The Road to War in Ukraine
The last gasp of the unipolar world?
In my column of March 25 on “The military situation in Ukraine,” I drew upon an article by Jacques Baud, published by the French Intelligence Research Center (CF2R). Baud was a colonel in the Swiss armed forces and was a member of the Swiss Strategic Intelligence Services. He subsequently worked in various UN missions in Africa, and he worked for NATO’s Political Affairs and Security Policy Division in Brussels. He holds degrees in International Security and Humanitarian Law from the Graduate Institute for International Relations in Geneva. He has written several books on warfare, intelligence and terrorism.
In the CF2R article, Baud describes the road to war from 2014 to 2021, during which the government of Ukraine launched attacks against two Russian-speaking regions that had declared themselves to be autonomous regions of Ukraine, a war that included the extensive use of ultra-right militias. In addition, Baud maintains that the Russian military operation launched on February 24 has sought the demilitarization and not the occupation of Ukraine, and that the operation has been successful in attaining its objectives. He is critical of the Western “experts,” media, and governments for their false declarations. See “The military situation in Ukraine,” March 25, 2022.
In today’s commentary, I report on an interview of Baud published in La Haine, in which he sheds further light on the dynamics in Ukraine in the past eight years, including themes that are scarcely mentioned in the West. La Haine is an alternative media outlet in Spain, created in 2000, which describes itself as a project of “informational disobedience, direct action, and social revolution.” Its collaborators have included well-known intellectuals of the Spanish and Latin American Left, including Atilio Borón, Claudio Katz, James Petras, and Néstor Kohan. It is connected to various leftist websites in Spain and Latin America.
In the La Haine interview, Baud notes the historic concern of Russia for its security in the face of the territorial expansionism of the Western powers. He recalls that the Soviet Union created the Warsaw Pact in response to the creation of NATO in 1949. At that time, the Eastern European countries were all communist and under the control of their own communist parties. The purpose of the Warsaw Pact was to create a zone of security against NATO, and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, from the Russian point of view, left Russia without guarantees of security in the face of the territorial expansionism of NATO.
In my March 1 commentary, I noted that the Cuban government and media have stressed the significance of NATO expansionism in understanding the factors that led to the Russian military operation. The commentary includes a map that shows NATO expansionism since the collapse of the Soviet Union. As Putin said on February 21, all you have to do is look at the map. See “Cuba backs Russia on Ukraine,” March 1, 2022.
The fascist coup d’état and the civil war
Baud reports on the 2013 negotiations between Ukraine and the European Union on the entrance of Ukraine in the economic union. Both EU and Ukraine wanted to close the deal. But there was a problem: Ukrainian industry and agriculture were oriented to Russia. For example, the Ukrainians developed motors for Russian airplanes, and not for American or European airplanes. In general, Ukrainian industry would not be able to compete in the European market. Therefore, Ukraine wanted to maintain economic relations with Russia, even as it entered the EU.
Russia did not oppose the Ukrainian proposal. Russia proposed a tripartite work group to develop two agreements, one between Ukraine and EU and another between Ukraine and Russia. But the European Union nixed the tripartite arrangement. It asked Ukraine to choose between Russia and EU. Ukraine asked for a delay to think of a solution.
The Western press distorted the impasse. It proclaimed that Russia was pressuring Ukraine and impeding a treaty with the EU. But the reality was that Ukraine was asking for more time to find a solution to the complex situation. The media declared Russia to be the bad guy in the situation, that Russia was blocking the accord with the EU; and in the following days, extremists of the Right appeared in the Maiden of Kiev, armed with anti-Russian slogans.
With the participation of Western NGO’s and their paid agents, the situation became politically unstable, resulting in a nationalist right-wing coup. The new government, as its first official act, changed the language law of Ukraine, eliminating Russian as an official language. Baud notes that the Russia-Ukraine agreement of 1997 guarantees cultural diversity among ethnic minorities; the February 23, 2014, language law violates that agreement.
