Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine has been reported by the Western establishment and its mainstream media (MSM) as an unprovoked act of naked aggression. Writing in The New York Times the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
Never in my life have I seen an international crisis where the dividing line between right and wrong has been so stark.
This story has been presented to us in order to maintain our trust in the institutions of our government. The Russian people have been given a different story, but for the same reason.
As discussed in Part 1, what we are told about the social, political and ethnic tensions in Ukraine by the Western hegemony isn’t accurate. This article will explore the wider geopolitical context within which Russia’s military action can be at least understood, even if we regard it then illegitimate.
Some of the terms used in this article, such as “Euromaidan coup,” directly contradict the Western MSM narrative. Please read Part 1 to familiarise yourself with some of the historical background and the named individuals and organisations.
Only Fools Rush In
In the West, the public is expected to accept the given narrativ without question. Anyone who challenges it is accused of being a Putin apologist or a far-right conspiracy theorist. Most Brits appear to have gone along with Johnson’s proffered fairy tale. This is unfortunate, because the reality is far more complex than he would have us believe.
To see celebrities and social media influencers uniformly demonstrating their compassion for the Ukrainian people is touching. But when reports of these virtue-signalling displays are used as propaganda to convince the public that they, too, should jump on the West-approved bandwagon, swaths of the population are at risk of forming a potentially dangerous opinion based upon nothing but pretension.
Currently the UK government, with celebrity assistance, is encouraging us to welcome Ukrainian refugees with open arms via its Homes For Ukraine scheme. The government has said that the Ukrainian applicants “will be vetted and will undergo security checks.”
Most of the people applying for refugee status will be in desperate need, and we certainly should do everything we can to assist them. However, there is also good reason for very careful vetting and security checks.
Ukraine does have a Nazi problem, and it is the Nazis who have most to fear from the Russian forces. In 2013, five days after his arrival in the UK, Ukrainian Nazi Pavlo Lapshyn murdered an 82-year-old man before embarking upon a bombing campaign of British mosques. It was only thanks to sheer luck that he didn’t murder many more British people.
Lapshyn is only one man out of approximately 44 million people living in Ukraine. Unfortunately, he is also one among hundreds of thousands who share his extremist views. Then there’s the small minority of Ukrainians—which can nonetheless be measured in the millions—who have a degree of sympathy with those views.
For reasons we will discuss in Part 4, the UK government’s commitment to security checks is highly questionable. We are being asked to trust the UK government, but doing so is unwise, given its record. Of course we should act compassionately and help suffering people, but only fools rush in.
For those who believe the propaganda of the Western establishment, Russian president Vladimir Putin is a comic book villain whose evil intentions will stop at nothing short of creating a new Russian empire. The West’s propagandists depict Ukraine as the victim of Putin’s allegedly insane bloodlust and portray Russian military actions as unjustified and unlawful.
Swallowing their story leads us to believe that the US-led NATO alliance and the Kyiv government are the defenders of democracy. Russian actions, perceived as an attack on Ukrainian democracy, are therefore an assault upon the principle of democracy. This view is essentially the single version of the truth being peddled in the West.
The alternative view of Putin as some sort of bogatyr (heroic warrior) is equally callow. It wrongly assumes that Putin embodies Russia, thus ignoring a nation of 146 million people and the globalist forces that maintain Putin’s power for their benefit.
Initially, currently, and most acutely, it is the people in Ukraine who suffer as a result of this conflict. Ultimately however, we all will.
When the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, listed Russia’s claimed reasons for the invasion of Ukraine, he stressed NATO expansionism. Russia has repeatedly warned that Ukrainian membership in NATO, which would almost certainly see US troops and offensive weapons deployed on Russia’s southwestern border, was a redline that Russia would not allow NATO to cross. Putin said:
I spoke about our biggest concerns and worries, and about the fundamental threats which irresponsible Western politicians created for Russia consistently, rudely and unceremoniously from year to year. I am referring to the eastward expansion of NATO, which is moving its military infrastructure ever closer to the Russian border. [. . .] [T]he North Atlantic alliance continued to expand despite our protests and concerns. Its military machine is moving and, as I said, is approaching our very border.
Russia has warned repeatedly that it would “react” if Ukraine joined NATO. As yet, Ukraine has not done so. Russia’s attack is preemptive, and, despite Putin’s claimed “compassion” for the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR & LPR), Russia’s primary concern is for its own security and that of its ruling class. Even prior to Russian recognition, the DPR and LPR were de jure Russian satellite states and pawns in a greater game seemingly played out between Russia and NATO.
