Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context.
The text below was amended on 7 March and on subsequent dates as the war developed.
6 March 2022
MUNICH ALL OVER AGAIN .......NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANISATION HOISTS WHITE FLAG IN BRUSSELS....UKRAINE TOLD "YOU'RE ON YOUR OWN, BUDDY"
Displaying a breath-taking lack of courage and moral fibre, the 30 member states of NATO, the world's most powerful military alliance, whose sole raison d'être is to use its overarching superiority to counter enemy aggression, decided in Brussels on Friday 4 March 2022 to sit on their hands and allow Moscow's Führer to wipe democratic Ukraine from the face of the earth. After all, who cares about 44 million Ukrainians? Kyiv is a long way from Washington D.C.
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF
1. At its meeting in Brussels NATO decided to REFUSE a request by the democratically elected President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to impose a no-fly zone excluding all aircraft and missiles from the country's air space on pain of being shot down. Instead, the West is banking on financial sanctions to end the conflict. Sanctions, however, will take time to have a significant effect and will not work at all if Putin can find away round them with the help of his friends further East, not least China. An article on the BBC website on 5 March 2022 summed it up: "You can't fight tanks with banks".
NATO has refused to fight to roll back the occupation of Ukraine by the Russian army, even ruling out the least they could do, namely impose a no-fly zone which would have grounded Russian bombers, fighter planes and missiles. There is no evidence to suggest - contrary to what NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has claimed - that to impose such a zone would lead automatically to a European war. There is even less evidence for the doom-mongers'warning that such a move would result in open-ended nuclear confrontation. Putin wants to be able to sit back and gloat over his imperial conquests. Less well armed than the Americans, he does not want to be sucked into a fireball of Mutually Assured Destruction.
It is true that NATO members are supplying military hardware to the Ukraine army. So apparently it's OK for the West to send heavy weaponry to the Ukraine army for use against Russian armour and aircraft, but not for NATO countries themselves to shoot down Russian missiles and bombers. The latter will lead to nuclear Armageddon, it is argued, but the former will not. The casuistry is jesuitical and does not stack up. Except perhaps that the last thing the US authorities want is for the corpses of US soldiers to arrive back in America in body-bags. They've had enough of that in the last two decades. It doesn't look nice on TV.
Moreover, after a succession of unsuccessful imperial adventures, the hegemonic NATO state is tired of warmongering for the nonce. After losing both the Vietnam War (1955-1975) and the Afghan War (2001-2021) and after failing to establish a stable democratic government in Baghdad following the Iraq War (2003 - 2011), the United States has turned in on itself and jibs at the prospect of getting bogged down on yet another battlefield "because of a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing" (Neville Chamberlain, British Prime Minister, 27 September 1938, referring to Hiter's annexation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia).
On the other hand, the massacre of children, women and men by uniformed thugs from the East is actually taking place day after day, as I write, in the blood-stained snow of the killing fields of Ukraine. Horrified, we witness it daily on our TV screens as we sit back relaxed in the comfort of our armchairs. For example, we read in our newspapers this morning 7 March that the safe humanitarian corridor offered by the Russians to allow civilians to escape from the besieged city of Mariupol was not only shelled while residents were using it but it had also been mined!
On the one hand, you have human beings actually being slaughtered in real time before the eyes of the world. On the other hand, NATO mouthpieces make the contestable claim that imposing a no-fly zone could spread the conflict to other European countries and - even less likely - might even lead to the use of nuclear weapons.
In these circumstances, the moral imperative is incontrovertible. The Western powers - with military resources massively superior to those of the Russia - should act IMMEDIATELY to give relief to the brave but beleaguered and outnumbered defence forces of Ukraine instead of hiding behind a smokescreen of limp-wristed excuses, their eyes turned resolutely away from the carnage which is taking place daily in the here and now while they focus on hypothetical and eminently contestable scenarios in some unknown and unknowable future. As military chaps know only too well, in war as in life, you gotta take risks. There's no escaping that indisputable truth. The simplest and most straightforward way for NATO to bring succour to Ukraine is to impose a no-fly zone in the country's airspace.
