Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them …
Volleyed and thundered;
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
Rode the six hundred.
— Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1854
Outside the United States which suffers from a virtual media blackout, the world clenches its collective jaw and trembles. The situation is being compared to the October1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when Kennedy and Khrushchev stood toe to toe and missiles on both sides were ready to fly. The Russian ships were heading inexorably towards Cuba, just “90 miles away” from the U.S., and U.S. blockaders were ready to come aboard. The two men cut a deal. Russia would not unload its “Missiles of October,” and the U.S. pledged that it would not invade Cuba.
Today, we might not be so lucky. It’s not simply two resolute men under the gun. There are too many players, some of them quite insane. In the U.S., it’s not even clear who’s in charge. Blinken, Biden, the Republicans, the Pentagon, the CIA, all are playing their own games. The American economy is in difficult straits, U.S. leadership is splintered and near paralyzed. The electorate has lost all faith. As Russian President Vladimir correctly put it, the U.S. is not “agreement-capable.” America’s key ally, the European Union, is in worse shape than the U.S. and splintering piece by piece, as fascists think they are calling the shots. The pressure from the impending demise of the American Empire creates a double-or nothing hysteria. Too many people think that playing Russian Roulette with nukes is the easy way out.
Many flashpoints are developing around the world. The most current is Ukraine. Perhaps a bit of history is called for.
Empires and their Discontents.
One of the unfortunate by-products of Western empires is that they result in countries whose borders are determined by wars and/or power-play negotiations among various countries which do not have the slightest interest in the well-being of the native residents living within those borders. Africa, the Middle East, Asia and what they call Eastern Europe. Such is also the case of Ukraine, sandwiched between Russia and Poland.
The second-largest country in Europe, after Russia, though desperately poor, Ukraine was once part of Poland. Since 1783, western Ukraine had been absorbed into the Russian Empire of the czars, while its territory was eventually split between Russia and Poland (also part of the Russian Empire). Eastern Ukraine was effectively “Russified,” while Western Ukraine remained Polish-speaking. From October 1853 to February 1856, it became a battleground between a French/British alliance against Russia. Crimea became a primary arena in the Crimean War, highlighted by the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava and the fall of the Russian fortress at Sevastopol following an 11-month siege.
After the Russian Revolution in 1917, Ukraine was again laid waste as the Red Army and the White counter-revolution had it out. The primarily Russian-speaking part of Ukraine formally became part of the Soviet Union in 1922, with the Western segment becoming part of Poland.
At the outbreak of World War 2 in 1939, per Wikipedia, “The Soviet invasion of Poland [per the Hitler-Stalin pact] brought together Ukrainians of Soviet Ukraine and the Ukrainians of what had been Eastern Poland (Kresy), under the single Soviet banner.”
In 1941, In the eastern parts of, millions fled to the Soviet Union, joined the Red Army, or fought on the side of the Red Army as regulars or as partisans.
In western Ukraine, SS head Reinhard Heydrich’s Einsatzgruppen worked hand-in-hand with Ukraine’s local Auxiliary Police as they traveled in the wake of the German armies, and by mass shootings and mobile gassing vans, murdered more than two million people, including 1.3 million Jews. Per Wikipedia:
“Those Ukrainians who did collaborate with the German occupiers did so in various ways including participating in the local administration, in German-supervised Auxiliary Police, Schutzmannschaft, in the German military, and serving as concentration camp guards. Nationalists in western Ukraine were among the most enthusiastic and hoped that their efforts would enable them to re-establish an independent state later on … As late as 1945, Ukrainian militants were still rounding up and murdering Jews.”
At the end of World War 2, the Soviet Union regained control of Ukraine, reclaiming those parts which had been lost to Poland in the course of the Russian Civil War. What were the Soviets thinking? Buffer zone.
The term “Westphalian” is popping up from time to time, derived in popular jargon from the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. By the end of the Thirty Years War, Europe was wracked by religious wars between Catholics, Protestants and Calvinists (and their various sub-sects), reportedly killing some 4.5 to 8 million people, including up to 60% of the population in some areas of Germany.
“Scholars of international relations have identified the Peace of Westphalia as the origin of principles crucial to modern international relations, including the inviolability of borders and non-interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign states.”
In other words, nations engaged each other on a “nation to nation” level, on the basis of what they perceived as their “national interests.” After World War 2, the world order, including the United Nations, was managed (however poorly) by Westphalian principles. The “rules-based international order” of the American neocons defies Westphalian principles, instead asserting U.S. national interests as universal.
