Tag Archives: donbass

What did you expect?

So I was reading this RFERL piece about a Russian businessman who claims to have rendered crucial assistance to the Russian government in the annexation of Crimea and the subsequent, aborted “Novorossiya” project. The reader is free to question the veracity of the witness, who remains anonymous, but I will say that for the most part, his story fits what we know and his attitude is exactly what one might expect from a disillusioned Russian imperialist. One particular line caught my eye, however:

“The Russian World that I dreamed of, that the people of Crimea expected, that the volunteers who died in Donbas believed in, crumbled into dust before my very eyes,” he recalled.”

Since 2014 we’ve all heard of this so-called “Russian World” (Русский Мир), but nobody’s been able to really define it. Earlier in the interview, the businessman laments what went on in the Donbas, where some people tried to make the Russian World a reality:

“In the pro-Russian zone [in Donbas], weapons were handed out to criminals and drug addicts who robbed people, ‘commandeered’ businesses, homes, and cars,” he said. “The situation for the Russian World project became more and more catastrophic. That romantic of the Russian World, Girkin, could not cope with the anarchy that was developing around him.”

Sounds to me like he got the Russian World right there. To be fair, it’s not so much exclusively the Russian world as it is largely the post-Soviet world, but of course a lot of that world happens to be Russia.

Honestly, what exactly was that Russian World he dreamed of? How was it supposed to be different than the actual, existing Russian World? Did these morons actually put their life on the lines believing that by carving out a portion of Ukraine, Russia would suddenly cease to suffer from massive corruption, crumbling infrastructure, and absence of rule of law?

The Donbas turned out exactly as we should have expected. It was a haven of organized crime, and then a government run by criminals hired those local criminals and sent some of their own criminals to start a war, and SURPRISE! The territories under the control of criminals are basically rife with, well, crime. How utterly unpredictable. Were I a Game of Thrones fan this would be the place where I write some joke referencing the unexpected death of a beloved character. But since I’m not I’ll just sarcastically say that turn of events was as unpredictable as the episode of BBC’s Fall of Eagles when Austro-Hungarian Crown Prince Rudolf killed himself along with a woman of ill repute.

Joking aside, this question of the Russian World or Russian civilization is a pretty serious one. Increasingly we hear Russian politicians and their supporters claim that theirs is a unique civilization, as good as if not better than the West. Now I don’t believe in “Western” superiority, but I and millions of others can’t help but notice that this degenerate West, which was supposed to be on the point of collapse for at least 100 years and still managed to come out on top in spite of two World Wars, seems to be doing significantly better than Russia according to almost every indicator.

Point this out, and the Russian World fans will tell you that what their country lacks in material wealth, they make up for in “spiritual values” or “moral values.” First of all this makes no sense, because Russia doesn’t lack material wealth. On the contrary, Russia’s unbelievably rich. And yet somehow that wealth barely filtered down to the majority of the population. While there were definitely concrete successes under Putin’s long reign, some of which haven’t yet started to rapidly roll back toward 90’s levels, there are many other indicators which beg the question: “What did they do with all that money?” And the answer to that question can largely be measured in yachts, luxury cars, palaces, property in New York, London, and the South of France, for starters.

On the topic of moral values, we must first conclude that both lying and stealing are both immoral and roundly condemned by virtually every religion and value system the world over. So those are two strikes right there. But of course the vatniks like to claim they have some kind of morality based on “traditional family values,” which just as it does in any country, turns out to be a really bizarre obsession with sexuality. And here too, Russia doesn’t really have leg to stand on when condemning Western countries. They attack tolerance for LGBT people in the West, but this is not a moral argument. If you think it is, just consider that the Mormons, for example, believe masturbation to be highly immoral. See how that works? In any case it’s a moot point because contrary to the stated beliefs of Russia’s leaders, Russian LGBT people exist whether they want to acknowledge them or not, and I think some of them know very well that homosexual activity takes place all the time in their country behind closed doors. Oh yes, I think some of them are authorities on that topic.

Whether its corruption or sexual promiscuity, the Russian World advocates always have a way out. “Oh no that’s not us! That’s the Western influence!” The extreme version of this is the so-called “National Liberation Movement’s” hilarious thesis that Russia has been “occupied” by the United States since 1991. But to whatever degree, the claim is idiotic. If the Russian soul has this inherent value, if the Russian World is so unique, it should have manifested by now. It should look different.

Imagine for a moment: Someone recommends you check out a diet plan to lose weight. You meet the person who developed the diet, and notice they are grossly overweight. You meet numerous people who swear by the diet and they’re all morbidly obese. You never see a single person adhering to this diet who is not overweight. Maybe, just maybe, there’s something wrong with that diet.

