Thursday, 19 February 2015

Demonising Russia won't stop bloodshed in the Ukraine

Despite a ceasefire agreement, signed in Minsk last week, the Ukrainian president, Petro Poreshenko, and his supporters apparently have ‘no doubt’ that the United States will provide their armed forces with weapons to fight anti-government insurgents in south-eastern Ukraine.  There appears to be an increased appetite among belligerent advisers in Washington to escalate a crisis which has caused devastation for civilians in the region. 

Providing the Kiev regime with weapons, openly, would likely transform a deadly civil war, complicated by the Ukraine’s delicate geo-political situation, into a genuine proxy conflict between the US and Russia.
 
Recently, I read Richard Sakwa’s masterful book, Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands.  It’s a serious, academic analysis, which makes a change from polemical journalism cheering on one side or another in the war.  One of its important contentions is that the conflict, including the economic sanctions and breakdown in relationships, is one result of ‘the decay of contemporary diplomacy’. 

‘Abusive and condemnatory rhetoric took the place of rational debate’.

That tendency is continuing apace, despite the Minsk agreement.  Michael Fallon, the UK defence minister, has made pre-emptive noises about Russia ‘destabilising’ the Baltic States by promoting ethnic tensions in Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.    It’s an interesting claim in some respects, because it rests on the fact that exclusive, nationalist regimes in those countries continue to foster discontent among their minority, Russian speaking populations.

Statements from both Washington and London, in particular, demonise Vladimir Putin, ignore  grievances of people in eastern Ukraine and gloss over the origins and character of the regime in Kiev.  Reports on the television and in newspapers, with very few exceptions, echo the same themes.  There is little emphasis on the scale of human tragedy engulfing south eastern Ukraine or how it could have been prevented.

Sakwa’s book identifies two separate but closely related crises, which have plunged the country into political turmoil and then into war.  Firstly, he says that there is a ‘Ukrainian crisis’ - the ongoing struggle between nationalists, who want to create a mono-cultural, Ukrainian speaking nation, within the Ukraine’s current boundaries, and pluralists, who want a state which reflects different cultural and linguistic traditions, particularly Russian culture and the Russian language.  The former he describes as ‘monist’.  This first strand is complicated by ongoing competition for power between oligarchs in the Ukraine, which he believes underlies many political clashes that are then coloured with a more ideological hue.   

Secondly, there is a ‘Ukraine crisis’.  This is the wider, geopolitical tug of war, between Russia and the west, which has taken place since the break-up of the Soviet Union.  Recently, it involved an attempt to bring the Ukraine into the orbit of the EU (and, by implication, Atlantic security arrangements), the finance and support of ‘regime change’ in Kiev and the installation of a government along the ‘monist’ model.  Moscow has responded with its own measures, designed to protect its strategic interests, including using forces based in Crimea to secure the peninsula and subsequently incorporating it into Russia.  It has also provided moral and strategic support, the extent of which it contests, to the anti-Kiev forces in eastern Ukraine.

If you want to read about the origins and the histories of these two crises since 1991, the breakdown of relationships which led to war and intrigues between Ukrainian oligarchs, I’d urge you to read Frontline Ukraine.  I want only to touch upon a couple of related points, as regards the latest developments around Minsk, as well as the way in which the conflict has been reported.

Most strikingly, there’s the failure of either western media or western politicians to acknowledge the ‘Ukrainian’ dimension of the war. 

The forces in eastern Ukraine, or Novorossiya, as leaders in Donetsk and Lugansk prefer, are referred to as ‘pro-Russian’, ‘Russian backed’ or even, simply, ‘Russian’.  The implication is that they have no agency of their own, that they don’t tap into real grievances about the legitimacy or policies of the authorities in Kiev and that they can therefore play no part in resolving the crisis.  The breakdowns of the ceasefire so far have been blamed on ‘pro-Russian separatists’ in Debaltsevo, while the Ukrainian army’s continued bombardment of Donetsk has been largely ignored, or the source of 'shelling' not specified.

This attitude is one of the biggest obstacles to brokering peace, or even a resilient ceasefire, in Ukraine.  The current government in Kiev has refused, for the most part, to talk directly to rebel leaders, relying instead on back-channels and intermediaries, like former president, Leonid Kuchma.  

It's an analysis which also encourages the assumption that President Putin has the authority or influence to bring fighting to a halt whenever the fancy takes him; a view which ignores the complicated relationship between Moscow and Novorossiya, as well as changes within the Novorossiyan leadership.

In the eyes of many of his so-called ‘proxies’, Putin has not done nearly enough to protect people in the Donbass from an aggressive, nationalistic Ukrainian army and there has been a 'Ukrainising' of leaders in Donetsk and Lugansk..
 
It’s impossible to gauge accurately from so far away whether opposition to the new Kiev government has hardened into genuine popular separatism across the region.  We do know that after President Yanukovych was forced to flee Kiev, demands from the east were relatively modest.  A degree of autonomy, formal recognition of the Russian language and, as conflict developed, an amnesty for fighters, would have satisfied most ordinary people from Donbass. 

Neither were anxieties about the legitimacy of the new authorities unfounded. 

The American Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, explicitly stated that the US government spent $5 billion on encouraging ‘regime change’ in Kiev.  A leaked tape also revealed that she discussed the composition of the new Kiev government, before it was formed.    Quietly, the sequence of events which led to protests in Independence Square, or Maidan, turning violent has been revised, even by media in the UK.  It seems likely that snipers from Right Sector, the virulently nationalist group which provided the shock troops of the ‘revolution’, fired the first shots. 

The important point is that, to most of the world, it is not evident necessarily that the US and its allies have a unique right to subvert governments that they don’t like and work to replace them with something more amenable. 

The character of the new Kiev regime caused understandable distress in regions where there were cultural affinities with Russia and where Russian was spoken.  One of the first acts of the new Ukrainian parliament was to attempt to repeal a law allowing regions to designate Russian as a second regional language.  The president continues to insist that Ukraine is a ‘unitary state’, where Ukrainian is the only official tongue.  

Ukrainian neo-Nazis have been part of the government, from its inception, and are disproportionately influential in the armed forces, with nationalist militias accorded official status within the Ukraine's military.  The ‘social nationalist’, Andriy Parubiy, who led Right Sector violence at Maidan, became security chief in the new government and now leads a military unit.

There is a civil war in Donbass, caused by genuine grievances, anxieties and problems, among people who speak Russian and often have cultural affinities with Russia but who, for the most part, were happy to be part of Ukraine, until its democratically elected government was forcibly removed.  Continuing to ignore their existence and their concerns can only prolong the conflict. 

