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Putin’s Ukraine Gamble

February 28, 2022

Last Monday (21.2.2022) Vladimir Putin announced he was recognizing the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states. This was in response to their request for help in the face of a week long intensification of shelling from Ukraine’s 60,000 troops massed on the line of contact (dixit Shoigu), which had forced the partial evacuation of civilians to Russia. He made sure all his close advisers agreed publicly to this step. An avalanche of condemnation, vilification and sanctions by the West followed. Early on Thursday (24.2.2022) Putin announced he was launching a military operation to defend the Donbass people from attacks, which he had already described as genocide. This referred not to one attack but to the whole 8-year siege, blockade and nightly shelling which had killed thousands and forced a million and a half Donbass citizens to flee as refugees to Russia. All because they wanted the right to have their kids taught in Russian in a country which had suddenly become unilingual and Russophobic by law and was refusing to implement the Minsk Agreement, which would have given the Donbass autonomy.

The movement of Russian forces into Ukraine on Thursday then surprised everyone by its massive and multi-directional nature. Putin did not merely move troops into the Donbass to retake the full territory of these oblasts (provinces) at the moment of their own declarations of independence in 2014. He also moved troops from the north and west towards Kharkov and Kiev. Some parliamentarians who had voted for the operation in the Donbass claimed they had not signed up for an attack on Kiev. The question became: what is Putin’s goal?

He declared that it was the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine. This seemed to follow on from his earlier demand that Ukraine not be allowed to join NATO or become a platform for attacking Russia. In his earlier talks with Western leaders over his security demands in December he argued that if NATO missiles were placed on Ukraine’s northern border they would be able to reach Moscow in minutes. This was an unacceptable threat to live under, given the US first strike doctrine (Prompt Global Strike.) The logical solution to him was the disarmament of Ukraine’s army, recently supplied massively with modern weapons by NATO countries. The most obvious way of doing this was to surround the bulk of Ukraine’s army stationed on the line of contact in the Donbass and destroy their weapons. An operation in the Donbass would also allow him to destroy or capture the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, based in Mariupol, thus achieving denazification at the same time as demilitarization. A major push in the south might also allow Russia, if it chose, to seize the whole Azov sea coast, link the Donbass with Crimea, and restore control over the canal bringing water from the Dnipro river into Crimea. This canal had been blocked by Ukraine, depriving Crimea of water and ruining its agriculture and tourism. Excluding Ukraine from the Azov Sea would put an end to Britain’s warmongering scheme to build Ukraine a naval base on the Azov Sea, which would make both the Crimea bridge and the Crimea coast vulnerable to naval attack. If Russia succeeded in taking Odessa and persuading that Russian-speaking city to join Russia, Ukraine would be cut off from the entire Black Sea coast. If it had no ports, it would be less able to be supplied with large weapons (such as ballistic missiles) by NATO.

But the operation in the south, which could seemingly achieve Putin’s goals, was not the main focus of the Russian military incursion. Troops were concentrated around Kiev and Kharkov in the north. Why? What was the purpose of capturing large cities, which would cause heavy loss of life and increase the already shrill anti-Russian hysteria being whipped up worldwide? Why pay such a high price in lives to occupy empty government buildings and deserted central squares? Why transform a carefully controlled operation, which as I write on Sunday, has taken only about 100 Ukrainian civilian lives (UN figure), into the kind of bloodbath perpetrated by Israel in Gaza in 2014, when it killed 2200 civilians, a quarter of them children? Given that the West has already unleashed the most extreme sanctions possible, including removal from SWIFT and seizure of Russian Central Bank funds (something not applied to Israel in 2014 or the US in 2003), a sudden multiplication of casualties in city street battles would damage relations forever, and lead possibly to military intervention — such as supplying weapons and protecting the truck convoys with air power. Why take the risk of an air war that could rapidly escalate, just for the satisfaction of forcing a hated government to flee its capital?

Here is where Putin’s rational, if harsh, calculations seem to shade into something emotional, irrational and disturbingly removed from reality. His talk of replacing Zelensky with a government more favorable to Russia suggests a mind living in another age. Eight years of non-stop nationalist propaganda and fear-mongering have reduced any pro-Russian sentiments in Ukraine to the margins. This invasion has finished them off. Putin has become a toxic figure to most Ukrainians in Kiev, and even in Russian-speaking Kharkov. Western propaganda demonizing him for twenty years has finally won. The suffering of the Donbass people at the hands of neo-Nazi forces has been blanked out of the minds of Ukrainians. They don’t believe it happened, any more than the bigoted Russophobes of the BBC believe it happened. The shelling of Donbass civilians for 8 years was mere Russian disinformation. It didn’t happen, just as the bombing of Belgrade didn’t happen, the genocide of a million Iraqis didn’t happen (as Harold Pinter once eloquently argued.) The US butchery in Afghanistan, the genocidal blockades of Iraq, Syria and Yemen, didn’t happen. Putin seems unaware that information creates reality and the West controls information. The banning of RT and Sputnik announced today by Ursula Von der Leyen, who runs the EU, is just the formal admission of a process of banning the truth which has gone on ever since they murdered the Kennedys and staged the Gulf of Tonkin incident to initiate their genocide in Vietnam. Truth is no longer an argument. It convinces nobody unless they control the global media. Look at the political debate in the USA: it is a battle between different versions of history. A rigged election on one side and an armed insurrection on the other. Every war is a battle to control the truth, and Russia has lost at that game for half a century. It has no truth battalions. Only a few subversive individuals. The Western narrative has won. The expansion of the US militarist empire, the greatest war criminal empire in history, is defined universally as the spread of democracy and freedom, the goal of history. Only nuclear war could change that reality.

Putin’s only choice is to pull back from Kiev and Kharkov, disable the Ukrainian army in the Donbass, destroy (or capture) the Azov Battalion, annex the Azov Coast, negotiate with the leaders of Odessa, and try to grab the maximum amount of sea coast. And having annexed all that, use it as a bargaining chip to obtain a pledge of neutrality. Odessa in exchange for neutrality. Why not? But please, Vladimir Vladimirovich, don’t even think of sticking a puppet government (or a more rational government) in power in Kiev (especially after bloody city street battles which you can’t win without a ruthless use of force you have avoided till now.) That train has left. It’s called the USSR. You can’t bring it back. Don’t prove the idiots right who claimed for years you were trying to do so. Understand the world of media lies you now live in. Don’t imagine you can block them out or replace them with the truth. Truth has ceased to exist. Except in the minds of a few individuals. The all-powerful world narrative is now hysterical Russophobia which aims at dismantling Russia as they did Yugoslavia. The task of Russia now is to survive. You need to cut off Europe’s oil and gas immediately. Sell it all to China. The West has gone nuclear with sanctions. You need to as well. Don’t try to appease their absolute genocidal racist hatred. They even destroy your angelic child skaters. They will never stop hating you no matter what you do. Turn your back on the West completely. There is a world elsewhere.

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