Equally, there has been a genuine humanitarian crisis in the DPR and LPR for eight years. Russia’s military operation has come as a relief to the people of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Regrettably, Russia has also escalated the conflict beyond Donbas borders, killing more innocent people.
In February 1990, during the “perestroika” reformation of the USSR, then-US Secretary of State James Baker met with the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. He famously gave Russia assurances that NATO would not expand “one inch eastward.” At the time, that meant no eastward expansion—except for by Turkey—in mainland Europe beyond Germany’s border.
Baker’s words weren’t the only reassurances the Russians received. In 1990, then-West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher gave a keynote speech with regard to German reunification, during which he said:
[T]he changes in Eastern Europe and the German unification process must not lead to an ‘impairment of Soviet security interests.’ Therefore, NATO should rule out an ‘expansion of its territory towards the east, i.e. moving it closer to the Soviet borders.’
Prior to signing the Two-Plus-Four Treaty reunifying Germany, the Russians sought and were given explicit commitments regarding NATO expansionism. In the rounds of diplomacy leading up to the agreement, Russia was offered assurances by political leaders from the US, France, the UK, Germany and other NATO aligned states. Russia agreed to German reunification only after German Chancellor Helmut Kohl convinced Gorbachev that NATO would not expand toward Russian borders.
This was an opportunity for the US, Europe and Russia to capitalise on the new, relatively open and transparent (glasnost) USSR as it transitioned to become the Russian Federation. In retrospect, it is now clear that the US-led NATO alliance took a triumphalist view. It embraced its own unipolar world order as the bipolar Cold War order evaporated.
From 1991 onwards NATO completely ignored both the assurances it had given and Russia’s security concerns. It systematically rolled eastward, and by 2005 Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria had become members of NATO.
In 2007, in response to NATO’s obvious expansionism, Vladimir Putin delivered a cutting speech at the Munich Security Conference:
[W]hat is a unipolar world? However one might embellish this term, at the end of the day it refers to one type of situation, namely one centre of authority, one centre of force, one centre of decision-making. It is world in which there is one master, one sovereign. [. . .] And this certainly has nothing in common with democracy. [. . .] I consider that the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world. [. . .] [T]he model itself is flawed because at its basis there is and can be no moral foundations for modern civilisation. [. . .] We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. [. . .] [F]irst and foremost the United States has overstepped its national borders in every way. [. . .] [O]f course this is extremely dangerous. It results in the fact that no one feels safe. I want to emphasise this – no one feels safe! [. . .] I understood that the use of force can only be legitimate when the decision is taken by NATO, the EU, or the UN. [. . .] [W]e have different points of view. [. . .] The use of force can only be considered legitimate if the decision is sanctioned by the UN. And we do not need to substitute NATO or the EU for the UN. [. . .] I think it is obvious that NATO expansion does not have any relation with the modernisation of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. [. . .] [W]e have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? Where are those declarations today? [. . .] I would like to quote the speech of NATO General Secretary Mr Woerner in Brussels on 17 May 1990. He said at the time that: “the fact that we are ready not to place a NATO army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm security guarantee”. Where are these guarantees?
In response, the NATO Council, as if to validate everything Putin said, issued a statement at the 2008 NATO Bucharest Summit. Clause 23 of the statement read:
NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO.
In the decade-long lead-up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, NATO had been pushing for Ukrainian membership. Indeed, in 2018 NATO added Ukraine to its list of so-called aspiring nations. In 2019, then-President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko signed a constitutional amendment committing Ukraine to membership in both the EU and NATO. This was swiftly followed in 2020 with the decision by NATO and Ukraine to enhance their partnership.
The current invasion of Ukraine by Russia has been presented by Western governments to their respective electorates in disingenuous and puerile terms. The West’s narrative was encapsulated by Johnson in his New York Times piece:
This is not a NATO conflict, and it will not become one. [. . .] The truth is that Ukraine had no serious prospect of NATO membership in the near future. [. . .] I and many other Western leaders have spoken to Mr. Putin to understand his perspective. [. . .] It is now clear diplomacy never had a chance. [. . .] Mr. Putin is attempting the destruction of the very foundation of international relations and the United Nations Charter: the right of nations to decide their own future, free from aggression and fear of invasion.
Contrary to Johnson’s deception, NATO and its member states have not only enticed, cajoled and encouraged Ukraine’s “aspirations” to join, they have taken firm steps to make it a reality. They did so in the certain knowledge that Russia could never countenance the move. This fact in no way excuses Russia’s actions, but it goes some way in explaining them.
From an official military perspective, NATO has seemingly abandoned Ukraine to its fate. We will discuss in Part 4 why what NATO is doing is not quite as it seems.