It is also unhelpful to demonise every country which does not support the US / EU view of geo-politics.  Washington and Brussels might see pouring billions of pounds into ‘civil society’ groups which are explicitly anti-Russian, in countries which have cultural, linguistic and historical links to Russia, as ‘democracy building’, but it’s hardly surprising, nor is it unreasonable, that Moscow doesn’t share that view. 

Sakwa argues very powerfully that Putin has reacted to events in the Ukraine, rather than orchestrating them.  He also believes that expansion of the European Union didn't worry Moscow unduly, until EU and Nato defence policy became inseparably entwined; a position which was formalised by the Lisbon Treaty.    

In these contexts, Russia’s decision to annex Crimea, opportunistically and at the request of its residents, was a rational act of self-defence.  Sevastopol is home of the Russian Black Sea fleet, the peninsula is inhabited, overwhelmingly, by Russians and losing it to Nato was unthinkable.

The pro-Russia argument is that Cold War attitudes in ‘the West’ have yet to be decommissioned, leading to the current conflict in the Ukraine.  Nato has expanded aggressively into former Soviet territory and now aspires to advance into historic Russian heartlands, right along the borders of the current Russian Federation and well within its sphere of cultural and linguistic influence.  It is an organisation aimed at surrounding and containing Russia and it poses a direct security threat to Moscow, as well as an existential threat to Russian speakers and Russian culture.

You don’t need to accept this theory to be uncomfortable with the West’s portrayal of Vladimir Putin as a modern-day Hitler, or to lament the media’s failure to explore both sides of the civil war in the Ukraine.  You don't need to accept that Moscow hasn't had a single member of personnel west of the border, to question whether the 'pro-Russia' forces are made up predominately of Russian soldiers.  Why are so many people, who have no particular knowledge of or even interest in the region, rushing to take Kiev's side?    

Bloodshed in a neighbour, common to both Russia and EU countries, is a shared responsibility.  It’s likely to be stopped only by a genuine spirit of partnership, between the US, Russia and the EU, encouraging compromise between the warring sides  It could become much worse with the introduction of new weapons, the continued abuse of silly historical analogies and politicians demonising either party to the conflict.

29 comments:

yourcousin said...

It's been awhile since we've done this and although parenting leaves little time for the banter that we used to enjoy I feel obligated to respond.

I don't have the time to respond fully so I'm torn between a partial response with more flushed out thoughts or a more bullet point approach which would hit most if not all point with a rebuttal but that could easily come across as dismissive or even trollish when that is not my intention.

So I'm just going to roll with a stream of consciousness thought process here, please abide.

Much of the debate here is centered on EU/NATO/RF and has more than a whiff of great gameesque elements in my mind. It is worth bearing in mind that whatever machinations and deteriorations that Russia and the West suffered Ukraine itself was always driven more pragmatic concerns. First and foremost was the reality of keeping the lights on which lets honest Putin has played to his max advantage. Also there is the idea of Ukrainians themselves looking to Europe not as a formal structure but more as a free and open society that is comfortable in its own skin and with a sense of a future. Contrast that to the crumbling Easter regions and the extreme corruption (which I will readily acknowledge is on both of this divide) and it is understandable that Ukrainians wanted closer ties with Europe. What of those wants? You argue of western funding for regime change, but the reality is that Putin has used his choice of economic options that make the west's pale in comparison.

The idea that it must be one or the other (Russia or the west) while becoming more and more of a reality the longer the conflict goes on does little to appreciate the nuances of the Ukrainian realities that you argue everyone is ignoring. Right from independence various leaders of Ukraine have sought a third way so to speak playing the competing visions of the west and Russia off against one another. It wasn't until Putin snapped his fingers at Yanukovich and told him that he would scrap the EU deal and sign up the Eurasion custom's union or else that it got real.

While not trying to minimize the issue of the Russian speaking groups in former Soviet countries I think you to remember context and that until '91 it was the non Russian minorities that were targeted.

The monist tendency didn't spring out of nowhere. The idea that Ukraine is and always has been an artificial country that existed only at the whim Russia is alive and well. the realities of Russian rule, first under the czars, then the USSR and now through the machinations of Putin do little to show the love from Mother Russia.

yourcousin said...

It is also difficult to take the Ukrainian dimension too seriously seeing as how Putin acknowledges that he did indeed seize Crimea and then attempted to justify it a rigged referendum. Igor Girkin argues that he led the uprising in Sloviansk that started it all. But I certainly see a native element in it, one that collapsed in the summer fighting and one that was rescued by a massive Russian counter offensive. How much there is now is certainly open to question but I would agree that it is far from monolithic, as portrayed in some sources.

As for the ceasefire violations. I would respectfully submit that much of the shell fire into Donetsk was due to continued firing at the airport which after all fell to separatist forces during a cease fire. And it really is hard to argue that Debaltsevo was not in blatant violation of Minsk II. And even if this ceasefire stick for awhile I will bet you double or nothing from our previous bet (who won that one again?) that Mariupol sees concerted attempts to seize it by the end of the summer.

Certainly the role of the right in the Maiden protests and now in the fighting is disconcerting but please save me the hand wringing since Jobbik has been repeatedly invited to act as election observers for both the Crimean referendum and the rebel elections. It is ironic that you argue against the marginalizing of the Russian minority and their and grievances while simultaneously doing the same with the so called monists. You are caricaturizing them into one dimensional beings who exist in a black and white world of Ukraine first and only. I'm sure there are still many who are fine with the Russian language as long as their right to be Ukrainian is respected. It's also worth pointing out that the language bill of 2012 done by Yanukovich is still in effect and that Russian still a regional language, but not a national language. You're creating straw men here.

As for the idea that NATO is aggressively expanding into Russian heartlands? Please, NATO expansion is taking place in countries who have been occupied by the Russians and want to ensure that it never happens again. Now whether or not NATO still has the mettle to hold up its end is another question all together, but obviously many people find it insulting to have their sovereignty called into question for the sake of false multipolared world view which in reality is still a Russian dominated sphere of influence for the former Soviet Union.

You act as if this conflict is out of the control of anyone to stop. It is not. Russia may not have planned to seize Crimea, but it did. It may not have planned for the "uprisings" in the Oblasts to go like they did, but they have recognized and supported them. Lets be clear, there is a military solution to this conflict for Russia and for now it is working for them.

My uneducated guess is that this will string along with enough ceasefires to keep the west from actually doing anything substantive for Ukraine until the Ukrainian economy collapses entirely which would in turn lead to a collapse of their military allowing a land route to Crimea and for the separatists to carve out as much of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts as possible. Then create a nice frozen conclict and absorb them in all but name. They may even go through the bother of establishing a Russian UN force like they did in Abkhazia.

