Ilargi: Ukraine Warheads

Yves here. One point to add to Ilargi’s high-level recap of the bizarre allegations the US is making about Russia, apparently to justify a confrontation over Ukraine: Russia has zero interest in occupying the eastern part of Ukraine, often referred to as Donbass. It’s an economic basket case and would be a burden. But Russia most assuredly does not want the US and NATO using Ukraine to put yet more men and materiel on Russia’s doorstep.

So having said that, I’m skeptical of the evacuees idea. I’m pinging Mark Ames and John Helmer and will update this post if they have anything to add. Update: Helmer did not mince words:

While his head was under water, the Russians have won the most significant military defeat of US and proxy forces in half a century.

Helmer then decided to elaborate. From the start of a new post:

It has been 46 years since the evacuation of the US Embassy in Saigon. Not since then have US  forces under the direction of the State Department suffered such a defeat in the face of superior defending military force. Until these days.

The Bornholm operation in Baltic Sea on March 29-31; the Donbass disengagement  announced on April 1 by Ukrainian chief of the general staff, Ruslan Khomchak; then the Black Sea mission-abort of the USS Donald Cook and USS Roosevelt  on April 14 – this has been a three-front defeat of the Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Under Secretary for war against Russia, Victoria Nuland (née Nudelman),  and their Polish and Ukrainian proxies.

No Russian shot has been fired; no Russian life lost. Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov’s golden bridge strategy has allowed the adversary to make an orderly retreat from the Russian red line.

“The final stage of the exercise of the Southern Military District and the Airborne Forces, which took place within the framework of a snap preparedness check, ended at the Opuk [Crimea] range today,” announced Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on April 22.   “The forces successfully accomplished every training mission in providing military security to the southern borders of the Russian Federation. I believe that the goals of the snap inspection have been fully achieved. The troops demonstrated the ability to reliably defend the country.”

Shoigu followed by a few hours the announcement on April 21 by President Vladimir Putin: “Hopefully, it won’t occur to anyone to cross the so-called red line in regard to Russia, and we’ll decide where this line goes by ourselves in every particular case.”

The red line in the Donbass had been announced on April 8 by Dmitry Kozak, the Kremlin’s chief negotiator for Ukraine: “In the event of the resumption of large-scale military operations in the Donbass, Russia will be forced to stand up for its citizens… By February more than 600 thousand residents of the DPR and LPR had received Russian passports.”

By Raúl Ilargi Meijer, editor of Automatic Earth. Originally published at Automatic Earth

Joe Biden declares a “national emergency”, calls Putin a killer, slaps more sanctions on Russia, for which he has his Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken declare that “Today, we announced actions to hold the Russian Government to account for the SolarWinds intrusion, reports of bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, and attempts to interfere in the 2020 U.S. elections,” … and then “invites” Putin for a summit.

For the SolarWinds “intrusion”, the US has never provided any evidence at all, the Russian bounties story was -finally- fully debunked well before Blinken made his statement -which makes him look very incompetent-, and the election interference narrative is by now just too dumb to even get into. No evidence for it whatsoever after 2 years of the Mueller investigation, but now Putin’s at it again? Who did he want to win, then? Trump again, after apparently not even trying in 2016?

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky states that his country should urgently be made a full member of both NATO and the EU, and has his own proxy, Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, solemnly claim that not just “The only possibility for this [to prevent alleged invasion plans] is for Ukraine to finally become a NATO member”, but also that “Ukraine has no other choice: either we are part of an alliance such as NATO and are doing our part to make this Europe stronger, or we have the only option – to arm by ourselves, and maybe think about nuclear status again”.… And then Zelensky invites Putin for a summit. In the Donbass, no less.

These people are all as insincere as they possibly could be, but they trust that this doesn’t matter anymore. The western media have been planting the “Putin is a monster” seeds in their readers and viewers for many years now, and critical thought has long since left the building. Yes, that is the ultimate effect of what’s called propaganda, and as long as the sheeple “victims” don’t recognize it as such, it works like a charm.


I’ve been wondering for a long time why Boris Yeltsin appointed Putin as his successor in 1999, and I can’t find much information on it. Yeltsin was a US asset, and sold out his country to the CIA and a bunch of CIA-asset homegrown oligarchs. I’ve always suspected that when Yeltsin left, he felt a lot of regret for what he had done to Russia, and that maybe appointing Putin was his way to try and make up for that. I see people saying that Yeltsin thought Putin was pliable, but I think perhaps he knew exactly how Putin thought.

A “detail”: remember that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, male life expectancy for a period of time feel from a very steep cliff. And nothing Yeltsin did provided a solution to that crisis. Then, in August 1999, he appointed Putin as his prime minister, and didn’t leave a year later as planned, but 4 months later, in December. His chief of staff, Valentin Yumashev , who had hired Putin as his deputy in 1997, wrote his resignation speech:

Mr Yumashev was entrusted with writing Yeltsin’s resignation speech. “It was a hard speech to write. It was clear the text would go down in history. The message was important. That’s why I wrote the famous line ‘Forgive me’. “Russians had suffered such shock and stress during the 1990s. Yeltsin had to speak about this.”

Back to today. All economic -and other- sanctions against Russia since Putin first became president have led to one thing only: the country has dramatically increased its self-sufficiency. And in the process has upgraded its weapons arsenal to a level that no western country even comes close to, including the US, for maybe 10% of what the same US has spent on its own arsenal.

Russia’s latest generation of hypersonic missiles, against which no country has any defense, are far superior to what anybody else possesses. When they said recently they could take out a specific building in Kyiv if they wanted, they were not exaggerating. So yeah, look for Biden and Blinken and NATO et al to soon start using that superiority as a reason to incite more war vs Moscow.

A war they could never win, but that’s not the point any longer. One might argue of course that it never was after the advent of nuclear weapons. The whole point of NATO today, its raison d’être, is that it can create chaos wherever it goes and looks. It’s no longer capable of defending anyone from the Russian threat, but then that threat hasn’t been there for many years.


