I thought I’d share the following with Ricochet members looking to get a better understanding of the situation between Ukraine and Russia. It comes from a very knowledgeable, well-respected source in Kiev who, for understandable reasons, writes under the pen name of Irina Gokieli. Here Irina responds to some of the what I’ve written on this topic and adds her own insights:
Irina’s Preface: This post was written one day before the horrible crime against humanity was committed by pro-Russian terrorists. I can only add that some responsibility for those almost 300 innocent victims who died in the downed Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 lies with the Western policy makers and opinion makers. Putin’s Western apologists became his enablers. Maybe now they will stop hiding their heads in the sand and stop dreaming about pacifying the terrorist regime? But at what terrifying price…
Why do many Western analysts contend that Vladimir Putin is outsmarting everybody like a skillful chess master? Can it be a massive illusion fed by Kremlin propaganda and blindly supported by analysts and policy makers? I agree with Paul Gregory that Putin deserves a failing scorecard and would add that he is erratically moving his country towards disaster. A bully is usually far from intelligent — he can be dangerous and evil, he can possess powerful resources, but that does not make him the forward-looking strategist many in the West pretend he is.
It is understandable that a flourishing Russia with prosperous people was never Putin’s goal, so let’s not blame him for failing to meet that achievable goal. But how about restoring the Russian Empire, seizing geopolitical leadership in the civilized world, and gaining respect through power, all while colonizing Ukraine in the process? What are the results so far? The civilized world sees a chronic liar and an utterly unreliable counterparty, yet still cynically pretends it is dealing with a skillful chess master.
Does anybody remember the not-so-distant four-party Geneva meeting, where Russia was given a chance to save face and come out of the crisis it created — and after which Russia, instead of following the agreements achieved in the Geneva Statement, started the “hybrid war” and then cut off gas supplies to Ukraine, threatening the energy supplies and overall security of Europe? What is so smart about testing the patience of your most reliable political and business partner, who also happens to be your biggest and most profitable customer?
And how was it smart to call Goebbels a “talented person” — at a meeting with Jewish leaders, no less? Here is Putin’s quote, verbatim: “he was achieving his goals, he was a talented person,” which can be seen here. Does this include the last of those goals he achieved: when he committed suicide with his wife, after killing his six children, on 1 May 1945? This is Putin’s follow up to pro-Kremlin politologist Migranyan’s piece in Izvestia, which was full of praise for pre-1939 Hitler (post-Kristallnacht, which took place in 1938), who “would have gone glorified in history” for uniting German lands (Sudety and Klaipeda included) and in Migranyan’s words, “would be remembered in his country’s history as a politician of the highest order.”
Does the public fascination of Kremlin leaders with the Nazis prove their intelligence? Do they really believe they can do the “Hitler – politician of the highest order” and “talented Goebbels” trick and not end up like those two? How can German Chancellor Angela Merkel conduct negotiations with a straight face with Putin after that?
Putin’s other role model, Stalin, created the most evil, anti-human system in world history, one built by sheer terror and fear against the social and economic laws — yet it was internally consistent and uncompromisingly enforced. This system was solid, and it was constantly fed not only with millions of innocent victims, but also with generations of ruling elites eliminated and replaced, one after another. One could not be in and out at the same time. Can you imagine anybody at the top of that system making billions and storing them outside of the USSR, buying yachts and villas, enjoying vacations and shopping in the West, while their families and children lived en masse in the ideological enemy’s territory? In fact, during Stalin’s time many of the family members of the Kremlin elites were sent to the gulags to guarantee their obedience and loyalty.
Having the same grandiose goals of restoring the Russian Empire and dominating the world as Stalin’s Kremlin, Putin and his cronies haphazardly put together a kleptocracy, rotten from the inside with corruption and decadence, designed first and foremost for the personal gain of a select few who want to be in and out at the same time, and who are not willing to sacrifice much for any grandiose ideas. They can (and do) inflict a lot of damage inside and outside Russia, but they are nowhere near building a sustainable evil empire and controlling the world — or even their closest surroundings. For 20 years they’ve been unable to build a highway between Moscow and St Petersburg!
