LOST IN ENEMY TERRITORY
THIS IS A GUEST POST BY VINCE LITTLER. He is a retired train driver, a Scot through choice since 2017, and lives in the Scottish borders where he is a member of the Alba Party. Signposts can be critical in war. For his own people, President Zelensky is signposting the way for Ukraine to surviveContinue reading "LOST IN ENEMY TERRITORY"
THIS IS A GUEST POST BY VINCE LITTLER. He is a retired train driver, a Scot through choice since 2017, and lives in the Scottish borders where he is a member of the Alba Party.
Signposts can be critical in war. For his own people, President Zelensky is signposting the way for Ukraine to survive together as a nation, through whatever the Russian invasion will bring in the months and years ahead. He is doing this with superb communications and through setting an example by telling the US that he needs ammunition, not a ride out of Kyiv. If, God forbid, he were to fall to the invaders, his signposting would become crystallized in the character of his nation.
Part of the fog of war is changing road signs to confuse the enemy, as the Ukrainians have been encouraged to do. Perhaps these days, that tactic could be less effective because everyone carries a mobile phone, with an international roaming SIM and satnav capability. So the Russian invaders could be navigating with mobile phones – except that their commanders confiscated them before action, to stop their soldiers signposting to their people back home what is really going on in Ukraine.
At a deeper level, Russia, since 2014 and before, has become adept at planting misleading signposts into discourse across the West. A very relevant example is the idea that Ukraine was subject to a fascist takeover in 2014. This idea is central to the case that Putin makes to his own people and his military, to justify his attack on Ukraine.
To me, it is disturbing that this meme of a fascist takeover passes as an unchallenged incidental into some of the postings and reposts in Indy circles. It is disturbing at two levels. Firstly, that if this distortion goes unchallenged in the West, it leaves Russian society less able to discern an alternative narrative to Putin’s official line – which in turn will leave Putin able to sustain his invasion for longer. And secondly, it indicates a deficit of critical thinking within the Indy movement, which leaves us vulnerable to precisely the tactics used by Russia.
So let me start by picking apart the idea that Ukraine is somehow ‘fascist’ and how that meme was constructed. The key date is 2014, when there was a change of government in Ukraine due to the Maidan Square protests. One Scottish blogger states “in 2014 … a coup overthrew the Ukraine’s legitimate government, aided by neo-Nazi groups,”. John Pilger has also written about “the coup regime, infested with neo-Nazis”. These are matters of historical interpretation. The actual events are described in Wikipedia [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolution_of_Dignity refers].
In short, there was a sustained campaign of street protest in support of Ukraine joining the EU with approximately 100 protesters being killed. President Yanukovich did a runner to Russia rather than face impeachment and after doing his runner, the Ukrainian Parliament deposed him in a 328 to 0 vote. This has been described as unconstitutional, but being fair, most constitutions don’t address the President doing a runner. If you look at the history over the 10 years prior, [ie from the Orange Revolution] you can see the waters were very muddy.
As for the neo-Nazi accusation, this is a familiar accusation from Russia towards Ukraine. It stems from the Holodomor [Terror Famine] in the early days of the USSR, with the suffering of Ukraine – and export of food to the rest of the USSR – echoing the potato Famine in Ireland. Faced with the choices of WW2, many Ukrainians threw their lot in with the Nazis in the hope of freedom from the Soviet Union. While Ukrainians are of course individually culpable for what they did for Nazi Germany, it is all too easy with the benefit of hindsight to criticise people who have survived deliberate starvation for making a choice against the Soviet Union. Some anti USSR guerrilla groups apparently survived in the Ukrainian ‘outback’ into the 1950’s [much like the Estonian Forest Boys Iain mentioned in ‘Breaks my Heart’]. Hence, the USSR and latterly Russia, use ‘fascists’ or ‘neo-nazis’ as the go to meme for characterising their opponents in Ukraine.
Now, Yanukovich, who did the runner in 2014, was clearly Russia’s nominee in Ukraine in the same way that Lukashenko in Belarus [who after 26 years in power won a disputed election in 2020 with a piffling 80% of the vote] is also their nominee. When Yanukovich was deposed, the ‘puppet ruler’ part of the plan fell apart. Thus the seizure of Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk regions with the assistance of local Russian elements could be viewed as opportunism – intended to generate grievances towards justifying a later intervention in Ukraine to install a regime more to Russia’s liking, such as we see now.