Thus far, NATO has ruled out any attempt to establish a no-fly zone (NFZ). As pointed out by 80 foreign policy experts who have written to advise the Biden administration, any attempt to impose an NFZ would necessitate NATO or US forces shooting down Russian military planes. This would almost certainly trigger a global war.
It is mind-blowing that this letter was written in response to a similar endeavour from 27 foreign policy experts who advocated the physically impossible concept of a “limited” NFZ. Judging the risk to be worth it, they suggested the West should call Russia’s bluff. This pro- NFZ lobby has close financial ties to the military-industrial complex. What these lunatics imagine they will spend their money on in the smouldering rubble of a post-nuclear holocaust is difficult to say.
Johnson’s point that the Ukraine has the right to determine its own future with regard to NATO membership is childish—and, from an international law perspective, wrong. Nation-states are not free to do whatever they like if their actions threaten the security of neighbouring states.
Article 2.3 of the United Nation’s Charter states:
All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
With NATO membership distinctly possible, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaking at the 2022 Munich Security Conference just before the Russian invasion, said:
Ukraine has received security guarantees for abandoning the world’s third nuclear capability. We don’t have that weapon. We also have no security. [. . .] Therefore, we have something. The right to demand a shift from a policy of appeasement to ensuring security and peace guarantees. Since 2014, Ukraine has tried three times to convene consultations with the guarantor states of the Budapest Memorandum. [. . .] I am initiating consultations in the framework of the Budapest Memorandum. [. . .] 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.
The 1994 Budapest Memorandum was a security assurance given to the Ukraine (and others) by the existing nuclear powers, including the Russian Federation, that their integrity and sovereignty would not be threatened in exchange for them giving up their nuclear arsenals. In Ukraine’s case, theirs was potentially the third largest in the world as they were left with more than 2000 strategic nuclear warheads after the dissolution of the USSR.
Zelenskyy was claiming that Russia had already breached the Budapest Memorandum when it “annexed” Crimea and supported those he called “separatists” in the Donbas. Therefore, he was threatening Russia, not only with a nuclear armed Ukraine, but a nuclear armed NATO power on its border.
Regardless of the intricacies of the Budapest deal, this was a clear threat to Russian security and an obvious provocation. One has to ask why Zelenskyy thought this wise.
Ukraine and Russia had been in international dispute for at least eight years but realistically for more than thirty. From both the Russian and the Ukrainian side, the manner of that dispute had consistently endangered international peace and security. Zelesnkyy’s threat appeared to take that risk to a new level.
In addition, NATO member states have been in dispute with Russia since 1991. Their total disregard for Russia’s security concerns also endangered international peace. Moreover, NATO expansionism was not in keeping with the principles of the UN Charter.
The Secretary-General of the UN, Antonio Guterres, has unequivocally condemned the Russian invasion. This appears to be a reflection of the UN’s partisan bias toward the US-led NATO military alliance and the EU rather than any genuine attempt to faithfully interpret the UN Charter. Guterres said:
The use of force by one country against another is the repudiation of the principles that every country has committed to uphold. This applies to the present military offensive. It is wrong. It is against the Charter. It is unacceptable.
Yet when the US decided it had the right to launch preemptive wars in the “war on terror,” the UN did not condemn that claim of right. For example, when the US-led coalition launched a “preemptive” invasion of Iraq in March 2003, in contravention of the UN Charter, the UN said little and did nothing.
In 2004, then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan acknowledged that the invasion and subsequent war in Iraq was illegal. Yet the UN has consistently ignored Article 39 of the UN Charter that would allow it to rule on the legality of the Iraq war. No one has ever imposed sanctions on the US or its allies for the war crimes they have committed.
Who Cares About International Law?
Lex iniusta non est lex is a fundamental principle of law. Translation: unjust law is not law. If we are going to suffer the violence of governments, then the concept of international law is certainly welcome. Unfortunately, that’s all it is: a concept.
The UN’s formal and public condemnation of preemptive wars is reserved for the actions of some nations but not others. Consequently, international law, partly encapsulated by the UN Charter, is practically meaningless.
Because it is applied neither equally nor reasonably, it has become little more than a big stick, currently in the hands the Western-led international rules-based order, used to beat opponents. This is what happens when juries are excluded from alleged justice. There is no “law.”
Prior to the Secretary-General’s statement, the globalist foreign policy think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, had already ruled that Russia’s military action in Ukraine violates international law. The CFR pointed out that the action contravenes Article 2.4 of the United Nations Charter, which states:
All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
Russia has certainly breached Article 2.4. Its war in Ukraine is therefore “illegal.”
