack and an airdrop. They did two consecutive attacks and withdrew on all of them after a Ukrainian counter-attack. A pull back after a counter attack is considered losing the battle, just like how a pull back to the floor after a knock-out punch is considered losing the boxing match.

        That being said, I believe the battle was very, very, very close. This is all researched in detailed reports by most military observers, for example the UK RUSI. [1] Putin had prepared for this in detail and had given clear objectives for both the Russian Armed Forces (the military) and Rosgvardia (Occupation administration) to take control of Kiev, evict the government and replace it with Rosgvardia officers. There was also a substantial kill list for Ukrainian officials that is widely circulated. War is contingent and plans fail. Ukraine won the battle of Kiev, but has not won the war. What comes next remains to be seen.

        [1] https://www.rusi.org/explore-our-research/publications/special-resources/preliminary-lessons-conventional-warfighting-russias-invasion-ukraine-february-july-2022

    • Tom Welsh

      “In the aftermath of World War II it was recognized that we need to prevent historical revisionism as a pretext for war and it seems to me that this was one of the founding principles of UN international law”.

      How do you then account for the foundation of the “state of Israel” in 1948 – exactly when those “founding principles of UN international law” were adopted and revered by all?

      • Stevie Boy

        Nazis are the new heroes. Russians (and Chinese) are the ‘new’ bogey men.
        Canada now celebrates those who fought against the Russians in WW2 as heroes, when they plainly were just Nazis. What about all those brave servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice on the Russian Convoys during WW2 ? (And yes, the UK did oppose servicemen receiving medals from Russia).
        And, what about the Chinese who fought against the Japs ? That worked out well …

      • Lyudmil Mitev

        I have not read so much about the UN resolutions for the founding of the state of Israel, so I can not really comment with authority on this question. It does seem to me that in 1948, an armistice was declared along the front lines with Jordan and UN recognized the Israeli declaration of Independance, without a treaty on what the borders with Jordan are. The Gaza strip was recognized as Egyptian territory. Israel and Jordan were at war until 1994, when a peace treaty and bilateral border agreements were signed. [1]

        In general, it is my opinion that the whole situation is based on a cycle of violence, lies and unspeakable crimes between arabs and jews. The whole world is complicit in one way or another. For a purely historical video account of the Israeli-Palestine I like the work of Indy Neidell and Spartacus Olsen on YouTube [2]

        I never said that UN prevented historical revisionism as pretext for war. But it’s plain to see some effort was made in that direction. It’s certainly better than what we had in the era of empires before World War 1 – a incredibly complex and invisible system of military alliances with no regard for self-determination, cultural and ethnic differences and great enthusiasm for territorial conquest and colonial exploitation.

        [1] https://peacemaker.un.org/sites/peacemaker.un.org/files/IL%20JO_941026_PeaceTreatyIsraelJordan.pdf
        [2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MVz5MBNqsw

  • U Watt

    Celebration of national identity in Ukraine seems to be dominated by worship of Stepan Bandera, a dark figure best known for mass murdering civilians. It seems appropriate therefore that this country of all countries should be a cause célèbre for Western leaders who will be remembered for the same reasons. 

    The pitiless razing and “cleansing” of Gaza should give us greater pause in stigmatising Ukrainians for glorifying a criminal like Bandera. Are they really anomalous in this respect? Later this year we are going to see criminals like Biden, Starmer, etc., glorified by western media and political commentators as great men deserving of ultimate power. Are Westerners in any position to scorn the Bandera worshippers in Ukraine?

    • Tony Brown

      The one aspect of the Ukrainian conflict that absolutely enrages me is the whitewashing of Ukraine’s Nazi past; it absolutely sickens me to my stomach. It is so unbelievably cynical to say, “Well, Zelensky is Jewish, so how can there be Nazis there?”

      After the Maidan, the BBC had Mark Mardell in Kiev and he interviewed dozens of, quite literally out-and-proud Nazis who were quite happy to pour forth on camera all sorts of anti-semitic filth and also rail against homosexuals and so on. That has all been happily brushed under the carpet now as being “Russian propaganda” or “conspiracy theories.”

      It is an established fact that tens of thousands of Ukrainian nationalists worked in the Nazi death camps, Ivan the Terrible being one of them. Does anyone really think that ideology washes away so quickly and simply disappears?

      Of course it doesn’t. These people even named main street in Kiev after Bandera and Roman Shukhevych, just a few miles from where their Galician SS colleagues slaughtered tens of thousands of Jews at Baba Yar. They have no shame at all.

      • U Watt

        Yes those thoroughfares actually lead to Babi Yar from central Kiev. They were renamed shortly after the US-neo-Nazi coup in 2014.

      • Akos Horvath

        Exactly. The Kiev regime idolizes Bandera and Sukhevych, who are the equivalent of Ferenc Szálasi of the WW2 Hungarian Arrow Cross Party. Can you imagine the EU’s reaction if Szálasi’s portrait was in every Hungarian government office, if the head of the Hungarian army posted selfies with a Szálasi portrait on the wall and a bust of Szálasi on his desk?

        In the late 90s, the EU was constantly criticizing us for the existence of the Hungarian Guard. These were skinheads and right-wing nationalist, who would have an occasional march. Not nice folks, but unarmed. They were finally banned in 2013.

        Yet, the very same Western countries are supporting Bandera-loving Ukrainian neonazis who command entire battalions armed with heavy weapons. Western hypocrisy is not lost on Hungarians.

        • Stevie Boy

          Let’s also not forget that the Israeli flag was recently flown and projected on Government offices, including No10. Rishi (I hope your side wins) Sunak and Keir (I’m a zionist) Starmer were all on board with the genocidal zionists. Nazis are good, we are the bad guys.

  • MFB

    Courageous of you (I’m not being ironic) to admit this. Your earlier remarks on the Russian invasion were extremely dismissive of the Russian case, which I assumed was a by-product of your Foreign Office training (perhaps that’s a bit patronizing, but the UK is fairly Russophobe) even though you were spot-on about the Skripal affair. The trouble is that one now has to admit that even if the Russian government is unpleasant (I’m not absolutely convinced of that, but they clearly aren’t archangels) their position is more honest and consistent than the West’s.

