The years 2014 and 2015 were marked by the dramatic escalation of geopolitical tensions between Russia and the U.S. This particular development has been brought about by the 2014 military seizure of political power in Ukraine by the Ukrainian neo-Nazis (supported and financed by the West), and by what many Western politicians continue to refer to as Russia’s ‘illegal annexation’ of Crimea, which took place in the aftermath of the mentioned event. What contributed to the sheer severity of these tensions is that, according to the U.S. and NATO top-officials, Russia is now waging the so-called ‘hybrid war’ against Ukraine in the Donbas area (Eastern Ukraine) – hence, the formal explanation behind economic sanctions, imposed on Russia by the West.
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Nevertheless, as time goes on, it becomes increasingly clear to more and more people throughout the world that the Western claims about the ‘Russian aggression’ do not stand any ground, and that it is specifically the U.S. and its client-states in Eastern Europe, which should be held responsible for instigating the outbreak of Ukraine’s most-recent civil war. In this paper, I will outline both (American and Russian) sides of the story, with respect to what should be deemed the actual nature of Russia’s involvement in Eastern Ukraine and what are this involvement’s effects, while promoting the idea that it is namely the Russian take on the situation in question that makes the most sense.
Body of the paper
Before we get to identify the principal effects of Russia’s involvement in the ongoing confrontation between Ukraine and the People’s Republics of Novorossia (LPR and DPR), it is crucially important to establish the conflict’s historical context. In this respect, the foremost historical facts can be outlined as follows:
- The southeastern part of today’s Ukraine (known as Novorossiya) became incorporated into the Russian Empire as far back as in the early 18th century, whereas there is not even a single historical document in existence that would show that the Ukrainians used to consider themselves being any different from the rest of Russian people, prior to 1917. 97% of citizens in Eastern Ukraine are the Russian-speaking Ukrainians/Russians who think of the Russian language/culture as their own.
- Donbas was included to be a part of the Ukrainian Soviet People’s Republic (USPR) in 1924 by the decree of Vladimir Lenin, without any regard given to what was the will of the would-be affected people. The rationale behind this decision had to do with the fact that Lenin wanted to increase the percentage of ‘proletarians’ (industrial workers) within the overwhelmingly rural population of USPR (Taylor A6).
- Ever since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, which made possible the independence of Ukraine, the Russian-speaking citizens in the country’s East never ceased being discriminated against in a number of different (mainly linguistic) ways. Following the violent overthrow of President Yanukovich on February 22, 2014, by the gangs of armed nationalists/neo-Nazis, the Ukrainian Parliament declared its intention to deprive the Russian language of its informally official status and to enforce the Galician (Western-Ukrainian) nationalist ideology (represented by the Nazi-collaborator Stephan Bandera) upon the overwhelmingly Russian population of Crimea and Donbas. However, people in these areas simply refused to recognize the legitimacy of Ukraine’s new self-proclaimed ‘authorities’ and began to form their own armed militia for the purpose of self-defense. This particular development was followed by the referendum in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, during which 96.7% of the peninsula’s residents voted in favor of joining with Russia. Russia was quick enough to move its army into Crimea and to disarm the Ukrainian military formations (20 thousand strong) without a single shot fired. Such Crimeans’ decision prevented them from being subjected to genocide at the hands of Ukrainian nationalists, who managed to seize political power in Kyiv. People in Donbas, however, did not prove quite as lucky, because this region never enjoyed any autonomous status within the otherwise unitary state of Ukraine, which meant that Russia could only assume a passive stance while trying to defend Russian-speaking citizens in this part of the country. This, however, did not prevent the U.S. and its allies from claiming that Russia did move its troops to Ukraine. The officials from the U.S. and EU continue to insist that this is indeed the case, without even trying to come up with some factual evidence that would substantiate such their claim (Mearsheimer 82).
The above-mentioned suggests that the discussion of what accounts for the effects of Russia’s involvement in Eastern Ukraine is bound to be politically biassed in one way or another. The reason for this is that the ongoing civil war in Ukraine (just like the civil war in Syria) is nothing but only the episode of the continuing ‘proxy-war’ (or the ‘Cold War 2’) between the U.S. and Russia, which began in 2007. According to the U.S. top-officials, the effects of the involvement in question are strongly negative.
After all, the official assessment of the situation, on the part of the U.S., implies that Russia did invade Ukraine military, which results in the continuation of bloodshed – the Ukrainian army simply strives to thwart the Russian invasion. According to this point of view, the artillery and aviation bombardments of the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk (the capitals of the DPR and LPR), which caused enormous casualties among these cities’ civilian residents, have been carried out by the Russian ‘separatists’ themselves. Acting on behalf of ‘evil’ Putin, these people are morally wicked individuals – willing to kill their own women and children and to destroy their own houses.
They do it to put the blame for the horrors on the Ukrainian army, the half of which consists of the fully armed and semi-independent regiments/battalions of neo-Nazis, who fly swastika-flags (Hanly par. 3), post videos on YouTube of how they kill and torture ‘separatists’, and rob people out on the street in broad daylight.