Protests erupted in the Russian-speaking cities of the South. Ukrainian authorities reacted in a brutal form, repressing the protests with the Army. In response, autonomous republics were proclaimed in Odessa, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Lugansk y Donetsk. But because of the extreme brutality, only two remained, in Donetsk y Lugansk. Looking for something like the Swiss solution, referendums for autonomy within Ukraine were held in the two regions in May 2014. After the favorable vote in the referendum, the authorities asked for recognition of the republics by Russia, but the government of Putin denied this request.
The first Minsk agreement in 2014 guarantees the autonomy of the republics of Donbass, with Germany, France, and Russia serving as guarantors of the peace process. However, Ukraine launched an operation against the two autonomous regions immediately after the signing of Minsk I. But Ukraine suffered a total defeat, leading to Minsk II in February 2015.
Since the signing of Minsk II, no nation has demanded compliance, except Russia. Both Minsk I and Minsk II affirm that the definitive solution had to be found within Ukraine. It was a question of granting a degree of autonomy within the country, and the precise terms had to be defined within Ukraine by Ukrainian actors. A new constitution had to be developed, but Ukraine took no step to do so.
Baud maintains that Russia did not change its position for eight years. It called for implementation of the Minsk Accords, while Ukraine continually violated the frontiers of the two autonomous republics and launched artillery bombs against the civilian populations in their territories.
Baud also describes the dynamics of the case of Crimea, which declared its independence in 1991 during the breakup of the Soviet Union. The Crimean peninsula thus was not a part of Ukraine. But Ukraine did not accept this, and Ukraine overthrew the government of Crimea in 1995. Following the ultranationalist taking of power in Ukraine, Crimea conducted a referendum. Following the referendum, Crimea asked to be united to the Russian Federation, which Russia accepted. Baud notes that Russia did not conquer Crimea; Crimea was asking to be incorporated into the Russian Federation. On March 24, 2021, Ukrainian President Zelensky emitted a decree for the recuperation of Crimea, which was followed by troop movements to the south and southeast toward Donbass and Crimea.
Nazis in Ukraine
Baud notes that the Ukrainian extreme Right has hatred of communists, Russians, and Jews. The phenomenon is rooted in the 1920s, when Ukraine was a socialist republic in the Soviet Union. When the forces of the Third Reich occupied Ukraine during its invasion of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian Right viewed them as liberators. They formed a rearguard against the Soviet Union in alliance with Germany during World War II.
U.S. journalist Gabriel Rockhill develops this story further, in an article on “Nazis in Ukraine,” published on the Website Observatorio de la Crisis. Rockhill observes that the United States has downplayed or denied the role of Nazis in the situation in Ukraine, in order to construct a narrative declaring that “Putin is an evil, Hitler-like figure who attacks the freedom- and democracy-loving Ukrainian government.” But, Rockwell maintains, regardless of whether you support the Russian military operation, the historic and contemporary force of Naziism in Ukraine cannot reasonably be denied.
Rockhill cites John-Paul Himka, who described the collaboration of Ukrainian ultranationalists in the Nazi genocide during the German occupation that began in 1941. Ukrainian nationalists were the indispensable work force in the death squads of 1942 and 1943. Following the war, many Nazi collaborators were integrated into an international anti-communist network which had a strong presence in Ukraine and other states of Eastern Europe. “The American intelligence services worked in collaboration with the organizations of former Nazis to carry out campaigns of sabotage, terror and assassinations.” The United States continued to work with Ukrainian fascists for years, with the objective of destabilizing the Soviet Union.
The Maidan coup of late 2013 and 2014 relied upon numerous far-right shock troops, Rockhill reports; and they played a key role in consolidating the post-coup regime. “They participated in street violence, carried out intimidation campaigns against uncooperative politicians, established indoctrination camps for children and young people and have been putting pressure on the government to revise the educational curriculum, banning the Russian language and rewriting history.”
Ukrainian authorities denied the right of the communist parties to participate in the 2015 parliamentary elections. And they issued decommunization laws that banned Soviet symbols and names of streets and places. More than 2,000 statues and monuments have been removed.
