“I need Ukraine“, wrote Hitler, “so that no one can starve us again, like in the previous war. As historian Timothy Snyder notes in his book, Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, Ukraine had to provide the Lebensraum, or living space, that Hitler needed for the expansion of the Third Reich. Ukraine’s “black soil” is chernozem, a particularly fertile soil of which it owns a quarter of the global supply.Ukrainians have no consequences – just “amorphous masses” being disposed of. reason when necessary.
The tornado masses suffered a catastrophic famine in the early 1930s, which Ukraine has since declared a genocide, and would suffer another famine soon after the war. Ukraine’s losses in the war against Germany (fighting the Red Army) exceeded those of Great Britain, France, and America combined. The grandfather of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a Jew, was among the Ukrainians who fought in the Red Army; His father and three uncles were killed in the Holocaust, among a million and a half Jews murdered in Ukraine.
It is a country that Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week needs to be “de-identified” and is committing “genocide” against ethnic Russians in the eastern Donbas region.
Moscow has bolstered both claims since 2014. The question is whether this is just part of a fog of war the Kremlin intends to conceal its activities in Ukraine – a tactic deployed Successfully declared in 2014 as the global response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. and interventions in the Donbas have been muted – or whether they imply that Putin’s ambitions are broader.
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine has become a buffer between two political-military spheres of influence, that of Europe/NATO and that of Russia. Economic historian Adam Tooze last week likened these to two conflicting weather fronts and noted its economic backdrop: since independence, Ukraine has lagged behind both Russia to the east and Poland to the west. ; Its economic performance from 1990 to 2017 was the fifth worst in the world.
“It appears that Ukraine is a low pressure area where two distinct fronts of global economic development are crashing into each other,” he wrote in his email newsletter.
The creation of this buffer zone is partly a consequence of Western policy. In 1990, US Secretary of State James Baker assured Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that Nato would expand “not an inch to the east” after German reunification. That promise was quickly forgotten. In 1999, the countries of the former Warsaw Pact including Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic joined NATO; in 2004, the expansion included the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia; In 2008, Ukraine applied for accession.
This eastward expansion has been controversial, not only with Russia, but with the “realism” element of the American foreign policy community: it is “a strategic mistake likely to happen with proportions.” monumental,” said George Kennan, the former diplomat who made the policy. Soviet “Containment”.
This is a consistent note in Putin’s war drum beat. In a lengthy essay last summer on the “historic unity of Russians and Ukrainians,” he argued that Ukraine was being used as a “springboard against Russia.” His recent joint statement with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Winter Olympics urged Nato to “abandon its ideological Cold War approaches”. In Putin’s speech on Thursday declaring war, he said of Nato’s promises in 1990, “they simply deceived us”.
Maybe Nato’s expansion was a big mistake. But even considering Putin’s antagonism in terms of merit, it offers little guidance as to where his intentions may now lie. The obvious “realist” response to Russia’s reassertion of power would be to acknowledge sovereignty over eastern Ukraine and ensure that Ukraine will not be allowed to join NATO: give Ukraine the best status is a buffer zone.
But there is no clarity that that will be enough. Speaking at an event that was broadcast live on Twitter Spaces, Tom Wright, an Irish political scientist at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, said Putin’s move against Ukraine was “substantively different” than it was. with his former reputation as “incrementalist and prudent”. He suggested that Putin, 69, may be thinking about his legacy, determined to unify Russia and Ukraine while he still can. “He decided that whatever price was imposed on him and whatever risk was incurred was worth it,” Wright conjectured.
Putin’s rhetoric has become more widespread. His project to protect the Russians in eastern Ukraine became the project of demilitarization and “demilitarization” of Ukraine. His project to tackle Ukraine appears to be just one part of a larger project to reassert Russia’s authority along its borders. “The problem is that in the territories adjacent to us – territories that were formerly ours, I insist – an ‘anti-Russian’ enemy to us is being created,” he said. But the issue isn’t simply neighborly hostility — the very existence of those neighbors as separate entities is illegal, he suggested: in 1991, they were taken “overnight” from their “historic homeland,” he wrote last year.
“He is trying to link the Kyiv government with the Nazi regime,” said Constanze Stelzenmuller, a German expert at Brookings. “This rhetoric seems to suggest that what he is really doing is re-warning World War II. Anyone who thinks that the impact, collateral damage, of this conflict can be contained on Ukrainian territory is gravely mistaken. “
One of the countries where this outlook is most threatened is Finland – the only other European country
The country bordering Russia, along with Ukraine and Belarus, is not a member of NATO. In his speech last Monday, Putin mentioned how Lenin and the Bolshevik leadership “created” modern Ukraine after the 1917 revolution “in a way that was extremely harsh for Russia – by divide, cut off what belongs to the history of the Russian land”.
Kerstin Kronvall, a veteran Finnish journalist who lived in Russia and Ukraine, said: “Finland also gained independence around the same time – people felt this statement was probably about Finland as well. Public opinion in Finland has traditionally been hostile to NATO membership, out of fear of turning against Russia; In recent weeks, it has changed dramatically in favor of joining Nato. “People here are really scared,” she said. “What if Finland is next?”
Two and a half thousand years ago, the Greek island of Melos was in the buffer zone between the cities of Athens and Sparta, then locked in the Peloponnesian War. Melos has ties to Sparta, though prefers to remain neutral; but Athens invaded and demanded its allegiance.
The historian Thucydides recorded (or possibly imagined) a summit meeting between the Melians and the Athenians. The Melians sought to appeal to the Athenian sense of justice, but the Athenians – “realists” – dismissed this as naive. They argued: “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they have to. The Melians argued that this would undermine Athens’ credibility; on the contrary, the Athenians said, “in addition to expanding our empire, we should gain security by your submission”. The Melians warned that the Spartans would come to their aid, but the Athenians laughed at this; The Spartans would not interfere because of this principle, but only if they were not confident that they had “superior strength”, they said.
The Athenians logically gave Melos an ultimatum: to become Athens’ “tributary allies” while retaining nominal sovereignty. The Melians refused, and the Athenians surrounded. Melians held out for a while, with surprising initial successes, but eventually fell apart. Athens killed all adult men, sold women and children into slavery, and colonized the island.
What was originally a conflict seen as an incremental step toward Russian aggression now exists over Ukraine. But Putin also sees it as an existence. The creation of what he calls ‘anti-Russian’ in neighboring territories is ‘a real threat not only to our interests, but to our very existence,’ he said on Thursday. of our state, its sovereignty”. “This is the red line that has been talked about many times. They got through it.”
The problem for the West is the ambiguity of this formula. It is not clear that even “realist” notions of re-creating a buffer zone, or acknowledging a Russian “zone of influence” on its borders, will appease him.
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/putins-expansive-rhetoric-offers-little-guide-to-where-his-true-intentions-lie-41389185.html Putin’s expansive rhetoric offers little guidance as to where his real intentions lie