So it’s been like a day since the Ukrainian government declared a special holiday cease fire, not much unlike the one that took place around this time last year. And surprise, surprise, it only took the “separatists” a day to violate it with an attempted offensive in the Mariupol area.
Now I used those words on purpose, because I know that any Kremlin fanboy who reads them is now tearing his hair out and practically screaming: “WHY DO YOU ASSUME THAT THE REBELS BROKE THE CEASEFIRE FIRST?! THEY SAY THE UKRAINIAN ARMY FIRED ON THEM!”
Shhhh….Shhhhh… Allow me to explain, because this latest incident provides us with a wonderful lesson about understanding vatnik behavior. To understand it we only need to ask a few questions.
First, which side has a history of offering ceasefires, even unilaterally? This of course was Ukraine, which first announced a unilateral ceasefire starting in the end of June, 2014. During that time, they invited “rebel” representatives for negotiations and offered peace terms that would eventually evolve into the first and second Minsk accords. The opposition did not avail itself of this opportunity. In fact, even in April of 2014 acting president Turchynov offered the rebels full amnesty if they would relinquish control of the buildings they were occupying in Donetsk. They elected war instead.
Second, which side desperately needs peace, and which side is backed by a regional military power that openly refuses to obey international law or admit responsibility for any of its actions? Only very recently has the US approved the sale of lethal arms to Ukraine. By contrast the “rebels” have clearly been receiving arms and ammunition from Russia for quite some time, possible all of this year. What is more, Russia’s regime is arguably more stable and insulated against economic disaster compared to Ukraine, and I relish the idea of any Kremlin hack trying to argue against that point since they’ve been making exactly that claim, albeit with a lot of exaggeration and distortion, almost since the end of Maidan. Bottom line- The Ukrainian side has every incentive to seek peace, whereas the separatist side actually has an incentive to keep the war going so as to ensure Moscow’s continued support, which they still apparently have.
Next I must head off the objection that perhaps Ukraine broke the ceasefire in an attempt to launch some kind of offensive with the belief that ending the war would be the best way to assure that peace they desperately need. I’m sorry but the Ukrainian government and military simply aren’t that stupid. If you look at a detailed history of this war, you’ll see that Russian direct intervention was typically aimed at staving off a total rout of the “rebel” forces when they were pushed back to their starting points. Even if a Ukrainian general thought they had the capability of hammering their way into Donetsk and Luhansk and routing the pseudo-states, they’d have to factor in the very realistic possibility of direct Russian intervention yet again. If something didn’t go according to plan and the offensive got bogged down in the early stages, that plus Russian direct intervention could lead to an even bigger disaster which might see the “rebels” actually advance and take new territory. Also while I admit it is totally anecdotal, I’ve spoken to a lot of Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers and I can tell you none of them relish this war or the prospect of fighting at all; on the contrary, they absolutely hate it. So again, Ukraine is the side that needs peace and clearly wants peace, given its political-economic situation and its consistent behavior of offering truces and amnesties since April of 2014.
Getting back to our questions, which side has a habit of making bold threats and then walking them back when it turns out that their actions led to civilian deaths, as with MH17 (preceded by rebels bragging about possessing a Buk and then claims they’d shot down an AN-26 transport), the Volnovakha bus attack, and the shelling of Mariupul in January of this year? In the last case, Zakharchenko was actually in a press conference announcing the new offensive with glee. A bit later news started to trickle in about the killing of civilians in Mariupul and wouldn’t you know? Zakharchenko called off the offensive and as is always typical for the Russian government and its proxies, labeled the attack a “provocation,” thus indirectly accusing Ukraine of deliberately shelling its own territory with rockets.
Are you starting to see a pattern here? Good, because there’s a certain cycle to vatnik behavior that is repeated over and over again. It works something like this:
Stage 1 – Justification
It starts with vatniks telling themselves that their enemy does X, ergo they are justified in doing X too. Whether its claiming that “Banderites” are going to oppress them, America is trying to destroy them, or the West is waging an information war against them, nobody ever seems to raise their hand and ask: “Uh…Guys? Is that actually happening? Are we sure this is how things really work? How did this work out the last time we tried this?”
The point of the justification stage is not to convince any outside observers. The vatniks must justify their actions in their own mind, which at least suggests that on some level, they know they are morally wrong.
