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The long-term threat of Armenian nationalism

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According to the paradigm of realpolitik, states have no permanent friends or enemies- only interests can be permanent. This thought has been dominant in the foreign policy-making of the last centuries and, though subject to various mutations, has in general remained a dominant principle of international relations. However, there have been, and there still are, some exceptions. And one of the most persistent and seemingly counter-intuitive cases thereof remains the foreign policy of Armenia, a small landlocked post-Soviet republic in South Caucasus. The week of furious skirmishes along the border with Azerbaijan, that started on July 12, and subsequent tensions arising between Azerbaijani and Armenian communities in various countries of the world, have reminded the world about the destructive potential of this special case and at the same time invite us to think why this conflict has become so intractable and thoroughly outgrown its initial causes and interests.

To begin with, let’s remember the beginnings of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which started to unfold in 1988, three years before the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union. The demands of the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians (constituting around 75% of the population of this area, which had a status of an autonomous region- “oblast” within the Azerbaijani SSR) for “reunification” (or “miatsum” in Armenian) with the mother-Armenia, were the trigger. The movement defined itself through the discourse of a national awakening and revival, and posed as an inalienable part of the process of democratization which was then beginning in Armenia, along with Azerbaijan and some other Soviet republics. Let’s for now remember this point- it is really important.

The “Karabakh committee”, as the leaders of the secession movement called themselves, of course put forward standard accusations of the violations of Armenians’ cultural rights in Azerbaijan. However, these accusations were, mildly speaking, ill-grounded, as the recently released documentary “Parts of a circle” may attest: the worst oppression cited by the region’s Armenians were the occassional inaccessibility of the TV and radio broadcasts from the Armenian SSR. Other than that, Nagorno-Karabakh had its high school education predominantly in Armenian, hosted an Armenian pedagogical college and a theatre. Moreover, Armenians constituted a significant and influential share of the population of Azerbaijan outside Nagorno-Karabakh, particularly in the country’s biggest cities- Baku, Ganja and Sumgayit, and were widely represented in the republic’s social and cultural elite. Up until now, you cannot find any document-based, hard evidence of systematic violations of the cultural autonomy enjoyed by the Armenian majority of the Oblast’. So, we cannot understand the motives of the Karabakh movement unless we put it into the context of the much wider, global revival of extreme form of nationalism among Armenians of the world.

In 1973, Kurken Oghanian, an elderly Armenian living in California and a refugee from the 1915 events in the Ottoman Empire, assassinated two LA-based Turkish diplomats, declaring revenge for the alleged genocide as the motive of his crime. This murder inspired a group of Armenian nationalists who in 1975 founded a group called ASALA (Armenian Secret Army of the Liberation of Armenia), whose goal was defined as forcing Turkey to recognize the 1915 events as genocide and make Ankara not only pay generous compensations to the Armenian victims and their families, but also to cede territories (!) of the Eastern Turkey, which, according to the never-ratified colonial Sevres treaty were supposed to become the homeland of would-be Armenian state. To achieve these goals, ASALA unfolded a campaign of full-fledged terror against Turkish diplomats, killing 46 of them in the period until 1990. After the particularly vicious attack at the Orly Airport in France, the group was recognized as terrorist by most major countries of the world, including U.S.

At the same time, nationalistic attitudes were slowly brewing among the Soviet Armenians, back then very loosely connected with the Diaspora. Since 1965, when the 50-year anniversary of the “genocide” was for the first time openly commemorated in Yerevan, these events started to be held every year on April 24, and in 1967 a massive memorial was unveiled at the site of the Tsitsernakaberd Hill, quickly becoming the symbol of Armenians’ anti-Turkish sentiment. The Soviet government tolerated these expressions of nationalism, which were in general all but prohibited by the official ideology of “friendship of peoples” partly because Ankara was considered a dangerous geopolitical adversary of the Soviets and a puppet of “American imperialism”. However, this produced shocking repercussions, when on January 8, 1977 three explosions took place in Moscow (including one at the underground station), claiming the lives of 7 people. Later that year, three Armenian nationalists were found guilty of these terror acts, the first ever to happen in the USSR. The court concluded them to be an isolated group, though claims about their links with ASALA, which was in the process of creation back then, were subsequently made.

Hence, the 1980’s witnessed the rise in exclusive Armenian nationalism driven by ressentiment and a sense of pending revenge against the Turks. The Karabakh movement, though it succeeded in portraying itself as the vanguard of the Soviet-wide wave of democratization, was heavily imbued with this ideology, which equated Azerbaijanis, ethnically close to the Turkish people, to perilous “Turks” considered perennial enemies of Armenia. That’s why the initially peaceful protests gave way to an interethnic strife in a matter of months, and in 1988 most Azerbaijanis (around 170,000 people back then) were expelled from Armenia by force.

As the both republics became independent in 1991, Karabakh started to attract “fidains”- mercenaries who had their training at the ASALA camps in the Middle East, many of whom participated in the acts of terror and served prison terms for that. The most famous of them, Monte Melkonyan from California, who was among the organisers of the Orly attack, is now a much-revered national hero in Armenia. The arrival of these people with their fierce anti-Turkic stance, brought the primordial discourse of “much-oppressed ancient nation”, “Armenia from the Caspian to the Mediterranean”, to the fore. Presence of the “fidains” significantly increased the intensity of atrocities, the most vicious of which happened in the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly where on the night of 26 February 1992 613 unarmed people (including children and the elderly) were slaughtered. And although the negotiation process conducted by the Azerbaijani and Armenian governments, served to bring the conflict to the international level as a “classic” interstate one, it never lost, at least for the Armenian side, its zero-sum “either we or you” character. The words uttered by former Armenian President Kocharyan, who used to be the leader of Karabakh Armenians during the war, in an interview to the British researcher Tom de Waal, that “Armenians and Azerbaijanis are genetically incompatible”, sound as something from the racist playbook. Yet this black-and-white vision of the Armenian history and interests reflect the dominant, if not usually articulated, thinking which among others defines Armenian foreign policies as well.