The bottom line is, the Russian World is what the Russian World does, and not what delusional dreamers such as Alexander Dugin or  Igor Girkin think it should be. If these figures thought that carrying out the Kremlin’s will would lead to anything other than the perpetuation of thievery and corruption, what can we call them but ridiculous naive? This is why their whining about “disillusionment” just like the source in the article is so pathetically laughable. You help a criminal in his crimes and expect something other than more crime? These people are either cynical liars or utter morons.

 

GUYS IT’S TOTALLY NOT KREMLIN-FUNDED!

Anyone remember this hilarious article about a propaganda-filled press junket to Moscow? Well guess what- Russia’s doubling down with a new press junket to Donetsk! Check it out:

A private Russian citizens’ initiative whose goal is to provide information about the Ukraine war not covered in the western media, is organizing a press tour to the Donbass and Moscow in the second half of March. The invitation is open to all journalists and bloggers, mainstream and alternative.

Hmmm… A “private Russian citizens’ initiative.”  That’s interesting. I’m sure there is no reason why I should be suspicious that his might be another government-backed propaganda ploy. After all, Russia is just full of well-funded citizens’ initiatives which have the money to pay for things like this. Oh…Wait…No.  Well maybe I’m wrong. Let’s take a look.

I am acquainted with the company organizing the tour, Europa Objectiv, and their CEO Andrei Stepanenko, and can confirm that they are a legitimate group and reliable people. They publish a German language news site providing news and analysis about what is going on in the Ukraine. http://www.europaobjektiv.com. Andrei asked me to share this information with our readership. Here is the announcement on their site in German.

They stress that they are a completely private initiative not funded by the Russian government, and from what I know about them, I believe this to be accurate, however, I should add the disclaimer that I cannot, obviously, confirm this absolutely.

There are a lot of these citizen initiatives in Russia, often organized by Russians frustrated with government policies they see as too hesitant, and many of them really are what they say they are. In the end analysis, I don’t think this is a critical issue. Participants should be aware that this group has a point of view they are trying to share, and factor that in to their reporting.

Wow. Trying hard enough there, buddy? At first I was skeptical but then he assured me that they really are what they say they are and it’s not a critical issue anyway. So yeah, I’m totally sold that there’s a well financed group in Russia with enough money to hook up something like this and that it is organized by people who are frustrated with the “too hesitant” government.  Totally plausible.

Looking at the German site, it’s pretty obvious that this is one of those possibly far-right wing pro-Russia organizations. Isn’t it a happy coincidence that their ideology just happens to line up with that of the Kremlin, in spite of the fact that it is totally not funded by the Russian government in any way?

What follows comes from the organization’s letter about the tour. Let’s take a look at their itinerary.

On the first day you will be able to meet with prominent Russian political scientists, experts on Ukraine, politicians, and hear their opinions on Ukraine crisis.

Oh wow, prominent Russian political scientists and experts on Ukraine! I wonder if this includes any of the brilliant minds who predicted that America would collapse years ago, or that the Ukrainian language was invented by Poland and Austro-Hungary! I’m sure we’ll get a broad range of opinions on the topic and by no means hear a litany about how the Ukrainians, who don’t really exist of course, are nothing but whores who sell-out to the West instead of standing up for themselves by becoming part of a new Russian empire.  Sounds to me like the guests will be in for a round of lecturing by “geopolitical experts,” also known as the people who don’t actually understand how the world works.  Be sure to bring your Geopolitical Expert Bingo Cards!

geopoliticalbingo

On the second day you will be able to see the exclusive video footages, photo and audio recordings captured by Russian journalists since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, which have never been broadcasted by the western mass media. Furthermore we’ll organize the meeting with the authors of these materials. You can freely use them to create your own materials.

Gee, I wonder if some of that material has never been shown in the West because it was obviously faked, just like the “satellite photos” that showed a Ukrainian Mig-29 shooting down MH17, or the footage of the woman who claimed that she saw Ukrainian soldiers crucify a young boy, or dozens of other fake photos, stories, and videos.

Naaaah. It must be because the entire Western media is controlled by Barack Obama. Think I’m joking? Keep reading.

Stage 2 – Donbas – (2 days, by request)

– we plan to meet with representatives of Donbas militia troops

– you will be able to talk to local citizens

– authorities of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic take over security issues and the possibility of maximum freedom of movement in Donetsk. As well as in Moscow “Europa Objektiv” will make video and audio recordings, these footages you can also use to create your own materials.

