Saturday, 5 March 2022 — Moon of Alabama
Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism states:
Lambert and I both find this is the worst informational environment either of us have faced, orders of magnitude worse than the war in Iraq, …
Dear patient readers,
Lambert and I, and many readers, agree that Ukraine has prompted the worst informational environment ever. We hope readers will collaborate in mitigating the fog of war – both real fog and stage fog – in comments. None of us need more cheerleading and link-free repetition of memes; there are platforms for that.
I ask readers and commentators here to live by the same standard. There are too many comments now for me to police. Please notify me via email if there are certain trolls or offenders who deserve to be excluded from this site.
Now back to Ukraine.
At the Grayzone Alexander Rubinstein and Max Blumenthal have published a piece about Zelensky’s turn from the peacemaker he had promised to be before his election to an active supporter of the fascist ‘ultranational’ militia. They pin that turn to a frontline meeting between Zelensky and militia fighters in the fall of 2019:
In a face-to-face confrontation with militants from the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion who had launched a campaign to sabotage the peace initiative called “No to Capitulation,” Zelensky encountered a wall of obstinacy.
With appeals for disengagement from the frontlines firmly rejected, Zelensky melted downon camera. “I’m the president of this country. I’m 41 years old. I’m not a loser. I came to you and told you: remove the weapons,” Zelensky implored the fighters.
Once video of the stormy confrontation spread across Ukrainian social media channels, Zelensky became the target of an angry backlash.
Andriy Biletsky, the proudly fascist Azov Battalion leader who once pledged to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade…against Semite-led Untermenschen”, vowed to bring thousands of fighters to Zolote if Zelensky pressed any further. Meanwhile, a parliamentarian from the party of former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko openly fantasized about Zelensky being blown to bits by a militant’s grenade.
Though Zelensky achieved a minor disengagement, the neo-Nazi paramilitaries escalated their “No Capitulation” campaign. And within months, fighting began to heat up again in Zolote, sparking a new cycle of violations of the Minsk Agreement.
By this point, Azov had been formally incorporated into the Ukrainian military and its street vigilante wing, known as the National Corps, was deployed across the country under the watch of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, and alongside the National Police. In December 2021, Zelensky would be seen delivering a “Hero of Ukraine” award to a leader of the fascistic Right Sector in a ceremony in Ukraine’s parliament.
That is all correct. But let me point out that death threats from the fascists to Zelensky were already made much earlier.
On May 27 2019, a week after Zelensky’s inauguration as president, the Ukrainian internet news site Obozrevatel published a long interview with Dmytro Anatoliyovych Yarosh, a co-founder of the Right Sector who was then the commander of the Ukrainian Volunteer Army. Yarosh and others like him have had little support when they tried to get elected to parliament but they, as demonstrated during Maidan, have the guns and the will to use them.
The headline of the interview carries his main message (machine translations):
Yarosh: if Zelensky betrays Ukraine, he will lose not his position, but his life
As the interview is quite long I will concentrate on two parts. Zelensky had promised peace and to implement the Minsk agreement. Here is Yarosh’s thought about Minsk:
Interviewer: What do you mean?
Yarosh: The Minsk format – and I talk about this all the time – is an opportunity to play for time, arm the Armed Forces, switch to the best world standards in the system of national security and defense. This is an opportunity for maneuver. But no more. The implementation of the Minsk agreements is the death of our state. They are not worth a drop of blood of the guys and girls, men and women who died in this war. Not a drop.
We were better prepared during this diplomatic game for a possible large-scale Russian invasion.
I: Do you think it’s time to abandon “Minsk”?
I: But Zelensky was told immediately after the elections that he had no alternatives.
Y: “They told Zelensky” … Did Zelensky say anything at all?
Y: And it’s scary. The Supreme Commander, who says nothing at all. It’s kind of empty. And it’s very strange.
I: Waiting for what the newly elected president will say?
Y: Not only. Let’s fight and get ready. We are waiting for what he will say and, most importantly, how he will act. “By their fruits you will know them,” says Scripture. “Fruits” we will see somewhere in the fall. Zelensky is an inexperienced politician. And the retinue makes the king. And we already see who is there, “in the retinue”, is beginning to appear. It does not add optimism. Because Zelensky promised his voters (I was not Zelensky’s voter) that he would break the oligarchic system. But already from the first appointments, we see that the oligarchic system continues to live and flourish. And, obviously, it will continue to be so. Just the streams will be transferred.
To the ‘ultranationalists’ in the Ukraine the Minsk agreement was always just a fig-leaf to have time for rearming. In 2019, five years after Minsk, they already felt capable and ready to again attack and overwhelm the Donbas rebels.
Yarosh’s remark about Zelensky and the oligarchs is not wrong. The streams of money sucked from Ukrainians and foreign donors were redirected under Zelensky to benefit those oligarchs, most prominently Igor Kolomoyskyy, who had supported him.
The interviewer then asks Yarosh about his relation to Kolomoyskyy who had called the conflict with Donbas a civil war. Yarosh does not mind Kolomoyskyy but rejects the ‘civil war’ claim:
Yarosh: [P]erhaps, something is pushing him to make such statements. Apparently, some kind of business interest.