And NATO wants to continue existing, as does the Pentagon, and Boeing and Raytheon, it’s all about money, so they have to make up a threat, aided by their media brethren. That‘s why you see, from time to time, reports about Putin having yet another person “poisoned”, why governments in countries like the UK and Germany go along with the narrative, and why media in all other vassal states parrot these stories.

In that vein, the story this week out of Czechia, which expelled 18 Russian diplomats, kind of sets a new standard in absolute nonsense.

The Czech organised crime squad (NCOZ) said it was looking for two men using Russian passports in relation to the explosions. The passports bear the names of Alexander Petrov, born in 1979, and Ruslan Boshirov, born in 1978, and their holders are also wanted in Britain in connection with Skripal’s poisoning in Salisbury.

Mark Ames’ reaction to this on Twitter is so good, I’m not going to try to beat him to it: : “If I understand this right, apparently GRU thought it’d be smart to use the same 2 spies to carry out 2 separate deadly operations in NATOland – 2014 bombing in Czech Rep, 2018 Skripal poisoning – using exact same aliases & fake passports in both operations.”

Now that the west has lost its military superiority, all that’s left for it to claim is some sort of “intelligence superiority”, so it portrays Russians as really dumb people. Putin tries to poison one person after another, invariably people who are no threat to him at all, with the deadliest poisons on the planet, and fails time and again. Navalny is a US asset who gets 2% max of votes in a poll, Skripal is a former military intel officer who was allowed to go to the UK after being exposed as a double-agent (!), but they fit the 20+ year old narrative of Putin as Pol Pot. Stories. They are all that counts. Reality, not so much. Bernays and Goebbels are having a ton of fun in their own private hells.

So how will the Ukraine episode be resolved? Not easy. Making the world’s 2nd-most corrupt country a full member of NATO is out of the question, Russia will never accept that. Which is why the west is pushing it. Ukraine with nukes is even more preposterous, if that is possible (hard call). Dmitry Orlov suggested a “solution” the other day about which I have major question marks, but he’s Russian and I’m not, so take a look:

Putin’s Ukrainian Judo

The answer, I believe, is obvious: evacuation. There are around 3.2 million residents in Donetsk People’s Republic and 1.4 million in Lugansk People’s Republic, for a total of some 4.6 million residents. This may seem like a huge number, but it’s moderate by the scale of World War II evacuations. Keep in mind that Russia has already absorbed over a million Ukrainian migrants and refugees without much of a problem.

Also, Russia is currently experiencing a major labor shortage, and an infusion of able-bodied Russians would be most welcome. Domestically, the evacuation would likely be quite popular: Russia is doing right by its own people by pulling them out of harm’s way. The patriotic base would be energized and the already very active Russian volunteer movement would swing into action to assist the Emergencies Ministry in helping move and resettle the evacuees.

The elections that are to take place later this year would turn into a nationwide welcoming party for several million new voters. The Donbass evacuation could pave the way for other waves of repatriation that are likely to follow. There are some 20 million Russians scattered throughout the world, and as the world outside Russia plunges deeper and deeper into resource scarcity they too will want to come home.

While they may presently be reluctant to do so, seeing the positive example of how the Donbass evacuees are treated could help change their minds. The negative optics of surrendering territory can be countered by not surrendering any territory. As a guarantor of the Minsk Agreements, Russia must refuse to surrender the Donbass to the Ukrainian government until it fulfills the terms of these agreements, which it has shown no intention of doing for seven years now and which it has recently repudiated altogether.

[..] The West would be left with the following status quo. The Donbass is empty of residents but off-limits to them or to the Ukrainians. The evacuation would in no sense change the standing or the negotiating position of the evacuees and their representatives vis-à-vis the Minsk agreements, locking this situation in place until Kiev undertakes constitutional reform, becomes a federation and grants full autonomy to Donbass, or until the Ukrainian state ceases to exist and is partitioned. The Ukraine would be unable to join NATO (a pipe dream which it has stupidly voted into its constitution) since this would violate the NATO charter, given that it does not control its own territory.

Further sanctions against Russia would become even more difficult to justify, since it would be untenable to accuse it of aggression for undertaking a humanitarian mission to protect its own citizens or for carrying out its responsibilities as a guarantor of the Minsk agreements. The Donbass would remain as a stalker zone roamed by Russian battlefield robots sniping Ukrainian marauders, with the odd busload of schoolchildren there on a field trip to lay flowers on the graves of their ancestors. Its ruined Soviet-era buildings, not made any newer by three decades of Ukrainian abuse and neglect, will bear silent witness to the perpetual ignominy of the failed Ukrainian state.

Dmitry suggests 4.6 million people leave the Donbass so peace may be restored. But most of those people grew up there, and so did their families. And largely peacefully so, until the US and NATO, John McCain and Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt, tried to take over Ukraine. Why should Russia, instead of protecting these people where they live, migrate them and protect them in Russia? Anyone ask for their own opinion?

There would be a giant empty piece of land where they once lived, in a kind of demilitarized zone? And what then? Nobody in Ukraine would come up with the idea to move into the empty land? And if they did, Russia would have to shoot them from Russian territory? I sort of see the reasoning of course, but not all of it. It only seems to work if you see Russia, and the Russians in the Donbass, as the aggressors.

Were they? Are they? Russia only sprung into action when the west tried to take away their sole warm water port, Sevastopol in Crimea. An election was held, and 97% of mostly Russians voted to be part of Russia. Yeah, that upset NATO and the other usual suspects, but that doesn’t make Russia an aggressor.

Russia has no reason to “invade” Ukraine. They don’t need even more territory, they’re already by far the largest nation on earth. Moreover, they don’t have the military to occupy large swaths of land. They only have the capacity to protect their own.

Thing is, they really got that down. So the only thing NATO can do, in its quest to prove it has reason to exist, is to create chaos, as I said before. But there is a problem with consciously creating chaos between nuclear powers, instead of maintaining communication channels, as the US and USSR always did during the Cold War. Do we all understand this means we are in a worse situation today than back then? That all those expulsions of diplomats only make the situation worse?

