Ukraine: A Rebuttal of Chomsky’s View

A group of Ukrainian academics has written an open letter to Noam Chomsky critiquing his commentaries on what they categorically define as the “Russian war on Ukraine.” The critique is in fact addressed to Chomsky and “other like-minded intellectuals.” As I have featured many of these intellectuals and their views on my blog, I feel it is important to share this critique.

7 key errors are identified –
#1: Denying Ukraine’s sovereign integrity
#2: Treating Ukraine as an American pawn on a geo-political chessboard

#3. Suggesting that Russia was threatened by NATO
#4. Stating that the U.S. isn’t any better than Russia
#5. Whitewashing Putin’s goals for invading Ukraine
#6. Assuming that Putin is interested in a diplomatic solution

#7. Advocating that yielding to Russian demands is the way to avert the nuclear war

While I recognize the validity of this critique, and the nobility of the national perspective it represents, I would like to suggest that this view might be tempered by the acknowledgment of the enmeshment of Ukraine, by virtue of both history and geography, within the geopolitics of Imperialism, both Russian and American. I suggest that this crisis arose as a result of a disregard or misjudgment, by all responsible parties, of the forces at play. I further suggest, that there can be no solution, no peace, without a realistic reconciliation and containment of the now unfurling forces. The longer the conflict ensues, the more it deepens, and the more irreconcilable the situation becomes.


Ukraine: Two Wars, One Traditional, One Geopolitical

I have been struggling to rationalize my realist reading of the war with my sense of the brutality and utter irrationality of Russia’s assault on the nationals, the nation and the very nationhood of Ukraine. I even stopped posting my views on this crisis due to the imcommensurability of these two responses within myself. I understood the dichotomy but had not found the language or image by which to articulate the schism., and then I found an article by Richard Falk titled Why Ukraine?

According to Richard Falk, who is Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, there are two wars going on – the first is what he describes as the “traditional war between the invading forces of Russia and the resisting forces of Ukraine” and the second – a “geopolitical war between the U.S. and Russia.” In this scenario there are two aggressors, two villans if you like. Just as as Russia is the aggressor in the traditional war, it is the U.S. that is the aggressor in the geopolitical war. He explains that “it is the prosecution of this latter war that presents the more profound danger to world peace” and that this danger has been obscured by its being treated as “a mere dimension” of the prior, ‘traditional’ confrontation.”

Ukraine: A Path for Peace

Now that the Russian invasion has come to pass and fighting has deepened, the possibility for peace in Ukraine can not be premised on ideals but must be based on compromise. Anatol Lieven, Professor at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Qatar; visiting professor in the War Studies Department of King’s College London; and a senior fellow of the New America Foundation in Washington DC, suggests that such a compromise is necessary to save Ukraine from destruction and loss of life, as well as to preserve Ukrainian sovereignty. A prolongation of the war will likely mean that large areas will be permanently lost to Russia, particularly the land linking Crimea to Russia.

Lieven suggests the terms of a possible peace –

  1. Russian forces should withdraw from all the areas occupied since the invasion began.
  2. Ukraine should sign a treaty of neutrality
  3. Russia should guarantee the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
  4. Ukraine should be precluded from NATO membership.
  5. Ukraine must recognize the administrative integrity of the Donbas separatist republics.
  6. Ukraine must recognize Crimea as a part of Russia.
  7. The West should lift all the sanctions imposed on Russia.
  8. Ukraine should be allowed to emerge as a Western-style democracy.
  9. Ukraine should receive a very large Western aid package for reconstruction.

Now according to Calum Roche, Russia has expressed a willingness to end the war on the following terms –

  1. No NATO membership and a neutral position.
  2. Russian should be the second official language of Ukraine, with laws prohibiting it abolished.
  3. Recognise Crimea as Russian territory.
  4. Recognise the independence of Donetsk and Lugansk.
  5. Demilitarisation of Ukraine and abandonment of weapons that could be a threat to the Kremlin.
  6. Banning of ultra-nationalist parties and organisations in Ukraine.

While it has been underplayed by the mainstream media in the West, this Russian peace proposal is close to Lieven’s suggestion as outlined above. Russia’s terms seem to constitute a reasonable (in realpolitik terms, not in terms of what is fair or just) set of demands given Russia’s overwhelming might and the West’s proven unwillingness to engage Russia directly. Can Ukraine keep fighting the Russians alone? What can Ukraine gain by pursuing this asymmetrical fight? In their valiant resistance thus far, Ukrainians have amassed much capital with which to negotiate. The Russians may have bitten off more than they can handle and be ready to compromise. On the other hand, a long and continued resistance will likely mean that larger areas will fall to Russia, not to mention devastation and loss of life.

