by Hannes Wessels
A regrettable tragedy is unfolding in Ukraine. This may well be the biggest war in Europe since the end of WWII and the great powers are dangerously close to a nuclear confrontation. Western media is almost unanimous in blaming Putin but looking back at events that have led to this there is another side to this sad story.
Going back to the period of Peter the Great and Catherine, Russia has had a close cultural and ethnic affinity with Europe. Just think of names like Tchaikovsky, Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Gorky, Prokofiev, Rachmaninof, Solzhenitsyn, Pasternak, Pavlov, Sakharov, who contributed so much in the spheres of literature, music and science, to be reminded how close we are to the people east of the Caucuses. Despite this, Western leaders have arrogantly dismissed Russia as a backward, non-democratic political and economic wasteland.
Politically it diverged during the communist era, but even then, the divide was not as wide as we were led to believe. As far back as 1954, then Foreign Minister Molotov, with the backing of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, proposed that the USSR join an alliance aimed at achieving collective security on the continent but this was rebuffed.
Starting in 1989 with the breaking down of the Berlin Wall, Mikhail Gorbachev commenced collapsing the Russian empire and in so doing dispensed with Moscow’s western buffer against US imperialism, EU encroachment and NATO power. He introduced Glasnost, and a semblance of liberal democracy. In a very short space of time, all the reasons for NATO’s existence had vanished. Gorbachev asked for permanent peace and extended a hand of friendship. The response from the West was the aggressive incorporation, starting with Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, of the former Warsaw Pact countries and former USSR republics in the alliance. In 1991, Boris Yeltsin asked to join the NATO Alliance and in 2000 Putin tried. They were rebuffed and told to take their place at the back of the queue for consideration behind lesser nations from the former Soviet Bloc. Russia’s status as a world power was downplayed and belittled. America’s only response to the new dispensation was to send in a team of so called ‘experts’ to help restructure the country’s economy who did little other than wreck it and set up the oligarchs who looted the country while Yeltsin was intoxicated.
From the UK, Tony Blair colluded with the power hungry socialists in Brussels to expand the EU by doubling it in size with the addition of thirteen Eastern European states, former Soviet Bloc nations. So wedded to this policy was Blair that he immediately gave UK’s full recognition of all the new eastern European additions, even though the treaty admitting them allowed existing members to defer such recognition for at least five years.
Against this backdrop the Russians faced what they saw as a common foe in combatting widespread Islamic terrorism following the country’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. In 1999 the Russians looked on as America bombed Serbia which had only recently been a Russian protectorate. Far from getting any assistance in the fight against the fundamentalists, they were criticised by western countries for being too heavy-handed in Chechnya, whose ‘freedom fighters’ massacred some 330 people (mostly primary school children) at Beslan. Russia has been left to fight Islamic terror alone with no support from the Western democracies facing a common enemy.
Bearing all this in mind, it is difficult to ignore Putin’s concerns as Western leaders have been making public noises about Ukraine, which runs deep into the heart of Russia, joining the NATO and EU clubs. The threat posed by Kyviv was heightened in 2014 when a democratically elected, pro-Russian government was overthrown and replaced by a pro-Western regime. All Putin has repeatedly asked for, in return for peace in the region, is an assurance that Ukraine will not become a NATO member and this has not been forthcoming.
One cannot help but wonder if the current situation could not have been avoided, had Donald Trump been allowed to pursue the policy of constructive dialogue aimed at improving relations with Moscow, he sought to follow at the beginning of his presidency. This initiative was to have been led by General Mike Flynn who had been appointed as the new president’s National Security Advisor. No sooner had this announcement been made than outgoing officials in the Obama administration including Susan Rice, Flynn’s predecessor, collaborated with the CIA and the FBI led by James Comey, to lure Flynn into a carefully laid legal minefield that would see him forced from assuming his position. This was quickly followed by the unfolding of the Russia collusion hoax and the Mueller investigation which hamstrung his presidency. Powerful people in the Deep State saw peaceful coexistence with Russia as a threat and stopped it happening.
General Dwight Eisenhower, one of America’s greatest presidents and the man who led the Allies to victory over Hitler’s Germany, warned about the dangerous influence on American policy of the military-industrial complex. Looking at the number of pointless wars his country has involved itself in since 1945, it appears his warning went unheeded.