Israeli forces shot their own civilians!

Yasmin Porat, a 44-year-old Israeli mother of three, said that after fleeing the ‘Nova’ rave during the attack by Palestinian fighters from the Gaza strip, she and other civilians had been held by the fighters for several hours. They treated her humanely, she said during an interview on the radio programme Haboker Hazeh (‘This morning’), hosted by Aryeh Golan on Kan, an Israeli state broadcaster.

A recording of the interview had been circulating on social media. It has since been censored, perhaps due to its explosive nature, and is no longer available on the online version of Haboker Hazeh for 15 October. You can find it here.

Yasmin’s Porat’s account undermines Israel’s official story of deliberate, wanton murder by Palestinian fighters. There is little doubt about the recording’s authenticity as at least one Hebrew-language account posted part of the interview on X (aka Twitter) and accused Kan of functioning as ‘media in the service of Hamas’.

Not only does Ms Porat tell Kan that Israelis were killed in the heavy counterattack by Israeli security forces — Ms Porat herself received a bullet in the thigh after Israeli forces arrived — but she says she and other captive civilians were well treated by the Palestinian fighters.

Porat had been attending the ‘Nova’ rave when the Hamas assault began with missiles and motorized paragliders. She and her partner Tal Katz escaped by car to nearby Kibbutz Be’eri where many of the events she describes in her media interviews took place.

According to Porat she and Katz initially sought refuge in the house of a couple called Adi and Hadas Dagan. After the Palestinian fighters found them they were all taken to another house, where eight people were already being held captive and one person was dead.

Porat said that the wife of the dead man told us that when they [the Hamas fighters] tried to enter, the guy tried to prevent them from entering and grabbed the door. ‘They shot at the door and he was killed. They did not execute him.’

‘They did not abuse us. They treated us very humanely,’ Porat explained to a surprised Golan in the Kan radio interview.

In the Channel 12 interview, Porat elaborates that although the Palestinian fighters all had loaded weapons, she never saw them shoot captives or threaten them with their guns.

About eight hours after the start of the Hamas attack and about half an hour after Porat’s calls to the police, Israeli forces arrived and chaos ensued, Porat told Kan.

‘At first there was no [Israeli] security force with us,’ Porat recalled, noting that her first call to the Israeli police went unanswered. ‘We were the ones who called the police, together with the abductors because the abductors wanted the police to arrive. Because their objective was to kidnap us to Gaza.’

‘They understand that soldiers will not kill hostages. So they want to come out with us alive and for the police to permit it,’ Porat told Channel 12.

The Hamas fighters numbered between 40 and 50 men mostly in their 20s, by Porat’s estimate. They were mostly young and scared, she told Channel 12.

A fighter Porat described as a commander in his 30s asked to speak to the police and was put on with an Arabic-speaking Israeli officer.

After their brief conversation, the four dozen or so Palestinian fighters and their dozen Israeli prisoners awaited the arrival of the army, with some of the group spilling outside to the garden for relief from the afternoon heat.

Israeli forces announced their arrival with a hail of gunfire, catching the fighters and their Israeli captives by surprise. ‘We were outside and suddenly there was a volley of bullets at us from the [Israeli unit] YAMAM. We all started running to find cover’, Porat told Channel 12.

Porat said that one of the Palestinian fighters, a commander, decided to surrender and used her in effect as a human shield. ‘He calls to me and he starts to leave the house with me, under fire. At that time I yell to the [Israeli commandos] … when they can hear me, to stop firing.’

‘I see people from the kibbutz on the lawn. There are five or six hostages lying on the ground outside. Just like sheep to the slaughter, between the shooting of our commandos and the terrorists.”

‘The terrorists shot them?’ Golan asks.

‘No, they were killed by the crossfire,’ Porat responds.

Golan presses: ‘So our forces may have shot them?’

‘Undoubtedly,’ the former captive responds, and adds, ‘They eliminated everyone, including the hostages because there was very, very heavy crossfire.’

‘After insane crossfire, two tank shells were shot into the house. It’s a small kibbutz house, nothing big,’ Porat explains.

Porat and the man who took her captive both survived. The Palestinian was taken prisoner by Israeli forces. But according to Porat, almost everyone else in the settlement was killed, wounded or missing, believed to have been taken to Gaza.

Porat told Kan she lost dozens of friends who had been at the rave – people she would regularly see at parties in Israel’s trance scene. ‘I’m angry at the state, I’m angry at the army,’ Porat said. ‘For 10 hours the kibbutz was abandoned.’

The joint American-Israeli effort to paint Hamas as worse than ISIS in order to justify Israel’s unfolding genocide against the civilian population in Gaza depends on the international public not seeing or hearing accounts like Porat’s.

Hannibal Directive

Saleh al-Arouri, a senior Hamas military commander, has directly addressed Israel’s claims that his fighters set out to deliberately kill as many civilians as possible. The Israeli propaganda campaign has included lurid tales of atrocities – for which no evidence has been produced whatsoever – that Palestinians beheaded dozens of Israeli babies and that women were raped.

Al-Arouri said in an interview with Al Jazeera on Thursday that fighters of his organization’s military force, the Qassam Brigades, were under strict protocol to not harm civilians.

But al-Arouri said that after Israel’s Gaza division – the army unit that surrounds the Gaza Strip – collapsed much more quickly than expected, people in Gaza rushed to the boundary area after learning it had been opened, causing chaos. He said this may have included other armed persons who were not part of Qassam.

Al-Arouri said that this caused Qassam fighters to engage with soldiers, settlement guards and armed residents, which led to civilian deaths.

Al-Arouri also invoked the possibility Israel used the so-called Hannibal Directive – a protocol that allows Israeli forces to use overwhelming force to kill one of their own captured soldiers rather than allow them to be taken prisoner. The rationale for the Hannibal Directive is to avoid allowing an enemy to have captives that can be used in prisoner exchange negotiations.

However, in this case, if the directive was implemented by Israeli forces, it would have been used against Israeli civilians. Al-Arouri told Al Jazeera, ‘We are certain that young men [fighters] were bombed along with the prisoners who were with them.’

Porat’s account, among others, underscores the need for an independent investigation, one which Israel is unlikely ever to permit. The current propaganda narrative is simply too valuable to the genocidaires in Tel Aviv.

Fake News – Babies beheaded by Hamas Qassem Brigade

A claim that the Palestinian militant group beheaded dozens of babies gained prominence in the days after the massacre, amplified at the highest levels of the US and Israeli even though it was a fabrication. So why did a weakly sourced claim about 40 beheaded babies travel far and wide?

Experts on disinformation and the Middle East say it was due to the emotional response the violence against children generates by all right-thinking people. But was this response justified?

PolitiFact.com is an American not-for-profit project run by the Poynter Institute in Florida, USA, that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others. It examined the origin of the ‘beheaded babies’ claim and documented how US and Israeli politicians and media repeated the false story.

On the 10 October, reporter Nicole Zedek of i24 News, an Israeli news channel, said that Israeli soldiers told her that infants had been killed in the attack on Kibbutz Kfar and they saw babies with their heads cut off. She later posted on X saying, ‘soldiers told me they believe 40 babies or children were killed’.

She did not say Hamas beheaded 40 babies, but several social media posts conflated those reports.

On 11 October, news outlets in the US and United Kingdom, including The IndependentThe Daily MailCNNFox News and the New York Post, repeated the claim that Hamas had beheaded babies, citing Israeli media or the prime minister’s office as sources.

Hamas dismissed these false claims and stated that they were contrary to its ethics and Islam.

On 11 October, a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CNN that babies and toddlers were found in Kfar Aza with their ‘heads decapitated’. The next morning, CNN reported that the Israeli government could not confirm the claim that Hamas beheaded babies, contradicting the previous statement from the prime minister’s office.

