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INTRODUCTION

BALKAN WITNESS was created in 1999 to report on the Serb-nationalist attack on the people of Kosovo. The founders are longtime progressive activists, veterans of opposition to aggressive US wars. And in the case of ex-Yugoslavia, and the war in Ukraine, we are also opponents of the expansionist aggression of other nations.

Since the beginning of the Kosovo war, we were dismayed by the lack of support among some Western progressives for the victims of that war, and even outright ideological sympathy with the aggressors. We refuted in great detail the misrepresentations by Serbian nationalists and their western supporters.

Some on the Left engaged in a comparable syndrome with respect to Syria and the catastrophic crimes of the Assad forces.

Now comes the war in Ukraine. Putin's invasion is front-page news for months, and Russian crimes are in plain sight for all to see and understand. Yet denial, and support for the war criminals' aims, are still to be found in parts of the Western Left. This experience has a clarifying effect: it is not a matter of lack of information, or confusion about what is happening; it is ideological. Parts of the Left are infected with a case of "the enemy of the enemy is our friend." Their anti-imperialism extends only so far as the door. They haven't been able to take a stand against empire builders elsewhere. Not only Serbian expansionists, but Russian and Chinese as well, have committed war crimes in service of their regional objectives.

Meanwhile, we find some Leftists blaming possible expansion of NATO to include Ukraine. It didn’t matter that NATO expansion was driven more by the East Europeans than by Washington, which was originally quite divided on the matter. Nor did it matter that NATO membership for Ukraine was hardly imminent, or that in no scenario was a NATO attack on Russia imaginable.

Leftist Commentary that is unsupportive of Ukraine comes in two general categories:

The hard position is that Russia is part of a global alliance against US imperialism and therefore it should be supported uncritically. This reflects the attitude that regional fascist movements are worthy of the Left's support if they are anti-US. For responses to that below, see the Truthout article by Fletcher & Davidson, as well as the White Russian empire piece: Russia is part of a global authoritarian, neo-fascist movement.

More prevalent is the soft position, promoted by Noam Chomsky and others: Yes the invasion is inexcusable, one of the major war crimes of the 21st century, but the real problem is NATO. All the emotional firepower is directed at the US. Many of the pieces below do a good job of critiquing that position. That nations might prefer NATO to Russia is a demonstration of how bad the Russian government is. As the critique of the Stephen F. Cohen piece suggests, while Germany was badly treated by the Treaty of Versailles, that was no excuse for Hitler's imperial expansionism.

Time and again, the Western Left has responded to the critique of Russia by mentioning US aggression against Afghanistan, Iraq, and other states. The argument should be that, in 2003, other governments did not put enough pressure on the United States over Iraq. Not that it is necessary to exert less pressure on Russia over Ukraine now. --Taras Bilous, A Letter to the Western Left from Kyiv

Progressives worldwide should be defined by alliance with the victims - not by justifications for the conquerors. To build lasting peace, and to confront the reality of the climate crisis in time, we need international cooperation, not war. For peace, for human rights, and for climate justice, we need an end to the crimes and oppression perpetrated by violent dictators like Putin.

On this page we present, in several sections, a factual and political basis for an improved understanding of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. We include direct reports from those victimized, who we should be allied with.

Every person, whoever and wherever they are, has the right to live in peace and free from oppression. Today, it must be a worldwide priority to protect the lives and livelihoods of Ukrainians, end Putin’s aggression, and restore peace, democracy, and human rights. We make this a priority because Russia under Putin is a leader in the worldwide trend toward authoritarian regimes. Those countries that allow relative freedom must stand up to Russia's aggression and authoritarianism.

Tomorrow, we need to hold those guilty of this war crime accountable.

1. The present situation
2. The Left

3. Voices from Ukraine, and Russian dissidents
4. Historical background
5. Ivan Ilyin, Putin’s ideological hero

You can follow local reliable reporting about Russia’s invasion on Ukraine at:
Kyiv Independent     New Voice of Ukraine     Ukraine Crisis Media Center

Subscribe to Prof. Timothy Snyder's informative updates

Donate to support humanitarian aid. If you can, consider supporting a group working to offer medical, material, and humanitarian aid to people in Ukraine, and to people fleeing the Russian invasion and seeking refuge in neighboring countries. Thirty verified ways to contribute financially are listed on this resource page by Global Citizen.

1. The present situation

The Putin Files: Julia Ioffe Journalist Julia Ioffe’s candid video interview on Putin and allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election – part of FRONTLINE’s media transparency project for its investigation, “Putin’s Revenge.” (1 hour, 48 minutes) October 27, 2017 More here 

White Russian Empire: The racist myths behind Vladimir Putin's power grabs Unlike previous iterations of Russian identity, Putin's Russian nation is explicitly race-based. By Rafia Zakaria, The African American Policy Forum, March 10, 2022

NEW "Genocide" and Putin's war of destruction against Ukrainian society Putin regards a free, democratic Ukrainian society as a threat to Russia. It is clear enough that he wishes to shatter Ukrainian society and its state, not just ambitions for NATO and EU membership. If this is not yet "a genocide," the logic of destroying Ukrainian society is increasingly tending toward a genocidal war. By Martin Shaw, March 14, 2022

Ukraine is "defending all of us" from Putin If the Kremlin misread Ukraine, the West has also failed to understand what Putin was up to: he has an idea of what Russia should be like, and that idea includes controlling Ukraine. Interview with Timothy Snyder (14 minutes), British public broadcast service Channel 4, March 22, 2022

