Russian aggression in Ukraine is an attack on world order and order in Europe. All of us still clearly remember the Soviet invasion of Ukraine and Germany. That has to be avoided. And nobody has the right to rewrite the results of the Second World War. And that is exactly what Russia’s President Putin is trying to do.
Ukraine’s prime minister Yatsenyuk, January 7, 2015
The Germans invaded the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, and looked poised to take Moscow by October that year . . . As the German armies swept further into the Russian heartland, one million Soviet troops were drafted to protect Kiev [the capital then, as now, of Ukraine] . . . Kiev fell and 600,000 Soviet soldiers were captured . . . Nazi rule over the territories they captured from Russia was draconian . . . In the Ukrainian town of Kharkov, which was administered by the German army, 100,000 people died of starvation and disease.
War of the Century – When Hitler Fought Stalin, by Laurence Rees (BBC Publications)
Voutenay sur Cure, France.
The Ukrainian prime minister’s poisonous perversion of the facts of history is a gruesome joke but was not treated as such by the media in the west which almost without exception endorses and publicizes Ukrainian pronouncements with zeal. Statements by Russia’s leader, on the other hand, are either ignored or distorted.
In his New Year message for 2015 Russia’s President Putin referred especially to the decision of the Crimean people to quit Ukraine and accede once again to Russia. His words reflected the feelings of Russians in noting that “love for one’s motherland is one of the most powerful and uplifting feelings. It manifested itself in full in the brotherly support to the people of Crimea and Sevastopol, when they resolutely decided to return home.”
Predictably, his speech was reported unfavorably and even offensively by western media which almost without exception carried headlines about Crimea being “a Ukrainian territory that Russia forcibly annexed in the spring.” The word “annex” is used by almost all western governments and their media when describing the move by the vast majority of Crimean citizens to rejoin Russia.
The venom of the west against Russia has been growing steadily and there is now a second Cold War caused by US-led western confrontation. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, has seized on the shambles in Ukraine to try to justify its continuing existence, following its destruction of Libya as a country and its humiliating failure in Afghanistan.
Russia has no intention of threatening its neighbours with whom it has major trade links that are extremely important to its economy, which much of the West, led by Washington, is attempting to destroy. In furthering its aim of isolating Russia, NATO in 1999 brought Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into the military alliance. Then in 2004 — again without there being indication of the slightest Russian threat — NATO expanded even more aggressively with the addition of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Then they brought in Albania and Croatia in 2009, and sought to include Georgia and Ukraine in order to have NATO forces menace Russia along its entire western border.
In March 2014 the ethnically Russian province of Crimea declared itself to be separate from Ukraine. There was a referendum on sovereignty by its 2.4 million inhabitants. The declaration was strongly condemned by the United States.
90 percent of the inhabitants of Crimea are Russian-speaking, Russian-cultured and Russian-educated, and they voted to “dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another” in order to rejoin Russia. It would be strange if they did wish accession to a country that not only welcomes their kinship, empathy and loyalty but is economically benevolent concerning their future.
In June 2014 President Obama declared that “we will not accept Russia’s occupation of Crimea” but has not said what he intends to do to reverse the free and open accession of the Crimean people to Russia. Does he for one moment imagine that his much-publicized goal of “a Europe that is whole and free and at peace” would be attainable if Crimea were to be wrenched from Russia and given to Ukraine? Does he seriously think that if Ukraine took over Crimea there would be any possibility that its inhabitants would, in the words of his own nation’s Declaration of Independence, enjoy “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”? Has Obama thought about what would happen if two million people who have made it clear that they do not want to be ruled by Ukraine, were suddenly ordered to accept rule by Ukraine? And who would give such an order?
Obama’s aggressively anti-Russian speeches in the UN General Assembly and other forums have been pointlessly confrontational — and they won’t be forgotten by the Russian people who don’t appreciate such absurdly bellicose slogans as “the United States is and will remain the one indispensable nation in the world.” This immature approach to international relations has become the hallmark of administrations in Washington and although regarded with hilarity by many millions around the world is nonetheless patronizing, supercilious and offensive.
The most recent instance of US-NATO knee-jerk endorsement of anti-Russia malevolence came on January 21 when Ukraine’s president Poroshenko claimed that Russia had “9,000 troops, 500 tanks, heavy artillery and armored personnel carriers” in the east of the country where Russian-speaking, Russian-cultured separatists are seeking to leave Ukraine. As reported by Reuters “Moscow challenged Poroshenko to present facts to prove his allegations. However, he won support from NATO.”
The US has round-the-clock surveillance of Eastern Ukraine. If Russia had 9,000 troops and 500 tanks there, be assured that western newspapers and TV channels would have been inundated with countless annotated photographs of troop positions and equipment, which are impossible to disguise. Where are the pictures? Where is the evidence?
Certainly Russia supports the separatists of the east of Ukraine, just as the United States supports, equips and trains the rebels of Syria. The difference is that the Donetsk rebels are to all intents Russian and want to join Russia, while the US mission in Syria is “to build the capabilities of the moderate Syrian fighters to defend the Syrian people; stabilize areas under opposition control; promote the conditions for a negotiated settlement of the conflict in Syria; and empower trainees to go on the offensive against ISIL.” This is a totally unilateral endorsement of anti-government militancy without reference to those most directly affected by the war in Syria.
America, the great country which taught the world that “in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another” has debased itself by selective interpretation of the reasons for its very foundation. In modern times the US does not support declarations of independence, no matter how morally justifiable and practically desirable they might be, if they do not fit in with its policy of self-appointed indispensability.
A spirit of compromise and understanding appears to be as remote in Washington as does willingness to cease its increasingly virulent anti-Russia campaign of invective and confrontation. If Washington had its way, the citizens of Crimea would be forced to accept rule by an alien nation while the government of Syria would be overthrown by US-trained rebels. Deployment of US troops to the Middle East to train Syrian rebels to overthrow their government is mirrored by the forthcoming deployment of US troops to Ukraine with the mission “to assist Ukraine in strengthening its law enforcement capabilities, conduct internal defense, and maintain rule of law.”
The anti-Russia campaign is gathering strength. The US-NATO military grouping ratchets up the tension by another few notches at every available opportunity, supporting a country whose prime minister asserts that Russia invaded Germany in 1941 rather than the other way round, and whose president has Russian tanks on his eyelashes.
Obama boasts that “America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters.” What an achievement. But he had better watch for the consequences to come.
Brian Cloughley lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.