Obviously they will choose which citizens and militia members you can talk to. With no Russian skills, it will be next to impossible to know whether you’re talking to a local or someone from Russia. The Russian press has already been busted for using actors or actresses to pose as ordinary civilians. I’m sure this time they’ll do nothing of the sort.

The aim of the press tour:

– to provide exclusive video and photo materials for alternative mass media in Europe

– to enable journalists to witness the truth about the events taking place in Donbas, to communicate with the victims of the war in the East Ukraine, to make your own decision about the reasons of the war in the contemporary Europe, to show the world community the facts, that are hidden by the mass media controlled by the current U.S. administration: the bloody revolution on the Maidan in Kiev, glorification and rebirth of the fascism in Ukraine, the reasons of the rebellion of the civil population in the East Ukraine.

Yup, this is just to give journalists a totally objective view. An objective view of the bloody Nazi Maidan revolution that led to the crucifixion of Russian infants all the way to Kharkiv, that is! Am I the only one who finds it hilarious that these people can’t even try to hide their agenda even as they are claiming that they just want people to make up their own minds? What do you think these people would say if the EU or US funded a press junket to Kiev and the Ukrainian cities that have suffered shelling at the hands of the separatists? I can tell you their pitch would be a lot less blatant and yet these geopolitical jackasses would still be screaming “IIIIIIINFOOOOOORMAAAAAATIOOOON WAAAAAR!”  

Seriously- “Bloody” Maidan revolution? Most of the blood spilled was that of the protesters, and even that was no more than maybe 100 people. And remember what I said about Obama controlling the media? Well there it is in black and white. They say that the Western media is hiding facts at the behest of the Obama administration. That’s right, Obama controls not only private news corporations in the US, but he also controls outlets like The Guardian and the BBC.

Below I’d like to include a list of articles which apparently managed to slip past Obama’s censors.

Which Ukraine? by Sophie Pinkham in The New Yorker

Thousands of Ukraine nationalists march in Kiev  AFP

The untold story of the Maidan massacre by Gabriel Gatehouse BBC

Remember, readers, the Western media doesn’t report on this stuff! It’s all controlled by the White House! It doesn’t fit the narrative.

One year on: where are the far-right forces of Ukraine? Channel 4, UK

Ukraine’s Struggle Endangers Its Democracy Matthew Kupfer

The Western media never criticizes Maidan or the Ukrainian government! Obama won’t allow you to read that!

Is western media coverage of the Ukraine crisis anti-Russian?  various authors, The Guardian

Ukraine conflict: ‘White power’ warrior from Sweden By Dina Newman

REMEMBER! THE WESTERN MEDIA DOESN’T TALK ABOUT THE FAR-RIGHT AT MAIDAN! OBAMA WON’T LET THEM!

Ukraine arrests St. Petersburg sports columnist for treason

THEY NEVER REPORT ANYTHING BAD ABOUT THE KIEV JUNTA!! WHY CAN’T THEY BE MORE OBJECTIVE?!

Three by Christopher J. Miller

Rockets reportedly kill fleeing civilians in eastern Ukraine; Kyiv, insurgents swap blame

Civilians Caught In Crossfire: Safer to stay home or leave?

Ukraine denies using artillery in cities despite mounting evidence

OBAMA DOESN’T LET ANYONE REPORT ON THE SUFFERING CIVILIANS IN THE DONBASS!  YOU CAN’T GET THIS INFO ANYWHERE ELSE!

Okay I think I’ve made my point there. I could go on, posting dozens of articles from other Western media sources which either take a critical look at the Ukrainian government or report on the suffering of civilians in the separatist controlled areas. What I can’t do, however, is find any articles by any pro-Kremlin outlet which gives us a more even-handed narrative of Maidan or criticizes the annexation of the Crimea and the separatists. What you will also not find coming from the Western media are phony eyewitness stories told by actresses or deliberately photoshopped or misrepresented photos.

So yeah, please tell me how this is all about letting journalists make up their own mind. These people don’t even try.

UPDATE: Today the hard-hitting journalists at Russia’s Life News brought us a breaking story about black mercenaries fighting on the Ukrainian side. According to these totally believable reports, they were drunk and dancing on top of their tanks. Totally not racist.

Life News is not state run, but it is owned by a die-hard Putin supporter and close friend of the Kremlin. Keep this in mind next time you read something about a Russian “private citizens’ initiative” that has plenty of money to throw around.

BREAKING NEWS! Peace agreement reached!