Facts Over Ideology, Peace Over War While Putin would like to see NATO divided and weakened, many see other reasons behind Putin’s invasion: a nationalist attempt to reclaim the Soviet empire, uniting Ukraine and Russia, shoring up his internal support through a successful war and making Russia a major player again on the world stage. As Yale History Professor Timothy Snyder has observed, economically successful democracies close to Russia threaten Russia by their very existence. By Terry Burke and Andrew Berman, In These Times [ITT], March 21, 2022

NEW Justification of genocide Russia has openly declared its desire to exterminate Ukrainians as a nation. A Russian state-owned news-agency article justifies the need for mass repression against Ukrainians to force them to abandon their own nationality, culture, and language." Ukrainian Crisis Media Center, April 4, 2022

NEW Russia's genocide handbook The Russian official press agency published an explicit program for the complete elimination of the Ukrainian nation as such." Denazification" in oficial Russian usage just means the destruction of the Ukrainian state and nation. A "Nazi," the publication explains, is simply a human who self-identifies as Ukrainian. By Timothy Snyder, April 8, 2022

Ukraine: Russian Forces’ Trail of Death in Bucha Russian forces committed a litany of war crimes during their occupation of Bucha in March. By Human Rights Watch, April 21, 2022

The Belarusian railway workers who helped thwart Russia’s attack on Kyiv A clandestine network of railway workers, hackers, and dissident security forces wreaked havoc on supply lines. By Liz Sly, The Washington Post, April 23, 2022
When Russian troops first streamed across the Belarusian border into Ukraine for what they had assumed would be a lightning assault on Kyiv, they were intending to rely on the region’s extensive rail network for supplies and reinforcements.
The Russians hadn’t taken into account the railway saboteurs of Belarus.
Starting in the earliest days of the invasion in February, a clandestine network of railway workers, hackers and dissident security forces went into action to disable or disrupt the railway links connecting Russia to Ukraine through Belarus, wreaking havoc on Russian supply lines.
The attacks have drawn little attention outside Belarus amid the drama of the Russian onslaught and the bloody aftermath of Russia’s humiliating retreat. Fierce Ukrainian resistance and tactical errors by an ill-prepared Russian force were likely enough to thwart Russia’s plans, analysts say.
But the Belarus railway saboteurs can at least claim a role in fueling the logistical chaos that quickly engulfed the Russians, leaving troops stranded on the front lines without food, fuel and ammunition within days of the invasion. ...

The War in Ukraine Is a Colonial War Interview with Timothy Snyder (16 minutes) May 5, 2022
Russia is responsible for invading Ukraine, and we have to recognize that.
... a significant part of the U.S. peace movement is on the periphery, focusing on the United States and NATO role, not on Putin’s invasion. On March 6, Code Pink, Stop the War and No to NATO organized a March 6 Global Day of Action in 125 cities that faulted NATO for the war: “We recognize that the expansion of NATO and the aggressive approach of Western states have helped cause the crisis and we demand an end to NATO expansion.”
Those on the U.S. Left who are not joining in solidarity with the Russian and Ukrainian protesters and demanding that Russia end its war on Ukraine, are missing an historic opportunity to join together with millions of people around the world and with the large Ukrainian-American community in a powerful anti-war movement. Unfortunately, many U.S. peace organizations have a history of viewing wars through a U.S.-centric lens, blaming every conflict on the U.S. military, ignoring the malevolent intent of President Vladimir Putin and other dictators.
Putin’s seven years of bombing Syrian civilians did not bring about worldwide protests and sanctions like the invasion of Ukraine has. Foreign policy analysts say that the lack of repercussions for Russia’s role in Syria emboldened Putin and “paved the way for his attack on Ukraine.”

Experts accuse Russia of inciting genocide in Ukraine and intending to 'destroy' Ukrainian people The report, signed by more than 30 leading legal scholars and genocide experts, accuses the Russian state of violating several articles of the United Nations Genocide Convention. It warns there is a serious and imminent risk of genocide in Ukraine, backing the accusations with a long list of evidence including examples of mass killings of civilians, forced deportations and dehumanizing anti-Ukrainian rhetoric used by top Russian officials. By Ivana Kottasova, CNN, May 27, 2022

Putin's thugs dismantled and steal Ukraine's largest solar power plant in huge energy blow Invading Russian troops entered the Tokmak solar power plant and dismantled and captured its solar panels. Express (UK), June 23, 2022

Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner publishes memorandum on the human rights consequences of the war in Ukraine It addresses Russian violations of international humanitarian law, including arbitrary killings and enforced disappearances; violations of the right to property, including massive destruction of civilian infrastructure; cases of torture and ill-treatment, gender-based violence and war-related sexual violence; and violations of the right to liberty and security, including abductions and arbitrary or incommunicado detention. July 8, 2022

NEW Self-rule and Survival What the war in Ukraine (and the Coup in America) is Actually About. By Timothy Snyder, July 23, 2022

NEW The State of the Russo-Ukrainian War Russia's decision to invade Ukraine was a crime, but it was also a mistake. It is hard for any government to admit such a thing (one still awaits a judgment on America's Iraq War debacle). But it is particularly hard for a tyrant whose power rests on his image as a strong man with infallible judgment. Russia has reached the stage in the war in which it is fighting because not to fight would be embarrassing. It has reached this stage quickly. By Timothy Snyder, July 26, 2022 Subscribe

Ukraine World Includes regular updates on Russian disinformation warfare. On July 14, the site reported that, after a Russian missile attack on the Vinnytsia city center killed 22 people, Russian propagandists stated that the attack hit a Ukrainian military base and "killed Nazis."

Reports from Ukraine, by Tim Judah, New York Review of Books:
Kyiv Under Siege, March 3, 2022   Ukraine on the Brink, March 24, 2022   Holding on in Irpin, April 7, 2022   The Russian Terror, May 26, 2022

2. The Left

Balkan Witness deplores the hypocrisy of Leftists who essentially advise the Ukrainians to surrender and who blame NATO for Putin's invasion. Russia attacked, Russia conquered territory, Russia has engaged in massive war crimes, not NATO. International law matters.