The major feature of the Armenian strategy ever since its independence- the reluctant but inevitable affiliation with Russian interests- is one example. The Armenian democratic movement perceived Moscow as no friend as well. However, as the conflict intensified and Turkey in 1993 ultimately closed borders with Armenia, Yerevan had no other choice but to fully embrace Russia as security guarantor. Ultimately, the presence of the Russian military base in Gyumri as well as the frequent engagement of former Soviet army units in hostilities on the Armenian side, were among the major factors behind the ultimate Armenian victory. Later on, as the idea of preserving the “security” of the Nagorno-Karabakh (which proclaimed itself an independent republic, not yet recognized by any sovereign state), and the seven adjacent districts occupied by Armenian forces, got entrenched in both the national state of mind and political strategy, any attempts to re-orient Armenia towards Western integration would fail against the need to preserve Russia’s exclusive leverage in the country in exchange for its security guarantees. The failure of the “compliant Armenia” strategy preached by the first President Ter-Petrosyan, encapsulated this permanent deadlock of the Armenian foreign policy. This strategy envisaged gradual shift of Yerevan towards the Western-centered global institutions, including NATO and EU, and distancing from militant exclusive nationalism that characterized Armenia’s attitude towards Azerbaijan and Turkey. Ter-Petrosyan supported the maximally quick return of the 7 occupied regions (the “buffer zone” in the parlance of Karabakh separatists) to Baku and even reportedly contemplated an option of the “single state” for Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan. Such prospects were rejected by the majority of Armenians, and the President had to resign in 1998, being replaced by the war hero Kocharyan, who quickly turned to considerably more nationalist rhetoric.

Another exemplary U-turn happened in 2013, when the Sargsyan government, preparing the association agreement with the EU, refused from signing it in the most unexpected manner days before the planned agreement date and a few days later joined the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The evidence indicates that this decision was obtained by Moscow through pressing hard on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, pivotal for Armenian politics. The newest case is the current president Pashinyan, who swept to power with the agenda of a more transparent and reforming Armenia and prioritized improving ties with the West. In the first year of his presidency Pashinyan did a lot to relieve the tensions with Azerbaijan, making 2019 the calmest year on the frontline in at least a decade. However, domestic pressure exerted by nationalists, who manipulated public opinion into believing that the President prepares a “treason” on Karabakh, and growing bitterness with Moscow, triggered Pashinyan to gradually adopt the traditional intransigent mode, and the latest escalation has been the logical outcome of the mounting tensions. In the aftermath of the July hostilities, he made a number of unprecedentedly pro-Russian statements, reassuring Moscow that Yerevan will remain its firm ally. At the same time, the officials and expert community in Armenia are again pushing the idea that only Russian umbrella can save their country from the destruction by “enemy Turks”. However, violence against peaceful Azerbaijani protesters in Los Angeles, Brussels or London, as well as rioting in Moscow, came as a shock and was the first time the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict really spilled over the territory of third countries and involved thousands of people with no direct links to the armed forces or politics. Given that the Armenian leadership never bothered to denounce such behavior by their ethnic kin, it must be concluded that the conflict in the eyes of most Armenians, despite of their appellations to international law and the language of realpolitik, is clearly an ethnic one which justifies war by all means. Among the Armenians who came on the streets of Western cities to confront the Azerbaijani crowds, were scattered people bearing the insignia of “ASALA” on their t-shirts, which also indicates the merging of Azerbaijanis and Turks in the radical-nationalist perception.

However, the most dramatic consequence of the intransigent, zero-sum policy of Armenia are the numerous wasted opportunities for the dynamic development of the whole region. Even in the 1990’s, when all the three countries of South Caucasus experienced the economic collapse of more or less similar magnitude, Armenian President Ter-Petrosyan warned about long-term adverse outcomes of the uncompromised attitude to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue for the country’s economic development. Since then, Armenia found itself isolated from the major infrastructural projects of regional significance, such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Jeyhan oil pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, as well as many more international initiatives promoted by the Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan triangle. The absence of the border with Russia, together with economic problems Moscow is experiencing since 2014, mean that this partnership is not nearly as lucrative for Yerevan as the hypothetical collaboration with the direct neighbours could have been, and in fact the only serious boon from it is Yerevan’s ability to obtain Russian weapons for lower-than-market prices from time to time- which only strengthens “the party of war” and perpetuates the mentality of a besieged fortress. The resulting dependence on communications with Iran puts severe limits on Armenia’s attempts to deepen cooperation with the West. As a result, in the last 15 years Armenia’s GDP per capita consistently lagged behind Azerbaijan, for some years even falling to the half its level, and in the recent years has also been considerably lower than the respective figure for Georgia. Moreover, Armenian economy, compared to Azerbaijan and Georgian ones, is much more dependent on the inflow of investment from rather limited sources (particularly the Armenian diaspora), which makes it more vulnerable to various shocks and further constrains the range of available policy options, as diaspora money is usually linked with Armenia’s uncompromised and vigorous promotion of the issues of genocide recognition and Nagorno-Karabakh “independence”.The vicious circle of stagnant economy and bellicose rhetoric serves to reward the politicians most radical on Nagorno-Karabakh, since its “defense” from Azerbaijan becomes the only success that can justify the government’s performance.