Certainly that is futuring a bit but it seems a reasonable assumption at this point. Because even back during the Orange revolution I would have though this series of events to have been an impossible future for Ukraine.

Demonizing Russia won't stop the war in Ukraine, but neither will apologizing and obstuficating for Russia.

yourcousin said...

PS Good to see you posting again. I still stop by regularly (ish). Tell Burke to get back at it, his kid should be all but grown by now.

Chekov said...

Thanks for the comments yourcousin. I've just read them, but I'll try yo get together a response shortly.

Chekov said...

The idea that it must be one or the other (Russia or the west) while becoming more and more of a reality the longer the conflict goes on does little to appreciate the nuances of the Ukrainian realities that you argue everyone is ignoring. Right from independence various leaders of Ukraine have sought a third way so to speak playing the competing visions of the west and Russia off against one another. It wasn't until Putin snapped his fingers at Yanukovich and told him that he would scrap the EU deal and sign up the Eurasion custom's union or else that it got real.

I agree with the contention that it doesn’t have to be ‘one or the other’ for Ukraine, but the thrust of both western policy and Russian policy, particularly as this war has developed, has been to make the Ukrainians decision that stark. I don’t agree with your assessment of Putin ‘snapping his fingers’. Rather I believe that Yanukovych was engaged in playing both sides off against each other and was responding to an improved economic deal offered by Putin, as well as taking into consideration some harsh economic realities about his nation’s position.

While not trying to minimize the issue of the Russian speaking groups in former Soviet countries I think you to remember context and that until '91 it was the non-Russian minorities that were targeted.

I’m aware of the context, but I don’t see it as an excuse for mistreating Russian speakers.

The monist tendency didn't spring out of nowhere. The idea that Ukraine is and always has been an artificial country that existed only at the whim Russia is alive and well. the realities of Russian rule, first under the czars, then the USSR and now through the machinations of Putin do little to show the love from Mother Russia.

I’m sure that Ukrainian nationalism is partly a reaction to Greater Russian nationalism. However it’s worth considering too just how intimately the Ukraine’s history is bound up with Russian history. Look at how Orthodoxy, which shaped Russia’s national identity so profoundly, emerged from Kiev. Look at Cossack identity and the Hetmanate. Nineteenth century Russian nationalism was shaped by many figures of Ukrainian origin. And Ukrainians played an important role in creating the Soviet system. So the simple imperialist reading of the countries’ relationships doesn’t really cover a much more complicated picture. That’s before we consider the differences between Galicia and the rest of the Ukraine.

It is also difficult to take the Ukrainian dimension too seriously seeing as how Putin acknowledges that he did indeed seize Crimea and then attempted to justify it a rigged referendum. Igor Girkin argues that he led the uprising in Sloviansk that started it all. But I certainly see a native element in it, one that collapsed in the summer fighting and one that was rescued by a massive Russian counter offensive. How much there is now is certainly open to question but I would agree that it is far from monolithic, as portrayed in some sources.

That’s not exactly how I read it. The Crimea ‘gambit’ as Sakwa described it in his book was something which developed rapidly and Russia certainly exploited it. However it was essentially reactive rather than being pre-planned, in my judgement. If you think back to the chronology of events, there were militia seizing buildings, protests and counter-protests before the ‘little green men’ emerged and stabilised the peninsula. And while there were clearly questions over the referendum, it’s hard to deny that Russia’s actions in Crimea didn’t command popular support from the majority of the population.

Chekov said...

As for the ceasefire violations. I would respectfully submit that much of the shell fire into Donetsk was due to continued firing at the airport which after all fell to separatist forces during a cease fire. And it really is hard to argue that Debaltsevo was not in blatant violation of Minsk II. And even if this ceasefire stick for awhile I will bet you double or nothing from our previous bet (who won that one again?) that Mariupol sees concerted attempts to seize it by the end of the summer.

A bit selective there yourcousin. One man’s legitimate defensive action is another man’s violation. The point is that both sides kept fighting in certain situations. Even the BBC was fairly unequivocal that shelling had continued unabated.


Certainly the role of the right in the Maiden protests and now in the fighting is disconcerting but please save me the hand wringing since Jobbik has been repeatedly invited to act as election observers for both the Crimean referendum and the rebel elections. It is ironic that you argue against the marginalizing of the Russian minority and their and grievances while simultaneously doing the same with the so called monists. You are caricaturizing them into one dimensional beings who exist in a black and white world of Ukraine first and only. I'm sure there are still many who are fine with the Russian language as long as their right to be Ukrainian is respected. It's also worth pointing out that the language bill of 2012 done by Yanukovich is still in effect and that Russian still a regional language, but not a national language. You're creating straw men here.

I’m sorry if it seems like I’m caricaturing anyone. Just to be clear, I absolutely accept that not everyone who was involved in Maidan was a card-carrying fascist. The article is partly reviewing a book and it was the author who coined the word ‘monist’ to describe a trait in Ukrainian politics. I’cw no doubt that the vast majority of Ukrainians have no problem with the Russian language, and indeed are likely to speak it themselves.

As for the idea that NATO is aggressively expanding into Russian heartlands? Please, NATO expansion is taking place in countries who have been occupied by the Russians and want to ensure that it never happens again. Now whether or not NATO still has the mettle to hold up its end is another question all together, but obviously many people find it insulting to have their sovereignty called into question for the sake of false multipolared world view which in reality is still a Russian dominated sphere of influence for the former Soviet Union.

That’s certainly not how it appears to Russia and it’s not what the leaders who dismantled the Soviet Union believed they’d agreed. I’m not sure that anyone’s sovereignty is being undermined by checking the advance of a military alliance dating from the Cold War. I don’t think multi-polarity is a false concept. It’s of importance, not only to Russia, but also to China, other BRICs countries, parts of South America and the Middle East.

You act as if this conflict is out of the control of anyone to stop. It is not. Russia may not have planned to seize Crimea, but it did. It may not have planned for the "uprisings" in the Oblasts to go like they did, but they have recognized and supported them. Lets be clear, there is a military solution to this conflict for Russia and for now it is working for them.

I don’t suggest that the conflict is impossible to stop. I do suggest, however, that the level of control Moscow has over insurgents in eastern Ukraine is grossly exaggerated. I also maintain that Poroshenko’s autonomy is under serious constraint, because of some of the more extreme elements empowered by the Maidan.

Chekov said...

My uneducated guess is that this will string along with enough ceasefires to keep the west from actually doing anything substantive for Ukraine until the Ukrainian economy collapses entirely which would in turn lead to a collapse of their military allowing a land route to Crimea and for the separatists to carve out as much of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts as possible. Then create a nice frozen conclict and absorb them in all but name. They may even go through the bother of establishing a Russian UN force like they did in Abkhazia.

