Interesting article from New York Times on the situation in Eastern Ukraine. The article treads lightly on the responsibility of the Russian government. Yet to me Putin (and the Russian government) is the prime culprit behind the unrest and loss of life in Eastern Ukraine. Putin obtained explicit permission from his rubber stamp parliament to invade Ukraine. Putin massed troops on the border of Ukraine. Either he intended to invade and change his mind, or he just wanted to intimidate Ukraine and inflame Russian nationalism in Eastern Ukraine. Putin stated publicly that the formation of Ukraine as a separate country in 1991 was illegitimate, and that large parts of Ukraine really should be part of Russia. Putin annexed Crimea with the help of soldiers from the Russian base there, which he at first denied and then admitted. Russian “volunteers” recruited and trained in Crimea, armed with automatic weapons, soon showed up in Eastern Ukraine to foment unrest and organize an armed rebellion. These forces are now formidable, including many “volunteers” from Russia, armed with very sophisticated weapons from Russia. I don’t believe this would be possible without direction, or at least some involvement by the Russian government.
But more than anything else, Russia’s relentless propaganda attack on Ukraine, using its overwhelming control of media in Russia, and hired trollers on social media and news websites, has whipped up feelings, not only in Russia, but amongst Russian speakers in Eastern Ukraine. That is what is behind much of the unrest there. What is most shocking to me is that so many Russians who live in the West just accept Russian nationalism and related propaganda. Beyond the daily falsification of news, well documented on sites like Stop Fake, it is the constant demonization of the Ukrainian government and state that is one of Russian’s main weapons in its goal to destabilize Ukraine, all in the name of elevating Russia’s sense of its own might and power.
Russian nationalism will be an increasingly important source of destabilization in the world in the years to come. I don’t yet see the end of the troubles in Ukraine. If Russians living there can be roused to the siren call of Russian nationalism, and garner “volunteers” , often heavily armed, and other forms of military and financial support from mother Russia, the same scenario can be played out elsewhere where Russians live in large numbers. And if Russians can ignore national boundaries in the name of nationalism, will other nationalisms follow suit.