Peace is an urgent necessity for Ukraine and Ukrainians! It seems, however, that Russia’s condition 5. might mitigate against NATO and the USA’s ascendency, and condition 6. might threaten the powerful ultra-nationalist forces that are aligned with Ukrainian state. Will these realities diminish the Ukrainian leadership’s capacity to make the compromises needed to arrive at a speedy cessation of fighting?


Ukraine: Oligarchs, Peace and Sovereignty

In an article titled “Was Ukraine betrayed by its own elites?,” Lee Jones, Professor of Political Economy and International Relations at Queen Mary University of London, outlines the forces whose interplay has led to the horrific invasion that Ukraine faces today. He implicates both Russia and the West but, ultimately lays the blame at the feet of competing Ukrainian oligarchs. He suggests that the most likely outcome, now that Russia has invaded Ukraine, is the balkanization of the nation along ethnolinguistic lines. Yet he is hopeful that, in the light of the mutual injury inflicted thus far, Russia-Ukraine negotiations might progress, leading to a compromise that will restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity (to the extent that is still possible) and secure peace. He suggests that this will involve –

  1. A Russian withdrawal from Ukraine (this might be limited with respect to the territories of the East and the South).
  2. Pro-Western Ukrainians (elites )and their pro-Russian counterparts find a more consensual way to coexist.
  3. Ukrainians stop internationalizing their internal conflict.
  4. Ukraine genuinely works towards neutrality.
  5. Foreign powers (Russia and the West) cease their meddling.


Ukraine: Virus and War, Together!

Tulsi Gabbard served as the U.S. representative for Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district from 2013 to 2021 and was a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 United States presidential election. She teweeted that US Biolabs in Ukraine need to be shut down.

Ewan Palmer of Newsweek notes that Gabbard has been condemned as a “traitor” and accused of being a “Russian asset” for making this post. The Republican Senator Mit Romney is reported to have said that Gabbard is “parroting false Russian propaganda” and that her “treasonous lies may well cost lives.” Nevertheless, Palmer also notes that the U.S and Ukraine have been working together since 2005 as part of the Pentagon’s Biological Threat Reduction Program (BTRP) and that the partnership between the U.S. Defense Department and the Ukraine Ministry of Health is part of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (CTR), which aims to reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction following the fall of the Soviet Union. So there seems to be no question that, one way or another, some kind of biolab work is being done by the UR in Ukraine.

Ukraine: Oliver Stone’s View

In this important overview of the historical divisions in Ukraine that have evolved into the present invasion by Russia. Oliver Stone explores and explains Ukraine’s legacy of nazism – the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), Stephan Bandera, Mykola Lebed, Dmytro Dontsov, and the imbrication of the neo-nazi movement in contemporary Ukrainian politics. This fascist tendency in Ukraine is represented by figures and organizations like Oleg Tyagnibok, Svaboda, Dimitry Yarosh, Trizub, The Right Sector, Andriy Parubiy, and the Social-National Party (SNPU).

Particularly revealing is Stone’s explication of the USA’s involvement in fostering and instrumentalizing these far-right nationalist forces in their war against the Soviet Union during the cold war and, even after perestroika, against Russia. Stone presents abundant evidence of these machinations, during the Euromaidan revolution, including the infamous phone call between the US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, Victoria Nuland, and the US Ukraine.- ‘Fuck the EU’! Another important revelation in this documentary is the nature and extent of rupture between Ukraine and and its Russian citizens in the East and the South.. There is, it seems, a civil war taking place, one that has been downplayed by the mainstream Western media.

Ukraine on Fire is the first of two documentaries directed by Igor Lopatonok and produced by Oliver Stone on the emerging situation in Ukraine.

Ukraine: Kissinger’s View

Writing in the Washington Post in 2014, Henry A. Kissinger who was US secretary of state from 1973 to 1977, noted,

“The West must understand that, to Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country. Russian history began in what was called Kievan-Rus. The Russian religion spread from there. Ukraine has been part of Russia for centuries, and their histories were intertwined before then. Some of the most important battles for Russian freedom, starting with the Battle of Poltava in 1709, were fought on Ukrainian soil. The Black Sea Fleet — Russia’s means of projecting power in the Mediterranean — is based by long-term lease in Sevastopol, in Crimea. Even such famed dissidents as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Joseph Brodsky insisted that Ukraine was an integral part of Russian history and, indeed, of Russia.”