My contention is that a degree of autonomy for the Donbass regions, allied to some concessions re. language and culture, could’ve avoided a war in the first place.

Demonizing Russia won't stop the war in Ukraine, but neither will apologizing and obstuficating for Russia.

I don’t accept that I’ve been apologising for or obfuscating on behalf of Russia. I’ve simply been addressing some of the lack of balance I’ve seen in the western media. My main gripe, actually, is the tendency of people to take sides in this conflict. In some of my previous posts I make it clear that I see the war, chiefly, as an enormous tragedy for the Ukraine and all those who have been affected. Neither do I think it was unforeseeable, because you can go make a number of years on this blog and find articles about the dangers of engaging in a geo-political tug of war over the Ukraine. To be clear, I think both the west and Russia should share the blame for the tragic events.

Incidentally, I'd forgotten how annoying these 4000 odd character restraints are on Blogger!

yourcousin said...

Sorry for the delay in getting back on this. Like I said, parental obligations coupled with work do make online arguing (if one wishes to remain above trolling) difficult.

Rather I believe that Yanukovych was engaged in playing both sides off against each other and was responding to an improved economic deal offered by Putin, as well as taking into consideration some harsh economic realities about his nation’s position.

Ukraine has typically played off the sides but their economic reality didn't just drop from the sky. Putin used and continues to use Russian oil and gas as both a carrot and a stick. He has also encouraged the worst elements into power by cutting them vastly subsidized prices which allowed some of the worst excesses of corruption to occur (because when the normal oligarches start to complain you know it has to be bad. You may say that is his right, but it is disingenuous to suggest that it is economic. It is a political tool and one which he has used time and time again to subvert any pro-western leanings.

I don’t see it as an excuse for mistreating Russian speakers

I suppose we could catalogue attacks in Crimea both pre and post annexation and see which groups are getting messed with the most. Right now I would lean on the fact that Tartars are being persecuted more than ethnic Russians, whose rights never were in danger (IMHO).

it’s worth considering too just how intimately the Ukraine’s history is bound up with Russian history

I readily acknowledge a shared history, but a shared history is no excuse for Russian actions. It's like trying to justify Serbian oppression of Kosovars due to castles in the sky.

The Crimea ‘gambit’ as Sakwa described it in his book was something which developed rapidly and Russia certainly exploited it. However it was essentially reactive rather than being pre-planned, in my judgement

The problem with your position on Crimea is that your own guy is undermining your narrative. As if the Russian seizure was spontaneous. By his own admission he made the decision on the 22-23 before anything happened in Crimea. Indeed one could argue that the spontaneous demonstrations that the Russians took advantage of may not have been spontaneous at all. It's the same with your assertion that a language law would have prevented the violence in Eastern Ukraine when Girkin has gone on record saying that he and other Russians were there to launch a full scale separatist campaign. The difference is only in how much official support they had.

yourcousin said...

One man’s legitimate defensive action is another man’s violation

Just explain how constantly attacking the airport in Donetsk was a legitimate defense? Or the seizure of Debaltseve? Shelling continued (and still does right now) on both sides, I’m willing to view that sort of activity with a grain of salt, but serious and repeated ground attacks are something else.

it’s not what the leaders who dismantled the Soviet Union believed they’d agreed. I’m not sure that anyone’s sovereignty is being undermined by checking the advance of a military alliance dating from the Cold War

In terms of what was agreed to at the end of the Cold War, “cough” Budapest Memorandum “cough”. When I think of a multi-polar world I view the aims, aspirations and concerns of all parties as relevant. When Russia thinks of multipolar world they see the old Soviet Union where they could do what they wish in their “sphere of influence” with no real interference from the west. That is the difference. A multipolar world would take the views of Ukraine, Georgia and other former Soviet republics on the same level as Russian interests. That to me is multipolar, that is not what Russia wants. Ditto for China. They want a bi-polar/tri-polar in which they can bully smaller neighbors. There is a long well documented history dating well back to the original Georgian wars in which Russian pilots were shot down during combat missions for “separatists”. The recent integrations bills in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia both support my arguments from then and now that Russia is seeking expansion, nothing less. And that doesn’t include the issues of meddling with Russian speaking minorities in Baltic countries either. Im sure you can appreciate that countries that have been invaded (sometimes repeatedly) by Russia would want a form of protection from them. So to say that they could not enter into an alliance which would guarantee them mutual defense in case it might upset the country they want protection from in the first place is most definitively an attack on their sovereignty. This is especially true as Russia is busy rewriting the past. Putin’s recent wreathe laying for Russians killed putting down the Hungarian “counter revolution” being a recent example.

the level of control Moscow has over insurgents in eastern Ukraine is grossly exaggerated.

Can you explain how Russian control is exaggerated if they are supplying them with weapons and supplies. Literally Russian aid is the only that has kept the “civil war” going. Or are you seriously going to argue that Ukraine had enough military hardware in Donbass, which would include supplies, and ammunition to fuel a year long insurgency up to and including access to weapons that Ukraine never even possessed? Or would you argue that Russian control of the border which there are literally tens of thousands of Russian troops on combat alert is so poor that “rebels” are able to cross at will with anything they would like? This is the kind of stuff that gets frustrating because it defies common sense and can only exist in an environment of information saturation tinged with post modern nihilism. Because I just can’t wrap my head around how Putin who has made it a point to put himself in the center of everything, who manufactured a war with Chechnya just to secure his grip on power and who single handedly has rewritten modern Russia would just let his security apparatus fall apart like that. Really in the end you’re asking me to believe it’s raining while you’re pissing on my leg.

Though just to complicate this a bit I do think relying on warlordism can come back to bite folks in the ass and leads to bad things re Putin’s man in Chechnya.

yourcousin said...

I also maintain that Poroshenko’s autonomy is under serious constraint, because of some of the more extreme elements empowered by the Maidan

It is a shame you are not more concerned about the far right parties being empowered by Russia right now. Like literally right now in St. Petersburg. It is a shame that much vaunted anti-fascist Russian credentials were missing this weekend.

I think Poroshenko’s constraints have more to do with a tanking economy and a Europe who don’t want to recognize a foreign invasion because it would actually mean doing something about it other than talk.

My contention is that a degree of autonomy for the Donbass regions, allied to some concessions re. language and culture, could’ve avoided a war

See my previous comment re-Crimea. Again your point only holds water if this was ever about protecting ethnic Russians. Your arguments hold no water if it comes down to securing Russia’s strategic depth for a revamped Cold War II which Putin is currently doing. Russia is happy to play upon a number of contradictory myths at once right now, from the soviet past, czarist past, Slavic mythos, Traditional orthodox values and even bolshevik past for what it is worth. But the common thread is that the revitalized Russia of Putin’s vision can be whatever anyone wants it to be to them. It can only be all of those things at once because all of those things are smoke and mirrors. Putin’s aim is power, and he will pull at whatever levers he has to to maintain that power. My gut is that he really feels like the wrong side lost the Cold War, and is aiming to rectify that.