On the world stage, the Kremlin is stuck with a few despicable client regimes, which was very well demonstrated at the UN General Assembly vote for the pro-Ukraine Resolution. Let’s recall who voted with Russia: Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Sudan, Syria, Zimbabwe, and Venezuela – and even their loyalty does not come cheap…
Just recently, Putin visited Cuba, and in a grand gesture forgave $32 billion of Cuba’s Debt to Russia. He then paid a visit to Nicaragua – where the shell-shocked old communist hand Ortega declared: “This is the first-ever visit by the Russian president to Nicaragua, and we are very happy to welcome you here.” Santa Claus came a few months early this year, Comandante Ortega! Latin America has been conquered with an avalanche of declared “business” deals, which spurred an enthusiastic comment from Eurasia Capital: “We believe, Russia will likely spend substantial resources in Latin America, in particular Cuba and Argentina, by offering financial aid, investments, technology in key industries, and trade opportunities.” The comment on what exactly was offered in exchange by Latin American partners to the Russian Santa Claus was modestly vague.
We wonder who from this delightful fan club will be graced with the next presidential visit. Asia looks like the front runner, and North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un just can’t wait.
Even the lauded BRICS summit held recently in Brazil was overshadowed by a flop, as reported by Russia’s Kommersant newspaper on July 16, with India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, simply not showing up for his meeting with Putin. An emergency replacement was found in South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, who, like Ortega, could not believe his luck.
Coming back to neighboring countries and to Ukraine specifically: Ukraine is lost to Russia. Period. There is an informal coalition being built around Ukraine from its closest allies, who do not believe in “good Hitler”, “good Stalin” or “good Putin”, having closely experienced them all. The Ukrainian-Lithuanian-Polish Battalion will not bring immediate victory, but it has tremendous symbolic meaning, and will help to mobilize and consolidate the coalition.
Inside Russia, more and more families are receiving their sons in caskets transported from Eastern Ukraine, while Crimea has turned into an economic black hole. Hundreds of billions of dollars are leaving the economy and the best minds are fleeing the country— all for the sake of the process … because the end game is not achievable. The sum of corrupt, economically failed, and utterly rotten regimes can never make a successful unit – it is the wrong recipe with the wrong ingredients.
What exactly is so smart and visionary in all of this? How does it benefit Russia, its economy, and its people? How does it even help achieve the goals of restoring the Russian Empire and dominating world politics?
The opinion-makers and leaders of the civilized world must stop this farce. As Paul wrote, “Merkel regrettably has taken to serving as Putin’s useful fool with her incessant demands for a peace settlement with separatist leaders.” We can speculate about the reasons for the collective foolishness and collaborationism of the West – it is probably camouflage for a mix of inertia, indifference, selling out basic values for economic benefits, and some outright corruption. There is no doubt, however, that this is a recipe for more violence in the middle of Europe. This cannot result in any peaceful outcome.
A bully does not understand compromise, nor the idea of a win-win agreement. Russia does understand win-lose though, which is why it has historically accepted defeats, then always immediately started plotting the next revenge. Germany and Austria learned how to break out of this vicious circle of history: the former accepted the blame, as well as help from those who defeated it, and became a peaceful economic superpower; the latter became a friendly business and cultural magnet for its former territories. The civilized world has a chance now to persuade Russia to finally learn its lesson too, but it needs to recognize the obvious fact: the Kremlin fluctuates between crazy and ridiculous and is led by an emperor who has no clothes. The only way to deal with Moscow is to act firmly and decisively, imposing sectorial sanctions and providing serious military help to Ukraine, sharply increasing the economic and political pressure. The faster the West acts, the more lives will be saved and more destruction will be prevented.
As for Ukraine, no matter how much it is dismayed by collaborationism in the West and the abandonment of the West’s precious “values” system, this rude awakening and sacrifice will not be in vain. Ukraine fights, sacrificing the lives of her best sons, fighting for the values Europeans love to declare but hesitate to honor. As Paul Gregory concludes, “If Ukraine engages in the real reforms demanded by Maidan, it can emerge as a major European power beholden to no one.”