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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  • Seja leeuwen

    Yes Craig you are naive, that’s what I always thought of you and that makes you a very nice warm decent human being with a good heart. You always are confronted with the harsh reality and acknowledge you were mistaken. It’s sad you were wrong, I wish you were right. The collective West and their institutions are dangerous.
    I hope you stay safe and your family is well. Good luck tomorrow with the Assange hearing. I guess you didn’t get the video link permission for journalists. Don’t bring any laptop or phone with you, borrow one, go to a library or use an internet shop. Cheers.

  • Fitzjames Wood

    As Putin recently pointed out in reference to Blinken’s citing his grandfather’s (Maurice Blinken) fleeing Russia from anti-Jewish pogroms, Blinken’s grandfather was from the Kiev region. Was Blinken admitting Kiev (‘The mother of Russian cities’, despite this Putin respectfully called it Kyiv) is not Ukrainian but Russian? Uncomfortable.

    • Melrose

      Blinken mentioned that his grandfather had been FLEEING from Russia to Kiev, which implies that that city was spared the pogroms that occurred elsewhere.
      Let’s hope we have a GOOD surprise for Assange tomorrow, like we had a good surprise with the ICJ for Gaza.

      • Tatyana

        Putin mentioned archives, and it is there – Blinken’s relative was born in Poltava (it was Russia then and now it’s Ukraine) and fled from Kiev (it was Russia then and now it’s Ukraine). Also, Blinken’s relative moved to the US before the first recorded Pogrom happened. Either Kiev and Poltava are Russia, or Blinken is a liar 🙂

        • Melrose

          What has Putin to do with Mr. Blinken statements?
          These statements were made in a speech given in front of Netanyahu during a recent visit. Easily accessible on the internet. Don’t exactly match what you mention. But then, of course, Blinken could have been lying, even though an educated person like him is unlikely to make false statements if the “archives” are contradictory.
          Tatyana, you might also want to check proper usage of the clauses “either … or” which imply an alternative. Your comment is therefore rather unclear.

          • Melrose

            Too little too late, better try again
            Eg Either you’re not a native speaker, or you don’t know the language well enough
            Pleasure meeting you

          • Jen

            “… Either Kiev and Poltava [were in] Russia [at the time Anthony Blinken claimed his ancestor left Kiev], or [they were not and] Blinken is a liar [for claiming his ancestor fled Russia].”

          • David Warriston

            Melrose’s pedantry is rather opaque.
            Based on his observation about locus being a determining factor in opinion, I’m not sure whether his claimed command of English grammar is founded as a native speaker in the borders of Scotland or in the Bronx, USA.

          • Tatyana

            Hey, Melrose says that clauses “either … or” imply an alternative, perhaps he means “either…or” is irrelevant, because both are true: Kiev and Poltava ARE Russia, AND Blinken IS a liar

  • Gideon Anthony

    Dear Craig,

    Wonderful. It’s understandable that it took you a long time to understand it. I lived in Russia in the 90s. It was blatantly obvious what had happened. For me the important thing was that Putin armed Carlson with primary source documents and placed them into context. Let’s see what he does with them.

    Caroline Elkins, an absolutely tireless chronicler of British Imperialism (Magnum opus ” Legacy of violence) found this Zinger:

    “According to Blair’s foreign policy adviser Robert Cooper: The challenge to the postmodern world is to get used to the idea of double standards. Among ourselves, we operate on the basis of laws and open cooperative security. But when dealing with more old-fashioned kinds of states outside the postmodern continent of Europe, we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era—force, pre-emptive , deception, whatever is necessary to deal with those who still live in the nineteenth century world of every state for itself. Among ourselves, we keep the law but when we are operating in the jungle, we must also use the laws of the jungle.”

    This thinking appears to be dominant in the western establishment. The Borrell garden versus the jungle speech here:
    https://www.eeas.europa.eu/eeas/european-diplomatic-academy-opening-remarks-high-representative-josep-borrell-inauguration-pilot_en

    … is a spookily precise repeat of that axiom. In the UK, where I am, from dissenters on the left are purged from political parties whose starmtroopers retroactively apply process through trawling social media to remove members and are now purging members of Parliament. It is challenging for those with humanity to live in the West and I certainly expect to migrate away from Europe in the next period.

    In Summary the war against Russia and Palestine are only 2 symptoms of the same cancer. There are many forms of death and Israel is simply an stage 4 example of a malaise which is prevalent across the Western establishment and is impervious to “democracy”.

    Cheers, and all power to your elbow!

    • TStone

      “Among ourselves, we operate on the basis of laws and open cooperative security.”
      “Among ourselves we keep the law.”

      Was the invasion of Iraq “keeping the law?” Or do we get a pass on that because Iraq was an “old fashioned kind of state?” We we “keeping the law” when Biden blew up the Nordstream pipeline, or do we get a pass on that too, because Russia is an “old fashioned kind of state?” Do we get that pass even though blowing up Nordstream is, oops, destroying the economy of Germany? Or is that just a side-benefit because they are an economic rival?

      The fact is, we don’t keep the law. We do whatever we can get away with.

      • Steve Hayes

        What they do in the “rules based order” is to make rules that advantage Western countries, companies and plutocrats, then change those rules whenever they cease advantaging. Pretending of course that the changed rules always were the rules, just as we’ve always been at war with Eastasia. The attempted sabotage of Huawei was, in my opinion, a turning point. That company has products that are as good as the equivalents from the likes of Cisco and Apple but much less expensive. BT were buying masses and, in the face of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, set up a centre to examine them minutely. Nothing was found other than some sloppy software no different from what’s found in many other products. But the Americans leaned massively on the UK Government and finally got it to issue an edict banning Huawei products from networks. Even things like aerials that are purely passive and couldn’t spy in a million years. Well, the message went out loud and clear. No point trying to get ahead in a rigged casino. Huawei itself still enjoys the vast Chinese market and most of the rest of the world but China sees no advantage any more in playing nicey nicey with the West/Golden Billion. They and Russia are challenging pretty openly and are winning. There’s no reason to expect that to change as Western politicians with elections always looming aren’t about to call for the sacrifices that would be needed to turn things round. If it’s even possible.

  • Mr Mark Cutts

    Interesting stuff Craig.

    The thing is is that all nations are results not just of migrational movement but the effects of War and pillage. Sane people (or if they have the money?) see what’s coming and try to get out of the way.

    A lot of Ukrainians have done that, and the Gazans are doing it now.

    So the states are usually formed after one side wins. The Russians look like they are winning and the Israeli’s seem to be winning too.

    History doesn’t become history until it becomes history. That is after the wars end – usually with a temporary winner until the next wars come along.

    No idea how the Gaza and Israel conflict will pan out – that is clairvoyancy but these two conflicts are not over yet and may take a long time for a winner to emerge.

    The side effects of both conflicts have shook the Western World and those countries who are involved (directly and indirectly) will never be seen in the same way by the other real world (the non-Western world) in the same light again. That period of history is already over. A new one has started.

    • Laguerre

      “and the Israeli’s seem to be winning too”

      No, the Israelis are not winning. They are setting themselves to achieve the unachievable, and thus will to some degree fail. The rock on which they’ll break their teeth will probably be Hizbullah, but it might be further away.

      • Pears Morgaine

        Depends what their objective is. If they want to annex the whole of Gaza, even at the expense of driving the inhabitants into the sea, then they look to be well on their way to succeeding.

    • terence callachan

      Hi, Mark Cutts: ” History doesn’t become history until it becomes history”

      The thing is, history is history in that facts are facts but problematically not everyone sees a historical event in the same way, and so in the mists of time when referring to the past we see these differing views of the same event.
      Now I think that is a natural outcome – after all, those on the losing side are unlikely to see things the same as those on the winning side.
      Where it all goes wrong and becomes corrupt is when people – often people who call themselves “historians” – try to change the facts of an historical event for no other reason than it pays them to do so: for example, they are paid by BBC or SKY or a university or a book publishing company or even a government, to write or speak what they clearly know is a lie.

      I tend to look at history and current events and think to myself “now what would I have done?”

      When Russia invaded Ukraine, it did so knowing that USA had planned this war. There was no surprise; it was USA that persuaded Ukraine that joining NATO was a good idea. Russia knew that if Ukraine joins NATO, nuclear missiles will be installed on Ukraine’s border with Russia, just 400 miles from Moscow.

      We know that NATO nuclear missiles are controlled by USA, so it’s akin to USA planting USA nuclear missiles 400 miles from Moscow. Would USA allow Russian nuclear missiles to be planted 400 miles from Washington?
      I think not.
      For example, if Canada allowed Russia to plant Russian nuclear missiles on Canada’s border with USA what would USA do? Would they invade Canada? Yes, of course they would.

  • Gavin

    You said:
    “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.”

    You live in Scotland, and it seems you do consider yourself Scottish – so a Scot by choice!
    But don’t you come from England? Wikipedia says you grew up in Norfolk and moved to Scotland for uni.
    When you said you came from one of Europe’s oldest nation states, did you mean Scotland or England?

  • Carolyn L Zaremba

    Sorry Craig. But I support Russia, not Ukraine. I am an American and I despise the violent imperialist government of my own country. Vicious imbeciles is what I would term them. Supporters and accomplices in genocide. Attempted murderers of Julian Assange. I am shocked that you seem to believe that the U.S. and NATO (North American Traitors’ Organization) did not deliberately provoke Russia into defending itself. I am terribly disappointed in you.