I’ve been covering the negotiations in Minsk for most of the night and since sun up. As some of you may know, a peace agreement has been reached, signed by none other than Putin himself. However, some of you might not be familiar with the actual text of the agreement. Some points were added to the original Minsk protocol and the media has not yet released them. Luckily I was able to get that info via my own channels.

-Both the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic are to be merged into one territory known as the “Autonomous Republic of Banderovia.” The official language will be Galician Ukrainian. Failure to speak Ukrainian in public will be punished by imprisonment.

-Within 90 days of the agreement, each city within the autonomous region must erect no fewer than three monuments to Stepan Bandera.

-UN peacekeepers will occupy the region. The peacekeeping force will consist entirely of American military personnel.

-Same sex marriage is declared mandatory for all residents.

-The Russian Orthodox church is to be outlawed.

-The minimum price of vodka is to be raised no less than 300%.

-Signatories also agreed to a resolution affirming that the Second World War was won single-handedly by the United States, and that no other non-Axis countries contributed in any way worth mentioning. The text of this resolution is to be published in all school textbooks.

-Sunflower seeds are banned.

Armchair Pundit Phalanx

So apparently utterly unqualified armchair pundit Johan Kylander has an advocate in the US. This, dear readers, is why we have things like the anti-vaccine movement and the 9/11 Truthers- people “doing their own research” on the internet, carefully seeking out only those sources that fully conform to their preconceived worldview, with no understanding of politics, journalism, or history.

So-called “Random Pundit” apparently took issue with my recent article on Mr. Kylander. Here’s an excerpt:

“In many cases, to use a lead sentence in a recent post, the opposing tweeter’s or blogger’s ignorance is castigated on the basis that he or she is in a “goddamned La-z-Boy recliner.”

To be fair, Random Pundit probably didn’t read my recent article about armchair experts, which was more about pro-Kremlin bloggers as such people tend to be. On the other hand, most of those armchair experts at least have some experience in Russia.  Kylander admitted to not understanding Russian or Ukrainian and never having been to Ukraine. I’m really sorry to all you Junior Internet Detectives and Spies out there, but this is kind of important.

Getting back to the point, Random seems to perhaps unwittingly imply that my criticism is based on distance from the subject; it doesn’t. If I were living in the States, most of what I write about Russia would be just as valid. The only thing I would lose is the man-on-the-street view, but I could get a pretty decent idea of that via Russia’s social networks. Why would I still have that edge? Because I speak Russian, because I know where to get the info, and my experience tells me who can be trusted and who can’t.

Moving on, Random Pundit says this:

“Mr. Kylander may not have much street cred – he also admits to having “spent far too much time in the past indulging in online air combat simulations.” But whether he fits the mold of the eager young freelance journalist entering the warzone – of which there are many – or not, his opinions should ultimately get an audience, and matter, depending on whether they have any merit.”

Just a few minor corrections there. Mr. Kylander has zero street cred, and his opinions do not have merit. Nobody is denying him the right to make them or have an audience, but the world would be a much better place if people who don’t know what they are talking about would either be a bit more relaxed in pronouncing judgments on those who do, or at least put in the effort to inform themselves and thus increase their credibility.

If Kylander were a journalist in Ukraine, his arguments would at least be worth considering as he would be criticizing his peers. If there is no journalist working alongside those who end up on his list making similar criticisms, that speaks volumes about the credibility of Kylander’s condemnations.

Another post by Random Pundit explains why he has an affinity for Kylander. Apparently he has a problem with journalists who refer to the separatist forces as “rebels,” as opposed to Russian forces. In this article he quotes Kylander:

“The standard interpretation of “rebel” turns your mind to romantic guerilla warriors rising against an oppressive central power: Che Guevara, Pancho Villa, Guiseppe Garibaldi, Spartacus et al – or popular culture rebel icons such as James Dean, Robin Hood and Marlon Brando. It’s easy to like the rebel: he’s an underdog fighting for the people, for justice, for freedom. The Russian “rebels” have NOTHING in common with that concept or such role models.”

Kylander is playing word games here. He brings up rebel figures who are generally seen in a positive light. I could just as easily provide not-so-righteous examples of rebels such as the Confederate States of America, the Spanish nationalists, the Austrian branch of the NSDAP, the Croatian Ustase whose name actually means “rebel” or “insurgent,” and of course, the Islamic State.  I do not for a moment question Kylander’s concern about the connotation the word rebel can have, but popular perceptions aren’t relevant in specialized fields like journalism and politics. The indisputable fact that the insurgency in the Donbass is indeed a Russian-supported and Russian-financed project does not change the fact that it is by definition, a rebellion. Many historical rebellions were sponsored and or organized by state actors.