However, Article 1.1 of the UN Charter also places an onus on the UN “to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace.” Persistent NATO expansionism and the threat of a NATO nuclear power on Russia’s border are breaches of the peace and a direct threat, from a Russian perspective. The UN has done nothing either to prevent or remove this threat.
US President Joseph Biden, upon announcing sanctions in response to Russia’s military action, said:
Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belonged to his neighbours? This is a flagrant violation of international law, and it demands a firm response from the international community.
But Russia did not “declare” DPR and LPR territorial legitimacy. Biden was deceiving his international audience.
In his speech on the 21st February, Putin said that the Russian Federation had decided to “immediately recognize the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic.” Under international law, recognition is distinct from declaration.
There are two schools of legal thought on statehood. The “constitutive” approach suggests that a state can only be a state if it is recognised as such by other sovereign nations. In that case, with Russian recognition, the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) are now “legal” states.
However, the “declaratory” notion of a state usually takes precedence in international law. It defines a state as any autonomous territory that meets the criteria necessary for the formation of said state.
As defined by the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of a State, a sovereign state must have a population, a defined territory and a government able to engage in dialogue with other states. This makes the state a “sole person” in international law, and its existence is independent of recognition by other states. Such a state has the right to defend itself, irrespective of recognition.
On 7th April 2014 the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) declared itself a state. Its territory, within the Donetsk Oblast, extends for just under 9,000 square kilometres. Its capital is Donetsk. At the time, its population was approximately 2.4 million. The Donetsk People’s Militia is the military force that defends it. In 2018 the people of the DPR elected Denis Pushilin as the DPR’s head of state and 100 delegates were elected to form a government in the People’s Council in Donetsk.
Similarly, the Luhansk (or Lugansk) People’s Republic (LPR) consists of 17 administrative regions and encompasses just under 8,400 square kilometres inside the Luhansk Oblast. Its capital is Luhansk (Lugansk), and in 2014 the population was approximately 1.6 million. Leonid Pasechnik is the head of state, and 50 delegates form the government of the People’s Council in Luhansk.
Following the LPR independence referendum, held on 11th May 2014, Pasechik and the People’s Council were subsequently elected to form a government in November 2018. The Luhansk Peoples Militia defends the LPR.
Today approximately 1 million people have fled the region to escape the war. As a result, the combined population of both oblasts is probably closer to 5 million, down from 6.2 million. The populations of the DPR and LPR combined represent a percentage of the total population of the Donbas.
Recognition of a nation-state is ostensibly a political act that clarifies the official view of the nation-state (or nation-states) that are conferring that recognition. In this case, Russia was stating to the international community that it supported the right to independence of the DPR and LPR. Both new states have met the criteria for recognition under international law. Of course, the decision to not recognise them is equally a political act.
The referendums saw the people of the DPR and LPR elect to pursue a course of self-determination and autonomy within Ukraine. Their desire for autonomy was underlined by the rejection of the Russian government’s request to suspend their planned referendums pending further negotiations with Kyiv.
They did not seek to secede from Ukraine but rather to protect their language and culture within it as devolved authorities. The referendums were swiftly followed by elections and the appointment of interim governments in the two newborn republics. The Donbas war that followed saw both the DPR and LPR widely labelled as “separatists” in the West.
Political autonomy not separatism was their original aim. However, subsequent events have led both the DPR and LPR to adopt a more separatist position through necessity. They are “pro-Russian” in the sense that they wish to maintain cultural and economic ties with Russia, but they also want autonomy in their own right.
In 1992, the United States and the European Community “recognised” the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina without declaring Bosnia-Herzegovina an independent state. What followed was US—and later NATO—bombing as well as the training, arming and equipping of Islamist extremists—all part of a concerted effort to balkanise the entire European region previously called Yugoslavia.
Similarly, Russia acknowledges the independence of the new unitary republics of DPR and LPR but has not declared them independent states. Following recognition of their status, Russia launched a military attack on Ukraine. Truth be told, neither the Russian nor the US/NATO actions show any particular respect for international law.
Biden’s words were nothing more than propaganda. His legal interpretation was, at best, incomplete. So was Putin’s when he claimed that Russian military action was in keeping with Article 51 of the UN Charter, which states:
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.
An armed attack had not been launched against Russia, and the DPR and LPR are not members of the United Nations. Putin’s citation of Article 51 doesn’t legitimise Russian military actions under international law. So what?
Claims and counterclaims concerning international law are merely attempts by global military powers to gain public support for their wars. Combined with propaganda and censorship, these claims convince some of the people some of the time.