    The only positive thing about Gaza is that it blows all the moral arguments for NATO out of the water.

  • MartinU

    I trust you won’t fall down the west=bad therefore Russia=good rabbit hole Craig.
    I appreciate your consistent and nuanced coverage.

    I do agree that recent months have thrown into doubt any moral standing that nato powers may have seemed to have.

      • MartinU

        Let’s say thrown into absolute doubt, but that doesn’t imply any gain in moral standing for Putin’s corrupt authoritarian oligarghy

        • Tom Welsh

          “Putin’s corrupt authoritarian oligarghy”.

          Would you kindly be so good as to provide some evidence for that libellous assertion? Any honest, reliable, objective evidence, that is.

          To forestall the obvious methods of obfuscation, I concede that Russia’s 1,200-year history has been full of power struggles, violence, and absolute monarchy. Even serfdom until 150 years ago – about the same time the USA ended slavery on its territory. Perhaps as a result, there is a persistent tradition of unscrupulous violence and the domination of the rich and powerful.

          Far from participating in the oligarchic culture, encouraging it, or even tolerating it, Mr Putin has done a great deal to moderate and reduce it. One man obviously cannot change an entire culture in 24 years, but he has done about as much as any man could.

          One could also mention the similar – though qualitatively different – cultures of corruption in every single NATO country. Having studied the histories of Russia and the USA, I believe that the main difference is that in Russia corruption has been relatively overt, whereas in the USA it has long been accepted as “just the way things are”. It has been accurately observed that Washingon DC is a place where literally everything is for sale at a price.

          “Corrupt authoritarian oligarchy” would be a very accurate description of the USA, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Austrlia, and most other countries in the golden billion. That’s how it became “golden” – by looting everyone else.

          • Carlyle Moulton

            Kleptoplutocratic oligarchy is the correct term for the USA and for that matter the UK.

    • Pears Morgaine

      ” I trust you won’t fall down the west=bad therefore Russia=good rabbit hole Craig. ”

      Not so very long ago he described such people as ‘fuckwits’ and contemplated banning them from here.

      • will moon

        Are you sure about this? Are you not confusing halfwits with fuckwits – easy mistake to make and of course I could be wrong but I remember “halfwits”, even “fully-trained halfwit”, and not “fuckwits” – so please correct my memory if possible.

        I believe the expression “fuckwit” came from the comic “Viz” back in the eighties/nineties – featuring a strip called, possibly, “Terry Fuckwit” (maybe a Tony not a Terry but definitely a Fuckwit), relating the hilarious doings of a character called something like “Terry Fuckwit”.

        The term “”halfwit” is of more ancient lineage, I would reckon.

          • will moon

            Your memory would have been fine on such an unimportant matter but thanks for the link. Until you are proven a liar, your word is good. You may remember me complaining about your use of the plural when the singular applied – so I would watch your behaviour regarding linguistic concerns but on broad factual matter not so much.

            The term “halfwits” was used at some point recently by Mr Murray and several others on a recent thread posted here. My interest was piqued when you spoke of “fuckwits” because I realised an opportunity had arisen for me to discourse on my favourite subject, the grading of idiots and their idiocies.

            I already had “halfwits” and you gave me “fuckwits” – there is also the Caribbean “backwit” and I have also come across the term “lackwit” in 19th century literature. So you can see the grading of idiots is a never-ending hobby, untrammelled by one’s location in space and time or one’s position in the class structure.

  • Michael Droy

    Considerably overdue, but still welcome.

    When are you going to consider the plight of the Ukrainians?
    Obviously I don’t mean the 9000 civilians dead (which now seems barely relevant).
    But the 500K or so Ukrainian soldiers dead, many of them in their 50s dragged out of their homes and off buses and marched to war.

    This is a crime only the West is capable of keeping quiet.

    • Bramble

      It’s a crime the West egged on – I recall Johnson rushing to scotch the peace treaty nearly signed between Russia and the Ukraine and urging “war, war” not “jaw, jaw”. Half a million (plus Russian casualties) needless deaths later, the West are still urging on the slaughter.
      Incidentally, it was not only the Ukrainians who signed the Minsk accords in bad faith: as Merkel et al have brazenly admitted, so did the West. Oceania has exposed its moral hollowness for the Rest of the World to see.

  • Sam (in Tiraspol)

    I’m afraid that Ukrainian history is even more complex than was excellently described above (and by Putin in his Tucker interview) because there’s also a split between people called Ruthenians/Rusyn and Ukrainians, despite the fact that they speak very similar languages.

    Furthermore, omitted from your list is the fact that parts of 1991 Ukraine formerly belonged to Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Moldova, and the Austro-Hungarian dual kingdom, at various times in the past 200 years. At a bare minimum, it should be noted that “1991 borders Ukraine” gained significant amounts of territory during WW2 (thanks to Stalin), which means there are still people alive today who remember when those lands were Poland, Hungary, and Romania, respectively, and there are plenty of the latter two ethnicities still in those lands even today.

    And if that’s not all complex enough, search for the phrase “Wild Fields” and you’ll find that much of what is now Eastern Ukraine/new territories of Russia was, for all intents and purposes, entirely uninhabited up until fairly recently, and that it was actually Welshmen who were amongst the first settlers.

    Oh, and let’s not forget that the last bastion of the Byzantine (more accurately, Eastern Roman) Empire was, in fact, in Crimea. Which was only annexed to Ukraine in 1954. So yeah, it’s a complex mess, although I do remember the OP (cough cough) making some rather uninformed comments about how Crimea should be returned to the Tatars (cough cough) in the not too distant past.