Turning to the 2014 protests, the vast majority protesting were ordinary citizens, but it is true that ‘fascist’ elements participated. It is known that Russia’s Night Wolves motor biker gang participated in the annexation of Crimea, immediately contingent on Yanukovich leaving office. It is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to ask whether the ‘fascists’ participating in the Maidan protests were in fact Putin’s fascists, intended to provide Yanukovich some plausible narrative of defeating fascism had he stayed in Ukraine and crushed the protests. And in the light of current events, to consider whether their involvement was spun by Putin’s Russia into a new narrative, that Yanukovich was deposed by fascists, as part of the pretext for the present invasion.
Personally, I have been disappointed to learn that the Ukrainian Border Force has been prioritising exit for Ukrainians over black foreigners also fleeing from Ukraine, deviating from typical East European hospitality which is to treat guests kindly and ensure their safety. However, this does not of itself make Ukraine as a whole racist or fascist. On this question, I am mindful of the recent statement by Jewish scholars, reported in the Jewish Journal, [https://jewishjournal.com/news/worldwide/345515/statement-on-the-war-in-ukraine-by-scholars-of-genocide-nazism-and-world-war-ii/ refers] which takes a balanced view on right-wing extremists and violent xenophobic groups in Ukraine, and specifically rejects narratives of fascism in Ukraine as providing any form of justification for the Russian invasion.
In researching this post, I intended to pursue the question of whether the Night Wolves were engaged in the Maidan protests, but decided to stop when I found evidence of them being involved in Crimea. That is because it allows me to address my second concern, about critical thinking within the Indy movement. What is important here is not landing those of my readers who have got this far into a destination where you are told that the Maidan revolution was or was not fascist. Answering that question is a difficult navigation through the disputed recent history of a land whose recent history, newspapers and websites are for the most part not readily accessible to us.
The real issue is that we question the signposts we do have and that we look for other evidence to come to our own conclusions. The Indy movement does itself something of a dis-service if, in its eagerness to leave the UK, it chooses to buy uncritically into an analysis which is essentially the one Russia would wish us to buy into.
For example, it is said that Russia is invading Ukraine to prevent it joining NATO. Now, I get it that in an Indy Scotland, as a nation we might question our involvement in NATO and we are probably for the most part clear that we don’t want Trident etc. And it is true that the West [and by extension NATO] does not have clean hands in relation to our involvement in other countries.
Hanvey and Alba are right to say that we must take into account Russia’s legitimate security concerns, for in truth, there is no country on Earth which in its right mind does not have legitimate security concerns and I would not fault their statements. But, even if we oppose NATO for Scotland, there is no argument to go beyond the Alba position and accept that Ukraine’s aspiration to join NATO might give Putin even the tiniest shred of justification for invading Ukraine.
The lie has been given to that notion in any case, by the referendum of 27 February in Belarus to permit nuclear weapons onto its territory. A quick glance at the map will show that Belarus borders three NATO countries and on this, sauce for the goose is surely sauce for the gander. The hypocrisy of permitting nuclear weapons in Belarus while objecting to Ukraine joining NATO brings to the fore the idea that Putin is more likely motivated by old fashioned imperial intentions.
Finally, to bring this back home to Scotland, my ambition is that by laying out some of the signposting issues relating to Ukraine, the Indy movement will be more able to work through them by constructive discussion and will apply critical reasoning to arguments, even relating to faraway lands such as Ukraine. Such skills are essential to our movement, for in the months and years to come, we are going to find ourselves increasingly challenged by misleading narratives and signposting
I thank Vince for this article. I think knowing more about Ukraine is both worthwhile and helpful in understanding what is happening in Ukraine today. I stick with my belief that Independent countries should be free to make the decisions about their future security arrangements without interference from anyone else. I think the importance of Article 5 protection for UKRAINE is the overwhelming reason they want to join NATO. ALL FORMER PARTS OF THE FORMER SOVIET UNION FEEL THE SAME. The Russians and the way they treated these people for decades during the Soviet times is 100% responsible for why they ALL feel that way. There are compelling economic reasons as well. Being trapped as second class citizens in the backward Soviet Union meant that once achieving Independence rebuilding their economies was crucial. To do that they need substantial inward investment. Without Article 5 security it is virtually impossible to secure this,. Who will invest many millions into a land that might be reinvaded by Russia the next week? The solution I believe is for these nations to join Nato if they so choose but with the proviso no foreign soldiers or missiles should be based on their soil. This provides a route out of the current disaster that also provides Putin with a face saving route to escape from his huge error in judgement.
I am, as always
YOURS FOR SCOTLAND
BEAT THE CENSORS
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