Right now you are likely being inundated with many “angles” on the war between Ukraine and Russia. Most of the Western media have gone “all in” supporting the Ukrainians and railing against Vladimir Putin (because that’s what the Biden Administration wants).
Contrarian sources are either “team Putin” or believe Putin was “instigated” into the invasion. Many people believed that the Biden Administration was lying to them about the pending invasion because they have been told so many obvious and demonstrable lies by this Administration, how could one not help but think “so what is his game now?”
I believe that the truth is always far more complex than the cartoonish representations provided to us by media, pundits, and government. Finding the “ground truth” (such as it exists) is always a challenge, even in the “information age”.
But I think there are a few things we can probably ascertain with a fairly high degree of reliability:
- Neither the Russians or the Ukrainians are “good guys”. Russia is a totalitarian despotic regime, and so is Ukraine. Corruption is rampant in both nations. Ukraine is far from the idyllic bastion of “democracy” presented by the Western media (to the point where it is actually nauseating).
- The “color revolution” in Ukraine in 2014 (which deposed a Russian puppet government) was fomented by outside forces (*cough* George Soros). This was viewed quite unfavorably by Russia for a variety of obvious reasons.
- Putin (and Russia generally) have an interest in seeing Ukraine as being a “non-threat” (at a minimum). Russia has been invaded many times in its history – the Germans (of course), Napoleon, the Swedes (several times), even the Kingdom of Lithuania (yes seriously, and several times), etc. (for a full list see here). Ukraine has always been an essential buffer to securing the Russian heartland against invasion, and it remains an existential imperative for Russia to maintain that buffer, as it has for centuries.
- Yes, Nazi influence is strong in Ukraine. A big reason for this I think was the abuse heaped upon the Ukrainian populace by Russia (especially Stalin). Many years ago when living in Atlanta, an older Ukrainian woman used to cut my hair. She HATED the Russians, and had survived the Holodomor as a child. She told me of how the Russians took all their food and grain. They survived by scavenging for grain that had fallen beneath the floorboards and by even boiling the soles of their shoes. It was little wonder many Ukrainians viewed the Nazis as “liberators” and even joined their cause. This isn’t presented as an endorsement of Nazism – it is an observation of cause and effect.
- Interestingly Nazism seems to have endured rather well in many former Soviet block countries (save Poland, which suffered under both Nazism and Communism). I noted this in my travels through central and eastern Europe. Again, see point #4 above – I think my theory has some validity here.
- As much as we rightly deplore Nazism, let’s not forget that Communism killed far more people in the 20th Century – very conservative estimates place that figure around 100 million. I think it’s much higher than that. If you read Gulag Archipelago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn makes a good case for about 60 Million alone in the Soviet Republics. Mao (I’m sure) killed far more. That doesn’t include Pol Pot and the rest. We should be as appalled at the sight of the Soviet and Chinese flags that get waved around at Antifa rallies as we do at the sight of the Swastika – but we aren’t. This is a failure of the Western educational system, and can be laid squarely at the feet of Western “intellectuals”. Again, Solzhenitsyn discusses this at some length. This isn’t to say that modern Russia is “Communist” per se, but let’s not forget Putin was a well-regarded KGB operative – I doubt he jettisoned all of the lessons he learned in his previous career. He is also heir to a long history of Russian brutality and repression – characteristics which far predate the Marxist revolution of 1917.
- Putin could have likely accomplished a great deal WITHOUT a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. He firmly established control over the eastern Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk (where he already had defacto control) – I also understand these areas have a lot of coal and other resources. He previously took control of the strategic peninsula of Crimea. Assurances by Western powers not to “incorporate” Ukraine into NATO would have been a reasonable thing to demand – and receive, and should have been easy for the West to “give”. But Putin made clearly outrageous demands, including NATO members NOT staging military equipment or troops in NATO countries near Russia (huh, seriously?). I mean, we were NEVER going to agree to that. Whether that was some negotiating tactic or he was serious, I can’t say. But it was an outrageous demand.
- There has been much “caterwauling” about Western interference in former Soviet Republics like Ukraine, and how provocative this was to Putin. But Putin’s hands are far from clean. He did everything in his power to complicate our efforts in the Middle East, and provided direct and indirect support to insurgencies (just one example). He delighted in keeping us “bogged down” and bleeding. This is nothing new guys. The Russians have always done this to us, and we have also done this to them. The use of proxies to “preoccupy” your opponent is a tried-and-true centuries old tactic that is frequently employed, and is useful in avoiding a much more deadly direct confrontation. The hands of NO GREAT POWER are clean in this regard. So grow the fuck up, and quit whining about it (it’s really self-righteous and annoying) – this is how the game is played, like it or not.