At the same time, Armenian policies have put significant obstacles to the whole region as well. Amid the growing weariness from the enormous Russian influence, the continuing presence of Russia’s 302ndmilitary base in Gyumri can now be justified only by the guarantee of the status-quo it provides for Yerevan. Unsurprisingly, after initial irritation at the CSTO and Moscow who didn’t rush to interfere into the border skirmishes with Azerbaijan, President Pashinyan had to change his stance and recognize the strategic importance of security partnership with Russia- a victory for Moscow but another blow to the sustainable peace in South Caucasus. The lack of such peace and the constant, if often understated threat of a new escalation between Armenia and Azerbaijan causes skeptical assessment of the strategic importance and potential of the whole region in the West, which throughout his last decade has considerably diminished its presence here; since Obama’s presidency, South Caucasus has been downgraded in the list of U.S’s foreign policy priorities. The constant threat of war in South Caucasus was very clear to the whole world in the aftermath of the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, but the fact that Armenia is, unlike Russia, a small, economically backward state has blinded many analysts from fully recognizing its destructive role and put the Karabakh conflict to the back row, relative to the conflicts in Abkhazia and Ossetia. Yerevan’s rejection of compromises and desperate attachment to the Russian security umbrella made a long-term time bomb from Nagorno-Karabakh. The fact that many Armenians abroad perceive Azerbaijani embassies and peaceful rallies as a target, attests to the flawed thinking which perpetuates Armenia’s conflict with “Turks”. At the same time, it made as clear as never before that it would be in the best interest of the international community to return, after many years, to a pro-active role, and take a harsh stance against war-mongering and ethnic radicalism in South Caucasus. It must be finally made clear that Yerevan cannot pretend to be a flagship of democracy in the region and continue its occupation, preaching the ideas of militant primordial nationalism and disregard for international law.

Murad Muradov is a co-founder of Topchubashov Center, Baku-based think tank. His areas of expertise cover European politics, politics of identity and nationality and international political economy.

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Eastern Europe

Ukraine Doesn’t Matter

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“Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States!,” said former President Porfirio Diaz about Mexico’s uncomfortable relationship with its much stronger neighbor, the United States of America (US). Following Mexico’s defeat in the Mexican-American War (1846 – 1848), Mexico ceded 1.37 million sq. Km (529,000 sq. miles), over half of its entire territory, to the US in exchange for $18 million. Earlier in 1845, Mexico lost 1.01 million sq. Km (390,000 sq. miles) when the US annexed Texas. Sharing a fence with a bully certainly has its price.

Just as Mexico suffered at the hands of the US 173 year ago, Ukraine has, since 2014, been bullied by Russia. Like the US did to Mexico, Russia too has been dismembering Ukraine, and still wants more of Ukrainian territory.

The on-going Russian invasion of Ukraine is not the first time the two Slavic neighbors have clashed. The two countries’ history have been intertwined as far back as 879 CE when the Kievan (Kyivan) Rus’ federation was founded, with Kiev (now officially, Kyiv) as its capital for all but three of its 361 years of existence before it fell to the Mongols in 1240.

Following the collapse of the Mongol Empire, some former Kievan Rus’ lands were later united with Poland. In 1648 Hetman (military leader) Bohdan Khmelnytsky led a Cossack rebellion against Catholic Poland, leading to the creation of the Hetmanate. In 1654 the Hetmanate signed the Treaty of Pereiaslav for the Orthodox Russian Tsar to protect them from Poland, but in 1764, Catherine II abolished the Hetmanate, ending Ukrainian autonomy.

Following the overthrow of the Russian monarchy in 1917, the Russian Provisional Government granted Ukraine autonomy. The Bolsheviks, who won the Russian Civil War, refused to recognize Ukrainian sovereignty, but appeased Ukrainians by creating the Soviet Ukrainian Republic, later called the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic, a founding member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) or Soviet Union in 1922, and the United Nations (UN) in 1945.

Ukrainians suffered immensely from Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s collectivization policies which killed an estimated 10.8 million people in the 1932-1933 Great Famine (sometimes called the Holodomor [“to kill by starvation”]) which some term a Genocide.

Ironically, Russian Tsars, and the Soviet Union handed over a lot of territory to Ukraine. In September 1939, Stalin annexed 201,015 sq. Km (77,612 sq. miles) of Eastern Poland, and incorporated them into the Lithuanian, Byelorussian, and Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republics (SSRs). At the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences in 1945, the Allies allowed the Soviets to retain the annexed Polish lands, in exchange for part of East Germany.

In 1944, the Soviet Red Army captured and occupied parts of Carpathian Ruthenia (of the then Czechoslovak Republic) which were ceded to the Soviet Union in June 1945 and became part of the Ukraine SSR in January 1946. In 1954, the Soviet Union controversially transferred Crimea to the Ukraine SSR, to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Pereiaslav, and appease Ukrainians.