The sheer absurdity of such a claim does not seem to be of any concern to those who voice it – the public hysteria about the ‘Russian aggression’ needs to be maintained at all costs. In this respect, the puppet-government of Ukraine headed by President Poroshenko acts alongside its American masters. As time goes on, Poroshenko continues to come up with public statements that the Ukrainian army has successfully withstood yet another invasion of a few gazillions of Russian tanks, while claiming that the whole world owes him money for defending Western civilization from ‘Russian barbarians’.
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Obviously enough, Poroshenko’s behavior does not differ much from that of Dr. Goebbels during the WW2. He, however, can afford to act in such a manner – this person’s public statements are fully consistent with America’s official stance on the subject matter. After all, the mainstream media in the West never cease referring to Russian President Putin, as someone obsessed with the thoughts of conquest and domination. President Obama himself has repeatedly stated that Russia represents one of the main global dangers, along with ISIS and Ebola virus.
According to this point of view, being ‘pure evil’ Vladimir Putin pursues the agenda of rebuilding the Russian Empire, which prior to the October Revolution of 1917 did not only include what later became known as the fifteen Soviet Republics (all of them became ‘independent nations’ in 1991) but also Poland and Finland. Moreover, some Western politicians and political scientists go as far as claiming that Putin secretly dreams of conquering the whole world.
As the clearest proof that this is indeed the case, they usually refer to the fact that ever since about ten years ago Russia began to apply an active effort in trying to avert the outbreaks of the U.S.-sponsored/supported ‘orange revolutions’ across the world. Therefore, Russia’s presumed presence in Eastern Ukraine must be seen reflective of Putin’s expansionist aspirations, which in turn reflect the sheer ‘evilness’ of this man (Rywkin 96). The West used the downing of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, to justify the imposition of economic sanctions against Russia. When assessed from the U.S. perspective, this event could not be more timely and ‘useful’ – it took place when Germany and France were still doubting whether to declare sanctions on Russia or not.
This is exactly the reason why it only took the U.S. Department of State a few minutes in the event’s aftermath to proclaim that the criminal act in question was committed by pro-Russian ‘separatists’ and to blame Russia of complicity – without bothering to wait for the outcome of the official investigation (Patrikarakos 15). Even today, the U.S. continues to accuse Russia of being indirectly responsible for this horrific act of terror – despite the fact that, as time goes on, more and more evidence emerges that the actual culprit is, in fact, the Ukrainian army. That is, of course, if the umbrella-term ‘army’ can be applied to the essentially autonomous gangs of Ukrainian neo-Nazis, armed with heavy weapons, on one hand, and to the hordes of ill-trained/equipped draftees from Western Ukraine, on the other.
Russia’s interpretation of what accounts for the effects of its involvement in Eastern Ukraine is much different. Even though the Russian government does admit that there are a number of Russian citizens fighting on the side of the DPR and LNR, it nevertheless points out to the fact that they are volunteers and that they are not on active duty with the Russian army. In fact, it was not only the Russian volunteers that decided to come to Novorossiya to help local people defending their right not to bow to the illegitimate government in Kyiv, but also many people from all over the world. In this respect, a certain parallel can be drawn between the ongoing civil war in Ukraine, and the Spanish civil war of 1936–1939. Both of these wars can be discussed in terms of a military confrontation between fascists and anti-fascists – pure and simple. Given Russia’s role in defeating Nazi Germany in 1945, it is thoroughly explainable why the overwhelming majority of Russian citizens support the cause of Novorossiya.
According to Russia’s to-officials, had the Russian Army invaded Ukraine, the Ukrainian puppet-government would have been deposed within a matter of days, and yet this is far from having been the case. These officials point out the fact that there is not even a single credible proof of Russia’s aggression in existence. They claim that the main reason why the Ukrainian army continues to suffer defeats at the hands of ‘separatists’ is that the Ukrainian military commanders lack professionalism and that a good half of the Ukrainian forcibly-drafted soldiers defect to ‘separatists’, as soon as they reach the front-line.
The reason for this is apparent – the Ukrainians and Russians represent the two branches of essentially the same folk and they naturally perceive the orders to shoot at each other criminal. This is the main reason why the U.S. is bound to sustain a fiasco while playing a ‘Ukrainian card’.
Russia insists that, according to the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, it is obliged to provide humanitarian aid to the discriminated-against Russians, regardless of what happened to be their formal citizenship. As of today, Russia has sent 57 convoys with food and medications to help civilians in the DPR and LPR – those who have been declared ‘terrorists’ by Kyiv and consequently denied the right to receive any social payments, such as the old-age/disability pensions (Ropcke par. 24). Since the West could not care less about Ukraine’s genocidal policies against its own citizens in the East, the Russian government declared that it also could not care less about the Western claims that by sending humanitarian convoys to Donbas without being allowed to do so by Kyiv, Russia violates Ukraine’s ‘territorial sovereignty’.
