RUSSIA – A HISTORY LESSON AND ANOTHER BITTER PILL
I would prefer to talk about other countries like Australia, China, and India, but the war in Ukraine demands further analysis. It is the most threatening military conflict in Europe in 80 years. On 3 February 2023, BBC News reported on a speech by Vladimir Putin marking the 80th anniversary of the conclusion of the Battle of Stalingrad, at which he remarked: “We are again threatened by German Leopard tanks”. He suggested that history was repeating itself. It was at the Battle of Stalingrad that the Soviet army captured nearly 91,000 German troops, turning the tide of the war.
WARNING: The opinions expressed in this paper are those of the author. They could be wrong – or even right!
The US-NATO War Machine
Recently, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg complained that Beijing’s “growing assertiveness” was troubling and China’s investment in military capabilities posed a “threat”. However, Chris Hedges[i] reports that in 2021, the US military budget of more than $800 billion was greater than the next nine countries (including Russia and China) combined. One may well ask, who is displaying “growing assertiveness”, and who poses a threat? Hedges adds that America’s global authority has been decimated by its war crimes, its botched response to the pandemic, the plague of mass shootings (including school children), and a series of military debacles including Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The US has engaged in proxy wars (not just in Ukraine), and military interventions around the globe since the end of World War II.
The Russian invasion in February 2022 was unsuccessful ending in the retreat of Russian forces. The Ukrainians did far better than expected. Instead of using the opportunity to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the conflict (which Ukraine had initially been willing to do) Ukraine decided to push ahead, changing its objective from defence to offense. It was aided and abetted by America. In the next phase it will be faced by a much stronger, better organised 350,000-strong Russian army. There is a real risk that Ukraine could be crushed.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently said Moscow remained open to negotiations with Kiev, but he warned that the longer they are delayed, the harder it will be to find a solution.
In late January 2023, Gen Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said the chances of Ukraine ejecting Russia were “slim to zero”, adding that the war was likely to end in negotiation. For years the Western media has reported how Vladimir Putin is on the verge of death and how Russia, enfeebled by Western sanctions, is about to collapse. None of that is true. After 20 years at the helm, Putin enjoys vastly more popularity than any Western leader.
Despite impressions conveyed by the Western media that the “international community” condemns Russia’s illegal actions, China and India (nearly 40% of the World’s population) remain either allies or friends of Russia. Turkey has begun to defy Western sanctions. Brazil’s new President Lula da Silva has criticised NATO saying “It’s not just Putin who is guilty. The US and the EU are also guilty. What was the reason for the Ukraine invasion? NATO? Then the US and Europe should have said: ‘Ukraine won’t join NATO’. That would have solved the problem.” Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Indonesia and much of Africa have resisted sanctioning Moscow.[ii]
In January, the White House belatedly announced that the US would provide Ukraine with 31 Abrams battle tanks, but Biden remarked that the delivery of the tanks shouldn’t be seen by Russia as an offensive threat, contending that they are intended to help Ukraine defend itself. Has there ever been a more ridiculous statement by a world leader? German Chancellor Scholtz had been extremely reticent about providing tanks but agreed to do so only after Biden made the US commitment. As Scholtz commented “It is correct to never go it alone but to always provide these weapons in close agreement with the partners. It’s not far away from Berlin that a war on a big country is taking place. We want to avoid an escalation of this war so that it doesn’t become a war between Russia and NATO.” Germany remains haunted by its Nazi history!
The eventual promise of less than 100 tanks from the US, Germany and others will take months to deliver and will require many months of training before the Ukrainians will even be able to operate them. As Cameron Leckie observes, you do not need to be a military expert to understand that providing a small number of tanks, with hurriedly trained crews, will not make any significant difference to the outcome.
As America’s failed operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and others since 1945 have shown, “mission creep” can be catastrophic. Now, the Americans have turned to Ukraine. Initially the objective was to repulse the Russian invasion – and it worked! The poorly organised Russian force collapsed and retreated. The logical course would have been to sue for peace, to negotiate a settlement which kept Western Ukraine free, and to cede the Russian-speaking provinces of eastern Ukraine and Crimea to the Russians. Instead, Washington encouraged Ukraine to shift its objective from a realistic territorial defence to an insane attempt to restore Ukrainian control over both eastern Ukraine as well as the Crimean Peninsula. The defence of Ukraine had stumbled into “mission creep”.[iii] By following this strategy, Ukraine will be susceptible to a massive Russian counter-attack with much more death, destruction, and heartbreak. The US is addicted to mission creep which kept it in Afghanistan for 20 years, pursuing an incoherent and failed strategy. The same applied to Iraq. Once it became clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction, the US had the opportunity to leave. Instead, it hung around changing its objective to a failed “War on Terror”. Ultimately the Americans left in humiliation having empowered Islamists, and ISIS in the process.