    • Twirlip

      “I am shocked that you seem to believe that the U.S. and NATO (North American Traitors’ Organization) did not deliberately provoke Russia into defending itself.”

      What did Craig write that gave you this impression?

    • terence callachan

      Carolyn Zaremba, I agree with you. I think Craig agrees with you too, but would have wished Russia had not rushed in. I think Craig saw an opportunity for settlement – perhaps a treaty where Ukraine do not join NATO in exchange for guarantees from Russia and perhaps negotiation on problem areas like Donbass and Crimea.

      • Squeeth

        That would have made Ukraine a US-Russia condominium, which the Septics would never have agreed to, it being a defeat of their intentions, since 2014 at the latest.

  • Philip Cope

    Thank you so much for this very thoughtful and obviously informed perspective (even if, perhaps best if, from personal experience). I find it refreshingly additional to other perspectives I have heard from The Duran, for example. But also my own listening to the interview and listening to many other geoplolitical thinkers and speakers. Thanks again, Philip. I write from the “United”? States

  • DavidH

    Mr Murray, NO.

    While I defer to your historical expertise, you are definitely falling down the “West = Bad therefore Russia = Good” trap.

    As you say, the historical, cultural stuff is fabulously interesting, but it’s irrelevant to what people’s rights on the ground at this point in time should be. The essential thing is the rights of the majority of the Ukrainian people to go about their lives, jobs, education, taking care of their families without having their fathers and sons blown apart in battle, their houses, businesses, schools flattened. This has nothing to do with whether anybody in 1800 ever used the term Ukrainian, and everything to do with the fact that decision makers on the Russian and Western sides gave not one flying f**k about the citizens on the ground and cared only about their immediate self-interests and the interests of those bank-rolling them. The absolute corruption and moral bankruptcy on BOTH sides is indisputable, disgusting, tragic. And acting as an apologist in any way for either side is shortsighted.

    Away from the immediate issue of Ukraine, all the other issues that Mr Murray professes to care about – human rights, democratic choice, fair use of national resources, distribution of wealth, can hardly be squared with any kind of support for Putin. You may decry Western banking and industry creating obscene wealth for the few – fine, I agree. But what’s going on in Russia? It’s a utopia of freedom of expression, democratic choice, equal division of national wealth and resources, open justice for all, right???? You’ve got to be kidding! Particularly a person like Mr Murray with a penchant for going against the powers that be, you’ve got to think if he were doing that kind of thing in Russia he might suffer more than a few lost laptops and 4 months in HMP Edinburgh. Not to belittle the fine principles he stands for: just, try doing that in Moscow, mate.

    Yes, the world is completely f**ked up if you insist on thinking about it. But it’s an absolutely lazy solution to go running to Papa Putin for any kind of comfort, when he’s clearly as evil as any of them.

    • U Watt

      It is anything but clear that he is as evil as his antagonists. In the past four months they have set the bar for evil higher than anyone could have imagined. You cannot cloud that with fake indignation about Craig saying Russia is utopia. (Which he didn’t, you just made that up).

      • DavidH

        I’m just saying Russia is NOT such a utopia, or even close to it. So don’t hold them, particularly Putin, up as some kind of solution or counterweight to the undeniable evils of Western leadership.

        Maybe Craig isn’t exactly doing that. Obviously anybody who’s read him for a while knows he’s usually more intelligent and balanced than that. But he does have a tendency to tunnel vision sometimes, and the direction he’s travelling here could easily be seen as fueling the more extreme pro-Russia positions.

        Even going as far as to say that “Putin was justified in the invasion [of Ukraine]”, as he very definitely does above, is a step too far, in my opinion. You’re justified in invading a whole country, all the pain and suffering and global destabilization that will lead to, in order to protect the rights of some ethnicities that were being abused in that country? Again, that’s getting very close to some of the logic on the other side that we all love to hate. And it’s taking Putin’s own ethical justifications at face value, without looking into the more material motivations of power, politics, wealth that, again, we love to expose on the Western side.

        • D

          David H, please separate Putin’s historical speech and please examine what happened in Ukraine from maidan onwards, for example: The deal that Yanokovych signed to end Maidan and what happened to that deal, the Ukrainian use of force to stop the Donbass objection, Ukrainian constitutional changes to join NATO, the Minsk agreement, pre-invasion objectives: denazify and demilitarise!

        • Jack

          DavidH

          Again, that’s getting very close to some of the logic on the other side that we all love to hate. And it’s taking Putin’s own ethical justifications at face value, without looking into the more material motivations of power, politics, wealth that, again, we love to expose on the Western side.

          But if there would not be this whipped up hatred against anything russian, starting around Maidan of 2013, Putin would have no reason to invade and Crimea would still belong to Ukraine etc.
          Thus the claims that he, Russia want to protect ethnic russians are not without merit at all. Would you not agree?

        • Valerie Swales

          It wasn’t just a few ethnics in Donetsk/Lugansk that were being ‘abused’: 14000 were killed by West Ukrainians supported by the US from 2014 onwards. The US refused to respond to Putin’s and Lavrov’s approaches to a solution. Putin thought he no longer had other choices. Later he understood from Merkel that the West had NO intention of honouring the Minsk agreement. He apologised to the Russian people for his naive trust in the West.

          • Ian Stevenson

            At Minsk Poroshenko asked Putin why he was invading. This was in front of several EU leaders and TV crews.
            We are not.
            We have captured some of your soldiers and they had army ID.
            No.
            We rang their mothers and wives.
            They got lost.
            The EU leaders asked for a ceasefire. They all knew he was lying and he knew they knew.
            Putin denied he had any contact with Separatist leaders.
            He then went off and came back a few hours later with an agreement.
            They were to stop attacking a town. They didn’t.
            But all we hear is Merkel just signed to gain time. Possibly but she had reason.
            See around 47 mins onward
            https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p0dlz7tz/putin-vs-the-west-path-to-war-1-my-backyard

          • Pears Morgaine

            Of the 14,000 killed in Donetsk/Lugansk 4,647 were Ukrainian military, 6,500 were rebel troops (including 400-500 of the 9,00 to 12,000 Russians deployed) and 3,404 were civilians.

    • terence callachan

      DavidH, NO, you have been watching BBC too much and reading English newspapers. I would say ‘British’ newspapers, but there are none; they are all English. Mr Putin is painted as evil by BBC and English newspapers because UK is in the pocket of USA, and both want global control of trade. Russia and China, and India, Brazil, South Africa, etc. have other ideas.
      Mr Putin protects his country. He invaded Ukraine to stop USA siting USA (NATO) nuclear missiles on the border of Ukraine and Russia, just 400 miles from Moscow.
      Just imagine Scotland allowing China to put nuclear missiles on the border of England and Scotland facing London.
      Just imagine Canada allowing Russia to put nuclear missiles on the Canada–USA border, facing Washington.

      You get the picture.

  • Alistair Diamond

    The statement that the law is the law has only a tenuous connection to either morality or justice, so that a thing can be justified and morally right, but still illegal; while something that is plainly immoral and plainly unjust can be not only legal, but the purpose of the system of law. It’s not a statement of fact, but of an attitude to law called Positive Law (meaning law that has been posited). It has been opposed historically by Natural Law, which asserts, in the late great jurist and philosopher Ronald Dworkin’s memorable words, that “the law is the executive branch of morality”.

    This attitude of Natural Law was first set out in detail by Thomas Aquinas, who stated that “lex iniusta non est lex” (an unjust law is no law at all).

    The classic definition of Positive Law can be found in the nineteenth century ‘command theory’ of John Austen:
    “The law is the totality of commands as they are promulgated or issued by a sovereign and that are generally obeyed because they are backed up by sanctions. Accordingly, the law would solely consist of three components. 1) It is established by a person or body that is competent to do so. 2) This person or body itself is not subject to these legal standards, but can enforce their compliance. 3) That which is promulgated has the character of an order that people obey, it is not merely an exhortation or recommendation.”

    This assertion that laws are commands was expressly promulgated by the Nazi scholars of jurisprudence before and during the Third Reich. It forms part of the Führerprinzip, the socio-political attitude that we are all in a hierarchy below the leader, whose commands are the law, and who is himself above the law, since there is no-one higher than him to issue commands to him.

    This attitude goes back long before the Nazis, of course, and in modern times we can trace it back to our ancestral instincts shared with the chimpanzees. It forms the central guiding principle of Christianity and Islam – that goodness is obedience and wrongdoing, while sin is disobedience.

    This religious representation of the Führerprinzip led to the Divine Right of Kings, and it was in opposition to it that Dr Thomas Fuller asserted in 1733 that “Be you ever so high, the law is above you”.

    This conflict between Positive Law and Natural Law is hugely important in modern times. The rejection of Natural Law, law as the executive branch of morality, has been public and comprehensive by the USA and its servants since 9/11. Things that are obviously evil, such as torture, are legal if the commanding power says so. This is because, in Craig’s words, the law has only a tenuous connection to either morality or justice.

    This attitude is perhaps best seen in the treatment of Julian Assange. Neither morality or justice feature at all in his treatment at the hands of Vanessa Baraitser, Jonathan Swift and others – but the Führerprinzip is at the heart of it: he has been disobedient, and must be punished.

