The Living Force
Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have agreed that a permanent ceasefire in Ukraine’s war-torn Donbass region must be observed “unconditionally,” following talks held as part of the Normandy Format, which also includes France and Germany.
The group met in Paris on Wednesday to discuss de-escalation in the region amid an ongoing standoff between Russia and Western nations, who have accused Moscow of planning an imminent invasion of Ukraine, which the Kremlin denies. The meeting lasted for over eight hours.
After discussions concluded, Moscow’s chief negotiator Dmitry Kozak said that talks had “not been simple,” but “despite all the differences in interpretations, we agreed that the cease-fire must be maintained by all the parties in line with the accords.”
Ukrainian representative Andrey Yermak said that all parties were in favor of a permanent ceasefire, and called the renewal of the Normandy Format talks a “very positive signal” for the prospects of de-escalation.
The Élysée, which hosted the meeting, confirmed that the envoys “support unconditional respect for the cease-fire and full adherence to the cease-fire strengthening measures of July 22, 2020, regardless of differences on other issues relating to the implementation of the Minsk agreements.” The parties will meet again in Berlin in two weeks for further discussions.
Then there’s the clincher, revealed by a high-level U.S. intel source.
In 2013, the late Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski was presented with a classified report on Russian advanced missiles. He freaked out. And responded by conceptualizing Maidan 2014 – to draw Russia into a guerrilla war then as he had done with Afghanistan in the 1980s.
And here we are now: it’s all a matter of unfinished business.
For better or worse, rightly or wrongly the Russians fear Nato’s intent. It doesn’t take an A J P Taylor or David Starkey to recall that recent Russian history, from 1812, has involved three invasions from the west.
Napoleon sacked Moscow, the Kaiser triggered the Russian Revolution and getting rid of Hitler cost the Russians some 25 million lives, four times as many as died in the Holocaust.
The ensuing arms race with the West bankrupted the Soviet Union and caused its breakup. The subsequent influx of MBA-toting whizz-kids from UK and US banks and consultancies built a system that failed. (my comment: not whizz-kids but crooks !!! ) There was a near revolution – Yeltsin’s finest moment – the rise of the kleptocrats and the return of order, if not full democracy, with Putin.
None of that Russian suffering may have been the West’s intent, but it does explain their concerns about security and their suspicion of Western (read Nato) motivation.
If you can understand that, you might see that at least some in Russia would see EU or Nato membership for the Ukraine as akin to returning the map to something close to Hitler’s front line in 1943. That neither you nor I see it that way is not the point. The Russian view is not the Western view, as was demonstrated with the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
Ukraine neighbours embrace Nato help but Hungary expresses doubtsMost countries in the region back alliance’s plans as Budapest talks of ‘limited options’ to support Kyiv
South-east European countries have backed Nato’s military build-up in the Black Sea region as tensions escalate between Russia and Ukraine, with Hungary striking a lone chord of defiance.
Budapest, which has good relations with Moscow, has threatened to stay out of the alliance’s efforts to support Kyiv, citing longtime disagreements with Ukraine, but is expected to be part of a broader strengthening of Nato’s eastern flank as fears of conflict rise.
Romania is strongly in favour of Nato’s preparations.
President Klaus Iohannis said on Wednesday that “the security crisis created by Russia is not just about Ukraine . . . but about the security of the entire Euro-Atlantic area”. He added that Russia wanted to “unacceptably change the parameters of the European security architecture”.
Romania, which shares a 600km border with Ukraine, was preparing for war and potential consequences such as a refugee crisis, an economic downturn or Russian curbs on energy supplies, Iohannis said.
According to a survey by pollster Avangarde, two-thirds of Romanians feel Russian-Ukrainian tensions threaten their country, with a majority in support of a Nato build-up in response.
About three-quarters of respondents in another poll by Inscop support the country’s Nato membership, including the presence of US military bases in the country. “We are ready to host an increased allied presence in our territory,” Iohannis said, adding that Bucharest was in contact with allies over increasing the number of troops in the country.
France has said it is ready to send troops to Romania, while US president Joe Biden has also said Nato’s troop presence in Romania may be increased as the Ukrainian conflict intensifies.