The supposedly binding bilateral agreements between nation-states, the UN Charter, and the decisions of international courts and treaties form so-called international law. Unless this alleged “law” is applied equally and fairly, it is not law.
Nation-states like the US, UK, EU member states and Russia use international law merely as weapon of convenience to justify the killing and maiming of human beings or to berate other states when carnage doesn’t suit their objectives. This is the reality of nominal “international law.” It is no law at all.
Exactly the same can be said for the “morality” on display from most of those who now pontificate about welcoming Ukrainian refugees “with open arms.” This appears to be due either to ignorance or acceptance of the unconscionable concept of moral relativism.
While they proudly signal their moral virtue in regard to Ukraine they have said nothing about the horror that continues to unfold in Yemen, which is wholeheartedly backed by the US-led western alliance they continue to support. Just as law applied unfairly is no law at all, so morality that chooses a cause, while ignoring suffering elsewhere, has no value at all.
Gas, Gas, Gas
When Barack Obama became the 44th US President in 2009, Russia had been using its economic influence as the world’s largest crude oil and second largest dry gas producer to push back against NATO expansionism. Ukraine was the main transit hub for Russian gas pipelines to Europe, but it was politically unstable.
The political divisions in Ukraine, broadly pro-EU and anti-Russian on one side and pro-Russian and anti-EU on the other, became the focus of a tug of war for European influence between the US and Russia. The Obama administration wanted to maintain the transatlantic alliance, affording U.S. dominance and NATO cohesion in Europe, while Putin’s clique aimed to enhance Russian control of the European energy market to strengthen Russian security and weaken NATO.
For its part, the EU hierarchy was eager to establish its bloc as an independent military superpower. The 2007 Treaty of Lisbon came into force in December 2009, effectively creating the European Union and its Common Security and Defence Policy. The EU were then able pursue military defence union, potentially undermining US control and bolstering the EU’s hold on NATO.
Russia openly declared its support for Yanukovich in the 2010 Ukrainian presidential election. Its access to the Ukrainian pipelines and retention of its Sevastopol naval base were crucial to its—and, to a large extent, the EU’s—interests. In exchange for below- market, subsidised Russian gas, the Yanukovich government extended Russia’s Sevastopol lease until 2042, resulting in physical fights breaking out in the Verkhovna Rada.
In 2011, Russia and Germany opened the first Nord Stream gas pipeline, which runs under the Baltic Sea and supplies Russian gas to Germany. Nord Stream 1 runs from Vyborg to Greifswald. The proposed Nord Stream 2 will run from Ust-Luga. The purpose of Nord Stream pipelines was to enable Russia to sell much cheaper gas to the EU, via Germany, while eliminating both the EU’s and Russia’s 80% reliance upon the precarious Ukrainian pipelines. For obvious reasons, this aim had wide support among other EU member states.
The Nord Stream pipelines were not in the interest of the US, however. Consequently, its foreign policy objectives were to stop Nord Stream 2 (which would double the pipelines’ gas flow to Europe from Russia) and install a Ukrainian government amenable to Washington’s demands.
If the US could break the EU’s blossoming trade relationship with Russia, it would not only secure US dominance over Europe, both in economic and collective defence terms, but would also open up the EU market to the US’ pricier Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) exports—an added bonus.
Initially, the US feted the Yanukovich government in hopes of convincing Ukraine to join NATO and the EU. Then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was dispatched to Kyiv, where she held discussions with Yanukovich. Among her comments:
We discussed ways that Ukraine and the United States can deepen and expand our strategic partnership. [. . .] [We hope] Ukraine will pursue close, constructive relationships with the United States and countries of the European Union. [. . .] We discussed energy reform and its potential to transform Ukraine into an energy producer and becoming more energy efficient. [. . .] We also discussed the importance of protecting Ukraine’s democracy. [. . .] [W]e thank Ukraine and the Ukrainian people for your important contributions to NATO and other international security operations.
The diplomacy failed. Despite fluffy rhetoric about “protecting Ukraine’s democracy,” the US turned to distinctly undemocratic methods when it decided to back a Ukrainian coup. In order to achieve this goal, the US empowered the darkest forces in Ukrainian politics: the neo-Nazis.
Something we will explore in Part 3: Ukraine War! What is It Good For? The Ukrainian Nazi Agenda
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I’m an author, journalist, blogger and video maker (contributing to 21stCenturyWire, UKColumn, the OffGuardian and other leading news sites,) I am able to leap small footstools in a single bound, haven’t been kicked out lately and am occasionally reliable. I really enjoy a jolly good rant. Though many have expressed their wish that I didn’t.