When, in response to the anti-Russian campaign, the Russian-speaking populations declared themselves to be autonomous regions, the Azov battalion and other fascist militias moved into the region, causing the death of some 14,000 people. They had the backing of the Ukrainian government and they received weapons, training, and economic assistance form the United States.
In 2015, there were an estimated 30 ultra-nationalist militias fighting the autonomous governments in eastern Ukraine, supported by wealthy oligarchs. Over the next six years, they were reinforced by the arrival of an estimated 17,000 foreign fighters from fifty countries. “They function as a powerful paramilitary force that complements the Ukrainian army,” Rockhill maintains.
In the 2019 parliamentary election, Rockhill notes, none of the far-right political parties attained the five percent threshold necessary for a parliamentary seat. Volodymyr Zelenskyy's Servant of the People party, which ran on an anti-corruption platform, won 124 seats. The Servant of the People had been the name of a hit Ukrainian television series, in which Zelensky, an actor and comedian, played the role of the president of Ukraine. The series appealed to the frustrations of the people with the failure of the elite to make changes following the 2014 uprising. Zelensky received extensive funding from a small number of private donors, including Ihor Kolomoyskyi, one of the main financial supporters of the ultra-nationalist militias in eastern Ukraine. As president, Zelensky has allowed the neo-Nazi militias to act with total impunity, and his administration has developed a close relation with fascist militias and organizations.
I would like to reiterate here that the people of Ukraine did not support the extreme Right in the electoral process. They expressed frustration with the lack of change when they voted for Zelensky, which was a politically immature expression. But they were not necessarily expressing support for the cultivation of relations with the extreme Right.
In the La Haine interview, Baud reports on the enactment in Ukraine of a new ethnic law in July 2021, granting different rights to citizens of different ethnic origins. The law reminds, Baud says, of the racial laws of Nuremburg of 1935. Only true Ukrainians have full rights, while the others have limited rights.
Baud observed that Putin wrote a criticism of the racist anti-Russian law, challenging the validity of a distinction between ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians as a basis for unequal rights in the Ukrainian state. But the West misinterpreted Putin as justifying Russian intervention, as not recognizing Ukraine as a state separate from Russia. Baud further maintained that, since there are so many Russians in Ukraine, Putin had to say something about the law. It would not have been correct for him, as President of Russia, to say nothing about a law discriminating against Ukrainian Russians. (One could say that it is analogous to the President of Mexico defending the rights of Mexicans in the United States).
The Russian military operation
Baud maintains that the fundamental objective of the Russian military operation is to defend the Russian speaking population of Donbass. Putin has repeatedly stated so, and it is confirmed by observation of the facts. For example, Russia continues to supply natural gas to Ukraine, and it has not destroyed the electric plants nor the supplies of water, although such services have been interrupted in zones of conflict. The Russian operation is completely different, Baud maintains, from the strategies employed in the Western attacks on the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya, where the Western nations initiated the operation by destroying the infrastructure of water and electricity. The Western concept is to destroy the infrastructure, so that the population will rebel against the dictator. This was also the strategy of the Allies during the Second World War, when German cities were bombed. But Russia does not seek to kill civilians and destroy infrastructure in order to provoke a rebellion against the government; Russia wants the demilitarization of Ukraine.
These fundamental characteristics of the Russian military operation are not reported by the Western media, Baud maintains, which falsely claim that the Russians are destroying everything, and which portray Putin as a tyrant who decided to attack and conquer Ukraine.
In September 2021, Russia conducted military maneuvers near its western border. Baud maintains that these maneuvers are carried out every four years. Western military experts, especially in France, interpreted the maneuvers as a preparation for an offensive against Ukraine, and they began to portray Putin as crazy. Independent military experts and the Ukrainian Security Council did not have this interpretation, viewing them instead as normal defensive preparations. Matters calmed down temporarily when the maneuvers ended.