President Joe Biden also repeated the claim during a round-table discussion with Jewish leaders on 11 October saying, ‘I never really thought that I would see and have confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children’. But the White House later told CNN that Biden had neither seen such photos nor received confirmation that Hamas beheaded babies or children. He had made a mistake! How could anyone make such a mistake? Obviously Biden was arse-licking his Jewish-American financial backers with a blatant lie.

With Joe Biden in charge, God sure needs to bless America! His brazen bare-faced lie coupled with the unquestioning support of the media in the US and UK created a veritable tsunami of hatred for the Palestinian rebels that was almost visceral … a true triumph for propaganda!

All this despite the fact that other journalists on the ground in Kfar Aza, including Oren Ziv of +972 Magazine, which covers Israel and Palestine, and Samuel Forey of Le Monde, a French news outlet, said their reporting did not corroborate the report off babies being beheaded.

Why Africa is pissed off with the West

After Russia’s ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine began in late February 2022, 17 African states refused to vote for a UN resolution condemning Russia. Since then, most African countries have continued trading with Russia, resisting efforts to cajole or strong-arm them into picking sides in the latest might-makes-right contest in Ukraine. Their reasons for spurning the USA and NATO are a mixed bag of historical and current grievances. Truly, Africa is pissed off with the West.

Image of Africa

Africans are rightly vexed with the West for several understandable and heartfelt reasons:

  • The hypocrisy underlying the so-called rules based international order;
  • The almost insurmountable obstacles to reforming international institutions;
  • Slavery, colonialism and the aftermath of ‘independence’;
  • The long-term damage caused by Western military interventions;
  • The failure to take African opinion into account by international decision-making institutions.

How the so-called rules based international order is applied in practice is probably the #1 reason Africa is thoroughly irritated with the West.

The concept of a rules-based international order

No educated African believes that the rules-based international order promoted by the USA and EU is based on a set of rules that apply equally and fairly to all states.

Wikipedia states that the rules-based international order describes a set of global, rule-based, structured relationships … that has been in place since the late 1940s. It is based on international cooperation through multilateral institutions (such as the United Nations, World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund) and is constituted by human equality (freedom, rule of law and human rights), open markets, security cooperation, promotion of liberal democracy, and monetary cooperation. The order was established in the aftermath of World War II, led in large part by the United States.

This rules-based international order (RBIO) has not served Africa’s interests. All it has done, say African academics and politicians, is preserve the status quo in which major powers maintain their dominance over Africa and the Global South.

The Global South consists of the nations of the world that are regarded as having relatively low levels of economic and industrial development. They are typically located to the south of the more industrialized nations, that is, most are found in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

According to RBIO cynics, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, i.e. the USA, Russia, China, France and the UK, aka the Big Five, fail to consult African governments concerning African affairs. Africans of all political persuasions find this particularly irksome and unacceptable.

For example, in 2011 the African Union (AU) was using diplomacy to de-escalate the crisis in Libya and its efforts were gaining some success when NATO (the USA, Britain and France) — treating the AU as if it did not count in the scheme of things — started bombing the shit out of that country. Unsurprisingly, the AU’s diplomatic efforts came to nought, and Libya collapsed into a failed state wracked by violence that continues today.

Under the West’s oft-touted RBIO, the bombing of Libya was in fact illegal. The UN Security Council resolution that was used to justify the attacks merely authorised a no-fly zone, not the wholesale bombing NATO indulged in and that led to the fall and death of Gadhafi, Libya’s leader, and turned an oil country whose citizens enjoyed a cradle-to-grave welfare state, on a par with that of their cousins in the oil-rich states of the Persian Gulf, into a failed state plagued by tribal violence.

The illegality of the bombing of Libya was noted throughout Africa.

The current form of the RBIO is dominated by a few powerful states that seem to think that peace and security is the imposition of their will on others. As a result, resistance to the current form is growing. More and more countries in Africa and in other parts of the Global South are refusing to accept the current RBIO but they are not trying to wreck it like China and Russia are doing.

African countries want the RBIO to be reformed so that it is no longer based on the idea that might-makes-right. They want the United Nations (UN) and the other international institutions, such as the IMF and WTO, to be restructured so that they operate on more equitable and fairer terms, meaning that states other than the Big Five are included in decision-making, especially when it affects their part of the world.

A good place to start with these reforms would be with the UN Security Council.

Reforming the UN Security Council

The purpose of the UN Security Council is to ameliorate threats to international security through negotiation, by imposing sanctions and by authorising the use of force as well as the deployment of peacekeeping missions.

The Council has 15 members. Five of these — China, France, Russian, the UK and the USA — are permanent members. The other 10, known as rotating members, are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. Each permanent member has a veto power, that is they can block resolutions passed by the other 14 members. The remaining 10 rotating members have no such power..

The United Nations Security Council epitomises how Africa, along with other states in the Global South, is excluded from international decision-making.

More than 50% of Security Council meetings and 70% of resolutions authorising peacekeepers to use force relate to African states. Yet there are no African countries among the Council’s five veto-wielding permanent members. In other words, African states, being at most rotating members on the Security Council, are extremely limited in how they can contribute to Security Council decisions that affect Africa. Africans find this extremely irritating and vexatious, especially when a decision goes against what they see as their own best interests or those of their continent as a whole.

Since 2005 the African Union has been making the case for reform of the UN, trying to get Africa fully represented in all decision-making organs of the UN, especially the Security Council. But its proposed reforms have been rejected by the permanent members of the Security Council … three of whom were striving in 2022 to get African countries to side with the West in the struggle over Ukraine (they failed to see the irony).

Reform, however, is possible. The UN Charter can be amended under Article 109 which allows a special ‘charter review conference’ to be called by a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly and a vote of any nine of the members of the Security Council. This vote cannot be vetoed by the permanent members. A coalition of African and other states in the global south could draft a General Assembly resolution to put a review of the charter on the Assembly’s agenda. There are no major obstacles to this as long as the coalition has a two-thirds majority in the General Assembly.

This review conference would have the power to alter the UN Charter and introduce new provisions that would transform the system. Article 109 states that ‘each member of the United Nations shall have one vote’ and that provisions shall be approved by a two-thirds majority with no country having a veto. Thus the resolutions of the review conference could not be blocked.

Perhaps this is just a pipe-dream. It is unlikely the five permanent members of the Security Council would allow a review of the Charter to take place. To make it happen, Africa would have to build a coalition of the willing (a Reform Alliance) with the rest of the global South and any developed countries not in thrall to the USA, Russia or China.

This is unlikely to happen as the veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council would probably bring traditional forms of pressure to bear on members of the reform alliance … cajoling, promising the delivery of aid, bribes and, ultimately, military threats ‘to bring democracy to their country’.

However, until their interests and concerns are taken seriously, African governments will continue to pursue a strategy of nonalignment and intentional ambiguity in their dealings with major powers. Attempts to wheedle or strong-arm them into picking a side in the latest might-makes-right contest in Ukraine failed, since no one in Africa believes that the international order is based on rules.

Slavery, colonialism and the aftermath of ‘independence’

For the last 500 years the international order has been exploiting Africa.

During the 300 years plus of the transatlantic slave trade, more than 10 million Africans were purchased from Arab traders and African chiefs and shipped to the Americas where their unpaid labour and brutal serfdom made the elites of America and Europe extremely wealthy.

Once the slave-trading era was over, European nations, especially the British and French, began colonising Africa. The prize was no longer slaves, rather it was the extraction of natural resources. Resistance to this extraction (or, more accurately, theft) was met with unparallelled brutality from the continent’s colonial masters.

Things changed little with the independence achieved by African nations in the 1950s and 1960s. The retreating colonial powers were able to corrupt incoming African leaders, such as Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya and Francis Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, into agreeing to independence on terms that were not beneficial to their African nations.

For example, the CFA franc, a relic of the colonial past, still gives France sway over the economies of 14 West and Central African countries. It may be hard to believe but Francophone African countries are still paying $500 billion a year in ‘colonial taxes’ to the Central Bank of France while France, in a surfeit of generosity, gives just $12.2 billion back in development assistance to Africa. At the same time France no longer has the expense of maintaining a colony!

