Ukraine and Putin: How the West May Walk into War

By | September 6, 2015

This is a long story. That should then but, for once, because it is a matter of life and death, war and peace. The story is about the conflict in Ukraine, and about how “we” – the West – a war sucked in danger of being with Russia. Because this happens, if we are not careful, though many Dutch it still will not even notice, busy as it is the quiet life to live in freedom that we take for granted, but so may come to an end.

To understand what is happening in Ukraine, which geopolitical game in the region is being played, who the key players – in politics, diplomacy and media – and what their goals are, we need to delve deeper into the details. That requires a lot of space. But only if we find the facts to which we can build our argument.

Dominant narrative about Ukraine

A popular term nowadays in English media ‘narrative, “the narrative: the narrative. It is an ugly term, but serviceable for this story. About Ukraine in the West is a dominant narrative, that Russian President Vladimir Putin with his aggressive act is responsible for the crisis in this part of Eastern Europe. And that Putin has deliberately brought down the existing world order.

The logic of events in which analysis is as follows: in November 2013, the then Ukrainian decided to President Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Putin, at the last minute – and under heavy pressure from Moscow – to abandon the signing of an association agreement with the European Union.

Protests on Maidan

This decision led to massive protests by pro-Western protesters at Victory Square in Kiev, the Maidan. Which protesters demanded integration with Europe and turned away from Russia. Yanukovich tried to quell demonstrations by force. There were dead and wounded, but eventually succumbed Yanukovich regime under the pressure of the surging masses. The president fled to Russia and in Kiev was installed a pro-Western government. In May, a new president was elected, the chocolate-oligarch Petro Poroshenko.

Still according to the same analysis dominant Vladimir Putin responded to the events in Kiev with the rapid annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. That step is a violation of international law and for the community of nations therefore unacceptable.

Then decided Putin, ranging from international criticism ignored his order to stimulate a pro-Russian uprising in the eastern regions of Ukraine and support, not only moral and rhetorical, but actually by putting safety specialists and equipment to send to and, most recently, also using regular troops.

Vladimir Putin, in short, has for months been engaged in this former Soviet republic a democratic process, which began as an authentic popular movement on the Maidan – and that eventually will lead to the integration of Ukraine into Western institutions such as NATO and the European Union – to subvert.

The ultimate goal of Putin

What the ultimate goal of the Russian president, about his analysts disagree. It may be that Putin eventually wants to bring within the Russian sphere of influence throughout the former Soviet space. Hence troubled Western leaders, from President Barack Obama to German chancellor Angela Merkel, prior to the NATO summit in Wales, the ex-Soviet republics of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania are members of NATO, visited and their hearing asserted that for them Article 5 applies to the NATO Charter: an attack on one member is an attack on all.

It may be that Putin is limited in Ukraine for taking the territories in the East and South, which are known in a parallel Russian narrative as a mythical “Novorossija. It could also be that Putin merely bent on radical destabilization of Ukraine that the country is in turmoil and possibly pro-Western government in Kiev falls down, under pressure from the violence, the economic downturn and growing discontent among the population. It may even be that Putin but what improvises and absolutely has no clearly defined goal.

Non Existent Russian Aggression

How the West can adequately respond to Putin’s aggression? On that NATO meets, yesterday and today, in Wales. The number of calls to act hard on, to overt threats of war with Moscow, the recently increased significantly. These martial exhortations come not only from the usual suspects like Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish Secretary General of NATO, or the hawkish Foreign Minister of Poland Radoslaw “Radek” Sikorski and his wife, the influential American publicist Anne Applebaum, which warns that the West must expand at a “total war” with Putin, no, you see them almost anywhere, through the comment columns from left-liberal media, including the Netherlands. Indeed, commentators – including myself – which nuances are trying to bring in to the dominant Western narrative are increasingly being accused of “dumb Putinversteher ‘to be. Putinversteher a new curse word, taken from the debate in Germany, for people trying to understand which may be the motivations of Vladimir Putin.

Rather naive image of Russia

The problem with commentators who try to evade the dominant narrative by stating Putin’s actions and sometimes even justifiable, is that they often have a rather naive view of Russia, perhaps because it Russia do not know from personal experience, no Russian read and speak, and thus are not very familiar with the Russian mentality. Many Putinversteher think too optimistic about the clique which is in power in the Kremlin and understand the nature of Russian society badly. Let’s be clear: the Kremlin dominates a cynical and ruthless KGB government and Russian society is, unfortunately for many well-meaning Russians, lawless and thoroughly criminalized.

Anarchy and civil war

Unfortunately, the alternative is far worse. Western warmongers, who like nothing better seem to want than to go to war in the name of liberal democracy against authoritarian czar Vladimir – for after his expulsion from Russia to finally make a law – apparently do not realize how much they are playing with fire. After Putin and his KGB clan follows in Russia no enlightened democracy, but anarchy and civil war – where radical Islamist groups in the Caucasus will be grateful to get involved – and possibly an openly Nazi regime. In short, the hardliners in the West should realize that the chances are that the world after Putin’s rain enters the drip.

It is from this realization, it is important to analyze to get a true picture of the circumstances surrounding the conflict in Ukraine and the Russian narrative around the crisis, which is so different from the West, and understand. Not to meet Putin and his heralds, but from Western self-interest and, possibly, out of self-preservation. Because no matter how despicable we Putin regime might think, it is always wiser to negotiate with him than to fight him, given the lack of reasonable alternatives.

We also need Putin as occasional partner in a much more important conflict, which threatens Russia: the fight against the advancing radical Islam, whose psychopathic headhunters Isis are the shock troops.

To be able to reach agreements, you have to know the arguments of the opponent.

Putin: street fighter threatens world order

So what inspires Vladimir Putin and what can we do to keep him in check? I’ve been on this site a few months ago even attempt to look into Putin’s brain. And I do it in my book Putin: street fighter threatens world order.

What strikes you when you go into the recent history of Russia – so, say, from the advent of Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 and his policy of glasnost and perestroika – is the continuing failure of the West to understand the Russian reality. For example: Gorbachev is perceived in the West as a hero because he broke down the Soviet Union. In his own country he is despised for the same reason: after all, with Gorbachev began the collapse of the USSR. Not only for Vladimir Putin, but for millions of Russians, this is still “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.” In Russian eyes, the ‘Western hero’ Gorbachev responsible for the many humiliations had to swallow the former superpower since the 80s.

Tens of millions of Russians to beggary

In the chaotic 90s the West tried the then Russian President Boris Yeltsin to build a partnership. Domestically citizens reacted furiously to the policy pursued by Yeltsin – dictated by the IMF and the World Bank – neo-liberal policies, allowing tens of millions of Russians were reduced to beggary and Russian industry fell into the hands of a group of mafia oligarchs.

Simultaneously Yeltsin was, standing at the head of a ineenzakkend empire, a clay colossus, was powerless to prevent Western countries decided their sphere of influence to expand the East in, inter alia by taking Moscow former vassal states of Eastern Europe into the European Union and in NATO. The Western military intervention in Kosovo – NATO bombing of Serbia in the spring of 1999 – was for the Russians a truly traumatic experience and a defining moment in their perception of the threat posed by NATO: it was as if not the “Slavic brothers “but Russia itself was bombarded by Western missiles.

Boris Yeltsin nightmare

In 1999 the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined NATO. In 2004, after Yeltsin had already succeeded by Vladimir Putin, followed by Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Even the Baltic states – former Soviet republics with significant Russian-speaking minority – occurred from the Russian sphere of influence and that of the West. Since 2008, when Russia and Georgia waged a short war, also depends on the NATO membership of Georgia and Ukraine into the air. For Putin is just the thought of it already unacceptable.

At the end of Yeltsin’s regime, around 1999, when Vladimir Putin presented himself as the “savior of Russia” was Yeltsin’s prestige and popularity nothing. He was at best seen as an agent of the United States and Israel, and at worst as a notorious drunkard. A bad dream had turned Yeltsin’s reign period for most Russians, a true nightmare. Under Putin could go even better.

Nostalgia for the USSR

Putin came to power amid the here outlined above ocean of misunderstanding with the West. These misunderstandings are never removed. Not only is seriously underestimated in western countries how deep in Russia resentment has taken root against the winners of the Cold War, especially after “Kosovo”, nor sufficiently understood how alive the nostalgia is at tens of millions of citizens in the former Soviet Union to their lost country, the USSR.

The Soviet Union was not only lost a political and economic system but an entire culture. Not only in Russia, including Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, the Central Asian countries, everywhere you will find to include this sense of lack of awareness in addition to the old Soviet space rather than in Europe or Asia.

For many Russians in Ukraine is also the Russian cultural and religious cradle, “Kievskaya Roes. It is hard for them to see Ukraine as a separate, independent country, which follows a course that differs from the Russian. These are sentiments that may be irrelevant to Western eyes, unknown or invalid, but for former Soviet citizens lived this reality.