Thus the U.S. brandishes “human rights” (as the U.S. defines them) becoming a weapon giving the U.S. the right to intervene anywhere at any time for what are essentially the religions of Democracy and anti-Communism. It makes for a very unstable world.
Russia and China are reasserting a return to Westphalian principles. They see respect for national sovereignty as the foundation of stable international relations. China, through its Belt and Road Initiative, also sees it as the basis of further human development, with its projects encompassing 70 different countries reflecting myriad internal politics and national interests. The U.S. became proof of Chinese “aggression.”
Over the centuries, Russia has been repeatedly invaded across the lush fields of Poland and Ukraine. For Allowing Western Europe to mass its armies right up against Russia’s borders was and is considered an existential, i.e., mortal threat. So after WW2, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union divvied up Europe between West and East to achieve a modicum of peace, part of the “understanding” was that Ukraine was never to become part of NATO. They call it a red line. Casus belli.
Donald Trump had been something of a Westphalian, i.e., he was not out to build some “rules-based international order.” He was honest in not giving a rat’s ass for human rights, hobnobbing with fascists, and doing what he could to grind the poor into the dirt. But those weren’t what the so-called Deep State wanted to get him on. He saw international relations as being state-to-state, between ostensibly sovereign nations. Not just to hell with Russia, but to hell with Germany, to hell with China, to hell with the whole European Union. We’re Number One! We’re Number One!
It’s 2021, and the shit is really hitting the fun. A more dignified person might say that the world is going through a major paradigm shift. Per Wikipedia and philosopher Thomas Kuhn:
“Paradigm shifts arise when the dominant paradigm under which normal science operates is rendered incompatible with new phenomena.”
Such was Galileo’s “discovery” that the Earth orbited around the Sun, and not vice versa. Such was a fundamental paradigm shift.
Superficially, it would appear that the “phenomena” hitting the U.S. like a pair of icebergs hitting the Titanic were the emergence of China and the Covid pandemic. And the impact of that one-two punch has exponentially revealed the inner rot of the American Empire as it unravels its government gripped by a deadly paralysis, while China has achieved “superpower” status. Intellectuals across the political spectrum get this, with varying degrees of discomfort.
Major paradigm shifts are not generally warmly welcomed. Galileo was tried for heresy by the Inquisition, and forced to recant under threat of torture. He was sentenced him to spend the rest of his life under house arrest.
Likewise, the American Empire has been less than thrilled.
Almost High Noon in the Ukraine.
The prognosis for the American Empire is “terminal.” It was trying live on the Methedrine high of a soaring stock market, but it can’t just crank up production as it sees fit. Not enough goods for all those inflated dollars. A piece by Richard Haass and Charles Kupchan in Foreign Affairs sums it up nicely:
“Pax Americana is now running on fumes. The United States and its traditional democratic partners have neither the capability nor the will to anchor an interdependent international system and universalize the liberal order that they erected after World War II.”
Since the U.S. cannot out-produce China on the world market, they are operating on the basis that the alternative is to simply cripple China and Russia, whatever the cost to human development. Thus Biden and his Obama-era retreads — Tony Blinken, Secretary of State; Victoria Nuland, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs; and Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor have been going Full Court Press against Russia, China and Iran, whom they consider threats to America’s National Security if for merely being economic competitors.
The U.S. ships arms to Taiwan, patrols the South China Sea, runs NATO “training” exercises, trying to sabotage the Nordstream 2 pipeline project. They hurl unsubstantiated charges over human rights, Aleksei Navalny, attempted assassinations, blowing up ammo dumps seven years ago, under the catch-all of “aggressive” economic practices. And sanctions, sanctions, sanctions.
Russia, China and Iran are supposed to collapse under the barrage, and indeed they have taken some damage, but nothing compared to that self-inflicted by the U.S and its allies, which are still buried in Covid and splintering under the pressure. Instead, Russia, China and Iran have accelerated their own measures to become sufficiently self-sufficient to survive without the U.S. and Western Europe. Every day, their international transactions are conducted more in currencies other than US$. They break the blockade around Iran. They are signing military and economy cooperation agreements left and right. You want to expel Russian Embassy staff? Yours can go home too.
Playing the long game, Russia, China and Iran would win. Russia has the guns, China has the manufacturing base (the EU’s #1 trading partner last year), and Iran has missiles and allies within range of Israel. Paradigm shift is not just some philosophical abstraction.
So Biden & Co. are rolling the dice. The battle lines have been drawn.
The battleground would be Ukraine, where in 2013 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had been turning the screws on Ukraine’s economy, demanding major budget cuts and a 40% increases in gas prices in exchange for an IMF loan. President Viktor Yanukovych balked at the terms.
