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War in Europe? The Russian Bear in East & Ukrainian Refugees in The West

Dr Can Erimtan

21st Century Wire

It has now been more than two years . . . that Russia went ahead and invaded the Ukraine next door in order to protect [the Donbass] residents from genocide at the hands of the Kiev government.

But that is not the way that Washington understands the current war in the Ukraine. Quite to the contrary, the West is now banding together against Russia, or rather against President Putin – for, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin has now become the NATO alliance’s new bogeyman, replacing the Muslim extremist of yesteryear, who in turn had replaced the godless Communist of the Cold War. The West justifies its support for the Kiev government on the grounds of its “Responsibility to Protect – known as R2P,” which is “an international norm that seeks to ensure that the international community never again fails to halt the mass atrocity crimes of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity,” as explained by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P). The United Nations (UN) adopted R2P in 2005, and, the GCR2P was in turn set up in New York in 2008 – a think tank supplying an academic veneer of respectability to the West flexing its military muscle whenever the need arises. One of the principal authors of The Responsibility to Protect text, Professor Ramesh Thakur in 2011 optimistically explained its intent in great detail:

The unanimous endorsement of R2P by the largest ever collection of world leaders at the UN summit in 2005 was historic, for it spoke to the fundamental purposes of the UN and responded to a critical challenge of the 21st century. Some 150 world leaders tightened the application of R2P to four atrocity crimes: war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. They affirmed that states have the primary responsibility to protect all people within their territorial jurisdiction but that if they manifestly failed to do so, owing to incapacity, unwillingness or complicity in the crimes, then the international community, acting through the UN Security Council, would take timely and decisive action to implement the international responsibility to protect.

And according to Professor Ramesh Thakur, “[m]ilitary action by international forces in Libya in 2011 mark[ed] the first instance of the implementation of the sharp edge of the new norm of the responsibility to protect (R2P).” And all these lofty aims and goals basically boil down to “the fact . . . that [the West’s] ability and tools to act beyond [its] borders have increased tremendously,” as happily voiced by Thakur.

President Biden’s ultimate predecessor Barack Obama (2009-17) was thus responsible for the realization of R2P in the real world. In this way, Obama basically initiated the current New Cold War by means of promoting a “proxy-war pitting the West, as represented by the US and its NATO and other allies, against the new unholy trinity of Russia-China-Iran” in Africa. And from there, Obama transported this proxy-conflict to Syria and from there he moved “the ideological contest between the West and Russia” to “the very edge of Europe,” in the Ukraine. And in 2014, I put forward the following:

From Libya, which was left in a shambles, and has now become [a] new Afghanistan, over Syria, where the much maligned Bashar Assad has managed to resist all manners of “assisted rebels-with-a-cause,” to the apparently endless quagmire filled with death and suffering for the civilian population in eastern Ukraine. The Obama administration persistently blames Putin’s Russia for the unrest next door. Literally, Obama stated in his SOTU speech that the United States are “upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small — by opposing Russian aggression, supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies. Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr. Putin’s aggression was a masterful display of strategy and strength. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters.”

This shows that Biden’s ultimate predecessor is al but responsible for the current volatile nature of global affairs. Biden has himself been continuing Obama’s good work of stoking the fires of the New Cold War ever since becoming POTUS on 20 January 2021. And on the one-year anniversary of his term Biden stated that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will “move in” on the Ukraine. Biden kept on singing the same tune over and again, so much so that many (myself included) felt compelled to voice their incredulity. And then, on Friday, 19 February 2022, the U.S. President came out very self-assuredly: “As of this moment I’m convinced he’s made the decision,” talking about President Putin deciding to invade neighbouring Ukraine. In fact, it seemed as if Biden were challenging Putin to do his worst . . . as but a few days earlier, Russia’s State Duma had backed a resolution calling for diplomatic recognition of Eastern Ukraine’s pro-Russian Donbass People’s Republics. Then, less less than a week later, President Putin gave a televised speech to the Russian people. At the outset, Putin laid out the preparatory groundwork:

I consider it necessary today to speak again about the tragic events in Donbass and the key aspects of ensuring the security of Russia . . . I am referring to the eastward expansion of NATO, which is moving its military infrastructure ever closer to the Russian border . . . Any further expansion of the North Atlantic alliance’s infrastructure or the ongoing efforts to gain a military foothold of the Ukrainian territory are unacceptable for us.

