Evan Davies, of the BBC Radio 4 PM programme, is so deeply bought into ruling class ideology that he sometimes gives the game away without realising it. My all time favourite is when he commented, on the impending French Presidential election in 2007, that the 35 hour week really had to go because although “it is really good for the people, its really bad for the economy“. Which begs the question of what, or who, “the economy” is supposed to be good for, if its not for “the people.”
He did it again when interviewing the Russian Ambassador to the EU on 26th May. Having asked what Russia’s aims in Ukraine were, and being told that they are
- an end to military threats against the Donbass
- and demilitarisation and denazification in Ukraine
and that a Russian perception of an imminent threat of a Donbass invasion set for March 8th, as far as they could make out, was the trigger for the preemptive invasion on Feb 24th; his response was not to challenge any of the assertions or argue whether they were right or wrong, but simply to state, with a sneer you could almost cut, “no one in the West will believe you”.
Before looking at the validity or otherwise of the Ambassador’s statement, it is significant that Davies said “no one in the West“, not “no one in the world“. While “the West” tends to mistake itself for “the world”, or at least, as the only part of the world that matters, this does give the game away that the perception of this war in “the West” is not the same as that in the rest of “the world”; which Davies must be at least subconsciously aware of. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The countries imposing sanctions on Russia are the United States and its direct allies: the European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, and New Zealand – all of them part of the Global North. The Global South has not joined in.
So, taking “the West” as the aberration that it is, could the tendency to dismiss anything the Russians might say as “just what you’ve been told to say”, as Davies put it, have anything to do with the almost complete lack of dissenting voices on our media?
Taking the points one at a time and examining them…
Militarisation of Ukraine and military threats against the Donbass.
Vyacheslav Tetekin, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (the largest opposition force in the country) details the sharp and sustained increases in military spending by Ukraine after 2014, at a time in which living standards are still below the level they were at the time of the break up of the Soviet Union, the involvement of the US and its allies in training and arms supply, and the huge build up of forces focussed on the Donbas, particularly this year. This is cited in an article by John Ross on the military turn of the US in Monthly Review that is well worth reading. As has been remarked, Ukraine is not in NATO, but NATO has certainly been in Ukraine.
After the 2014, “the country’s finances were redeployed from the tasks of improving the welfare of the nation to strengthening the armed forces. Ukraine’s military budget has grown from $1.7 billion in 2014 to $8.9 billion in 2019 (5.9% of the country’s GDP)… Ukraine… spent three times more [as a percentage of GDP] for military purposes than the developed countries of the West…
Hundreds of instructors from the United States and other NATO countries participated in training of the Army. Ukraine was preparing for war under the supervision of the United States.
Huge funds were spent on the restoration of military hardware. During the war against Donbas in 2014-15, Ukraine has not used air combat support, as all combat aircraft required repair. However, by February 2022, there were already about 150 fighters, bombers and attack aircraft in the Ukrainian Air Force. Such a buildup of the Air Force would make sense only for the capture of Donbas.
At the same time, powerful fortifications were created on the border of Donbas and Ukraine… the salary of soldiers at the end of 2021 tripled, from 170 to 510 dollars. The Government of Ukraine has been dramatically increasing the size of its Armed Forces.
The first stage of Ukraine’s preparation for war was successfully completed by the end of 2021. The combat capability of the Ukrainian army has been restored, military equipment has been repaired and modernized…
…the United States has planned two options for using the new, militarized Ukraine… The first one was to capture Donbas and, in case of a successful combination of circumstances, proceed for invasion to the Crimea. The second option was to provoke Russia’s armed intervention…
…Ukraine being under the heel of the United States creates a very real danger. In December 2021, Moscow put forward a demand to the NATO on measures to ensure Russia’s legitimate interests. The West…. ignored these demands, knowing that preparations for the invasion of Donbas are in full swing. The most combat-ready units of the Ukrainian Army numbering up to 150,000 thousand people were concentrated on the border of Donbas. They could break the resistance of the People’s militia of Donbas within 2-3 days, with the complete destruction of Donetsk and spill so much blood of the defenders of the DPR [Donetsk People’s Republic]…
Ask yourself if this assessment, by the main opposition Party in Russia, is more or less plausible than the explanations in the media here, and why it is that we hear it so little. Is this because the accepted wisdom here, the cod psychology version; that its all down to a belated mid life crisis for President Putin, or the version that plays up timeless fears of an eternal Great Russian chauvinism, always just itching to expand and reconquer the old Russian Empire, are so weak by comparison?