In Bulgaria, premier Kiril Petkov has discussed his country’s level of involvement with his security council. “We will focus on developing further Bulgarian military capabilities and potential under Bulgarian command, with help of our allies where needed,” Petkov tweeted.
According to a strategy presentation on Wednesday by defence minister Stefan Yanev, a Bulgarian army battalion may join Nato exercises if needed. “Russia’s position is difficult to interpret as a positive signal,” Yanev said.
Spain and the Netherlands have already sent fighter jets to Bulgaria to help it maintain air patrols as Sofia lacks sufficient air defence capabilities. Spain has also sent a frigate to the Black Sea several weeks ahead of schedule. Nato wants stronger defence capabilities in the region, including the four countries that share a border with Ukraine or the Black Sea — Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.
Asked about a troop deployment to Slovakia and Hungary, a Nato spokesperson quoted secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, who on Monday said the enhanced presence in eastern Europe “could include the deployment of additional Nato battle groups.
These deployments are proportionate and in line with our international commitments and they reinforce European security for all of us.”
Slovakia’s foreign minister Ivan Korcok told the Financial Times: “In this critical situation I consider this proposal a logical step aiming at strengthening defence and deterrence in our eastern flank.”
Hungary has stayed silent about plans to participate in the Nato forces’ build-up.
Its foreign ministry told the FT that it wanted to “avoid a new cold war” and preferred direct talks between Russia and the west rather than amplifying tensions, without going into detail.
Around 1,000 Nato troops could be deployed to Hungary in battle groups similar to those already in the Baltics, CNN reported on Wednesday.
Hungarian news website HVG quoted an unnamed government official who confirmed talks were continuing but said no decision had been taken. Budapest has threatened to stay out of western efforts to support Ukraine. “We ask [Russia and the west] to speak to one another directly, and we very clearly tell them we want no part in their conflict in this region,” Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto said on Wednesday in the daily Magyar Nemzet, which usually reflects the government’s political line.
Prime minister Viktor Orban is due to travel to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin next week. Szijjarto told Magyar Nemzet that Budapest was committed to Moscow while it was wary of Kyiv. Asked about western demands for Hungary not to tighten bilateral ties with Putin, Szijjarto said: “Nobody can request such a thing from us.”
He said Russia supplied Hungary with Covid vaccines when supplies from other sources were scarce, bought gas cheaply from Moscow, and that “a single text message to the Russian foreign minister” had been enough to evacuate Hungarian citizens from Kazakhstan this month.
In contrast, Kyiv curtailed the rights of more than 100,000 ethnic Hungarians living in western Ukraine, Szijjarto said in the interview.
He recounted long disagreements over the use of minority languages or rights to hold public office.
A failure to resolve the disputes led Hungary to veto Ukraine’s bid to start accession talks with either Nato or the EU.
“Even in the context of eastern European security, I honestly told my EU and Nato colleagues: unless Ukrainians step back from this politics, the Hungarian government will have very limited options to support Ukraine in any way, even in this conflict,” he said.
He added that the approach to Ukraine was not influenced by strong bilateral ties with Moscow, saying it had “no Russian dimension”.
The administration's case for committing troops to the most corrupt country in Europe from a still hypothetical and strategically stupid "invasion" fell apart before it even began.www.newsweek.com
Why Do American Elites Want War In Ukraine?
George Orwell's The Lion and the Unicorn (1941) contains the following description of the English elite:
One thing that has always shown that the English ruling class are morally fairly sound, is that in time of war they are ready enough to get themselves killed.... What is to be expected of them is not treachery or physical cowardice, but stupidity, unconscious sabotage, an infallible instinct for doing the wrong thing. They are not wicked, or not altogether wicked; they are merely unteachable. Only when their money and power are gone will the younger among them begin to grasp what century they are living in.
America's own ruling class has more than its share of the unteachable types, as well as the cynical scoundrelism of Orwell's description of the U.S. ruling elite as "mere bandits...consciously clinging to unjust privileges and beating down opposition by bribery and tear-gas bombs."
And when it's not bombs at home, it's bombs away. Or perhaps in Joe Biden's case, both.
The current president is perhaps the leading exemplar of American banditry, coupling treachery with an infallible instinct for doing the wrong thing. His own former boss, President Barack Obama, is said to have remarked upon his Vice President's "ability to f*** things up." And that ability has not diminished with time.