The Strange Case of Foreign pro-Kremlin Leftists Part 1  Part 2 Leftists are among those who support the Russian ruling class and its decidedly capitalist and imperialist government. By Stephen Velychenko, Krytyka, September and October 2014. The author is chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Toronto.

Leftists, Liberals, and Ukraine: A Tale of Double Standards [PDF] By Stephen Velychenko, Krytyka, February 2015. Originally published here.
Anti-Americanism is a set of beliefs that classifies imperialism as a singular specific American rather than global phenomenon and discounts or ignores competition between imperialists and intra-capitalist rivalries. Anti-Americanism bears little relation to Lenin's concept of many rival imperialist ruling classes divided within and engaged in an unending struggle with one another. Instead, anti-Americanists restrict "imperialism to a single US domiated bloc without fundamental intra-ruling-class differences.
Such a perspective leads some leftists and liberals to see the world as a stage for a duel between a capitalist USA and NATO on one side, and capitalist Russia on the other. On this Manichean stage, Ukraine must remain Russian, so the US and NATO do not get stronger. Middle or working class Ukrainians who see benefit in the EU, the massive support for the Maidan and the prospect of support from Ukrainian leftists and liberals in the fight against neo liberal capitalism within the EU have no place on this stage. According to this script, those who support EU membership for Ukraine are dupes in a fascist plot, run by the USA and NATO and its new puppet Kyiv "junta" government. Ukrainian national ambitions and independence are synonymous with what these leftists, liberals, and Russian rulers call fascism.
This article covers the positions of people like Paul Craig Roberts, John Pilger, Oliver Stone, John Helmer, Thomas Hartmann, and Anatol Lieven, who echo the Kremlin’s anti-Ukrainian propaganda on websites like Counterpunch.org, Marxist.com, Greenleft.org, World Socialist Website, Naked Capitalism, Stopimperialism.com, Canadian Dimension, and Globalresearch.ca.

Internationalism, Anti-Imperialism, And the Origins of Campism By Dan La Botz, NewPolitics, Winter 2022
Some older political analysts and activists today, who still think of themselves as leftists, tend to subordinate all questions to U.S. imperialism, arguing that if a state opposes the United States, then it is by definition anti-imperialist, so that its government’s own political, economic, and social system is irrelevant to that principal world conflict, which is imperialism. Moreover, whatever the problems of any of the so-called anti-imperialist states, they should not be examined or criticized, because that might weaken support for the anti-imperialist camp and its struggle against the United States and its allies. So, today’s campists will not discuss the authoritarian and oppressive political powers or the exploitative economic systems of what they consider to be the “anti-imperialist nations,” such as Russia, China, or Cuba, or of Iran or Syria. The campists are even more hostile to the notion that one should examine the class character, governmental system, and economic regimes of beleaguered nations like Venezuela or Nicaragua. To question these governments, they argue, is to aid U.S. imperialism. So traditional Marxism, based on analyzing the political economy, social classes, class struggle and oppression in a country, as well as its international relations, is discarded.

Since in the eyes of these activists the United States is the only or by far the dominant imperial power everywhere, they then define nations that are opposed to the United States—such as Russia, China, Iran, or Syria—as anti-imperialist nations. And thus they often then become apologists for the governments of those nations, even though they are authoritarian governments ruling capitalist countries. They will even attribute to these nations “socialist” or “democratic” characteristics that their governments do not in fact have.

The logic is something like this: X is an enemy of the United States, therefore X is anti-imperialist, therefore we support it, and since it is anti-imperialist, it must be progressive. It follows that any criticism of country X is reactionary. People who criticize any anti-imperialist nation such as X must be on the side of imperialism. So then, those who criticize China for putting some 1.5 million Uyghurs in concentration camps or for its crushing of the democratic movement in Hong Kong must be allied with the United States government and are objectively pro-imperialist. This is the campist logic.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine: a response to David Harvey Harvey presents no explanations for what Russia is doing other than the way the West has treated Russia and Russian reaction to that treatment. He says nothing, most notably, about the way the characteristics of the Putin regime might have led to this war; indeed, his analysis of the Russian political economy seems to be stuck in the 1990s. Putin’s systematic crushing of all possible political opposition in Russia, the Russian state’s stranglehold over information, and Russia’s massive propaganda machine go unmentioned. No contrast is drawn between the way "millions of people all around the world took to the streets" against the Iraq War in 2003 and the fact that all Russian protesters against this war are immediately arrested.
Harvey lists many wars that have taken place around the world since 1945, but omits Russia’s invasions of Georgia in 2008 and of Ukraine in 2014-15 and the Russian proxy war in Ukraine’s Donbas region. Putin’s conservative ultra-nationalism, his denial of the existence of the Ukrainian nation, his ludicrous statements about the threat Ukraine poses to Russia, and his claims that Ukraine, a country with a Jewish President, is run by ‘neo-Nazis’ are all ignored. So is the fact that Russia’s repeated claims over the last year that it had no intention of invading Ukraine were clearly lies. By Derek Hall, Focaal Blog, February 28, 2022

When Western anti-imperialism supports imperialism David Harvey's analysis is in fact a pro-imperialist argument, one that supports Russian irredentism and the restoration of empire under the guise of a “sphere of influence.” Russian imperialism has always worked on different principles than Western imperialism, given that it has been largely non-capitalist, but it is imperialism nonetheless, in cultural, political and economic senses of that term. Blaming the West for “humiliating” Russia occludes Russia’s own expansionist ideologies and desires for restoration of empire, and justifies the violent military domination of people who can and should decide their own destinies. By Elizabeth Cullen Dunn, Focaal Blog, March 3, 2022