The Freudian slip by President Bush last week did shed a little light on the way adverbs are used. “A brutal and unprovoked attack on Iraq…err.. Ukraine”. Of course, the Iraq invasion was never described in such terms. we were taking part, so how could it possibly be?
We should not forget that, in this country, at the time of the second Iraq war, there was a majority FOR the war when people believed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction capable of being deployed against the UK within 45 minutes. This was on the say so of our Intelligence Services, who told us what it was useful for us to believe, who we are expected to believe that they and their co workers in politics and the media are now telling us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about Ukraine. It was only when it became clear that we had been lied to, that there were no WMD, that majority opinion turned against the war.
In the case of Russia and NATO, there is no doubt that NATO possesses WMD. Were Ukraine to join and they were deployed on its territory, flying time to Moscow would be a few minutes. A small fraction of the 45 that were considered a good enough reason for war in our case.
This is generally dismissed here with a scoffing reference to President Zelensky being Jewish and then the subject changed as quickly as possible. It is seen as absurd hyperbole. Given the tendency for the media here to label any target enemy, from General Galtieri to Saddam Hussein, as the new Hitler, and that we have used that as cover to intervene in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya since 2000 alone, a little self awareness might be in order here too. The airbrushing of the role of the far right in Ukraine goes as far as the BBC and the Guardian rubbishing their own previous reporting (without mentioning it of course, because what is instrumentally useful now must always have been “true”). A glance back at their previous coverage shows how absurd this is.
Here are some headlines from media here before the war started, from the BBC, Politico, Bellingcat, the Guardian and other sources, that have now been consigned to the memory hole because it is now embarrassing to acknowledge reality.
Ukraine celebrates Nazi collaborator; bans book critical of pogroms leader.
Ukraine’s got a real problem with far right violence (and, no, RT did not write this headline).
Hundreds march in Ukraine in annual tribute to Nazi collaborator.
Violent Anti-Semitism is gripping Ukraine – and the government is standing idly by.
Ukraine conflict: “White Power warrior” from Sweden.
Ukraine conflict: child soldiers join the fight.
Far- Right fighters from Europe fight for Ukraine.
Nazi symbols. salutes on display at Ukrainian nationalist march.
Yes. Its (still) OK to call Ukraine’s C14 neo Nazi.
A new Eurasian far right rising.
Far Right extremists in Ukrainian military bragged about Canadian training.
German TV shows Nazi symbols on helmets of Ukrainian soldiers.
Ukraine designates national holiday to commemorate Nazi collaborator.
Kiev’s far right groups refuse to disarm.
FBI: Militia trained by US military in Ukraine now training US White Supremacists
Ukrainian Neo Nazi C14 vigilantes drive out Roma families, burn their camp
Ukraine underplays role of far right in conflict
New “Glory to Ukraine” army chant invokes nationalist past
Britons join neo Nazi militia in Ukraine
Neo-Nazis and the far right are on the march in Ukraine
How the far right took top positions in power vacuum
Ukraine’s far right menace
With axes and hammers far right vigilantes destroy another Romany camp in Kyiv
“Defend the White Race” American extremists being targeted by Ukraine’s far right
When the media here talks about the Azov battalion as though they are heroes, this is who they are talking about.
In the context of climate breakdown, the impasse of neo liberalism and the rise of China, politics in the Global North will increasingly squeeze down the democratic space that exists for the left and the labour movement, and the rehabilitation of the far right will advance in leaps.
This issue is explored in further detail in the No Cold War Britain webinar here.