It is obvious that the international powers that exploit Africa have merely changed their methods and rhetoric. They no longer take what they want with brute force. Instead they rely on skewed trade deals and financing arrangements to drain the continent of its resources, often with the collusion of the African elites they have corrupted.

The major powers, however, still do use force when they find it is expedient. Despite claiming to uphold the RBIO, they have imposed their will on other countries many times. Examples include the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia and Libya, the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and the Russian invasions of Georgia and Ukraine. In 2014, the USA, the UK and France intervened militarily in Syria to support rebel forces; a year later, in 2015, Russia’s military stepped in to support the Syrian government.

All Africa is aware that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 was not a departure from the norm but a continuation of the same old story of the more powerful using force against the less powerful.

The long-term damage caused by Western military interventions

African elites are fully aware that military interventions by the world’s major powers have steadily eroded the pretence of a RBIO and made the world much less stable. Let’s look at some of the consequence of these illegal wars by Western states.

The illegal invasions of Iraq and Syria created violent extremist jihadi movements, such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (aka ISIS), which have since spread rapidly across Africa. Following the chaos created by NATO’s intervention in Libya, Islamist terrorism has proliferated in the Sahel, becoming rife in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. In East Africa, religious extremism imported from the Middle East in the form of Al Shabab is undermining stability in Kenya, Mozambique, Somalia and Tanzania.

These threats are not sensed in the capitals of America and Europe. But they are acutely felt by Africans who had no say in the military operations that spawned them. As a result, Africans feel that they do not count; if they did count, the consequences for Africa would be considered when these military campaigns are being planned.

Here’s the weird and sad thing. On the one hand, illegal military interventions by the major powers have resulted in terror in Africa; on the other hand, the same major powers have failed to intervene in humanitarian crises — in Rwanda in 1994, Srebrenica in 1995 and Sri Lanka in 2009. This failure exposes the lie at the heart of today’s global order. Those who keep calling for the protection of an illusionary RBIO have obviously not been on the receiving end of a USA-NATO military incursion. Africans see their voices as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

The myth of a functioning RBIO that constrains the whims of nations is still believed in the West. But in the opinion of Africans it is high time that the West acknowledges what African countries have known for decades — the dysfunctional RBIO poses a clear and present danger to developing countries. The concept of a rules-based international order has been destroyed by the atrocious actions of some of its most powerful advocates.

The current arrangements exclude the representatives of the majority of the world’s population from international decision-making; at the same time it leaves them at the mercy of more powerful hostile forces. Most African politicians believe that the RBIO needs to be remodelled as a matter of urgency. This means re-imagining multilateralism and redesigning international institutions, such as the UN (which may or may not be possible as discussed above), to create a more effective global system of collective security. The failure to even try to do so is what really pisses off educated Africans.

Africans as reconciliators

As this essay has shown, Africans have many good reasons to be totally frustrated with the West.

They are, however, the beneficiaries of an intellectual and political understanding that springs that from their experience in fighting colonialism and apartheid and in attaining self-determination. Rather than holding grudges over their past, they focus on the future and the possibilities for a new global order.

This writer’s African friends have a vision for a new global order that is based on equality — equality of representation on world institutions such as the UN, the IMF etc, and equality in international decision-making. It would also include non-interference in their decision-making as sovereigns and the redress of historical wrongs, though Africans in their generosity do not insist on the latter.

This is because Africans are reconciliators by nature. When the colonial powers withdrew from the continent, Africans did not retaliate against Westerners for the brutal and exploitative system they had imposed on the peoples of the continent. This ability to effect reconciliation between warring communities was most visible in post-apartheid South Africa.

But African foreign policy-makers are now demanding that an international order that is de facto based on might-makes-right be replaced with one based on equality, justice, global solidarity, reconciliation and joint decision-making.

The fact that this is just not happening, and is being prevented from happening by the obstinacy of the UN Security Councils Big Five ensures that Africans will remain thoroughly pissed off with the West.

How the war in Ukrainian started

Hard to believe, but the war in Ukraine began with a row over language. Here’s how it all got going.

In 2004, the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology conducted an opinion poll throughout Ukraine and found that the Russian language is used at home by an average of about 45% of the country’s citizens. Indeed, Russian speakers are a majority in the Eastern and Southern parts of the country.

For example, 97% of the population of Crimea speak Russian in their daily lives even those who are ethnic Ukrainians. In Donetsk that figure is 93%, in Luhansk 89%, Odesa 85%, Zaporizhzhia 81% and Kharkiv 74%, according to the Institute’s survey. Russian speakers are a small minority in the north-west where the second language is Polish.

Many of the Russian speakers, especially the older ones, have difficulties filling out forms and conducting correspondence with government offices in Ukrainian. This is because, while it is similar to Russian in its structure and grammar, the Ukrainian language contains many loan words from Polish and is in fact a separate language. In 2012, after years of political agitation in Kiev and in the south and east of Ukraine, the Kivalov-Kolesnichenko law made Russian an official language of Ukraine, meaning that it could be used for official correspondence and on official forms and notices.

How it all started

In early 2014, democratically-elected President Yanukovych was overthrown in a coup sponsored by the USA. On 23 February 2014, the first legislative act of the new unelected government was to abolish the law of 2012 that had made Russian an official language. This enraged Russian speakers throughout Ukraine; regions that were predominantly Russian-speaking continued to use Russian for government business in their localities.

The new unelected government in Kiev reacted in anger by beginning a fierce repression of Russian-speaking regions, such as Donetsk, Lugansk, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov and Odessa. The row over language blossomed into a bloody war and some horrific massacres of Russian-speaking populations in, for example, Mariupol and Odessa were carried out by the Ukrainian armed forces.

In May 2014, contrary to advice from Vladimir Putin, the Russian speaking regions of Donetsk and Lugansk (collectively known as the Donbas) each carried out referenda on whether the two regions should be become autonomous republics within Ukraine. They were not seeking independence from Ukraine but wished to become autonomous within Ukraine so they could use Russian as their official language.

In the civil war between Kiev and the Donbas, the latter fought using guerrilla tactics against the inertia of the Ukrainian forces who were using an old-fashioned top-down command structure in their operations, similar to the initial strategy of the invading Russian forces in 2022. No Russian forces took part in these opening rounds of the war in Ukraine.

According to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Russians did not deliver weapons or other military equipment to the autonomists. They were, in fact, armed by Russian-speaking units of the Ukrainian army that defected to the autonomous regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, along with their tanks, artillery, and anti-aircraft guns.

Minsk Agreements I and II

Defeat forced Kiev to commit to the Minsk Agreement in September 2014. This obliged Kiev to open negotiations on home-rule with the autonomists. But after signing that agreement, instead of entering into discussions with the autonomists, Kiev launched a ‘anti-terrorist operation’ against the Donbas. A massive defeat at Debaltsevo in Donetsk forced Kiev to sign Minsk II in February 2015.

Since 2014 Russia has been continuously demanding implementation of the Minsk agreements but has always refused to participate in the negotiations which it views as an internal Ukrainian matter. But the West has tried ceaselessly to bring the Russians and Ukrainians together through the Normandy contact group of four states, France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia, so called as they met on the sidelines of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings during World War II in Normandy.

It should be noted that OSCE observers never found the slightest trace of Russian troops in the Donbas before February 2022. In addition, an American intelligence map published by the Washington Post on 3 December 2021 does not show Russian units in the Donbas.

The Ukrainian Army

In October 2015, the Ukrainian army was in an appalling state. It had been badly weakened by corruption and no longer enjoyed the support of the population. Conscripts were failing to report for duty, suicides and desertions were rife, and young Ukrainians refused to fight in the Donbas and preferred to emigrate instead.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence turned to NATO for help. The North Atlantic Treaty Alliance agreed to bring Ukraine’s undisciplined and poorly equipped army up to NATO standards in skills, discipline and equipment. Training and donations of Western equipment began almost immediately.

