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Ukraine: what are we are missing? (1/tahi)
On 24 February, Russia invaded it's neighbour, Ukraine. As well as historical issues to consider, there are present-day implications, that have not been canvassed - and yet they have far-ranging consequences.
Russian President, Vladimir Putin, ex-KGB officer and doting friend of billionaire Oligarchs, coined a new euphemism for the world: it was not an invasion, he insisted, it was a "special military operation":
"I have decided to conduct a special military operation.
Its goal is to protect people who have been subjected to bullying and genocide... for the last eight years. And for this we will strive for the demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine.
And to bring to court those who committed numerous bloody crimes against civilians, including against citizens of the Russian Federation."
The United States had its own euphemism for their "Clayton's" wars (the wars you're having when you're supposedly not really having a war): "police actions".
But etymological distinctions aside, whether "special military operation" or "police action", the citizens of Korea, Vietnam, and Ukraine could equally feel the bombs and bullets that destroyed their lives.
For the sake of clarity, if it looks like a war and goes *BANG* like a war - it's a war.
Putin Does De-nazification
As the US intervened in South East Asia in the 1960s and Iraq in 2003 to "build democracy" - Putin announced he would "de-nazify" and "de-militarise" Ukraine.
The latter, "de-militarisation", is a multi-syllabic description describing Ukraine becoming a satrap of the Russian Federation. A Kremlin-controlled governor would be imposed and that would be that.
Putin's claim that his invasion was a process of so-called "de-nazifying" Ukraine is deeply ironic for two reasons.
Firstly, whilst there is undeniably a presence of far-right elements in Ukrainian society (which also exist throughout Western Europe; the United States; Australia, and even Aotearoa New Zealand), it is by no means as politically influential as Russia claims. According to a 2020 study from the Swedish Institute for International Affairs:
At the national level, radical right-wing parties in Ukraine have fared miserably in all presidential and almost all parliamentary elections – whether in the 1990s, the early 2000s or after Euromaidan [revolution]. The electoral weakness and low level of political legitimacy of Ukraine’s ultra-nationalists are historically and comparatively remarkable.
The weak electoral performance thus far of Ukraine’s far-right has been encouraging. The low level of popular support for Ukrainian party political ultra-nationalism is especially noteworthy when seen against the background of the recent successes of right wing populists and extremists in other parts of Europe
In conclusion,Ukraine’s ultra-nationalist parties remain far less relevant politically than has been alleged in Russian propaganda and was feared by some international experts on generic right-wing extremism following the Euromaidan Revolution of 2014.
Curiously, Putin's dedication to "de-nazification" has not extended to the rest of Europe or the United States. Putin has courted support for Europe's far-right and they, in return, have supported the Russian leader in an unholy alliance that has eerie echoes of the German-Soviet Pact of 1939.
Russia and right-wing 'Brexiteers' certainly had common interests:
Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia is working to empower Europe’s far-right and Eurosceptic parties with offers of cooperation, loans, political cover and propaganda. Such love has not gone unrequited: European populists are answering back with fulsome praise for Russia, its foreign policy and its strongman leader.
The love affair comes as euroskeptic candidates prepare to face mainstream politicians in crucial elections looming on the horizon: Dutch elections next month, French elections in spring, German elections sometime in autumn and Italian elections at a still undetermined date.
From the Russian side, empowering anti-European Union populists has the obvious benefit of helping erode the strength of European institutions that Moscow has long considered enemies.
For Europe’s extreme right, the benefits of embracing Putin are more abstract and ideological, said Markus Wagner, a political science professor at the University of Vienna. They see Putin as the kind of patriotic hero who prizes national traditions and realpolitik over the internationalism and openness that have long characterized Western liberalism.
It’s a strongman self-stylization that many far-right politicians hope to imitate.
“There is a very clear stance from the Russian government that they are in support of populist radical right candidates,” said Markus Wagner, a political science professor at the University of Vienna.
Even as Putin destroyed Russia's own, indigenous far-right, he was exploiting Europe's own far-right. They were his "useful idiots":
In the early 2000s, Russian President Vladimir Putin was finishing his first presidential term when two colour revolutions struck nearby – the first in Georgia in 2003 and the second in Ukraine in 2004. Large crowds in Tbilisi and Kiev demanded democratic change and major political reforms. The possibility of a colour revolution erupting in Russia seemed too real.
It was then that the Kremlin looked to the right. Russian observers would later identify this strategy of employing nationalist forces as “controlled nationalism”.
“Controlled nationalism is about using nationalists in some [political] games. In some cases, [the authorities] would support nationalists in order to keep the regime alive, to fight the threat of a colour revolution,” says Anton Shekhovtsov, visiting fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Austria.