Following the abortive coup in August 1991 against President Mikhail Gorbachev, the Ukraine SSR declared independence. In December 1991, Ukrainians voted for independence from the USSR, and Ukraine, Russia and Belarus signed the Belavezha Accords, which ended the Soviet Union, and the US recognized Ukraine. The USSR was formally dissolved on December 21, 1991, following the signing of the Alma-Ata Protocol which also transferred the USSR’s membership of the UN and its Security Council to the Russian Federation.

Following the collapse of the USSR, the Ukrainian, Russian and US presidents signed a statement in January 1994, reaffirming Ukraine’s commitment to transferring its strategic nuclear warheads to Russia and, with US assistance, dismantling strategic nuclear weapons launchers in its territory. Furthermore, Ukraine was to be provided “security assurances” following its accession to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

In February 1994, Ukraine joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO), Partnership for Peace, and following its accession to the NPT, signed the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances in December, 1994, along with Russia, the UK, and the US. All of them committed to respecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and promised not to threaten, or use force against it. In 1997, NATO deepened its relationship with Ukraine by establishing the NATO-Ukraine Commission, and Russia signed a Treaty on Friendship with Ukraine, which recognized their existing borders, and mutual commitment not to invade, or declare war on each other.

Following presidential run-off elections marred by fraud and voter intimidation in November, 2004, nationwide protests called the Orange Revolution resulted in fresh elections in December, 2004. The pro-Europe candidate Viktor Yushchenko, defeated the pro-Russia candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, upsetting Russia, coming shortly after the 2003 Rose Revolution which overthrew the pro-Russia government in Georgia, Russia’s neighbor and former Soviet Republic.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia raised the alarm in February 2007 in his Munich Speech at the Munich Security Conference, warning about the dangers of a unipolar world and unilateralism. He also spoke against NATO’s expansion, which he said would not ensure security in Europe, and was a “serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust.”

Despite this, Ukraine requested in January 2008 to join NATO’s Membership Action Plan (MAP), but President Putin opposed it, telling US President George W. Bush that Ukraine was not “a real nation-state.” NATO debated Ukraine’s request at its Bucharest Summit in April 2008, but because France opposed it, could only promise Ukraine that it would join later.

In February 2010, Viktor Yanukovych was re-elected President of Ukraine, and promptly abandoned Ukraine’s plans to join NATO. Yanukovych was later accused of political witch-hunting when charges were filed against his pro-European opponent, delaying the finalization of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.

Although the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, overwhelmingly supported the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement in February 2013, the Ukrainian government under Russian pressure, decided in November 2013 not to sign it, and sought to join the Russia-led Eurasian Customs Union. Ukrainians immediately protested Yanukovych’s decision, and launched the Euromaidan protests or Maidan Uprising; later called the Revolution of Dignity.

The Euromaidan protestors also called for the resignation of President Yanukovych, and an end to government corruption. The government violently dispersed protesters and introduced harsh anti-protest laws. The protests, which started in Kyiv spread across the country, and climaxed in February 2014, with 130 people killed.

Although an agreement was reached between the opposition and President Yanukovych to form an interim unity government, Yanukovych and other government officials fled to Russia in February 2014. In a controversial vote Yanukovych called a coup, Parliament impeached him and installed an interim government.

Following the overthrow of Yanukovych, protests and counter-protests broke out in Crimea, with Russophile nationalists, pitted against pro-Ukraine Crimean Tatars. Unidentified Russian soldiers called Little Green Men entered Crimea on February 26, 2014, and organized a controversial referendum in which 97 percent of voters supported Crimea joining the Russian Federation.

In contravention of the UN Charter, the 1991 agreement among former Soviet Republics accepting their borders when the Soviet Union collapsed, the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances for Ukraine, and 1997 Russian-Ukrainian Treaty on Friendship, Russia formally annexed Crimea and Sevastopol on March 21, 2014.

In early 2014, pro-Russian protests started in Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts (Regions), which are predominantly Russian-speaking, and collectively form the Donbas area of southeastern Ukraine. The demonstrations quickly turned violent and armed Russia-backed separatists declared the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR).

Ukraine launched a counteroffensive in April 2014, and by August 2014, had considerably reduced the separatist-held territory. In response, Russia invaded the Donbas in late August 2014 with artillery, personnel, and what it called a “humanitarian convoy.”

As a result, the Ukrainian government lost much of the territory it had captured from separatists in its April 2014 counteroffensive. The Ukrainian government was thus forced to sign, in September 2014, a ceasefire agreement known as the Minsk Protocol with Russia, the DPR, and LPR. The agreement was however violated many times by both sides and collapsed by January 2015. A new ceasefire, called Minsk II, was agreed to in February 2015, although fighting quickly resumed.

At the Munich Security Conference in February 2017, the US Vice President Mike Pence said the US would hold Russia accountable in Ukraine, and demanded its adherence to the Minsk Agreements. In reply, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused NATO of sparking unprecedented tensions in Europe because of its expansion, and President Putin tightened the screws on Ukraine by recognizing official documents (birth certificates, identity documents, etc.) issued by pro-Russian authorities in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

In January 2018, the Ukrainian parliament passed a bill to regain control over the separatist-led areas of Donbas and Luhansk, calling them “temporarily-occupied territories.” Russia condemned the bill, which came after the US announced its readiness to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine, calling it “preparations for a new war,” and a violation of the Minsk Agreement.

In April 2018, Ukraine replaced its “Anti-Terrorist Operation” in the Donbas with a “Joint Forces Operation” signifying it was protecting Ukraine’s “territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence” and fighting the Russian military, not “separatist militants.” On the same day, the US confirmed the delivery of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.