To compensate for its lack of soldiers, the government resorted to paramilitary militias and by 2020 they made up about 40% of the Ukrainian armed forces. They were armed, financed and trained by the USA, Canada, the UK and France and, since 2014, had been operating with Western support in the Donbas where they were guilty off numerous crimes against civilians including massacres, rape and torture.

These militias are composed of violent and brutal men who are extremely anti-Semitic. Labelling them as neo-Nazi is Russian propaganda according to most Western media. But that is not the opinion of the Times of Israel and the Center for Counterterrorism at the West Point Academy.

The Azov is the best known of these militias. Its emblem is similar to that of the German Second SS Das Reich Panzer Division which is venerated in Ukraine for liberating Kharkov from the Soviets in 1943. This bunch of heroes later carried out the massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane in France in 1944 in which 643 civilians, including non-combatant men, women, and children, were murdered in reprisals for the activities of the French resistance.

The outbreak of War

On 24 March 2021, Ukrainian President Zelensky issued a decree ordering Crimea to be recaptured and sent his forces to the southern Ukraine. By October 2021, Ukraine was conducting air operations in the Donbas using drones. These attacks included at least one strike against a fuel depot in Donetsk. The media in the USA reported this attack but the media in Europe did not. There was no condemnation in Europe or America of these violations of the Minsk agreement.

Gorlivka is a regional city in Donetsk. Its economy is based mainly on coal mining and the chemical industry. On 18 January 2022, Donbas fighters intercepted saboteurs who spoke Polish and were equipped with Western equipment that would enable them to create chemical incidents in the city. They may have been mercenaries of the CIA. Reports of sabotage in the Donbas continued to come in but were never reported in the European press.

On 7 February 2022, Macron of France reassured President Putin that he was committed to the Minsk agreements. He repeated this reassurance the next day after meeting President Zelensky. On 11 February, at a meeting in Europe, the Ukrainians refused to implement the Minsk agreement, apparently under pressure from the USA. It would have been obvious to Putin that Macron’s promises were worthless and that the West was not prepared to enforce the Minsk agreements as it had guaranteed it would do when the agreements were signed.

The Ukrainian build up outside the Donbas continued. On 25 February the Russian Parliament (Duma) asked Putin to recognise the independence of the Republics but he refused initially.

As early as 16 February, President Biden knew that the Ukrainians had begun shelling the civilian population of the Donbas intensely yet failed to intervene or at least condemn it. As a result of this shelling, Putin would have found himself between a rock and a hard place … to stand by and watch the Russian-speaking peoples of the Donbas being massacred or to intervene militarily and suffer the consequences of Western outrage.

As Putin explained in a speech on 21 February, he could invoke the international obligation of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ to justify intervention. He further explained that whatever its nature or scale, sending his army in would result in a barrage of sanctions against Russia. The price Russia would have to pay, he said, would be the same whether he limited his intervention to the Donbas or went all the way to put pressure on Europe concerning the neutrality of Ukraine.

On the same day Putin recognised the independence of the Donbas republics and signed treaties of friendship and mutual assistance with them. But the heavy artillery bombardment of the Donbas continued unabated as if Zelensky were goading the Russians to invade.

On 23 February both Donetsk and Lugansk asked for military assistance. On 24 February Putin invoked Article 51 of the UN Charter which provides for mutual military assistance in the framework of a defensive alliance.

European intelligence services were aware in 2021 that the Ukrainian army was preparing to attack the Donbas but this was never made public. To make Russia’s invasion look totally illegitimate in the eyes of the Western public, the powers that be in the West deliberately hid the fact that the war actually started on 16 February with Ukraine’s heavy bombardment of the Donbas region.

Concluding remarks

So there you have it.

The war started because the central government in Kiev took away the language rights of more than 40% of its citizens, contrary to the values of the European Union it was seeking to join. If Ukraine had been a member of the EU in 2014, it would have been subjected to severe disapprobation by the European Union.

Western intelligence services had a very accurate picture of the situation that was developing in Ukraine. But the politicians who decide policy disregarded their reports. It seems that some Western policy-makers wanted Russia to invade.

The war had several major known causes of the war that were brushed aside (deliberately it seems) in the Western media:

  • The eastward expansion of NATO,
  • The desire of the US and NATO to make Ukraine a bulwark against Russia’ western border,
  • Ukraine’s refusal to implement the Minsk agreements,
  • The failure by the guarantors, France and Germany, to insist that Ukraine implement the Minsk agreements,
  • A lack of condemnation in this regard from the European Union,
  • The unceasing attacks on the population of the Donbas from 2014 onwards and
  • The increased intensity of those attacks in mid-February 2022,
  • The EU’s failure to react and condemn these attacks.

In other words, the West, especially the USA, France, and the EU as well as Ukraine itself created the conditions that lead to Russia’s invasion.

Europe showed great compassion for the several million refugees from Ukraine it welcomed. If Europe had shown the same compassion for the millions of refugees from the Russian-speaking populations of the Donbas who, to avoid being slaughtered by their own government in Kiev, sought refuge in Russia from 2014 onwards, Russia’s invasion would probably never have happened.

Sources:

  • Wikipedia
  • Internet search
  • Centre Francais de Recherche sur le Renseignment … Bulletin de Documentation #27 / Mars 2022 … La situation militaire en Ukraine … Jacques Baud

America wanted Russia to Invade Ukraine

America set a trap in Ukraine using its standard bait and bleed tactic and Russia took the bait. What else could it do, given the circumstances? It is obvious that the purpose of the trap was to put Russia in a position where it would be badly weakened militarily and its economy ruined, and so bring down Putin when ordinary Russians turned on him. In other words, America wanted Russia to invade Ukraine.

Let’s look at the facts that show that support this view:

NATO Expansion. Since the time of Bill Clinton’s presidency NATO has been expanding eastwards towards Russia, despite promises to Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, that NATO would not expand beyond the borders of a united Germany. Despite its full understanding of Russia’s objections, the Alliance holds military exercises near Russia’s border knowing they will provoke a hostile reaction. US Senator Joe Biden said as much in 1997.

The 2014 coup. The USA backed a CIA instigated coup in Kiev in 2014 and the installation of an anti-Russian government. In a reaction to the coup, the Donbass industrial region of Ukraine tried to break away from Ukraine and the Ukrainian civil war erupted. The USA supported Kiev and Ukraine’s notorious Azov brigade were trained by the CIA to do the dirty work in the Donbass.

Minsk Accords. The 2015 Minsk II Accords, endorsed by the UN Security Council, to end the Ukrainian civil war and negotiate a degree of self-governance for the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in the Donbass were never implemented but used to buy time to reform Ukraine’s military and bring it up to NATO standards in the knowledge that an intervention by Russia was likely.

This was admitted in 2022 by a variety of European leaders including Petro Poroschenko (ex-president of Ukraine), Boris Johnson (former prime minister of the UK), Angela Merkel (former Chancellor of Germany), and Francois Holland (former president of France), among others.

Russia’s security concerns. Ever since NATO began expanding eastwards Russia has been mouthing its protests. It proposed a new security architecture in Europe which took its concerns about security into account. But the USA and NATO rejected Russia’s proposals without discussion, even after the latter warned of a military response should that happen. It is obvious that the USA and NATO were welcoming the consequences of refusing to discuss Russia’s worries over its security.

Shelling the Donbas. In February 2022, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) reported an increase in shelling of the breakaway Donbas region by Ukrainian troops even though there were at least 100,000 Russian troops massing on the Russian side of the border. The shelling suggested strongly that the Ukrainians were about to invade the Donbas, which is populated by ethnic Russian civilians, another bait to get the Russians to cross the border. 

Preplanning sanctions. According to Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Council, the planning of economic sanctions against Russia began in November 2021, three months before the invasion of Ukraine.