According to the November 21, 2013 New York Times:
“Ukraine announced Thursday that it had suspended its plans to sign far-reaching political and trade agreements with the European Union and said it would instead pursue new partnerships with a competing trade bloc of former Soviet states.
“The decision largely scuttles what had been the European Union’s most important foreign policy initiative: an ambitious effort to draw in former Soviet republics and lock them on a trajectory of changes based on Western political and economic sensibilities. …
“On Thursday, several hundred protesters gathered in Independence Square in Kiev. Carrying European flags, they chanted, “Ukraine is Europe!”
The crowds were motivated by a combination of the economic hardships brought about by Ukraine’s economic plight, U.S./EU encouragement that saw an opportunity for regime change, and agitation from fascist groups like Svoboda and Right Sector, based in the formerly Polish parts of Ukraine.
The Empire had its chance to strike back. “Super maidan” was carefully stage-managed by Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, NATO, Britain’s MI6, and the CIA.
Per Spengler in Asia Times:
Bringing democracy to Russia has been an obsession of American policy since the fall of Communism, and revolution in Kiev has always been a way-station towards regime change in Russia for ideologues like Victoria Nuland, now the State Department’s number three official. In 2014, Nuland, then the Obama Administration’s ranking official for European affairs, was caught on tape cherry-picking members of the next Ukrainian regime after the Maidan coup.
As the protests grew, the Cabinet of Ministers, by a secret resolution, increased the size of the Berkut (special police) six-fold to 30,000. Using weapons handed them by the Berkut, the openly fascist forces moved to take over, working hand-in-hand with the Berkut and with Right Sector providing the shock troops. Right Sector provocateurs are reported to have been behind the snipers firing on and killing protestors, and then blaming it on government security forces. Per Wikipedia:
“Right Sector claims that it was the main organizer of violent resistance against armed attacks by the state at Euromaidan. Yarosh stated that the group had amassed a sizable arsenal of weapons; these include guns taken from police stations in Western Ukraine. … Right Sector seized military weaponry from an Interior Ministry arsenal in western Ukraine, near Lviv.”
Their neo-Nazi partner was the political party Svoboda, which had copped 10.44% of the vote in Ukraine’s 2012 election to the Rada (Ukrainian Parliament), winning 38 out of 450 seats, and receiving 30–40% if the vote in three districts.
On February 21, the government surrendered. The 21 February Agreement marked the effective end of the street-fighting. On February 22, 2014, the Rada voted to depose President Yanukovych, who subsequently fled the country. The Rada promptly annulled the law that provided for Russian to be used as a second official government language in regions with large Russian-speaking populations.
The people of Crimea and the oblast of Donetsk and Lushank (the Donbas) feared a massacre, recalling the massacre of more than 8,000 Muslims in Kosovo in 1995. They called on Russia and Vladimir Putin to intervene.
On February 25, hundreds of pro-Russian protesters surrounded the Crimean parliament demanding that the country deny recognition of the central government of Ukraine and called for a referendum on Crimea’s status.
On February 27, Russian troops moved into Crimea and took control of Sevastopol and its historic fortress, which had stood off siege by French and British armies in 1855, and had fought off the Nazi juggernaut for nearly seven months in 1942.
The March 16 referendum asked, “Do you support the reunification of Crimea with Russia with all the rights of the federal subject of the Russian Federation?” It was held on, 2014. Per Wikipedia:
“The official result from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea was a 97% vote for integration of the region into the Russian Federation with an 83% voter turnout, and within the local government of Sevastopol there was also a 97% vote for integration of the region into the Russian Federation with an 89% voter turnout.”
Russia recognized the Republic of Crimea as a sovereign state.”
Given Crimea’s history, near universal use of the Russian language, and cultural heritage, there is no reason to doubt the validity of the outcome.
The Donbas is the region of South-Eastern Ukraine made up of the oblosts (districts) of Donetsk and Lushank. Following the successful secession of Crimea, pro-Russian forces in both made moves towards independence.
In Donetsk in April, the independence forces took to the streets. It eventually led to storming government offices, demanding unification with Russia. On 6 April, the group’s leaders announced that a referendum for May 11, asking, “Do you support the Act of State Self-rule of the Donetsk People’s Republic/Luhansk People’s Republic?” They asked Russia for support, but Putin held off, suggesting that the referendum be put off, pending further “dialogue.”
The referendum had posed the question as independence, Yes or No. But polling had indicated that there was also a third body of opinion, remain part of Ukraine but with a high degree of autonomy and self-rule.
Acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov launched what he called an “Anti-Terrorist Operation” (ATO). The Ukrainian army and its neo-Nazi paramilitary forces invaded the Donbas, with bitter back-and-forth fighting. They also began a campaign of assassinations against Donbas leaders. But the referendum went ahead. In Donetsk, per Wikipedia:
“The referendum organizers stated that 2,252,867 voted in favour of self-rule, with 256,040 against, on a turnout of nearly 75%.”
Similar events transpired in Luhansk. On 27 April 2014, pro-Russian protesters there announced creation of the “Luhansk People’s Republic” with a parallel referendum. Per Wikipedia:
“The planned referendum on the status of Luhansk oblast was held on 11 May 2014. The organisers of the referendum said that 96.2% of those who voted were in favour of self-rule, with 3.8% against. They said that voter turnout was at 81.”
On 24 May 2014 the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) jointly announced their intention to form a confederated “union of People’s Republics.” It was all-out war.
The Ukrainian army and its fascist paramilitaries moved in. Russia responded with anti-aircraft weapons, heavy artillery, and Russian volunteers. The U.S. and NATO helped direct the Ukrainian offensive from the sidelines. The front lines see-sawed back and forth, with heavy casualties on both sides.
The Ukrainian army was decisively defeated at Debaltseve. Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said that his Armed Forces had lost between 60% men and 65% of their total active equipment over the course of the war.
On September 5, Ukraine, Russia, the DPR, and the LPR agreed to a ceasefire, with a prisoner exchange, and removal of heavy weapons. Humanitarian corridors would be created for civilians to flee to “safety.” The DPR and LPR insisted on full independence, but that was of course unresolved.
The ceasefire never took hold. Sporadic skirmishes between DPR and Ukrainian forces continued at Donetsk International Airport following the signing of the Minsk Protocol on 5 September 2014.
On 15 February 2015, the both sides signed the Minsk II agreement. The crux of the matter lies in Section (4).o04
“On the first day after the pullout a dialogue is to start on modalities of conducting local elections in accordance with the Ukrainian legislation and the Law of Ukraine ‘On temporary Order of Local Self-Governance in Particular Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts,’ and also about the future of these districts based on the above-mentioned law.
“Without delays, but no later than 30 days from the date of signing of this document, a resolution has to be approved by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, indicating the territory which falls under the special regime in accordance with the law ‘On temporary Order of Local Self-Governance in Particular Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts,’ based in the line set up by the Minsk Memorandum as of 19 September 2014.”
This did not happen. The Kiev government went into stall mode. There would be no concessions whatsoever to creating any kind of self-government for the Donbas. The years since have been marked by lethal sniping and artillery exchanges.
With Biden ensconced in the driver’s seat, Ukraine was still to be the dagger aimed at the heart of Russia.
April 20, 2021` New York Times:
“The lettering above the skull on their shoulder patches read: ’Ukraine or death.’ … In Avdiivka, a volunteer unit of Ukraine’s ultranationalist Right Sector keeps a pet wolf in a cage outside the commander’s office. The commander, Dmytro Kotsyubaylo — his nom de guerre is Da Vinci — jokes that the fighters feed it the bones of Russian-speaking children.”
So reads a puff piece on the “point of contact” between “Ukraine’s ultranationalist Right Sector” and the Donbas, where Right Sector has its own volunteer battalion to fight in the War against Donbas. That shoulder patch described above was that of the death’s head insignia once worn by the SS.
Such are America’s friends.
The situation had remained somewhat stable since 2014, with a series of temporary cease-fires as backdrop to the Minsk negotiations. In 2019, then-President Petro Poroshenko was defeated for the Ukraine presidency by the ostensibly peace-loving Volodymyr Zelensky, who had prepared for the job by playing president in his own comedy show, Servant of the People. His attempts to dismiss the head of the SBU (security apparatus), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Defence were immediately thwarted. His greatest role would be to play “puppet,” joining the long string of liberals launching wars to prove their strength and patriotism.
Nazis of every stripe began making statements saying that a) the Ukrainian army was capable and willing to “liberate” all of the “Russian occupied” Ukrainian land thus, including both Crimea and the Donbass. The DPR/LPR are painfully aware of the “dynamics” of Eastern European “politics.” As Business Insider relates:
“On July 11, 1995, over three years into the civil war in Bosnia, Bosnian Serb militants overran a UN-established safe zone in the eastern town of Srebrenica, separated about 8,000 Muslim men and boys from the women who had sought shelter in the area, led them into fields and warehouses in surrounding villages, and massacred them over the course of three days.”
Announced Biden, “Crimea is Ukraine.”