NATO REBUFFS ZELENSKY'S CALL FOR A NO-FLY ZONE
There's a guy who is currently being idolised by the Western powers - and, incidentally, by freedom-loving people throughout the entire world - for his heroic leadership of Ukrainian resistance to the butchery of his people by Putin's uniformed thugs. We are referring, of course, to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has not fled to safety abroad, as many in his position might have done, but continues to lead his compatriots and boost their morale by staying put in his besieged capital as the bombs fall around it.
We thought it might be of interest to know what President Zelensky thinks of the NATO decision to rule out the imposition of a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
Right on cue, the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) provides us with the answer. Here is what it said on Friday 4 March 2022:
"Ukraine's president has attacked Nato leaders over their refusal to implement a no-fly zone around the country.
In a fiery speech, Volodymyr Zelensky said the West's reluctance to intervene had given Russia 'a green light' to continue bombarding towns and villages.
Nato has argued that a no-fly zone will result in confrontation with Moscow.
And Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, said on Saturday 5 March that any such move would be seen 'as participation in an armed conflict by that country'.
In his speech from Kyiv, Mr Zelensky said he disagreed that direct action could 'provoke Russia's direct aggression against Nato'.
In angry comments, he said the argument reflected the 'self-hypnosis of those who are weak, under-confident inside' and that Western reservations indicated that 'not everyone considers the struggle for freedom to be Europe's number one goal'.
'All the people who will die starting from this day will also die because of you. Because of your weakness, because of your disunity,'a furious Mr Zelensky added.
On Friday 4 March, Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, warned that the introduction of a no-fly zone could lead to a 'full-fledged war in Europe involving many more countries and causing much more human suffering'.
The only way to impose a no-fly zone would be 'by shooting down Russian planes,' Stoltenberg said."
Our comment: Now there's a man who knows his onions. His knowledge of what constitutes a no-fly zone is cannot be bettered. Nato is lucky to have such a brain-box to guide them.
LETTING THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG
2. NATO gave the Russians IN ADVANCE an undertaking that NATO would not engage in combat with them instead of at least leaving its intentions undefined and thus keeping the enemy in the dark as to what its plans were. What military genius in the Pentagon conjured up that brainwave? Moscow can hardly contain its delight.
TO BE OR NOT TO BE A NATO MEMBER STATE
3. NATO is said to have told the Ukrainians that it would be happy to admit them as members and thus enable them to benefit from NATO protection in case of attack..... but not so long as the Ukrainians actually need protection from attack. Let's wait until the Russians have overrun Ukraine, then we will look again at its request for membership. This is NATO's little joke. We presume that NATO statesmen, like Bad Samaritans, turned to look the other way today 5 March 2022 when the Russians offered Ukrainian civilians safe passage out of the besieged southern city of Mariupol...and then shelled them as they emerged from the shelter of their cellars to take advantage of this kind offer.
4. What is more, it is NATO's apparent willingness to consider NATO membership for Ukraine that has given Ivan the Terrible the pretext for invading Ukraine, since he regards the presence of a new NATO member state right up against the Russian border as a threat to Russian security. Since NATO is not prepared to defend Ukraine now, when it desperately needs to be defended, it would clearly have been safer for Ukraine if NATO had rejected outright from the start Khiv's request for membership. Then Moscow would at least have had no pretext for its invasion.
DAVID VERSUS GOLIATH
5. What is the point of NATO if it is not willing to go to the help of a large democratic West European state that is in the process of being destroyed by barbarians from the East? What does it matter if Ukraine is a member of NATO or not? Albeit not currently a NATO member state, it is clearly "one of us", a peaceful democratic David posing no threat whatever to the huge Goliath to the East. Moreover, if NATO is not willing to defend Ukraine in any meaningful way at a time when that state is facing an existential crisis, then what guarantee is there that Washington will rush to the defence of existing NATO statelets like Estonia or Latvia should Moscow take a fancy to them? Our assessment is that there is no way that Washington will risk a nuclear attack on Chicago by sticking its neck out to save Tallinn or Vilnius. The logical conclusion of this argument is that, even in the case of a NATO member state, it is by no means certain that the NATO sword will be unsheathed to counter an enemy attack. Nor is it at all likely that Washington would risk an attack on New York even to save Paris or Berlin. Which us why French President Macron argues persuasively for Europe to have its own army. Remember the dictum of mid-19th century British Prime Minister Viscount Palmerston that Britain had no permanent allies, only permanent interests.