    Another example is found in the criminalising of boycotting Israeli companies and of protesting Israeli genocide and child slaughter. The idea is that if you are ordered by law to be immoral, then it is a criminal offense to reject that immorality and be moral instead.

    So the vitally important discussion for our times centres around this question: is it really true that the law is whatever the commanding power says it is; or is that a corruption of the law, not the real law, such that those who act according to it are engaged in “an unholy masquerade of tyranny disguised as justice”, not the law at all? Was Thomas Aquinas right to say that “lex iniusta non est lex”, or were the Nazis and the founders of the Church right to assert the Führerprinzip and say that laws are commands, wrongdoing is disobedience, and morality is otherwise uninvolved?

    I say that the answer can be found in the phrase “an unholy masquerade of tyranny disguised as justice”, from a speech given by prosecutor Telford Thomas at Nuremberg on March the 5th 1947. What happened at Nuremberg was a comprehensive rejection of Positive Law and the Führerprinzip, and an assertion in international law that it is Natural Law that holds, that unjust laws are no laws at all, and that evil is always crime, even if there was no legislation saying so at the time, and even if, conversely, the lawmakers in government and the judiciary expressly passed laws not just legalising evil but commanding that it be carried out.

    In other words, it was expressly formalised and upheld at Nuremberg that Craig’s assertion, that the law is the law, it has only a tenuous connection to either morality or justice, so that something that is plainly immoral and plainly unjust can be not only legal, but the purpose of the system of law, is utterly wrong and utterly to be rejected. Instead, judges who uphold the Führerprinzip can themselves be prosecuted for acts of evil, and indeed were so prosecuted by Telford Thomas, because evil is unlawful and criminal, while morally good acts are never unlawful, irrespective of what an evil power in command says or passes in legislation.

    So we have to ask: does the framework of international law founded at Nuremberg and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights still hold in our time, or does the return to the Führerprinzip by the USA and its servants since 9/11 actually hold in international law?

    Can we in the future prosecute Vanessa Baraitser and Jonathan Swift for their an unholy masquerade of tyranny disguised as justice? Can we prosecute evil genocidal war criminals such as Joe Biden, who have supported and funded the slaughter of the children of Gaza, or are they above the law because they are leaders? Whose attitude really holds in international law today: Dr Thomas Fuller’s, or Adolf Hitler’s?

    • Philip Espin

      The law locks up the man or woman
      Who steals the goose off the common
      But leaves the greater villain loose
      Who steals the common from the goose.

      The law demands that we atone
      When we take things we do not own
      But leaves the lords and ladies fine
      Who takes things that are yours and mine.

      The poor and wretched don’t escape
      If they conspire the law to break;
      This must be so but they endure
      Those who conspire to make the law.

      The law locks up the man or woman
      Who steals the goose from off the common
      And geese will still a common lack
      Till they go and steal it back.

    • nevermind

      Today is the day kangaroo toffee is applied, and announced as High Court justice, in between thick walls by sick brains. I have no desire to even attempt to listen to something that will lead only to anger and depression in all those who believe in innocence until proven guilty.

      The toffee, applied thickly in the absence of the public at large, regurgitated at nauseum by head nodders whose job entails to read from press releases the anointed toffee sellers proffer to all and sundry schnews agencies.
      The nodders are careful not to use the word Justice, because deep in their hearts they know that what they read is far from truth, merely a well paid motion by toffee stirrers who pretend that this so-called trial has any value in history.
      The regurgitators fail to realize that this toffee is bitter and soul destroying, that it can, and will, be smeared on to anyone who does not want to pronounce the Fata Morganic sweetness that is keeping them in their jobs, anyone who dares to take the wrong path at the crossroad.

      I cannot feel the warmth of the sun today because it is denied to Julian. It is with utter disillusionment that I write this, because the alternative to the satanic supermax dictators have to offer is more of the same. Bad toffee stirrers will keep him in Belmarsh/harsh, when, of course no case exists against Julian Assange and he should be set FREE TO BE WITH HIS FAMILY,,,, IMMEDIATELY!

      Craig, please get a bumbag and keep your valuable and private stuff safe on your body in future. Secondly, second hand laptops are cheap, and you can keep anything you need on a small microchip to plug in. Just ask Clark for tuition when you are allowed back into the toffee sellers’ kingdom.

    • Alyson

      Yes indeed. The ‘Rules based Order’ is an obstacle to land theft and genocide. But needs must.

      “ The Palestinian Authority was “granted” the right to exercise sovereignty over its own maritime territory by the Oslo Accords in 1995. Four years later, following the findings of the offshore natural gas, the PA gave the international consortium BG a 25-year, 90% stake in a license to explore, develop any discovered fields, and install the required infrastructure. Since that time Israel has consistently blocked this development.

      In 2002, the PA approved BG’s proposals to construct a pipeline to a processing facility in Gaza. However, the Israeli state delayed this development, arguing that the pipeline should run to an Israeli-controlled port, and that Palestinians would have to supply Gaza Marine surplus fuel to Israel at far below market price.

      When Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in Gaza in 2007, Israel established a militarized naval blockade, prohibiting further offshore development. Around the same time, Yam Thetis, an Israeli gas consortium, challenged the awarding of the contract to BG, further delaying the process.

      In December 2008, in total contravention of international laws, Israel declared sovereignty over the Gaza Marine area, and BG closed its offices in Tel Aviv.

      Royal Dutch Shell bought out BG’s interests in the Gaza Marine fields for $52 million in 2016. By March 2018, Royal Dutch Shell backed out of their investment, leaving the PA to search for a replacement company to develop the field. (EgyptOil-Gas.com, April 5, 2018)

      U.N. study sights Palestinian natural gas reserves
      A 2019 study by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) identified existing and potential Palestinian oil and natural gas reserves in the West Bank and Gaza that could be developed for the benefit of the Palestinian people.

      The report cited the Levant Basin Province, comprising 83,000 square kilometers of the eastern Mediterranean Sea, with 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, as one of the most important natural gas resources in the world. Despite the fact that this reserve lies under waters bordering occupied Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt, Israel has claimed sole access and profits from this find. (tinyurl.com/2r2mh5ts)

      While the estimated volume of natural gas in the Gaza Marine is considerably less than the Levant Basin, its proximity to the shore and lesser depth make it easier and less costly to extract. In 2019, UNCTAD estimated the net value of the Gaza Marine natural gas at $4.592 billion — energy and financial resources that could go a long way in addressing poverty in the region.

      Yet Israel continued to prevent Palestinians from developing and benefiting from their natural resources, in clear violation of international law that governs who has rights to these resources. “

    • mikey Dee

      Thanks Alistair, for your lucid account of fundamental questions of legaity – accurately based in the natural law of human rights, on which State legitimacy truely rests, if I have understood you correctly, and against which the actions of states can and should be judged.

      • Alistair Diamond

        It’s a fundamental question for human civilisation whether or not the natural law of human rights is actually the foundation for legality and by definition all acceptable human behaviour, or if the chimpanzee-derived notions of group loyalty and hierarchy are correctly dominant. Since humans are a species of chimpanzee and we really do mostly show chimpanzee behaviour – as demonstrated by the fact that there are people who have a king, or a religious Lord, to whom they feel naturally subservient, something that non-chimpanzees like me would never do – then there is no intrinsic truth that says that the law should be moral and not just a pack of chimpanzee commands, as Nazi jurisprudence in the Third Reich was and as American government and law has been since 9/11. The question is: does modern American Nazi law hold internationally, or does the rejection of Nazi law after 1946 at Nuremberg and in the UDHR actually legally hold in our times? The full ICJ ruling on Israel’s depraved Nazi genocide of the children of Gaza will be important here.

  • John Doe

    BTW – you should be aware of a few facts. NATO expelled 250k Serbs from Croatia in 1995 (Operation Storm) and Turkey was largely responsible for the expulsion of Armenians from Nagorno Karabakh in 2020. The Russians feared this, especially given NATO has a track record of this. Also, NATO justification for the intervention in Serbia in 1999 was plainly false. Thus, NATO has a track record of both aggression and ethnic cleansing.

      • Tom Welsh

        “Channeling Putin and Lavrov?”

        No, just using a little common sense. As far as I know, the practical use of telepathy is so far restricted to neocons.

      • terence callachan

        JK redux, use your brain, the Russians fear USA planting nuclear missiles on the border of Ukraine and Russia, just 400 miles from Moscow. NATO is financed mostly and ruled over completely by USA. NATO missiles are USA missiles.
        If I were a Russian, I too would fear USA missiles on Ukraine’s border facing Moscow, wouldn’t you?

    • Laguerre

      “Turkey was largely responsible for the expulsion of Armenians from Nagorno Karabakh in 2020. ”

      Nonsense. Turkey aided Azerbaijan to recover land lost to the Armenians in 1992. Land outside Nagorno-Karabakh for the most part, as far as I remember.

