Online News Commentary
By Paul Craig Roberts
Vladimir Putin, demonized in the West for his “depravity,” to use the words of Defense Department spokesman John Kirby ( https://www.bloomberg.com/news/newsletters/2022-04-29/bloomberg-evening-briefing-pentagon-official-decries-depravity-of-putin-s-war?cmpid=BBD042922_BIZ&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_term=220429&utm_campaign=bloombergdaily ), is really just an old-fashioned American liberal.
Putin’s old-fashioned 19th century liberal beliefs are no match for Washington’s 21st century Satanism. Putin’s old-fashioned beliefs make him and his country sitting ducks for Washington. Apparently, Putin missed Chavez’s UN address or didn’t understand it.
Putin is in trouble because his liberal mindset has never been able to comprehend that Russia has adversaries, deadly enemies who intend the demise of him and Russia. For the eight years during which the US trained and equipped a Ukrainian army Putin and his foreign minister referred to Russia’s deadly enemies as “our Western partners.” Now even with a deadly war underway in which the Western World is openly at work equipping the Ukrainian army with modern weapons and even, according to some reports, with Western troops pretending to be volunteer fighters for Ukraine, Putin still supplies Russia’s deadly enemies with energy so they can continue the fight against Russia, and Putin continues to refuse to nationalize the Russian properties of companies that have, in accord with Washington’s sanctions, abandoned Russia. Foreign ownership of Russia is secure even though the governments of these companies’ countries have stolen Russia’s central bank reserves conveniently made available to them by Putin protege Elvira Nabiullina. Although Putin now denounces the Russian Fifth Column whose effectiveness in Russia is entirely due to Putin’s liberal mindset, he retains Kudrin and Nabiullina in his government. It is difficult to make any sense out of this.
In his March 21 speech, widely censored in the West and only partly reported, usually out of context, Putin called attention to the West’s “fifth column,” which he said the West is using “trying to split our society by speculating on combat losses, on the socio-economic consequences of sanctions, to provoke civil confrontation in Russia, and, using its fifth column, is striving to achieve its goal–the destruction of Russia.”
The Russian fifth column are Putin’s own people–Kudrin and Nabiullina–Atlanticist Integrationists who prefer the West to Russia. Putin says this about them: “These people are mentally in the West, not here, not with our people, not with Russia.” Putin said that the Russian fifth column regards preferring the West to Russia as a “sign of belonging to a higher caste, to a higher race. Such people are ready to sell their mother, just to be allowed to sit in the hallway of this highest caste.” Anatoly Chubais, a Russian government insider, is one of “these people” Putin is talking about. He recently fled Russia. Kudrin is also one of them, as is Nabiullina, the central bank chief who handed over Russia’s foreign reserves to the West. Kudrin had a lot to do with setting up the oligarch system, the people Putin says who “have a villa in Miami or on the French riviera, who can’t do without foie gras, oysters or so-called gender freedoms.” Nevertheless, Kudrin remains in Putin’s government.
How do we understand Putin, who sees so clearly, yet remains a liberal himself with all of the unrealistic expectations of liberals? Putin watched for eight years what he calls the Donbass genocide. Instead of stopping it with force, he relied on liberal means. He negotiated successfully the Minsk Agreement. Ukraine signed it as did the Donbass republics. France and Germany backed it, but on Washington’s orders Ukraine refused to honor the agreement it signed. Ukrainian shelling of the republics continued, and Nazi militias occupied large areas of the republics’ territory.
By the beginning of this year Ukraine had assembled the entirety of its armed force in the east on the Donbass border for the purpose of conquering the Donbass region. Zelensky, the excrement that serves as Washington’s puppet president of Ukraine, says repeatedly that he had no intention of attacking the Donbass republics. But he doesn’t tell us, if not, why the entire Ukrainian military trained and equipped by the US and NATO was in Donbass, where they were easily surrounded by the Russian intervention.
Think about it for a minute. Ask yourself with the Russian forces in the east fighting the Ukrainians trapped in the Donbass region, why there are no Ukrainian offensives from the west against the Russians’ rear that is concentrated on Donbass. The obvious answer is that there are no Ukrainian military resources in western Ukraine as the entire army was about to invade Donbass in the east exactly as Putin says.
Putin’s liberalism shines forth also in his belief that limiting Russia’s intervention to the Donbass region in order to prevent the Ukrainian Nazis’ final solution to the Russian population of eastern Ukraine, formerly a part of Russia, would convince the West that he is a reasonable liberal like he mistakenly thinks the West is.