    PS – Let’s also not forget there were some 300k ethnic Armenians living in Ukraine prior to Feb 2022, and I’m not talking about migrant workers or university students. Everyone seems to forget about those poor buggers 🙁

  • Coldish

    Thank you, Craig. You’ve given us a lot to think about. A minor correction may be needed where you write “…the deal ……… ceded the Crimea only to Ukraine”, Shouldn’t that be “…only to Russia’? [ Mod: Indeed. Thanks for pointing that out. Now amended. ]
    I can’t see Russia voluntarily withdrawing from any Ukrainian territory it now occupies. The events at Bucha in April 2022 must rule that out.
    All the best, stay healthy, take care.
    From Coldish in Munich.

    • Urban Fox

      Indeed, states that are winning a war generally take more than they may otherwise would have to start with.

      The Russians have now been openly talking about Odessa being a “Russian city” and the need to take over Kharkov permanently, to stop Ukrainian cross-border V-strike terrorism.

      They might swap one of those for the other, but ain’t *no* way they’ll take them current-lines.

      All of Kherson, Zaporozhye, Lugansk & Donesk, are no more “on the table” than Crimea. That’s been settled on as official Russian territory which they intend to retain or “de-occupy” *then* retain.

  • Binra

    You note what Putin claims not to understand – why Ukraine was created as a masked impositional identity over competing regional traditional cultures.
    This brings out the use or meaning of the term ‘identity’: what do we take identity from, but more deeply, what do we give identification to as ‘real or true’ for ourselves – at any current time or situation?
    Invested identity is, in effect, contracted as a stakeholder in its terms and conditions.
    Narratives compete to gain investment of emotional energy as claims or defences for specialness set in justification. But as a theatre of war, running covert to a surface perception of events, for which they run covertly.

    Social-masking manipulation uses the contents of our heart & mind to frame or shape it to the design of others – if we so participate or engage unwittingly under an assumption of independence or autonomy that can then be defended against revelation of being a manipulated usurping or phishing of our thoughts and feelings.

    Cultural values lived rather than lip-serviced extend as a basis for exchange, sharing and further unfolding of a felt and conscious sense or quality of worth.
    Where or what we live from, or extend the qualities and nature of, will identify us, regardless what we claim to present, believe or defend.
    A locked-down identity is a mask to which the true is conformed as permission to speak or even think.
    The nature of deeply invested masking defences is a tyranny that would operate covertly but cannot maintain such controls without war on life that it must then cast in narratives of justification or moral necessity – to save the mask or face of control to which the Economy at all levels has been consigned as hostage, if not sacrifice.
    Integrity is firstly a matter of integrative wholeness. Masking over inner conflicts has temporary expediency, but will compound debts & conflicts to critical levels of dissonance and dysfunction. The call to war runs a masking identity, the call to heal opens willingness to extend a shared identification that can only thus reveal as a point of real relationship and communication – for all else is weaponised to ‘gain function’ by framing masked intent in appearances of ‘caring’ or virtue.

  • Melrose

    Let’s go one step further. Rethinking Novalvy.
    Maybe Putin had strong and legitimate reasons to wish an expeditious demise of such a Western asset.
    The history of the former inmate is no better than that of Ukraine. Obviously born from Great Russia, and stubbornly trying to break apart.

    • Urban Fox

      Nearly everyone on any side is being rather tiresome. Throwing around whodunnits.

      As if there was no natural way for a nigh fifty year old male, ex-smoker, drinker and (current?) pill-popper with underlying health conditions and a lot of stress. Could abruptly die in the austre conditions of a prison.

      Of course if the same happens to Zekenky, we can expect the same thing.

      Just ignore the fact he’s gone from a slender, boyishly fresh-faced and healthy looking youngish TV star. To a bloated, haggard, swollen and debauched looking potentate. In less than five years. Even before the war started.

      No amount of make-up, sculpting garments, lighting and digital touch-up etc. Erase the decomposition nor those pesky “then & now” pictures.

      Yet the fact the big Z-man is starting to look like a slightly younger more brunette expy of Boris Johnson. Won’t be addressed much if at all should he keel-over dead tomorrow.

  • Tom Welsh

    ‘I thought the “West” was more civilised than that’.

    The term “civilised” can be understood in various ways. As a historian, I see it mostly – certainly as applied to European nations and the USA – as meaning “better armed”. As witness Hilaire Belloc’s charming little jingle,

    “Whatever happens, we have got/The Gatling gun, and they have not”.

    It is unfair to load all the blame for “Manifest Destiny” and the near-extermination of the Native Americans on Theodore Roosevelt, but his enthusiastic statements and behaviour make it irresistible. Consider him as the preeminent symbol of European colonial ruthlessness in North America. Churchill was perhaps more eloquent:

    “I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, [i.e. in practice a better-armed race] has come in and taken their place”.

    “I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes…. [W]e cannot in any circumstances acquiesce in the non-utilization of any weapons which are available to procure a speedy termination of the disorder which prevails on the frontier”. [Where, as today, “disorder” means “disobedience to our commands”].

    It’s my serious and considered opinion that, when it comes to racism and intolerance, you could not put a cigarette paper between (for example) Teddy and his pals, Winston Churchill and his pals, and Adolf Hitler and his pals. The only salient difference is that Hitler and his pals made the serious strategic error of losing their war. Some of them seem to have believed that it was possible to treat the USSR and its people in exactly the same way as the European colonists had treated the Native Americans. They overlooked the rather salient differences between a Stone Age people and one capable of producing 35,000 tanks a year.

    Which brings me back to where I came in. Civilisation should not be measured by the ability to exploit armed violence – but it is.