And that some fool could actually fire a nuclear missile because of that? Me, I’m not so sure anymore. Between the Covid virus and the US cancel culture, there are not that many western people paying attention to warmongers and NATO aka warheads. Not a good idea.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Raymond Sim

    I read Orlov’s piece the other day, found via a link from Patrick Armstong’s discussion of the policy stylings of Victoria Nuland.

    I think the utter American detachment from reality Nuland epitomizes is what makes Orlov’s ideas plausible. The Russians are forced, in any case, to anticipate receiving most of the population of the Donbass as refugees.

    And Ukraine has had an enduring role as a place of empty zones and imperial buffers.

      1. Raymond Sim

        Do you remember Jen Psaki saying “We don’t accept that figure.” or words to that effect, about the number of people seeking their safety in Russia during Obama’s Ukraine war? I can’t remember the number, but it was way too big for the State Department’s tastes.

        The Russians are obliged to anticipate huge refugee flows as a deliberate tactic against them. Even beginning a credible-looking mass evacuation would be a scary-as-hell countermove to idiotic provocations. So like I said, the nature of our leadership makes preparation for the sort of thing Orlov outlines actually plausible to me, maybe not if it were anybody but the Russkies, but it is them.

        1. Kol Nidre

          Get ready for another war for Israel. Cause that is what this is actually about. Whenever Putin gets out of line vis a vis his Iran-Syria support? UP pops the Ukraine or Crimea issue, to backhand him. If America had real representation of its interests in US govt/St Dept, instead of being so overwhelmingly run by dual national ‘citizens’ whose policies benefit a foreign power? America would not be bankrupt after paying for a generation of 911 War on Terror battles. Why do Americans allow these infiltrators w/ conflict of interest & loyalty to steer them into repeated disasters? To avoid being smeared as ‘antisemitic’ if they refuse? For this they lost their country?? Incredible

  2. Malcolm MacLeod, MD

    This is exactly what I’ve been thinking for some long time now. I’m an eighty-
    seven year old American, who has also lived overseas (US Army). It’s nice to
    be toward the end of my life, as I can no longer stomach what has happened
    to my country. Who would ever have thought this even feasible?

    1. Raymond Sim

      I know the feeling! But then I began to get the impression it had been more a matter of my awareness than the national reality. Which actually made me feel better for some reason, till I thought about it.

      Lately, if I looked up and saw a medium-large meteor coming at us, I’d feel bad for my grandkids that I didn’t feel all that bad about the meteor.

  3. Alex

    I definitely agree with Helmer that what Orlov is suggesting is a terrible solution. Why should the people who lived there all their lives now suddenly move somewhere else? Also, from a purely military perspective it’s easier to defend territory with sympathetic population.

    However otherwise the piece is rather sloppy. Yeltsin chose Putin to protect the assets of his family, and trust me, they are doing very well and not a ruble of their stolen wealth has been expropriated.

    Navalny got not 2% but 27% in the only elections he was allowed to contest, despite not having access to TV. Moscow is different from the rest of Russia but surely it would be much more than 2% if the fight were fair.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I assume this is the basis for the 2%:

      A November 2020 poll by Levada — the only Russian pollster to publish data on Navalny — saw 2% of respondents give Navalny as their first choice in hypothetical presidential polls, while 4% listed him as one of the politicians they most trusted, a showing more or less in line with his polling over the last decade.

      Though his results are modest, they are comparable to those of the longtime leader of Russia’s Communist parliamentary opposition, Gennady Zyuganov.

      1. Alex

        Yes, I’m sure that this number is accurate, but it needs to be placed in context. First, as I said Navalny hasn’t been allowed to appear on TV which is the most important media for a large share of Russians. Second, not everyone who supports Navalny would answer the survey truthfully. Would you declare that you support someone whose organisation is about to be declared extremist?

        I think it’s pretty much impossible to gauge the “real” popularity of Navalny given the circumstances. Most likely it’s greater than 2% and probably less than 27% he got in Moscow. The article on the other hand omits all that.

        1. Harry

          Most Russians are not aligned with Navalny’s views on race and immigration. We are presented with an idealized (manufactured) view of Navalny.

          His “cockroach” video is still available I think.

          I dont know how many Russian friends you have, but mine still prefer Putin to Western manufactured candidates.

          Citing the Moscow Times is not much different from citing the Dutch government.

          1. Alex

            Just to be clear, Yves cited Moscow Times. Race is not an issue in Russia at all. Nationalism and immigration are issues, and Navalny’s views on immigration are in line with those of the majority of Russians. Just to give an example, 73% were for requiring visas from Central Asian migrants

            I do have quite a lot of friends in Russia having lived there most of my life. I think you are arguing with things I didn’t say. Quite a lot of Russians do support Putin as your friends do. What I did say was that the statement that Navalny’s popularity is 2% is miselading.

            1. steelyman

              I believe that the 27% figure you quote is based on the results for the Moscow mayoral campaign back in 2013. That was almost 8 years ago and I doubt that Navalny’s support outside of Moscow (and its more liberal demographic) has increased since then. Actually I seriously doubt he would garner anything like 27% again even in Moscow.

              That latest Levada poll showing 2-4% nationally seems about right.

          2. Equitable > Equal

            I didn’t appreciate how invested the Dutch government were in this until I realised how many of Bellingcat’s donors are very anonymous Dutch letterbox foundations!

    2. Harry

      If the fight was fair the Communists would still be the party of opposition.

      Moscow is different to the rest of the country. There is sizable opposition in the Far East but otherwise its the middle class who would like the country to be more Western (natch).

      Navalny is not the opposition. The problem is the opposition is not to our taste. Im always amazed the West wants Putin gone. Do they really think his replacement would be able to ignore Russian strategic interests and give the country away to the West? Or perhaps they think it would descend into chaos? With respect to the latter they might be right. But thats precisely why Putin remains popular. Ordinary Russians are afraid of exactly the same thing.