  • harry law

    Thanks Craig Murrey for this realization of where we are and the hubris shown by the west, it will end in tears for the US/Europe.
    The US has been numero uno for decades, the US neocons want to keep it that way, in order to do this it needs to keep its main geopolitical rivals Russia and China in their place. This is difficult to do, first the US built 800 plus military bases all over the world and tried to control the trade routes to China, and enlarged NATO to surround Russia with a view to regime change and eventual dissolution of the largest country on earth, and to exploit it and strip-mine its resources. This has been a recurring dream of the likes of Dick Cheney and the neocons [well documented].
    How to do this when your opponents have nuclear weapons? First sanctions, together with your vassals, they usually fall in line with the “leader of the free world” who regard themselves as the “indispensable nation” and “shining city on a hill”, the vassals usually act in lockstep each vying to gain brownie points with their master. The Germans are past masters at appeasing the US, although Merkel tried to stand up to them by continuing the Nord stream project, even after the US ambassador to Berlin over the heads of the German government threatened German companies with consequences if they continued working on Nord Stream. Some did capitulate, but the Germans would not take the hint; then BOOM the pipeline is no more.
    Attaining and keeping an empire cannot be done by acting like boy scouts. The US way is sanctions; if that does not work, they send in the marines. In the case of Russia and China with large nuclear arsenals, proxies have to be used, hence Ukraine had to become a dagger at the heart of Russia, to this end NATO expanded into Ukraine making it a de facto NATO member and built up its armed forces, even when they should have been negotiating the Minsk agreements. Then Victoria Nuland came on the scene and admitted spending 6 billion dollars on NGOs to effect regime change, confirmed in that telephone call to Geoffrey Pyatt (“fuck the EU”). The US/EU ignored the Ukrainian constitution and put in place puppets to coerce the Russian-speaking regions; the OECD observers recorded huge military buildups and increased shelling of those areas (14000 dead). Putin had to act. The rest is history.

  • Captain Morgan

    As Ukraine’s endgame is approaching and Zelensky faces the inevitable, I wonder if he would “invite” friendly troops from the West/NATO to confront the Russians on the battlefield and save him, just as the newly independent DPR and LNR invited the Russians, as did Bashar Assad before that. Will that be WWIII?

  • Jim Brown

    We’ve been trying to work out why Prigozhin’s dogs of war couldn’t cut the mustard so instead of hot dogs Putin had to eat humble pie listening to Wagner’s version of Crimea River. No matter what, we’ve been doing some more research on Putin’s lifestyle.

    Eighty per cent of Russians approved of the War yesterday, the other 20% were shot today.
    What is Vladimir Putin’s favourite song? “Crimea River”.
    Why wasn’t the Lord born in Moscow? No wise men lived there.
    What’s Putin’s sense of humour like? Tsarcasm.
    Has Prigozhin really run out of hot dogs or is it that he just can’t cut the mustard anymore?
    What does Putin listen to when eating hot dogs? Wagner’s version of Crimea River.
    How can you tell if Putin is laughing? The ventriloquist standing behind him is crying.
    Five out of six Russian doctors advised Putin it’s safe to play Russian Roulette.
    What’s the difference between Putin and Hitler? At least Hitler knew when to kill himself.
    What was Putin’s wedding called in Pravda? A Soviet Union.
    Why does Putin only write in lowercase letters? He loathes Capitalism.
    Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un jump off a cliff. Who wins? Humanity.
    All Putin wants is peace – a piece of Europe.
    Putin denied having any political opponents having won 139% of votes at the last election.
    What do Putin and a jelly fish have in common? Both are spineless and can’t be reasoned with.
    Don’t drink vodka with a Russian. You never know what Vladimir put in.
    Zelensky is the greatest comedian ever. He even turned Putin into a joke.
    Why is Putin’s wife so small? She’s called Lily Putin.
    What does Putin wipe his feet on before entering his home? Kompromat.
    Where does Putin wash his dirty linen? In a kompromat.

    For more about Russian disciples in the Tory Party and Pemberton’s People in MI6 see the brief News Articles dated 21 July 2021 and 31 October 2022 in TheBurlingtonFiles website. #SlávaUkrayíni

      • will moon

        You seem happy using a term coined by the criminal western intelligence networks and the the inhuman oligarchs who back, and benefit from, these moral sinkholes. Why is that? What have got you against tankies? Compared to criminal oligarchs and their “special services” lackeys, tankies seem innocent wallflowers. Are you afraid to mock those who are more important than lowly tankies?

        Do you think the gigapeds are getting service from MI5 – fresh flesh for frolics and fun?

        Who cares about tankies when the gigapeds are running our society? Can’t you see the bigger picture?

  • Odessa

    Could please Craig explain why the Russians are in breach of the law? As he tells us national identity can form anew, or be re-awaken. He has argued extensively that if you feel you have a different national identity, all you need to do is to declare referendum, win it and declare independence. No need for a referendum permission from London, or Kyiv. Then it is simply a matter of recognition. The timeline as I see it: Their, Donbass bloke, president Yanukovich is removed in a violent coup. Crimea goes where it has belonged since mid-18th century – communist dictators like Stalin and Khrushchev are awful, unelected, murderous creatures, (Stalin also moved whole people round) unless like Khrushchev when he granted Crimea to Ukraine SSR.
    Donbass felt different identity and civil war started. For 8 long years Kyiv could not bring themselves to fashion some kind of Canada/Belgium/Swiss type of country, where two identities could co-exist without the stronger one killing the weaker one (while at the same time claiming these are their fellow Ukrainians they were killing, but they have the right to kill them, because they were just the wrong sort). Donbass had their referendum back in 2014, was it? Russia did not recognise the result until 2022. Then they did recognise the result and had a treaty of help with Donbass. Then they went to honour the treaty and went to help Donbass.
    Which law exactly are they breaking? Why it is right for Scotland or Catalunya to have their referenda, but not for Donbass? Why we accept that Ukraine can develop national identity, but we cannot bring ourselves to accept that Donbass can also develop national identity and want to split from Ukraine? Then Donbass had a referendum to join Russia. It passed and they asked to be accepted. And they were. Which law are they breaking exactly by being accepted in the Russian Federation?
    Unlike Craig, I have not read any law documents. All of my information comes only from the newspapers, and from blogs like Craig’s. I am really interested to hear Craig’s argument. One thing I have learned over the years, is that USSR and Russia seem to be stickler for the law. And by the by, I really don’t like Craig’s idea of breaking up the RF in order to ‘liberate’ their peoples and in effect wanting to Balkanise it, while plunging it in many bloody civil wars (like Donbass) along the way, simply because we don’t like the Ruskies. Recall that in 1991, most Soviet republics, including Ukraine, voted against the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The approval rate in the Stans was over 90%. In Ukraine it was 70-75%.
    The common USSR people, gone through numerous wars over centuries, probably felt in their bones that in spite of its shortcomings, some kind of federation was preferable to going back to wars (and war in Donbass proved them right). Did not the anticolonial movement benefit from a strong, independent USSR?
    Would not Snowden be in solitary in some American dungeon now if it was not for the RF to grant him asylum? But to go back to the question: Which international law(s) did RF violate in recognising the Donbass republics and Crimea? Prior to 2014, Crimea had 2 referenda, both in favour of joining the RF. Which law did the RF violate by accepting the Donbass republics and Crimea in the RF?

        • JK redux

          Thanks Odessa.

          That referendum was of course organised by the authorities of the then USSR, a one party state.

          I could surmise that many people felt that

          “Do you consider necessary the preservation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as a renewed federation of equal sovereign republics in which the rights and freedom of an individual of any ethnicity will be fully guaranteed?”

          was the best that could be achieved in that situation and perhaps an improvement on the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’.

          But of course the attempted coup took place, Yeltsin took over and the rest is literally history.

          • Mr Mark Cutts

            It certainly was. The great Giveaway sale of the Russian people’s assets.

            The Drunkard Yeltsin (is he still alive?) allegedly made 5 billion dollars and his most favoured Oligarchs did pretty well.

            And here comes all the blessings of introducing ‘Democracy’.

            Putin (as an Apparatchik in the Communist Party) wanted to do a MAGA (or a MARA – MAke Russia great Again) but in order to do so he had to select his group of Oligarchs, and the likes of Berezovsky and others’ noses were put out. They were not, and are not to this day, best pleased. But Putin is in charge, and all is fair in greed.

            By the way ‘The Proletariat’ (and I hope you know what the phrase means?) were never consulted by Yeltsin or Putin as to the path Russia should take. All they knew was that they were skint, and that under Putin things could not become any worse.

            Lo and Behold, it is not perfect, but it is better to be under the Presidency of Putin rather than under the Presidency of Biden. Be thankful for small mercies – eh?

            Meanwhile in the self-annihilating West they continue to shoot themselves in the foot with a machine gun in order to serve the US. Not only is that pathetic but it is cowardly.

            The US yet again vetoed the Security Council’s submission. It wasn’t on the BBC as a report. Cowards followed by craven cowards. It’s vomit inducing.

            But – look on the bright side – we are a Democracy. Right?

          • Squeeth

            terence callachan
            February 21, 2024 at 00:40

            JK Redux , do you consider the UK to be a one party state ?

            I don’t know about him but to me it’s as obvious as it was to the late great Gore Vidal.

    • Andrew Paul Booth

      Yes, exactly. There is a civil war situation. Outside assistance was requested by both sides. Exactly what international law or custom applies in this situation, in particular and in general?