Although the Javelin missiles were to be kept away from the frontline, Russia had expressed its displeasure when the deal was announced in December 2017, claiming it would encourage “the resumption of large-scale bloodshed in Donbas.” Sure enough, all three ceasefires agreed to between June and December 2018 failed, with each side blaming the other for their collapse.

Another ceasefire was entered into in March 2019, although there was not much hope for its success. Against this background, Ukraine held its 2019 presidential elections without the participation of parts of Donbas occupied by Russia or pro-Russia separatist. Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy won the elections on an anti-establishment and anti-corruption platform and became President of Ukraine in May 2019. Zelenskyy also called for unity between Russian- and Ukrainian-speakers, and promised to end the conflict with Russia.

The exclusion of parts of Donbas from the presidential elections prompted the Russian government to consider easing the provision of Russian passports to residents of DPR and LPR, and toward that end, published three Decrees between April and July 2019, calling them humanitarian and practical measures which did not violate the Minks Agreements.

The  European Council considered this “passportisation” of the Donbas by Russia a contravention of the Minsk Agreements, and the EU Commission issued a guidance for member states to reject such passports. Nevertheless, naturalizations increased about 85 percent to 497,817, and the proportion of Ukrainian applicants for Russian passports almost doubled to 60 percent, between 2018 and 2019.

In October 20019, Russia, Ukraine, DPR, LPR, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) signed the “Steinmeier Formula” which envisaged free elections in the LPR and DPR, followed by their integration, with a special status, into Ukraine. Following the signing of the Steinmeier Formula, Ukraine and separatist withdrew their troops, and Russia exchanged prisoners with Ukraine. In addition, presidents Putin and Zelenskyy, French president Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel resumed the Normandy Format peace talks in December, 2019.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic worsened living conditions in the conflict zone, and by March 2020, fighting escalated. The 29th ceasefire since the war started in 2014 came into in July 2020, and this largely held until November 2020.

2021 got off to a bad start, with 25 Ukrainian soldiers killed in the conflict zone, compared to 50 soldiers being killed in 2020. Tensions increased around early April after Russia moved thousands of military personnel as well as large quantities of arms and materiel into Crimea and its border with Ukraine. The UK and EU expressed their concern about Russia’s military buildup and promised their “unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

On their part, Russia said some of its troops were deployed to practice fighting enemy drones and that the military movements posed no threat to Ukraine. However, a Russian official added that an escalation of the conflict in Donbas would mean the “the beginning of the end of Ukraine.” Chancellor Merkel asked Putin to reduce the Russian troop buildup, while US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and his German counterpart emphasized the importance of supporting Ukraine in the face of Russia’s provocations.

Tensions increased in April 2021 when Ukraine flew its Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 military drones over Donbas for the first time. A week later, President Putin warned that any country which takes Russia’s good intentions for weakness or indifference, and crosses its red lines should know that Russia’s response will be “asymmetrical, swift and harsh.”

In early October 2021, eight members of the Russian mission to NATO were expelled because they were “undeclared Russian intelligence officers.” Russia accused NATO of duplicity, and in retaliation, closed its mission to NATO, which it declared was “not interested in equitable dialogue and joint work.”

On October 19, 2021, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in Kyiv that Russia was an “obstacle to a peaceful resolution” of the conflict in Ukraine. In clear reference to Russia, he added that “no third country” could veto NATO’s membership decisions. Secretary Austin also discussed with Ukrainian authorities the implementation of the US-Ukraine Strategic Defense Framework which underlines US support for Ukraine’s right to decide its own foreign policy, its desire to join NATO, as reaffirmed in the June 2021 NATO Summit Communique.

Secretary Austin’s remarks in Kyiv were criticized for reflecting US policy makers’ failure to accept geopolitical realities in eastern Europe, and risking drawing the US and NATO into a war with Russia. Furthermore, his remarks were said to encourage Ukraine to take a hardline against Russia, instead of accommodating Russia’s interests.

A few days after Secretary Austin’s statement in Kyiv, Ukraine destroyed a separatist artillery gun manned by “Russian occupation forces” in the Donbas using, for the first time, a Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone. Although Ukraine claimed that the drone did not cross the Contact Line, the 427-Km long frontline between the government and non-government-controlled areas in Donbas, the LPR said the drone attack was in violation of the Minsk Agreements. Germany’s Foreign Office expressed its concern about the drone strike, while a Russian government spokesman said the drone attack was destabilizing and would not help settle the conflict.

In a November 2021 speech, President Putin said that Russia’s Western partners were aggravating the situation in Ukraine by supplying the Ukrainian government with lethal weapons and conducting military exercises in the Black Sea and other regions close to Russia. In addition, Putin said, their partners ignored Russia’s warnings about its “red lines,” including NATO’s expansion eastward toward Russia.

In December 2021, President Putin said that Russia wants to negotiate agreements with the US and its allies to stop NATO from deploying weapons near Russian territory, and expanding eastwards. A few days later, Ukraine claimed that Russia was sending tanks and snipers to the conflict areas.

By mid-December, Russia published draft US-Russia and NATO-Russia agreements to guarantee it’s security, and defuse the tension in Ukraine. The US government said some parts of the proposals were “unacceptable” while others saw them as a ploy by Russia to justify an invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russia had a massive buildup of over 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine, in readiness for what many called another invasion of Ukraine.

