Thorvald of Lym

A Little Sketchy
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A Palace north of Oslo
(Despite encompassing current events, I figured this provides the antithesis to the much-memed Carlson interview. I debated whether to post it to A&E as a showcase of exemplary citizen journalism, or World History for subject matter; mods can move as they deem most relevant, as long as it's not buried in OT.)

As we conclude Day 731 of Pukin's three-day special military operation, it's a good time to pause and reflect how we got here. The war on Ukraine has been co-opted by ideologues from both left and right wings to "prove" their worldview, but shockingly few people understand what really precipitated Euromaidan, and the Kremlin's subsequent retaliation, even within Ukraine itself—and that's because virtually none of the pundits have bothered to actually examine Ukraine's internal politics.

Early last year, I stumbled on Part 3 of a documentary series by Sarcasmitron, lauded by Ukrainians and Russians alike as the most in-depth and accurate English-language analysis of the crisis. Combining archival footage with a contemporary soundtrack to map out the links between seemingly-disparate elements, it bears strong stylistic parallels with the work of Adam Curtis, making it all the more astounding this was assembled by a YouTube Essayist™ working out of his proverbial basement. Over the course of four episodes, it examines the history of Ukrainian politics from the ousting of Leonid Kuchma in 2005 to the Maidan protests in 2014; the start of open war with the eastern insurgencies; relations between Moscow and Washington after the Cold War; and the parallels between Russian society today and the United States during the heyday of the War on Terror, seeking to answer the question posed at the end of Episode 1 that continues to confound rational analysts: With the Ukrainian government in crisis and the Crimean occupation precluding NATO membership, Moscow had an easy win; why, then, did Putin escalate?

Content advisories for language, violence including atrocities, racists and ultranationalists, and wingnut conspiracism. Linked through Invidious to bypass age gates on Parts 1 and 2.


Part 1: "How Ukraine's Fake Culture War Became a Real Geopolitical Conflict"

In which we examine Ukraine's political history of the mid-2000s; how the power struggle between Leonid Kuchma's deputies begat the Orange Revolution; why the "language question" isn't real, yet fooled spectators into thinking Ukrainian society was fractured; why pursuing EU membership was a practical means of combatting Ukrainian oligarchism; how Viktor Yanukovych struggled to maintain an impossible balance between popular support for European integration and mounting threats from the Kremlin, culminating in the Maidan protests of 2014.


Part 2: "A Short History of the War in Donbas 2014–2022"

In which we reconstruct the timeline of the eastern insurgencies and explore the "Photon Curtain"; how the Kremlin perpetuated urban riots with paid actors; why the so-called "people's republics" were not an expression of popular will; how the delay in Western media coverage enabled distortion of basic sequences of events; how increasing commitment of Russian soldiers led to the strangulation of independent Russian journalism; why outside observers managed to ignore an invasion in plain sight.


Part 3: "Shut Up About NATO Expansion"

In which we examine US–Russian relations in the post-Soviet era; debunking the claims that there was ever a formal agreement not to expand NATO membership; why the "shock therapy" privatization of Boris Yeltsin was a strategic necessity to defang the Soviet hardliners that had supported the 1991 coup; why the "Great NATO Sob Story" denies the agency of those countries historically threatened by Russian imperialism; how Poland blackmailed its way into NATO, pushing up the timeline for other countries' membership; how the Clinton and Yeltsin administrations misread each other's motives and fumbled a post-Soviet reconciliation; why 2022 confounds the Realist theory of international relations.


Part 4: "The American Origins of Putin's Madness"

In which, having exhausted rational arguments for the invasion, we turn to the irrational; how Putin-era nationalism parallels the American neoconservatives' "War on Terror"; how disgraced American politician Lyndon LaRouche's wingnut conspiracism forms the bedrock of Putin's worldview; how "colour revolutions" became a dogwhistle for CIA subversion to delegitimize popular democracy; how Western media adopted Russian propaganda to create a positive feedback loop; why subscription to conspiracy serves to absolve us of personal responsibility; why ideologues of disparate wings have found common cause in sacrificing the Ukrainian people to prop up their guiding narratives; why Ukraine matters, and its lessons for democracy at home.
 
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With the Ukrainian government in crisis and the Crimean occupation precluding NATO membership, Moscow had an easy win; why, then, did Putin escalate?
Is there an answer?

edit:
I'm sure there's much much more to talk about but this got my attention:

"how Poland blackmailed its way into NATO, pushing up the timeline for other countries' membership"

So I watched this particular video and the "blackmail" was apparently Eastern Europe leaders threatening to campaign for Republicans in the 1996 election, thereby Democratic president Clinton relents and acquiesces to them joining NATO. The video leaves it at that. Was that really that threatening? Maybe Clinton always intended to let that happen.
 