    • harry law

      Odessa, the question you raise is a good one concerning the right of ‘peoples to self-determination’, enshrined in the UN Charter.
      This crucial principal was put before the International court of Justice …..
      When the KLA started its campaign to secede from Yugoslavia (as it was still called), the matter was taken to the ICJ by Yugoslavia (Serbia). They argued that, in international law, the right to secure borders meant that Kosovo did not have the right to secede. The Kosovan argument was that, in international law, the right to self-determination meant that Kosovo did have the right to secede; The ICJ agreed that the two were contradictory and they would need to rule on which had precedence. They ruled that self-determination was more important than secure borders.
      N.B. The administration of Kosovo declared independence without going to a referendum but the ICJ ruled that, since they were a regional government, they could be said to be expressing the will of the people of Kosovo. (are the SNP listening?)
      Applying the now-established principle to Ukraine would mean that Crimea had the right to secede and ask to join Russia (even if they hadn’t bothered with a referendum), and that Lugansk and Donetsk had the right to declare independence … and later to apply to join Russia.

  • James Chater

    Hello Craig, you can’t be serious in claiming Putin’s war is justified?? Do you have any evidence that Ukraine was involved in ethnic cleansing of Russian minorities? I thought Ukraine had taken the matter to the ICJ, who found in Ukraine’s favour. Even those who still believe this lie think that Putin’s invasion, as a reaction to this alleged wrong, was unjustified. Also, the case for Russia is not strengthened by Western support of Israel. I happen to think that Western support of Israel is shameful and wrong, but that the West should support Ukraine against Russia. Let’s not confuse the 2. Biden is wrong about Israel but right about Ukraine. And you have strayed from your usual standards in having fallen for Russian lies. Stay safe.

    • Alyson

      See Valerie’s comment above. There is plenty of evidence of the attacks on Eastern Ukraine by Western Ukraine from 2014 if you look on YouTube. All very shocking

        • Alyson

          Well that article seems to sum up the way the scene was set in 2014 pretty succinctly Harry. The limits of democracy arise where national self determination conflicts with banks and oligarchs. Moving tangentially on: it becomes clear that Countries signing into trade pacts are being sued by companies for failing to hand over sovereign resources. Some countries try to hold out against the WEF and its ilk. Others just screw over the general public to appease the wealth monopolies.
          Factor in Brexit and our autonomy as a nation feels quite vulnerable.
          Starmer is acceptable.

    • terence callachan

      James Chater … imagine
      Scotland allowed China to site nuclear missiles on Scotland’s border with England facing London
      OR
      Canada allowed Russia to site nuclear missiles on Canada’s border with USA facing Washington.

      Now wonder why Russia fear USA siting nuclear missiles on Ukraine’s border with Russia just 400 miles from Moscow.

  • DunGroanin

    Wow many pages and most of what I say has probably already been said. Will read them later. In the meantime:

    “There is now a Ukrainian national identity, and those who subscribe to it have the right to their state.”

    I disagree, and would appreciate if my comment is allowed to make my case.

    There were Settler Rhodesian and Boer identities and British Raj one and conquistador Spanish identities; and let’s not forget the rest of the 5 Eyes … it goes back half a Millenium.

    I don’t know where CM will find an understanding of Nationality that he hasn’t already seen, because nations as we define them now, did not exist until artificially created in Europe. The nearest I can trace it to is the creation of Westphalian states.

    Prior to that were ‘tribal’ lands with chieftains and princes and bishops. Back to the Holy Roman Empire and Roman Empire and earlier with City States.
    All well until the coming of the hordes!
    Britain – or England, Scotland and Wales – were not part of the initial such ‘Modern Nation states’ until later as I understand it.

    The concept that humanity is Nations is the problem.
    Accepting that means anyone can go about in boats or planes or by land to anywhere and set up a nation! Regardless of the INDIGENOUS PEOPLES who live there.

    There are a few clear cut divisions that define Peoples:
      •  Ethnicity – they look the same.
      •  Language – they speak the same and have distinct writing.
      •  Food and Culture – they eat, believe and entertainment themselves.

    Even then we understand ‘within’ that commonality, there are local and regional variations between villages, on opposing river banks, up mountains and forest of that one land; here in Britain between the old tribal counties, the accents and local variations in food and language are even celebrated!

    There was the message in VVP’s short history lesson to the Yankee poodle mass media superstar celebrity and hence his viewers, the historically myopic USAians, with their unfeasible Founding Myth and Superpower self delusion, usually seen in youth and young men with too much testosterone and steroids.

    A judo master move, as many are now perceiving.
    As MoonofAlabama’s bernhard, wrote a few days ago too – citing another expert observer, now self-exiled for fear of persecution I expect – months ago:
    https://patrickarmstrong.ca/2023/12/30/listen-to-what-hes-saying/

    So I disagree with CM: I don’t think anything but a rump Ukraine is what any self-professed ‘pure Ukrainian’ can maybe claim. As long as it didn’t belong to any still-extant pre-existing Peoples. The Polish, Hungarian and Romanian Peoples have prior claims on much of it. Russia the rest.
    There is a bit of landlocked rump the self-identifying Ukrainians can claim.

    I also agree there is a Scottish identity and these subscribing to it having a state.
    That means that its occupying power has no right to be there. It is a conquistador-invaded land, that needs to cede it.
    The same as the subcontinent was given up, albeit with some insane line-drawing causing millions of deaths through the partition it created – an abomination – which put religion as a snake-in-the-grass there, that hadn’t existed before, the lands and peoples of a thousand gods for thousands of years!

    Which brings us to the synchronous calamitous creation of that other ‘Nation’ the illegal apartheid entity, and its colonisation by people who were not indigenous there and had no ‘rights’ to it. Who we Collectively as Anglo Europeans had engineered for many decades previously at least even at the behest of some of them.

    So no Ukraine has NO RIGHT to exist. – nor did RHODESIA or the artificial divisions of imposed lines around Peoples who should be naturally grouped.

    In my ideal world we would rewind back to that initial Original sin of the Westphalian Treaties and remove the great fig-leaf of Nation States from the World, because we are a SINGLE Human Race which naturally live in our natural groups, as I defined above. Ancient Civilisations grew and persist and afaik they didn’t need the fake invisible magnificence of the Nation State cloth to achieve what they did and can still do as a collective humanity that strives against natural calamities – which has always been the greatest enemy of civilisation.

    • Pigeon English

      I like your ideal world!
      I believe that I am closer to you ” nationali” and ethnically then to some of my national brothers.
      I would like to add that language is very powerful tool to create and unify the natio or to suppress national belonging.

      Even the apartheid state had to invent common/ national language. If the Italians spoke their own dialect the guy from Venice would not understand the guy from Sicily and might question being ” Italian”. People from the South of Italy wondered what are they doing in Slovenia fighting the Austro- Hungarian Empire.
      BTW what happened to Esperanto 😏?

    • terence callachan

      DunGroanin, if only but you know that cannot happen. We are, after all is said and done, only human.
      Ye cannae push yer grannie aff the bus … but some do…. and worse … humans don’t play fair.

  • Allan Howard

    I just came across this Ted Galen Carpenter article in the Guardian again published on Feb 28th, 2022, just four days after Russia invaded Ukraine, which I’d completely forgotten about. I initially came across it six, seven, eight months after it was posted on the Guardian’s website, and I have no idea if it was published in the actual newspaper, but whatever the case, it’s probably the only instance of such information being in the MSM in Britain. Here’s the headline and a passage from it:

    ‘Many predicted Nato expansion would lead to war. Those warnings were ignored’

    George Kennan, the intellectual father of America’s containment policy during the cold war, perceptively warned in a May 1998 New York Times interview about what the Senate’s ratification of Nato’s first round of expansion would set in motion. “I think it is the beginning of a new cold war,” Kennan stated. ”I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/feb/28/nato-expansion-war-russia-ukraine

    • Pigeon English

      IMHO for NATO to exist we need a bogey man, “imperialistic Russia”. If the Soviet Union and Warsaw pact collapsed we had to invent new enemy!

  • Penelope

    ‘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’.

    Imagine if an English politician had delivered a one-sided rant on the history of the British Isles and someone had written the above but with ‘Irish’, ‘Scottish’ and ‘Welsh’ replacing ‘Polish’, ‘Ukrainian’ and ‘Armenian’. How would you have felt about that?

    I came to a very different conclusion than you about the Putin interview, though everyone, even Putin himself, can surely agree about the incompetence of Carlson while those who gushed in advance about this being a meeting of great minds should have calmed down and put their Jackson Hinkles away. But what I noticed most about the interview was how much Putin resembles Netanyahu with his constant switching from bullying to playing the victim, the patriotic pub bore obsessions with particular historical or mythological grudges and self-aggrandising boasts, and the compulsive and almost taunting dishonesty. And you speak, very rightly, of Western support for genocide but what of the Russians presiding over the ethnic cleansing of Nagorno-Karabakh, offering Ethiopia memberships of BRICS after the Tigrayan atrocities or kidnapping hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian children following their illegal and immoral invasion, or the decades and indeed centuries of crimes preceding this? If you are now supping with the devil – speaking metaphorically, of course – remember you have the luxury of possessing a long spoon.