The strangest irony of far-right groups supporting the invasion of Ukraine came from Russia's Balkan ally, Serbia. You couldn't make this stuff up: Serbian nazis were clamouring for "de-nazification" of Ukraine, to... destroy Ukrainian nazis:
Ironically, however, analysis of photos and videos from the events in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro show that many of those attending belong to organisations known to flirt with neo-Nazism, to engage in genocide-denial and to glorify convicted war criminals.
The far-right, anti-migrant People’s Patrol was one of the main groups behind a pro-Russian march in the Serbian capital, Belgrade on March 4, calling on Serbs to get behind “the Russian and Belarusian people in their fight against the Nazi and pro-Western government from Kyiv.”
Meanwhile, in the United States, the equally lunatic American far-right fringe was practically in love with their authoritarian dream-man: Vladimir Putin. To the American far-right, Putin is a conservative counter to Western liberalism:
For years, Putin has enjoyed support from an unlikely coalition of elected Republican officials, conservative Christian leaders and right-wing television hosts, whose praise has ranged from admiration of his intelligence to his hardline position against progressive cultural ideas.
“There is an attraction to Putin’s hardline authoritarian stance and his aggressive foreign policy. Others are attracted to the brand of traditionalist Christianity Putin has expressed. Some like Putin’s attacks on the Russian LGBTQ community.”
In recent years, Putin also has made inroads with some leaders of the American Christian right, who viewed Russia as a country that led on moral issues while, in their view, the US fell into moral decay.
Support for the Russian leader among some American evangelicals dates back to the 1990s, when they began noticing Russia’s renewed embrace of Christianity in the aftermath of the Cold War, said Sarah Posner, author of UNHOLY: Why White Evangelicals Worship at the Altar of Donald Trump.
“Russian leadership post-communism was embracing this idea of Russia as a Christian nation,” Posner told Al Jazeera. Autocrats like Putin, she said, “are seen as model leaders now that America has become too liberal. Over time you start to see that trickle down to the base.”
“Isn’t it sad, though, that America’s own morality has fallen so far that on this issue—protecting children from any homosexual agenda or propaganda—Russia’s standard is higher than our own?” Graham wrote. “In my opinion, Putin is right on these issues.”
“They see Putin as conserving white Christendom in Europe,” Mayo said. “This grouping is opposed to globalism, multiculturalism, promoting what they see as modernist values like promoting the LBTGQ community, diversity, and allowing liberalism to dominate.”
Far-right conservative television commentator and talk-show host, Tucker Carlson - a favorite of the right-wing, pro-Republican party broadcaster, Fox "News" - has expressed staunch pro-Russia views. In a leaked memo, the Kremlin propaganda machine has instructed Russian media that it is "essential to use as much as possible fragments of broadcasts of the popular Fox News host Tucker Carlson" to push the justification for invasion of Ukraine.
On March 3, as Russian military forces bombed Ukrainian cities as part of Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of his neighbor, the Kremlin sent out talking points to state-friendly media outlets with a request: Use more Tucker Carlson.
“It is essential to use as much as possible fragments of broadcasts of the popular Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who sharply criticizes the actions of the United States [and] NATO, their negative role in unleashing the conflict in Ukraine, [and] the defiantly provocative behavior from the leadership of the Western countries and NATO towards the Russian Federation and towards President Putin, personally,” advises the 12-page document written in Russian. It sums up Carlson’s position: “Russia is only protecting its interests and security.” The memo includes a quote from Carlson: “And how would the US behave if such a situation developed in neighboring Mexico or Canada?” - David Corn, "Mother Jones", 13 March 2022
For a man supposedly intent on a noble mission to "de-nazify" his neighbour, Mr Putin has some very strange bed-follows.
Whatever Putin's reasons for invading Ukraine, it obviously has little to do with nazis. Far right conservatives and neo-nazis seem to adore him. It's not hard to see why.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, meanwhile, would be viewing Russia's justification for the invasion - the so-called "de-nazification" of Ukraine - with a wry smile. He is Jewish. Hardly the leader a so-called nazi regime would tolerate.
On/about 14 March, Fox "News" reported that two of it's journalists - Pierre Zakrzewski and Ukrainian journalist/consultant Oleksandra "Sasha" Kuvshynova - had been killed by Russian fire:
The grinning face of Mr Carlson was prominently featured in a banner atop the story announcing the deaths of both journalists.
(To be continued: Part 2/rua - If not Nazis, then NATO?)
Wikipedia: 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine
Australian Food Timeline: 1979 Claytons enters the Australian vernacular
Air Force Magazine: Police Action
Washington Post: These are America’s 9 longest foreign wars
New York Times: Why the United States Invaded Iraq
Swedish Institute for International Affairs: Ukraine’s Far Right Today - Continuing Electoral Impotence and Growing Uncivil Society
Wikipedia: Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact
Al Jazeera: The death of the Russian far right
Balkan Insight: At Pro-Russian Balkan Rallies, a Who’s Who of the Far-Right
Wikipedia: Tucker Carlson
New Statesman: Why the US far right can’t quit Putin
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