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Ukrainian Syndrome. Anatomy of a Modern Military Confrontation

© Sputnik / Viktor Antonyuk / Go to the mediabankA serviceman of DPR People's Militia looks out of a tank in the city of Volnovakha
A serviceman of DPR People's Militia looks out of a tank in the city of Volnovakha - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.01.2023
Listening to many Western politicians, it seems completely impossible to understand the sense and mechanisms of the conflict in modern Ukraine. Take US President Biden. He denies the direct involvement of US troops in the conflict but at the same time he mentions on every occasion the billions in weapons the US supplies to the country.
If billions are spent for military purposes in Ukraine, it means Ukrainian interests are extremely important for the US. But the US army does not want to fight there. So probably they are not so important, after all. And what about these weapon supplies worth billions of dollars? Are they donations? Is it a profitable business? Investments? Some political combination? No answers, only smoke.
Or take the most recent revelations by German ex-Chancellor Merkel that the Minsk Agreements were just an attempt to give Ukraine time. Which means no one was ever going to establish peace in Ukraine. So, Russia was deceived. But what was the purpose? To protect Ukraine or to invade it themselves? Why did they need this deception if they could simply implement what was recommended by Germany? Or did Germany deliberately recommend something that could never be implemented? We could go as far as asking if political swindlers could be drawn to accountability, but it seems much more relevant today to start clearing the smoke around the current situation. That is how it has played out, anyway. But what were the root causes? And how can we get out of this situation, that is getting ever more dangerous? So let us begin our analysis by looking at the origins.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov in peace talks with Russia in Belarus. February 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.01.2023
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What Was the Outcome of the Cold War?

The beginning of a new war usually finds its origin in the end of a previous one. The Ukraine conflict was preceded by the Cold War. The answer to the question about its outcome will bring us closer to understanding of the essence of the current conflict, one which extends beyond Ukraine and affects many countries. The thing is that Western countries and the countries of the post-Soviet space, primarily Russia, have different perceptions of the outcome of this conflict.
The West definitely considers itself as a winner and Russia as a defeated party. Since, in their eyes, Russia was defeated, then the territories of the former USSR and the Eastern Bloc are the legitimate prey of the US and NATO and are subject to control by the West under the motto “Woe to the Conquered!” Hence Ukraine is in the zone of influence of the US and NATO, and certainly not Russia. So, any of Russia’s claims to at least any influence on Ukrainian politics and protection of its interests in the region are “groundless” and a clear infringement on the interests of the US and NATO. “We no longer have to view the world through a prism of East-West relations. The Cold War is over” – declared Margaret Thatcher in the early 1990s. It means the position of the East, of Russia, is no longer relevant. There is one vector, one master of the universe, one winner.
Russia has a completely different view of this process. In no way does it consider itself as a defeated party. The end of the Cold War was brought about by democratic reforms of political and economic life, and military confrontation was replaced by trade and integration with the West. So, if one’s former foe becomes a friend today, is it not a victory? Besides, the USSR and then the Russian Federation never had the goal of winning the Cold War but rather exiting the military confrontation between East and West that could have ended with a nuclear catastrophe. Moscow, together with Washington, found this way out, having reached the goals not so much for themselves as for the whole world.
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This way out by no means implied that the West would take over the East and subordinate the post-Soviet space in economic, legal and cultural respects. Quite the contrary: it implied equal cooperation and joint work to build a new political and economic reality. So, there are clearly two different attitudes to the outcome of the Cold War: the triumph of the winners, on the one part, and building a new world and a new civilization, on the other. The difference between these two attitudes would predetermine the developments that followed.

New World or New Western Colonies?

In 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed, but in 1992 the European Union was established – something the post-Soviet space including Russia associated big hopes with. Here, at last, there seemed to be a new world, a new supranational body, a new turn in the history of Western civilization. Russia, just like other states of the former Eastern Bloc and the USSR, saw itself in the future as an equal member of this Union. The vision of “Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok” was born.
In this context, Russia welcomed not only the reunification of Germany but also the accession of its former allies and even former Soviet republics to the EU. In the 1990s, economic integration with the West was a priority for Russia; Moscow considered it as key to its success as a modern state. The Russian leadership had no particular desire to bind to itself the former Soviet republics, including Ukraine. Most of the Soviet republics had lived off subsidies from the central government, in other words, Russia. So, the leaders of these countries were given a friendly pat on the shoulder while Moscow sought to get rid of their economic burden as soon as possible.
