Notes on the News
- Did Russia Invade To Stop Kiev Overrunning the Donbass?
- The G7’s Proxy War
- Georgia Not Fighting to the Last Georgian
- British Rail and the Imaginary Market
- The End of Thatcherism?
- China’s Mixed Economy
Did Russia Invade To Stop Kiev Overrunning the Donbass?
Western media speak of ‘Russian Disinformation’. But not this particular Russian claim. Which makes no sense, unless it’s actually true.
Russians certainly remember what the NATO / G7 power-block did in Former Yugoslavia. They ignored Croatia glorifying a pro-Nazi government in the 1940s. Their first president Franjo Tudjman was one of those listed as a ‘denialist’ by Deborah Lipstadt, saying that mass murder of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies had been exaggerated.[A] Her successful legal battle with David Irving got mainstream support: similar views from the very useful Tudjman remained obscure.[B]
Majority-Serb regions within Croatia were overrun by a Western-trained Croatian army. Then Kosovo was helped to secede from Serbia, despite having no legal right to do so. Serbia was bombed into submission. Small majority-Serb regions in Kosovo were forced to join the secession.
It would be a better world if democratic secession were a right. But the United Nations mostly votes against such claims. And the NATO / G7 power-block dishonestly supports some and rejects others. The Western press, dominated by a millionaire elite, makes sure that the public only notice those claims the West wants advanced.
A frustrated expert once noted that the problem with British education is that parents want strict discipline, but only for other people’s children. In a similar spirit, most ordinary people support democratic secession, unless their own multi-ethnic state is involved. Almost all Chinese, including those hostile to its government, insist that Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang are part of China. Most pro-Western Chinese were offended by Hong Kong protestors waving the Union Jack and denying they were part of China.[C] They were not concerned about the creation of Bangladesh or Pakistan’s support for Kashmiris who want independence. And in the same spirit, almost all Indians insist on keeping Kashmir, but are sympathetic to Tibetan claims.
Much the same could be said of many other countries. Most of Europe accepted Spain’s crushing of a Catalonian separatist vote.
The hope for a genuinely honest global order was never likely, and is now definitely dead. I tend to urge whatever solution is most likely to avoid violence.
In Ukraine, the First Orange Revolution polarised Ukraine, west versus east.[D] But it remained normal politics, and not to the taste of the USA. By 2010, the Orange hero Yushchenko was discredited. The man accused of trying to fix the 2004 vote was honestly elected.
It was a solid east-west split,[E] with the Donbass intensely anti-Orange. Still normal politics.
But as a parting shot, the fallen Orange hero Yushchenko brought actual neo-Nazis into the Orange coalition.[F] It was foreseeable that this might push East Ukraine to greater hostility. Not everyone in West Ukraine liked it, but they accepted it.
Neo-Nazis dominated the violence of the Second Orange Revolution, and an intimidated Parliament declared the President deposed. Ignored the careful copy of US procedures designed to make this difficult and slow.[G]
If someone were trying to start a civil war, nothing need have been done differently. And no one disputes that Western support played a large role in this and other Colour Revolutions. I’m sure almost all of those involved wanted a peaceful and liberal Ukraine. But few were realistic. And those with the money and power almost certainly wanted war.
Crimea was a Russian conquest from the Ottoman Empire. Not claimed for a separate Ukraine when Germany imposed the Brest-Litovsk Treaty. Part of Russia until Khrushchev moved it in 1954. It was lukewarm about remaining with Ukraine. And in 2014 it instantly seceded. Its democratically-elected government then asked to join Russia, confirmed by a quick referendum.
This now gets described as a Russian seizure. But no one asks for a second vote. It was declared invalid, only because most sovereign states dislike the idea of a right of democratic secession.[H]
A majority of Crimeans would almost certainly have fought for their right not to be ruled by Kiev. But Russians had troops based at their naval base at Sevastopol, so Kiev let it happen. And the need to keep that base was probably the main reason Putin took the risk.
Out of sight of the public, the real powers in the USA might have been content. Short of war, Russia was not going to give up its main naval base. And it confirmed the split between Russia and the bulk of Ukraine: a long-term desire for some leading US experts.[I]
The war in the Donbass was caused by the people themselves. The elected governments of its regions tried to organise referendums on either autonomy or separation. The Kiev government sent in troops to prevent this. They incorporated and armed neo-Nazi militias when the regular troops showed no enthusiasm.
Ukraine had a regular election later in 2014. Hard-line Orange parties won in the west, moderates in the centre and anti-Orange in the east.[J] MPs from the Opposition Bloc won the parts of the Donbass that Kiev controlled: and this included Mariupol. And even though the Opposition Bloc opposed the Russian invasion, it has now been banned. The party cannot operate, and its property has been seized. You can find this from Kiev’s own website,[K] but Western media say nothing.
