Tuesday, January 27, 2015

From News Articles about Ukraine

If you want to read some of the conspiracy theories fueling Russian thought these days, here are a couple for you:

I have clipped a few paragraphs from several news items, with links below them.  Gives a bit of insight into where things are at.

In Russia, which has made the accusation of fascism in other countries a central tenet of its foreign policy, there freely exist organizations which do not hide their openly nationalistic and xenophobic nature.

Today’s reality is that fascism, Nazism and patriotism in contemporary Russian society are now one and the same. State propaganda skillfully manipulates many foreign nationalist movements (even very minor ones), accusing entire countries and peoples of fascism, without showing the ‘grateful’ viewers of Russian state television, the people who march throughout Moscow with swastikas and Nazi salutes.

Putin’s regime is oppressive at home and imperialist abroad. Power is concentrated in the hands of Russia’s dictatorial leader, who routinely violates human and civil rights and quashes all opposition, while legitimizing his rule by appealing to Russian dreams of erstwhile glory and great-power status and systematically engaging in military adventures in supposed defense of Russian minorities in Russia’s “near abroad.” Putin’s cult of personality centers on his hyper-masculine image as a tough leader willing and able to stand up to real and imagined internal and external foes.

Western hopes of resolving the Russo-Ukrainian war in eastern Ukraine by means of negotiations are therefore misplaced. Whatever Putin agrees to—even Ukraine’s agreement never to seek NATO membership—will be at best a temporary retreat from his expansionist foreign policy. And Putin’s choice of countries to pressure is large, extending from the Baltics to Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine to Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia to the five Central Asian states. Russians or Russian speakers inhabit all these states and can, in principle, be used to justify Moscow’s strong-arm tactics.

President Putin said Ukraine's army was operating against Ukrainian national interests by seeking to contain Russia.
"In effect, it is no longer an army but a foreign legion, in this case NATO's foreign legion, which does not of course pursue the aims of Ukraine's national interests," said the Russian president.
"The statement that there is a NATO legion in Ukraine is nonsense," Mr. Stoltenberg said. "There is no NATO legion, the foreign forces in Ukraine are Russian."
The NATO chief also urged Russia to stop providing backing to rebels, saying hundreds of pieces of advanced weaponry including tanks, heavy artillery and armoured vehicles had crossed the border.

The Soviet doctrine was based on the assumption that world revolution would eventually prevail everywhere. That there is no such millennial vision under Putin poses natural limits to Russian expansion. On the other hand, it is difficult to envisage an abdication of the present rulers—unless they will be assured (as Boris Yeltsin was) that they will not be prosecuted after their resignation—for instance, with regard to the fortunes amassed while in power.

It is also true, however, that certain ominous genies have been let out of the bottle in Russia’s current consolidation of power. The conspiratorial views, now encouraged, can easily turn in the wrong direction—namely, against the government. The rising Russian nationalism is also a double-edged sword: in addition to being against the West, chauvinism could find domestic targets such as the national minorities and the millions of guest workers in Russia.

The state of mind of the ruling Russian elite is at present one of great agitation; the fact that Russia has many nuclear weapons is mentioned virtually every week. Marxism-Leninism has been abandoned and replaced by a strange mixture of abstruse assertions and theories—such as neo-Eurasianism. The invocation of a Russian manifest destiny and the specific Russian spiritual values said to be greatly superior to Western decadence is very impressive. But how great is the distance between this and Russian realities?

Self-criticism has not been in fashion in Russia for a long time: Whenever something goes wrong, it must be the fault of the West. There is the widespread and profound belief in all kinds of conspiracy theories, the more outlandish the better and more popular. This mind-set is not at all funny in the age of weapons of mass destruction.

There is the loathing of the West, and especially of America, and there is the orientation toward a close alliance with China, seen in Moscow as an alliance of equals, as if there could be equality when the population of one partner is ten times as large as the other’s and its GNP five times larger. The Russian leadership has persuaded itself that all Beijing wants is the liberation of Taiwan. Great are the powers of self-deception.

The German government called the most recent Russian moves into eastern Ukraine “incomprehensible,” but they’re perfectly comprehensible if one keeps a record of what has happened since the Crimean invasion. When the latest Russian advances into Ukraine occurred, the new foreign policy chief of the European Union, Federica Mogherini of Italy, urged moderation, saying that the West can’t let the peace process break down because it will be so difficult to start it again. But what peace process was she speaking about? As a recent Wall Street Journal editorial pointed out, “Putin has never stood down”—not in Chechnya in 1999, when he used the Chechen war to take power; not in Georgia in 2008; not in 2012, when he whipped up anti-Americanism and domestic repression to crush his own anti-government street protests; and so far not in Ukraine. He will stand down only if and when he is forced to do so.

Far from being a partner in peace negotiations, Putin has demonstrated a fierce and obsessive anti-Americanism. The Washington Post editorial page was on the mark in its characterization of his speech in Valdai in October: “a poisonous mix of lies, conspiracy theories, thinly veiled threats of further aggression, and, above all, seething resentment toward the United States.” Putin exceeded even his own standard of bombast the following month when he said, “When a Russian feels he is right, he is invincible.”

Without Western resolve, any negotiations with Russia can yield only temporary solutions that change nothing. The Kremlin is ultimately interested in dictating terms, but not in keeping them, just like it was not interested in keeping the cease-fire agreed upon in Minsk following the August escalation. Showing the world that Russia can make rules at will and then break them with impunity seems to be the current modus operandi in the Kremlin.

In 1992–94, sensing a growing threat of border revisionism from Russia, Ukrainians pushed hard to have their neutrality guaranteed, much like Finland in 1948 and Austria in 1955, by the West and Russia. At the time they were negotiating security assurances in exchange for surrendering the nuclear weapons inherited from the Soviet Union. Ukraine wanted these guarantees formalized in an international treaty that would commit its guarantors (read: the West) to impose sanctions and provide aid should Ukraine come under threat (read: by Russia). The West balked at undertaking any binding security commitments toward a new and little understood country.

Thus, the security assurances granted in the Budapest Memorandum in exchange for Ukraine’s accession to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty as a nonnuclear weapons state (signed by the US, the UK, and Russia at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe summit on December 5, 1994) only reiterated existing multilateral commitments found in the UN Charter and the CSCE Helsinki Final Act, but guaranteed nothing and imposed no costs for violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine, neutral or otherwise.

The EU Association Agreement with Ukraine, due for signature in November 2013, would have changed none of that. Mired with expansion fatigue and careful not to provoke Russia, Brussels offered Ukraine the agreement not as membership-lite, certainly not as a path to NATO but rather as a consolation for the lack of a more substantive engagement. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin, for whom NATO expansion became a favorite casus belli, said nothing of NATO when he pressured Yanukovych out of signing the EU deal. Instead, he simply stated that Ukraine’s economic alliance with the EU was not in Russia’s interests because its market would be flooded with cheaper, better-quality European goods.

In March 2014, after the Crimean annexation was a fait accompli and the Kremlin began to stir trouble in southern and eastern Ukraine, Ukraine’s then acting Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatseniuk, in a clear signal to Moscow, declared that Ukraine would not seek NATO membership. Had Ukraine’s strategic neutrality been Russia’s true objective, this would have been the time for Kremlin to sit down at the table and commit Yatseniuk’s pledge to paper.
Yet, despite this very real opportunity to stop NATO expansion at Ukraine’s doorstep, Moscow was not interested. Instead, the Kremlin declared that it does not recognize the “fascist junta” in Kyiv and moved to effectively violate the very neutrality into which it had forced Ukraine in the first place.

Location of ethnic Ukrainians 

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