The danger of not studying history

The Western liberals in the political, media and war industry circles – are (it seems) all convinced that ‘Russia is an aggressor’.

A lot of this is based on Russia’s ‘annexing’ of Crimea in March 2014. The war between Russia and Georgia in 2008 – as a result of which the Georgian republic of South Ossetia became an independent nation – is part of the wider backdrop.

If only these people would study history. If only they would understand political events in terms of their history.

Instead what they do is understand events in terms of the latest policy documents from some liberal think-tank or EU committee or Pentagon policy unit.

From this perspective, say, the ‘invasion’ and ‘annexation’ of Crimea was just that. After all; it was part of Ukraine one day. The next day there were lots of Russian soldiers walking about. And then a few days later it was part of Russia. Just at the moment when the courageous democracy protesters in Maidan Square had – slight hiccup in the narrative here; they can’t say ‘ousted’ as the story they came up with is that President Victor Yanukovych left of his own accord and the opposition responsibly took over the government. So, what they end up with is:- when Yanukovych left and the protesters came to power and brought Ukraine into its democratic European destiny – Russia ‘invaded’. Therefore Putin is not just an annexer. He is anti-democratic. And a threat to the European Union.

The policy document said ‘bring Ukraine into the sphere of influence of the EU and NATO’. They saw, correctly, that many people in Ukraine wanted that. Putin to some extent thwarted that. At least he spoiled the party. So Putin is a psychopath/aggressor. And so on.

The main lacuna in all this concerns the history of Crimea and Ukraine. Yes. That’s right. They jump up and down and talk about war without taking a second to consider history. In brief; Crimea was a part of the Soviet Union, and a part of the Russian Republic in the Soviet Union, until it was transferred to the Soviet Republic of Ukraine – as an administrative convenience in 1954. After the collapse of the Soviet Union there was a call in Crimea to re-join Russia. The Ukrainian parliament squashed this. Crimea wanting to rejoin Russia was nothing new. (The relevant history is summarized in this pro-Russian English language magazine. A similar history can also be found in the Daily Mail). More that half the population of Crimea are ethnic Russians. A greater proportion have Russian as the language they use on a day to day basis. Of course; all this is just the recent history and does not cover the history of Ukraine – as part of the Russian (and other) Empires in the early 20th, 19th and 18th centuries.

Other lacuna include:

The people of Crimea voted in a referendum organised by a legitimate regional assembly to rejoin Russia. The referendum was covered by the Western press. They failed to produce signs of intimidation etc. A large majority voted to rejoin Russia. Evidence from Crimea e.g. from an informal commission of French parliamentarians continues to be that the majority are happy with that decision. Multiple opinion polls confirm this. Some carried out by Western polling organisations. More than 80% happy is not a slender majority. (Of course not everyone is happy and the liberal Western press is giving coverage to stories about those people).

The political part of the EU Association deal was signed with the new regime in Kiev even before elections were held. So much for democracy.

While it is completely true that a majority of people in the West of Ukraine wanted to move Ukraine in an EU direction – and indeed very passionately so – it is also true that support for EU membership and NATO membership is at less than 20% in the Eastern provinces of Ukraine (Crimea was not polled in this Gallup poll). The centre was more evenly split. Full figures in the Gallup poll conducted in June 2014. Given these divisions it was inevitable that when one side took power in a coup and tried to enforce their preference that the country would be split.

Another obvious lacuna is this. After the fall of the Soviet Union many people in what became the post-Soviet republics wanted to be ‘free’ of Russia/the Soviet Union. That is 100% true. However; some did not. Some people liked life in the Soviet Union. And of course because of the history of the Soviet Union in some sense the inheritor of the Russian Empire – there were people on the peripheries who either were ethnic Russians or felt closer ties to Russia than, say, to Ukraine of Moldova. That this would be the case is blindingly obvious. [1] It is not necessary to ascribe all this to sinister machinations of Putin the ex-KGB spy as NATO loves to do.

To subscribe to the narrative of ‘Russian aggression’ it is necessary to:

  • believe that your own policy positions represent not only ‘truth’ but the sole valid source of truth
  • believe that what you do is always ‘democratic’ because you did it  – because you are ‘democratic’ (so that when you patently ignore democracy, collude in the overthrow of democratically elected leaders, sign far-reaching political agreements outside of any kind of democratic process etc. you can still believe that you represent ‘democracy’)
  • have the kind of mindset of someone who lives in the ‘continuous present’ – who is simply unaware that the present is preceded by the past. That is – be historically naive.
  • be willing to invent narratives and believe them largely because… you invented them

Most of these problems represent various kinds of what is ordinarily taken as psychopathology. It is no exaggeration to say that the West is being directed by people (in NATO, in government centres of power, in the liberal media) who are, in effect, mentally ill.

Notes

1. The South Ossetians are a separate people to the Georgians. They were already seeking autonomy or independence from Georgia before the Russia-Georgia war. (Again; there is no need to postulate sinister Kremlin machinations). If you look at history that provides sufficient explanation for the conflict. (The next line is that Russia stirs up these conflicts. But no evidence is presented of this).

 

 

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