On the day Russia invaded Ukraine, President Biden stated that the purpose of economic sanctions was not to stop the war but to hurt the economic well-being of the Russian people and so turn them against President Putin. In other words, the US was not trying to stop the invasion but to overthrow Putin, in order to restore the dominance over Russia that America enjoyed in the 1990s as the world’s sole hegemon. 

No negotiations for peace. Lloyd Austin, the America Secretary of Defence  acknowledged that the USA’s strategy in Ukraine is to weaken Russia. To this end, the USA has nixed all efforts to stop the fighting and secure a peace deal, even by Turkey (a member of NATO) and by Israel, in order to prolong the conflict. 

Taken together, all this evidence leaves little doubt that the United States of America was provoking Russia to invade Ukraine in order to implement its plan to bring down the Russian government by destroying Russia’s economy. The fact that the USA’s plan has failed so far is another matter entirely. 

Meanwhile the proxy war with its physical, economic and humanitarian costs as well as its one-sided media propaganda rages on and on.

America … Aiming for Global Hegemony Once More

For a few years after the end of the cold war, the USA was the only super-state in a unipolar world. But the resurrection of Russia and the rise of China means that this is no longer so. Now America is hell-bent on reasserting its global hegemony before China is ready to stake its claim as a super-power.

The Cold War was a geopolitical, ideological and economic struggle between the only two world superpowers, the USA and the USSR, and their respective allies, the Western and Eastern Blocs. Both sides strived to prevent the other from spreading its economic and political systems around the globe.

The Cold War began in 1947 at the end of the Second World War. It lasted for nearly 45 years, ending in December 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed, making the USA the sole country with a global reach … the global hegemon.

During that time, the two nuclear super-powers never fought each other directly. Instead they encouraged and supported smaller states in their respective blocs to fight each other. Millions of lives were lost in these proxy wars between the two super-powers.

The collapse of the USSR  began with a growing unrest in the Soviet Union’s constituent republics that developed into ceaseless political and legislative conflicts with Moscow. During 1989 / 1990, the Berlin Wall fell, borders reopened, and free elections ousted Communist regimes throughout eastern Europe. In late 1991 the Soviet Union dissolved into its component republics. The Cold War came to an end.

The political, economic and social impact of the fall of the Berlin Wall weakened the already unstable government of East Germany. Germany was reunited on 3 October 1990, 11 months after the Wall fell, following negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachev the last leader of the Soviet Union.

The Reunification of Germany

The big question during these negotiations was whether a reunited Germany would remain a member of NATO or leave that alliance. And, if a united Germany did remain a member of NATO, would it expand to include other east European countries that were in the course of freeing themselves from Soviet rule?

NATO

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was established in April 1949 by the USA and west European states in order to protect Western Europe from the Soviet Union and to prevent a revival of German militarism. West Germany was included as a member of NATO.

The Alliance wanted a reunited Germany to continue to be a part of NATO, with NATO’s border extended to the eastern edge of what was then east Germany, and this worried Soviet officials and security experts. During the negotiations in 1990 and 1991 that ended with the USSR allowing east and west Germany to reunite, the Soviet negotiators were subjected to a veritable deluge of assurances by Western leaders concerning Soviet security, all insisting that the alliance’s eastern boundary would not extend beyond the Eastern border of the reunited country.

These assurances are evidenced by contemporaneous memos, telephone transcripts and other Soviet, American, British, French and German documents that can be found in the National Security Archive at George Washington University. At a meeting on 9 February 1990, for example, US Secretary of State James Baker promised Gorbachev that NATO would not ‘expand on inch eastward’.

That promise was first broken in the time of US President Bill Clinton (POTUS from 20 January 1993 to 20 January 2001) during his second term.

NATO’s expansion eastwards

Bill Clinton suggested that NATO should expand eastwards, but France and Germany demurred on the grounds that this would antagonise Russia. But, as the only super-power around, the USA had its way.

The timeline of NATO’s comprehensive push to the east was as follows:

1999 – the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland joined NATO

2004 – Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovenia joined

2008 – NATO announced that Georgia and Ukraine would join someday (which was viewed by Russia as a direct threat to its security)

2008 – August: Russia invaded Georgia and took over two separatist regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Despite this clear warning, NATO never publicly abandoned its goal of bringing Georgia and Ukraine into the alliance.

2009 – Albania and Croatia joined NATO

2017 – Montenegro joined

2020 – North Macedonia joined NATO

The Russian Federation (the successor to the USSR) began protesting as soon as NATO’s borders started to move eastwards across what was then Russia’s strategic depth towards the Federation’s western border. But the recent collapse of its political institutions meant that Russia was too weak to do anything to prevent it from happening. It watched furiously as the USA consolidated its power as the global hegemon by bringing more states into its military alliance in Europe and kitting them out with nuclear tipped missiles.

The rise of China

In 1978, when China opened up and reformed its economy, it was a poor, economically backward state. Since then, its GDP has grown at an average of over nine percent a year and has risen 40-fold. Today China has a GDP of US$17.73 trillion, second only to the USA with a GDP of $23.32.

This means that life for the average Chinese person is better than for the citizens of most countries, including those in the West. Current economic, demographic and geopolitical trends suggest that China is on its way to becoming a new super-power.

The country has the largest financial reserves, a large trade surplus and, based on purchasing power parity, the largest economy in the world. Its navy has the greatest number of ships of any country though that navy lacks the highly sophisticated armaments of the USA battle fleets. Its military is modernising and expanding rapidly. The country is working aggressively to forging a Sinocentric Asia. It is clear that its eyes are firmly set on becoming the world’s #1.

The threat posed by China

America is well aware of the threat to its hegemony that a surging China poses. It is actively preparing to meet that threat in a variety of ways. Indeed, since the Obama presidency, the USA has been pursuing a policy of containing China.

This policy is gaining such traction that in 2021 China’s deputy foreign minister complained that ‘a whole-of-government and whole-of-society campaign is being waged to bring China down’. Showing that it is serious, the USA has carried out its largest naval and missile expansion since WWII, imposed extremely aggressive tariffs on Chinese goods and very tight restrictions on foreign investment. It is trying to destroy Huawei and other Chinese firms using technology-related sanctions.

In addition, the USA has upped its alliances with other countries in south-east Asia, such as Japan and Singapore (which has become a significant military partner). Countries around the South China Sea (SCS) are taking their cues from America. The Philippines has stopped courting China and is reiterating its claims in the SCS and increasing its naval and air patrols. Vietnam, too, is sourcing advanced armaments for use on land, sea and air.

The USA’s efforts to contain China are not confined to East Asia. The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, an Indo-Pacific partnership that includes Australia, India and Japan is designed to contain China’s rise, as is AUKUS, an alliance between the USA, UK and Australia under which Australia will receive nuclear-powered submarines.

Many of the countries involved in these efforts to contain China rely on trade with Beijing so getting a wholehearted commitment from them is tough work. But the USA is trying hard.

The recent slowdown in China’s growth, if it continues, means that the Chinese Communist Party is looking at economic stagnation as America attempts to encircle and disrupt its trade. This in turn will mean that its efforts to become a super-power will be thwarted. The ensuing frustration could easily result in a military response from China giving the USA the opportunity to knock it out of the running for hegemon in east Asia.

The USA recognises this risk and has begun deliberately provoking China with, for example, visits to Taiwan (which China views as a breakaway province) by prominent American politicians and other actions designed to goad China.

But, in order to free itself up in order to respond to a military event by China, the US first needed to deplete Russian military and economic resources and so knock it out of the super-power league.

It all began with the good old-fashioned technique of bait and bleed.

The American proxy war against Russia in Ukraine

The USA America baited the Russian Federation into invading Ukraine and now both Russia and Ukraine are bleeding heavily.

Firstly, NATO expanded eastwards, eating up Russia’s strategic depth. Then NATO announced that Ukraine would be joining NATO (along with Georgia). The Federation viewed this as an existential threat in the same way as the USA viewed the installation of nuclear tipped missiles in Cuba in 1962 by the USSR as a vital threat to its existence (the Cuban missile crisis).