Who Cares about NUKES?
Michael McFaul (Professor of Political Science at the Hoover institution and Director of the Institute for International Studies at Stanford university) argues that the US, NATO, and the democratic world should rapidly support a Ukrainian breakthrough with more advanced weapons, more sanctions, and more economic aid to Ukraine, saying that this should not be doled out incrementally, but should instead be speedily provided. McFaul claims that “Everyone agrees that a nuclear attack against the United States or other NATO countries is off the table because mutually assured destruction is still in place, and the probabilities of Putin using tactical nuclear weapons inside Ukraine is very unlikely as it would serve no obvious battlefield objectives”. McFaul seems to be imbued with knowledge not available to other mortals.
I overwhelmingly prefer the views of John Quelch[iv]. While he refers to Russia’s invasion as illegal, he contends that the war was and continues to be stoked by the US and NATO who perceive it to be in their long-term strategic interests. The conflict has morphed into a US proxy war, aiming to weaken and destroy the Russian economy and its leadership, with the US content to see this war drag on until the death of the last Ukrainian. Is this yet another US attempt at US regime change (This time Russia)?
I like reading Caitlin Johnstone, partly because her writing is so outrageous and partly because she is smart, perceptive and tells it exactly as she sees it, without blinking. On 22 January 2023, she wrote: “Does everyone else in the world get a vote on whether their lives should be risked in an offensive to control who governs Crimea? Or will the Biden administration just be making that call on behalf of all living creatures? Nobody else in the world gets a vote on the decisions being made that could kill everyone and end humanity forever. It used to be undisputed conventional wisdom that hot warfare against Russia must be avoided at all costs because they are a nuclear superpower. MAD assumes the other side won’t be crazy enough to launch conventional offensives against a nuclear superpower.” Then she says: The US empire is telling Moscow – “I am the craziest motherfucker around, I’ll keep ramping up the brinkmanship looking you right in the eye and daring you to use nukes, while telling the rest of the world – I am the voice of sanity that you should all look to for leadership.”
Now, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved its Doomsday Clock to ninety seconds to midnight, the closest it has ever been.[v] Johnstone reports that the most common response she gets about the nuclear danger is along the lines of “Well if there is a nuclear war it will be Putin’s fault” – as though “fault” will matter when humanity observes the end of the world! The risk is that if one side believes it is likely to lose the conflict, the temptation to deploy nuclear weapons rises exponentially. Unlike the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when communication took place between Khrushchev and Kennedy, there is no direct communication today between the US and the Russian leadership. In the meantime, the brutal destruction and dismemberment of Ukraine and its people continues while the US stands aloof – oceans away.
The Mainstream Media
John Quelch argues that the mainstream media would have the populace believe (and they mostly do believe) that this war was “unprovoked”. It was not unprovoked. It started with false promises made to the Russian leadership at the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union when the US and other European leaders (including Germany) assured Gorbachev that NATO would not move one-inch eastwards to Russia’s border. This provocation has never stopped – to this very day.
On 5 February Caitlin Johnstone wrote saying “For years I have watched people pointing at me as an example of what “Russian propaganda” looks like.” She added “I know I’m not a Russian propagandist. I’m not paid by Russia; I have no connections to Russia. Westerners are being brainwashed by Western propaganda into panicking about Russian propaganda!”
Imagine if the US and NATO had negotiated in good faith on Russia’s proposals which were presented in December 2021 seeking to address Russia’s core security concerns. The war could have been avoided without thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destroyed cities, global food shortages, and massive disruption to energy supplies, not to mention thousands of widows and bereft children, but that would not have suited America’s strategic objectives of undermining Russia. Instead, Russia was left to pursue a “military-technical” solution. What the West was told was that the invasion was “unprovoked”, that the Russian military was incompetent, its economy would collapse, and Putin would be overthrown. Even more far-fetched was the message that Ukraine was “winning”. The reality is that Ukraine is suffering horrendous casualties. US Col Douglas McGregor estimates that eight Ukrainians have been killed for every one Russian.[vi]
“AUDI ALTERAM PARTEM” – HEAR THE OTHER SIDE!
[i] Ukraine: The War that went Wrong, January 2023, by Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who served as a foreign correspondent for The New York Times for 15 years [ii] Negotiated Peace is better than Endless Carnage, January 2023, Adam Creighton award winning international journalist, educated in Australia [iii] America’s Strategy of Failure comes to Ukraine, January 2023, Brandon Weichert, US geopolitical analyst and author [iv] Our planet is on the Cusp of the Third World War, January 2023 by Australian writer, John Quelch [v] Hardly anyone is Thinking logically about the Risk of Nuclear War, January 2023, Caitlin Johnstone, an Australian residing in USA [vi] The ignominious unravelling of the West has begun, January 2023, Cameron Leckie, served for 24 years as an officer in the Australian Army