    • Melrose

      Tiger can’t hide its spots !
      You may think the only difference in between US and British former leaders and the one and only Adolf Hitler was that the latter eventually lost his war.
      But decent people may think you are badly under the influence.
      Rethinking WW2. You bet. Salient difference? Get treated

      • Tom Welsh

        In my case, it’s not “rethinking WW2” because I have taken a lively interest in the facts for many years past. Starting, perhaps, with Len Deighton’s “Blood, Tears, and Folly” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood,_Tears_and_Folly

        In respect of racism, bigotry, and willingness to use extreme violence I maintain that the Nazis were no worse than the British, Americans, and others. Of course, residual (possibly unconscious) racism does tend to make such an assertion look outrageous. How can one compare the “civilised” Teddy Roosevelt and Winston Churchill to Hitler? Well, in WW2 the Germans are said to have been responsible for some 27 million Soviet deaths. A similar number to the Native Americans who died during the European colonisation of their lands – a toll that the Anglo-Saxons (although TR was partly Dutch) shrugged off lightly. Ask any Indian person what they think of Churchill, and how “civilised” he was.

        Again, residual racism comes into play. Who remembers the millions of Africans killed by German, Belgian, and Dutch colonists? “Poor little Belgium”, indeed! Or the 3 million (or more) Koreans, 3 million (or more) South-East Asians, and 3 million (or more) Iraqis killed during the American colonial wars in those countries?

        And of course the Nazis are forever branded with their attempted genocide of the Jews. How many Palestinians have the Israelis killed to date, since 1920? But of course it’s shameful to say that – the cases are entirely different!

    • Squeeth

      @ Tom Welsh

      I thought that you put that rather well. It isn’t the name of the brute, Hitler or Churchill, it is the nature of the state. The only meaningful difference between states is the lies they tell about the people that they murder. Your quotations from Churchill show us that Hitler (and Stalin) were C19th liberals who in the C20th were Johnny-come-latelys who had to build their colonial empires from lands that were controlled by industrial states, not stone agers as you put it.

      • Tom Welsh

        Thank you, Squeeth. It’s an object lesson in the hopeless foolishness of claiming that other people are “inferior”, and then coming to believe your own propaganda. As Mark Twain may have said, “It’s a difference of opinion that makes for horse races”.

        Or tank battles.

    • will moon

      Tom I think you mis-remembered

      “Whatever happens, we have got, the Maxim, and they have not,” coined by Hilaire Belloc in his 1898 account The Modern Traveler

      • Tom Welsh

        Fair cop. It scans as well, the weapons were roughly equivalent, and I noticed it misquoted on some Web page. The Gatling was American, the Maxim British and somewhat later.

        One has to be very careful in quoting these days.

        Thanks for the correction!

        • will moon

          Yea I felt a little grimy mentioning it but then remembered your love of intellectual rigour and here we are.

          As the Gatling gun did for the First Nations people in America, so did the Maxim gun for the First Nations people of Africa and Asia, so no difference in reality just the various trademarks of genocide

          • Tom Welsh

            Thanks, will. You saved me from making a fool of myself repeatedly! I must admit that I am a “big picture” man (INTP), and I do sometimes have trouble with details. Which can be vital!

        • Squeeth

          Actually, the Maxim was invented by Hiram Maxim, an American. The British bought a few but neglected them after defeating the Boer. Vickers bought Maxim and their Vickers gun, a development of the Maxim, was in service until 1968.

  • Andrew Carter

    Well argued, but what is sauce for the Goose is surely also sauce for the Donbass and Crimea – in each of these (clearly-defined) areas a sense of identity has surely emerged over the past decade(s), and does this not therefore in and of itself give substance to the notion that these statelets are now every bit as entitled to an identity independent of Ukraine as Russia claims to have vis-à-vis Russia?

    In this two concerns arise with respect to your position on R2P; it is surely settled International Law that the right to unilateral secession arises only in instances of overt oppression of the local minority – hence the position in Catalonia, which surely has a distinct cultural and political identity, but has been denied independence from Spain. Ukraine was – from 1991 until at least 2014 – not manifestly “oppressed” by Russia, and if the legitimacy of its cultural or political independence hangs on the collapse of the Soviet Union, then it is surely on shaky ground.

    In contrast, I take it that we are in broad agreement on the oppression of the Donbass and Crimea by Ukraine since 2014, and this surely gives legal legitimacy to their assertion of independence – initially denied by Putin, and rejected under the abortive Minsk Accords.

    If Crimea and Donbass have a right to secede and assert sovereign independence, then their call for Russian support in 2014 and 2022 respectively is surely as legally valid as that of any NATO state under Chapter 5, or of Ukraine’s call for support from the collective West.

    One thing that is surely clear is that this is in no way a Civil War.

  • Tom Welsh

    “You see, the law is the law. It has only a tenuous connection to either morality or justice. A thing can be justified and morally right, but still illegal”.

    If the law “has only a tenuous connection to either morality or justice”, what validity or authority should we concede to it? Philosophers, religious authorities, and even lawyers have often warned that it may be right to disobey an unjust law. But who is to decide what is just or unjust? Clearly not the law, if Mr Murray is correct – as I believe he is – in saying that it “has only a tenuous connection to either morality or justice”.

    Within a state, which we can define informally and for practical purposes, following Max Weber, as “a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory”, there are strong practical if not moral reasons for obeying and enforcing the state’s own laws.

    But what are we to make of “international law”? What validity does it have? Whenever it suits them, states cheerfully violate it – and there are very few, if any, sanctions when they do. Think back to how optimistic Mr Murray seemed about the ICJ’s judgment about Gaza. The court seems to have accepted the prosecution case more or less completely, but far from bringing the slightest relief to the victims, the only significant effect was that most of the humanitarian aid to them was cut off. Hardly any major state has objected. So those of us who felt that it was “international law” and the ICJ that were really on trial seem justified. Both have been shown up as paper tigers. Or, to borrow Jeremy Bentham’s marvellous condemnation of “imprescriptible human rights”, as “nonsense upon stilts”.

    Yet again we are confronted by the Athenian position, as stated in the Melian Dialogue nearly 2,500 years ago: “[R]ight, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”.

    • lysias

      I think Thomas Jefferson got it right on when secession is justified in the Declaration of Independence:

      Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.-

  • Victor Chua

    In both the Gaza and Ukraine conflicts, you have taken the side of well documented rapists. Even in wars there are rules, and rape is purely an instrument of terror. How have you managed to contort yourself into this position?