    3. Kouros

      You might be talking about some other candidate flying the same banner as Navalny, but not Navalny per se?

    4. Maxwell Johnston

      If Russia were to have free and fair elections (and even-handed media access), the likely winners would be the communists and/or the nationalists. Pavel Grudinin polled very well as the communist presidential candidate in 2018….. until the Kremlin panicked and started causing problems for him. Navalny is associated with the ‘liberal reformers’ of the 90s, and as such has zero credibility with most Russians. I would be amazed if he polled higher than 10% nationally, even in a fair election.

      You’re right about Yeltsin’s family. They are doing just fine. It will be interesting to see what happens to VVP’s daughters and close associates after he’s gone.

      1. Alex

        Well, I really hope we’ll live to see such elections, whoever wins them.

        Speaking of liberal reformers of 90s it’s funny that Putin worked for one of the most prominent ones (Sobchak) and his friends from the St Petersburg city administration and KGB somehow got hold of various businesses all across Russia, but somehow it’s Navalny who is associated with 90s liberal reformers even though he was in unversity at that time. At any rate, there is already a generation of people who lived their whole life under Putin and for them the 90s will become less relevant over time.

        1. Maxwell Johnston

          People somehow choose to forget that VVP came out of Sobchak’s ‘liberal’ camp (together with Chubais, Kokh, et al). Or that VVP was hand-picked by Yeltsin and was very much part of his inner circle. Or that many key members of Yeltsin’s team (Kiriyenko, Chubais, et al) continued along seamlessly under VVP’s rule. Life is complicated.

          You are correct that as time passes, the 90s will become a distant memory for most Russians. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, and I certainly don’t think that free and fair elections will produce a winner even remotely amenable to western interests. I remember Russia’s last free and fair elections very clearly: in December 1993, when the nationalists and the communists performed astonishingly well. Yeltsin’s team was shocked and quashed free elections going forward, and VVP’s team has continued the tradition. But the underlying reality of populist politics in Russia hasn’t changed much, IMHO. Post-VVP, any real elections in Russia will probably produce a red/brown winner. Which will be wildly disruptive to the existing order (both inside Russia and in terms of foreign affairs). Hence, no truly free and fair elections will be allowed for a long time, even post-VVP.

          1. Alex

            I don’t share your pessimism. I think that any Russian government will look first and foremost to protect Russian interests but it doesn’t necessarily have to lead to a conflict with the West like we have now.

            Regarding the red/brown scare (though I don’t think that lumping them together makes sense), it’s just speculation for now but a lot of countries in Eastern Europe have had nationalist governments (Baltics, Poland) and governments headed by former communists/socialists (Moldova, again Poland, Bulgaria) and it wasn’t disruptive at all.

  4. VietnamVet

    The Ukraine Crisis recedes. Russia withdraws troops from the border but leaves its heavy weapons

    The US Navy dared not to run two ships through the Bosporus Strait into the Black Sea. Ukraine realized that they will not get support for a hot war with Russia and backed down.

    The problem with a privatized military is that it fights for money. The Revolving Door wants forever wars that pays them well but won’t annihilate them. WWIII is one mad man away. Like all things in the Western Empire, one must believe the propaganda to climb the ladder of success. But the West’s PR does not match reality. Delusions are weapons of mass destruction.

    1. Bill Smith

      “The US Navy dared not to run two ships through the Bosporus Strait into the Black Sea.”

      I doubt “dared” is the correct adjective. The real reason is unknown (to us). The UK didn’t seem to be worried.

      1. MRLost

        The chances of the British Navy starting a war with Russia in the Black Sea and Donbas is exactly zero. The chances of the US Navy starting a war with Russia in the Black Sea and Donbas are not great but they are greater than zero. The Americans are getting a bit unpredictable so just remove the possibility of something stupid happening. The British could have sent the Royal Yacht.

    2. Carolinian

      Someone wrote that the situation is similar to your war where Lyndon Johnson had to prove his manhood by doing what Kennedy was reluctant to do. Of course the Vietnam intervention was backed up by plenty of genuine veterans at the time who said to young America: “it’s your turn.”

      Without a doubt war can poison the mind but peace can too when your civilian leadership consists of Chickenhawks. Someone else has written that Putin has taken the measure of Biden and always knew he was bluffing.

  5. PlutoniumKun

    I honestly don’t see the logic of moving millions of people out of the Dunbass, apart from the obvious fact that very many of them inevitably will not want to leave their home and lands, even in the worst case scenario.

    The stupidity of the neocons in using Ukraine as some sort of bargaining chip makes me despair. If you are going to have psychopaths in charge of foreign affairs, you’d at least hope to have ones with an ounce of brains. Ukraine is a basket case and would be a terrible burden on Europe if by some chance it was foisted on NATO/EU (although maybe some in Washington would see that as a win too). It’s simply not worth fighting over, and the Dunbass is clearly not worth risking a nuclear confrontation over.

    The other destabilising issue is that the only industrial product that the world wants from the Ukraine is weaponry, and they are so desperate for cash that they are selling weapons and manufacturing tech to anyone and everyone, and so becoming a wild card influence for the worst in many other parts of the world. In a rather lovely bit of ironic blow back, China may well have made a major leap forward in its military engine capacity by way of simply buying the required know-how off the Motor Sich company of Ukraine.

    As for nuclear weapons – many years ago a Ukrainian I know assured me with a very straight face that ‘everyone knows’ that the Ukraine kept a few dozen warheads after the fall of the Soviet Union. We can be thankful that almost certainly wasn’t the case, as their leadership is maybe stupid enough to have used them. But it can’t be ruled out that they have the materials and ability to make them if they tried. I very much doubt that this is a situation any Russian leader would tolerate.

