Saturday, March 14, 2015
‘I Can’t Believe Russia Lied to Me’
On the night of August 20, 1968, some 200,000 Warsaw Pact troops and 5,000 tanks, led by Russia, then called Soviet Russia or the USSR, invaded Czechoslovakia to crush the “Prague Spring” – the Czecho-Slovak people’s short-lived period of liberalization, democracy and distancing itself from Moscow’s captivity. The Kremlin justified its invasion of Czecho-Slovakia with the recently proclaimed Brezhnev Doctrine, enunciated by General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, which gave Moscow the red light to invade any captive nation that sought to deviate from the Soviet Russian prison of nations. Czecho-Slovaks protested the invasion with public demonstrations and at least one young hero self-immolated, but in the end they were no match for the Russian tanks. The historic, liberal reforms of First Secretary Alexander Dubcek were revoked and a so-called “normalization” and re-subjugation began under his successor Gustav Husak.
What was strange about this invasion was that none of the intelligence services, analysts, spies and satellites of USA and the other free world countries even caught a glimpse of Russia’s mass aggression – or suspected it.
Forty-six years later, on February 28, 2014, a few days after the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Russian troops invaded Ukraine by way of Crimea and ultimately staged fabricated elections and annexed the Ukrainian peninsula. The number troops and armor did not equal the army that invaded Czecho-Slovakia but still none of the intelligence services, analysts, spies and satellites of USA and the other free world countries even caught a glimpse of Russia’s latest aggression against a former captive nation – or suspected it.
The dangerous trend that I am alluding to is not Russia’s invasion of neighboring countries in the persistent imperial belief that once a Russian captive nation, always a Russian captive nation, and its imperial messianic vision of itself. The pattern that I’m referring to is the absence of any intelligence about Russia’s belligerent intentions that would have saved the captive nations from bloodshed and shielded free world leaders’ from foolish admissions that the West was caught totally off guard by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
How can that be? While, to quote Winston Churchill, Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma for many in the free world, there have been volumes of practical and anecdotal evidence of Moscow’s threatening activities and plans. Since being allowed by western powers to seize Eastern Europe at the end of World War II, Russia continued in the ensuing decades to demonstrate its penchant for building and preserving its empire. It quashed freedom uprisings in Poland, East Germany, Hungary and Czecho-Slovakia. National, human and religious activists in the USSR and East Europe waged peaceful and not-so-peaceful opposition against Russia while it arrested and incarcerated them in psychiatric asylums, prisons and concentration camps.
Shouldn’t this have sent a compelling signal to the free world leaders that something amiss is brewing in Russia’s captive nations and it is compelling the Kremlin to counterattack against peaceful civil activists? The West should have then applied multilateral pressure and sanctions on Moscow to cease and desist persecuting and oppressing them rather than open trade with the Russian dictatorship.
Leaders of the captive nations’ liberation movements have also publicly warned that Russia cannot be trusted and even if it undergoes political and social transformations – like from tsarism to communism to federal presidency – its imperial nature will not diminish.
Stepan Bandera, leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, who was assassinated by a Russian agent on October 15, 1959, wrote in his Perspectives of a Ukrainian Revolution: “There is only one Russia – imperialist. It will be so until Russian imperialism will be totally obliterated and the Russian people will recover from it by understanding that Russia’s imperialism it the source of its greatest disaster – victims, anguish and decline. This is still a long way off.”
Bandera also said as if writing about today’s Russian war against Ukraine:
“If bolshevism is replaced tomorrow by another form of Russian imperialism, it will first of all turn against the independence of Ukraine, turn to enslaving it. This is clearly proven by state political thought and attitude of the Russian masses, all of Russian media, communist and anti-bolshevik alike. All of them are extremely hostile toward the idea of a separate, sovereign state of Ukraine.”
“The idea of dignity and respect for people, the free development of their own initiative, creative and worthy self-inclusion into a harmonious collective of national and social life is diametrically opposed to bolshevik tyranny, its enslavement and exploitation of people, its trampling of their dignity and ruining freedom. "
The free world cannot hide behind the excuse that it never heard of Bandera and the aspirations to freedom of the captive nations because the post-war intelligence services of the US, Britain and other countries solicited their knowledge, ideas and analyses. So what happened to the archives?
That may be history, but statements by today’s former captive nations’ leaders also warn against Russian threats and aggression. Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė is a staunch support of lethal aid to Ukraine and is preparing her nation in case Russian armies cross its border. Poland, Latvia and Estonia are also increasing military training and expenditures.