On March 24, Zelensky signed a “Decree of the President Of Ukraine 117/2021,” which announced Ukraine’s intent:
“(2) To approve the Strategy of deoccupation and reintegration of the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (attached).
“(3) Control over the implementation of the decision of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, enacted by this Decree, shall be vested in the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine.”
Stated Foreign Affairs analyst Michael Snyder in ZeroHedge, “This is essentially a declaration of war against Russia, and Zelensky would have never signed such a document without the approval of the Biden administration.” There are 400,000 people in the Donbas who bear dual Ukrainian/Russian citizenship.
Ceasefire “violations” had already been escalating sharply. NATO begin shipping weapons to the Ukraine military. Then, Russia moved 4,000 troops to the Donbas border. According to Pepe Escobar in Asia Times:
“Significantly, these include the crack 76th Guards Air Assault Brigade, known as the Pskov paratroopers and, according to an intel report quoted to me, capable of taking Ukraine in only six hours.”
The Saker, a Russian expat and editor of Vineyard of the Saker, games it out. On the government, the combined Ukrainian army and its fascist auxiliaries would invade, in order to “reclaim” Crimea and the Donbas. The European Union is irrelevant in this situation. NATO rules Europe.
For the Russians and the Donbas, he foresaw three options, based on the forces arrayed:
I find his analyses reasonable, and at least illuminating. They are:
(1) Ukrainian government and Ukrainian fascists invade. The DPR/LPR fight it out, successfully defend their territory.
Russia can sit it out, but there is great death and destruction in both sides.
(2) DPR/LPR forces are defeated.
Russia would intervene to protect its 400,000 Russian citizens in the Donbas. The Ukrainian government would be mopped up quickly. NATO would send in its troops. The Russian Federation would win amidst massive destruction.
(3) Putin strikes first, wins the war, but is left with a horrendous peace.
“None of that qualifies as “peace” in any meaningful sense of the word (people die every day, almost all of them civilians). Worst of all, the same causes can only lead to the same outcomes, and there is very little anybody can do to change this. Thus, at best, what we are seeing is only a reprieve. But as long as a gang of Neo-Nazi thugs continues to hold power in Kiev, war will be a quasi inevitability. True peace will only come when the Ukronazis are either dead, or jailed or back in Canada. Until then there shall be no peace, only degrees of war.”
In both Options (2) and (3), the U.S. screeches “Russian aggression,” the Nordstream 2 pipeline project is cancelled, and the Russian Federation will be tasked with maintaining a completely militarized border akin to the Berlin Wall. Europe would be economically devastated, but corporate America would see that as a great opportunity for bargain-hunting among the carnage.
Putin, however, chose Option 4! He sent more than 100,000 Russian troops to the Ukrainian border, fully equipped with tanks heavy artillery that could hit any target in the Donbass without a single Russian soldier stepping over the border. The Russian Navy massed in the Black Sea off Crimea, totally controlling those waters. And they all sat there, while the U.S. screeched “Russian aggression!” For their being on their own territory.
Having babbled over the Ukrainian army’s being ready to kick Russian ass, Zelensky got on the phone to Putin. France 24 in April 20 reports:
“President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday invited Russian leader Vladimir Putin to meet in war-torn eastern Ukraine, stressing that millions of lives were at stake. … Zelensky has requested help from the West. … But some of Ukraine’s battle-weary soldiers did not appear optimistic. ‘The world says it wants to help Ukraine,’ Taras, a 24-year-old soldier, told AFP in the frontline village of Mariinka west of the separatist stronghold Donetsk. … ‘But for now, we are fighting against Russia on our own.’”
Russia began pulling troops back from the border. But leaving their heavy equipment in place. RT writes”
“This week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken effectively ended the notion that Ukraine has Western backers ready to step in at a moment’s notice if it finds itself under attack.
“Pressed on whether American forces could be sent into battle against Russian troops to support Kiev in the event of war in an interview with MSNBC, he answered only that Washington is committed to ‘helping Ukraine defend itself.’
“In other words, no. Indeed, with these words, Blinken backed up suspicions in Moscow that Washington stands ready to fight Moscow down to the very last Ukrainian, but would never risk its own troops.”
Thus we are once again at peace. Sort of.
On April 30, supporters of SS Galicia (Ukrainian volunteers who in 1943 took up arms for Nazi Germany against Soviet troops and pro-Soviet partisans) marched through the center of Kiev, with torches and banners. According to RT, one marcher stated, “We are the force that will rule this country .. We are the force that will wage war on its own territory. We are the force that will fight in Moscow. We are proud and remember the deeds of the SS division Galicia.”
— Jeff Roby
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.