‘Great Russia’

In my book Street Fighter threatens world order, I describe how Vladimir Putin as a KGB officer, he decided that the disappearance of the Soviet Union, not without a fight would accept. Once in the Kremlin he was committed to the disintegration of Russia – at that time threatened by the ongoing war with radical Islamist insurgents in the North Caucasus – to a halt.

Putin also expressed the view that Moscow has legitimate interests in the former Soviet space – the ‘near abroad’, as the Russians say – and not just because in those countries millions of ethnic Russians live. In Putin’s eyes, and in a large majority of Russians, the prospect of a NATO base in Crimea – if Ukraine became a member of NATO – an intolerable affront.

Putin has his ideas about the role that he claims to Russia, never made a secret of it. On the contrary, since taking office as president, he has his thoughts on a ‘Great Russia’ more than once publicly expressed.

“Message for the Millenium”

Already in 1999 formulated Putin, who in his study has hung portraits of Peter the Great, Catherine the Great and Alexander II, a message for the Millenium ‘. He unfolds it his vision of the Russian state, to whom the citizens in his view should show extreme loyalty.

Putin also has it in his message about the values ​​that would share Russians. These are very different than those seen in the West as important. Patriotism, collectivism, solidarity and derzjavnost – the belief that Russia is destined Horticultural superpower (derzjava to be) – form the core of the Russian Idea. Putin also thinks that Russia has a unique, spiritual and even messianic mission. Russia is considered the guardian of traditional conservative values, as protector of the Orthodox Slavic world, and as the natural leader of the peoples within the borders of the Soviet-dominated “Eurasian empire ‘are, regardless of their ethnicity and religion. Putin sees for itself a role as the leader of a Russian Renaissance.

Eurasian Union

To give substance to the Eurasian idea, Putin in 2011 was up with his idea of a Eurasian Union (EAU). A union of nations – much more than just a customs union, as many media writing erroneously – which besides Russia also Kazakhstan, Armenia, Belarus, Ukraine and other former Soviet republics should belong. Not only would those states within the Soviet Union light politically and economically to integrate, “a new value system is necessary in our era,” Putin wrote in an apparent swipe at the West.

The EAU, which had to compete internationally with other blocs like the EU, US and China, it was Putin’s parade project in its ideological struggle with the West. But the protesters on the Maidan, which would have none of Putin’s Eurasian plans, threw a spanner in the works.

Tirade against George W. Bush

Putin has since 1999 made ​​his ideas on the future of the Russian state audience. For many years, and at numerous international meetings, he also warned the West to continue not to interfere in Russia’s backyard. In 2005, at a summit in Bratislava, exploded Putin to US President George W. Bush. His tirade came down to this: “We have done everything we could to satisfy you. Julie We have supported the war on terror, we have closed military bases, we have allowed you to have unilaterally terminated the ABM Treaty, even Iraq was not really a problem and what we got in return? Nothing. ”

In Ukraine and Georgia were at the time, after mass demonstrations, pro-Western opposition leaders came to power. These protest movements were supported by Western sympathizers. The United States for example, strike the last years $ 5 billion in the ‘building of a civil society in Ukraine. The new leaders flirted emphatically with the EU and NATO.

Grievances and frustrations of Putin

That brought Vladimir Putin to undertake after Bush also Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State, to warn in 2006: “You do not understand what you are doing. You’re playing with fire.
“Finally, at the Security Conference in Munich, where the annual summit of international diplomacy, government leaders, heads of state and security experts come together, Putin said in plain next. “I want to tell you straight from the heart what I really think about international security problems.”

The Russian put all his grievances, his frustrations about the “double standards” of the West and its aversion to the imposed by the United States ‘unipolar world’ on the table. He referred back to Kosovo. Here was a tormented Russian leader, who had decided that it was time to put relations with the West on edge.

“Expanding NATO’s provocation ‘

Putin’s speech hit like a bomb. “While Russia by the Americans, the lesson is read on democracy and human rights,” Putin said, “make those same Americans are guilty of illegal invasions, leaving no country still feels safe, and a new arms race gets going.”

Putin called the expansion of NATO is now openly a ‘provocation’. “We have the right to ask ourselves against whom it is directed.”
Russia, he reminded his audience, had been given assurances at the time, in 1990, that NATO would not expand eastward. “And what are those proved worthy?”

Western promises

On which Western promises were doing for years vague stories. I decided to see how the fork in the stem. Putin knocked story? Were there any commitments? And by whom?

Since 2009 over the facts more clarity after both the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Mikhail Gorbachev document releases. Around the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall was also previously secret American and British information freely.

Researchers conclude that Putin does have a point. The Soviet leadership then went off on commitments by Kohl and his Foreign Minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher. (So ​​not on promises from Bush. As here and is suggested.)