    The alternative to the Russian invasion wasn’t genocide in the Donbass. The conflict there had frozen in 2016 – and by the way the claim that the 14,000 people who had died in it were ethnic Russians massacred by the Ukrainians is a blatant lie – and it was reignited in early 2022, following the build-up of Russian forces on the border, and this was very likely an attempt by the separatists and off-duty Russian soldiers, who’d taken part in the previous violence, at inciting a response to justify the invasion and less likely by Ukrainians hoping they’d be invaded. The alternative to invasion was indeed more diplomacy but after watching the Taliban overthrow one US-backed regime in a matter of days, Putin seems to have fancied his chances of overthrowing another one. Before that the Russians had, at least as much as the Ukrainians, violated the Minsk Accords and even repudiated them altogether in the run-up to the invasion. And unless you’ve changed your mind on this too, the claims that the Russians have killed half a million Ukrainians (or the Ukrainians have killed 300,000 Russians) are nothing but bloodsoaked bravado. I’ll also add that the Russian language wasn’t banned in Ukraine but subject to considerably less onerous restrictions, especially compared to those during the Golden Age of Russification, there was no chance of Ukraine joining NATO, especially if Putin had been prepared to use more diplomatic levers and the economic reasons for the war, alluded to by Prigozhin before his assassination, are greatly understated by most commentators – but aren’t they always? Who’s talking about the Gaza Marine for instance?

    To turn to the history for a moment, Putin speaks as if Ukraine is a modern creation but Russia is a land frozen in time. This is nationalism as a religious vocation and extremely false and pernicious. If Ukraine is a modern creation so is Russia, complete with the joys of enforced Russification alluded to above in the later Tsarist and Soviet eras. And Putin wasn’t in the 13th Century when Carlson interrupted him but why would anyone expect a nationalist/fascist political leader to be that hot on Medieval history? I reckon Boris could have distinguished his Angevins from his Tudors though. Someone earlier in the thread recommended The Invention of Tradition and Imagined Communities and I’d endorse these too, along with Gellner’s Nations and Nationalism and the works of Anthony D Smith. The latter is particularly interesting for its critique of ‘the made it all up in the modern era’ school of thought that was vogueish in the ’80s. But the impression I get is that people often like to claim countries they like or hail from are ancient and holy and the ones they don’t like and even are at war with are new and fake. Ukraine is a nation formed out of the Russian Empire, true, but with a history before that considerably more complex than the one Putin is promoting and the same goes for Russia. Oh by the way, read Marc Ferro’s The Use and Abuse of History on how competing nations and power blocs have history taught in their domains, especially in schools. Putin was educated in the Russifying era of the late Soviet Union and it shows.

    Despite our differences, I agree that negotiation is the best way ahead and should have been from the beginning, but just blithely accepting Putin’s narrative will most likely lead to more conflict – as will the obsession with Nazis on the other side, which is currently driving the Israeli genocide in Gaza. Craig, I admire your work and, through your writing, speeches and interviews, have developed considerable liking for you as a person, but also disagree with much of what you’ve written here. With respect, Penelope.

    • D

      Use the OSCE website – the official monitors – type in a date (anything pre-Russian-invasion but interestingly the week before) – you’ll see an increase in shelling, you’ll see maps of where it hit.
      ‘Frozen in 2016’ is absolute nonsense. It’s documented.

    • terence callachan

      Penelope, you are wrong. Ukraine could have and would have joined NATO if they were allowed to do so.
      Some would say they should be allowed to do so if that’s what they want, but we all know NATO is controlled by USA and mostly financed by USA.
      We all know that the NATO missiles planted in Ukraine would have been USA nuclear missiles and they would have been located on Ukraine’s border with Russia just 400 miles from Moscow.
      No negotiation by Ukraine with Putin would ever, ever, have been good enough for USA to give up the opportunity of placing USA missiles on Moscow’s doorstep, so what you say here is absolute nonsense.

      The threat of NATO missiles that are controlled by USA being sited just 400 miles from Moscow put fear into Russians.
      Just think about it, Penelope. How would you feel if Scotland allowed China to locate Chinese nuclear missiles facing London on Scotland’s border with England? How would you feel about Canada allowing Russia to site Russian nuclear missiles facing Washington on Canada’s border with USA?

  • Tom74

    It seems to me that the fundamental question has always been whether a majority of people in the so-called occupied areas of Ukraine want to be part of Russia or would prefer to remain in Ukraine. The fact that the British media hasn’t addressed this important issue at all, instead focusing on Zelenskiy personally or displaced Ukrainians, as if the entire country were united against Putin, left me suspicious from the start. Much as with Israel, the media seems to have been peddling British government propaganda from start to finish about Ukraine, not news at all. And now things have unravelled in both situations, look at the pathetic reverse ferret of establishment journalists and politicians, trying to cover up foreign policy defeats for the US, which they said wouldn’t happen.

  • Alan Bolger

    Ukraine nazi Banderite national identity would have been forged, to a greater extent, in and post the Stalin-made famine, with collectivization of the farms policy. Historians say as many as 2 in 10 starved to death in the Ukraine area – 2 in 10, everybody would have known somebody that died. And so when the Nazis came rolling through in the early 40s they met with a lot of willing Ukrainian collaborators sympathetic to the Nazi cause rather than the prospect of starving to death under Soviet rule. The German were good at organizing after all.
    I can have a little sympathy with their predicament.
    The Soviets after the war did a poor job rounding these collaborators up and have them face the firing squad.
    There has always been extreme right-wing Nazi sympathizers in Ukraine. The CIA have exploited this in the hope of a forever war with Russia.
    Zelenskyy, you will remember, campaigned on a peace-with-Russia mandate. What happened for him to turn?
    Sure, there are Ukraine nationalists that are not Nazis, but don’t forget: one of the explicit aims of Mr Putin’s special military operation is to rid Kiev of the Banderite loving Nazis.
    As Hemingway put it: If you value your freedom, you owe a debt of gratitude to the RED Army.
    Banderite Nazis are an insult to the people of Russia – Russia who gave the most in blood in World War 2.

    • David Warriston

      We may be seeing an echo from history here in regards to the Banderite faction of Ukrainian nationalism. The original was, as Alan Bolger said, funded by the CIA post WW2 but their funding dried up when the USA had bigger fish to fry in Korea. Bandera himself was executed by a Soviet agent as late as 1959 in Munich, that traditional stronghold of fascism and host to this week’s security conference.

      I disagree with Penelope’s claim that there is an ‘obsession’ with Nazis on the Russian and Hamas sides. The Azov battalion were not simply lumpen storm troopers; they were integrated into the Ukrainian defence apparatus and carried out their deeds across the country under the law pertaining. In addition, Zelensky acknowledged Israel’s apartheid system as a model for his vision of a Ukraine for the Ukrainians when he spoke in their parliament. Recent statements quoted in the ICJ interim judgment made by senior Israeli officials have used Nazi terminology and none, so far as I know, has ever been disavowed by their cabinet colleagues.

    • Jen

      Nazi Banderite ideology was actually forged in those parts of northwestern and western Ukraine that were under Polish rule, and subject to Polonisation, from the 1920s to 1939. When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, German forces were greeted by the Galicians and Volhynians as liberating them from Polish rule.

      The areas in post-1991 Ukraine affected by the famines in the early 1930s were in the pro-Russian east.

  • Philip Espin

    Anyone else perturbed that Craig last tweeted at 06.15 this morning on his way to Julian Assange’s hearing and nothing further has been heard from him since then. Does anyone know if he got in?

    • Melrose

      Let’s hope his account wasn’t hacked AGAIN, like it recently was…
      Unfortunately, anything is possible nowadays. Even verified accounts cannot be fully trusted.

  • Colin Haller

    Russia isn’t going to give any of the annexed oblasts back. In all likelihood they are going to annex a few more, if only to secure control over the rivers which feed the reservoir which prevents Crimea from reverting to a desert.

    Whether or not they decide to landlock the eventual rump Ukraine remains an open question.

    I don’t believe the Russians have any interest in occupying Western Ukraine, but they will definitely want a demilitarized zone to prevent resumption of shelling of urban areas in Eastern Ukraine which was ongoing since hostilities broke out in 2014.

  • Courtenay Francis Raymond Barnett

    Since we are speaking of injustices and political subterfuge – consider this:-

    The Poem
    by Lisa Suhair Majaj

    The poem was found in the rubble
    of a six-story residential building
    in Khan Yunis, destroyed by a 2000
    pound bomb that sent fire to the sky
    and death to the burning earth.

    The poem was alive, but bloodied
    beyond recognition, trapped
    beneath heavy chunks of concrete.
    The blast had severed its legs and arms.
    The poem could not move.
    It could not reach out to rescuers.
    It could not find its wounds.

    The poem’s face was unrecognizable.
    A deep gash across its forehead
    revealed the bone within.
    The poem’s eyes were filled with blood.
    It could not see. The poem’s mouth
    was a gaping wound. When it tried
    to scream, no sound came out.

    The rescuers knew it was important
    to save the poem. They dug frantically
    with bare hands in the debris, begging
    the poem to hold on. When they finally
    extracted it from the rubble, passing it
    hand to hand to the waiting stretcher,
    watchers erupted with joy. The poem
    was alive, was returned to its people!

    Later, in the hospital, the poem lay
    on the bloodied ground, listening
    to the screams of children undergoing
    amputations without anesthetic,
    to the wails of mothers clutching
    the bodies of babies to their chests,
    refusing to allow them to be taken
    to the refrigerated ice cream trucks,
    pleading that it was too cold there,
    that they could not leave them alone,
    that the children would be frightened.

    The poem tried to move its absent legs,
    its arms, to sense what was left.
    It understood that something
    had been irrevocably ripped away.
    That even if it lived, there were things
    it would never do again. The poem
    closed its eyes and tried to imagine
    a body of light filling the gaping absence
    where its limbs used to be.