I don’t accept that I’ve been apologising for or obfuscating on behalf of Russia. I’ve simply been addressing some of the lack of balance I’ve seen in the western media

yourcousin said...

So here we’re going to go back and look at what you wrote in the original post,

The American Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, explicitly stated that the US government spent 5 billion on encouraging ‘regime change’ in Kiev

That implies that the US spent 5 billion dollars in order to oust Yanukovich. That doesn’t take into account the fact that money encouraging ”regime change” has been over the course of twenty plus years and would therefor include times when western aligned politicians were in power. That is an entirely different picture.

For the record the definition of obfuscate is to render or obscure in order to make things more difficult to understand. That statement is literally the dictionary definition of obfuscation. And so is this,

You don’t need to accept this theory to be uncomfortable with the West’s portrayal of Vladimir Putin as a modern-day Hitler, or to lament the media’s failure to explore both sides of the civil war in the Ukraine. You don't need to accept that Moscow hasn't had a single member of personnel west of the border, to question whether the 'pro-Russia' forces are made up predominately of Russian soldiers

I understand trying to paint a more nuanced picture, but the way in which you frame by giving equal time to what are quite frankly bogus views by pointing out inherent biases which always exist and our inability to ever “really know” anything. It’s not trying to prove anything wrong, its just sowing enough doubt for nothing to ever be proven right.

I think both the west and Russia should share the blame


I can’t agree with your comparing like to like on blame for the current situation. A trade agreement and sending tanks into another country are not the same thing. Do I get the whole context, subtext thing, yeah , but it’s just not in the same league. And it does a disservice to common sense to argue that they are. You are far too forgiving towards Russian nationalism than any other nationalism in Europe or on your own island for that matter

The article is partly reviewing a book and it was the author who coined the word ‘monist’ to describe a trait in Ukrainian politics

The book was on order at the time of my post and just arrived yesterday. I look forward to reading it. One thing that I will always give you is that you made me stay on my toes and do my homework in terms reading up on things.


yourcousin said...

Nothing? Really? Man I spent a chunk of a Sunday afternoon writing that stuff up, and nothing.

Chekov said...

yourcousin - Really sorry not to get back to you on this. In my defence, anyone in my profession has had an appallingly busy couple of months. I'll attempt to address your points soon.

Chekov said...

Sorry for the delay in getting back on this. Like I said, parental obligations coupled with work do make online arguing (if one wishes to remain above trolling) difficult.

Likewise. If you have a private email I can explain why the past few weeks have been so hectic for me.

Ukraine has typically played off the sides but their economic reality didn't just drop from the sky. Putin used and continues to use Russian oil and gas as both a carrot and a stick. He has also encouraged the worst elements into power by cutting them vastly subsidized prices which allowed some of the worst excesses of corruption to occur (because when the normal oligarches start to complain you know it has to be bad. You may say that is his right, but it is disingenuous to suggest that it is economic. It is a political tool and one which he has used time and time again to subvert any pro-western leanings.

Russia has certainly used its oil and gas might as a means of exerting ‘soft power’. Most resource rich countries or economically significant countries (including the US) do likewise. I think a point that I raised in the original article is that Ukrainian politics, even now, is as much about rivalries between various oligarchs as about the larger ethno / nationalist issues which are usually highlighted.

I suppose we could catalogue attacks in Crimea both pre and post annexation and see which groups are getting messed with the most. Right now I would lean on the fact that Tartars are being persecuted more than ethnic Russians, whose rights never were in danger (IMHO).

There’s a fair bit of disagreement about the extent to which Tatars have been subject to discrimination, even among their own community. Some believe that the Kiev government has only belatedly becoming a champion for the minority for political reasons. There are Tatars in the regional government and Tatars are now part of a state which includes a substantial number of their ethnic kin, in Tatarstan. So, again, these issues turn out to be more complicated than frequently portrayed.

I readily acknowledge a shared history, but a shared history is no excuse for Russian actions. It's like trying to justify Serbian oppression of Kosovars due to castles in the sky.

Well, that’s opening up another can of worms, though I would respectfully submit that the Russian and Ukrainian nationality are more closely entwined than that of Serbs and Kosovan Albanians, who have a long history of antipathy.

Chekov said...

The problem with your position on Crimea is that your own guy is undermining your narrative. As if the Russian seizure was spontaneous. By his own admission he made the decision on the 22-23 before anything happened in Crimea. Indeed one could argue that the spontaneous demonstrations that the Russians took advantage of may not have been spontaneous at all. It's the same with your assertion that a language law would have prevented the violence in Eastern Ukraine when Girkin has gone on record saying that he and other Russians were there to launch a full scale separatist campaign. The difference is only in how much official support they had.

Sorry yourcousin, I’m afraid that I really don’t have a ‘guy’ in this battle. There’s a definite difference between spontaneity and opportunism, (and to be clear I’m not implying any approval of Russia’s opportunism). By the 22nd / 23rd the crisis was very much underway and a threat to Crimea from Ukrainian nationalists (real or perceived) was very much apparent. As for a full-scale separatist campaign, yes, there were people who were determined upon that course of action at an early stage. However, I doubt they would have commanded anything like sufficient popular support to sustain their campaign, had concessions in terms of language and a degree of autonomy been on the table. Nor would they have maintained the support of the Kremlin, given that it had made clear that it viewed such measures as a potential solution.

Just explain how constantly attacking the airport in Donetsk was a legitimate defense? Or the seizure of Debaltseve? Shelling continued (and still does right now) on both sides, I’m willing to view that sort of activity with a grain of salt, but serious and repeated ground attacks are something else.

That’s very charitable of you, but there have been alleged violations and atrocities on both sides and that continues. If you were living in certain parts of Donetsk, on the receiving end of persistent shelling, you might not take such a relaxed view.

In terms of what was agreed to at the end of the Cold War, “cough” Budapest Memorandum “cough”. When I think of a multi-polar world I view the aims, aspirations and concerns of all parties as relevant. When Russia thinks of multipolar world they see the old Soviet Union where they could do what they wish in their “sphere of influence” with no real interference from the west. That is the difference.

Well, that’s simply not a fair analysis of the direction of travel since the Cold War, during which Moscow has ceded, peacefully, vast stretches of territory.