    1. vlade

      Ukraine almost certainly has the know-how (Kharkov Institute of Physic and Technology has world-class nuclear scientists and technicians) and the materiel (it has three uranium mines, and a number of nuclear stations, although the fuel to them is enriched and provided by Russia) to make nukes . It almost certainly doesn’t have the materiel, and possibly know-how, how to make a good and reliabe delivery system.

      There is a massive East-West tensions in Ukraine, as usual, for historical reasons. The west part of Ukraine was really Polish, up till WW2 (yes, some of it was part of Russia since the partitioning of Poland in 18th century, but really the inhabitants were not Russians by any stretch of imagination). The east part of Ukraine was massively russified after the Stalin-made famine in 1930s and WW2. Hence the east and west has very polarly different views of Russia. When people talk about Bandera being facist, it shows the Soviet propaganda (who cast all its enemies as facists/nazis, a practice the Russian state is happy to follow, as it acts as sort of a trigger on many Russians) at work, as Bandera was first and foremost a fanatical far-right ultra-nationalist and anti-communist who took allies (and turned on them) where he could *), and this makes people to miss the historical context and the implications. **)

      So the optimal solution, which is finlandization, is really impossible, at least in short/medium term, because it would involve national reconciliation, and a patient approach from EU/US/Russia (neither of which are there). Stirring a pot is easy, calming it down is much much harder.

      *) here I will point out that not all far-right people are facists by definition, never mind nazis. And, for avoidance of doubt, he was a murderer and a terrorist, and I don’t condone him in any way form or shape. But we need to see past propaganda, because then we can see only the simplified solutions offered. And it doesn’t matter whether the propaganda is of US/Soviet-Russian/Chinese or any other provenience.

      **) The ukrainian peasans that warmly greeted Wehrmacht weren’t far-right ultranationalists. But they still hated Soviets. They would learn to hate Germans in short time too.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Thanks for the clarity – as so often, the politics of these countries is far more complex, and more subtle, than even fairly well informed outsiders often understand. It’s never a good idea to use easy labels like ‘Fascist’ or ‘Communist’ when describing local movements (even when those movements use those labels themselves), but it is tempting to use them as a short hand. As the really interesting discussion you had earlier btl with Terry Flynn on the use of statistics illustrates, peoples political views are usually far more complex than a simple left/right split, or even libertarian/authoritarian or nationalist/internationalist (and don’t even start on religion).

      2. Harry

        My uncles family were from Lvov. My uncle was the only member of his family to escape what happened there of 9 sons (his family were Orthodox and his brothers had many kids). He was only 14 when he walked out of Lvov, one week before the final closure of the ghetto. One of his older brothers cut German hair and told him to go while he could.

        I have seen his memoirs, and it has very much colored my views of Galicians and their friends in the media. The extermination of Jews (and Poles!) which took place there would not have been possible without Galician complicity.

      3. David

        I think that’s very fair, on both counts. The Ukraine was a centre of defence production in the old Soviet Union, but that’s long gone now. They also became one of the world’s only two involuntary nuclear powers (the other was Belarus) after 1991, and the question of what to do with ex-Soviet nuclear weapons briefly agitated the Chancelleries of most of the western world. But weaponisation (never mind delivery) is a very different issue, and there’s no sign the Ukrainians can do that.

        The whole story of extreme nationalist regimes allying with the Germans in WW2 isn’t nearly as well-known as it should be, not least because it’s very complex but also highly sensitive. (See Mark Mazower’s Book “Hitler’s Empire” on this). The Germans basically tried to encourage independence movements for strategic reasons (they even tried it in Brittany) but seldom in an organised and intelligent fashion. A lot of the time they were looking for anyone who would provide troops for rear-area security and anti-partisan operations, and towards the end of the war for any source of military manpower at all. (The 14th SS Division was largely Galician and was the kernel of the short-lived Ukrainian National Army). One result of this was to encourage different contenders for their support (I seem to remember that Bandera’s organisation was competing with others) who often wound up fighting each other. Same in Yugoslavia, of course.

        Your point about it not being accurate to describe Bandera as a fascist is important. (Same is true of Pavelic in Croatia, of course). For the Soviet Union, which saw history entirely in terms of class struggle, WW2 was an anti-fascist war by definition, and Hitler was simply the tool of capitalist interests. It annoys, me, though, when the same mistake is made in the West. Bandera and Pavelic, and for that matter Pétain and Franco, were traditionalist, nationalist leaders, linked to the Church, the existing military, the aristocracy and elites in general; fascism is (or was) a populist, modernist mass movement of the Right, conceived as a nationalist counter to the international appeal of left-wing politics. The groups could cooperate, but they were totally distinct.

        1. Bill Smith

          The other thing to remember about the Ukraine nationalists allying with Germany, in at least the start of WW2… is how many Ukrainians had Stalin killed via various methods in the prior 10 years?

          2 million? 10 million?

          1. skippy

            Yet that was premised on a Western Lamarckism theory, sold to the higher ups, and not one based on any Marxist theory, but its always portrayed as a Communist[tm] result …. “were all going to starve” …

          2. harry

            How many Galicians suffered from Stalins approach to “grain hoarding”?

            Then ask the same question of Volga region peasants.

      4. pjay

        It is true we tend to throw the F-word around too easily, and yes, all sides engage in propaganda. But I have to say, if the current “Banderites” in Ukraine aren’t neo-Nazis, then they are certainly doing a good imitation for the cameras.

        And as is often the case, the problem with a “both sides do it” analysis is that Russian and US interests are not symmetrical here. Chaos and instability serve US/NATO interests just fine (because as PK mentions, psychopaths *do* dominate foreign policy here). Too often we talk as if the West actually *wants* peace and stability when that is not necessarily true at all.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          There are movements which are not exactly nazi in a technical sense, but are certainly naziform or naziesque. They use symbols as close to the swastika as they can get while maintaining a thin veneer of plausible deniability that their symbol is not “actually” a “swastika”.
          One might call these symbols . . . nassi swassikas.

          Here is Svoboda’s nassi swassika.

          I think I remember once seeing Pravy Sektor having a nassi swassika, but either I remember wrong or they have changed their emblem to look like this now . . .

