Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Russian Ethnic Cleansing in Action at Bucha : “Those who committed these deeds, up close, must have regarded their prey as something less than human.”

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There are a number of posts on this and other left-wing sources steering readers away from the belief that Vladimir Putin’s Russian invasion of Ukraine can be explained – and in some cases justified – by NATO expansion eastward across the European continent.

This never made any sense to me for one obvious reason, a reason that could be spotted by a small child. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has dramatically increased popular support for NATO across the European continent : especially in countries neighbouring Russia which, before the invasion, were not members of NATO. This category includes Ukraine, Finland, and Sweden.

The governments of Finland and Sweden are planning to drop historic neutrality policies and join NATO. This dramatic turn to the right has been accelerated by Russia’s ethnic-cleansing invasion of Ukraine.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Wednesday that her country would decide whether to join the seven-decade-old military alliance within “weeks.” Her party has already begun weighing the pros and cons of applying.

Marin was joined at a news conference by her Swedish counterpart, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. Both Nordic leaders said Russia’s Ukraine invasion had changed how they think about their national security.

“The European security architecture has changed fundamentally after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Marin said.

“There is a before and after 24th of February,” Andersson added, referencing the first day of the invasion. “The security landscape has completely changed.”

Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia, but has so far declined to join NATO, which aims to curtail Russian aggression. Sweden’s neighbor to the west, Norway, is already a NATO member. Public support for joining NATO’s 30 member countries is around 60% in Finland and 50% in Sweden, according to The Guardian, citing multiple opinion polls.

There is no possibility – zero – that Putin and other planners of the Ukraine invasion were unaware of this scenario – it is not an unintended consequence. It follows that different material explanations must be offered, and that all talk of achieving a diplomatic solution and peace based on preventing NATO encirclement of Russia is misguided nonsense. It is wishful thinking at best.

Fortunately, evidence suggests that there is still landslide mass support for military neutrality in Ireland.

There is overwhelming support for the retention of Ireland’s model of military neutrality, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos poll. Two-thirds of voters do not want to see any change in neutrality, with 24 per cent in favour of a change.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin and senior Ministers, including Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, have all recently called for a debate on Irish neutrality in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the heightened threat to the European Union’s eastern members from Moscow.

President Michael D Higgins has also said there should be a “well-informed debate” about Irish neutrality.

But today’s poll shows that a strong majority of voters do not favour any change in the practice of military neutrality, which is generally understood as precluding Ireland from joining any military alliance – such as Nato – and requires a United Nations Security Council resolution for Irish troops to be committed abroad.

Irish Times, Friday April 22 2020

The detail in the Good Friday Irish Times Opinion Poll is significant. Respondents want to see “tougher sanctions on Russia” by a margin of 70 per cent Versus 20 per cent, “even if it results in higher costs in Ireland”. Asked if “Ireland should send military aid to Ukraine” 55 per cent said No and 35 per cent said Yes.

Putin’s ethnic-cleanser gang didn’t expect a strong Ukrainian resistance, and above all the absence of any Russian-speaking Ukrainians coming over to the Russian side. The invasion is resisted by a war of national liberation.

One weakness of much western left analysis is an attempt to undestand the conflict in purely military terms – NATO or not, encirclement or not, provocation or not. The war is just politics by another means, and Russia’s fundamental interests are economic. Moscow has abandoned co-operation with the west, and is putting all the régime’s cards on their alliance with China.

The stubborn facts emerging from this war point relentlessly towards Russian ethnic-cleansing and a far-right race to the bottom.

John Meehan April 15 2022

WorldByStorm, editor of the Irish Cedar Lounge Blog, elaborates :

Fred Kaplan had an interesting point to make on this last week in the wake of the revelations of Bucha where there appeared to be strong evidence of serious crimes against civilians by departing Russian troops. He notes that:

Most of the civilian deaths we’d seen so far in this war—the results of Russian bombs, missiles, and artillery shells—have had an air of abstraction. Those who dropped or fired those weapons were too far away to see the consequences. They and their victims can regard one another as faceless cogs in a war machine.

But the murders in Bucha require a monstrousness, even if the number of their murders are much lower than those inflicted from out of sight.

Are these war crimes? Certainly. Acts of genocide? Possibly. However they’re described, they will prolong this war, intensify passions on both sides, and make a negotiated peace—already increasingly unlikely—much more difficult still.

He further notes that:

Those who committed these deeds, up close, must have regarded their prey as something less than human. The survivors of these crimes must view the perpetrator as inhuman as well—though with greater justification. It is hard for combatants or politicians from the two sides, animated with such venom, to sit together in the same room and make peace or discuss compromises.

Dehumanization is a time-tested psychological tactic in warfare; it makes it easier for humans to kill each other, and, whether intentionally or not, it encourages atrocities. In some wars, racism or sectarianism has injected the requisite stream of virulent hatred by turning the enemy into “the other.” But in the Russia-Ukraine war, the people on both sides are of the same Slavic background. Vladimir Putin—like many other Russians, by the way—doesn’t even regard Ukraine as a real country, but rather as a part of Russia.

This may be why, to whip up popular support for his colonial adventure, Putin has concocted the notion that the government in Kyiv is a “Nazi” regime—invoking the most bone-chilling enemy in Russian history.

And here is where we see the vile rhetoric of ‘denazification’ brought to its logical conclusion. These people, perhaps simply by dint of not acquiescing with Russian commands, were therefore in this abysmal calculus Nazi’s or Nazi sympathisers. That this is both risible and an abomination given a state whose head, a popularly elected President, is Jewish, and which has had a Jewish Prime Minister until a few short years ago (and another Jewish vice and acting Prime Minister between 1993 and 1994), tells us much about those who would make such claims. But this is the inexorable outcome of that narrative.

Kaplan doesn’t shy away from other examples of dehumanisation closer to his home:

Finally, I assume that intelligence agencies are trying to figure out whether the atrocities in Bucha are part of some genocidal policy in the Kremlin—or simply the sort of crime that sometimes happens in a brutal war when soldiers, many of them conscripts, lack competent leaders, find themselves surrounded on all sides, are forced to beat a retreat, and lash out at anyone and everyone who might be considered the enemy. Not to minimize these recent horrors or to excuse anyone who commits these most dreadful of crimes, but wars have brought out even more appalling horrors in the past, including among American soldiers. (See, for instance, My Lai, where the men of Charlie Company killed more than 500 Vietnamese civilians, up close, in one day, just because they were Vietnamese.)

But whatever the reasons, to the extent that any rationale for murdering civilians can be considered a ‘reason’, the reality that rhetoric has effects cannot be overstated. And those who use, or reproduce, such rhetoric so glibly and so clearly indifferent to the historical or contemporary record, demonstrate a complete political and moral irresponsibility, that or an absolute credulity.

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