A CIA instigated coup d’etat in Ukraine in 2014 ousted Viktor Yanukovich, a democratically elected but Russian-leaning president. The presidential elections that followed were won by Petro Poroshenko who was pro-Western. The Minsk agreements were also signed in that year.

The first Minsk agreement broke down rapidly, but Minsk II was then signed. Among other things under Minsk II, Kiev was supposed to enter into a dialogue on self-government for the Donetsk and Luhansk regions which were revolting against the central government. But Kiev failed to carry out its side of the agreement.

In mid-2022 both Petro Poroshenko, Angela Merkel and others stated separately that the Minsk agreement was signed in order to buy time to train Ukraine’s armed forces up to NATO standards. As can be seen from how the Ukraine armed forces are performing against the Russians that training was very effective.

In March 2022, less than one month after Russia’s invasion, Turkey brokered a peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine agreed that it would not join NATO and that it would become a neutral country. Russia would also retain Crimea which it had annexed in 2014.

The agreement between the two countries was about to be signed when the USA nixed it. Uncle Sam promised Ukraine everything it would need, the arms, ammunition and training to beat Russia and regain all its territory including Crimea. Zelensky went for it.

Since then, the USA has been providing Ukraine with more and more advanced and highly sophisticated weaponry and the training needed to use them effectively. The Ukrainian forces are now, for all intents and purposes, de facto members of NATO.

Indeed, one might say that Uncle Sam is doing everything possible to bleed Russia except pull the triggers and provide the bodies. That is the job of the poor suffering Ukrainians.

Will America’s regain its spot as the sole global hegemon?

It’s hard to say. But it seems unlikely.

The bait and bleed strategy certainly worked and is working in Ukraine. Sucked in by being given no option other than the one it took in the face of American intransigence in refusing to discuss, let alone negotiate, Russia’s security concerns, the Russian Federation is losing soldiers and treasure at an alarming rate as it attempts to reduce Ukraine to a rump state by destroying its infrastructure.

America’s strategy includes the imposition of ruinous economic sanctions on Russia. As stated by US Secretary of State Lloyd Austin in April 2022, one of the USA’s goals is to weaken Russia so much that it cannot again undertake the sort of operations it is carrying out in Ukraine and will lack the economic capability to replenish the equipment and forces that it has lost in Ukraine; in other words, to destroy Russia militarily and economically and thus knock it out of the ranks of the super-powers.

This American strategy ignores the fact that Russia is a nuclear power but that’s a discussion for another time.

But will a bait and bleed strategy work against China? It’s hard to say. Recent goings on by America in Taiwan suggest that the Americans are giving it a try.

But it is not just Russia and China who are seeking to prevent America regaining the position as global hegemon it once enjoyed a few short years ago; other states are beginning to push back against the USA’s hegemonic designs. In fact, most state in the Global South voted to condemned Russia’s invasion in the General Assembly of the United Nations but virtually none of them (except for South Korea and Japan) have joined in the Western led economic sanctions against Russia.

These non-sanctioning countries include powers such as Brazil, South Africa, India, Indonesia, Turkey (itself a member of NATO), Pakistan, the UAE, Hungary (a member of the EU) and the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Unlike Europeans, they don’t want to bear the economic costs and disruptions in diplomatic relationships that sanctions impose on the country enforcing sanctions. BTW the list should also include Israel which has not imposed sanctions on Russia.

With more than half the world ganging up against America, including major powers with nuclear capabilities, it is unlikely that America will ever once again be the only global hegemon in unipolar world.

Were the 2014 Referendums in Crimea legitimate?

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

According to the official results of the 2014 referendums in Crimea, an overwhelming majority voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia. The referendums were condemned internationally as invalid because they wasn’t conducted by Ukraine. So what? Surely the key question is whether the declared results reflect public opinion in Crimea? Let’s find out.

Russia invaded Crimea on Thursday the 27th of February 2014 when gunmen with no insignia on their green uniforms took over government buildings with nary a shot being fired.

Crimea and Sevastopol are two separate political entities on the Crimean peninsula. Referendums took place in on 16th March 2014 in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and in the City of Sevastopol, home to the Russian Black Sea fleet since the time of the Czars.

Both Crimea and Sevastopol voted by large majorities to leave Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Let’s look at the history behind these events.

The Tatars (aka Tartars) were the original inhabitants of Crimea.

Who are the Tatars?

The Tatars (or Tartars) were the main inhabitants of Crimea until the end of World War II.

The name was first used to describe nomadic tribes living in north-eastern Mongolia who, unlike their Mongol neighbours, spoke a Turkic language. In the 13th century, many of these clans joined forces with the armies of the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan and headed west.

The Tatars converted to Sunni Islam in the 14th century. Later in the same century they split up into four independent Khanates. A khanate was a political entity on the Eurasian Steppe ruled by a khan.

Three of the Tatar Khanates were conquered by Russia in the 16th century. The Khan of Tatarstan, one of their Khanates, became part of the elite of the Russian empire. The khanate of Crimea, however, became a vassal state of the Ottoman Turks. It was annexed by Russia in 1783.

The inhabitants of the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) when it was set up by the new Soviet government in 1921 consisted mainly of approximately 200,000 Crimean Tatars.

This ASSR was dissolved in 1945 after Stalin accused the Crimean Tatars of collaborating with the Germans during World War II. They were deported en masse to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

In 1956, under Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization programme the Crimean Tatars regained their civil rights but were not allowed to return to Crimea, which had been incorporated into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) in 1954. However, as the centralised authority of the Soviet state began to fade in the early 1990s, Crimean Tatars began returning to Crimea.

In the early 21st century, they numbered about 250,000 or about one-eight of the population of Crimea, a country in which they had been the main ethnic group until their exile by Stalin.

Sevastopol

The largest city in Crimea, Sevastopol is a major port and a highly strategic naval base on the Black Sea. It was founded in 1783 shortly after Catherine the Great annexed the Crimean Khanate.

The City of Sevastopol along with its surrounding towns and communities has a total area of 864 square kilometres and, in 2021, a population of about 510,000. It is ruled by a City Council as a political entity that is separate from the rest of Crimea. Both entities were part of the Ukrainian SSR after 1954.

In 1991, after Ukraine’s declaration of independence from the USSR, Sevastopol became the main base of the Ukrainian navy … while the Russians were still using it as their Black Sea naval base!

However, the Ukraine navy had few ships of its own and was expecting to get a share of Russia’s Black Sea fleet. Tensions ran high.

These began to cool in June 1992 when Presidents Boris Yeltsin of Russia and Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine agreed to divide the former Black Sea fleet between the two countries.

On 28 May 1997, a treaty to partition the fleet was signed. In a separate agreement, Russia obtained a long lease of land, facilities and other resources in Sevastopol and Crimea. Russia kept its naval base, with around 15,000 troops stationed in Sevastopol.

After the fleet and its facilities were divided between Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and the Ukrainian Naval Forces, the two navies shared many of the city’s harbours and piers. The headquarters of the Russian fleet remained in Sevastopol … with the HQ of the Ukrainian naval forces also in the city !!

Russian remained the predominant language of the Sevastopol as it did in the rest of Crimea. Local society resisted mild attempts by Kyiv at Ukrainization and remained culturally Russian.

The population of Crimea

According to the Ukrainian population census of 2001, the ethnicity of the population of Crimea (excluding Sevastopol) was: Russian (58.3%), Ukrainian (24.3%), Tatars (12.5%), Belarussians (3.5%) and Others (1.4%).

In Sevastopol, according to the same census, 71.6% were ethnic Russians and 22.4% ethnic Ukrainians.

The census also found that 77% of Crimea’s population were native speakers of Russian and a whopping 94% of Sevastopol were native Russian speakers. It appears that many ethnic Ukrainians in Crimea and most Ukrainians in Sevastopol speak Russian from birth, which suggests that they are culturally Russian.