And yet surely Europe at least has a permanent interest in the protection of Ukraine from Moscow's expansionist designs. With an area of 600 000 square kilometres, Ukraine is larger than any other state in the European Union. What is more, the black soil steppes of Ukraine are the most fertile area of the former Soviet Union and contribute significantly to total global grain production. Is it not eminently in the interests of the European Union to retain this state within the ambit of Western Europe rather than abandon it against the will of its people to the clutches of the Russian Bear? Once Ukraine, the bread-basket of Eastern Europe, is absorbed into a resurgent Russian empire, it could be lost for ever to the free world, together with its immense grain resources.
WHAT IS THE POINT OF NATO?
What is the point of NATO if it sits on the fence at a time when its intervention is most needed?
It has long been a given in western military circles that conflict between nuclear-armed superpowers might in the last resort (for instance, if one of the parties is losing the fight) result in the use of nuclear weapons.
However, it is also the accepted wisdom that the use of nuclear weapons would inevitably result in Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).
It follows from this long-established doctrine that the nuclear superpowers are unlikely to go to war against each other.
However, stuff happens and things go wrong. As Aristotle said, the unexpected has a tendency to occur. So there will always be the possibility, however remote, that one nuclear power or another will be tempted to resort to the use of nuclear weapons. Russia has already announced that it has put its nuclear arsenal on standby, suggesting that it may use it if necessary. It is almost certainly bluffing but maybe it is not and it is thar doubt, however small, that is tying the hands of some would-be interventionists in the NATO camp.
However, there is another less discussed consequence that follows from this nuclear stand-off between the superpowers. It gives any nuclear power the relatively risk-free opportunity to wage a conventional war against a non-nuclear state in the virtual certainty that the conflict will not lead to nuclear intervention by another nuclear superpower.
It is this opportunity that Russia has seized by invading Ukraine. And it has paid off. NATO has made it abundantly clear that it will not intervene directly to protect Ukraine against the slaughter of its citizens by Russia. Writing in the 24 March number of the London Review of Books, commentator James Butler highlights the now blazingly obvious fact that Western countries will not risk even conventional war - let alone nuclear war - to preserve Ukraine's sovereignty.
UKRAINE BARRED FROM THE PROMISED LAND?
On February 14 President Zelensky made it clear that Ukraine aspired to membership of both the EU (European Union) and NATO. And why not? Ukraine is a democracy that wants to join the community of free nations and escape from the stranglehold of a Russian dictatorship aided and abetted by its partner in crime, the dictatorship in Belarus. What would be more logical than to admit Ukraine forthwith to the EU and NATO? Then it would have the protection of both bodies and NATO in particular would be obliged to go to its aid to ward off aggression.
However, as reported on the BBC on 16 March, Mr Zelensky surprised everyone by saying that Ukrainians now understood they could not join NATO: "We have heard for years that the doors were open, but we also heard that we could not join. It's a truth and it must be recognised."
Nor has the European Union shown any sign that it is enthusiastic to admit Ukraine any time soon to EU membership.
No reason has yet been given for this comprehensive "NET" from
the West. We can only assume that the 44 million citizens of Ukraine with its globally significant grain resources are not important enough for the richest and strongest economic and military alliance in the world to intervene to save it from Putin's butchery.
TALKS "ONLY A SMOKESCREEN"
Several meetings have taken place between Ukrainian and Russian delegations supposedly with a view to agreeing terms to end the conflict. Media reports have suggested that a peace treaty would include the permanent neutrality of Ukraine, guaranteed by outside powers, and restrictions on the size of its armed forces. Austria could set the precedent. On 15 May 1955, the USSR, together with the three Western powers occupying Austria (USA, Great Britain and France), signed a treaty which officially put an end to Austria's war status stemming from World War 2. In accordance with the new treaty, the Austrian Government had to proclaim the country’s military neutrality in exchange for the withdrawal of the occupation forces.
It should be stressed that by agreeing to a peace treaty accepting permanent neutrality and policed by outside powers Ukraine would be accepting a status involving less than the full sovereignty enjoyed by fully independent states. It is to be doubted that Ukraine will fall for this ploy. It is virtually certain that, before signing up to this proposal, the Russians would insist on being one of the overseeing powers. Which would enable Moscow to continue interfering with internal Ukrainian politics - this time legally in accordance with the terms of such a treaty but with precisely the same goal in view as now, namely, the absorption of Ukraine in its entirety into the Russian Federation.
Be that as it may, writing in the Mail Online on 20 March, Liz Truss, the UK Foreign Secretary, suggested that the Russians were not serious about negotiations, warning that Vladimir Putin may be using peace talks as a smokescreen to allow Russian troops to regroup for a fresh offensive on Ukraine.
In an interview with the London Times on 19 March, Truss said she was
“very sceptical” about the talks, which she viewed as a standard part of Russia’s playbook:"I mean, if a country is serious about negotiations, it doesn’t indiscriminately bomb civilians that day.” President Putin would resort to “worse and worse” methods as his progress in Ukraine continued to falter, she added.
The last word should perhaps go to Ukrainian film maker Sergei Loznitsa in an interview with Graham Fuller in the Guardian newspaper on 24 March:
"The concept of war that we have today allows.......destroying civilian populations. What do we think about this situation? How do we deal with it? The world observed how cities in Syria were destroyed. Now, having practised on Syria, Russia is destroying the cities of Ukraine. And again, the world is just an onlooker, standing at a distance as this destruction goes on.”
All of which brings Loznitsa to a grim conclusion. “The politicians of the countries that have the means to stop this are acting immorally,” he says. “It’s doubly immoral because they base their policies on fear. They claim that if they intervene, it will result in a world war, whereas the world war has already begun.”
6. Here we go again. In the 1930s, when Hitler was in the process of acquiring dictatorial powers in Germany, the West did nothing to stop his build-up of Germany's military might. Germany was allowed to reconstitute its fleet, reoccupy the Rhineland, ramp up arms production, conclude a pact with Mussolini's Fascists in Italy, occupy Austria and finally - in September 1938, with British and French agreement, at a meeting with Hitler in Munich - take over the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned to UK waving a document signed by Hitler promising that the peoples of Britain and Germany would never again go to war with each other. "I believe it is peace in our time", Chamberlain told the British people. Six months later, in the spring of 1939, Hitler occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia. The autumn of that year saw the outbreak of the Second World War.
Putin's assault on Ukraine is just the beginning. Give him an inch and he'll take a mile. His aim is to reconstitute geographically as far as possible the Soviet Empire. His modus operandi is "one thing at a time". He snatched Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. The West did nothing. Soon afterwards he carved Russian satellite states - Donetsk and Luhansk - out of two Ukrainian regions bordering Russia. The West did nothing. Now, his appetite whetted, he wants the whole of Ukraine. The West turns the other way. And this is only the beginning. If Putin gets Ukraine, there can be no doubt but that he will be back for more. Just like Hitler.
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1.Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
2.Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
3.The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
4.Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
5.Ladder (21 June 2012)
6.A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
7.A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
8.Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.
Editorial note: The eight posts recommended above have lost their hyperlinks. This has occurred as a result of the fact that this
post is the first we have had to write using the complex new drafting procedure introduced in the meantime by our publishing service provider. We hope to be able to restore these hyperlinks in due course. However, if any reader would like to access the eight articles immediately, they have only to scroll down to the bottom of the last post "POTUS meets the Queen of England", where the same eight posts are listed with their hyperlinks. Just click on any of the eight hyperlinked posts you wish to check out and, hey presto, Bob's your uncle.