Faster than Ukraine, Russia began to integrate into the European market. Russia had vast volumes of energy resources that are in demand in Europe, while Ukraine, on the contrary, couldn’t afford to buy energy resources at European prices. Ukrainian independence could well have ended with an economic meltdown but for the South-East, where heavy fighting is going on right now. With its vast production facilities and advanced industry, the South-East helped Ukraine find its place in the international division of labor. One would not normally mention this fact, but in the 1990s it was the Russian-speaking South-East that saved the economic and hence political independence of Ukraine.
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Now let us turn to something different. Since the 1990s, a series of major ethnic conflicts and wars involving millions of people emerged in Europe and close to its borders. Until 1991, there had not been such a big number of ethnic clashes. All of this led to the break-up of Yugoslavia and loss by Georgia, Moldova and Syria of their territorial integrity. This does not make any sense if we look at it from the perspective of European integration. The goal of this union was not the fragmentation of Europe into a multitude of small states, but quite the contrary: the creation of a huge supranational union of nations, and these nations would not have to exterminate each other, nor to multiply the borders, but rather build a new world together. So, what was wrong here?
It only seems wrong if one relies on the concept that Russia used to stick to. And if one proceeds from the concept of the victory of the West in the Cold War, then ethnic conflicts acquire a completely different meaning. The latter was articulated on numerous occasions, e.g., at the meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on October 24, 1995, when US President Bill Clinton said: “Using the blunders of Soviet diplomacy, the extreme arrogance of Gorbachev and his entourage, including those who openly took a pro-American position, we achieved what President Truman was going to do with the Soviet Union through the atomic bomb.”
It suggests that far from all Western politicians wanted to build a new and just world. Their goal was to defeat the adversary – the USSR, Yugoslavia and other states. In this sense, the escalation of interethnic conflicts seems only logical, as they weaken the adversary and in the case of a victory, they help to dismember the country to make it easier for the winner to take over.
Under these circumstances, the real state of affairs does not play any role. The situation is being deliberately escalated. On the one hand, representatives of the titular nation are being declared as organizers of the genocide, annihilating the foreign language and culture and performing ethnic cleansing. On the other hand, representatives of the national minority living in communities in certain parts of the country are being declared separatists and a threat to the state. This tactic dates back to ancient times and was used by the Roman Empire. But the building of a new slaveholding empire is not something we are witnessing these days, is it? Or probably Washington, for example, does consider the post-Soviet space as some provinces of a greater empire that already have their metropole and should be protected from Barbarians who do not want to be under the control of this empire?
So, there are two political strategies: the economic and political integration of the countries with mutual benefit at the cornerstone, and the take-over of some countries by the others, with zero respect for the interests of the states that are being taken over. Such countries can be dismembered, declared rogue states or conquered.
Speaking of the Russian Federation, as it emerges from the crisis provoked by the dramatic change of its political and economic orientation, it is increasingly being faced with clear attempts to weaken it, humiliate it and put it at a disadvantage; increasingly often, is it being declared a rogue state despite its growing economic potential. Growing economic potential should normally increase the influence of the country and be welcomed in the Western world. But exactly the opposite happens. Not only is the Russian influence not welcomed – it is being declared wrong, criminal and corrupt.
Let us elaborate on this in more detail. Russia has taken Western democracy as a model, carried out reforms and begun to integrate into the Western world. From the point of view of building a common European house, this should be welcomed and encouraged. Europe gets a peaceful and economically reliable partner along with its markets and resources, which certainly makes it even stronger. But if one is guided by colonial thinking, one would not tolerate the economic growth and independence of a distant colony. Provinces should not overtake the metropole, neither financially, nor politically, nor culturally.
There is the EU that was engaged in building a new economic reality. And there is the NATO established in 1949 that confronted the East, primarily the USSR and later Russia. Remember the words by the first Secretary-General of the NATO Hastings Ismay: the bloc was intended “to keep the Americans in, the Russians out and the Germans down.” Thus, the NATO ideology implies that the US is in Europe, and in a dominating position, and Russia is not.
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But how should Russia take it? It ended the Cold War in good faith, while it seems that the US and the NATO have not. Which means that unification with the West intended for Russia will not happen on equal terms, but rather take the form of an economic and political take-over. Hence Moscow’s requirement to stop the enlargement towards Russia’s borders and revise the attitudes and the agreements. What we see now is that the NATO concept has not only derailed Russia’s integration into Europe but closed the door to Europe’s expansion and development. Of the two concepts mentioned in this article, one has clearly defeated the other.