Hence, the main effect of Russia’s involvement in Donbas, as assessed from the Russian perspective – because of this involvement, the magnitude of the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in the region is not quite as enormous as it could have been. Russia continues to send humanitarian convoys to Donbas and to provide the DPR and LPR with much-needed financial assistance while applying pressure (along with Germany and France) on Ukraine to stick to the terms of the so-called ‘Minsk-2 Agreement’. According to it, Ukraine must be reorganized into a Federation – the condition under which both the DPR and LPR would be willing to consider rejoining back with this country. In its turn, this puts the Ukrainian current government (considered to be illegitimate and criminal by a good half of Ukrainians) in a rather precarious situation.
On one hand, it is being pressed hard to refrain from resuming any military hostilities with the DPR and LPR by France, Germany (and now the U.S.). Given the repeatedly proven lack of combat-worthiness, on the part of the Ukrainian army, the U.S. and its reluctant allies prefer not to take any more chances with trying to suppress ‘separatists’ militarily. On the other hand, however, the Ukrainian government must continue with its war-effort (officially designated as the ‘anti-terrorist operation/ATO’ and unofficially referred to as the ‘anti-people’s terrorist operation’) – as the ultimate mean of ensuring that it continues to remain in power by extending the state of martial law. Most likely, the Ukrainian government will choose in favor of the latter – this is when Russia may end up becoming involved for real.
I believe that the provided insights into the role of Russia in Eastern Ukraine do correlate with the paper’s initial thesis. As it appears from what has been mentioned earlier, the main precondition for gaining a better understanding of the discussed military conflict is one’s willingness to reconsider the validity of the idea that Russia strives to occupy Ukraine, as something that has the value of a ‘thing in itself’. The reason for this is that, when subjected to an analytical inquiry, such an idea will be inevitably exposed as yet another anti-Russian propaganda cliché, meant to conceal the expansionist/neo-colonial agenda of the West. Unfortunately, this cliché is rather effective.
Hanly, Ken 2016, U.S. to Train Alleged neo-Nazi Azov Battalion in Ukraine. Web.
In his article, Hanly strives to enlighten readers as to the fact that in today’s Ukraine, neo-Nazis enjoy a thoroughly official status – something that is best shown, in regard to Ukraine’s semi-independent neo-Nazi battalions, which use Nazi symbol Wolfsangel as their official emblem. The author also reveals that the U.S. Congress, in fact, finances these battalions.
Mearsheimer, John. “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault: The Liberal Delusions that Provoked Putin.” Foreign Affairs 93.5 (2014): 77-89. Print.
This article’s main idea that the West is fully responsible for organizing and supporting the unlawful military coup in Ukraine on February 22, 2014. The author exposes readers to the little-known details about the event, such as the fact that the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv was directly involved in financing ‘peaceful protesters’, armed with automatic weapons. In its turn, this implies that, for as long as the situation in Ukraine is concerned, the actual aggressor is not Russia but the U.S.
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Patrikarakos, David. “How the MH17 Disaster Turned a Conflict Global.” New Statesman 143.5220 (2014): 15-16. Print.
In his article, Patrikarakos discusses the downing of the flight MH17 over Ukraine on July 17, 2014, while implying that Russia is solely responsible for the incident since it supports the pro-Russian ‘separatists’ in Donbas, who according to the author are utterly wicked individuals. The article, however, does not contain even a single clue, as to why would ‘separatists’ be interested in committing the concerned act of terror, in the first place.
Rocke, Julian 2016, How Russia finances the Ukrainian Rebel Territories. Web.
Ropcke’s article discusses different aspects of Russia’s involvement in the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine. According to the author, Russia contributes rather substantially towards helping the DPR and LPR to grow ever more independent from Kyiv, in the financial sense of this word. The author believes that by supporting both republics financially, Russia violates the provisions of international law.
Rywkin, Michael. “Russia: An Adventure to Restore the Empire.” American Foreign Policy Interests: The Journal of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy 37.2 (2015): 95-99. Print.
According to the author, today’s Russia is on the quest of restoring the Empire, which in turn represents much danger to the ‘free world’. Rywkin argues that Vladimir Putin is nothing short of a ruthless dictator, obsessed with the idea of expanding the sphere of Russia’s geopolitical interests beyond the boundaries, prescribed to this country by the West. The author expresses his belief that the West should assume a firmer stance while dealing with Russia.
Taylor, Adam. “‘Novorossiya’- the Latest Historical Concept to Worry about in Ukraine.” The Washington Post. 2014: A6. Print.
In his article, Taylor elaborates on some of the historical details about how the term ‘Novorossiya’ came into being while suggesting that most people in Western countries remain utterly unaware of what are the actual reasons for the outbreak of civil war in Eastern Ukraine. The author points out to the fact that, in full accordance with how Russia sees it, Ukraine is essentially an artificially created country, which partially explains its current status as a ‘failed state’. Taylor also admits that discursively speaking, Russia’s stance on the conflict in Ukraine is thoroughly legitimate.