Andrius Kubilius, former Prime Minister of Lithuania, was quoted as saying: “This is Putin’s war, which was initiated by him, which has been supported by him, which is being implemented by him, and which can only be stopped by him. Ukraine has shown clear signs that it no longer wants to support this post-imperial Russian entity, and Mr. Putin, along with the mainstream political class in Russia, is still living with a lot of nostalgia for the imperial past. Dismantling the Russian Empire has been a very painful and very difficult process. And the only way in which we can assist Russia in overcoming their psychologically painful situation is by helping Ukraine. The biggest mistake would be to allow ourselves to be threatened by statements about red lines.”
It is safe to say that if the free world leaders had paid attention to Bandera and the other liberation ideologues – past and present, the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-15 would not have occurred or at least it would not have surprised, shocked and dismayed the US, Britain, Canada and the other democracies.
Thirteen months after Russia launched its war against Ukraine, western newspapers are filled with headlines that do not bode well for the competence of free world leaders. Here are a few that I have gleaned in the past three weeks:
Ukraine: UK and EU ‘badly misread’ Russia
Errors over Ukraine ‘catastrophic’: UK parliament report
Russia's Putin Took European States ‘By Surprise’ in Ukraine: Report
Britain ‘at mercy’ of Putin in a war against Russia, former defence chiefs warn
UK guilty of ‘catastrophic misreading’ of Ukraine crisis, Lords report claims
Russia ‘undermining’ global world order: US
Russian expansionism may pose existential threat, says NATO general
Russian tensions could escalate into all-out war, says NATO general
Ukraine: Kerry threatens further sanctions over ‘craven’ Russian actions
PARALYZED BY UKRAINE, DUMBFOUNDED BY RUSSIA
Kerry: Russia has lied about its activities in Ukraine
US furious over Russia’s ‘lies’ on Ukraine
And a few paragraphs from articles about what newspapers call the “Ukraine crisis.”
** “London (AFP) – Britain and the European Union are guilty of “sleepwalking” into a crisis in Ukraine, a scathing report from a British parliamentary committee said on Friday.”
** “LONDON — America’s European allies sleepwalked into the conflict with Russia in Ukraine and should now find ways to stop the relationship with Moscow from deteriorating further, according to a report by British lawmakers.”
** “Sir Michael Graydon, a former chief of the air staff, told The Times newspaper: “They have got us more or less at their mercy. We only have two bases where we have got Typhoons. One is in Scotland, one is in Lincolnshire. “The guys in Lincolnshire were having to go all the way down to Cornwall just to get anywhere near.”
** “The UK is guilty of sleepwalking into the crisis in Ukraine and has not been as active or visible as it should be, according to a damning report into the British and European approach to the crisis by the main House of Lords committee on foreign affairs.
“The report – the fullest evaluation of the Ukraine crisis to emerge from the British parliament – also finds that expertise within the Foreign Office towards Russia has diminished significantly, and according to the committee chairman, Lord Tugendhat, ‘led to a catastrophic misreading of the mood in the run-up to the crisis.’”
** “Washington (AFP) – In some of its sharpest criticism to date, Washington accused Moscow on Friday of ‘undermining’ the global order by supporting rebels in eastern Ukraine.
“The sluggish disintegration of a weak peace deal in Ukraine has come as nothing less than a blessing for President Obama. It has helped mask his administration's inability to determine the best response to the crisis, and to Russia.
“But this respite will not last. Given the events on the ground, Obama will soon have to decide whether to send weapons and trainers to the Ukrainian government and risk turning what has been largely a border skirmish into a major conflict by proxy with serious implications for the United States, Europe, and American interests worldwide.”
** “WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that Russia has repeatedly lied to him about its activities in Ukraine where pro-Russian rebels are fighting national forces.
“‘Russia is engaged in a rather remarkable period of the most overt and extensive propaganda exercise that I’ve seen since the very height of the Cold War,’” Kerry told a U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee. ‘And they have been persisting in their misrepresentations — lies — whatever you want to call them about their activities there to my face, to the face of others on many different occasions.’”
John Kerry’s bizzare admission is perhaps the most detrimental.
These headlines and sentences prove in retrospect at least that the free world understands that it has been duped by Moscow. But what actions will it take to rectify the situation?
Russia is a formidable enemy by itself. It devotes a great deal of attention and rubles to its armed forces and flaunts its vision of global imperialism. However, when you combine its saber rattling with free world’s naïve incompetence, then the western democracies are just leaving the door open to their own demise.
Without meaning to aggravate their calamitous mistakes, if Ukraine loses its war with Russia – and by loses I mean anything except a complete and unconditional withdrawal of Russia from Ukraine – then this generation of world leaders will certainly be inscribed in history as the one that lost Ukraine on its watch.