Early in his Presidency, Zelensky talked as if he wanted a compromise based on the never-implemented Minsk Agreements. He got no support from the USA or European Union. Meantime Putin came under pressure from harder-line Russian nationalists. I doubt he ever wanted the Donbass. He was probably pushed reluctantly into first warlike threats, and then war.[L]
The Russian oligarchs created by Yeltsin’s bungled 1990s privatisation mostly put Russia first. A few are stranded in the middle ground:
“Other than Oleg Tinkov, the founder of a Russian bank who said he was forced to sell his stake this spring, no major Russian business magnate has spoken forcefully against the war, despite the many billions they may possess in Western assets…
“The Russian government in April shut down the Carnegie Moscow Center, which was funded by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. Mr. Trenin, 66, said that he now plans to do research and teach in Moscow, and that his longtime mission of promoting understanding between Moscow and Washington is no longer relevant.
“Had Washington acceded to Mr. Putin’s demands to pledge that Ukraine would never join NATO, Mr. Trenin argues, the war could have been averted. Now, conflict between Russia and the West ‘will probably continue for the rest of my life.’
“‘My work was aimed at creating mutual understanding between America and Russia,’ he says. ‘This has not happened.’!”[M]
The G7’s Proxy War
“Negative views of Russia mainly limited to western liberal democracies, poll shows”
“The sharp polarisation between mainly western liberal democracies and the rest of the world in perceptions of Russia has been laid bare in an annual global poll of attitudes towards democracy.
“Within Europe, 55% of those surveyed for the Alliance for Democracies said they were in favour of cutting economic ties with Russia due to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, whereas in Asia there was a majority against, and in Latin America opinion was evenly split.
“Negative views of Russia are largely confined to Europe and other liberal democracies. Positive views of Russia have been retained in China, Indonesia, Egypt, Vietnam, Algeria, Morocco, Malaysia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.”[N]
By an amazing coincidence, almost all of the anti-Russian powers had vast overseas empires when the Bolshevik Revolution happened. Fought the anti-imperialism that Moscow encouraged.
During the Cold War, the USA encouraged the break-up of the European empires, but favoured less direct methods of control. And very regrettably, the post-Stalin Soviet Union failed to loosen control and allow independence within what was in practice an expanded version of the Tsarist Empire. Khrushchev crushed a largely left-wing alternative in Hungary in 1956. Brezhnev did the same in Czechoslovakia in 1968. And tragically, much of Europe’s Hard Left was lukewarm in saying that this was wrong.
But the world has moved on. Leaders of more than half of humanity accept that the Russian Republic has no wider ambitions. Just a wish to protect ethnic Russians. They’re not bothered by Kiev losing parts of its territory, which is the only quick way to peace.
So far, only Russia includes the idea of letting the people of the regions vote on their own future. And might fix the results if they disliked them, of course. But a real belief in democracy would mean demands for an internationally supervised vote. Does anyone care?
The NATO / G7 power-block support a Ukraine purged of everything pro-Russian or pro-Soviet. But now that it turns out to be costly, France and Germany are lukewarm:
“UK fears Ukraine will be coerced to make a ‘bad peace’: PM
“British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he feared Ukraine could face pressure to agree to a peace deal with Russia that was not in its interests, due to the economic consequences of the war in Europe.
“‘Too many countries are saying this is a European war that is unnecessary … and so the pressure will grow to encourage – coerce, maybe – the Ukrainians to a bad peace,’ he told broadcasters in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, where he was attending a Commonwealth summit.
“Johnson said the consequences of Russian President Vladimir Putin being able to get his way in Ukraine would be dangerous to international security and ‘a long-term economic disaster’.”[O]
Georgia Not Fighting to the Last Georgian
The European Union ignored Georgia, when they gave candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova. But I saw only one comment:
“Georgia shifts closer to Vladimir Putin after the EU overlooks it as a candidate
“Once a victim of Russia’s aggression, Georgia is now moving into Vladimir Putin’s orbit after a key EU decision that the bloc may come to regret
“When Georgia was invaded by Russia in 2008, the war only lasted about five days but its effects would reverberate throughout the country for many years.
“Georgia was once considered a frontrunner for EU membership after making huge strides for democratic reforms, but in 2012 that changed when billionaire oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili, founder of the ruling Georgian Dream party, came to power.
“Since then the country has been mired by democratic backsliding and accusations of corruption. Opposition figures were jailed and the country pursued closer ties with Russia.”[P]
Daring to choose the wrong sort of oligarch? One who will not wreck his own country? Not seek to comfort the USA in its inability to cope with global failures?
The 2008 war was Russia preventing the ethnic cleansing of South Ossetia. Part of a general pattern of ethnic conflict that broke out when a crude copy of Western politics took the place of the finely-balanced system Stalin had created.
Russia mostly kept the peace, even eventually winning over a majority of Chechens.
Georgians have failed to co-exist with anyone, and have lost South Ossetia.
Ossetians are a distinct people speaking a language similar to Persian. North Ossetia is legally part of the Russian Republic, and South Ossetia of Georgia.
