“Justifying what can not be justified” as one article put it, is very apt. Yet Putin has spent considerable time and effort doing exactly this. It is an invasion. Ukraine is a real country, has been for 104 years.
“The first casualty in war is truth,” Hiriam Johnson, 1917. Putin has been creating myths about Russia and its neighbors for more than a decade. An autocrat doesn’t have to worry about being contradicted.
Under Putin, Russia adopted expansionary and interventionist policies. I will comment on this in Part II or perhaps Part III. I wrote about Russia’s puppet government in Chechnya. Belarus also has a highly repressive government, and the 2020 elections were considered rigged.
Multiple attacks are going on, beyond the tragic and brutal attacks of Ukraine. Once Putin felt he could send Russian soldiers to die for some big lies, like Ukraine is part of Russia, then truth really was under attack. Putin has directly attacked truth and interestingly history going back to the Stalin years.
This series of blogs provide a more solid background into the current war. There is a lot of disinformation on Ukraine and Russia. I want to present this information in a complete unbiased manner. There have been actions of NATO which has upset Putin, but nothing that justifies an invasion of Ukraine.
I applaud the actions of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who yesterday in Kyiv made it clear that Russia could end the war tomorrow just by leaving.
(1) Was Russia provoked in invading Ukraine? Did Russia feel threatened by Western European countries and the US to the extent that their only recourse was military action?
No. Certainly not by the conflict in Donbas region where Russia supported separatists. Certainly, it is Putin’s allegation, that Ukraine, backed by the US and NATO, provoked this war. Much of this goes back to concept of spheres of influence or security belt. Putin has also tried to justify the invasion based on the mistreatment of Russians in the Donbas region. Of course, the Ukrainian army was justified at suppressing violence caused by Russian supported separatists in the Donbas region. It is part of Putin’s interventionist policy to encourage pro-Russian groups in other countries. It also set up a pre-text to launch an invasion.
I will cover the history of NATO’s expansion in later in this series along with the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. Yes, the expansion of NATO upset Putin. It is more correct to say that NATO’s acceptance of the former Soviet republics application to NATO angered Putin. This acceptance definitely put bounds into the countries that he could destabilize or control, without risking World War III.
The idea that Ukraine could pose any military threat to Russia is absurd, as Russia has a military force roughly 10 times larger than Ukraine. The allegations of biological weapons laboratories made at the UN Security Council was a total farce, as Russia could supply no evidence of their existence.
I suspect Wikipedia will have to keep adding to this list.
In a more broadly based justification, Putin has claimed that Ukraine correctly belongs to Russia and through a “military operation” they are simply taking back what was always part of Russia, which leads to the next question.
(2) What about Putin’s claim that historically Ukraine and Russia are “one people” – is this true?
“I am confident that true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia. Our spiritual, human and civilizational ties formed for centuries and have their origins in the same sources, they have been hardened by common trials, achievements and victories. Our kinship has been transmitted from generation to generation. It is in the hearts and the memory of people living in modern Russia and Ukraine, in the blood ties that unite millions of our families. Together we have always been and will be many times stronger and more successful. For we are one people.”
Vladimir Putin, July 21, 2021
Yes, there was kinship. Ukrainians and Russians married, and had children. But, one people, no.
Much of Putin’s narrative is highly selective, and what he wants Russians to believe. Russian soldiers invading Ukraine were told they would be welcomed by most Ukrainians and any conflicts would be very brief. Ukrainians have died for their country. Historically, Ukraine emerged as a nation state since 1918. (see link)
Professor Lenoe, University of Rochester, NY Fact-Checking Putin’s Claim that Ukraine and Russia are “One People”
Yes, just after the Russian Revolution and the creation of the Soviet Federation of Republics. By their constitution in 1917, each republic had the right to secede from the Union. So you can thank comrade Lenin, for formally recognizing the Republic of Ukraine, as a self administrating nation state.
(3) Didn’t Putin made the claim in that Ukrainians greeted the Nazis as liberators in 1941, as they invaded the Soviet Union, demonstrating their pro-Nazi sentiments?
Putin likes to take cherry pick his facts, and often out of context. Ukraine was part of the USSR during World War II.
Per Brittanica link: The Nazi occupation of Soviet Ukraine
“Initially, the Germans were greeted as liberators by some of the Ukrainian populace. In Galicia especially, there had long been a widespread belief that Germany, as the avowed enemy of Poland and the U.S.S.R., was the Ukrainians’ natural ally for the attainment of their independence. The illusion was quickly shattered. The Germans were accompanied on their entry into Lviv on June 30 by members of OUN-B, who that same day proclaimed the restoration of Ukrainian statehood and the formation of a provisional state administration; within days the organizers of this action were arrested and interned in concentration camps (as were both Bandera and, later, Melnyk). Far from supporting Ukrainian political aspirations, the Nazis in August attached Galicia administratively to Poland, returned Bukovina to Romania, and gave Romania control over the area between the Dniester and Southern Buh rivers as the province of Transnistria, with its capital at Odessa. The remainder was organized as the Reichskommissariat Ukraine.
In the occupied territories, the Nazis sought to implement their “racial” policies. In the fall of 1941 began the mass killings of Jews that continued through 1944. An estimated 1.5 million Ukrainian Jews perished, and over 800,000 were displaced to the east; at Baby Yar (Ukrainian: Babyn Yar) in Kyiv, nearly 34,000 were killed in just the first two days of massacre in the city. The Nazis were aided at times by auxiliary forces recruited from the local population.”
Further, in this post, the treatment of Ukraine under Germany was devastating. “Ukraine’s human and material losses during World War II were enormous. Some 5 to 7 million people perished. Even with the return of evacuees from the east and the repatriation of forced labourers from Germany, Ukraine’s estimated population of 36 million in 1947 was almost 5 million less than before the war.”
(4) Didn’t Putin claimed the invasion is necessary for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine. How does he justify this given that the Ukraine’s president is Jewish.
Yes, the claim is farcical (see link from Business Insider). See link: Putin tried to justify his war against Ukraine by calling for the ‘de-Nazification’ of a democratic country led by a Jewish president
President Zelenskiy said it best. “You are told we are Nazis, but how can a people support Nazis that gave more than 8 million lives for the victory over Nazism? How can I be a Nazi? Tell my grandpa, who went through the whole war in the infantry of the Soviet Army and died as a colonel in independent Ukraine.” Perfect!
(5) As long as we are going back into history, under Stalin, wasn’t there a massive famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933, as a result of the Soviet’s policy of collectivizing agriculture?
Yes. Whether this was intentional genocide is still under debate, as there were multiple factors to Hodomar. From Wikipedia: “According to Natalya Naumenko, collectivization in the Soviet Union and lack of favored industries were primary contributors to famine mortality (52% of excess deaths), and some evidence shows there was discrimination against ethnic Ukrainians and Germans.”
More will follow.