Geetha Mohan of India Today conducts an incisive interview with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov about the situation in Ukraine. He explains the Russian perspective that the war is rooted in the US and West’s efforts to create a springboard against them by pumping arms into Ukraine. Regardless of one’s position on the war, it is refreshing to see the art and craft of the journalism alive and well in India. The interview is presented unedited and in its entirety. Geetha is persistent yet graceful in her pursuit of answers.
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.”
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 –
- A Russian withdrawal from Ukraine (this might be limited with respect to the territories of the East and the South).
- Pro-Western Ukrainians (elites )and their pro-Russian counterparts find a more consensual way to coexist.
- Ukrainians stop internationalizing their internal conflict.
- Ukraine genuinely works towards neutrality.
- Foreign powers (Russia and the West) cease their meddling.
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 ambassador.to 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.
As early as Feb 28, Major General G. D. Bakshi had set out the basic truths about this tragic conflict. While his military analysis is astute, it is the moral picture that he paints that is of the greatest significance. He salutes the bravery of Ukrainians but points out that it is immoral to press on with an unequal fight in which there will only be destruction. His most damming indictment is of the USA and the West who, for their own strategic ends, are inciting the Ukrainian to fight to the last man, while they themselves will not come into the fight directly.
Given the derth of intellect and integrity in the mainstream media here in Canada, I thought I would share a prescient analysis on the crisis (the 2014 crises) in the Ukraine by John Mearsheimer, who is an American political scientist and international relations scholar. There is no doubt that there are those in North American establishment who are, today, in the position to say to their political leaders, “I told you so!”
Have we reached that disastrous point of rupture – the balkanization of Ukraine, that Mearsheimer was hoping would be avoided?
In my pervious post titled Deja Vu: Planet of the Apes I discussed the imprint made on my mind by the violent chase scenes in the said film. This impression was revived by the recent border patrol images coming out of Del Rio, Texas. I noted in that post how this is one of two images brought forth in me, the other being that of the “historical injustices suffered by black people in the US..” Upon further reflection, however, I have come to realize that these two images are infact one and the same. Urko and his fellow gorillas are literally black, while the regressed, abject, Yahooesque humans are Caucasian. This seems to be an artistic inversion of the historical image of the American slave patrol and I suggest that it is in this very reversal that the power of these chase scenes lies.
I wonder if the authors of this filmic scenario were conscious (I would like to think they were) of the Slave Patrol predecessor of their image, and further, if they intended a progressive parody or if it was merely a reactionary pastiche. However, regardless of this authorial intent, I am convinced that this recurring image is etched into the American psyche and is sublimated in all that is now referred to as ‘structural’ in that nations institutions.
Writing on Juneteenth 2020, Phillis Coley cites historian Gary Potter’s three functions of the Southern slave patrol –
(1) to chase down, apprehend, and return to their owners, runaway slaves;
(2) to provide a form of organized terror to deter slave revolts; and,
(3) to maintain a form of discipline for slave-workers who were subject to summary justice, outside the law.
She goes on to note that the use of these patrols to capture runaway slaves was a precursor to the formal police force in America and its ethos has persisted as an element of policing role even after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Donald Trump must not be treated as the cause of the recent debacle of American democracy – its attempted usurpation by fascistic forces. He may have been the catalyst for this ugly scenario but it arose from conditions that are endemic and systemic. We have to remember and accept that 73 million Americans voted for him in the last election. As Nolan Higdon and Mickey Huff explain, it is in fact the relentless bipartisan entrenchment of neo-liberal economics by both Republicans and Democrats that has brought this demon seed to fruit. Donald Trump has simply, “peel[ed] back the gilded veneer of democracy in America. His presidency has revealed what neoliberalism has wrought: a post-democratic U.S. ripe for fascism.”
The decimation of America’s public sector and its national industries in cynical programmes of privatization and globalization, as well as the hollowing out of American society by the depletion of support and services for its most vulnerable, have reduced American democracy to being a lifeless shadow of its imagined self. As Peter Fairman shows, while the Reagan administration pushed privatization forward as an overt political ideology, Clinton sold the privatization as a politically neutral management reform. Neoliberal devastation his has been a bipartisan adventure.
As Higdon and Huff go on to say, “Democracy ceases to exist unless the citizenry participates in and respects the process, put its faith in and defends public institutions, accepts verifiable electoral results, and attains the critical thinking and media literacy skills necessary to make well informed and sophisticated decisions.” While the United States of America is our case-in-point, I believe that these criteria are not met in numerous other failing democracies across the world.
In an essay titled Ur Fascism, Umberto Eco lists 14 Fascistic characteristics. This essay appeared in the June 22, 1995 issue of the New York Review. I have taken the liberty of encapsulating Eco’s explanation of these characteristics as follows –
1. A penchant for traditionalism
2. The rejection of modernism
3. The cult of action
4. A prohibition of disagreement
5. A fear of difference
6. An appeal to the middle class
7. A belief in conspiracy theories
8. A feeling of humiliation
9. The glorification of war
10. A contempt for weakness
11. The cult of heroism
12. The cult of machismo
13. A charismatic populism
14. A stupefaction of language
It is instructive to compare, contrast and combine this list with Robert Paxton’s List from his The Anatomy of Fascism which I present in my post titled It’s Time to be Clear 3. It is imperative, given the unprecedented storming of Capitol Hill by Trump supporters, that Americans and, indeed, people of all nations consider their national polity in these terms. As we move deeper into the 21st Century, many other exemplars of democracy, albeit of less consequence on the world stage than the USA, will fare just as badly, if measured against these criteria.
For Americans, I suggest that this means more than seeking retribution from the Donald. While I do not doubt that he is culpable, I feel that such simplistic scapegoating, belies the true nature of American exceptionalism, of the bipartisan dialectic of its military-industrial project: War on Crime – Globalization – War on Terror – Yes, we Can! – Make America Great Again! The Republican Party will want to purge the memory of their willing Trumpian engagement from the record and the Democrats will want to foreground this entanglement for political advantage, but all this will distract us from their reciprocal complicity in their nation descent from democracy into oligarchy and authoritarianism.