He proposes four principles for geopolitical stability in the region –

“1. Ukraine should have the right to choose freely its economic and political associations, including with Europe.

2. Ukraine should not join NATO, a position I took seven years ago, when it last came up.

3. Ukraine should be free to create any government compatible with the expressed will of its people. Wise Ukrainian leaders would then opt for a policy of reconciliation between the various parts of their country. Internationally, they should pursue a posture comparable to that of Finland. That nation leaves no doubt about its fierce independence and cooperates with the West in most fields but carefully avoids institutional hostility toward Russia.

4. It is incompatible with the rules of the existing world order for Russia to annex Crimea. But it should be possible to put Crimea’s relationship to Ukraine on a less fraught basis. To that end, Russia would recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea. Ukraine should reinforce Crimea’s autonomy in elections held in the presence of international observers. The process would include removing any ambiguities about the status of the Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol.”

Sadly, just like John Mearsheimer, Kissinger is in the position to say, I told you so!

Ukraine: Russia’s Military Objectives

Major General G. D. Bakshi, is a retired Indian army officer of great distinction and a prolific military analyst. In a 4th March interview he suggests that, despite Western media cheerleading of the Ukrainian resistance, Putin is steadily achieving his stated objective of demilitarising Ukraine and that, most likely, he has no intention of capturing and holding much territory in Western Ukraine. He suggests that the main objectives are Eastern and Southern Ukrainian nuclear plants (Chernobyl, Zaporizhzhia, etc.), Southern Ukrainian seaports (Mariupol, Odesa, etc.), and Eastern land that will give Russia a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula. He even speculates that the assault on Kyiv might even be a deception operation, a distraction that has enabled them to make swift progress on their true objectives. He believes, however, that they will devastate Kyiv in due course.

Ukraine: Tatlin’s Constructivist Tower

Soviet Constructivism was on the avant-garde of the Bolshevik Revolution that burst upon Russia in 1917. At the heart of this movement, was the question of the imbrication of art as a part of proletariat life. Constructivism eschewed the elitist concerns of the academy and the museum, in order to embrace the technologies and the process of the Industry.

In 1920 Vladimir Tatlin presented the exemplary Constructivist work, A Monument to the Third International, or, as it is best known today, Tatlin’s Tower. This hybrid of art, architecture and communication design, was meant to be used as a propaganda platform that would drive the spread of the Communist revolution across the world. Although it was never built, this design had a profound impact on the revolutionary art of the Soviet Union and on the international modern art that followed.

Although Vladimir Tatlin was born in Moscow, he grew up in Kharkiv. He studied art at the Kharkov Arts School and then become a merchant sea cadet at Odessa.  Having established himself as a leader of the Moscow avant-garde, Tatlin moved to Kyiv in 1925, to become chair of the theater, film, and photography department of the Kyiv State Art Institute. During this time he established connections with Mykhailo Semenko and the Nova Generatsiia futurist group in Kharkiv.


Ukraine: Yanis Varoufakis’ View

In a stirring conversation with Russell Brand, Yannis Varoufakis offers the most heart I have come across in the ubiquitous commentary on the Ukraine crisis, and some sound mind too! He notes,

1. When there is an invasion we must always take the side of people who are facing troops with direct orders to destroy the circumstances of their lives.

2. We must support all defenders of neighborhoods and homes across the world without prejudice without making a distinction between fashionable victims (Ukraine) and unfashionable victims (eg Palestine, Yemen).

3. The only question is how to stop the carnage and how do we get the Russians to withdraw.

4. There is a serious moral problem in supporting the Ukrainian fighters as we know that Russia is unstoppable, that Putin is ruthless (eg Grozny), and that NATO will never intervene directly (for fear of starting World War III).

5. While we cant ask the resistance to stop resisting, we, from the comfort of our homes, have a moral obligation to find a solution.

6. Such a solution might involve the US and Russia arriving at a quid pro quo somewhat like the following-
I. Russia withdraws from Ukraine
II. there is a demilitarization of Donbas and border regions
III. there could be bargaining about specific areas like Crimea
IV. the US and Russia guarantee the neutrality of Ukraine.

7. The alternative is carnage, a prolonged occupation, the permanent division of Ukraine, and the toxification of politics both in Ukraine and Russia.