Stage 2 – Action without thinking followed by gloating
The vatnik is impulsive, and so once they’ve justified an action to themselves they will act without any prior analysis, self-criticism, or devil’s advocate talk. Once they have acting, we get gloating. “KRYM NASH (The Crimea is ours)!” “We told you to stay out of our skies!” “We’re going to save the world from ISIS!”
If the action occurs with very little resistance or criticism, which is rarely the case these days, then all’s well that ends well and the gloating continues. If not…
Stage 3 – Damage control level 1 AKA denial
Uh oh, it looks like the international community isn’t taking kindly to this poorly veiled invasion of a neighboring country! What can we do? Well let’s see… They say we’ve invaded this territory and we have soldiers there, so all we have to do to win is say they’re lying and that we don’t have any soldiers there.
Meanwhile we can use our state funded media to publish poorly fabricated stories about how it’s actually the US and NATO that have military personnel secretly serving in the region.
Stage 4 – Damage control level 2 What about…
Alright, they’re not falling for the denial, what with all their stupid video footage, photographs, eyewitness testimony from our own side, etc. It’s time to get this off our chests!
Yes, maybe we have a hand in this, but who are you to judge us? What about Libya? What about Iraq? What about slavery? What about the Crusades? What about the desolation of Carthage?
You have all these bloody episodes in your history, we know because you actually discuss them all the time, and yet you’d judge us for doing the same thing? Of course it’s not exactly the same. After all, it’s perfectly fine when we do it. But still. He who is without sin!
Stage 5- Full on meltdown
TURKISH ISLAMISTS ARE JOINING THE UKRAINIAN ARMY TO CRUCIFY RUSSIAN SPEAKING CHILDREN! COLOR REVOLUTIONS! GAY PROPAGANDA! THE EU IS DOOMED! LIES! LIES! EVERYONE IS LYING ABOUT US! THERE’S A DEEP-ROOTED INTERNATIONAL CONSPIRACY AGAINST US!
Naturally I’m having a bit of fun here, but follow pro-government Russian media and its supporters and you’ll see this pattern emerge almost every time, if not necessarily in that order. It always boils down to the entire world being part of a vast conspiracy to frame Russia for something they totally didn’t do, but if they did it would still be okay because America did it too. If we want to play it out in a simpler, summarized fashion, it looks something like this:
Russia: “We’re going to do X! And nobody can stop us!”
Media: “Hey, you did X, that thing you were talking about doing earlier.”
Russia: “LIAR! YOU’RE ALL LIARS! HOW COULD YOU ALL ACCUSE US OF DOING X? WHO IS CONTROLLING YOU?!”
Media: “Yeah but you were talking about X, and we found these people admitting to doing X, and it really looks like you did X, seeing as how X actually happened…”
Russia: “WHAT ABOUT Y?!”
Thankfully someone else has found the best way to describe this behavior, which they label infantilism, and they describe Putinism as essentially infantilism as a state ideology. Lucky for you someone with more drive than myself at the moment translated the article by Russian journalist Arkadiy Babchenko.
Getting back to the original point here, some foreign Kremlin supporters often whine about why it seems like correspondents from “the Western media” tend to distrust the Russian government’s statements and blame their proxies in Ukraine for things like breaking ceasefires. As I showed before, sometimes it’s just because of common sense, for example, Ukraine’s army had no reason to deploy SAM systems in eastern Ukraine and fire at a high-flying passenger aircraft, whereas the rebels had downed a Ukrainian transport before that day and clearly thought they’d shot down another one. Other times it’s simply because when you get to know this place long enough, and when you know enough about vatniks, you just understand that in all likelihood, they did it.
I know that sounds arbitrary and unfair but there’s a long pattern here, and when you establish such a pattern with no regard for your own credibility, you’re going to be judged accordingly, and yes, sometimes unfairly. That’s simply the consequences of certain behavior. In the downfall of the Russian empire, the Bolsheviks found and exposed many of the Tsarist government’s dirty dealings, including things like conspiracies cooked up by the Okhrana. After the fall of the Soviet Union, KGB front organizations and false flag ops were similarly exposed. It only stands to reason that some day the current regime will fall, its archives will be open, and we’ll find the truth about the Kursk, Nord-Ost, Beslan, Crimea, Donbas, Chaika, support for far-right parties, and so forth.