Putin Is Attempting to Center Russia as a Hub of the Global Right Wing For much of the left, exclusive opposition to U.S. imperialism is equivalent to being on the “right side” of history. This is frequently articulated in terms of the notion that the priority for the U.S. left must be opposition to U.S. imperialism. The problem here is that, first, it ignores that the U.S. is not the sole source of global violence and oppression on this planet and, second, that there have been times when the U.S. left has had to focus elsewhere, e.g., support for the Spanish Republic in 1936 in the face of a fascist uprising and the intervention of Italy and Germany. This reality coexists with the fact that the U.S. had not ceased to be imperialist. What our examination should remind us is that Putin is part of a global right-wing authoritarian movement that seeks to “overthrow” the 20th century. In Putin’s specific case, we are looking at a complete repudiation of the founding principles of the USSR, most particularly, the notion of the right to national self-determination. But what is also underway is the positioning of Putin-led Russia as a pole for the global right. Opposition to socialism, for sure, but also opposition to constitutional rule as a whole. A mistake made by several anti-imperialists, in the 1930s and early 1940s, was to see in Imperial Japan a savior from Western colonialism and imperialism. It is to the credit of communists such as those of the Viet Minh in Vietnam, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Communist Party of China that they could see through the alleged anti-imperialism of Japan and recognize that what was being introduced through the so-called Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was not “co-prosperity” but capitalist domination under Japan and a racial subordination of entire populations. We should ponder this history as we reflect on Putin’s obsession with Eurasia and the white supremacist, homophobic, sexist, religious intolerant politics that rest behind that one term. By Carl Davidson and Bill Fletcher Jr., Truthout, March 28, 2022

Readers respond to the US Peace Council Statement on Russia's Military Intervention in Ukraine. Portside, March 28, 2022

There Is No Left Position That Justifies Putin's Attack on Ukraine In the first days after the invasion, it seemed like almost all that prominent western left commentators could talk about was not Russia but NATO. The invasion was wrong, they usually stated at the outset and then proceeded to focus on the “real” culprit, invariably the West. Its guilt? That it had already expanded NATO to the east, and that it not ruled out the possibility of Ukrainian membership. It didn’t matter that NATO expansion was driven more by the east Europeans than by Washington, which was originally quite divided on the matter. Nor did it matter that NATO membership for Ukraine was hardly imminent, or that in no scenario was a NATO attack on Russia imaginable. By David Ost, Foreign Policy in Focus, April 2, 2022

Ukraine and the Left Interview with Alex Gendler, who discusses the current Russian war against Ukraine, his former home, and critically examines left debates on the conflict. His talk addresses the sympathy some leftists have given Russia in the name of anti-imperialism, offering a perspective that points beyond simplistic cheerleading of various state actors. He also explores how left movements can best oppose the war without reinforcing the nationalist, statist, and capitalist assumptions reflected in most current discourse on the topic. See at 9 and 33 minutes. April 13, 2022

Whose side are we on? The war in Ukraine and the crisis of the Left That is the question anyone professing a commitment to anti-imperialism should be asking when a sovereign nation is invaded by a Great Power. Clearly, concisely, the authors argue that aggressive war is the first crime of war, from which all others flow. Putin has now committed this crime of war, and that is the premise from which we should analyze the Ukraine crisis. States large and small have one legitimate security interest, which is to have their sovereignty respected - not to be invaded, bombed, blockaded, or subverted. By Van Gosse and Bill Fletcher Jr., Portside, April 21, 2022

When Should We Stop Excusing the Russian Invasion? It is time to speak out against a misconstruing of what has been unfolding in Ukraine and an inclination to either excuse Russian aggression or to advance a position of neutrality. As individuals who are socialists and have been integrally involved in our respective people’s struggles for democracy and self-determination, we simply cannot remain silent, even though this puts us at odds with some comrades we have known, respected, and loved for years. By Bill Fletcher Jr., Bill Gallegos, and Jamala Rogers, Portside, May 11, 2022

Why Ukraine Matters for the Left Supporting the defense of Ukraine is the right thing for the global left to do, even if our own government is doing it. By Matthew Duss, a foreign policy advisor for Sen. Bernie Sanders. The New Republic, June 2, 2022

Response to "Left Internationalism in the Heart of Empire" Putin’s rise was not the consequence of U.S. policies; it emerged from internal Russian politics and history—forces that it would behoove us to understand. In the past two decades, Russia has waged five wars: Chechnya, Syria, Georgia, Crimea and the Donbas, and Ukraine (again). This ain’t about NATO. By Susie Linfield. Dissent Magazine, June 2022

Pacifism is the wrong response to the war in Ukraine Today, one cannot be a leftist if one does not unequivocally stand behind Ukraine. To be a leftist who “shows understanding” for Russia is like to be one of those leftists who, before Germany attacked the Soviet Union, took seriously German “anti-imperialist” rhetoric directed at the UK and advocated neutrality in the war of Germany against France and the UK. If the left will fail here, the game is over for it. By Slavoj Žižek, The Guardian, June 21, 2022

NEW Ukraine and the Peace Movement It is urgent to end the war in Ukraine. But to achieve this goal, "Russia Out Now" is a better slogan than "Diplomacy Now." The peace movement has a standard position in favor of diplomacy over war. But think about the Vietnam war. While many liberal opponents of the war called for “Negotiations Now,” the demand of the radical anti-war movement—made up of millions who marched in the streets—was “Out Now.” The point was that the United States had no moral rights in Vietnam and therefore there was nothing for it to negotiate. It needed simply to withdraw its troops. So while we wanted peace, we supported Vietnam’s struggle for independence against the United States. The same is true in Ukraine today. Justice demands immediate and unconditional Russian withdrawal from all of Ukraine. Russian anti-war activists have also taken this position. We say to Russia as we once said to the United States: “Out Now!”  By Steven R. Shalom and Dan La Botz, Foreign Policy in Focus, July 19, 2022

NEW Nazis, Nukes, and NATO Putin's three "N"s from the beginning of the war. His three propaganda slogans have their origins in Soviet or Russian trauma. They emerge as excuses for the war not because they have anything to do with Putin's motives or Russia's interests, but because they summon Russian fears that can be usefully directed outward, against the rest of the world. Russian propaganda reaches us for much the same reasons it reaches Russians.
The three "N"s give us no analytical purchase on what is actually going on; we cling to them for the reasons that Russians do, which is that they touch deeper emotions. If your default inclination is guilt about the world, and you are inclined to believe that America is responsible for all evil, then your "N" is NATO. If you are fearful and looking for a reason to do nothing, then you are best served by "nukes." And if you like to look down on others as barbarians, or have the urge to be seen as the most radical person in your pack, you will be susceptible to Putin's characterization of his chosen enemies as "Nazis." By Timothy Snyder, July 21, 2022

NEW What's Missing from John Mearsheimer's Analysis of the Ukraine War The international relations scholar Mearsheimer focuses on US and NATO policies for causing the Ukraine war and its continuation. Mearsheimer's short disclaimer that he is against Putin's invasion is like a cancer warning slapped on a pack of cigarettes. These views are echoed by many on the far left, which makes it vital to understand the gaps in his analysis that produce such a flawed result. By Joe Cirincione, Russia Matters, July 29, 2022. The author is a national security expert who formerly served as president of the Ploughares Fund and directed the nonproliferation program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


 

Noam Chomsky

Harsh critique of Chomsky on Ukraine The author fully dissects Bill Fletcher's Real News interview with Chomsky, who blames the Kosovo intervention for a downturn in US-Russia relations, which is simplistic and anachronistic. In 1998-99, Russia had not even come into its period of resurgence yet. By Stanley Heller, NewPolitics, April 18, 2022

In the Fletcher interview, Chomsky repeats his long-running falsehood about the beginnings of the Kosovo war:

In the case of Kosovo, NATO aggression (meaning U.S. aggression) was claimed to be "illegal but justified" (for example, by the International Commission on Kosovo chaired by Richard Goldstone) on grounds that the bombing was undertaken to terminate ongoing atrocities. That judgment required reversal of the chronology. The evidence is overwhelming that the flood of atrocities was the consequence of the invasion: predictable, predicted, anticipated. Furthermore, diplomatic options were available [but] as usual, ignored in favor of violence.

That position of Chomsky's on Kosovo has been long-since refuted extensively.

Open letter to Chomsky and other like-minded intellectuals on the Russia-Ukraine war The letter takes Chomsky to task for the following recurring fallacies in Chomsky's statements:
   1. Denying Ukraine's sovereign integrity
   2. Treating Ukraine as an American pawn on a geo-political chessboard
   3. Suggesting that Russia was threatened by NATO
   4. Stating that the U.S. isn't any better than Russia
   5. Whitewashing Putin's goals for invading Ukraine
   6. Assuming that Putin is interested in a diplomatic solution
   7. Advocating that yielding to Russian demands is the way to avert a nuclear war
By Yuriy Gorodnichenko, professor of economics, University of California at Berkeley (with other academic economists), May 19, 2022

Critique of Chomsky and pacifists on Ukraine, with reference to George Orwell (Audio Episode 124) This commentary runs from 44:10 to 46:40. For more on Orwell and Chomsky, start at the beginning. By Bill Weinberg, CounterVortex, June 2022


Democratic Socialists of America

What the DSA International Committee's Ukraine statement gets wrong NewPolitics, February 9, 2022

The Left Has Half-Baked Answers on Ukraine A review of the positions of the DSA International Committee and some other groups. By Eric Levitz, New York Magazine, March 20, 2022

DSA and the Russian War on Ukraine: Political Paralysis DSA is in an anomalous position: a political organization with no useful position on the central foreign policy question of the day. Several Stalinist types won election to DSA’s top leadership body, the National Political Committee, where they faced opposition from an equal number of internationalists, making it impossible for DSA to pass a meaningful position on the Russian war on Ukraine. By Dan La Botz, NewPolitics, May 24, 2022

 


Party for Socialism and Liberation

Leans toward Russia and reserves its strongest condemnation on Russia's Ukraine invasion for the US government.

Laments the fall of the Soviet Union.

Admires North Korea. Not a word about the murderous policies of Kim Jong Un, who, unlike Trump, actually has gotten away with the local equivalent of shooting someone dead on Fifth Avenue.


Max Blumenthal

Grayzone, Grifters, and the Cult of the Tank Blumenthal, of Grayzone a peripatetic pro-Russian commentator, is discussed in this article. By Joshua Collins, February 10, 2020

See also Enter the Grayzone: fringe leftists deny the scale of China's Uyghur oppression By Caitlin Thompson, July 30, 2020

 


Stephen F. Cohen

Deconstructing Stephen F. Cohen Counterpunch endorses the late Cohen's once plausible apologies for Putin (2018). The author wonders why the magazine would continue to recommend those apologies, already demolished by the facts of 2022. By Jonathan Gallant, professor emeritus of genetics, University of Washington Medical Center, May 8, 2022


Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting

On CounterSpin, the weekly radio show of FAIR on February 24, Bryce Greene stated, "This current escalation started because of the U.S. involvement in the Ukrainian government’s politics.” (Greene expressed a similar position in a FAIR article of January 28, 2022.)