Random Pundit seems to take issue with journalists who use the term rebels as opposed to flat out calling them Russian invaders. The problem is, however, is that regardless of whether or not they are little more than dupes of Russia’s external propaganda projects, there is local support in the DNR and LNR held territory. If these people weren’t giving at least their passive support to the self-installed authorities, this whole project would have collapsed some time ago. It’s hard to estimate exactly how much of the separatist forces consists of Russian army personnel, Russian volunteer mercenaries, and local supporters, but I can tell you who doesn’t have any idea whatsoever- Johan Kylander.

Moreover, if you’re going to get angry at people calling these people rebels, take a look at how the OSCE refers to them. They’re not calling them all Russians. Numerous world leaders, while making accusations about Russian involvement still refer to the separatists as rebels or at least not Russian forces. What some people apparently fail to understand is that referring to the separatists as rebels is not mutually exclusive with pointing out that their rebellion is heavily supported, and I think at this point we can safely say entirely financed and supplied, by Russia.

Getting back to Kylander, if I have “vilified,” him as Random Pundit suggests, it is only because I have seen his type too many times before. These are the people who without any background knowledge or any conceivably logical motive, decide to take up the torch for one side in a conflict and attack anyone who dares question the narrative they decided to support. What is worse, these people have no real stake in the game.

Tonight I’m expecting a new Munich to take place in Moscow. I’m hoping I’m wrong, but there’s a good chance we’ll be left with another frozen conflict in Ukraine and Putin will once again get to prance around as this great statesmen who outsmarted the bumbling West. After all this time these European and American morons haven’t managed to figure out a type of personality that most of us clearly understood by the end of high school if not shortly thereafter. I suspect Kylander will soon get over the “rape” of Ukraine and eventually start blogging about some other conflict he knows nothing about in a country he’s never been to.

As for me, I don’t want to get too personal, but what I consider the loss of Ukraine is a bit more severe for me. I would go so far as it has caused a sort of existential crisis in my life, not only dashing hopes for Ukraine but also those for Russia. It actually makes a great deal of my most passionate, personal work utterly and permanently irrelevant. That Swedish meatball loses nothing from Ukraine, while I lose part of my heritage and my identity. So yeah, Ukraine going to hell in a handbasket kind of effects me. .

In his defense, Random Pundit seems far more objective to me than Kylander, but he’s still a blind man led by another blind man who also happens to be deaf. Journalists are supposed to let people speak for themselves. Some of those who were tarred as pro-Russian have in fact provided irrefutable proof of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, especially by interviewing “rebel” leaders like the Russian Igor Girkin. Random confuses journalism that doesn’t support his preconceived notions as “sloppiness.” I suggest he take up the issue with his leaders and the OSCE before getting angry at journalists just because they occasionally point out that there are actually locals who support the insurgency in one way or another. If people like Christopher Miller or Oliver Carroll were deliberately concealing the Russian presence or labeling actual Russian personnel as local rebels, he would have a point, but that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening.

UPDATE: I just want to say that after some extended Twitter back and forth with Random Pundit, I find him to be pretty reasonable. Too bad I can’t say the same for the Swede.

A very cold day in hell

Hell must have frozen over, because a Kremlin-linked Russian nationalist has actually taken responsibility for something.  Igor “Strelkov” Girkin, former rebel military commander in Eastern Ukraine and a Russian citizen with ties to intelligence services, has actually claimed personal responsibility for what has happened, and what is currently happening in Ukraine. He has apparently admitted the following:

-There was no real conflict in Ukraine until his unit crossed the border, i.e. from Russia.

-At first, “90 percent” of the rebel forces were local. That apparently changed as they were joined by thousands of Russian military personnel supposedly “on vacation.”

-Russia has definitely been sending material aid to the rebels, in spite of what it has claimed thus far.

-Those who created the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics never intended to create functional states(no shit). They were betting on Russia absorbing them like the Crimea, but instead the Kremlin told them to open a dialog with Kyiv. Even recently, Russia refused to recognize their recent elections. It is curious that Russia’s stance seems to have changed after the first round of modest sanctions were levied on key individuals after the Crimean annexation. It’s hard to pretend as though this wasn’t driven by fear and cold, calculating self-interest on the part of Moscow’s oligarch elite.