Sensible Georgians can live with that. A sensible leader guides the ‘Georgia Dream’:
“Closer ties with Russia have been pursued, leading to accusations of Russophilia by Ivanishvili’s political opponents. Conversely, his supporters regard him as representative of rural Georgians and an opponent of western liberalism.”[Q]
Anyone disliked by the NATO / G7 power-block can be denounced as authoritarian. I assume Mr Modi in India realises this. So he keeps a balance when they seek his support.
For Georgia, the European Union leaders seem resigned to having lost it. And in 2008 showed that they would not take risks to defend it.
British Rail and the Imaginary Market
I support the strike, as do most Britons. But others can speak better about it. I’ll just report something said in the Financial Times:
“Since the privatisation and break-up of British Rail, train transport has proved itself ill-suited to conventional capitalism
“If there is one thing that the current rail strike tells us, it is that no one is in charge of the railways.
“And that, as we have seen, is a recipe for chaos. While the unions clearly represent the workers, who speaks for the railways? Transport secretary Grant Shapps claims it is nothing to do with him, while the train operators suggest in private that they have to ask his department for permission to sneeze. The truth is that the rail companies are piggy-in-the-middle between two warring factions.
“Contrary to claims at the time, it was not the EU that mandated such a rift between the infrastructure provider (Railtrack then, now Network Rail), the rolling stock companies, and the 20 or so regional train operators — it was the Treasury’s insistence on the need for competition.”[R]
The strike is caused by management trying to squeeze workers. Like most real-world capitalists, their quest for profits often damages the business they run.
The End of Thatcherism?
The Thatcherite fantasy, foolishly accepted by Tony Blair and now by Starmer, was that uncontrolled Market Forces were necessary for a prosperous economy.
Tory policy has always been ‘feed the rich’. The change from Thatcher onwards is that they felt they could get away with a lot more. That Global Leninism was no longer a threat, while Fascism was a weak movement that could be safely ignored. Or more recently, used conveniently to cause chaos in Ukraine.
It has worked so far, but at long-term cost to the society.
The big problem with returning to a 19th-century pattern is that Britain before the Mixed Economy never grew at more than 2% a year. This despite feeding off an Empire in which India barely grew overall. Modern things that Britain introduced were balanced by a decay of traditional industries. India only gained when it had its own government.
But despite the extras from the Empire, British industry was being overtaken by the USA and Germany before World War One.
It is no accident that the more the Mixed Economy is dismantled, the more we return to the unacceptable slowness of a small-state capitalist economy. This is what will kill it in the long run, though with a lot more suffering likely in the process.
Some young people are finally learning:
“Young people don’t care about the strikes of the 1970s and 80s. They are worried about now.
“Low pay and insecure work are issues that overwhelmingly affect them. That’s why the denigration of unions is not working…
“While some paint trade unions as outdated and irrelevant, the truth is that it is they who are out of touch. Today’s industrial disputes are about very current demands for higher pay in the face of inflation, after a year of wage stagnation. That’s why it’s not members of a certain age balloting for strike action, but a new generation of energised trade unionists.
“In a poll conducted by Savanta ComRes at the outset of the rail strikes, a larger proportion of 18- to 34-year-olds than any other age group said the strikes were “absolutely justified”. It’s no surprise that this demographic thinks so: young workers today are more likely than their counterparts to be in insecure jobs, to be paid low wages, and to face a lack of career progression at work. If any group can identify the inherent inequality built into our workplaces, it’s them.
“Young people face an uncertain and unequal future as they run to keep up with ever-increasing outgoings. University has left them saddled with a lifetime of debt and the high cost of home ownership has left many paying extortionate rents. In the background, the existential threat of climate change looms.
“In response, climate strikes have been called; tenants’ unions have been established and a new form of trade unionism has emerged. Young people are doing the work to challenge the inequality they see all around them and to secure their own futures.”[S]
This is from The Guardian. Which however was bitter against Corbyn, when he responded to this widespread feeling.
China’s Mixed Economy
“China tells banks to limit executive pay under ‘common prosperity’ drive
“Guidelines issued as Xi Jinping is expected to secure third term in power later this year
“Chinese securities regulators and industry associations have instructed local and foreign banks to rein in executive pay levels, in the latest sign that president Xi Jinping’s drive to promote ‘common prosperity’ is gathering pace ahead of a crucial Communist party congress this year…
“The association also decreed that senior staff should invest at least 20 per cent of their bonuses in financial products issued by their own companies. It added that the guidelines were intended to corral ‘risk-taking behaviour and potential risks’ stemming from executives’ pursuit of short-term bonus payouts”.[T]
Old newsnotes at the magazine websites. I also write regular blogs – https://www.quora.com/q/mrgwydionmwilliams
[M] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/23/world/europe/russia-war-oligarchs-putin.html (pay site)
[R] https://www.ft.com/content/b15a7269-10c5-4ae2-8a29-a576594b7f3c (pay site)
[T] https://www.ft.com/content/1c218805-876b-494d-86da-1409f82bee9a (pay site)