TASS quoted President Putin on 5/27/23 regarding Ukraine:
“‘Now grateful descendants have demolished monuments to Lenin in Ukraine. This is what they call de-communization. Do you want de-communization? Well, this quite suits us. But you must not stop halfway. We are ready to show you what genuine de-communization means for Ukraine,’ Putin said in his address to the nation over the situation in Ukraine’s southeast.”
By this, Putin meant he is ready to absorb all of Ukraine into Russia. That’s what real “de-communization” would be, a hard statement. He explained that Ukraine never really existed and was created by communist Russia. He seems to make valid points in that regard. However, Putin knows Ukrainian nationalism is real. At one point during this war, he said their nationalism – their Ukrainian identity – should be respected. He indicated again now that Ukraine should have remained part of Russia, subtly criticizing the Russian communists for separating Crimea and Ukraine from Russia.
Putin looks relaxed, very calm. He thinks everything is going according to whatever his plans are. We know what the Russian leaders think about the Western leaders and media (nothing good). Lavrov called the sanctions “dumb” soon after they were enacted. Surely, David Ricardo’s comparative trade theory was not dependent on the actual size of the world or planet. The world can become smaller for Russia and it can still benefit from trade; it is large and rich enough that it could be a “small world” all by itself. I thought it was helpful for Lavrov to say it, but he did not repeat it. He must have wondered, “Why am I helping!” Russians must have seen the retired American Generals on television saying that Ukraine can defeat Russia in war (who I don’t see on TV as much lately). It should be forbidden by law for Generals to put themselves on international television showing what they know and don’t know. It’s unethical whenever their opinions are contradicting more measured declarations from authorities like Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley. The image of defense personnel is as important as the quality of weapons.
The Russian government doesn’t believe the West reacted intelligently to their two proposals sent on December 21, 2021, one to the U.S. and one to NATO. One of their three main demands was that Ukraine should be prevented from joining NATO. None of their demands was something that could be called “unfair.” They were called “ultimatums” and “bluffs”. The proposal to NATO had a clear peace overture that went unmentioned as far as I know. The first sentence of Article 3 of their proposal to NATO states: “The Parties reaffirm that they do not consider each other as adversaries.” What a sentence!
I think Russia is aware that Crimea is theirs now thanks to the policies and actions of “neocons”. They criticize them for having provoked a coup and secession movements in Ukraine, without being able to mention what Russia gained from that. After gaining Crimea, the richest parts of Ukraine, and of Europe, have been incorporated into Russia proper through conquest and referendums in the last 12 months. Russia was already the richest country in natural resources and the biggest geographically. Thus, there is no bigger ‘Russian’ than a ‘neocon’.
At least in part due to their bad opinions about the West, I think Russia is waging a very aggressive mental war against it, a “war of deception”, which happens in times of real war, but this level of war deception is new and no doubt inspired by their bad opinion of Western elites. There is a “Wagner” military group. Richard Wagner was an idol of Hitler. Wagner’s opera “Rienzi” had a transformative influence on Hitler the first time he watched it. He later said, “In that hour it began” (a chapter title in the book, “The Young Hitler I knew”, by his friend August Kubizek). It is called also “the musicians” and “the orchestra”. We’re told that prisoners and convicts are doing the fighting and defeating the Ukrainian army with a casualty ratio of one Russian soldier killed for every five Ukrainians killed. Its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is a catering service entrepreneur (with connections). The Western media seems to believe whatever the Russians say about this military group – even though there is a war going on. I saw an intelligence chief on TV agreeing with the media’s account of this group. The Russian government presents this military group as independent from it, and Prigozhin speaks ever more wildly as if to confirm his independence.
Prigozhin was interviewed in Russia last week and yet again said extraordinary things for someone in a subordinate position. Infoabe: “Prigozhin criticized the post-Soviet policy toward Ukraine and said ‘the special military operation was unclear, contradictory and confused’”. “He also said that the Minister of Defense, Sergei Shoigu, should be replaced by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, while the Chief of the General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, should be replaced by Sergei Surovikin, nicknamed ‘General Armageddon’ by Russian media.” “Asked about his political creed, he said, ‘I love my country, I serve Putin, Shoigu must be judged, and we will continue to fight.’” “‘The special military operation was launched with the ‘denazification’ objective, but we made Ukraine become a country known all over the world. They are like the Greeks and Romans in the times of the Renaissance.’” “‘If before the start of the special military operation, they (Ukrainians) had let’s say 500 tanks, now they have 5000. If before 20,000 knew how to fight, today it’s 400,000. Is this how we demilitarize? Now it turns out we militarize Ukraine, and how!’” He described the Wagner Group as “the best army in the world”, adding, “To be correct, I should say that the second best one is the Russian army.” He explained that Ukrainian troops can handle any armament system successfully, whether it is a Soviet one or from NATO. “‘I believe that Ukrainians have one of the strongest armies’”.