---

In Episode 131 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls out the ironically named "Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting" for openly spreading Russian disinformation.
FAIR serially portrays the 2014 Maidan Revolution as a US-instrumented, Nazi tainted, unconstitutional “coup.” FAIR commentators Luca GoldmansourGregory Shupak and Bryce Greene are all guilty of this.
They do not bother to consult voices of Ukrainian civil society—academicsmedia watchdogs, and human rights groups —that refute this notion.
Glomming onto the notorious Nuland phone call to dismiss a grassroots pro-democracy uprising as a Washington “regime change” intrigue reveals chauvinistic contempt for the Ukrainians. And hyping the supposed “Nazi” threat in Ukraine (while ignoring the Nazi-nostalgist and neo-fascist elements on the Russian side) abets Putin’s ultra-cynical propaganda stratagem of fascist pseudo-anti-fascism.
Rather than calling out Fox News for its propaganda service to Putin, FAIR instead joins them. How did a supposed progressive media watchdog become a de facto arm of Kremlin war propaganda?

 


Various:

Chris Hedges
David Swanson (World Beyond War)
Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)
Glenn Greenwald
Margaret Flowers (Popular Resistance)
Medea Benjamin (Code Pink)
Michael Nagler (Metta Center for Nonviolence)
Norman Solomon (Roots Action)
Veterans for Peace members

From Facts Over Ideology, Peace Over War, by Terry Burke and Andrew Berman, In These Times [ITT], March 21, 2022:

Well-known journalist Chris Hedges has been paid for several years by the Russian government for his show on RTV (Russia Today). He claimed that the Ukraine crisis has been created by desperate Democrats. "When all else fails, when you are clueless about how to halt a 7.5% inflation rate, when your Build Back Better bill is gutted…then you must make the public afraid of enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Glenn Greenwald recently said that NATO is the only reason for the war.

On CounterSpin, the weekly radio show of Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting on February 24, Bryce Greene stated, "This current escalation started because of the U.S. involvement in the Ukrainian government’s politics.” (Greene expressed a similar position in a FAIR article of January 28, 2022.)

Yes, we should question the mainstream narrative on Ukraine as these outlets and journalists do, but they rarely question Putin’s claims.

Two decades into its independence, the President of Ukraine Victor Yanukovych was overthrown in massive popular protests. Those protests were met with government violence in which over 100 people were killed. In a time of economic difficulties in Ukraine, Yanukovych was seen as corrupt and subservient to Russia. He had rejected a pending trade agreement with the European Union that the Ukraine Parliament had endorsed. The significant economic benefits that would be gained by membership in the EU had wide appeal to Ukrainians. Yanukovych wanted instead to seek enhanced ties with Russia. Ukrainians, proud of their independence, saw improved relations with the EU as a road to a higher standard of living rather than returning to economic tutelage under Russia. Ukrainians call the massive protests that overthrew Yanukovych, the ​“Revolution of Dignity.” The Russian government and its apologists call it a ​"US/CIA coup."

[In] progressive media’s coverage of Putin and Russia, ... there is very little reporting of Putin’s mafia ties, his billionaire wealth, his support of the far right around the world, the poverty of the Russian populace, the repression of journalists and activists, his Christian nationalism, his persecution of the LGBTQ community, and his magical elections.

David Swanson (World Beyond War), Norman Solomon (Roots Action), Margaret Flowers (Popular Resistance), Michael Nagler (Metta Center for Nonviolence), and members of Veterans for Peace and Code Pink signed a statement in January 2016 promoting a ​“multi-polar world” that is led by China and Russia, with the United States playing a secondary role. The signers ignore Russia’s imperialist interventions in Syria, Ukraine, Libya, Georgia, and Moldova claiming that “Russia and China are the major world powers that support the concept of Multipolarity, and act as a global counterbalance to Western hegemony.” There are numerous articles by UNAC, Popular Resistance, World Beyond War, and Black Agenda Report that have a pro-Russia bias and do not criticize Putin. In placing Russia and China as the counterbalance to Western power, this view denies their imperialism and avoids examining their crimes.

Many U.S. peace activists are accustomed to opposing U.S. foreign policy. The horrors of the Vietnam War generated a visceral hatred of America in some anti-war activists of that era. U.S. government and media lies helped build support for the wars in Central America and the Middle East. Millions of people have died in these wars. We can’t ignore our history, but we also cannot assume that every conflict is framed by the U.S. government lying to lead us into war. This time it is clearly Russia that has lied and started a war. We have to recognize that Ukraine is different from Vietnam, from Iraq, from Afghanistan. We have to learn Ukraine’s history and listen to Ukrainians and anti-war Russians. [Actually, Russia in Ukraine has a strong resemblance to the US in Iraq.]

Our U.S. peace movement is less effective and less relevant when we are not well informed. Analysis based on ideology rather than facts is harmful. We are less able to advocate for intelligent, peaceful solutions when we don’t understand what is really happening. We isolate ourselves and cannot build a mass movement for peace and justice.

It is not pro-war to honestly critique both sides of a conflict. The argument that we are obliged to criticize only U.S. war crimes is a recipe for failure. As international peace and justice activists, we must open our eyes and speak out against war and aggression regardless of the perpetrator. All humanity is our constituency.