    Ukraine seeking self-determination and Scotland seeking self-determination are not that different. If a majority of the Scots wanted to leave, it is unthinkable that England, Wales and NI would send troops to destroy Dublin and Edinburgh and to rape Scottish women. There is a moral difference there.

    • Anthony

      There is no evidence of rape by Hamas. The accusation itself was an extremely belated one, coming weeks after zionists had been spinning their beheaded and baked babies yarns. That’s because they knew mass rape made no sense in the context of a rapid-fire military operation.

      You know this, so Mr Murray is getting morally scolded by an unscrupulous genocide supporter.

    • Tom Welsh

      I suppose you believe that Mr Assange is a rapist, too. There is no hope for those who cannot kick the drug of official propaganda.

    • Stevie Boy

      “If a majority of the Scots wanted to leave, it is unthinkable that England, Wales and NI would send troops to destroy Dublin (Doh !) and Edinburgh”
      As discussed here previously, The USA and its UK Government will not allow Scotish independence. They don’t need to send in troops as the UK Government controls the media, the purse strings and the SNP. However, in the recent past the UK Government has deployed troops to Ireland, North and South.
      And, let’s not forget that UK armed forces are currently operating in both Gaza and Ukraine, on the wrong side, there is no morality when it comes to Westminster – money and power old boy.

  • JK redux

    In the event of (to quote Craig) “a peace settlement, of which the territorial elements are somewhere close to the current lines between the forces, with Russia giving back some territory in return for recognition of its gains”, Putin would have no reason not to apply the same salami tactics to Moldova or the Baltics. The Baltics in particular have large Russophone minorities.

    After all, if it works in Georgia or Ukraine, why not further West?

    • pretzelattack

      Are russians in Moldova or the Baltics being slaughtered by neonazis, too? if not, Putin would have no reason to apply any tactics at all.

      • Urban Fox

        The then Western lauded Georgian democratic, free-market reformist etc. president/dictator, currently in prison in Georgia. For to put it succinctly, getting things he actually did blamed right on him.

        Tried to retake a Russian protected (under treaty) ethnic enclave, previously lost by one of his predecessors. A poet-fascist demagogue who lost the very ethnic conflicts he started.

        By himself, trying the *exact* same bloody thing. Only starting a war with Russia directly this time. With the utterly predictable outcome.

        This is held up then (and to a lesser extent now) as evidence of Russia’s inherent evil. Or Putin’s fear of our “values™”.

        To sum up: just apply all the NATO propaganda tropes you hear now to Georgia circa 2008; they’re exactly the same.

  • Tom Welsh

    “I do not share the Russian triumphalism at the dwindling manpower resources of the Ukraine”.

    I would not use the term “triumphalism”, as the spectacle of so many young men (and now old men, sick men, and even a few women) being sacrificed to the Moloch of modern war is horrible. But one must ask what alternative there is. The Russians bent over backwards for 8 years after the illegal coup d’etat in Kiev – admittedly using that breathing space to rearm and build up their forces. Their hesitancy to intervene can be explained both by a natural reluctance to start what was bound to be a very bloody and destructive war, and by their awareness that the war would not be against the Kiev junta and its forces, but against the full might of NATO. They did everything in their power to settle matters with as little violence as possible, but it soon became clear that NATO, egged on by Washington and London, was prosecuting a devious war whose ultimate aim was to shatter Russia as an independent sovereign state and lay it open to exploitation and the theft of its natural resources – as had been done to several other nations such as Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Thus it was really a struggle for the survival of Russia and its people. Whenever the West has raised the stakes, Russia has followed suit promptly and willingly. Even while engaging in what has become the biggest and most costly war since Vietnam, the Russian leaders have been most careful to hold in reserve ample forces of all kinds to defend against and respond to a sneak attack by NATO somewhere else – the Arctic, the Far East, or even a stab into Belarus or towards St Petersburg. While the Americans continue doggedly to stir up trouble in Central Asia and the Caucasus.

    (Note that Korea, Vietnam, and Ukraine share a common element: they were all wars caused by the USA’s determination to break up, control, and plunder distant nations).

    That said, the dwindling manpower of the Kiev junta does give me cause for quiet satisfaction, as it has become obvious that it is the only trend that promises an early end to the bloodshed. The Western warmongers are delighted to see Russians fighting Russians – which many or most Ukrainian soldiers are – because the more Russians are killed or maimed, the happier they will be.

    The only way this thing will end is through a complete Russian victory – which means unconditional surrender by Kiev.

    • Stevie Boy

      In the final days of the Nazi regime in WW2, child soldiers were deployed to fight the allied forces. Maybe, this is an indication that Voldymyr and Olena will soon be retiring to their bunker.

      • Tom Welsh

        There are other close parallels, too. One that I have often noticed is Mr Zelezny’s predilection for ordering the establishment of “fortresses” that are to be defended “to the last man”. From a military point of view, that is a strategy that has been untenable since, maybe, the American Civil War. Hitler managed to lose the entire 6th Army at Stalingrad by not allowing them to escape in time, and very nearly repeated the trick several times. Luckily for the German soldiers, some of their generals became adept at working around Hitler’s orders – General Walter Model even managed to change Hitler’s mind once or twice.

        In this day and age, any general instructed by his political bosses to establish a fortress and fight to the last man is likely to bang his head against the wall a few times, before deciding whether to disobey the politician or have him killed.

        • Pigeon English

          According to some gossip, the military in Avdiivka refused to keep positions. If so, it’s a big problem. They should have withdrawn weeks ago. Irony is that Avdiivka fell during Zelensky’s address to MSC. IMHO, Zelensky looks out of place.

    • Nota Tory Fanboy

      On what planet would the West/NATO invade and take over Russia?!
      Why is it that this can only stop if Russia takes over Ukraine? Why can’t it stop with Russian forces withdrawing to remain only within Russia and Ukrainian forces remaining only within Ukraine?

