Baiting the Russian Bear: How clever is that?

Baiting the Russian Bear
An open letter to my MP, Rt Hon Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland
By Stuart Littlewood

Dear Mr Jack,

Have I missed something, or is our government investing billions of pounds of our money in a belligerent campaign against the world’s largest country – and in the process putting us all in harm’s way – without even a vote in Parliament?

“… Ukraine is a world-leading hotbed for arms smuggling, and the weapons the West supplies may well end up in the wrong hands…”

Yes, the House of Commons “considered the situation in Ukraine” back in March when MPs were hot under the collar from the half-truths and one-sided reports they were fed. On that occasion the minister, James Cleverly, called Russia’s intervention an unprovoked attack and told the House: “We will continue to provide lethal military aid to Ukraine.” Is he aware that Ukraine is a world-leading hotbed for arms smuggling, and the weapons the West supplies may well end up in the wrong hands?

And now that our sanctions against Russia have spectacularly backfired, what is Parliament’s present mood?

The recently announced extra £1.3bn in military support to Ukraine comes on top of the UK’s existing £1.5bn to Zelensky’s forces, and we’re even training his troops here in the UK. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “The situation in Ukraine continues to cause immense suffering with every day bringing new, tragic stories of Putin’s brutality… The UK is at the forefront, providing economic, humanitarian and defensive support to Ukraine, and we are working tirelessly to bring an end to this conflict.”

Are we really? I certainly hope so because it’s causing immense suffering here too –  or will do come the winter. But I’ve heard nothing about the UK promoting peace initiatives. It’s all war talk and by delivering arms to a country at war we expose ourselves as a belligerent. The Russian strikes against the Mykolayev airbase on 13 March were launched after warnings that arms shipments would be treated as hostile targets.

What is the background, truthfully?

The British public are no experts on Russian affairs. Neither, it seems, are most British politicians. At least we should be told the back-story as impartially as possible. But no, nothing has been explained in a manner we can all understand.

As I see it, in 2014 the US was instrumental in the coup which overthrew the democratically elected Ukrainian government and led to civil war in eastern Ukraine. That’s when a new government, following the American-sponsored overthrow of President Yanukovych, abolished Russian as an official language in Ukraine. This infuriated the Russian-speaking population and sparked clashes between pro-Russian protesters and Ukrainian government forces, leading to the Russian-speaking regions (Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov, Lugansk and Donetsk) being brutally oppressed and militarised, with a number of massacres particularly in Odessa and Mariupol.

The two self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk (i.e. the Donbas) wanted autonomy, guaranteeing Russian as an official language. The Minsk 1 (September 2014) and Minsk 2 (February 2015) agreements weren’t about separation or independence but autonomy within the Ukraine framework, with actual status negotiated with Kiev. Russia urged the implementation of Minsk while declining to get involved in the negotiations, but the West tried to replace the Minsk agreements with their so-called Normandy Format, which put Russians and Ukrainians face-to-face.

Since then there’s been a civil war with huge loss of life. To compensate for heavy losses, the Ukrainian government resorted to recruiting foreign militias. Prof John Mearsheimer claims that “the [NATO] alliance began training the Ukrainian military in 2014, averaging 10,000 trained troops annually over the next eight years”. By 2020 these accounted for about 40 per cent of the Ukrainian forces and numbered around 102,000 from many nationalities, according to Reuters. And they were armed, financed and trained by the United States, UK, Canada and France. These militias had been operating in the Donbas since 2014, with Western support.

And now the US and NATO countries are pouring tens of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons into Ukraine and providing additional support in intelligence and military advice to counter the Russia’s intervention and ensure the slaughter continues. Back in November 2020 NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg was telling the 66th Annual Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly:

We have increased our presence in the Black Sea region. We’re working with Ukraine, we’re working with Georgia… We have increased our cooperation with our two valued partners, Ukraine, and Georgia.

He even told the European Parliament to “stop complaining and step up and provide support to Ukraine”.

So, Ukraine was already fully onboard with NATO and posing a threat to Russia.

On 16 February this year the Ukrainians began shelling civilians in Donbas. Vladimir Putin could have invoked the international obligation of “Responsibility To Protect” but hesitated. On 21 February he agreed to a request by the Duma to recognise the “independence” of the two Donbas republics and signed friendship, cooperation and assistance treaties with them. The Ukrainian bombardment of Donbas continued and on 23 February the republics asked Russia for military help. On 24 February Putin invoked Article 51 of the UN Charter, which allows mutual military assistance in the framework of a defensive alliance.

Many people viewed all this as NATO deliberately provoking Russia to invade (though “intervene” might be a better word) and so create the “proxy” confrontation the US, in particular, was keen to bring about.

Do please tell me if this somewhat simplistic background is hopelessly wrong.

Promise not to expand NATO eastwards broken

After the collapse of the Soviet Union there seemed little point in NATO as a military alliance, yet, under virtual US control and pursuing US military aims, it continued encroaching eastwards despite pledging not to, causing Russia obvious concern.

Code Pink in their recent petition to US President Biden summed it up nicely:

NATO has played a major role in exacerbating this conflict, facilitating a 2014 coup to overthrow the democratically elected leader of Ukraine and breaking promises not to expand NATO into Eastern Europe, where offensive missiles in Romania and Poland could reach Russia in minutes.

We reject the imposition of massive sanctions that are harming the Russian people who, like us, want peace and security. Blanket sanctions on the entire Russian economy are spreading economic and environmental hardship to Europe and the global community with energy price hikes that may reduce energy consumption in the short term but prompt more oil drilling and lethal burning of fossil fuels in the long term.

And as Noam Chomsky puts it:

What is the best thing to do to save Ukraine from a grim fate, from further destruction?… There are two ways for a war to end: One way is for one side or the other to be basically destroyed. And the Russians are not going to be destroyed. So that means one way is for Ukraine to be destroyed. The other way is some negotiated settlement. If there’s a third way, no one’s ever figured it out.

But why should people in Britain (or anywhere else for that matter) do NATO’s bidding, knowing we’ll go hungry and freeze this winter? Why should we encourage and pay for an endless war only to see our cost of living sky-rocket? We are suffering roaring inflation and economic ruin because the British government picks a quarrel with the Russian Bear while over-reliant on it for energy, food and a host of other essentials. How clever was that, especially at a time when we’re struggling to recover from the economic consequences of COVID?

Moreover, the mega-spend on Ukraine comes out of our reserves. No-one minds supporting the Ukrainian people in the humanitarian sense but why are we funding the country’s crazed leadership only to prolong the misery and ensure their entire country is devastated? Is all this just an elaborate exercise to create another bonanza for the Wests’ military-industrial complex?

Our government has pledged to help rebuild Ukraine. The cost? Some 750 billion dolllars, according to Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. Where’s it coming from? Not my tax money, thank-you. I want that spent here at home where it matters! And what is Zelensky going to do with it? Turn Ukraine into “a second Israel”, he says. Doesn’t that set off the alarm?

In case Mr Sunak has forgotten, we’re broke. We are in debt to the tune of £2.5 trillion and our economy may collapse. The Ukraine-Russia squabble is a dirty, complex affair involving deeply unpleasant factions on all sides and, as far as I can see, has nothing to do with us. The increasingly aggressive US-led NATO, on the other hand, is determined to use Ukraine as a proxy to pursue its outdated hatred of Russia, whatever the cost to everyone else.


Poking the Russian Bear: Crude British propaganda at play

In “Britain”

Urgent need for peace as interference in Ukraine turns into a nightmare for the West

In “Home”

Calling British ministers to account – or trying to

In “Britain”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *