We believe at Democracy Alert that, in times of crisis, it is essential to listen to the point of view of all sides. Sadly, that is not happening with the Ukraine crisis.
As the war deepens in Ukraine it has been heartening to see how many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have donated to help refugees flooding into surrounding countries. For those of us who can afford to do so, this is an opportunity to try to help ease the terrible trauma these people must be enduring. They are innocent victims in a war not of their choosing - a war clearly wanted by vested interests. But who are these vested interests? Are the Russians really the only bad guys ?
Media portrayals of the war in Ukraine consistently paint a very black picture of an "evil" Putin with his army of invaders killing innocent civilians. It’s a simplistic strategy designed to emotionally polarize our response to the situation by keeping us hooked on drama and personal tragedy.
Rarely do we hear any mention on TV of the reasons given by Putin for the Russian army’s presence in the country. Nor does the media narrative include the role or motives of other parties, specifically the way the U.S. and NATO may have deliberately created the conditions that would precipitate a war. And Google searches generally don’t help. Unless you are aware of sites that might paint a different picture of the conflict, you will be hard pressed to find alternative interpretations of what’s going on in Ukraine.
But are you curious? Here are two authors whose interpretation of the crisis differs dramatically from what we are seeing on TV. The articles outlining their perspectives are well worth the read.
The Military Situation in the Ukraine is a translation of an article of his that appeared in the March edition of the Centre Francais de Recherche sur le Renseignement. Here Baud details the history and circumstances around :
- The referendums on self-determination in the Donbas republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, followed by the Ukrainian government's decision to abolish the Kivalov-Kolesnichenko law of 2012 that made Russian one of the official languages of Ukraine.
- The failure to implement the Minsk Agreements and the resulting violent repression of Russian speaking regions of Ukraine post 2014 by extreme-right paramilitary militias.
- Russia's rationale in demanding the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine.
- Why the humanitarian corridors have not worked well.
- And much more.
One day later, in a podcast with Aaron Mate on Pushback, Baud gives further clarification of the events that led to the Russian decision to launch an offensive in the Ukraine. The smoking gun, he asserts, was the decision and the decree issued by Volodymyr Zelenskyy in March 2021 to recapture the Crimea by force. The trigger, ultimately, was the intensification of Ukrainian artillery shelling of the Russian speaking Donbas region starting on the 16 February. (The Russian response began on February 24.)
Baud's conclusion throughout is that the war has been deliberately encouraged and instrumentalized by the US and Europe with the goal to weaken Russia.
Greenwald's article on the Ukraine war begins with the alarming claim that "On a virtually daily basis, any off-key news agency, independent platform or individual citizen is liable to be banished from the Internet." Why? Their crime, he asserts, is not disinformation, but skepticism about the US/NATO propaganda campaign. By contrast, he asserts that "One can spread as many lies and as much disinformation as one wants provided that it is designed to advance the NATO agenda in Ukraine." (In support of this assertion, there is some evidence to suggest that the attacks on the the Kramatorsk train station and the Bucha massacre might have been, as Russia maintains, false flag operations. But, who knows?)
Greenwald goes on to question why there is so much urgency and emphasis placed on silencing the small pockets of dissenting voices about the war in Ukraine? Who profits from this war? At the top of Greenwald's answer list is the US and its military industrial complex.
So how do we reconcile these positions with what we are hearing daily on our news channels?
What is becoming clear to those of us trying to keep an open mind in following recent events is that Ukraine is a country with deep political, economic and ethnic contradictions.
Politically, Ukraine is a democracy, but one with an extreme-right contingent of vigilantes who are willing to use intimidation and violence to advance their agendas. The most infamous is the neonazi Azov Battalion, a militia group whose headquarters have, since 2014, been in the Russian speaking city of Mariupol. Azov brutality has been documented and condemned by the United Nations yet it continues to be supported by governments and oligarchs.
As for the oligarchs, their power in Ukraine is extraordinary. They simply dominate the economic and political life of the country.
Ukraine is also, unfortunately, a deeply corrupt country, ranking 122 on the world corruption index .
All of this makes Ukraine's democracy open to manipulation by powerful players with vested interests (both inside and outside the country) who may have little concern for the welfare of ordinary Ukrainians.
Then there is the ethnic issue. 30% of the Ukrainian population speak Russian as their first language, and as the map above shows, most are located in the southern and eastern part of Ukraine. Apparently, less than one percent of the population of Mariupol, the city currently under siege by the Russians, regularly speak Ukrainian at home.
It is the Russian speaking regions of the country that have seen the greatest destruction of ordinary people's lives. Why? Because this is where the bulk of the Ukrainian army and assisting militias were stationed prior to the Russian invasion. The Russians would argue that the deployment of Ukrainian troops in that area was a deliberate preparation for expanded attacks on the republics of the Donbas and possibly even the Crimea.
But here is the shocker. According to Jacques Baud, 40% (numbering around 102,000 men) of Ukrainian forces are composed of foreign mercenaries, including "fanatical and brutal individuals" who have for years perpetrated crimes against civilians. Baud claims that many of these foreign mercenaries have been armed, financed and trained by NATO countries, notably, the United States, Great Britain, France and Canada. With respect to Canada, one has to wonder how many, among the 33,000 Ukrainian military personnel our government has trained for the Ukrainian government since 2015, have actually been mercenaries.
Does the fostering of mercenaries by NATO countries suggest that Ukraine might be a mere sub-plot in Cold War 2? It certainly supports Greenwald's assertion that " the only goal that the U.S. and its NATO allies have when it comes to the war in Ukraine is to keep it dragging on for as long as possible."
That brings me back to the role of the media. I get it that countries at war will want to censor or block any narratives contrary to government's position. That certainly was true on all sides in World War 2. But Canada is not at war. In a democracy that is not under attack it is important to look at both sides. That hasn't been happening in our country and we need to ask why the corporate media has chosen to follow in lock-step consensus the official NATO position.
You may find the opinions presented here upsetting and uncomfortable. But we are a people that have always taken pride in our tolerance of other perspectives. In a world where rich, powerful elites are taking more and more control over our lives, and slyly shaping the way we think, we need to stay open to perspectives that don't match what the these groups want us to believe.
And that I say in solidarity with ordinary Ukrainians, good people caught so unfairly and mercilessly as pawns in the ambitions of powerful, selfish, ideologically blinkered geopolitical players.
The Russians aren't the only bad guys here.
For direct Russian quotes on the Russian government's rationale for deploying troops in the Ukraine see the following links.
- from the Russian ambassador to the U.S.: www.moonofalabama.org/2022/04/sane-voices-explaining-the-reasons-for-and-dangers-behind-the-war-in-ukraine.html
- from a high level Russian presidential advisor: ww.corriere.it/economia/aziende/22_aprile_08/we-are-at-war-with-the-west-the-european-security-order-is-illegitimate-c6b9fa5a-b6b7-11ec-b39d-8a197cc9b19a.shtml