Fighting escalated in February 2022, with the Ukrainian military reporting 60 incidents of weapons fire in one day, and about 135,000 Russian troops on the Russia-Ukraine border. On February 15, 2022, the Russian State Duma (lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia) passed a non-binding resolution asking President Putin to recognize the DPR and LPR.

A few days later, the DPR and LPR leaders requested President Putin to recognize the independence of their republics and proposed signing a treaty of friendship and cooperation (including military cooperation) with Russia. Putin signed the State Duma resolution recognizing the republics, along with their treaties on “friendship, co-operation and mutual assistance” with Russia.

In his address to Russia following his recognition of the breakaway republics, President Putin said that Ukraine was created by Russia, and never was a genuine state. He also said that although many European allies of the US knew of the risks of admitting Ukraine into NATO, the US forced them to carry out its anti-Russia policy. Putin concluded by saying that those in power in Kyiv should immediately cease hostilities or their conscience will be burdened by bloodshed from the conflict.

On February 21, 2022, President Putin ordered more Russian troops into Donbas for a “peacekeeping mission,” which the US called an invasion. Putin raised the ante on February 24, 2022 when he announced the start of a “special military operation” in the Donbas. The much-anticipated full-scale invasion of Russia by Ukraine was on.

The global reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine came thick and fast, with President Biden condemning it, but adding that US will not send its troops to Ukraine to fight Russian forces. The US also provided $4.6 billion in security assistance, and $914 million in humanitarian assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began, and announced an additional $700 million in funding on June 1.

NATO Heads of State and Government condemned the Russian invasion, calling it “brutal,” “wholly unprovoked,” and “unjustified.” They also said that Russia had rejected the path of diplomacy and dialog offered by NATO and its Allies and violated international law. They vowed to continue supporting Ukraine and reaffirmed their support for its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

For its part, the EU imposed restrictive measures on Russia to weaken its ability to finance its war on Ukraine. Thus, it imposed many sanctions against Russia starting in March 2014 following the referendum on Crimea’s accession to Russia. More rounds of sanctions followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and by early June 2022, the EU had sanctioned 1,175 Russian individuals (including President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov), 101 Russian entities, and imposed its sixth package of sanctions against Russia. In addition, the EU has extended every six months, economic sanctions it imposed on Russia in 2014, and covering the finance, energy, defense and other sectors.

On the diplomatic front, the EU cancelled the 2014 EU-Russia summit, and ended the privileged access of Russian diplomats, officials and business executives to the EU. The EU also provided humanitarian and financial assistance to Ukraine, including €355 million to help civilians affected by Russia’s invasion of the country.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Zelenskyy, who advocated for dialog with Russia, became a belligerent leader of Ukraine’s fierce resistance against Russia. Since the start of Russia’s invasion, Zelenskyy has addressed Ukrainians nightly, rallying them to fight, using his oratory and communications skills. Zelenskyy has also, via video link, addressed Heads of State, parliaments, and conferences around the world pleading, with little success, for more support (especially military support) for Ukraine.

President Zelenskyy has pleaded numerous times for NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, and provide them more lethal weapons to fight Russia. Unfortunately for Ukraine, his appeals have fallen on deaf ears because NATO said it won’t risk a direct confrontation with Russia. Zelenskyy should have seen this coming, because he admitted in March 2022 that NATO had categorically told him that while they will maintain in public that NATO is open to Ukraine joining the organization, the reality was that it won’t.

The war in Ukraine seems to have no end in sight because both President Biden, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said at the June 2022 NATO Summit in Madrid, Spain that NATO will continue to provide Ukraine with weapons as long as necessary. Furthermore, the US has been absent from efforts to bring peace to Ukraine – if not outrightly opposed to them. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov also accused the US and its NATO allies of pouring oil on the fire in Ukraine by arming it, and increasing the risk of nuclear war.

For its part, the US said that one of its goals in the war in Ukraine was to “see Russia weakened” so it won’t be able to conduct similar invasions in the future. Although President Biden asked his officials to tone down their position, Russians will remember former President Gorbachev’s advice that the only Russia the US loves is a weak Russia.

Ukraine clearly is a proxy in the US and NATO war on Russia. What matters therefore, is not peace and security for Ukrainians, but the desire of the US (9,181 Km or 5,705 miles from Ukraine) and NATO to bring Russia to her knees. As such, a negotiated peace between Ukraine and Russia is far off, and this pathetic, needless war which has killed thousands and made millions refugees will drag on. Poor Ukraine, so far away from the United States, and so close to Russia!

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Eastern Europe

Ukraine: Amnesty International revealed the unpleasant truth

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image source: war.ukraine.ua photo: Vadim Ghirda

Ukrainian forces have threatened civilians by setting up bases and operating weapons systems in populated areas, including schools and hospitals, as they battled the Russian intervention that began in February, Amnesty International said in a statement.

“Such a tactic violates international humanitarian law and endangers civilians, as it turns civilian objects into military targets. The Russian strikes that followed in populated areas killed civilians and destroyed civilian infrastructure,” the statement said.

– Amnesty International has documented a pattern of Ukrainian forces putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war when conducting operations in populated areas – said Agnes Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

He pointed out that the defensive position does not free the Ukrainian army from respecting international humanitarian law.

The organization’s researchers spent several weeks from April to July investigating Russian attacks in Kharkiv, Donbass and the Mykolaiv region.

The organization inspected the attacked sites, interviewed survivors, eyewitnesses, relatives of the victims of the attack, and carried out remote detection and analysis of weapons. During those investigations, evidence was found that Ukrainian forces were firing from heavily populated areas and were themselves inside civilian buildings in 19 towns and villages in these regions. The organization analyzed satellite images to further confirm some of these incidents – it is emphasized.