The article also notes how Strelkov seemed to “disappear” from state run newscasts, implying that he might have fallen out of favor with the Kremlin’s media. Given the importance of what Strelkov has now admitted, and the fact that he is all but refuting Moscow’s denials about helping the rebellion in Ukraine, it seems that he may be in danger of disappearing altogether.  Months ago Russian nationalist figures were praising him as a potential replacement to Putin, thus marking him as a potential threat to the leader. That alone was bad enough. After this, Mr. Girkin might want to consider slipping across the border and running like hell, before he meets those ever dangerous “unknown masked assailants” who plague Russia’s dissidents and journalists.

Good Analysis or Concern Trolling? YOU be the judge!

A concern troll visits sites of an opposing ideology and offers advice on how they could “improve” things, either in their tactical use of rhetoric, site rules, or with more philosophical consistency.

So recently I was reading this article from Charles Turner about the issue of various people on both sides of the political spectrum turning a blind eye to the actions of the side they support, be it Maidan or what is perceived to be the “pro-Russian” resistance.  I have some points of contention with the analysis, but I think it has just enough unique features that it deserves serious consideration. Most of what we read on the conflict is so ridiculously one-sided that articles like this deserve credit at least for being different.

First off, however, let me say I hate the first textwall of a paragraph. I get what the author was going for, but this just didn’t work.  If you need to use a historical analogy to preface the point your article is going to make, either make it short or make it exciting.  After this start, it seems the author unfairly targets “left liberals”(as though they are the same), claiming that they are being reluctant to criticize Russia in this matter because they are afraid of sounding like they are taking up Washington’s line.  He compares this to their behavior on Syria as well. I have a few problems with this.

First, he doesn’t really identify which “left liberals” he’s talking about. When it comes to liberals, based on my own experience the opposite has been true, at least on this matter of Ukraine. As is typical for Western liberals, who so love living vicariously through any protest movement without knowing what it’s about or who is involved, I saw mostly support from them.  When I posted in one left but ultimately more liberal group about the need to support anti-fascists in Ukraine, people who were supposedly supporters of non-sectarian anti-fascism suddenly wanted to have a debate about which country is truly supporting fascism. In other words, the typical Maidan apologist’s Fascism Negation Principle, which states that the existence of fascists in one country negates the presence of fascists in their rival country.  To the sane world, this is known as a “tu quoque” fallacy, which is unfortunately a fundamental part of any discourse on Eastern Europe.

When it comes to the more radical leftist circles in which I inhabit online, this actually is a justified gripe. It’s easy to express disgust and revulsion at nationalists who praise Stepan Bandera and whitewash the history of the UPA, but many of them seem to find it hard to condemn a government which happily appropriates Soviet symbols, the most relevant in this case being Victory Day, of course. Russia, more than any other former Soviet country, wants to be seen as the heir to the USSR’s victory over fascism. Unfortunately fascist and far-right wing ideologies dominate Russian politics, to the point where the figure you see condemning fascism in Ukraine may hold beliefs which are more or less identical to that of Praviy Sektor or Svoboda. Also the blanket term anti-imperialism is often thrown about, and as the author of the piece suggests, they often liken it to the situation in Syria. The problem with playing the anti-imperialism card here is that the situation is different from the case of Syria or Libya. In those situations, two regimes, all shortcomings aside, were defending their own territory against insurgent movements. Say what you want about Assad, but his regime promotes tolerance among the different religious groups in his country, whereas the foreign-backed rebels are predominately Salafist fanatics who have demonstrated that they have no compunction against murdering even children who do not abide by their strict rules.  Leftists in the West are easily able to watch RT and hear condemnations of fascism, and they see Soviet symbols used by Russians, but they are unable to read Russian and have no firsthand knowledge of Russian politics. If they did, they’d be shocked by some of the things one can hear from many Russian “Communists.”

Anti-imperialism doesn’t cut it here because in the Russian government and in Russia in general there is a very pro-imperialist sentiment which is in some ways far worse than that of the US or Europe when it comes to Ukraine. Both the EU and US clearly don’t give a shit about what regime dominates Ukraine so long as it is profitable to their interests, which is why they so readily turn a blind eye to the nature of the Maidan regime. Russian attitudes, on the other hand, are very different. The idea of an independent Ukraine is anathema to them. This is why they cheer on the Crimean annexation and hope that the new Donbass Republic(or whatever the fuck they’re calling it now) will be annexed by Russia. For a people who largely say they look favorably on the USSR, they are happy to piss all over its nationalities policy, drafter by Stalin and implemented both by himself and Lenin previously. Even when talking about the Ukrainian SSR, it is characterized as a “gift” that Moscow gave Ukrainians, and whenever Ukrainians fail to express sufficient gratitude the venom at “khokhly”(derogatory for Ukrainian) flows freely. This is why for me, as sad as it was to watch, it was no mystery at all why so many Maidan supporters were in fact Russian speakers, some of whom swelled the ranks of the extreme right.  Ukrainian nationalists offer a fairy tale history, but it’s a flattering fairy tale. Russia’s post-Soviet fairy tale history is insulting and chauvinistic, with Moscow as the protagonist who plays Prometheus to all the former Soviet republics.  So to sum up this point, yes there is the issue of American and European imperialism, but Russian imperialism is not only a factor in this conflict, but it is also one which fanned the flames of Ukrainian nationalism in the first place. What is more, it is weakening the country and making it damned near impossible to create a Ukrainian anti-Maidan, the only thing which could ever decisively defeat the nationalists permanently.