Referendums in Crimea

Over the years, the Crimean people have participated in several referendums on their constitutional position which has changed several times since the early 1990s. They must enjoy them, as turnouts are very high by Western standards and the results suggest a persistent desire for some form of independence.

After a referendum on 20 January 1991, Crimea once again became an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) within the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, one of the constituent republics of the Soviet Union. A few months later Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union.

On the 26th of February 1992, the parliament of Crimea changed the name of the peninsula from the Crimean ASSR into the Republic of Crimea. On the 5th of May, it declared Crimea’s independence and picked the 2nd of August for a referendum to approve the declaration. Parliament also passed the first Crimean constitution on the same day.

All this upset Kyiv greatly. So the next day, the 6th of May 1992, the parliament of Crimea amended their constitution to say that Crimea was part of Ukraine. Nevertheless, in spite of this mollification, on the 15th of May the Ukrainian parliament annulled the Crimean declaration of independence and told the Crimean parliament to cancel the referendum. Some hard talking ensued.

A compromise was reached in June 1992, in which Crimea was to be designated an Autonomous Republic, ie a self-governing but integral part of Ukraine. The revised Constitution of Crimea was adopted on the 25th of September 1992. But that wasn’t the end of the story.

In May 1994, the Crimean parliament voted to restore the original constitution of May 1992. Again Kyiv got mighty upset with the upstart Crimeans. In March 1995, the May 1992 Constitution and the post of president was abolished and, from June to September that year, Crimea was ruled directly from Kyiv.

In October 1995, the Crimean parliament adopted a new Constitution which was recognized by Kyiv in April 1996 after significant amendments. It came into effect on 12 January 1999. This constitution was repealed after the referendums in 2014.

The Crimean referendums of 2014

On the 6th of March 2014, under the watchful eyes of the Russian military, Crimea’s parliament and the Sevastopol City Council voted to join the Russian Federation. Referendums were called for March 16th.

Both referendums gave voters two options only:

  • Are you in favour of Crimea and Sevastopol becoming subjects of the Russian Federation?
  • Are you in favour of restoring Crimea’s 1992 constitution and remaining part of Ukraine?

Voters were not given the option of maintaining the status quo.

The option to restore the 1992 constitution is interesting. Under that constitution Crimea had its own president and constitutional court and controlled its own taxes. It also had full sovereign powers to establish relations with other states.

But at the same time Crimea was not independent of Ukraine … the 1992 Constitution declared Crimea to be a ‘sovereign state’ that ‘enters into the state of Ukraine and defines its relations with Ukraine on the basis of contract and agreements’.

All a bit weird … how can a state be a sovereign within another state? The answer is asymmetrical federalism as invented in Soviet Russia. This bizarre arrangement is typical of the federalism that existed in the Soviet Union in the 1990s.

During his reign over the Socialist Russian Federation, President Boris Yeltsin signed a number of bilateral agreements with ‘sovereign’ states within the Federation that gave them varying degrees of independence from Moscow.

In 1994, for example, Yeltsin signed a treaty with Tatarstan that stated that Tatarstan was ‘united’ with the Russian Federation and had the right to print its own currency, control its finances, and have its own official language.

To recentralise power in Moscow, Vladimir Putin ‘renegotiated’ most of these bilateral relationships when he came to power in 2000.

The official results of the March 16th 2014 referendums in Crimea

The voter turnout in both referendums was very high but not unbelievably so. In Crimea, the turnout was 83 percent and in Sevastopol it was 89 percent. As noted earlier, Crimeans seem to enjoy referendums.

Of those who voted, the official result from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea was a 97 percent vote for integration with the Russian Federation. In Sevastopol 97 percent also voted for integration with the Russian Federation.

Following the referendums, the State Council of Crimea and Sevastopol City Council declared their independence from Ukraine and asked to join the Russian Federation. On the same day, Russia recognized the Republic of Crimea as a sovereign state.

These referendums are not recognized by most countries, mainly due to the presence of Russian soldiers who were there to oversee public buildings and Ukrainian military installations. Sanctions were imposed on Russia by the EU and others in retaliation.

Whether the referendums of 2014 were legitimate is not really relevant. The real question is: did the official results of the referendums reflect the opinions of ordinary Crimeans?

The answer is ‘yes’ according to polls conducted by local and reputable international pollsters, such as Gallop, Pew Research and the GfK Group, before and after the voting.

Public opinion polls before the referendums

According to an opinion poll conducted by the Ukrainian Centre for Economic and Political Studies in 2008, six years earlier, 63.8% of Crimeans (76% of ethnic Russians, 55% of ethnic Ukrainians, and 14% of ethnic Crimean Tatars) wanted Crimea to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.

A poll conducted in the second week of March 2014, just before the referendums on March 16th, by the Crimean Institute of Political and Social Research found that 77% of respondents intended to vote for ‘reunification with Russia’.

The highly reputable GfK Group, Germany’s largest pollster, also conducted a survey of 600 respondents in the second week of March 2014 and found that 70.6% of Crimeans intended to vote to join Russia, 10.8% for restoring the 1992 constitution, and 5.6% did not intend to take part in the referendum.

This poll also showed that if the choices presented in the referendums were wider, 53.8% of them would choose joining Russia and 18.6% would go for a fully independent Crimean state.

Public opinion polls after the referendums

Immediately after the referendums, Gallup, a well-respected international pollster, conducted a survey and reported that 93.6% of ethnic Russians and 68.4% of ethnic Ukrainians living in Crimea believed that the results of the referendums accurately represented the will of the Crimean people.

In May 2014 Pew Research, an American pollster, published the results of a survey that indicated that 88% of Crimeans believed that Kyiv should officially recognize the result of Crimea’s referendums.

In 2014, John O’Loughlin, Professor of Geography at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and Gearóid Ó Tuathail, Professor of Government and International Affairs at Virginia Tech’s National Capital Region campus, commissioned the Levada-Center, an independent, sociological research organization in Russia, to carry out a survey of Crimea.

The results were published in openDemocracy, an independent media platform based in the UK, in March 2015. The survey found that the choice to secede from the Ukraine and join Russia was ‘absolutely the right decision’.

In January 2015, Germany’s GfK Group followed-up their pre-referendums survey of voting intentions with a post-referendums survey, to find out how satisfied Crimeans were with the voting results. The survey showed that 82% of Crimeans ‘fully endorsed’ Crimea’s decision to join the Russian Federation.

In November 2017, three years after the referendums, German pollster ZOiS published a survey which reported that 85.3% of Crimeans (excluding Tatars) and 61.8% of Crimean Tatars (excluding other Crimeans) thought that a majority of Crimeans would vote the same as they did in 2014 if the same referendum were held again in 2017.

Another survey in December 2019 by the Levada-Center, again at the behest of Professors John O’Loughlin and Gearóid Ó Tuathail, that asked the same questions as in the 2014 survey, found that 82% of the  population supported Crimea’s union with Russia compared to 86% in 2014. The survey also found that 58% of Tatars now supported Crimea’s accession to Russia compared to 39% in 2014.

Thus, according to opinion polls conducted by reputable pollsters, the majority of inhabitants of Crimea and Sevastopol wanted to leave Ukraine and join with Russia or else have an independent state.

The official results of the referendums on the 16th of March 2014 were definitely in line with public opinion.

There is a final but interesting question that is worth asking.

Why did the Crimeans vote to leave?

The writer of this article could only find one pollster that asked this question. This was ZOiS. Their survey of 2017 mentioned above also asked why Crimea became a part of Russia in 2014.

Among the Crimean population (excluding Tatars) … 32.9% said it was due to Kyiv’s long-time neglect of the region … 25% said it was because of the mobilization of the Crimean population … 24% that it was due to the civil unrest in Kyiv that began in November 2013, and … 17.4% said it was a result of Russia’s actions.