A multipolar world would take the views of Ukraine, Georgia and other former Soviet republics on the same level as Russian interests. That to me is multipolar, that is not what Russia wants. Ditto for China.
It’s not what any major power wants. Indeed it is wilfully naïve to expect small countries to command as much influence as their larger neighbours. That’s never been the case in the past and it certainly won’t be in the future. The US and the EU are at least equally involved in trying to dominate these regions, albeit that they’re more savvy about how they present their overtures.
They want a bi-polar/tri-polar in which they can bully smaller neighbors. There is a long well documented history dating well back to the original Georgian wars in which Russian pilots were shot down during combat missions for “separatists”. The recent integrations bills in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia both support my arguments from then and now that Russia is seeking expansion, nothing less. And that doesn’t include the issues of meddling with Russian speaking minorities in Baltic countries either.


And there has been a well-documented history of western powers, in particular the US, sponsoring regimes amenable to their interests in Georgia and other countries. Where we differ is that I’m not prepared to view Russia exerting its interests as any more insidious than other major powers doing the same thing.

Chekov said...

I’m sure you can appreciate that countries that have been invaded (sometimes repeatedly) by Russia would want a form of protection from them. So to say that they could not enter into an alliance which would guarantee them mutual defense in case it might upset the country they want protection from in the first place is most definitively an attack on their sovereignty. This is especially true as Russia is busy rewriting the past. Putin’s recent wreathe laying for Russians killed putting down the Hungarian “counter revolution” being a recent example.

I don’t accept that expanding Atlantic treaty arrangements and US influence to the borders of Russia, surrounding it and demanding it dismantle its Cold War structures, while maintaining structures which are directly hostile to it, is a legitimate form of protection.

Can you explain how Russian control is exaggerated if they are supplying them with weapons and supplies. Literally Russian aid is the only that has kept the “civil war” going.

I’m talking about Russia’s ability to demand that separatists in Donbass stop using hardware, stop advancing, stop shelling or to otherwise establish any meaningful chain of command over these forces. That ability, in my view, has been exaggerated.

Chekov said...

Though just to complicate this a bit I do think relying on warlordism can come back to bite folks in the ass and leads to bad things re Putin’s man in Chechnya.

I don’t disagree and that is part of the point I was making.

It is a shame you are not more concerned about the far right parties being empowered by Russia right now. Like literally right now in St. Petersburg. It is a shame that much vaunted anti-fascist Russian credentials were missing this weekend.

That’s not really connected to the point I was making. Putin has certainly used Russian nationalism for his own ends, while simultaneously distancing himself from it when convenient. However, I don’t think for a moment that he has unleashed forces which constrain his political actions in any meaningful way.

I think Poroshenko’s constraints have more to do with a tanking economy and a Europe who don’t want to recognize a foreign invasion because it would actually mean doing something about it other than talk.

The point being that the quickest way to stabilise the economy is to calm the situation in eastern Ukraine. A course of action he hasn’t taken because of the extreme nationalist forces to which he is now in hoc.

See my previous comment re-Crimea. Again your point only holds water if this was ever about protecting ethnic Russians. Your arguments hold no water if it comes down to securing Russia’s strategic depth for a revamped Cold War II which Putin is currently doing. Russia is happy to play upon a number of contradictory myths at once right now, from the soviet past, czarist past, Slavic mythos, Traditional orthodox values and even bolshevik past for what it is worth. But the common thread is that the revitalized Russia of Putin’s vision can be whatever anyone wants it to be to them. It can only be all of those things at once because all of those things are smoke and mirrors. Putin’s aim is power, and he will pull at whatever levers he has to to maintain that power. My gut is that he really feels like the wrong side lost the Cold War, and is aiming to rectify that.

The language of victory or defeat, in terms of the Cold War, is precisely the type of attitude which has prompted a chauvinistic response from Russia, under Putin.

Chekov said...

The American Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, explicitly stated that the US government spent 5 billion on encouraging ‘regime change’ in Kiev

That implies that the US spent 5 billion dollars in order to oust Yanukovich. That doesn’t take into account the fact that money encouraging ”regime change” has been over the course of twenty plus years and would therefor include times when western aligned politicians were in power. That is an entirely different picture.

For the record the definition of obfuscate is to render or obscure in order to make things more difficult to understand. That statement is literally the dictionary definition of obfuscation. And so is this,

You don’t need to accept this theory to be uncomfortable with the West’s portrayal of Vladimir Putin as a modern-day Hitler, or to lament the media’s failure to explore both sides of the civil war in the Ukraine. You don't need to accept that Moscow hasn't had a single member of personnel west of the border, to question whether the 'pro-Russia' forces are made up predominately of Russian soldiers

I understand trying to paint a more nuanced picture, but the way in which you frame by giving equal time to what are quite frankly bogus views by pointing out inherent biases which always exist and our inability to ever “really know” anything. It’s not trying to prove anything wrong, its just sowing enough doubt for nothing to ever be proven right.


Well, we’re not going to advance much further on this, because, by your definition, presenting a different view is to legitimise something which is ‘bogus’. Clearly, I don’t agree.

I can’t agree with your comparing like to like on blame for the current situation. A trade agreement and sending tanks into another country are not the same thing. Do I get the whole context, subtext thing, yeah, but it’s just not in the same league. And it does a disservice to common sense to argue that they are. You are far too forgiving towards Russian nationalism than any other nationalism in Europe or on your own island for that matter

Those two things are not comparable. However attempting to depose the democratically elected president of another country by encouraging a violent coup is a different matter.

The book was on order at the time of my post and just arrived yesterday. I look forward to reading it. One thing that I will always give you is that you made me stay on my toes and do my homework in terms reading up on things.

I hope you’re enjoying it. It’s by far the most serious treatment of what’s happening in the Ukraine that I’ve read.

yourcousin said...

sorry not to get back to you on this. In my defence, anyone in my profession has had an appallingly busy couple of months

What, are you an accountant?

No worries, I sent your page a private message on facebook page. So check that out, give me a shout and when I get a chance I will respond below. And don't mind me being a smart ass, it's just my natural default status these days. I blame old age.

yourcousin said...

Russia has certainly used its oil and gas might as a means of exerting ‘soft power’. Most resource rich countries or economically significant countries (including the US) do likewise. I think a point that I raised in the original article is that Ukrainian politics, even now, is as much about rivalries between various oligarchs as about the larger ethno / nationalist issues which are usually highlighted.

Two things, one soft power is not invading another country, which is the case here. It’s just not the same thing. Secondly encouraging and propagating the worst elements within a country that you once ruled in order to maintain influence (which is what Yanukovich was) is not soft power. Also it should be noted that the when the US did comparable things in say Central/South America it was wrong and should be condemned

There’s a fair bit of disagreement about the extent to which Tatars have been subject to discrimination, even among their own community. Some believe that the Kiev government has only belatedly becoming a champion for the minority for political reasons. There are Tatars in the regional government and Tatars are now part of a state which includes a substantial number of their ethnic kin, in Tatarstan. So, again, these issues turn out to be more complicated than frequently portrayed.