    The poem’s pain was beyond anything
    it had experienced before. It tried
    to imagine its mouth moving without
    pain, tried to imagine a voice emerging
    from the bloodied crevice of its jaw,
    wondered if it would ever speak again.

    The poem wanted it all to stop—
    the enormous pain, the cries
    of anguish, the echo of how
    it had sounded when the bomb
    hit with its unimaginable fury,
    how it felt when walls crashed down
    like the hand of death.

    Just then aid workers brought in
    a wounded child, laying it
    on the floor nearby. The child
    was covered in blood, screaming
    for its mother. The poem
    lay there listening. Slowly
    it mustered every bit of strength
    it had, and began to hum.
    It couldn’t get a voice out;
    This was the best it could do.

    The child’s whimpers subsided
    a little, and it turned its face toward
    the sound. The poem realized
    that even without arms or legs,
    even with its face practically torn off,
    it still had a job to do. The poem
    searched inside itself for the body
    of light that had stayed with it
    in the rubble, the body of light
    it could barely imagine.

    Exhausted but determined, the poem
    continued to hum. It was difficult,
    but better than staying silent. The poem
    thought to itself that later on, when
    it could manage, it would try to sing
    a lullaby, something to comfort the children
    whose light still shone in their bodies, who
    would need some kind of music to survive.

    Copyright 2024 Lisa Suhair Majaj

    Lisa Suhair Majaj is a Palestinian-American writer living in Cyprus.
    P.S.

    The poem thought that wrong was done to it,

    So, the poem retained a lawyer to obtain justice.

    The lawyer filed a case before the International Court of justice;

    Then the lawyer presented the poem to all the Justices on the ICJ – and all cried.

    • will moon

      Thanks Courtney, this contribution made me think again and reminded me I still have a job to do despite my oh-so-precious woes

      “ The poem realized
      that even without arms or legs,
      even with its face practically torn off,
      it still had a job to do.”

    • Johnny Oh45

      Thank you for sharing this. May the body of light that animates us in our need to communicate find the ears that need to hear. Peace.

  • Republicofscotland

    A glimmer of hope for Assange, to buy more time, if the establishments fit up of him goes to plan.

    “But while the UK legal system will then have been exhausted, Assange does have a further chance with the ECHR in Strasbourg.

    If the High Court judges rule against Assange then his lawyers can apply to the ECHR for a Rule 39 injunction, which would halt the extradition until the European court had looked at the case.

    The decisions are binding on member countries and there is no precedent for the UK not respecting a Rule 39 order on a proposed extradition.

    Christophe Marchand is the Belgian lawyer instructed by Assange to coordinate and prepare the possible litigation at the ECHR.

    “There is an internet platform for the European Court of Human Rights where you can introduce your Rule 39 application, and a decision can be rendered in a few hours,” Marchand tells me.

    “After the decision is taken, the court then makes contact with the state saying that it has taken the decision and that the extradition must be halted.””

    https://www.declassifieduk.org/the-last-days-of-julian-assange-in-britain/

    • Melrose

      There is apparently a too-common misunderstanding.
      If (big if, but hey) the current hearings go well, then Assange will be granted another appeal in the UK.
      In such case, stating “But while the UK legal system will then have been exhausted, Assange does have a further chance with the ECHR in Strasbourg” is totally misleading.
      This will only be true if he fails his current motion. Let’s be reasonably optimistic. Even the BBC seems to be, and they probably know more than they tell…

  • M.J.

    After leaving a meeting with friends near Centenary Square, Birmingham, I heard what sounded like Soviet music near the Town Hall. It turned out to be a small demonstration by Ukrainians, playing their own patriotic music, carrying large blue and yellow flags. To encourage them I called out “Slava Ukraini!” and gave them the thumbs up. They responded with a chant in Ukrainian which sounded positive, and I walked on.
    I hope the USA and other countries will expedite the tools for defense that Ukraine needs to stymie the Russian invaders with all their evil-doing, especially in places like Bakhmut and Avdiivka, for the preservation of democracy and liberty in Ukraine, and for the discomfiture of dictators, arrogance, cultures of lies (like the Russian) and cults of the personality everywhere. Not to mention the liberation of Crimea from Putin’s dictatorship.

    Slava Ukraini!

  • Ian Stevenson

     • The Maidan protest was because Yanukovych repudiated the Association Agreement with the EU – against the wishes of the democratically elected Parliament. After he fled elections were held and the one for the Parliament returned pro-EU parties.
     • The Far Right Svoboda vote has gone down in each election.
     • Even if the Govt. was right wing nationalist – does that justify an invasion and destruction of cities?
     • By a country which in 2020 approved Lukashenko’s repression of protests to a stolen election?
     • By a country rehabilitating Stalin? By country which crushed Chechnya when it tried to leave the Russian Federation?
     • Human Rights Watch doesn’t support the idea of Kyiv oppressing the Donbas; it says there were human rights abuses on both sides.
     • And reporters have little or no access to separatist areas.
     • A nation is what it feels itself to be. Americans colonists created a nation. Modern Ukrainians would not be fighting as they are if they didn’t feel they were a nation.
     • Russia bordered three NATO countries Norway, Estonia and Latvia – the Baltic states have a population less than London. Since 2014 NATO has positioned a few brigades in the Baltics. As a gesture really.
     • Since the invasion Finland has joined them.
     • If we include the Kaliningrad enclave, Russia borders Poland and Lithuania. None of these countries had nuclear weapons stationed there or deployments of major NATO armies.
     • NATO forces were not strong enough to threaten Russia. The real threat was Ukraine joining the EU. The values of even our flawed democracy and media are in contrast to those of the Russian Federation.
     • The Russian proposals of Dec 2021 would have dictated the foreign policy of eastern Europe. The people in those countries opted to join NATO and the EU.

    I can remember the 600km human chain in the Baltics demanding independence in 1989.
    The Ukrainians don’t want to be Russian and have a right not to be.

    • Tony Brown

      Your final line “The Ukrainians don’t want to be Russian and have a right not to be” is, with all due respect, completely false.

      The root of the problem is that there are huge number of ‘Ukrainians’ living in South and Eastern Ukraine that DO want to be Russian, clear majorities in Crimea, Luhansk and Donetsk and also sizeable numbers in Kherson, Zaporizhia, Dnipro and Kharkiv and other eastern oblasts.

      When you refer to ‘Ukrainians’ you are really referring to Ukrainian nationalists, largely from the west of the country and who basically define themselves as not being Russian, you are not taking into account millions of people living in the eastern half of the country.

      That is what caused this problem in the first place, you cannot impose an anti-Russian ideology in eastern Ukraine, it will not be accepted there. It is as foolish as trying to implement an anti-British ideology in Northern Ireland if it were to ever become part of a united Ireland; the loyalists would never, ever accept it, because it is asking them to expunge their own identity.

      • Mr Mark Cutts

        Tony

        I read a long time ago – before the conflict that Russia paid Ukrainian and Russian Pensions to retired people in the Eastern Region.

        Whether that still holds, I don’t know.

        The interesting thing is that according to the BBC is that the electricity and water in most parts of the East of Ukraine is functioning despite the big electricity plant ( can’t remember the name) being occupied/destroyed very early into the conflict.

        In fact I am puzzled as to how Kiev, Lviv and other big towns and cities are managing to function at all for energy supplies?

        Anyone got any clues?

        • Tony Brown

          I am not completely sure of the details, but I have read that during Stalin’s time they sent lots of Russians down into the Donbas to work in the mines and heavy industry down there. Crimea also had massive Russian immigration during the Soviet years, mostly to work in the military but also some industry as well.

          Also worth remembering that ‘Ukraine’ literally refers to ‘border lands’ in Russian, meaning that with no natural border in place between ‘Russia’ and ‘Ukraine’ that people would have been living here and with some identifying with one country, others with another, and many more relatively ambivalent.

          A good comparison here is Northern Ireland where people have a range of identities, some folks feel Irish, others British and others identify as specifically Northern Irish.

          However, people tend to forget that the migration process works both ways; even before the conflict millions of Ukrainians – mostly from the east but not exclusively – had migrated to Russia, principally St Petersburg and Moscow, for improved economic opportunities. Since the war began millions of Ukrainians, pro-Russians, have gone to Russia.

          • David Warriston

            The Northern Ireland problem in respect of the UK is probably the most useful comparison for those wishing to see beyond the western narrative on Russia/Ukraine. NI was a live issue in my lifetime and remains so to this day, although thankfully the conflict operates at a very low level.

          • Squeeth

            People in Ireland can have any identity they want, but I shouldn’t have to pay for it; let them stand on their own feet.

    • Jack

      Ian Stevenson

      Lets break this down:

      Yanukovych repudiated the Association Agreement with the EU – against the wishes of the democratically elected Parliament. After he fled elections were held and the one for the Parliament returned pro-EU parties.
      There was no “repudiation”, there was an aggressive EU that refused to to take no for an answer to their proposed deal and in effect blackmailed Ukraine.

      BRUSSELS — Leaders of the European Union had a blunt message Monday for the president of Ukraine: Choose between a customs union with Russia and a free-trade agreement with us. You can’t have both.
      https://www.kyivpost.com/post/7888

      Ukraine however wanted a deal with the west and Russia.