According to Amnesty International, most of the residential areas where the soldiers were located were kilometers away from the front.

– Viable alternatives were available that would not endanger civilians, such as military bases or densely wooded areas nearby, or other structures further away from residential areas. In the cases it has documented, Amnesty International is not aware that the Ukrainian military, located in civilian structures in residential areas, asked or helped civilians to evacuate, which is a failure to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians. announcement.

Directed shooting from populated areas

Amnesty says survivors and eyewitnesses of Russian attacks in Donbass, Kharkiv and the Mykolaiv region told researchers that the Ukrainian military was conducting operations near their homes at the time of the attacks, exposing the areas to counterfire from Russian forces. Amnesty International researchers have witnessed such behavior in numerous locations.

International humanitarian law requires all parties to a conflict to avoid locating, to the greatest extent possible, military targets within or near densely populated areas. Other obligations to protect civilians from the effects of attacks include removing civilians from the vicinity of military targets and providing effective warning of attacks that may affect the civilian population.

– The army was stationed in the house next to ours and my son often brought food to the soldiers. I begged him several times to stay away, because I feared for his safety. That afternoon, when the attack happened, my son was in our yard and I was in the house. He died on the spot. His body was mutilated. Our house was partially destroyed – said the mother of a man (50), who was killed in a rocket attack on June 10 in a village south of Nikolaev.

Amnesty International found military equipment and uniforms in the house next to hers.

Nikola, who lives in the block in Lisichansk in Donbass, which the Russians regularly targeted and killed at least one person, said that it is not clear to him “why our army fires from the cities and not from the fields”.

Another resident said that “there is definitely military activity in the neighborhood.”

– We hear “outgoing” and then “incoming” fire” – he said.

Amnesty International teams saw soldiers using residential buildings located 20 meters from the entrance to the underground shelter, which was used by residents and where an elderly man was killed.

In one Donbas town on May 6, Russian forces used cluster munitions over a neighborhood of mostly one- or two-story houses where Ukrainian forces were manning artillery. Shrapnel damaged the walls of the house where Ana (70) lives with her son and 95-year-old mother.

In early July, a farm worker was injured when Russian forces attacked an agricultural warehouse in the Nikolayev area. Hours after the attack, Amnesty International researchers witnessed the presence of Ukrainian military personnel and vehicles in the grain storage area, and witnesses confirmed that the military was using the warehouse, which is located across from a farm where civilians live and work.

As researchers surveyed damage to residential and public buildings in Kharkiv and villages in the Donbass and east of Mykolaiv, they heard gunfire from nearby Ukrainian military positions.

In Bakhmut, several residents said the Ukrainian military was using a building barely 20 meters across the street from the high-rise. On May 18, a Russian rocket hit the front of the building, partially destroying five apartments and damaging nearby buildings.

Military bases in hospitals

Amnesty International researchers witnessed Ukrainian forces using hospitals as de facto military bases in five locations. In the two cities, dozens of soldiers rested and ate in hospitals. In another town, soldiers fired from near a hospital.

A Russian airstrike on April 28 injured two workers at a medical laboratory in the suburbs of Kharkiv after Ukrainian forces set up a base in the compound.Using hospitals for military purposes is a clear violation of international humanitarian law.

Military bases in schools

The Ukrainian army routinely set up bases in schools in the cities and villages of the Donbass and in the Mykolaiv region. Schools have been temporarily closed to students since the beginning of the conflict, but in most cases the buildings were located near civilian settlements.

In 22 of the 29 schools visited, researchers either found soldiers using the premises or found evidence of current or previous military activity – including the presence of military equipment, ammunition, military ration packs and military vehicles.

Russian forces attacked many schools used by Ukrainian forces. In at least three cities, after Russian bombing of schools, Ukrainian soldiers moved to other schools nearby, putting surrounding neighborhoods at risk of similar attacks.

In a city east of Odessa, Amnesty witnessed Ukrainian soldiers using civilian areas for accommodation and staging areas, including basing armored vehicles under trees in residential areas and using two schools located in densely populated residential areas.

Conclusion

Amnesty International’s report was not a surprise to me as an analyst. Since the beginning of the conflict, all of us who follow the behavior and tactics of the Ukrainian army have witnessed such tactics of the Ukrainian army, which are strictly prohibited by international law. Also, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned about the behavior of the Ukrainian army that threatens innocent civilians. However, the fact that the respected Amnesty International writes about it in its report represents a strategic turn. Bearing in mind that this is an extremely respected Western non-governmental organization, we can safely say that even in the West, the opinion is slowly growing that the criminal behavior of the Ukrainian army will no longer be tolerated.

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Eastern Europe

Both Zelensky and Poroshenko Acknowledged They Came to Power Illegally

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A coup is an illegal way to come to power, and both of Ukraine’s Presidents after the February 2014 overthrow of the democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych acknowledged that the overthrow of him violated the law, and that the government which became installed after Yanukovych’s overthrow has no legitimacy whatsoever — that the “Maidan of dignity” and “democratic revolution” was actually a hoax.