      5. upstater

        One does not know what sort of state Bandera might have created; let it suffice to say that his movement saw Nazism as a liberating force and his visceral hatred of Jews and Russians worked hand-in-glove with Nazi occupation. However I am not an expert on Ukrainian history.

        Central and eastern Europe in the 1920s and 30s were filled with all manner of “fanatical far-right ultra-nationalist and anti-communist” types, some of which led their governments. Many were certainly proto-fascists. Many of these countries had Bolshevik revolutions or attempts in the immediate aftermath of WWI and they were ruthlessly suppressed. Jews, of course, were successful in business and professions; working class Jews were often involved trade unions, communist organizations or the Bund. They were ripe targets for “fanatical far-right ultra-nationalist and anti-communist” types that had not yet developed into a full-fledged fascist ideologies.

        I have read a lot about Lithuania; Jonas Noreika (a present day national hero) was a 1930s Lithuanian Army officer . He was virulently anti-Semitic and anti-Slav and was an enthusiastic collaborator of the Nazis, rounding up thousands of Jews and killing many, even before the invading Nazis made it into Lithuania. Then he proceeded with shoa by bullets of Jews and anyone leftist. After a couple years, he fell out with the Nazis and was interred, but had considerable freedom. He then returned to Lithuania and for a year or so fought the Soviets and was captured and executed. Present day Lithuania whitewashes his crimes. Denial is alive and well in Eastern Europe.

        My point is simple… central or eastern European countries have not had much in the way of “independence” whether prior to WW1 or after WW2. The inter-war years were fraught with internal conflicts. What has happened after the dissolution of the USSR has been nothing but constant meddling and intervention by the US and its yapping NATO lapdogs. Virtually nobody in the US has any comprehension of what the eastern front was like in WW2 and believe the US defeated the Nazis and Japan with a bit of British help. Few understand what happened in the Yeltsin years in Russia. We’re still told Putin (s)elected Trump. The MIC needs enemies to survive and thrive. We are constantly served a diet of the worst sort of Atlantic Council/Bellingcat propaganda. The consequences of this madness could end very, very badly.

        1. harry

          “Jews were successful in business and the professions”.

          I agree with pretty much everything you wrote for what little that’s worth. I just wanted to add a little color my uncle told me. He had 9 brothers of a very orthodox family. Tefilim wearers. Of those 9, 6 were Marxists but only around the dinner table. The family owned a leather processing factory. They were affluent.

          But Lvov was not a cosmopolitan city. Not like Lodz. Lodz was a melting pot or so they told me. And with a very active theatre scene.

          Funny place, Eastern Europe.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Would it be too rude to think of it as ” the savage heart of Darkest Europe”?

      6. Olivier

        Beside finlandization there is the option of partition. Its main drawback, IMO, is that it would turn Poland into a major european power, which would be very undesirable given that the poles are as unhinged as the americans.

      7. Maxwell Johnston

        I doubt the Ukraine is capable of taking the nuclear option anymore. So much in that country has degraded since 1990. And in any case, Russia would never tolerate it.

        The optimal solution of Finlandization is pretty much what Ukraine was following until 2014. What the EU proposed in late 2013 was an incredibly one-sided agreement, and Yanukovich (despite his many faults) was probably right to reject it. I blame the USA for stirring up the hornet’s nest of Ukrainian nationalism (which at least pre-2014 was largly confined to the far west of the country), but I also blame the EU for creating false hopes among Ukrainians that EU membership was a possibility. The EU is already having problems absorbing Bulgaria and Romania; taking on a huge corrupt backwater like Ukraine was never in the cards. The Russians aren’t blameless either; at the very least, their diplomats and spooks badly dropped the ball in early 2014 by not anticipating the events that unfolded in Ukraine. How the Russians can be deemed capable of influencing elections in the USA when they cannot even understand (let alone control) events in a key neighbor, is really quite beyond me.

        I’m very pessimistic about Ukraine’s future, and I don’t think Finlandization is an option anymore. Probably partition (roughly along the confines of the Dnieper River, with the east becoming a Russian satellite and the rump west being left to its own devices) will be its ultimate fate. I doubt that will be a bloodless affair, either, and there’s no guarantee that such a partition will bring a lasting peace. In short: a bloody mess with no easy solution.

      8. Jeremy Grimm

        My family hosted a foreign exchange student from Germany. I talked with that ‘Hans’ [not his name] often. He told me his father had been an officer advancing in the rear of the German invasion of Russia. He said his father often wondered how differently the German invasion might have fared had Hitler adjusted the eugenics views on Slavs and the need for their extermination. Hans said his father saw many of the peoples conquered in the German advance anxious to take up arms against Stalin. Their views changed as villages were trucked into the woods by ‘ordinary men’ to be executed and dumped into mass graves … sometimes still alive.

    1. ambrit

      How productive are the “People’s Republics” agriculturally?
      Also, if Global Warming works out at the severe end of the spectrum of outcomes, will the Ukraine be “prime” living space in the “New World (Climate) Order?”

  6. The Rev Kev

    Thinking this over, this story has four components to it – the US, NATO, Russia and the Donbass and I would say that the Ukraine is the least important. So I will start with the US first and the Biden regime. At the moment it sounds like that the Neocons are in charge grabbed a chance to have a showdown with Russia with the idea that Russia would back down. With Neocons like Blinken and Haines in Biden’s Cabinet, they may have been saying that this was a chance to put Russia in its place to set US policy for the next for years and that side benefits from this challenge would be to maybe get Germany to cancel Nord Stream II and maybe have some other countries like Sweden join NATO so that they can be protected from the Bear – for a price.

    I suspect that Russia was seeing the Ukraine being used as a willing cats paw and decided to drop the boom on Ukrainian ambitions. If somebody said that the Russian Ambassador showed the Ukrainian President an image of a Kalibr missile with the name ‘C/- Volodymyr Zelensky’ written on the side, I would not be surprised. The Russians learned to their cost that if you do not face up to bully, that they will come back again and again with more demands. I read years ago that this is actually a Russian cultural trait that extends from the school-ground through to adulthood so I would not be surprised if this is so. And they have played their hand well.