In the next instance, the Russian President got down into the nitty-gritty of his concerns about the Ukraine and its recent history: The people’s republics of Donbass [located in the eastern part of the Ukraine] have asked Russia for help. In this context, in accordance with Article 51 (Chapter VII) of the UN Charter . . . I made a decision to carry out a special military operation. The purpose of this operation is to protect people who, for eight years now, have been facing humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the Kiev regime. To this end, we will seek to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine . . . No matter how the events unfold, we are ready. All the necessary decisions in this regard have been taken. I hope that my words will be heard.

And following these words, the Russian army began its “special military operation,” which led the U.S. President to tell his people that the “Russian military has begun a brutal assault on the people of Ukraine without provocation, without justification, without necessity.” But in contrast, Putin all but employed a Western rhetoric to justify Russian action – ‘Article 51 (Chapter VII) of the UN Charter.’

Though it might seem that the Ukraine was all but an unknown location prior to the Obama administratio’s efforts to destabilize Russia, “Ukrainians began migrating to the United States in the late 19th century over successive waves.” Following the First and Second World Wars (1914-18, 1940-45), “another significant exodus of Ukrainians” to the new world took place. So that, the “United States is now home to the second largest Ukrainian population in the world” – making up “approximately 1.1 million individuals,” all together. These individuals’ home country, the Ukraine, has been on the U.S. goverment’s radar since the dissolution of the Soviet Union (26 December 1991). Elsewhere, I have already touched upon the influence exerted by the nonprofit global policy think tank, the RAND Corporation (established in 1948). In a document published in 1996, RAND’s Richard L. Kugler with Marianna Kozintseva refer to the “Ukraine [as] a neutral state between Russia and Europe” (as opposed to “Belarus [, which] remains a loyal buffer).” It should thus come as no surprise that, already in May 1992, then-U.S. President George H. W. Bush (1989-93) extended most-favored-nation trading status to the Ukraine and provided insurance for U.S. businesses to invest in the newly established republic. The U.S. has thus regarded the Ukraine as a potential ‘weapon’ against Russia from its independence on 1 December 1991. The current Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs of the United States Victoria Nuland stated in 2013 that the U.S. had spent “over $5 billion to assist [the] Ukraine” since its “independence” – meaning that Obama’s efforts to merely provoke or outright destabilize Russia go back to policies pursued by the first Bush administration in the previous century. This then brings us to today’s ongoing war on Europe’s eastern edge, and the verdict expressed by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect is unequivocal:

The international community should maintain its support to Ukraine in upholding its international obligations to protect its populations, including by ensuring the territorial integrity of the country, within the parameters of international law.

The U.S. sponsorship of the Ukraine has now revived the Cold War spectre of a clear and imminent Rusian danger in the East. Towards the end of last January, Germany’s Defense Minister Boris Pistorius spoke to the daily Der Tagesspiegel and issued the following warning:

We hear threats from the Kremlin almost every day . . . so we have to take into account that Vladimir Putin might even attack a NATO country one day . . . Our experts expect a period of five to eight years in which this could be possible . . . we also have to learn to live with danger again and prepare ourselves — militarily, socially and in terms of civil defense.

Already in November last year, Germany had issued a new 34-page military and strategic doctrine. — Verteidigungspolitische Richtlinien 2023. This document seems to show that Germany and its military establishment have gone back to its previous Cold War stance:

War has returned to Europe. Germany and its allies once again have to deal with a military threat. The international order is under attack in Europe and around the globe. We are living in a turning point . . . The Russian Federation will remain the greatest threat to peace and security in the Euro-Atlantic area.

Even before the German Defense Minister, Sweden’s commander-in-chief General Michael Bydén had called upon his countrymen to “prepare themselves mentally” for war. And Sweden’s Minister for Civil Defense, Carl-Oskar Bohlin, similarly warned that “war could come to Sweden” anytime soon. In the same vein, a little more than a month ago, the Chief of the UK General Staff, General Patrick Sanders also issued a stark warning during his keynote address at the International Armoured Vehicles exhibition in London (22-25 January 2024), urging the authorities to “mobilize the nation” in view of the Russian threat in the east:

Within the next three years, it must be credible to talk of a British Army of 120,000, folding in our reserve and strategic reserve. But this is not enough . . . We will not be immune and as the pre-war generation we must similarly prepare — and that is a whole-of-nation undertaking. . . . Ukraine brutally illustrates that regular armies start wars; citizen armies win them.