The United States began warning of an invasion of Ukraine. Baud notes that U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken formed his own intelligence team, ignoring the CIA and shaping intelligence data in accordance with a political agenda. He observes that this is what Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld did with respect to allegations of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2002-2003.
Baud observed that the Blinken team from the beginning of February was speaking of an imminent Russian attack and began to disseminate supposed scenarios for such an attack. In all the discussion that preceded the February 24 Russian military operation, the total absence of analysis by the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies is notable. Everything that Blinken said came from a team that he himself had created. The scenarios that they presented did not proceed from intelligence analysis but from self-designated experts that invented a scenario with a political agenda.
On February 12, there was initiated a significant increase in the violations of the Minsk agreement by the Ukrainian army, in the form of air attacks against the civilian populations of the Donbass regions. Such violations which had been going on for 8 years, but Russia saw the increase in attacks, along with the mobilization of Ukrainian troops to the east, as the initiation of a large-scale operation against Donbass.
On February 15, the Duma adopted a resolution that proposed recognition of the independence of the republics of Donbass, which Putin decided to accept on February 21.
Baud maintains that Putin had a choice between, on the one hand, sending troops into Donbass, and on the other hand, a deeper attack in all of Ukraine in order to neutralize the Ukrainian military capacities. He understood that both would have the same economic sanctions, but the deeper attack would be more effective in the demilitarization of Ukraine. In spite of repeated Western characterization of the military operation as an invasion, the objectives are demilitarization and denazification, not the taking control of Ukraine. From the outset, it was seen that demilitarization could be accomplished through a quick operation that would involve surrounding the Ukrainian troops, which were concentrated near the regions of Bonbass. This is in fact what has transpired, even though the Western media have not reported it.
On February 21, Putin signed treaties of cooperation with the newly recognized republics, thus establishing the legal basis for the Russian military operation, invoking Article 51 of the UN Charter, which recognizes the right to intervention by a state in the legitimate defense of another state.
Baud maintains that Putin did not have any other option, because the Russian people would have interpreted non-intervention as doing nothing to protect the Russian-speaking population of Donbass.
Russia is prepared for the unconventional war
Baud declares that Russia is prepared for the sanctions. Russia will suffer, but it is able to withstand the impact. As the Russian analyst Oleg Makarenko has said, “Europe has chosen its destiny, and it has decided to be an enemy of Russia.” Europe will find that its industry will be without sources of energy and cheap Russian raw materials, while China will receive these same sources of energy and raw materials at discounted prices. Cooperation between China and Russia will increase, to the benefit of both, while European industry, agriculture, wellbeing, and social security will decline.
I would add that many countries of the Third World will be oriented to reducing trade with the advanced capitalist economies of North America and Europe, which have been exploitative; and increasing trading relations with China and Russia, with the real possibility of establishing more just terms of trade. In this way, decisive steps would be taken toward a more just, pluripolar world.
Capitalism in the stage of concentrated industry, driven by the logic of the priority of profit, must have imperialist policies that enable access to markets in other lands. However, imperialism in the current stage, in which the capitalist world-economy has reached the geographical limits of the earth, can no longer drive productivity as it once did. When the power elite began to see stagnation in the profitability of production, it turned to investments in financial assets and to the weakening of the power of states through the imposition of neoliberalism. Today, with states and peoples resisting neoliberalism and its consequences, the imperialist powers turn to multi-faceted unconventional war, in which the dissemination of lies through information technology is one of its methods. Key states continue to resist, seeking to construct an alternative pluripolar world of cooperation among nations.
It is difficult to imagine any scenario in which the Western imperialist powers could sustain the neocolonial world-system, taking into account the geographical and ecological limits of the earth and the sustained resistance of nations and peoples. The illogical drive of the imperialist powers, led by the USA, is producing conditions that could give rise to chaos or to the triumph of the world forces of resistance. Therefore, the future for humanity will most likely be characterized either by chaos and violence, on the one hand, or by peace and prosperity on a foundation of cooperation, on the other. The nations constructing socialism in the Third World plus China are playing a leading role in seeking to attain the option of peace and cooperation.
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