      The idea that Putin isn’t also given to imperialist urges is nonsense as well; just look at Chechnya, Georgia, Crimea, Nagorno-Karabakh, Kazakhstan, Kuril Islands and now Ukraine…

      • Urban Fox

        On this very planet buddy!

        Where NATO is an aggressive, subversive, expansionist, hegemony which thinks it has inalienable jurisdiction over the planet. To do whatever the f**k it wants and simply won’t ever f**k off when told.

        They would *absolutely* attack Russia openly. If such an opening ever presented itself,

        Failing that they seek the installation of a Yeltsin-like puppet and the nurturing of any terrorist entity extant with lawyers guns & money.

        Shoe on the other foot, why can’t NATO disband nor the USA take its 800+ military bases and piss-off back to its *own* part the Western Hemisphere?

        As for Ukraine they f**ked around numerous times in 30 years, before they finally went too far and found out.

        They’re also completely untrustworthy in diplomatic terms, compulsive deal-breakers. They snapped themselves in that particular bear-trap, not Russia.

        So thus it looks like the war ends in collapse or capitulation for them, when they simply can’t fight any more.

  • pretzelattack

    “It is not that any of the arguments are new. It is simply that before I did not believe that the West would sponsor mass ethnic cleansing and genocidal attack on the Donbass by extreme Ukrainian nationalist-led, Western-armed forces. I thought the “West” was more civilised than that. I now have to face the fact that I was wrong about the character of the NATO powers.”

    thank you. yeah, having a genocidal country (the US committed it in Vietnam, Iraq among others) putting nukes on your border, moreover a country that wants to isolate your country and change the government and loot it, is indeed a reasonable concern.

  • Pears Morgaine

    ” The continuing death toll from shelling of Russian speakers in the Donbass. ”

    That’s odd Craig because you’ve previously accepted that there was no genocide ongoing in the Donbas. Since 2014 about 14,000 have died, a dreadful death toll but mostly combatants. Just 3,000 were civilians and most of these in the early stages of the conflict. Between 2019 and 2021 365 civilians were killed with the number falling year on year. The UN recorded just 25 in 2021 so sorry but that doesn’t wash as an excuse to invade and anyway wouldn’t that be Russia exercising the ‘Right to Protect’ which is wrong when NATO does it?

    https://ukraine.un.org/sites/default/files/2022-02/Conflict-related%20civilian%20casualties%20as%20of%2031%20December%202021%20%28rev%2027%20January%202022%29%20corr%20EN_0.pdf

    Incidentally the Minsk agreement required Russia to withdraw from Donbas which is still legally part of Ukraine. You might have noticed that it didn’t.

    ” The alternative to Putin’s action probably was indeed massacre and ethnic cleansing. ”

    Total rubbish. Putin’s actions have resulted in tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths, c.one million if you believe some figures (personally I don’t) and many more will die before this sorry mess is over.

    ” The American destruction of Nord Stream has devastated the German economy ” Whoever destroyed it neither pipeline was pumping any gas at the time so how did it ‘devastate the German economy’?

    Putin’s inference seemed to be that because Ukraine didn’t exist before 1991 it has no legal right to exist now. So how long does a state have to exist before it has a legal right to do so?

    I don’t believe in rewarding aggression. Russia has no right to any part of Ukraine any more than Israel has a right to keep part of Gaza; or indeed all of which seems to be their objective.

    • Squeeth

      US-Ukronazi artillery bombardments vastly increased before the SMO began. The reduced death toll isn’t evidence of less brutality but more evasion by the victims. I fear that you have strayed into sophisty.

      • Pears Morgaine

        Either way the claim of a continuing death toll and genocide are not true.

        OSCE reported an increase in explosions in the two days prior to the invasion but the invasion had clearly been planned months before that. It’s unclear whether the shelling came from Ukraine or Russian forces in preparation for the invasion; most probably the latter.

        • Tom Welsh

          OSCE proved to be thoroughly subverted and partial. I still remember the photographs of OSCE people fraternising with Ukrainian tankers in Avdeevka, at a time when official OSCE rules confined all Ukrainian heavy weapons to depots 40 or 50 miles away. The tanks that the OSCE people were paid to keep in storage were a few yards away.

          Similarly, after OPCW investigators had determined that there was no truth in the stories about Syria using chemical weapons in Douma, their bosses grounded them and produced wholly untrue reports confirming the stories.

          Apparently it’s easy to buy a few people and thus get control of any of those organisations.

      • Tom Welsh

        There were also the scores of thoroughly documented biolabs in Ukraine, many of them explicitly working on diseases that would selectively attack Russians. Why those biolabs were not built in the USA is left as an exercise to the student.

        • Pears Morgaine

          Interesting how the biolabs became bioWEAPONSlabs so quickly.

          ” diseases that would selectively attack Russians ” Really. How would that work exactly?

          • Tom Welsh

            “‘Weaponizing viruses’? U.S. Air Force places ad for biological samples from Russians”
            https://www.sott.net/article/357730-Weaponizing-viruses-US-Air-Force-places-ad-for-biological-samples-from-Russians

            “The US Air Force is looking to acquire samples of ribonucleic acid (RNA) and synovial fluid from Russians, according to a government website used to place tenders”.

            Please note that this comes straight from the US DoD. They don’t even attempt to deny it.

            Almost more incriminating, if possible, was the DoD’s attempt to explain the reports. Without denying the facts, they claimed that they were just doing general research into injuries and how to heal them – and just happened to have started by studying Russians!

            “How a Pentagon research project convinced Vladimir Putin of a coming biowar”
            https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2017/11/02/how-a-pentagon-research-project-convinced-vladimir-putin-of-a-coming-biowar/

            Of course the headline is devious and deceptive. No one can know what Mr Putin has been convinced of – but it seems very likely that he has asked Russian scientists to investigate the possibility that biological warfare is being planned against Russia. It would fit in with everything we know about the neocons, the Pentagon, and the CIA. Russia seems invulnerable to US nuclear and conventional weapons, and has shrugged off sanctions to emerge stronger than ever. So naturally they will look into germ warfare. That it has been reviled and outlawed by all decent states would merely make it more attractive to them.