Such wild declarations could be from a script he is given to say. It’s looking that way. It could be that the Russians are playing mental games with utmost contempt for the West, but the main thing, though, is that the stories about this group and its supposed independence should not be accepted even if the Russians think it is really so. How does it help our national security to accept all or any of that? We know that Russia’s military is fully involved in the planning and execution of military actions in Ukraine, as is clear from their frequent bombing campaigns, use of artillery, and more. We know that this war could not be more important than it is to the Russian government. Is Article 5 of the NATO Treaty – that an attack against one member is an attack against all members – really “sacred”? It is not safe or prudent to assume Russia believes that; it believes NATO is overextended and it doesn’t think much of the politicians and diplomats who believe it is as valid as 74 years ago. It was signed in 1949 and much has indeed changed. Russia’s vast arsenal of nuclear weapons affects the context of the treaty. NATO extended itself to Finland and still wants to extend itself to Ukraine. It makes no sense for nuclear superpowers to be adversaries post-communism.
The West looks oblivious to the fact that it is providing weapons for the express purpose of killing as many Russians as possible, and that killing and wounding Russians when they are not doing the same to you could provoke an in-kind reaction eventually. The Russian population is angry because – as they themselves say – Western nations are killing Russian soldiers! In time, Putin might feel great pressure to address this big issue; Russians may think, “Since when do you believe that you have a right to kill Russians while saying you are not at war with Russia?” In an international forum a few weeks ago, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said something startling: that an outcome of this war needs to be that Russia is never able to do it again (invade). Victoria Nuland, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, repeated the same point this past week and said it before too. I think that they mean what they say. This implies an outcome where Russia is completely defeated in war like Ukraine says that it will be. It could mean that the Russian government will be replaced. It could even mean that Russia will be split into parts. It means very strong things. They raised the Ukraine-Russia war to world war status, where Russia’s future is marked out like Hitler’s Germany was before the end of WWII. On the other side, Russia and China say that a new world order is rising, but they don’t say that the United States must never again be able to invade anyone (probably in private they say that kind of thing).
It was too much to believe two years ago that Ukraine was a military match for Russia. Now that even the Wagner group defeated the Ukrainian army in Bakhmut, and much of the East is conquered and subsumed into Russia, what is it to still believe that? It is not true that Russia was defeated in Kyiv. Putin invited a military coup within 48 hours of invading, and it looks more like they were trying to provoke that military coup with their encroachment on Kyiv, with that long line of trucks parked nearby for many days, and not a sufficient number of troops to storm Kyiv. It is not true that Ukraine obtained a victory in Kherson. The Russians just moved to the other side of the river. It’s not true that they won in Kharkiv. The Russians did not have many forces there. The truth is that Ukraine has only been losing. Declarations from Putin and Medvedev (Deputy Head of the Security Council) point now to Russia aiming at conquering all but the Western part of Ukraine. It appears they might in the future be interested in bargaining over West Ukraine with the adjacent countries, Poland, Romania and Hungary (Polish and Romanian lands were ceded to Ukraine after WWII and from Hungary to Ukraine after WWI).
Russia still wants a negotiated end to the war, which could be used for leverage by the Biden administration. Article 6 of Russia’s proposal to the United States says: “All member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization commit themselves to refrain from any further enlargement of NATO, including the accession of Ukraine as well as other States.” Article 4 says: “The United States of America shall not establish military bases in the territory of the States of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that are not members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, use their infrastructure for any military activities or develop bilateral military cooperation with them.” There was an attitude to reject the Russian proposals in 2021. It must be harder to contemplate that NATO overextended itself causing the kind of problem it was supposed to avoid, if you participated in the overextension. The NATO expansion concept based today on a “free membership” principle against Russia, really, is gauche in my opinion. Other than for its poor English, it should be hard to reject the first sentence of Article 1 of the proposal to NATO: “The Parties shall guide in their relations by the principles of cooperation, equal and indivisible security.” The “Agreement” and the “Treaty” proposals sent by Russia two months before the war started should be read well to negotiate well. I think it should also be a U.S. proposal to not be adversaries anymore.