The Germans assured Moscow that NATO is not in the territory of the GDR – or further into Eastern Europe – would expand if Moscow would accept German unity. Gorbachev thought he had a deal.

Gorbachev felt betrayed

But Washington was one here completely disagree. The Americans were not going to adhere to the German promises. Kohl spoke in their eyes for the Federal Republic, not for the United States and NATO. Bush sr. Disagreed.

Gorbachev feels betrayed afterwards. According to the German weekly Der Spiegel not unjustified: “The West did everything to give Moscow the impression that enlargement is not on the agenda.”

The Soviet leaders were stunned by the developments. “We could not imagine that the Warsaw Pact (the counterpart of NATO) would fall apart,” confessed former foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze. Let alone that the Kremlin took into account the NATO membership for countries such as Poland or Estonia, which toendertertijd still part of the Soviet Union. “The idea was absurd,” Gorbachev said. But they became a reality.


The Russians have no working document which shows that the verbal assurances of Kohl, Genscher and even US Secretary of State James Baker – by his boss, President Bush, was rebuffed -. Something imagined. The Soviet Union was imploding, and then in September 1990 the agreement on the reunification of Germany were signed, Gorbachev swallowed the annexation by NATO of the former GDR in exchange for financial support. A humiliation, where the former president is still furious about. “You can not trust American politicians,” he told Der Spiegel.

Formally Vladimir Putin so wrong when he claims that Moscow and the West agreed that NATO would not expand eastward. But Western leaders have the Russians at that time indeed turned the wool over the eyes. Realizes Putin. And partly for that reason he was in Munich so angry.

Eastern Partnership of the European Union

In addition to the expansion of NATO is another Western project a thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin. That is the Eastern Partnership (EaP) of the European Union, a partnership between the EU and six former Soviet republics: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine and – even – the dictatorial Belarus.

The EaP was founded in 2008. It is a showpiece of the aforementioned Polish Foreign Minister, Radek Sikorski and his Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt. The latter is becoming fiercer during the Ukrainian crisis, anti-Putin tweets go out in the world, but never mind. Through the EaP is the soft power of Brussels to be used successfully, the thought of Sikorski and Bildt – and of course many other stakeholders – to the participating former Soviet republics loose weeks from the Russian sphere of influence and to integrate into the West.

But the initiators underestimate the pent-up anger of Vladimir Putin and his desire for revenge. In November 2013 it came at a European summit in Vilnius into an open confrontation between the EU and Russia. That disastrous run rally proved the prelude to the war in Ukraine.

Civil war

What followed that summit in Vilnius, is well known: a civil war actually broke out. But now the Russian narrative differs from that in the West, for example, about the true nature of the events on the Maidan. Where Western analysts emphasize that Viktor Yanukovich on February 21 ‘fled’ to Russia – and thus paved the way for a revolutionary upheaval – the Russians see a coup.

What are the facts? Following mediation by the Ministers Steinmeier, Laurent Fabius of France and – there it is again – Sikorski of Poland, Yanukovych agreed to a settlement, which included a large number of far-reaching concessions, including a constitutional amendment and early presidential elections. Yanukovych was indeed deeply corrupt, but he was in 2010 it came to power democratically. That he agreed with the agreement under pressure from the street – in this case the Maidan – could be interpreted by the demonstrators as a victory.

But the situation was already too strongly out of hand, the violence had been dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries resulted. The Maidan Council (representatives of the Revolution square) refused to agree. On an interesting video to see the reaction and hear from Radek Sikorski, which infuriated the no-voters among the insurgents, “You are so wrong. If you do not support this agreement, you get the martial law, the military, or are you all coming. ”

“Fascist putsch ‘

This refusal of the opposition to reach an agreement with the incumbent president and the subsequent flight of Yanukovich – who apparently feared it would end up like Nicolae Ceausescu – is explained by Putin as a classic coup. In addition, the fighters of the Maidan in large part were recruited from radical nationalist groups, such Pravy Sektor and the party Svoboda – which maintains ties to German neo-Nazis from the NDP – is for the Kremlin reason to speak of a “fascist putsch.

Indeed Pravy Sector consists of self-declared neo-Nazis. And in the new government a number of seats were reserved for ultra-nationalists with a dubious, anti-Semitic and anti-Russian reputation. At the front in the East also fighting an openly Nazi unit, the battalion Azov, that foreign neo-Nazi volunteers able to attract.