The Big Business of Uyghur Genocide Denial An investigation reveals a network of charities funneling millions into left-wing platforms that take Beijing's side on genocide allegations. Some of the same recipients show up as apologists for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, including Medea Benjamin, of Code Pink. The title doesn’t begin to cover all of what’s in this article. New Lines Magazine, January 18, 2022

3. Voices from Ukraine, and Russian dissidents

Interview with Ukrainian socialist historian Denis Pilash Dignified, careful, and thoughtful. Democracy Now, April 21, 2022

Leaving is my only option Interview with Natasha, a Russian exile, 20-minutes, May 29, 2022

Resisting Putin's war: the women risking it all on the streets of Russia St Petersburg’s anti-war protesters want to send a message to those "who are still silent." The Guardian (UK), May 26, 2022

A Letter to the Western Left from Kyiv The writer criticizes the position of parts of the Western Left that he characterizes as "the anti-imperialism of idiots." He includes those who imagined NATO aggression in Ukraine and could not see Russian aggression, like the International Committee of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), along with its New Orleans chapter. By Taras Bilous, February 26, 2022. The author is a Ukrainian historian and activist.

‘They’re Willing to Risk Ruining Their Lives.’ Putin’s War Is Driving Russians Out Russians are fleeing their own country, at a speed most likely not seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. They are running not from foreign bombs but from their own government. Rumors of impending martial law, closed borders, conscription and punitive military service have fueled panic. Amid state shutdowns of almost all of the last major independent media outlets and the announcement of draconian punishment for any coverage or criticism of Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, tens or even hundreds of thousands of members of Russia’s liberal intelligentsia and political opposition are scrambling to escape. By Sophie Pinkham, The New York Times, March 17, 2022

Self-Determination and the War in Ukraine Two months ago, when I wrote “A Letter to the Western Left from Kyiv,” I hoped that the shock of the Russian invasion and the voices of the Ukrainian left would push Western leftists to reconsider their approach. Unfortunately, too many of them have failed to do so. In their analyses of the war, Ukrainians are just victims in need of humanitarian aid, not subjects with desires that should be respected. Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone on the leftnot by a long shot. Scandinavian left-wing parties as well as Eastern European ones have listened to Ukrainians and supported arms supplies to Ukraine. Some progress is taking place among U.S. socialists. But unfortunately, even a joint statement by Ukrainian and Russian socialists hasn’t convinced enough people to support military aid. Let me try to address the left once more. By Taras Bilous, Dissent, May 4, 2022. The author is a Ukrainian historian and activist.

Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine speak out  The Russian invasion has simultaneously given those who might be neutral in their allegiances a stark choice about what kind of country they want to identify with, and provided a rallying point that allows for a broad and inclusive idea of what it means to be a Ukrainian patriot. ... As well as strengthening the sense of Ukrainian identity among politicians and the general population in the south and east of the country, the war has also helped increase respect for these areas in the patriotic strongholds of western and central Ukraine, where some doubted the loyalty of parts of the east, particularly after 2014. June 6, 2022

NEW The Right to Resist - A Feminist Manifesto Feminists from Ukraine call on feminists around the world to stand in solidarity with the resistance of the Ukrainian people against the predatory, imperialist war unleashed by the Russian Federation. July 7, 2022

NEW I'm a Ukrainian Socialist. Here's Why I Resist the Russian Invasion Among even many well-intentioned people in recent months, there have been loud but vague calls for negotiations and a diplomatic settlement. But what exactly does this mean? Negotiations between Ukraine and Russia took place for several months following the invasion, but they did not stop the war. Before that, negotiations on Donbas had lasted for more than seven years, with French and German participation; but despite signed agreements and a cease-fire, the conflict was never resolved.
Eighty percent of Ukrainians consider territorial concessions unacceptable. Giving up the occupied territories means betraying their fellow citizens and relatives, and putting up with the daily abductions and tortures perpetrated by occupiers. Under these conditions, the parliament will not ratify cession, even if the West forces the Ukrainian government to agree to territorial losses. This would only discredit President Volodymyr Zelensky and lead to the reelection of more nationalist authorities, while the far right would be rewarded with favorable conditions for recruiting new members. By Taras Bilous, Jacobin, July 26, 2022

NEW Ukrainian Feminist: We Need Western Solidarity in Fighting Russian Imperialism Western leftists and feminists who have misgivings about Western military support for Ukraine often overlook that Ukrainians are fighting for self-determination and against imperialism. Interview with Oksana Dutchak, Democracy Now, July 28, 2022

NEW How Russian propaganda utilized and distorted allegations by Amnesty International that Ukrainian troops endanger civilians Meduza, August 5, 2022

Ukraine Solidarity Campaign News and opinion from Ukraine.

Meduza News feed from anti-war Russians.

Other Russian anti-war initiatives

NEW Russian Dissent Voices of Russian dissidents. Subscribe

4. Historical background

NEW Ukrainian Anti-Colonialist Marxism (1919-1923) A Forgotten Legacy in a Forgotten Colony. By Stephen Velychenko, Cxid/Заxад (East/West) 2013

The Putin Files In-depth interview with Julia Ioffe, Russian-American journalist, about Putin's career. 1 hour 45 minutes PBS Frontline, October 27, 2017

Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: An Explainer Responses to common questions on day one of Putin’s war of choice. By David Klion, Jewish Currents, February 24, 2022

NEW Ukraine's Protracted Struggle for National Liberation To understand the situation in Ukraine today, it is essential to understand Ukraine's history and Russia's ambitions. By Rohini Hensman, The Wire, March 11, 2022

Facts Over Ideology, Peace Over War At the time of the dissolution of the USSR, and Ukraine's declaration of independence, in 1991, Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal (1/3 of that of the entire Soviet Union) and signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In response, in 1994, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia then signed the Budapest Memorandum pledging to ​“respect Ukrainian independence and sovereignty in the existing borders and refrain from the threat or the use of force against Ukraine.” The Budapest Memorandum is never mentioned by Putin’s apologists. His latest moves are in direct violation of this signed treaty. By Terry Burke and Andrew Berman, In These Times, March 21, 2022

Timothy Snyder lecture and conversation 2022. One hour (starts at 03:27)