Russia and Ukraine – the Tragedy of Relationships

Let us move on from the general picture directly to relations between Russia and Ukraine. Let us start from the fact that the relations between these countries have their own specific history. These relationships are closer than the collaboration between England and Scotland, or the Northern and Southern States of the US. Ukraine was part of Russia for more than three hundred years, which influenced its culture, ethnic composition and mentality. Ukraine’s independence in 1991 was gained through an agreement with Moscow, not as a result of a national struggle for liberation. The new economic and political reality prompted the Russian elite not only to grant independence to Ukraine, but also to push for it. At that time, no one could have imagined an armed clash between the two new states, even in a nightmare. The Ukrainians saw Russia as a friendly state, and the Russians as a fraternal nation, and these sentiments were shared by Russians.
In Russia, for a long time, the concept of “Another Russia” prevailed with respect to Ukraine, which supposes much closer relations than, for example, those between Britain and Canada. There was a popular saying in everyday life: "We have one people, but different states." Ukrainians and Russians were very interested in the political life of their respective neighbors. A suitable example is the current President of Ukraine Zelensky, who made a living from political satire, usually based on the politics of both states.
However, the example of Ukraine clearly demonstrates how the concept of creating a common political and economic space was defeated by the concept of squeezing Russia out of Europe. In the wake of the first ‘Maidan’ color revolution in 2005, Ukraine started building anti-Russian policy at the level of state ideology. In this, one can see clearly that this policy follows the templates of the Cold War. That is, psychologically, the Ukrainians were turned against the Russians through the support of certain politicians, changes in the educational system, in culture and in national media broadcasting. All of this came under the guise of democratic reforms and positive changes supported by all sorts of Western and international organizations.
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It is difficult to call it a democratic process. It was simply the dictate of pro-Western forces in politics, media, the economy and civil society. Western democracy was established through totally undemocratic methods. And today, more than ever, the most important question is: is Ukraine’s political regime a democracy?
Within Ukraine itself, two countries had existed since 1991: Anti-Russia, and Ukraine as another Russia. While one does not think itself without Russia, the other does not think of itself with Russia. However, this division is quite artificial. Ukraine has spent most of its history with Russia, and it is tied to it culturally and mentally.
Ukraine’s integration with Russia is definitely dictated by the economy. After all, if there is such a huge market and resources nearby, only a very shallow power could not use it, or go so far as to block it. Anti-Russian sentiments have brought Ukraine nothing but grief and poverty. Therefore, all pro-Western nationalist movements consciously or unconsciously preach poverty and destitution to the Ukrainian people.
We have already mentioned that it was the South-East with its production potential that helped the country find its footing in the international division of labor. It turned out that most of the money was earned by the East, a large Russian-speaking region. Naturally, this could not but effect its political representation in the Ukrainian government. The South-East had more human resources and financial tools, which did not fit into the pro-Western picture of Ukraine. The people who lived there were too proud, too free, and too rich.
Both the first and second Maidans were directed against Viktor Yanukovych, the former governor of Donetsk, the leader of Donbass and non-nationalist centrist political forces. Electoral support for such forces was very significant, and Ukraine did not want to be ‘Anti-Russia’ for a very long time. President Yushchenko, who arrived with the first Maidan, very quickly lost the confidence of the people, for the most part because of his anti-Russian policies.
Then an interesting trend emerged in Ukrainian politics. The elections after the second Maidan are won by President Poroshenko, who promised peace with Russia in one week. So, he was elected as a peacemaker president. Nevertheless, he became the president of the war, failed to implement the Minsk Agreements, and miserably lost the following election. He was replaced by Vladimir Zelensky, who also promised peace, but became the personification of war. So, the Ukrainian people are promised peace and then they are deceived. Having gained power under the rhetoric of peacemaking, he becomes the second Ukrainian leader to have taken an extremely radical position. If he had such a position at the beginning of the election campaign, no one would have elected him.
Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, France's President Francois Hollande and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (L-R) pose for a family photo at the presidential residence in Minsk - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.04.2022
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And now let us return to the general concept of this article. If one says that one is going to build a new world with the neighbors but simply pushes one’s own interests, regardless of anything, even war, even the threat of nuclear conflict, then obviously one is not going to build anything. This is what the ex-president of Ukraine Poroshenko did and this is what the current president Zelensky is doing, but not only them. This is what the NATO leadership and many American and European politicians are doing.