The influence of the neo-Nazis in Kiev is most downplayed by Western media, arguing that far-right and ultra-nationalist leaders like Dmitri Jarosj (Pravy Sektor), Oleg Tjagnybok and Oleg Ljasjko in the presidential elections in May barely votes knew within dragging. But the Russian propaganda suggests the rulers in Kiev consistently as ‘fascists’.

That ‘fascists’ in the eyes of the Russians could come to power through overt American support. As proof for that statement the Kremlin takes a tapped telephone conversation with the US Deputy Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, the US ambassador in Kiev, Geoffrey Pyatt. It says Pyatt:

“I think we’re in play.”

The two then talk about their plans ‘Yats’, with whom it is meant Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the current Prime Minister, and ‘Klitsch’, with which the professional boxer-cum-politician Vitali Klitschko get called. Klitschko is now mayor of Kiev.

“You know, fuck the EU ‘

Nuland makes clear in that conversation what Washington regards the banker and former minister Jatsenjoek the new Prime Minister of Ukraine should be. The inexperienced ‘Klitsch’ must watch for a while on the sidelines. What the European Union is saying does not matter, ‘You know, fuck the EU, “said Nuland. Exactly this scenario became reality.

Washington had the blush of shame to acknowledge the authenticity of the tape. Obviously the leaked conversation for Moscow is a proof that the seizure of power in Kiev partly orchestrated by the Americans. That all previous spells by Western leaders and NATO spokesmen, that the eastward expansion of NATO and EU to Russia does not mean a threat – to the extent that after “Kosovo” more proof was needed – in the trash can.

Van Baalen and Verhofstadt

Moreover, that the occurrence of various European politicians, including the Dutchman Hans van Baalen and the Belgian Guy Verhofstadt, the Maidan tour elms “We have won!” In Moscow a lot of raised questions. All in all, arouse both the brutal arrogance of Americans Nuland and Pyatt, to decide who apparently thinking about the fate of 45 million Ukrainians, as the naive triumph Star ism of the EU politicians on the Maidan amazement.

During the further course of the crisis showed how much both sides give their own interpretation of the events. The Russian version of the West in most cases attached little or no faith – with some exceptions, particularly among German commentators, the ‘Putinversteher.

Little confidence in the peaceful resolution

Meanwhile, the Crimea is Russian, eastern and southern Ukraine on fire, more than 2500 people have been slain, including many civilians – nearly 200 of them Dutch – and despite today a ceasefire to take effect, but few people have confidence in a peaceful solution.

This senseless tragedy, because that’s it, could have been avoided. The West, Ukraine and Russia in recent months to find a solution in negotiations. The West had, instead of sticking to its ritual expansion fetishism, Russia’s objections to the expansion of the EU and must take seriously the NATO and to convince the rulers in Kiev sure that it is in the interest of Kiev is when no more former Soviet republics joined the EU and NATO are. At least not in the foreseeable future.

The status of the regions that had called the Russians Novorossija with Kiev arrangements must be made. Moscow and the West had make it clear that, now that once a new balance of power in Europe is found, the Kremlin itself it has to maintain and applicable in the area covered by the NATO Article 5 without restriction.


The German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD), has in recent months been trying to find a negotiated solution. Tirelessly he traveled between various capitals, he forced everyone involved to the negotiating table, he invited them to Berlin, talked and talked. But then flight MH17 shot out of the air and harden the positions even more.

West concluded – without that came before until now, hard evidence – which Russian separatists with Russian material have shot down the airliner and the Western countries agreed to tighter sanctions. Kiev now thought by military means to crush the rebellion in the Donbass – which proved to be a miscalculation.

The West meanwhile continues with its expansion policy. In late June signed Ukraine and the European Union still controversial Association Agreement. This is still an end to Vladimir Putin’s dream of an Eurazatische Union, for without the great Ukraine it has no viability.

‘Enough is enough’

Within NATO increasingly vote also go to Ukraine accelerated to be admitted to the alliance. So far will not get it (yet), but especially Poland and the Baltic states are clearly no longer interested in a dialogue with Moscow. They want to make it up Kiev weapons on their territories NATO troops stationed. “In Ukraine Russia is fighting a war with Europe,” said Dalia Grybauskaite, the iron lady of Lithuania. “Enough is enough.”

The United States remain on a collision course.

Putin has warned the West

Vladimir Putin are all proof that he all along had it right and that the Russian distrust since ‘Kosovo’ is justified. Who in recent years has attention somewhat and sounds has captured and understood from Moscow now knows what this means. The West threatens with open eyes walking into a war with Russia. And nobody can say Vladimir Putin has not warned us.


An article translated from Dutch, originally written by Wierd Duk.

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