So yeah, let’s go back to the old handy Human Rights Watch on this one. Forced disappearances, beatings, harassment and closing of the Tatar TV stations etc. are pretty straight forward. As for the idea that Tatarstan somehow mitigates Russian actions on the Crimean peninsula, either historically or now is rather off tone.

yourcousin said...

Well, that’s opening up another can of worms, though I would respectfully submit that the Russian and Ukrainian nationality are more closely entwined than that of Serbs and Kosovan Albanians, who have a long history of antipathy.

Point taken, but the idea that shared history does not negate current responsibility for actions still stands. The Russian belief of Ukraine as a “little brother” is not acceptable.


Sorry yourcousin, I’m afraid that I really don’t have a ‘guy’ in this battle.

Now come on, what happened to your faith in Putin? I mean it was just in ’08 that we were arguing as to whether Russia was on a market oriented reform through Medvedev who was crafting an independent course with the backing of Putin or from my perspective if Putin was simply waiting in the wings to take back power while pulling the strings as puppet master.

Or to put it another way you have a history of pro-Russian sentiment that cannot just be swept away and in its place an impartial observer left behind correcting the ill-informed westerners of their misguided ways.

yourcousin said...

There’s a definite difference between spontaneity and opportunism, (and to be clear I’m not implying any approval of Russia’s opportunism). By the 22nd / 23rd the crisis was very much underway and a threat to Crimea from Ukrainian nationalists (real or perceived) was very much apparent. As for a full-scale separatist campaign, yes, there were people who were determined upon that course of action at an early stage. However, I doubt they would have commanded anything like sufficient popular support to sustain their campaign, had concessions in terms of language and a degree of autonomy been on the table. Nor would they have maintained the support of the Kremlin, given that it had made clear that it viewed such measures as a potential solution.

How can you say the Kremlin would not have supported separatism when Putin acknowledges instigating/orchestrating the seizure of Crimea on the morning of the 23rd? From there it was 5-6 days until the appearance of the little green men. What could the Ukrainian government in that time that would have prevented events from unfolding as they did? Or is the seizure of Crimea a totally separate topic from Donbas?

But in reference to Donbas. I will say that I find it difficult to fathom (and I hope that you can at least see where I’m coming from even if you do not agree) that after Yanukovich fled, and the government was in disarray. The dissolution of the existing government and the opposition, I think by any measure a motley band of disparate folks united mainly by their opposition to Yanukovich being the new government that they would be unable within the time frame mentioned to craft and implement a cohesive policy that would have placated those in Donbas who were protesting and seizing buildings, especially when the one voice of power is egging a full separatist campaign. Again it is hard to offer technocratic solutions when the crisis is one of identity.

Just explain how constantly attacking the airport in Donetsk was a legitimate defense? Or the seizure of Debaltseve? Shelling continued (and still does right now) on both sides, I’m willing to view that sort of activity with a grain of salt, but serious and repeated ground attacks are something else.

That’s very charitable of you, but there have been alleged violations and atrocities on both sides and that continues. If you were living in certain parts of Donetsk, on the receiving end of persistent shelling, you might not take such a relaxed view.

Charitable though it may be you dodged the question. Can you please point to Ukrainian offensives that are comparable? And I think you know the difference that I am getting at.

yourcousin said...

In terms of what was agreed to at the end of the Cold War, “cough” Budapest Memorandum “cough”. When I think of a multi-polar world I view the aims, aspirations and concerns of all parties as relevant. When Russia thinks of multipolar world they see the old Soviet Union where they could do what they wish in their “sphere of influence” with no real interference from the west. That is the difference.

Well, that’s simply not a fair analysis of the direction of travel since the Cold War, during which Moscow has ceded, peacefully, vast stretches of territory.

Moscow collapsed under the weight of colonies that they had to support financially but also that had to be kept under their thumb by force both militarily and politically for many years. And again it no sooner ceded territory than it started to claw back what it could.

A multipolar world would take the views of Ukraine, Georgia and other former Soviet republics on the same level as Russian interests. That to me is multipolar, that is not what Russia wants. Ditto for China.

It’s not what any major power wants. Indeed it is wilfully naïve to expect small countries to command as much influence as their larger neighbours. That’s never been the case in the past and it certainly won’t be in the future. The US and the EU are at least equally involved in trying to dominate these regions, albeit that they’re more savvy about how they present their overtures.

It is not naïve to believe that democratic rights are inalienable. Russia may have more clout on a global stage but its size does not allow it to recolonize smaller countries. That is the point. I expect those countries to have their sovereignty respected within their own borders, yes. Which Russia has not been doing. Yes the EU brought a baguette (spelling?) to a knife fight and that is the difference in overtures. Also you can’t really have both ways. You can’t argue for minority rights (in this case for the Russian language) and also cite real politick.

They want a bi-polar/tri-polar in which they can bully smaller neighbors. There is a long well documented history dating well back to the original Georgian wars in which Russian pilots were shot down during combat missions for “separatists”. The recent integrations bills in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia both support my arguments from then and now that Russia is seeking expansion, nothing less. And that doesn’t include the issues of meddling with Russian speaking minorities in Baltic countries either.

And there has been a well-documented history of western powers, in particular the US, sponsoring regimes amenable to their interests in Georgia and other countries. Where we differ is that I’m not prepared to view Russia exerting its interests as any more insidious than other major powers doing the same thing.

Sponsoring politicians is not the same thing as sponsoring insurgencies. And then fighting directly for said insurgencies. I don’t know how many times we have to review this point. You may not see annexing parts of other countries as insidious, but it is generally frowned upon in most respectable circles.

yourcousin said...

Sorry more to come when I get a chance to transfer it over and clean it up easier consumption.

yourcousin said...

I’m sure you can appreciate that countries that have been invaded (sometimes repeatedly) by Russia would want a form of protection from them. So to say that they could not enter into an alliance which would guarantee them mutual defense in case it might upset the country they want protection from in the first place is most definitively an attack on their sovereignty. This is especially true as Russia is busy rewriting the past. Putin’s recent wreathe laying for Russians killed putting down the Hungarian “counter revolution” being a recent example.

I don’t accept that expanding Atlantic treaty arrangements and US influence to the borders of Russia, surrounding it and demanding it dismantle its Cold War structures, while maintaining structures which are directly hostile to it, is a legitimate form of protection.

Well maybe if your family had been murdered by Russians you’d feel differently about that, especially when said Russians refuse to apologize for their actions and indeed become revanchist about the whole thing.