      Ukraine wants trade agreements with EU and Russia
      https://www.euractiv.com/section/economy-jobs/news/ukraine-wants-trade-agreements-with-eu-and-russia/

      If EU just could accept that Ukraine wanted good relations with both west and east, there would be be no war at all today but as usual, they wanted the cake and eat it too and here we are 10 years later. A destroyed Ukraine.

      The Far Right Svoboda vote has gone down in each election.
      It is not about political parties as such, it is a general right-wing-extremist ideology ruling most of Ukraine – leftwing/socialists parties for example are banned or take for example the recently kicked top general
      He posed repeatedly neo-nazi affiliated groups and had glorified Stepan Bandera :
      Ukrainian military chief photographed with far-right paraphernalia
      https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2022/10/15/ckti-o15.html
      Look at the photo in this article too: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2024/02/10/orvx-f10.html
      See the black, red flag? That is a nazi/fascist flag used by the Ukrainian OUN (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organisation_of_Ukrainian_Nationalists) meaning “Blod and Soil” or as in the lingo of nazi germany Blut und Boden

      Even if the Govt. was right wing nationalist – does that justify an invasion and destruction of cities?
      Per se not of course, but if the right-wing nationalists are violent against ethnic russians one cannot really be surprised if Russia intervene.
      When some US soldiers illegally occupying Syria (or wherever they were placed) were struck some weeks back – thousands of miles from the US border, US responded with aerial attacks on the whole region. Why should we then be surprised if Russia respond to thousands of ethnic russians being killed in a neighboring state?

      By country which crushed Chechnya when it tried to leave the Russian Federation?
      Speaking on Chechnya, it was granted autonomy, why could not Ukraine grant Donbas, Luhansk greater autonomy?

      Human Rights Watch doesn’t support the idea of Kyiv oppressing the Donbas; it says there were human rights abuses on both sides.
      How could there be human rights abuses on both sides? There is a 1 state suppressing powerless civilians living in these regions.

      A nation is what it feels itself to be. Americans colonists created a nation. Modern Ukrainians would not be fighting as they are if they didn’t feel they were a nation.
      That is a myth. First off, Ukrainians are forced to fight and they are forbidden to leave the country, and judging from the videos showing how the military/police of Ukraine hunt, violently force ukrainians in the street to become conscripts they most likely do not want to fight at all.
      The issue is also where the border of the ukrainian nation should be drawn. There is no turning back now. One could imagine the ethnic cleansing, round-up if Ukraine were tor retake Luhansk, Donbas.


       • NATO forces were not strong enough to threaten Russia. The real threat was Ukraine joining the EU. The values of even our flawed democracy and media are in contrast to those of the Russian Federation.

      Bollocks myth. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland are all members of the EU and have been for decades and are all neighbors to Russia.

       • The Russian proposals of Dec 2021 would have dictated the foreign policy of eastern Europe. The people in those countries opted to join NATO and the EU.

      Yes and by “opting” to go that route that there are a response to follow. The baltics seems to be more whining than ever to put it frank, so how much of a protection was Nato? Not much apparently.

      • Ian Stevenson

        Chechnya was devastated in the second war. A puppet regime rules.
        Stories about neo-Nazis don’t have much support among visitors. But they do note Stalin is back.
        The eastern European countries actively wanted to be part of Europe most had experienced Russian invasion -the Baltics in 1940 with many deported and their culture suppressed
        Finland fought two wars and had to cede territory. Poland had land taken by Russia and the Soviet army backed the Communist govt in the days of Solidarity; invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, Hungary in 1956. They have become more prosperous while Russia has languished. Russia runs propaganda against the EU for ‘promoting homosexuality ‘ and ‘attacking religious and family values.’
        No, they don’t want to be Russian even if, like Zelensky , it is their mother tongue. No people would fight that hard if they didn’t believe it-not in the real world. We won’t go into the mass evasion of Russian conscription. Yes, there will be lots of draft evasion -esp if their country is much smaller. But the refugees don’t usually go towards Russia.
        Blogs like this would not be allowed in Putin’s Russia.
        I could go on but what we see is what i saw, to an extent in the UK post WW2, a reluctance to accept a diminished status in the world thus the posturing about NATO. It doesn’t have:
        a reason to invade Russia and stories that the west wants to break up the country have no evidence
        the capacity to invade the country-and it doesn’t need nuclear weapons in Ukraine – and there would be no support for attack.
        If we look at the way Ukraine had to scrabble to find weapons and sort out their defence shows to anyone who knows about military affairs this was not a pre-planned war.
        Putin’s speeches tell us his motivation. He wants to build a new Russia and denies Ukraine is a real country. He thought the country would fall in a week or two. Actually a lot of foreign commentators -both pro and against Putin-thought that.

        • Jack

          *Chechnya was devastated in the second war. A puppet regime rules.
          The second chechen war was initiated by pro-violent jihadists:
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caucasus_Emirate
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mujahideen_in_Chechnya
          Which in turn had very litte support among the people living in the region.
          Puppet-regime? Well would it be better if there were was still a war in the region?

          *Stories about neo-Nazis don’t have much support among visitors. But they do note Stalin is back.
          Perhaps those visitors were blindfolded when they visited Ukraine then since the marks of a nazi-apologist ideology is very vibrant in Ukraine.
          Nazi collaborator monuments in Ukraine
          Many new streets and monuments have been erected since a new government took over in 2014

          https://forward.com/news/462916/nazi-collaborator-monuments-in-ukraine/

          *The eastern European countries actively wanted to be part of Europe most had experienced Russian invasion -the Baltics in 1940 with many deported and their culture suppressed
          Finland fought two wars and had to cede territory.

          Perhaps those nations should not have collaborated with nazi germany which was the prime cause of those occupations. Finland as you mentioned was one of the prime participator of the Operation Barbarossa and in the second war, the “continuation war”, was more aggressive than defensive in nature as they tried to claim land that was not theirs.

          Interesting that you mention Hungary too, how come Hungary could let go of past friction while the baltics, poles keep whining day in and day out? Why not put the axe down, become mature, reach out a hand and actually start working towards better relationsship with Russia? They do not have to like Russia but is not peace, good, calm relations better than the current, ongoing hysterical sentiment?

          *Yes, there will be lots of draft evasion -esp if their country is much smaller. But the refugees don’t usually go towards Russia.
          Actually they do: As at 1 August 2023, 6.2 million refugees from Ukraine were recorded globally, with half in three countries: Russia (1.3 million),1 Germany (1.1 million), and Poland (1 million)
          https://reliefweb.int/report/poland/ukraine-overview-situation-refugees-ukraine-six-host-countries

          * It doesn’t have:
          a reason to invade Russia and stories that the west wants to break up the country have no evidence
          the capacity to invade the country-and it doesn’t need nuclear weapons in Ukraine – and there would be no support for attack.

          And the exact same thing was said before Hitler marched east-wards.

          *He thought the country would fall in a week or two. Actually a lot of foreign commentators -both pro and against Putin-thought that.
          I have never seen such a claim from Russia, I have seen such claims for the west though:
          US concerned Kyiv could fall to Russia within days, sources familiar with intel say
          https://edition.cnn.com/2022/02/25/politics/kyiv-russia-ukraine-us-intelligence/index.html

          But sure, Russia fight not only 1 but another 50 nations that provide arms to Ukraine, of course such facts will prolong the war.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_military_aid_to_Ukraine_during_the_Russo-Ukrainian_War
          It is like you are getting jumped in the street by 1 person, and then 50 his friends show up.

  • Sentience

    Brilliant piece.
    You forgot to mention that particularly Tajikistan and even Uzbekistan’s historical ties to Persia where large parts of them annexed by Russian Empire.

  • isxodnik

    All people of good will understand that the only way to reduce human suffering is the liberation of all of Ukraine, and its inclusion in Russia as separate regions; and the years-long purge of Nazi survivors.

  • Jack

    Boris Johnson wanted $1 million for interview – Tucker Carlson
    ”So I’m over in Moscow, I’m waiting to do this interview, it gets out that we’re doing it, and I’m immediately denounced by this guy called Boris Johnson,” he said. “So I put in a request for an interview with [Johnson], because he’s constantly denouncing me.”

    Hoping Johnson would “explain his position on Ukraine,” Carlson said he soon heard back from Johnson’s staff, who revealed the former prime minister would agree to the interview – but only on one condition.

    ”Finally an adviser gets back to me and said, ‘He will talk to you, but it’s going to cost you a million dollars.’ He wants a million in US dollars, gold or bitcoin – this just happened yesterday or two days ago!” he continued.
    Carlson went on to note that he had just finished his interview with Putin, who “didn’t ask me for a million dollars.”

    https://swentr.site/news/592821-tucker-johnson-million-dollars/

    The western leaders are so afraid of getting exposed, they slam Carlson for being too soft, but they themselves would never sit down with a journalist that would actually pose hard questions. More and more journalists and politicians have merged into 1 entity, respresent the same thing:
    Also on this subject:
    Biden offered prime time Russian TV slot
    Journalist Dmitry Kiselyov wants to sit down with the US President to get his take on how to stabilize ties between the two nations

    https://swentr.site/russia/592635-biden-interview-proposal-russia/

    Not to say that Kiselyov is a good journalists but he would nontheless pose hard questions but Biden chickened out apparently.

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