This is the main danger of the oligarchy, as for me. They, the oligarchs, are talented people, because without talent it is impossible to build such businesses and earn billions. But the danger of the oligarchs is that they are compradors. They don’t give a damn about the Motherland. They need money. Profit turns a blind eye to everything. And then you can negotiate with Russia on any terms.
And that is why Zelensky is very dangerous for us Ukrainians. I feel it.
Interviewer: What is the danger?
Y: His statements about peace at any cost are dangerous for us. Vladimir simply does not know the price of this world. He may have been with concerts close to the front. But when my boys were torn apart by Russian shells into small pieces and then these pieces had to be collected and sent to their mothers, the price somehow looks completely different.
I: Are you trying to meet him now?
Y: Yes. I have already made a couple of messages, but he is silent. Perhaps they didn’t reach him. He is a busy man…
But even if this meeting does not happen, it’s okay. He just needs to understand one truth: Ukrainians cannot be humiliated. Ukrainians, after seven hundred years of colonial slavery, may not yet have fully learned how to build a state. But we learned how to make an uprising very well and shoot all those “eagles” who are trying to parasitize on the sweat and blood of Ukrainians. Zelensky said in his inaugural speech that he was ready to lose ratings, popularity, position… No, he would lose his life. He will hang on some tree on Khreshchatyk – if he betrays Ukraine and those people who died in the Revolution and the War.
Khreshchatyk is the main street of Kiev. The above and other threats to Zelensky certainly helped to convert him from peacemaker to warmonger and friend of the various ‘ultranational’ militia formations.
In spring 2021 Zelensky announced that the Ukraine would retake Crimea by force. Russia then held large military maneuvers and Zelensky backed down. By November 2021 the Ukraine again made noise and said it would be retaking Donbas by force. Russia again held military maneuvers as a show of force but this time the situation deteriorated further.
Starting in mid February the OSCE observers around Donbas noted in their daily reports a strong increase in ceasefire violation and explosions.
Most of the violations came from the Ukrainian site and the explosions of the fired shells and missile happened on Donbas held grounds. On February 19, at the hight of the fire, Zelensky gave a speech at the Munich Security Conference. He prominently mentioned the Budapest Memorandum under which the Ukraine had given up the nuclear weapons it had inherited from the USSR:
Since 2014, Ukraine has tried three times to convene consultations with the guarantor states of the Budapest Memorandum. Three times without success. Today Ukraine will do it for the fourth time. I, as President, will do this for the first time. But both Ukraine and I are doing this for the last time. I am initiating consultations in the framework of the Budapest Memorandum. The Minister of Foreign Affairs was commissioned to convene them. If they do not happen again or their results do not guarantee security for our country, Ukraine will have every right to believe that the Budapest Memorandum is not working and
all the package decisions of 1994 are in doubt.
One of the package decision Ukraine took in 1994 was the entering of Ukraine into the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Russia understood Zelensky’s remark in Munich as a threat by Ukraine to acquire nuclear weapons.
I believe that this credible threat, together with the artillery preparations for a new war on Donbas, was what convinced Russia’s government to intervene by force. On February 22 Russia recognized the Donbas republics as independent states. On February 24 Russian troops crossed the borders into Ukraine.
The aim set for the Russian military is to a. de-militarize the Ukraine and b. to de-nazify it.
The first is easy to understand. The Russian military will simple destroy or disable all heavy weapons the Ukraine has.
The second aim requires more explanation than the above interview with Dmytro Yarosh.
As the Grayzone notes:
In November 2021, one of Ukraine’s most prominent ultra-nationalist militiamen, Dmytro Yarosh, announced that he had been appointed as an advisor to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Yarosh is an avowed follower of the Nazi collaborator Bandera who led Right Sector from 2013 to 2015, vowing to lead the “de-Russification” of Ukraine.
The threats from the fascists make it impossible for any Ukrainian politician to implement a sane policy that would lead to peace in the country.
The fascists in Ukraine are relatively few. But they have the guns and they will kill anyone who opposes them and their aims. They have been put into important state positions. (Oligarchs like Kolomoyskyy pay and use them for their own purposes.)
The problem is that such ideological groups, once firmly established, tend to grow. The Right Sector is holding ‘patriotic’ summer camps for young Ukrainians and the Ukrainian state is financing those. They are successful and Ukrainian youths is looking up to them.
These developments are what Russia is afraid off. As Patrick Armstrong wrote at the start of the current intervention:
What [Putin] is talking about is what the Soviet Union tried to do from 1933 onwards: namely to stop Hitler before he got started. This time Russia is able to do it by itself. In other words, Putin feels that he is making a pre-emptive attack to stop June 1941. This is very serious indeed and indicates that the Russians are going to keep going until they feel that they can safely stop.
The Russian military will destroy the militia formations like the Right Sector and the Azov battalion which is currently holding the people of Mariupol as hostages. It will try to get all their leaders – dead or alive.
When the task is done the Russian military will leave the Ukraine.
Being freed from powerful fascists will enable Ukrainian politicians to re-institute sane policies.
That’s the plan.
But will it work?
That is probably the wrong question. One should ask to what degree and for how long will it work.
After Ukraine’s independence it took the ‘ultranationalists’ 22 years, and the help of the CIA, to come to power. Once eliminated they may claw back, but it will take them some time. The Ukraine will be busy with reviving its economy. It will have little money to spend on arms.
Thirty years later Russia may see a repeat of the confrontation. But 30 years are quite a long time.