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Shock doctrine a "strategic necessity"? That calls this whole series into question; to say that with the benefit of hindsight is shockingly stupid. The crash privatization of the Soviet economy directly led to one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the last 50 years and is probably the biggest single reason Putin was able to later consolidate power over the country.
 
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Shock doctrine a "strategic necessity"? That calls this whole series into question; to say that with the benefit of hindsight is shockingly stupid. The crash privatization of the Soviet economy directly led to one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the last 50 years and is probably the biggest single reason Putin was able to later consolidate power over the country.

At the time it was done it was certainly thought of that way.

This series does not skip over the destruction in Russia during the 1990s.

Explaining why decisions were made ≠ endorsement of the decisions. But people don't want to know.
 
how Poland blackmailed its way into NATO
An interesting corollary to this is recent discussion about Poland wanting to participate in nuclear sharing agreements with the US. The quiet part of this is that if NATO guarantees were to suddenly lose a lot of their deterrent power (however could this happen :dunno:) that Poland would seriously consider acquiring a strategic deterrent against Russia. Keep this in mind whenever discussions about NATO expansion and it's motivations come up.
 
An interesting corollary to this is recent discussion about Poland wanting to participate in nuclear sharing agreements with the US. The quiet part of this is that if NATO guarantees were to suddenly lose a lot of their deterrent power (however could this happen :dunno:) that Poland would seriously consider acquiring a strategic deterrent against Russia. Keep this in mind whenever discussions about NATO expansion and it's motivations come up.

This is an issue not only for Poland but also for Japan and South Korea and possibly even Taiwan, all of which are a lot likelier to acquire nukes if US deterrence can no longer be relied on. (Admittedly not sure if Taiwan could do it but both South Korea and Japan certainly can).
 
CFC stop glitching out notifications ffs

Shock doctrine a "strategic necessity"? That calls this whole series into question; to say that with the benefit of hindsight is shockingly stupid. The crash privatization of the Soviet economy directly led to one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the last 50 years and is probably the biggest single reason Putin was able to later consolidate power over the country.
At the time it was done it was certainly thought of that way.

This series does not skip over the destruction in Russia during the 1990s.

Explaining why decisions were made ≠ endorsement of the decisions. But people don't want to know.
The 500 Days Program developed for Gorbachev was doubtless a fanciful timeline, but it at least suggested an orderly transition, and may have even worked if the U.S. et al. hadn't balked at bankrolling it. The 1991 coup demonstrated that the Party hardliners would never tolerate reform, leaving Russian democrats with a dilemma: attempt "gradual" restructuring while the economy was still beholden to the nomenklatura (under which backsliding was all but guaranteed), or gamble that immediate decentralization could buy a fledgling democracy the breathing room to ground itself. We now know in hindsight that the project was doomed from day one when party apparatchiks leveraged their connections to springboard themselves into the new oligarchy, but Russia at the time had a narrow window to act, and Yeltsin et al. felt breaking the Old Guard was worth the risk.
 
I just don't see how anyone can disregard OTAN expansion as the one and true cause of this war. We can say what we want about the morality of it. But the fact is that the Ukraine is to Russia what Mexico is to the United States in terms of being a massive land neighbor with a big open border right next to its population and industrial heartland.

Think about it for a moment. Imagine if instead of going to war in Ukraine Russia had opted to sign an alliance with Mexico. It's purely defensive of course. Nobody is ever going to use it to invade the United States. That would be ludicrous. But just in case Putin will be visiting Tijuana in a couple weeks to pick out a good spot to park a couple tank divisions. And while he is there maybe he is going to also bring over some atomic weapons. Purely defensive of course.

And the people of Mexico have every right to choose their allies and use their agency on the world stage to allow this. So does Russia. Hell, we could even say that with Ukraine turning away from them it's only fair they get a new ally. Tit for tat and all that.

How do you think the United States would react to this sort of thing? Hell, we don't need to ask because we did see how they reacted to Cuba. As in they were ready to start WW3 over it. And frankly rightly so. Because such a move would make Mexico an existential threat to the United States much in the same way Cuba was. And in situations like that morality has to take a back seat to reality.

At the end of the day, we can talk about truth, justice, self determination, agency and all that other stuff until the world ends. But when it comes to politics all those are just empty words that serve to get the people to go along with what ever you want to do. And reality is governed by realpolitik.