Can you explain how Russian control is exaggerated if they are supplying them with weapons and supplies. Literally Russian aid is the only that has kept the “civil war” going.

I’m talking about Russia’s ability to demand that separatists in Donbass stop using hardware, stop advancing, stop shelling or to otherwise establish any meaningful chain of command over these forces. That ability, in my view, has been exaggerated.

And that is literally my point, the shells that they are firing, the trucks, the tanks, the supplies are all coming from Russia. Literally the insurgency collapses if Putin closes the border. But I guess we should clarify whether or not you actually believe that the Russian military with Putin’s blessing is involved. Because you have been very coy about this facet of things. I would also point out the attacks and arrests on some of the Cossacks would be a pretty good indication that be that control is most certainly being maintained by someone and I somehow doubt it is the local coal miners.

yourcousin said...

Though just to complicate this a bit I do think relying on warlordism can come back to bite folks in the ass and leads to bad things re Putin’s man in Chechnya.

I don’t disagree and that is part of the point I was making.

But Chechnya and Ukraine are very different circumstances and so to compare them is not an apples to apples comparison.

It is a shame you are not more concerned about the far right parties being empowered by Russia right now. Like literally right now in St. Petersburg. It is a shame that much vaunted anti-fascist Russian credentials were missing this weekend.

That’s not really connected to the point I was making. Putin has certainly used Russian nationalism for his own ends, while simultaneously distancing himself from it when convenient. However, I don’t think for a moment that he has unleashed forces which constrain his political actions in any meaningful way.

I think it is relevant to show how shallow and facile Russian propaganda about Ukrainian fascism is. And to show how purely self-serving their actions are. The dye was cast by Putin years ago, so no I don’t think he is too constrained as long as he maintains his general direction, but the reality is that does not leave much room for future compromises.

I think Poroshenko’s constraints have more to do with a tanking economy and a Europe who don’t want to recognize a foreign invasion because it would actually mean doing something about it other than talk.

The point being that the quickest way to stabilise the economy is to calm the situation in eastern Ukraine. A course of action he hasn’t taken because of the extreme nationalist forces to which he is now in hoc.

He can’t stabilize Donbas because when he declared a ceasefire the Russians kept attacking the airport, and then Debaltseve, and then the continuing attacks towards Mariupol. How do you make peace when one side won’t stop attacking? It’s hard to sell a ceasefire to a country that continues to bury those killed nearly every day during said ceasefire. And I know your previous answer about shelling on both sides will probably still stand from your earlier comment. That's ignoring the fact that the rebels are once again trying to hold their own elections.

yourcousin said...

The language of victory or defeat, in terms of the Cold War, is precisely the type of attitude which has prompted a chauvinistic response from Russia, under Putin.

I would respectfully submit that Putin’s actions are not bound by linguistics, but something a little deeper. But I do think that the Red/White discourse which Russia is currently pursuing is definitely unhealthy. Pumping yourself on myths of the past while blaming outsiders for current problems is not going to lead towards de-escalation. And while I can can appreciate the context of history I would respectfully point out that this very same cry for contextualization is not being extended to the so called “monists”. But for the record, Russia did lose the Cold War. I don’t think Reagan can claim credit for it but they did lose.

The American Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, explicitly stated that the US government spent 5 billion on encouraging ‘regime change’ in Kiev.

That implies that the US spent 5 billion dollars in order to oust Yanukovich. That doesn’t take into account the fact that money encouraging ”regime change” has been over the course of twenty plus years and would therefor include times when western aligned politicians were in power. That is an entirely different picture.
For the record the definition of obfuscate is to render or obscure in order to make things more difficult to understand. That statement is literally the dictionary definition of obfuscation.


I understand trying to paint a more nuanced picture, but the way in which you frame by giving equal time to what are quite frankly bogus views by pointing out inherent biases which always exist and our inability to ever “really know” anything. It’s not trying to prove anything wrong, its just sowing enough doubt for nothing to ever be proven right.

Well, we’re not going to advance much further on this, because, by your definition, presenting a different view is to legitimise something which is ‘bogus’. Clearly, I don’t agree.

I have no problem with different views, if we kept our conversations to places where we agreed we would have never exchanged a single word. But you are being disingenuous, and I would hope that you would at least recognize that on specific instances. The 5 billion dollar claim does take on a different light when placed in proper context. Of two decades rather than specifically targeted at Yanukovich.
Because a very large part of the counter Maidan movement has been the idea that it has all been an American sponsored coup. That delegitimizes the protests whether or not one agrees with them and is insulting to the folks eastern Europe because it implies that they are only fit to be subjects of great powers rather than citizens of a nation.

I would agree that most people need to dig deeper and question more, but we can’t be afraid to find answers or call bullshit when something is indeed bovine feces. I take issue when one calls into question things primarily to create more heat than light.

yourcousin said...

I can’t agree with your comparing like to like on blame for the current situation. A trade agreement and sending tanks into another country are not the same thing. Do I get the whole context, subtext thing, yeah, but it’s just not in the same league. And it does a disservice to common sense to argue that they are. You are far too forgiving towards Russian nationalism than any other nationalism in Europe or on your own island for that matter

Those two things are not comparable. However attempting to depose the democratically elected president of another country by encouraging a violent coup is a different matter.

Well I’m glad you appreciate the difference between a trade deal and tanks, at least we’re getting somewhere, but I think to frame Yanukovich as a democrat strains credulity just a little bit. And to act as if his fleeing Ukraine to mother Russia amounts to a violent coup also decontextualizes things. A violent coup would be Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954, Chile 1973 etc. but that’s just my take on things.

The book was on order at the time of my post and just arrived yesterday. I look forward to reading it. One thing that I will always give you is that you made me stay on my toes and do my homework in terms reading up on things.

I hope you’re enjoying it. It’s by far the most serious treatment of what’s happening in the Ukraine that I’ve read

The wife also picked me up Ukraine and Russia: People, Politics, Propaganda, and Perspectives which is a compilation of articles edited by Sakwa which is also interesting.

yourcousin said...

Below are a few articles and what not that I find interesting.

http://www.vox.com/2015/6/17/8795235/russia-ukraine-troops

A Vox article that uses social media posts to track Russian troop movement in Ukraine.


http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/05/18/captured-russian-special-forces-soldier-describes-his-unit-fighting-in-eastern-ukraine/

Article with the video link to captured Russian soldiers

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-32429614

The BBC article that I linked to the word document but not in the comment.


https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/02/03/crimea-clamping-down-human-rights

https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/11/17/rights-retreat/abuses-crimea

Some stuff from HRW, which if we agree to same rules as the Olympic war debate would count as a neutral third party.