Before the armed conflict, Zelensky simply crushed any opposition, pushing through the interests of his party; he did not build any peace. In Ukraine, politicians, journalists, and public activists who spoke about peace and good-neighborly relations with Russia were repressed before the military clash, their media were closed without any legal grounds, and their property was plundered. When the Ukrainian authorities were reproached for violating the rule of law and freedom of speech, the answer was that the peace party was "a bunch of traitors and propagandists." And the democratic West was satisfied with this answer.
In reality, the situation was not so simple and straightforward. "Traitors and propagandists" represented, including in the parliament, not just the lion's share of the electorate, but also the basis of the country's economic potential. So, the blow fell not only on democracy, but also on the well-being of the citizens. Zelensky's policy has led to a situation where people began to leave Ukraine en masse due to adverse economic and social conditions, repression, and political persecution. Among them were a lot of Ukrainian politicians, journalists, businessmen, and cultural and religious figures who had done a lot for this country. These people have been excluded from politics and public life by the Ukrainian authorities, although they have the right to have their own position, no less than Zelensky and his team.
The business of the South-East of the country is largely tied to Russia and its interests; that is why the conflict has ceased to be an exclusively internal matter. Russia was faced with the need to protect not only its economic interests, but also international honor and dignity, which, as was shown above, had been systematically denied. There was no one to rectify the situation. The Ukrainian peace party was declared to be treacherous and power was seized by the war party. The conflict dragged on, and took on an international dimension.
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It would seem that politics still mean something in Europe, but the politicians massively support Zelensky, dragging Europe into the war and towards the bloc’s economic downfall. It is no longer Europe that teaches Ukraine politics, but Ukraine that teaches Europe how to achieve economic decline and poverty with the help of a policy of hatred and intransigence. If Europe continues to support this policy, it will be dragged into a war, possibly into a nuclear one.
And now let us get back to where we started. The Cold War ended with a political decision to build a new world with no wars. It is clear that such a world has never been built, that current global politics has returned to where it started: with detente. Now there are only two ways out: to slide into a world war and a nuclear confrontation, or to restart the process of detente, for which it is necessary to take into account the interests of all parties. But for this to happen, it is necessary first to acknowledge that Russia has its own interests and that they must be taken into account in the creation of a new detente. And, most importantly, to play honestly, not to deceive anyone, not to blow smoke, and not to make money on someone else's blood. But if the global political system is not capable of elementary decency; if it is blinded by pride and its own mercantile interests, then even harder times await us.
The Ukraine conflict will either grow further, spilling over to Europe and other countries, or it will be localized and resolved. But how can it be resolved if the party of war reigns supreme in Ukraine, escalating military hysteria that has already gone beyond the borders of the country, and the West for some reason stubbornly calls it democracy? This party of war has declared an infinite number of times that it does not need any peace: what it needs is more weapons and money for the war. These people have built their politics and business on the war, they have rapidly upgraded their international ratings. In Europe and in the US they are greeted with applause, they should not be asked uncomfortable questions, there should be no doubt in their sincerity and truthfulness. The Ukrainian party of war keeps delivering triumph after triumph, while no military breakthrough is observed.
But the Ukrainian party of peace is favored neither in Europe nor in the US. This eloquently suggests that most US and European politicians do not want any peace for Ukraine. But this does not mean at all that the Ukrainians do not want peace, or that Zelensky's military triumph is more important to them than their lives and destroyed homes. It is just that those who stood for peace were slandered, intimidated and repressed following the incitement of the West. The Ukrainian party of peace simply did not fit into Western democracy.
And here the question arises: if the party of peace and civil dialogue does not fit into some kind of democracy, then is it a democracy? Perhaps, in order to save their country, the Ukrainians have to now start building their own democracy and open their civil dialogue without Western curators, the result of their governance of which is harmful and destructive. If the West does not want to listen to the point of view of the Other Ukraine, then this is its own business, but for Ukraine such a point of view is important and necessary, otherwise this nightmare will never end. This means that it is necessary to create a political movement composed of those who have not given up, who have not renounced their beliefs on pain of death and imprisonment, who do not want their country to become a place of geopolitical showdowns. The Ukrainian situation is catastrophically complex and dangerous, but it has nothing to do with what Zelensky says every day.
By Viktor Medvedchuk, former Ukrainian opposition leader.
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