These different European voices seem to indicate that the New Cold War’s proxy-theatre in the Ukraine could very well engulf the rest of Europe anytime soon. And now, even the head of the Russian army’s Military Academy of the General Staff, Colonel-General Vladimir Zarudnitsky, has joined the choir. As reported by the Russian RIA news agency on 7 March 2024:

The possibility of an escalation of the conflict in Ukraine – from the expansion of participants in ‘proxy forces’ used for military confrontation with Russia to a large-scale war in Europe – cannot be ruled out . . . The main source of military threats to our state is the anti-Russian policy of the United States and its allies, who are conducting a new type of hybrid warfare in order to weaken Russia in every possible way, limit its sovereignty and destroy its territorial integrity.

These days, it would seem, the only public figure advcating a non-military resolution for the war in the Ukraine is none other than the Pope. Francis I was talking to the Swiss broadcaster RSI when he came out with the following announcement:

I think that the strongest one is the one who looks at the situation, thinks about the people and has the courage of the white flag, and negotiates . . . The word negotiate is a courageous word. When you see that you are defeated, that things are not going well, you have to have the courage to negotiate.

And as it is, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy flew to Istanbul last Friday, 8 March 2024 to talk to the New Turkey’s founder and leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. And for all intents and purposes, the latter champion of Sunni Islam appears to heed the words uttered by the head of the Catholic Church. Given the past Turkish efforts to negotiate a peace settlement – in 2022, to be precise, the New Turkey attempted to become a go-between Russia and the Ukraine. These efforts came to naught, but two years later, Tayyip Erdoğan apparently wants to give it another go:

We discussed developments about the war in detail today, I stated our observations with all my sincerity . . . We are giving our utmost contribution for the war to end on the basis of negotiations. We are ready to host a peace Summit that Russia will attend too.

While the world’s political leadership variously engages in fear-mongering and/or peace efforts, the European continent is at present overrun with Ukrainian refugees, refugees reaping the profit from the EU and the various welfare states within its fold: “[c]urrently over 4.2 million people from Ukraine benefit from the temporary protection mechanism” offered by the European Union since 4 March 2022: “On 27 September 2023, [EU] ministers reached a political agreement on the extension of the temporary protection until 4 March 2025. The decision was adopted on 19 October 2023.” And this gravy train entails that these Ukrainians receive residency rights and access to housing; additionally receive access to the labour market, as well as health and welfare, social welfare and medical assistance.

And that means that about 10% of the Ukraine’s population at present unquestioningly enjoys the EU’s generous hospitality. While the world is heading towards another massive conflagration, the U.S. insistence on continuing efforts to destabilize Russia has now led to the emergence of a new type of refugee: The Ukrainian, European-looking and Christian in orientation . . . and at present, the EU’s population is seemingly going along with its leadership’s decision to further Washington’s New Cold War agenda.

But, for how long can this go on? And when will EU citizens start questioning the gravy train handed out to Ukrainians? Or, won’t they?!?

21WIRE special contributor Dr. Can Erimtan is an independent historian and geo-political analyst who used to live in Istanbul. At present, he is in self-imposed exile from Turkey. He has a wide interest in the politics, history and culture of the Balkans, the greater Middle East, and the world beyond. He attended the VUB in Brussels and did his graduate work at the universities of Essex and Oxford. In Oxford, Erimtan was a member of Lady Margaret Hall and he obtained his doctorate in Modern History in 2002. His publications include the revisionist monograph “Ottomans Looking West?” as well as numerous scholarly articles. In Istanbul, Erimtan started publishing in the English language Turkish press, culminating in him becoming the Turkey Editor of the İstanbul Gazette. Subsequently, he commenced writing for RT Op-Edge, NEO, and finally, the 21st Century Wire. You can find him on Twitter at @TheErimtanAngle. Read Can’s archive here.

READ MORE UKRAINE NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Ukraine Files





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