So, of course, to war. Whether in lock-step or goose-step, the rest of the ruling class amplifies Biden's thirst for something, anything that provides respite from domestic catastrophe. We are just days away from front-page headlines dubbing the tent cities across America "Bidenvilles." Something must be done. And that thing, to paraphrase Vice President Kamala Harris, is the thing they have been doing, every day: point at Russia.
"Putin is the devil and Russia subverted American democracy" has become a moralistic mantra for every Biden booster and Foggy Bottom staffer. But flaccid, obfuscatory jaw-jawing over the moral turpitude of Russia's dealings with Ukraine has also whet the appetites of the long-benched war lobby.
That lobby wants its turn back at the helm. Sanctions ain't good enough, cry its advocates on Capitol Hill and in the media. Stiffen the sinews. Summon up someone else's blood. Cry Ukraine for democracy, Joey and Uncle Sam!
No one's buying it.
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 23: (RUSSIA OUT): Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual press conference at the Moscow Manege, on December 23, 2021, in Moscow, Russia. More than 500 journalists were invited to Vladimir Putin's end-of-year marathon press conference.
A Trafalgar poll revealed only 15 percent of American voters believe the U.S. should put "boots on the ground" in the event of an invasion. Public support for committing troops to the most corrupt country in Europe from a still hypothetical and strategically stupid "invasion" is so low that the administration's case fell apart before it even began. But who cares? Ready the troops anyway. America's ruling class can't even be bothered to falsify intelligence or drum up public anger this time.
To ordinary Americans, Ukraine is just another Iraq waiting to happen. And as delicious as that sounds to State Department staffers still bearing a grudge over Crimea, the oft-heard consternation of the political Right—"Biden cares about Ukraine's borders more than America's!"—is becoming more common a refrain in the middle ground of American politics, and even sometimes on the Left.
Even Fareed Zakaria, albeit via others, appears willing to concede what should be a self-evident point: that Putin is scarcely stupid enough to try for a decades-long occupation of Ukraine when he can achieve his strategic objective—pushing NATO out of the buffer country—with implicit threats alone.
It's not certain that Putin won't become hungrier for military action, but the Russian president is calculating whether he can drive divisions throughout Europe and the United States without it. Naturally, given Biden's disastrous energy policies, the self-inflicted humiliation in Afghanistan and America's unwillingness to stand up to Russia's most critical current bedfellow—communist China—Putin has the upper hand.
Expect, therefore, an impending narrative shift. We'll hear less "defensive" and more "offensive" posturing, as vested interests desperately try to goad Putin into any "minor incursion" to justify the hype, spending and their own prognostications. The Biden-level popularity of current Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky also demands such a shift.
But the more important question at hand is cui bono? Who would be the winners in a conflict with Russia over Ukrainian border integrity? Besides Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and the credibility-impoverished foreign policy establishment, that is?
Well, Putin himself, of course, who will be able to publicly campaign on his defense of Russian sovereignty and security in the face of NATO tanks adorned with rainbow flags. Biden's team surely hopes the U.S. president would be able to do something similar at home, though the appetite for war appears to be stagnant, if not waning.
Putin wants NATO out of Ukraine. The European Union wants Ukraine in the EU. And the United States is showing a disproportionate interest in the nation's "democratic integrity"—a red herring to distract from both Kyiv's corruption and strategic realities. To reach what everyone wants, the answer is more elegant than war. The answer is to pursue peace and diplomacy with the end goal of bringing Russia to the table and using her as a bulwark against China.
This would be a decades-long initiative. It would require a full about-face of almost the entire Western foreign policy apparatus, and it would certainly rile neoliberals whose bizarre inclusionary insistences on behalf of communist China for some reason or another still do not extend to the Russian Federation.
Politically, it seems impossible. Russia is too much of an easy scapegoat for domestic political woes and tall tales of "collusion" and "election interference." But decades of war with Russia over Ukraine would only bring us to this position anyway. Perhaps somewhere, someone can be teachable, and save us the price tags and bloodshed up front.
Raheem Kassam is the editor in chief of The National Pulse, a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute and a senior fellow at the Bow Group in London. He covered the Maidan revolution in 2013 from Kyiv.