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin More on Central European history by Prof. Timothy Snyder. 21 min video

The True Origins of Putin’s War Interview with Timothy Snyder, by Chris Hayes. One hour

We Are All Living in Vladimir Putin’s World Now Journalists writing on international affairs in the 1920s and 1930s referred to the era as postwar. They saw events through the prism of the Great War that devastated Europe just a few years earlier. Historians writing today refer to the same years as the interwar period, for the simple reason that they analyze what happened during those years as part of the lead-up to the even more destructive World War II. If only those journalists writing in 1930s Europe had the clarity of hindsight. We should all have that clarity today. Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine is one of those moments that impels us to reinterpret our own era. What we called the 30-year peace that followed the Cold War (tending to forget the wars in the former Yugoslavia) has now ended. Future historians will look at these last decades, by and large, much as they look at the interwar period: as an opportunity squandered. By Ivan Krastev, The New York Times, February 27, 2022

Primer: Who are the Ukrainians? The name “Oukraina,” appearing in the 12th century, described nebulous frontier land beyond fortified borders. The writer presents detailed but concise history of Ukraine since that time (and earlier), though his tangential mention of the ruling elite of the Khazars converting to Judaism is probably inaccurate. By David Buerge, Post Alley, March 2, 2022

The Grand Theory Driving Putin to War The goal, plainly, is empire, and the line will not be drawn at Ukraine. By Jane Burbank, The New York Times, March 22, 2022. The writer is emeritus professor of history and Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University.

The Nation Ukraine Has Become A historical overview of the people's movement in Ukraine. By Olesya Khromeychuk and Sonya Bilocerkowycz, New York Review of Books, March 25, 2022

Conversation of scholars on Ukrainian language, ethnicity, and nationhood 70 minutes. Yale University, March 25, 2022

Unless democracies defend themselves, the forces of autocracy will destroy them For a long time—too long—the custodians of the liberal world order looked away when Russia “pacified” Chechnya by murdering tens of thousands of people. When Russia bombed schools and hospitals in Syria, Western leaders decided that wasn’t their problem. When Russia invaded Ukraine the first time, they found reasons not to worry. Surely Putin would be satisfied by the annexation of Crimea. When Russia invaded Ukraine the second time, occupying part of the Donbas, they were sure he would be sensible enough to stop. With the third, brutal invasion of Ukraine, the vacuity of those beliefs was revealed. The Russian president  openly denied the existence of a legitimate Ukrainian state: “Russians and Ukrainians,” he said, “were one people—a single whole.” His army targeted civilians, hospitals, and schools. His policies aimed to create refugees so as to destabilize Western Europe. “Never again” was exposed as an empty slogan while a genocidal plan took shape in front of our eyes, right along the European Union’s eastern border. Other autocracies watched to see what we would do about it, for Russia is not the only nation in the world that covets its neighbors’ territory, that seeks to destroy entire populations, that has no qualms about the use of mass violence. By Anne Applebaum, The Atlantic, March 31, 2022

How Putin's Oligarchs Bought London The first generation of post-Soviet capitalists had accumulated vast fortunes, and Putin set put to bring the oligarchs under state control. He proceeded to run the state and its economy like a Mafia don, through control of ostensibly independent businessmen. The owners of Russia's biggest companies were forced to operate as hired managers, working on behalf of the state. It wasn't their wealth; it was Putin's. They kept their businesses by the Kremlin's grace. By Patrick Radden Keefe, The New Yorker, March 28, 2022 issue

Our Hypocrisy on War Crimes Much has been said about US hypocrisy, and we won't belabor it. This article, however, frames the issue well. The US history of moral evasiveness around wartime atrocities undermines the very institution that might eventually bring Putin and his subordinates to justice: the International Criminal Court. By Fintan O'Toole, New York Review of Books, May 26, 2022


Ivan Ilyin, Putin’s hero

Ivan Ilyin, Putin's Philosopher of Russian Fascism By Timothy Snyder, New York Review of Books, March 16, 2018

Putin Is Attempting to Center Russia as a Hub of the Global Right Wing Ivan Ilyin is the most obscure and most important [of three prominent Russians Putin had reinterred in Moscow] today. Ilyin was a Russian nationalist philosopher in Lenin’s time who turned fascist, even moving his work to Germany under the Nazis in the 1930s. Putin now has his officers studying Ilyin, along with Ilyin’s follower today, Alexander Dugin, a modern Russian fascist and favorite of Steve Bannon, formerly of team Trump. Both Ilyin and Dugin are theorists and advocates of “Eurasianism,” a worldview asserting that dominance of the central land mass “homeland” of both Europe and Asia is the key to world hegemony. By Carl Davidson and Bill Fletcher, Truthout, March 28, 2022 

Ivan Ilyin In exile, Ivan Ilyin argued that Russia should not be judged by what he called the Communist danger it represented at that time but looked forward to a future in which it would liberate itself with the help of Christian fascism. A number of Ilyin's works (including those written after the German defeat in 1945) advocated fascism Ilyin initially saw Adolf Hitler as a defender of civilization from Bolshevism and approved of the way Hitler had, in his view, derived his antisemitism from the ideology of the Russian Whites. In 1933, he published an article titled "National Socialism. A New Spirit" in support of the takeover of Germany by Nazis.

Ilyin was accused of anti-Semitism by Roman Gul, a fellow émigré writer. According to a letter by Gul to Ilyin, the former expressed extreme umbrage at Ilyin's suspicions that all those who disagreed with him were Jews.

Ilyin has been quoted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and is considered by some observers to be a major ideological inspiration for Putin, who was personally involved in moving Ilyin's remains back to Russia, and in 2009 consecrated his grave. Wikipedia article

 

 


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