    NATO may seem to have grown a pair but there were factors strengthening their resolve. Right now you have the Defender Europe 2021 exercises going on and which are the biggest held in decades. At least a US division has been sent over to Europe and the exercises will be spread through 30 areas, including the Ukraine. Probably the NATO countries were hoping that this extra force would deter any Russian counter-strike. Czechia got stroppy and actually gave Russia an “ultimatum” to reinstate those 20 Czechia diplomats – or else. I’m sure that they did not think about doing their little drama-dance without some active help and encouragement.

    As for the Ukraine, you have the same situation as before 2014 with a bunch of oligarchs running the place while strip-mining it for all that they can. It did not help the Ukrainians when the US defence attache – Colonel Brittany Stewart- was photographed visiting the front-lines in support while wearing a “Ukraine or death” (or “death’s head”) insignia on her American uniform, an insignia that has roots from 60 years ago. But people like Stewart will not actually fight and die for them but just egg them on.

    Finally the Donbass. In all this brawling, the people living there seem to have been disappeared in the media. They will not evacuate as it is their home and they will fight for it. The 2014 Odessa massacre showed them what to expect from the western-based Ukrainian neonasties if they lose. Evacuating that region is a nonstarter of an idea and even if it did, what would happen if a bunch of neonasties dressed as civilian “settlers” moved into this area. Would they be bombed? Who would remove them? Would that region be frozen in time like the Cyprus Buffer Zone. The Donbass forces have fought off the Ukrainians going to back to when all they had was a militia as they know the price if they lose and what will happen to their families. And the Russians will not let that happen.

    1. steelyman

      Re military attache Colonel Brittany Stewart and her “Totenkopf” insignia. Perhaps Defence Secretary Austin needs to extend the 60 day stand down announced back in February “to eliminate extremism in the ranks” as it clearly hasn’t done the job.

      OTOH maybe “in the ranks” only refers to lowly enlisted personnel……..

      1. The Rev Kev

        Damn you’re right. It was all about ‘extremism in the ranks’ recently and I never spotted the fact that there was no mention ever of ‘extremism in officers’. It was literally the officer class throwing the ranks to the wolves here. Good catch.

  7. Harry

    So for the avoidance of all doubt, I am not balanced in my views on Galicia. But I am very struck by the prominence of two famous Galicians. I’m sure there are more. Mika Brzezinski comes from an aristo Galician family and has quite a famous father. The other is Chrystia Freeland.

    My uncle was always very pro Russia, and very pro the Red Army, despite (or perhaps because) being very active in barter trade with the CIS in the 60’s and 70’s.

    He always remained grateful to the Russians who indirectly saved his life after the war. Its also worth noting that he was a covert member of the Stern gang, and claimed responsibility for placing a bomb which killed over 30 British soldiers after the war. I remember this every time I see British Jews complaining about “support for terrorists”.

    He was a wonderful man, and the best speculator I have ever met. An absolute genius at trading and I only wish I had spent more time with him or that we shared a language. My Russian is poor, and so is my French. My uncle’s native language was Polish, but he spoke excellent Russian, Hebrew and French. Mediocre German. Sadly his English was not great.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      We have posted quite a bit on Chrystia Freeland. And by virtue of being invited to an INET shindig, the price for the guests having a really lovely dinner at the Paris Opera was then to be marched into a grand room to see Freeland interview Soros. OMG the distortions were laid on thick. (Note that at that point, Soros no longer controlled INET but as its original funder, its officers felt compelled to acknowledge his contribution by letting him have air time on his pet topics).

      The audience was composed heavily of Europeans, so even though they maintained a polite silence, the bar chatter afterwards confirmed that just about no one bought what they were selling.

      The remarkable revelation was Soros saying that his Open Society had directly or indirectly funded everyone in the current Ukraine government, as in given grants either to the pols or to spouses for “research”. This crowd was also clued in that even though neo Nazis only constituted about 1% of voters in Ukraine, they had managed to secure about 15% of government offices. So Soros, who fled Nazis, was proudly admitting to now funding them. Gah.

      1. Harry

        Yes you have! Its a curious thing. Its also true that today in Israel and in Ukraine, that many Jews would like to underplay the Nazi associations of the Galicians. I understand the sensitivity. Apparently you have to pick what you hate more – Russians, communists or antisemites? But lets there be no mistake. The antisemitism was there before the Nazis came.

        I just wanted to report my uncle’s position cos he was actually there and saw it with his own eyes. He never had a problem with Russians or Commies, even though he was very far from a Commie himself. But he did have a problem with Galicians. The Germans would never have identified so many of Lvov’s Jews without their help.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      I remember reading somewhere that Zbigniew Brzezinski was descended from the Galicia-area-based ethnoculturally-Polish gentry-nobility known as the “Szlachta”. Which if true would make Brzezinski Polish rather than Galician, if what I read was correct.

  8. NotTimothyGeithner

    Re: Yeltsin and Putin

    Putin was a known anti-Yeltsin personality who didn’t belong to the nationalist or communists blocs. He wouldn’t be able to get away with killing Yeltsin and seizing power. The domestic situation was precarious. If Yeltsin didn’t commit to a change, one of these groups was seizing power.

    1. Andrew Watts

      My crackpot theory is that the KGB and the remnants of the Soviet state acted clandestinely during Yeltsin’s administration to prevent the country from disintegrating or becoming an American client-state. Putin being anointed as Yeltsin’s successor has never made much sense to me.

  9. Samuel Conner

    Orlov’s evacuation proposal is, in rough order of magnitude, about 10 times — in both population displaced and land area — the local impact of the Chernobyl catastrophe. Sort of on the edge of conceivable, but a very heavy “lift.”