Putin’s limited operation was a strategic blunder of the worst kind. Its limited nature meant that the puppet government in Kiev could continue to travel freely and appeal for weapons, money, and outside help, while the Russian forces, mired down by Putin’s degree that civilian casualties be avoided, would take needless losses in men and equipment from Ukrainian forces ensconced in population centers using civilians as shields.
Russia could have destroyed Ukraine in a week and reincorporated Ukraine back into Russia where it has been for three centuries except during 1991-2022.
But such a successful policy would have upset the Russian liberals, who, no doubt, would have fainted over Putin confirming Western accusations that Russia intended to restore the Soviet Empire. How would the poor dears be received by their Western friends in Miami and on the French Riviera? Even Ferraris and diamond necklaces might not appease their mistresses for the ruin of their social life and their absence of invitations.
Is Putin, under pressure of events orchestrated by Satanic Washington and by his own toleration of Russia’s fifth column, which allows the Russian central bank to hand over Russia’s foreign exchange reserves to Russia’s enemies and which permits Kudrin, a member of the government, to continue to paint pictures of Russia’s demise, capable of conducting a war?
What can we conclude?
Either Putin is too constrained by the Russian fifth column to be effective or he is too much a prisoner of liberal delusions to deliver the decisive blows Russia must deliver to prevent ever more serious Western provocations that will eventually result in nuclear war. Putin and Lavrov themselves warn of the danger of nuclear war; yet their halfway measures are themselves creating the situations in which miscalculations can happen. It is Russia’s record of inadequate responses to Western provocations that encourage more provocations.
To be precise: Putin being a liberal relying on good will, attributing good will to “our Western partners,” demonstrating Russia’s commitment to democracy by tolerating a Western-financed and directed fifth column within Russia and Russian media is incapable of demonstrating Russian power. Putin speaks strongly, but doesn’t provide the strong policy of his words. He is too afraid of violating liberal principles that the West long ago threw into the trash bin of history.
Consequently, my fear that Putin’s liberalism will end in nuclear war seems more and more likely. The West has declared that Putin must go. The West declares that it intends to keep the war going for a decade, if not longer, in order to drain Russia of manpower and equipment. NATO countries are training a new Ukrainian army to take the place of the one Russia is destroying. This constitutes foreign intervention in the conflict that Putin said would be treated as a combatant. But nothing happens to the foreign interventionists in the conflict. The Kremlin still sells them energy and strategic minerals and refuses to nationalize their Russian assets.
The picture that emerges is one of a Russian government so corrupted by liberalism that it is incapable of defending itself and its national interests.
The risk is that, in the end, all the liberal Russian government will have is the button to push.
Putin must have known that facts would not control the narrative of his go-slow war careful of civilian lives, and that the narrative would deny his concern for civilians. The narrative expressed by the Pentagon’s John Kirby is: “There is not even an attempt by Russia to be precise in their targeting. It is just brutality of the coldest and most depraved sort.” The limited go-slow war has had the effect I thought it would. It has provided ample time for the West to get involved in multiple ways that will widen the war. Already the war is seen by Washington and NATO as a proxy war with Russia with the declared intention of “breaking Russia’s back.” Western arms deliveries have caused Russia to strike the storage depots in Western Ukraine. There are reports that “foreign fighters and soldiers from NATO regular units are increasingly beefing up the depleted Ukrainian army’s front lines.” https://www.globalresearch.ca/dangerous-crossroads-putin-warns-the-us-to-back-off-in-ukraine/5779020
It is unclear how NATO units could penetrate Russian lines to reach the encircled Ukrainians, but clearly mischief is in the works. There are reports that NATO units are assembling in Moldova with the intent of attacking the enclave of Transnistria, a thin strip of land between Moldova and Ukraine. Transnistria is an unrecognized breakaway republic that has requested without success unification with Russia. Poland has an eye on reclaiming the Western part of Ukraine and has suggested Polish troops as “peacekeepers” in Western Ukraine. The World Socialist Web Site reports that Washington has assembled a group focused on winning the conflict with Russia. In other words, opportunities for miscalculations are rising. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2022/04/27/pszn-a27.html
Clearly, the Kremlin failed to understand that Russian intervention in Ukraine needed to be devastating and brought to a quick victory in order to prevent opportunities for Western intervention leading to miscalculation. Such decisive action would have taught the West that the days of riskless provocations of Russia were over, instead of presenting opportunities for new and more dangerous provocations. As General MacAuthor said, the purpose of war is victory, and the quicker the better.
Paul Craig Roberts is an economist and author. He was the United States Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy under President Ronald Reagan and – after leaving government – held the William E. Simon chair in economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies for ten years and served on several corporate boards. A former associate editor at The Wall Street Journal, his articles have also appeared in The New York Times and Harper’s, and he is the author of more than a dozen books and a number of peer-reviewed papers.
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