- Most serious and objective geopolitical analysts (George Friedman is my favorite) didn’t expect Putin to invade the whole of Ukraine. None were surprised by the move in Donetsk and Luhansk, but it was generally agreed that a full-scale invasion of Ukraine was very risky, and these analysts were universally surprised when it happened. Once Putin embarked on this adventure, it threw the whole calculus of the rational motivations for Putin’s actions into question. This was rightly cause for concern. If Putin were to decide to swing north into the tiny Balitic States (who are members of NATO), that would trigger Article 5 and the U.S. and her allies would be obliged to respond.
- Julian Assange made a oft-quoted and popular statement that “Every war over the last 50 years is a result of media lies” that I think is partially correct – although I think it more appropriate to say media lies are a “component of” war rather than that war is a “result of” media lies (i.e., media doesn’t generally cause the war, but facilitates it often times with government approval). But I take exception to some of the implications of Assange’s statement that I find particularly naive and misleading. I may get shot for this, but here goes… Assange’s contention (while not inherently wrong) nonetheless leads one to the conclusion that all war must be avoidable and unnecessary because there is lying and propaganda. This is ridiculous. War is and always has been an inescapable feature of “civilization” (there, I said it). Nations have vital and existential interests. When those vital interests are in conflict, and the nations involved are threatened (whether in actual fact, or perceived), there will be war – it is actually the only way that some of these things can get sorted out. Moreover, Assange implies that Western “democracies” are moral reprobates for engaging in the practice of war – in all it’s trappings and methods (of course allowances are always made for WW II, where there was nonetheless propaganda and lies by the allies and their media, regardless). I don’t know why governments’ aren’t “straight” with their populaces on the geopolitical imperatives for the wars that they fight – perhaps it wouldn’t be understandable to many, perhaps it wouldn’t evoke the necessary motivation (or whatever) – but just because there is a war, and that war inevitably contains some element of falsehood, does NOT necessarily mean it is not needed or warranted (though many times there isn’t actually adequate cause, or government reasoning is flawed). This doesn’t mean I like war, I endorse war, I think all (or even most) wars are necessary, or that I like lying (I’d personally prefer straight talk). But it is a reality, and one cannot avoid war indefinitely and be a power of any substance. Besides, with all due respect to Mr. Assange, lying and wars have been going on since time immemorial, it isn’t exactly a phenomenon of the last 50 years.
- Propaganda is rife in the Ukrainian-Russia conflict – on all sides. It’s hard to get a clear picture of what is REALLY happening on the ground, but I think a few things are apparent. For one, Russia’s military is not impressing right now. As they have done throughout my life, they have vastly exaggerated their hardware and warfighting prowess, and the West has swallowed it hook-line-and-sinker. If Russia was doing well, this would have been over with by now. I saw an interview with the late Tom Clancy and I recall a great quote that has become a favorite. Clancy said (and I may not get this exactly right): “The greatest danger Russian military hardware poses is to the occupants”. We saw evidence of this in Gulf War I where highly feared armored vehicles like the Russian BMP fighting vehicle were easy game, owing in part to an “unfortunate” location of the munitions magazine which was perilously exposed to fire by even low caliber weapons. Second, if the Russians manage to finally subdue Ukraine, it will be at great cost – a Pyrrhic victory. I think these guys are done. Keep feeding the Ukes weapons and let them grind the Russians down until they are missing at least one arm and a leg. Nasty I know, but that’s life.
I know this is long, and I’m sorry for that, but I hope you read it and found it worthwhile. I would definitely recommend seeking out more objective sources of information to better understand this conflict (and many others). It is challenging, I know.
I mentioned George Friedman at Geopolitical Futures (https://geopoliticalfutures.com/). I appreciate his objectivity and his reluctance to engage in political rhetoric. I’ve written George a few times and he even responded personally once. His most recent book, “The Storm Before the Calm” is an excellent read that shines light on the turmoil of the 2020’s from an American perspective.
Peter Zeihan is “OK” (his book “The Accidental Superpower” was fascinating), though I’ve had a few discussions with him and I think he’s generally a glib dick that thinks too much of himself. But he does generate some good insights (or will at least get you to think).
I’d personally avoid Jacob Shapiro (another guy I’ve had some scuffles with) – he’s all “global warming” and “wealth inequity” and it colors everything he does – unfortunate.
I don’t get any remuneration from the Friedman recommendation, I just think he’s pretty damn good. He’s certainly changed the way I look at the world. Same for the books referenced – I’ve read them and found them enlightening.