On 22 June 2015, I headlined “Ukraine’s President Poroshenko Admits Overthrow Of Yanukovych Was A Coup” and I provided full online documentation both of his allegation and of its being entirely true. I even documented that on 26 February 2014 (the final day of the actual coup) he had informed the EU that this was the case, and that they were surprised to hear it but ignored it. The U.S. allegations that Yanukovych had been overthrown by a spontaneous and mass-supported revolution against him — and which were clearly a lie even as early as 4 February 2014 but a lie that was pumped ceaselessly in the ‘news’-media regardless of that evidence — those U.S. allegations were thoroughly documented, in a 12 March 2014 video-compilation that was posted to youtube, to be false, a hoax, and yet nonetheless, this fact continued to be ignored in U.S.-&-allied ‘news’-media, as-if truth had nothing whatsoever to do with news-reporting and analysis — as-if evidence doesn’t matter, regardless of how extensive and reliable and conclusive it is. As-if The West is floating on lies, and its public won’t ever much care about that fact. (That’s the assumption; and, if by “the public” is meant the nation’s press, then that assumption is unquestionably true, because the press don’t care about it, at all — they instead support it; they support this status-quo, of lies-based ‘history’.)

Then, on 11 February 2020, Ukraine’s own Interfax News Agency issued the following news-report (as auto-translated into English):

https://web.archive.org/web/20220801215625/https://interfax-com-ua.translate.goog/news/political/640586.html?_x_tr_sl=uk&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en

https://archive.ph/GM55p

“Zelensky: the Maidan case is the most complicated in Ukraine”

11 February 2020

The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyi, believes that the investigation and completion of the tragic events on Independence Square during the Revolution of Dignity is the most difficult matter [to discuss] in the country.

“Lost evidence, documents. There are no people, there are no witnesses. Some say that in general, in places after this tragedy, all these events have been removed by many. The most difficult case that we have in our country is the Maidan,” he said in an exclusive interview with “Interfax-Ukraine” agency.

Zelensky pointed out that “everyone is engaged in these matters”.

“I know for sure that they are working faster than it was a few years ago. When they will find customers, because it is more understandable with murderers, I cannot say. All forces are involved in these cases, and we are doing everything possible,” he said.

Actually, there were plenty of witnesses, and even some of the participants subsequently came forth to admit publicly that they had participated in the coup, but the ‘news’-media in U.S.&-and-allied countries weren’t interested (even if the public there might have been, if only they had known about it).

On 24 February 2020, Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine so that the coup-installed regime in Ukraine and its U.S.-NATO-EU sponsors won’t be able to install U.S. nuclear missiles within 5-minute flying-distance from Moscow on Ukraine’s border with Russia.

This is the result of the ideology that now controls The West, called “neoliberalism” in domestic or intranational policymaking, and “neoconservatism” in international policymaking; and it is that every dollar is equal, and that every person isn’t only different from every other person but is unequal, that all rights should therefore depend upon how rich a person is — investors therefore should control the government: they have a right to use their wealth to hire whomever they must in order to deceive the voters, so that wealth will control the government, and the public won’t. A microcosmic documentary about this U.S.-epitomized-and-championed ideology, in action, showing how it actually works, is the film “DOWNFALL: The Case Against Boeing”. It’s about the most deadly passenger plane that was ever designed and built by any company anywhere, Boeing’s model 737 Max. It’s about the U.S. Government being controlled by the nation’s super-rich, who are overwhelmingly psychopaths; and, since they control the Government, the most psychopathic individuals keep getting richer and richer (‘better and better’) and never get life in prison or the death penalty, no matter how much they ought to. It’s about the worst people controlling the Government, while the elected Government officials are s‘elected’ by the super-rich and merely pretending to care about the public that they are supposed to be (and claim to be) representing (but know they actually don’t).

Ukraine’s Government is merely a client-state of our own. It is a subsidiary of America Incorporated. It’s like Boeing. It’s the way that Boeing is, and the way that its Government has been set up for Boeing (and all successful corporations) to be. But in international affairs, which is the realm of neoconservatism, power comes as much from weapons as it comes from deceiving voters. It’s about the system that empowers the most-evil individuals and that traps the public and encourages the public to fight against each other instead of against the few individuals (the successful investors) who profit from this system: the system that is called neoliberalism-neoconservatism, and that profits the predators, at the expense of the public. Mussolini called it “fascism,” and also called it “corporationism”, and he got that ideology from his teacher Vilfredo Pareto, who was its inventor. In it, the order both of rights and of power is: (1) investors; (2) executives; (3) consumers; (4) employees. (Anyone who isn’t in any of those 4 categories is considered to be worthless. The dollar rules; they don’t count, at all.)

The documentary’s creator remained, at the end, a confused, non-comprehending liberal, only slightly less of a neoliberal-neoconservative than she was before it. But at least she seems sincere. She is simply deceived by the liberal ‘news’-media that she is subjected to — still a believing Democrat, obviously against Republicans: her “us” (CNN, NYT, etc.) against “them” (FNC, WSJ, etc.). But the viewers of her documentary might see in her documentary what she does not  — something which goes beyond her narrow sphere of concern.

She is Rory Kennedy — a daughter of RFK, sister of RFK Jr., and niece of JFK.

Anyway: Ukraine, at least ever since February 2014, is being run in accord with the same ideology that guides Boeing Corporation. The U.S. Government calls this “the rules-based international order,” and those “rules” come from the U.S. Government, and NOT from the U.N. and its international laws. It’s the world in which the most-successful gangsters rule, not merely nationally, but internationally. That’s called “hegemony,” and the rulers of America like it just fine, because it’s theirs — they own it, and they want to keep it. They certainly don’t want it to end.

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