        • Nota Tory Fanboy

          Also if Ukrainians are really Russians (according to you), wouldn’t such bio weapons affect Ukrainians just as much as Russians?

          • Tom Welsh

            I have no idea how such a bioweapon would work, any more than I could explain the exact details of how a nuclear bomb works or how poison gas kills.

            But the idea has been widely discussed. Since the Pentagon has paid men to stare at goats for years, who knows what they think?

            As for the Ukrainians, what makes you think the Americans would care if they all died too? (Apart from Victoria Nuland and a few others, who could presumably be given an antidote or vaccine.)

  • AG

    In the light of US axioms of geopolitics since 1945 it is naive to assume that there is a serious ad-hoc peaceful solution to this (I won´t stop to fight in favour of this myself like everyone else here – but the hatred and disegard towards Russia in Gemany, GB and the US establishments is gigantic)

    take this short potrait of Brzezinski in the study “Win a Nuclear War” (1987).
    (If anything has changed since, it only has become worse):

    “(…)Brzezinski came from a tight, hidden subculture within the “third
    generation” of the national security establishment and the Council on
    Foreign Relations: the community of anti-communist emigres from
    Europe, like the White Russians and the monied families that fled from
    Eastern Europe after the Second World War. This group, which commands
    influence far greater than its numbers, is fused by a deep-rooted and
    virulent hatred of Russians.
    Brzezinski came from an aristocratic emigre family. His father was a
    Polish diplomat serving in Canada during the war who decided there was
    no future in Poland for someone of his privileged social rank after the
    Communists rose to power in 1945. Like Kissinger and Schlesinger,
    Brzezinski studied at Harvard, taught there, and eventually set up his own
    research institute on Soviet affairs at Columbia University. But unlike the
    thousands of anonymous academics content to pore over obscure
    manuscripts in library cubicals, these three were fired by a desire to
    exercise political power.
    Similar to the way Nelson Rockefeller took Kissinger under his wing,
    David eventually took Brzezinski as his protege and paved the way for his
    rapid rise within national security circles. Brzezinski went on to found the
    Trilateral Commission, which was bankrolled by David Rockefeller.
    Within the Commission, Brzezinski focused on several key tasks,
    among them applying the ideas of nuclear war-fighting to U.S. nuclear
    policy. Out of these ideas, Brzezinski eventually formulated the basis of
    Carter’s PD-59(…)”

    However this blog entry is historic and I am telling the entire world to read it.

    Craig is changing, correcting his view. Out of 1000 experts perhaps 3 or 4 are capable of such a noble admission.
    Naturally the shift appears small. But this is remarkable.
    It demands respect by everyone.

    • Nota Tory Fanboy

      Worth bearing in mind that someone of Polish “aristocracy”, officer class, or intelligentsia (especially if Jewish), would have a Katyn Massacre-sized reason to believe they had no future remaining in Poland… (not that that excuses the activities of the Trilateral Commission).

  • Jeremy

    1. Your discussion of the law seems to me of little consequence. In the internationa sphere the law – such as it – is more honoured in the breach than the observance expecially by major powers. One doesn’t have to search too hard for evidence.

    2. The exanple you give of the legal right to accumulate extravagant wealth depends on such factors as a) on whether the wealth was, in fact, obtained legally, and b) on the existence and extent of progressive tax regimes,c) loopholes in tax legislation, d) money laundering, and the use of tax havens, etc. d) the susceptibility of politicians to bribes (AKA political contributions) in return for subsidies, contracts, etc.
    Almost anything may be made legal if a government so decides – even murder as we are now witnessing. My point is that your ‘legal’ argument sheds very little light on the Ukrainian issue. We’ll se if the Assange case, and the ICJ interim ruling are any different.

    3. “my belief in some kind of inherent decency in the Western political Establishment was naive.” Quite. Those of us who have lived and worked in different regions of the world without diplomatic protections (in my case, notably, the whole of the Americas North and South, plus the Caribbean and parts of West Africa) learn pretty quickly that, far from civilised decency, the West – & not least the UK and the US, have been and continue to be among the most belligerent and perfidiious in recorded history.

    4. The qotation from Assange is appropriate but is a mere aphorism. The theme is, in my view, brillianty analysed in Gore Vidal’s “Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace”. The title is a quotation from US historian Charles Beard. It offers a good overview of US indifference to legality.

    5. Your brief mentions of “the idea of the nation state” begs many questions. One of them concerns what I suspect is a confusion between “nation state” and “country”. John of Gaunt’s speech, for example, is about an England that “belonged” to monachs which is from where the words “realm” and “kingdom” derive their original meaning. Shakespearean England was not a nation state in the sense in which we now understand that term. I would contend that the concept of the nation state as it is now widely understood emerged at the end of the 18 and beginning of the 19 centuries. Many states that we now recognise as such were previously folded into empires. Italy and Germany only became unified nations in the mid to late C19. All continental Latin American nations also came into being in the C19. Haiti was the first in the region to secure independence – in 1804 – though in the Americas as a whole, the US declaration came before – in 1776. And so on. As for the presence or absence of ancient poetical paeans to the nation in Ukrainian – well I wonder if you can identify paeans in the African countries you mention. Of course there are national anthems… ours being an unfortunate (in my view) remnant of subjection from the days before we became a nation state.

    6. Your brief account of Ukraine’s history misses more than a few milestones. One such is that part of Ukraine was, for a time, incorporated into the Austro-Hungarian empire! More significant is that in 1922 Ukraine became the ”Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic” – a founding member of the Soviet Union (not Russia) – and in 1945 it was also a founding member of the United Nations – which meant that it had its own seat. Often forgotten in discussions such as these is the Holodomor – the great famine (1930-33) which not only resulted in millions of deaths from starvation in Ukraine but was deliberately made more severe by Stalin in a drive to repress Ukrainian nationalism. That’s not a controversial conclusion. The Holodomor is part of Ukraine’s history of relations with Russia – and will not have been forgotten.