  10. Randy G.

    The GrayZone offers a long interview with Mark Sleboda on the political crisis in Ukraine, offering extensive background detail. Sleboda is a U.S. veteran with a PhD., I believe, from the London of School of Economics. He currently lives in Moscow.

    WARNING: He is denounced, naturally, as a Kremlin apologist by the usual suspects for appearing regularly on shows such as Cross Talk with Peter Lavelle. Of course, Sleboda would never be allowed on U.S. corporate-state TV — MSNBC etc. — to discuss Ukraine with their teams of CIA professionals.

    Shockingly, Sleboda admits in the middle of the interview to being biased as his wife is from the Donbas area of Eastern Ukraine and so he’s sympathetic to their plight. Of course, Rachel Maddow and all the CIA talking heads on CNN and MSNBC have no biases so no need to add caveats to their “analysis”.

    Sleboda is surprisingly sanguine regarding the unlikelihood of a war between Russia and U.S./NATO forces in Ukraine — he thinks it could only be triggered by a “black swan” event. This is heartening, and I hope he is correct; however, he appears to have more faith in the rationality of the U.S. oligarchy than seems justified in the 21st century.

  11. Starry Gordon

    In regard to the idea of evacuation, there is a principle in Martial Arts of going back to move forward, also proposed by Lenin: ‘One step backward, two steps forward.’ Military examples range from Cannae to Cowpens.

  12. Jeremy Grimm

    The US has proven most inept as an Imperial power. I do not believe the US can identify let alone pursue or achieve its best long-term strategic — even next week’s — best interests for the Empire. A bully appears quite the fool deliberately picking a fight with a stronger opponent.

    1. Sam

      Your underlying assertion if false and thus many of your subsequent statements are inaccurate. The United States has never been an “imperial power”. The goal of spreading freedom, democracy, and economic independence is NOT being imperial. The United States’ efforts to improve other countries has been massively successful in countries that embraced guidance from the U.S. Japan, South Korea, and even China are the prime examples of countries that accepted 1) massive U.S. funding and infrastructure building, and embraced democracy and capitalism. The CCP will never admit it but they took massive amounts of guidance and financial assistance from the U.S. after WWII and beyond. For some idiotic reason China still get lots of financial aid from the U.S. to this day. In stark contrast, regions & nations where the U.S. has done the same thing – attempted to establish peace and then spent billions upon billions to build infrastructure and economies – but the efforts were rejected by the people/govts are not the fault of the U.S. They tend to be extremely corrupt and low-educated / less-evolved societies – Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, etc.

      1. Sam

        “…underlying assertion IS false…”

        Also, the real overtly imperialistic countries/peoples are the same ones that have been throughout human history (regardless of the current country / geo-political identity or designation) – China (various Asian peoples), Russia, Persians, muslims, and such. As the old saying goes – history repeats itself. Imperialistic tendencies of specific peoples are a prime example.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        Are you out of your mind? This goes beyond Making Shit up into unadulterated delusion. Even Niall Ferguson declared the US to what he called a reluctant imperialist in his book The Cash Nexus in 2001. The US has become much less reluctant as of the Iraq War.

        Current and former US officials admitted in an ITV show (on camera!) to fomenting over 43 undeclared wars. That was as of 2002. Every former head of the CIA except Bush the Senior was interviewed. Have you never heard of United Fruit? The Allende coup? The fact that the grounds for the Iraq war were totally fabricated? That Syria was a well functioning country (high levels of educational attainment, strong rights for women) before we decided to go after Assad on bogus grounds? Assad may be authoritarian but he was popularly elected.

        The US has military garrisons all over the Middle East, for starters.

        I worked as the first non-Japanese employee in the Japanese hierarchy of the lead company in Japan’s most cohesive keiretsu. Japan is a military protectorate. During the 1987 crisis (and I was in Japan at the time), the Fed called the Bank of Japan and told it to buy US Treasuries because the Treasury market was getting wobbly. The BoJ turned around and called all the Japanese city banks (tantamount to US money center banks) to buy Treasuries.

        This is not the behavior of an independent country.

  13. Dave in Austin

    Two comments:

    First, either the U.S. Navy or the State Department fell down on the job when the Biden administration decided to send two destroyers into the Black sea and have them enter the Sea of Azov via the Strait of Kerch and go on a friendly visit to a local Ukrainian ports on the north coast of the sea.

    The aim was to poke the Russian Bear and support the Ukrainians. The Russian response was to say “No foreign warships allowed into the Sea of Azov”. They backed that up with an exercise; they anchored what appears to be a small bulk carrier cross-ways in the only channel entering the Sea of Azov.

    I’m sure we were all ready to scream “Right of innocent passage!” when someone noticed that under the treaties of Lucerne (1924) and Montreux (1933) Azov was not covered because it was not part of the Black Sea; Azov was a USSR internal sea. Worse for the American position was the dead silence from the Ukrainians; their commercial ships routinely pass into the Sea without paying a fee and head for the Ukrainian ports to unload. Russia and the Ukraine had quietly figured out that the ship passage issue should not get mixed up with the Donbass/Crimea issue. Adversaries? Yes… but also fellow Slavs who will have to live with each-other.

    So was the American screw-up at DOD, State or in the White House? Anybody on NC have any insight into who made the misstep?

    The relevant treaty history is at:

    Treaty of Montreux:

    Treaty of Lucerne:

    Second, on why Yeltsin selected or allowed Putin to rise to the top. After the 1924-53 history of the Secret Police being headed by the likes of the monstrous Yagoda and the child molester Beria, the Party and the Party leadership unanimously agreed on one rule: “Select only the straight, honorable guys you totally trust as a person for this job”. And Putin fits the bill; he looks- and acts- like a bankruptcy receiver trying to put a company back on its feet. Occasionally he may have to whack a blabbing renegade in the UK or try and influence an election, but come on, we do the same.

  14. Keith McClary

    If the Kiev regime succeeds in conquering Donbass (or Crimea) the residents won’t likely vote for Ukronats. Have they thought of this?

Comments are closed.