You need only look at North Korea as a prime example for this. The only reason that country still exists is because Russia and China feel it's better to have a problematic, trigger happy man child with access to atomic weapons on their border than a unified OTAN aligned Korea. And they aren't really wrong.

The sad truth is that just like Mexico or Cuba or any number of nations bordering great powers in ages past the Ukraine belongs in the sphere of influence of a major military power who will, right or wrong do what ever it takes to keep them there or at least neuter them sufficiently out of a position of real existential need. And thus this war became inevitable the moment its people thought they had a say in that. And at the end of the day, no matter who wins this war it's the Ukrainian state and its people who will be paying the heaviest price for that decision.

It sucks, I know. But that's just how the world is.
 
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As an European, I've always found it difficult to understand the US and Russian paranoia about having nuclear weapons (or tank divisions) on their borders. We've been living more than half a century with them there.

I've also always found the Mexican comparaison out of context, as Russia already share multiple borders with NATO. And even more now.

And if that reasoning on "realpolitik" is in fact correct, then the Finland people just saved themselves from Russia's "sphere of influence" by joining NATO, Baltic States were also right to do it, and Moldavia will fall right after Ukraine because they didn't.

One could even say that it's not the "NATO expansion" that triggered that war, but the fact that this expansion stopped or was too slow is the past 20 years.
 
As an European, I've always found it difficult to understand the US and Russian paranoia about having nuclear weapons (or tank divisions) on their borders. We've been living more than half a century with them there.
And as an European I find it difficult to understand how anyone would not see that as a problem. European history has had on average a big war involving the entire continent every 20 to 40 years for most of recorded history. That's just the inevitable outcome of the fact we have a large number of economically and politically powerful nations / blocks all living on a really small piece of land competing for influence and resources. Even the European Union is basically just a project founded to try and make sure Germany and France don't start another one.

So in all respects the current period of peace is very much an aberration of history and not something that can be relied on.

I've also always found the Mexican comparaison out of context, as Russia already share multiple borders with NATO. And even more now.
Yes and no. The only land borders Russia currently shares with OTAN are the Baltic states. And the border there is relatively manageable because they are flanked by Belorus from the south and the Baltic from the north which, as long as Sweden and Finland remain neutral is basically a Russian lake. Of course, this is now changing but things do.

And if that reasoning on "realpolitik" is in fact correct, then the Finland people just saved themselves from Russia's "sphere of influence" by joining NATO, Baltic States were also right to do it, and Moldavia will fall right after Ukraine because they didn't.
I would not call selling your soul to one master to spite another saving one self. Finland like the Baltics, Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe made a Faustian bargain with one power block to ward off another. Much in the one that China and Russia made with a certain short haired fat man that likes to play with nukes. And much like with that situation they did so because they felt the sacrifice of political and military independence was worth it to ward off a worse fate. Whether they are right or wrong to do this remains to be seen and won't be for many years and decades to come. But lets not kid our self that it's anything but that.

There is however something important to learn from them. In particular from why they succeeded so easily where as the Ukraine failed so spectacularly. And that lesson is, simply put, timing. They choose their moment wisely while the Ukrainians very much did not.

The Baltic states joined OTAN when Russia was breaking down and thus too weak to do anything about it other than whine ineffectually. And Finland is doing it now that Russia is so preoccupied fighting the rest of the world that they can't do anything about it. The Ukraine meanwhile choose the worst possible moment that they could. They choose to try and break away at a time when OTAN was getting lukewarm due to the combination of political instability in its primary controller and a long period of peace disease in the rest where as Russia was at an overall post cold war high point.

So if there is anything to learn from this its that like all players with a weak hand small powers need to thread lightly and pick and choose the correct time and conditions to make their move if they want to stand a chance. Great powers can afford to make mistakes. But the rest of us have to pick and choose our battles carefully.

One could even say that it's not the "NATO expansion" that triggered that war, but the fact that this expansion stopped or was too slow is the past 20 years.
Only because there were running out of countries who would plausibly want to join them or whom they would plausibly want.

Of the currently yet nonaligned states most are either suspicious of OTAN and its imperialist policies or outright hostile to them. About the only countries still left to recruit which would be worth recruiting and could be reasonably swayed to their side are the Scandinavian states which up until fairly recently believed that because they were out of the way of any major push east or west neutrality would keep them out of a future war. And I would argue that, with the possible exception of Finland, that is still the case.

So OTAN recruitment wasn't running out of steam for lack of want but a lack of easy and desirable targets.
 
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