    Apologies for the length and for any typos. I have written this rather quickly because… I’m supposed to be working on a book that is wholly unrelated to this!

    • joel

      “[the famine] was deliberately made more severe by Stalin in a drive to repress Ukrainian nationalism. That’s not a controversial conclusion”

      Probably not among Ukrainian nationalists and their supporters. The claim of deliberate genocide however originated in pro-fascist newspapers in the USA following William Randolph Hearst’s visit to Nazi Germany and meeting with Hitler in 1934. At the time the deliberate genocide claim was widely recognised as politically motivated sensationalism and its originator – Hearst’s on the ground reporter Thomas Walker – was exposed as a fraud. Only relatively recently have Thomas Walker’s fabrications been transformed into “primary evidence” by latterday cold warriors like Robert Conquest.

      I agree though that Craig does overlook important milestones in the development of a distinctly Ukrainian ethno-national identity, not least the Volhynia and Babyn Yar massacres of the early 40s.

      • Jeremy

        Those are not my sources. I did extensive research on the Holodomor for a chapter of a book that was published last year (in Spanish). In my view there’s little doubt that Stalin imposed grain demands on Ukraine that were impossible to meet & thereby intensified the famine in the region resulting in millions (sic) of deaths.

        • will moon

          How do you explain the historiography, which clearly shows CIA influence?

          I am open to an independent view, i.e. yours, but reading history books has conditioned me into thinking there is something wrong with the treatment of Soviet famine in certain books. Conquest and his ilk sicken me.


          [ Mod: This diversion into controversial interpretations of historical events is straying too far off topic, unfortunately. Please note that this blog hosted several extensive discussions about the Holodomor last year:

            •  Article: Intolerance (28 Jan 2023)
            •  Article: Truth and Ukraine (9 March 2023)
            •  Article: Beware the Righteous (30 Jul 2023)

          Retreading the same arguments here would be distract too much from the article above. If you believe you have new information or analysis beyond what was discussed in the earlier threads, then kindly start a new topic about the Holodomor in the discussion forum. Thank you. ]

  • Tony

    There is something surreal about the BBC pontificating about what someone has said with its ‘fact-checking’.

    “The continuation of the war will of course prime the pump of the military industrial complex. Massive defence spending is the most efficient way to ensure kickbacks to the political class who control the flow of state funds, through both legal and illegal forms of corrupt reward to politicians.”

    Yes, high military spending also stimulates the economy but it does not produce anything useful. As a result, there is no redistribution of wealth. That helps to explain its attractiveness to reactionary politicians like Liz Truss, Sunak, Starmer etc.

  • Squeeth

    The British and French were always willing to negotiate within the scope of the Treaty of Versailles (cf. Locarno) but military support to central and eastern European states was impossible without an eastern European ally. In the Munich Agreement, the British and French allied with Germany against Czechoslovakia to force the Czechs to give up Sudetenland, which Hitler claimed he wanted Heim ins Reich. The British and French knew that it was a pretext for a small war against Czechoslovakia; their willingness to give a part of someone else’s country to another country was bogus, they thwarted the German war policy and also kept the Red Army out of central Europe. The Poles were never going to agree to Russian transit rights because they occupied what they called eastern Poland and the Russians called western Belarus and western Ukraine. Anxious to keep their loot from the Polish-Russian/Soviet War, the Poles wouldn’t run the risk of the Red Army declining to leave once they’d sorted out the nazis.

    It worked a treat (unless you were a Sudeten against a nazi occupation) Hitler was dished, until March 1939 anyway, when he occupied the rest of Czecholslovakia. Guaranteeing Poland and other eastern European states faced the same paradox, the Red Army was the only one that could be the executive arm of western European diplomacy. The Polish boss class got what they deserved but the Polish people didn’t.

  • Pete

    “a passionate national identity has been created… The alchemy by which this happens is mystifying”

    I would refer you to the words of George Russell, the Irish nationalist, poet, artist and occultist who wrote under the name of “AE,” in “The Living Torch” published 1937.

    “A nation exists primarily because of its own imagination of itself. It is created by the poets, historians, musicians, by the utterances of great men, by the artists of life.”

  • Ewan

    Can I ask about international law? The argument Russia has used is the same NATO used in bombing Serbia. Did the ICJ not rule the bombing “illegal but justified”? Russia’s case is arguably stronger in that it had niftily recognised the independence of Donetsk and Lugansk before accepting their request for military assistance. It appears the justification for the bombing of Serbia was largely fabricated by those aiding the freedom fighters/terrorists in Kosovo. The justification for coming to the aid of the Donbass republics looks more credible – Ukraine was indeed deploying forces and increasing bombardment. Are there any neutral legal assessments of Russia’s argument for the legality of its intervention?

    • Tom Welsh

      Very reasonable, Ewan. Unfortunately, recent events have further discredited the ICJ, which is now seen to have no power at all.

  • Pnyx

    Interesting and thoroughly convincing, but I would like to draw your attention to two points regarding nationality. Firstly, a distinction must be made between national consciousness, i.e. the idea anchored in people’s minds of being a member or part of a nation state on the one hand, and the political borders that actually exist on the other. Secondly, what is nowadays imagined as a ‘nation state’ is a modern phenomenon, an imagination that is linked to a bundle of other imaginations that make up a bourgeois consciousness. Before the bourgeois age, the political association to which an individual felt he or she belonged was imagined in a different way.

    Putin’s statements, to whatever extent they correspond to historical realities, are an irrelevant attempt to legitimise the attack on Ukraine, which in reality had a different justification. It was anything but unprovoked, I agree with the reasons given by Craig, Putin’s decision is not only understandable, it even came surprisingly late. However, this does not change the fact that it is contrary to international law. This, in turn, is not decisive, as the West’s behaviour towards Israel has always demonstrated. Law is only relevant if somebody also has the power to enforce it.

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