Getting back to the article, the author really shines when he gives his assessment of Tim Snyder’s fawning praise of Maidan with this satirical yet quite accurate passage.

From the other side there is not so much blind eye turning as dewy-eyed romanticism, led by the Yale historian Tim Snyder: where Putin saw only extremists in Maidan square, Snyder implies that Ukraine is already ready to join the EU because the leader of a group of frightening looking men in combat fatigues is really a gay hairdresser from the Donbas, while the new deputy minister for whatever is a Jewish transvestite whose mother was a disabled German preacher.

Right on the money. As far as I know, Snyder was not present at Maidan, yet he was eager to tell his audience about the vast diversity of the Maidan movement. He even went so far to tell us that maidan is an Arabic word. To me it came off sounding like the typical white-guy defense when being called out for racism. “What me, racist? But I once dated a Chinese girl! I have many black friends! My housekeeper is from Ecuador!” Snyder carefully downplayed the role of nationalist extremists, ignoring the fact that a memorial march for Stepan Bandera took place during Maidan and it garnered no criticism from the rest of the pro-EU Rainbow Coalition which apparently existed in Snyder’s mind.  He also forgot to mention that the widely used chant “Glory to Ukraine” and its response “Glory to the Heroes” was in fact invented by the OUN(Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists). With this kind of open, brazen, and violent nationalist behavior, how could Russian-speaking Ukrainians not look upon these events with horror and believe that they may be at risk? Bottom line- I don’t give a shit if Synder is a professor at Yale. A PhD is not a license to re-write history or peddle bullshit about the present. And Tim, if you’re reading this, did you know that Bandera is a Spanish word?

As the author Turner moves on with his piece, he agrees with Snyder that Russia is afraid of having “democracy” on its doorstep.  The idea is that if Ukraine joins the EU, something which wasn’t even on the table, it will acquire this “democracy” and then this will threaten the Russian regime. There are a couple problems with this though. The first is that for all its problems, Ukraine was pretty democratic compared to Russia, and this hasn’t made much of an impact. Sure there was election fraud in 2004, but the Orange Revolution overturned that and then fixed all of Ukraine’s problems. Oh…Wait…No. The Orange Revolution was pretty much a total failure, during which president Yushchenko’s approach to solving Ukraine’s problems consisted of virtually nothing other than trying to get Ukraine in NATO and rewriting history to whitewash and glorify the UPA. It’s worth noting in passing, however, that the Orange Revolution was not seen as so threatening to the East that it seriously considered separatism. The difference between the methods of that failed “revolution” and Maidan may account for this, for while nationalists were present in the Orange movement, their participation was nowhere near as blatant as it was with Maidan.  Getting back to this point, Yushchenko was then ousted once again by Yanukovych in an election which European observers called fair.  Russia has yet to achieve this level of liberal democracy.

The second point which derives from the previous one, is that liberal democracy alone is not enough to be threatening to the Kremlin regime. There also needs to be prosperity, something which the EU Association Agreement was unlikely to bring in the short term, and which is probably out of the question now, both for what’s left of Ukraine and the Eastern separatist region.  Latvia and Estonia are both actual EU members which border Russia, yet neither impress Russians the way countries like Germany, Spain, the US, or Sweden do.  That being said, if Ukraine had a functioning liberal democracy and maybe the economic success of say, the Czech Republic, that would indeed be threatening to the Kremlin even without EU or NATO membership.  What you would have is a massive population of Russians and people who Russians see as Russians or “brother peoples,” living under very different conditions than themselves.  I realize the reader may not be able to comprehend the significance of this but it is crucial and I will attempt to explain.

