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DISCUSS: What’s really happening in Ukraine?

For weeks now we have heard the US (and, to a lesser extent) the UK screeching about the (allegedly) imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has denied any intention to invade Ukraine whatsoever, repeatedly and at length. Most recently Putin described the US attitude as “peak hysteria”.

The governments of both France and Germany have downplayed any Russian threat to Ukraine, leading the US media to dub Germany a “bad ally”.

Even more unusual, the President of Ukraine has suggested the threats are overblown, and has called on the West to stop “creating panic”.

The US does not seem inclined to stop, and is dispersing panic like an untested vaccine.

They continually refer to Russian troops standing stock-still on Russian soil as “aggression”. They refer to the “build up” of (allegedly) 130,000 troops as if it is new, but it’s not.

Since the Ukrainian colour revolution and ensuing civil war in 2014, there have constantly been tens of thousands of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, many of them in permanent bases in Transnistria and Crimea.

In December 2018, the Ukrainians claimed there were “over 80,000” Russians troops on their border. In spring last year that number was said to be 150,000 thousand – more than are apparently present now – yet there was almost no talk of war or invasion.

And yet the media talk up the “threat”, repeating any baseless claim the military or intelligence agencies deign to float their way.

We get detailed scare-stories about the “lone tank regiment between Putin and Kiev”, and puff-pieces about grandmothers learning to shoot.

There is a constant drip-feed of cod-psychological opinion pieces earnestly asking “what Putin wants” in Ukraine.

It really is “peak hysteria”. Just today, the US has announced they are shutting down their embassy in Kiev and moving all their diplomats further west…based on nothing.

There is almost an element of Chicken Little-like farce to the whole affair, watching the press and pundits talk for hours about something that, as yet, there is no evidence at all will EVER happen.

And I mean literally, no evidence at all, if you doubt that, watch this hilarious exchange between the State Dept’s spokesman and reporter Matt Lee:

The Biden administration has even suggested that Russia is waiting for the ground to freeze, and that’s why they haven’t invaded as yet. Because the one thing everyone knows about war in Eastern Europe is its easiest in the cold.

The UK has been little better, if at all. A few days ago the Daily Mail reported Russian warships sailing past Britain “bound for Ukraine”, neglecting to mention that “towards Ukraine” and “towards Russia” are the same direction.

The equivalent of describing US marines moving from North Carolina to Texas as “marching toward Mexico”. Technically true, but not really accurate.

Our MPs are being as bombastic as the US politicians too, not to mention highly unimaginative when it comes to historical analogies.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said there was a “whiff of Munich in the air”, regarding Johnson’s attitude to Russia.

Tobias Ellwood, always a handy weather vane given his deep ties to military, went on Channel 4 to echo this, saying Johnson needs a “Churchillian” attitude to Russia. Repeating himself in the Independent where he calls Johnson “more Chamberlain than Churchill”

Ellwood also called the invasion “inevitable and imminent”…but that was a month ago. It’s “imminent” again today.

Now, obviously, we can’t for certain, 100% say Russia won’t invade Ukraine. We live in unpredictable times, and if Covid taught us anything it’s that countries will co-operate on selling a story, even if they appear at odds most of the time.

But it’s hard to see what Russia would gain from it, or why they would do it in February. Even if they intended to invade before, why would not abandon the plan after the whole Western world is put on early alert?

An invasion just wouldn’t make any sense.

As I write this it appears the press are laying the groundwork for a back-pedal. Joe Biden claimed today a “crucial window for diplomacy remains open”, to which one can only say “duh! nothing has happened!”.

Politico are claiming the Russians are standing down, writing about Putin’s “de-escalation dance”. The Indy reports that Russia is “open to democracy” and Ukraine “willing to make concessions”.

Even the Guardian, long the loudest cheerleader for any kind of war with Russia, claims there are “rare nods towards de-escalation”.

So, will it just all wind down? And if so what is, or was, the point?

It could be as simple as NordStream 2, the new gas pipeline running from Russia to Germany across the Baltic sea.

The US has opposed the project since its inception and regularly pressures Germany to drop out. The pipeline would hurt Ukraine by providing a quicker route for Russian gas to be imported to Western Europe, and hurt the US because they want to sell American gas to Germany et al.

That’s probably why any talk of Ukraine-related sanctions always begins with NordStream 2, and why you see pieces like this one calling it a “geopolitical weapon”, or this one detailing its hidden “Stasi connections”. And that’s just from the last two days.

It could be about the Ukrainian regime ramping up hostilities against the breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, and wanting to pre-emptively set up a narrative of “Putin did it”.

It could also be about forcing the issue of Ukraine joining NATO, a project in the works since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It could be about making NATO seem useful and strong, by creating a situation where they can claim “strong Western alliances” have “averted war” by forcing Russia to stop a war they never intended to start.

But what do you think?

  • Will Russia invade?
  • What would Russia gain from war?
  • Is this just Biden playing to his domestic audience?
  • Will Ukraine join NATO?
  • Is this all a ploy to ramp up the campaign against Donetsk, but lay the blame on Russia?
  • Will Nordstream 2 be shut down for good?
  • What happens if Russia never invades?
  • …will NATO claim to have “averted the war”?

We’re working on a long refresher piece on Ukraine, going all the way back to 2013 and beyond, to review how we ended up here. Until then, discuss in the comments below.