When the same question was asked of Crimean Tatars (excluding all other Crimeans) … 36.3% said that Crimea became a part of Russia as a result of the events in Kyiv in November 2013 … 32.9% said it was due to Kyiv’s neglect of the region over many years … 24% said it happened as a result of Russia’s action, and … 7.8% said it was due to the mobilization of the Crimean population.

Provoking the Bear  ̶ Russia’s existential threat

Imagine your neighbour across the road sets up a machine-gun nest on his roof with a great big belt-fed Gatling on a tripod pointing directly at your front door. Wouldn’t you feel uneasy, uncomfortable or even down-right scared? That’s what Russia feels about having USA/NATO military assets up against its western borders. In Russia’s view, those weapon systems represent an existential threat.

Photo by Chandler Cruttenden on Unsplash

Let’s briefly review the history of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization aka NATO.

NATO was founded in 1949. The original 12 members were the USA, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the United Kingdom. In 1952, Greece and Turkey joined, West Germany in 1955, and Spain in 1982 following its return to democracy.

The original purpose of the alliance was to provide Western Europe with a collective defence against the communist Soviet Union and to prevent the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent.

The agreement not to expand NATO eastwards

East Germany held free elections in 1990 after which a unification treaty was signed between the new East and West German governments. This reunification meant the eastern borders of NATO would expand to the new border on the east of a reunited Germany.

General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev of the USSR agreed to allow East Germany to reunite with West Germany provided NATO did not expand eastwards of the new German border with Poland. Such an agreement in writing was signed by US Secretary of State James Baker III and Gorbachev.

East and West Germany were reunited in October 1990.

America breaks the agreement

A few years later, President Bill Clinton of the USA (1993-2001) proposed the eastward expansion of NATO. France and Germany were opposed on the grounds that it would antagonise Russia. But, as usual in NATO, the USA  got its way and the signed agreement with Gorbachev was ignored!

The first countries to join NATO after the reunification of Germany were the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland in 1999. The new Russian Federation protested but it was still militarily weak and could only bluster. NATO marched eastwards.

But as NATO expanded eastwards after 1999, and its eastern borders got closer and closer to Russia’s western borders Russia began protesting more and more vehemently.

Russia’s existential crisis looms large

When Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, along with the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, joined NATO in 2004, Russian protests became extremely vocal. Who could blame Russia? The Baltic states had common borders with Russia, meaning Russia had NATO military assets on its doorstep.

Now missiles from the Baltic states could reach St Petersburg in about one-and-a-half minutes and Moscow in less than three minutes, not much time to mount a response. No wonder Russia was feeling uncomfortable and fearful of its very existence.

Would the USA allow China to enter into an alliance with Mexico and place Chinese military assets on the southern side of the Rio Grande? The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when America threatened Russia with nuclear war, gave us a clear answer to that one.

In 2009, Albania and Croatia joined NATO. In 2017 Montenegro joined NATO, followed by North Macedonia in 2020. Again, each time, Moscow protested. It looked like all of Europe was ganging up on Russia (at least in Russian eyes).

Russia’s warning

In 2008, NATO announced that Georgia and Ukraine would join someday. This was viewed by Russia as a direct threat to its security and, indeed, to its very existence. So in August that year, Russia invaded Georgia and took over two separatist regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Despite this clear warning, NATO never publicly abandoned its goal of bringing Georgia and Ukraine into the alliance. In addition, for the last 15 years the USA has adamantly refused to discuss Russia’s security concerns. America’s policy seemed to be based on provoking the Bear.

In 2014, Russia invaded the Crimea where it had a massive naval base. It was afraid that following the CIA instigated coup in Kiev in February of that year, it would lose the naval base which would then be given to the US Navy. If this happened the US would command the Black Sea and the Russian fleet would no longer have access to the Mediterranean.

The invasion was a success without a shot being fired. The Russians were welcomed with open arms.

The Russians then held a referendum in which the vast majority of Crimeans voted to join the Russian Federation. The result was hardly a surprise given that more than 62% of the population were Russian and had no desire to stay in Ukraine which had just passed laws curtailing their language rights.

Another 12% or so were Tatars who had lived in the Crimea for centuries and who were a minority ethnic group in racist Ukraine. Ethnic Ukrainians made up about 24% of the Crimean population, many of whom were native Russian speakers which suggests that they were culturally Russian.

Russia had now secured its possession of its naval base on the Black Sea.

Russia begins to freak out

Let’s recap … the written agreement between the USA and the USSR that NATO would not extend east of reunited Germany was blithely broken by President Bill Clinton … as the eastward expansion of NATO’s border continued, Russian objections grew louder and louder … the fact that the USA/NATO now have missiles on Russia’s borders that can reach St Petersburg in one-and-a-half minutes and Moscow in less than three scares the bejaysus out of the Russians.

With NATO continuously stating that the Ukraine would be joining NATO and thereby depriving Russia of its remaining strategic depth, the Russian perception that it was in the midst of an existential crises and just had to do something about it is totally understandable.

Thoroughly scared into action, in 2021 Russia began accumulating an invasion force on its borders with Ukraine. Russian Foreign Secretary Lavrov started traipsing around Western capitals trying to get the USA, NATO and the EU to discuss Russia’s strategic security concerns but to no avail.

No one would talk to him except for President Macron of France whose shuttle diplomacy made him a pariah in the eyes of Washington. The US Secretary of State Blinken said that such discussions were not on the table in tones that could only be described as arrogant and highly provocative.

Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on the 24th of February 2022.

Refugees from Ukraine

The West seemed well prepared for the invasion and the resulting hordes of Ukrainian refugees flowed quickly and seamlessly across the border with Poland, no checks, watched by the same Polish border guards who had beaten back Afghani refugees at the Poland-Belarus border a few weeks earlier and are still doing so today

From day one, on the Polish side of the border welcoming committees had set up facilities to meet, feed and shelter the Ukrainian refugees. Buses were on standby to carry them onwards into Europe. This ultra-swift organisation of reception facilities suggests a great deal of preplanning.

Ukrainian refugees were exempted from European visa requirements and were accorded residency visas and the same rights (including the right to work and receive medical and social services) available to EU citizens.

But for the thousands of third-level foreign students studying medicine or STEM subjects in Ukraine, it was a different story. While the border guards on the Ukrainian side of the border with Poland only checked the white Ukrainians to ensure that no men of military age were leaving, they made the African and Indian students stand in the snow for up to 48 hours without food or water before allowing them through, a display of blatant racism not seen in Europe since World War II.

Non-whites trying to leave Ukraine by train were pulled from their seats even when they had fully paid tickets. It’s no wonder India and many West African governments are refusing to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Their populations won’t allow them.

Of course none of this shows up in the narrative being peddled by the Western media.

USA/NATO pre-planning

Since 2014, the USA and NATO allies have been training the Ukraine military in modern warfare and how to use the latest American military equipment. Since February 24th, this training has intensified and the latest military equipment is being supplied.

As soon as the invasion began, Kiev started handing out assault rifles to millions of Ukrainian citizens so they could resist the Russians. Stockpiling them was obviously part of the USA/NATO pre-planning. Now US arms, ammunition and training are being sent daily to Ukraine.

This war is being bankrolled by America. As of the end of May 2022, the USA had sent US$ 13 billion in the form of military equipment and training to Ukraine since the start of the invasion. In the last week of May 2022, another war bill for $40 billion was passed by the US Congress and signed into law by President Biden. Fifty-three billion dollars in equipment and training makes for a lot of war!

Even a blind man with half a brain would be able to see that this is America’s war on Russian using Ukraine as a proxy. America’s goal is obviously to weaken Russia by getting the Ukrainians to engage it in a protracted war. Russia suffered a similar fate in Afghanistan decades ago after which its weaknesses led to the downfall of the Soviet Union.

Ukraine is just the battle field in a long-planned war by the USA/NATO to weaken Russia … which has been dumb enough to react to the goading of the USA/NATO. It is the only explanation of the war taking place in Ukraine that makes sense.

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