When people ask me about my visits to Kyiv, I would often say that to the untrained eye, it might feel as though they were in Russia but with different flags and a different language on the signs. People not schooled in Russian language might not notice the difference at all.  Different money, different symbols, different flags, but in many ways Russian and with nearly everyone around you speaking Russian constantly. I have never been to Minsk in Belarus, but every Russian who has been there tells me how impressed they were at how clean and orderly everything is. The only thing that keeps Belarus from being a threat to Russia for this reason is that yes, Lukashenko has been there for so long, and the country is unfortunately totally dependent on Russia. But what if Ukraine were both successful and democratic in the liberal sense?  Russians would go to this “other” Russia and see people like themselves leading better lives. They would see real opposition in the country’s parliament, not revolving around nationalist rhetoric but actual disagreement over policies. They would see citizens more freely protesting about various issues and there’d be less inclination to believe that many of these organizations are just government fronts. Then the question would arise. If these Russians in Ukraine can live this way, why can’t we? Maybe Russians actually don’t need a strong leader to tell them what to do. Maybe they don’t need to settle for poverty and “spiritual values” while their politicians and spiritual leaders cruise around in foreign-built luxury cars and reside in massive palatial compounds isolated from the lowly people.

Of course that scenario is unlikely to happen now. In fact it is the Ukrainian nationalists and Maidan which first fucked that dog.  By clothing their struggle in nationalist symbolism and rhetoric, it ruined any chance to create a progressive Ukrainian movement which was resolutely in favor of Ukrainian independence and uniqueness, yet inclusive of all ethnic groups.  Yes, I realize that Maidan supporters swear up and down that their movement was not anti-Russian, but I have yet to have met the Maidan supporter who freely condemns Bandera, the UPA or OUN, or the inclusion of these symbols and themes in their movement.  Almost from the beginning, Maidan was characterized from both within and without as a movement against Russia, that is to say Russia versus Ukraine.  It was heavily influenced by people who don’t see Russians, or those Ukrainians who do not conform to their nationalist ideology, as true citizens of Ukraine. Being excluded, many of those people did the most logical thing. Having been labeled Russian and indeed “Moskali,” they threw in their lot with Russia.  Had the opposition done things differently, excluding instead the nationalists as outdated dead-enders who long since expended their chances to do anything positive for Ukraine with no success whatsoever, Ukraine might be solidly unified today, including the Crimea.  Russia would not be able to touch it.

In my final thoughts on this article, I have to say that leftists can and should take sides on this issue, and our side should be resolutely anti-fascist. In no way does this mean we should or have to take Russia’s side. It is the fanatics of Maidan and Team Russia who want to force us to do just that, and we must consistently refuse.  Unfortunately, there is nothing which can be done about the Russian government right now, and this is not our fault. The Western nations and particularly the Obama administration have bumbled around so much as to severely hamper Russia’s opposition movement and hand Putin the highest approval he has had in years, if not his whole career. We as leftists must not let our disgust with Kremlin politics allow us to support a regime which came to power under highly questionable circumstances, willfully associates with far-right extremists and apologizes for them, crushes dissent with conventional military forces, and sits back while armed fascist thugs murder people with firebombs.  Nor should we act like racism against Russians is somehow acceptable. Furthermore, we shouldn’t forget that there are significant groups among the anti-government resistance in Ukraine which do not support the Kremlin or annexation. In fact from the poll I’ve seen, a majority of people in Southeast Ukraine do not want to be a part of Russia any more than they want to be dictated to by Kyiv’s current regime.  In short, leftists need to take a principled line. That’s easier said than done, but I have a general rule of thumb which works pretty well for this.  Basically, if the Maidan supporters think you’re pro-Putin and the Team Russia supporters think you’re a Maidan-loving liberal sack of shit, you may be doing something right.

As for my final verdict on Turner’s piece? In some ways I feel it’s close to concern trolling, in this case causing leftists to second guess their positions on this matter while generally leaning closer to the EU side.  Then again, it is often a sad fact that leftists and liberals will frequently second guess themselves and agonize over whether they are doing the right thing, something which isn’t a problem for the right. In other words, Turner probably is totally sincere but like many liberals(assuming he identifies as such), he’s having trouble dealing with the realization that Maidan was nothing but a big shit sandwich that totally squandered any positive aspect it could have had.  He definitely makes some key points which are unheard of in Western Maidan coverage, and he took a courageous stand against Snyder’s bullshit, which itself came off as concern trolling.  Snyder’s popular article tells us to take a look at Maidan through the “haze of propaganda,” but when we read it we find that all the propaganda comes from Russia’s side, and as it turns out the real fascists are only in Russia! That, my friends, is serious concern trolling.  So aside from that slog through the opening paragraph, I think Turner did good work. Even where I disagree, I see merit in his points, and that’s about as much as you can ask for during this international cluster fuck.