Russia-Ukraine conflict – a view from Argentina

by Atilio A. Borón*

zf. The press in Latin America reports on the war in Ukraine in a much more differentiated way than Western media do. The following commentary by Atilio A. Borón appeared in “Página 12” from Argentina, one of the most renowned daily newspapers in Latin America. Borón appeared as one example among many.

As the Russian occupation of Ukraine expands – and I say “occupation” to use the term applied to invasions that have the blessing of the established powers: Occupation of Iraq, Libya, Syria, the Palestinian territories, etc., questions are piling up about the nature and meaning of this operation. The supposed “truths” and “proofs” provided by the Western press from its flagships in the United States and Europe must be totally rejected out of hand, because what these media spread is blatant propaganda. Of course, from a purely military point of view, it is correct that Russia has “invaded” Ukraine. But since “war is the continuation of politics by other means”, as von Clausewitz said, this military deployment must be assessed and interpreted according to the political premises that give it its meaning. This is what we will try to do in the following.
    And these premises are quite clear: Russia took this extraordinary measure, which in and of itself is condemnable, in response to thirty years of attacks that began after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Some time ago, Vladimir Putin said to Western leaders with his usual forcefulness: “You were not content to defeat Russia in the Cold War. You humiliated it.” The political (and military) struggle is not an abstract exercise or a contest of gestures or rhetorical phrases. For this reason, “invasion”, which on a simple level presents itself with absolute and unwavering clarity in the fierce struggle in the mud and blood of history, appears in a completely different meaning: as a defensive response to endless and unjustified harassment.
    After the collapse of the USSR, Russia dissolved the Warsaw Pact, established a political system of government modelled on the European democracies, established a deeply oligarchic capitalism with mafia-like methods, opened its economy to foreign capital and even toyed with the idea of joining NATO.
    Despite all these efforts to conform to the ideological-political consensus of the West, Russia was seen, as in Soviet times, as a deviant actor in the international system, an enemy to be protected from and at the same time prevented from protecting itself, because while international security is non-negotiable for the United States and its European allies, Russia is not granted such a privilege.
    The military operation against Ukraine is the logical consequence of an unjust political situation or the end point of what Boaventura de Sousa Santos diagnosed as “the absolute inability of Western leaders” to realise that there is and will be no European security unless it is also guaranteed for Russia. Incompetence of a European leadership that also deserves other labels: short-sighted, corrupt, ignorant and up to the point of shame subservient to American hegemonism, which will not hesitate to wage new wars in Europe or in its backyard in the Middle East as often as it serves its interests.
    This failure of leadership has led them first to despise or underestimate Russia (an expression of a diffuse Russophobia that has not evaded many Russians) and then to demonise Putin, with Joe Biden indulging in unimaginable things in the field of diplomacy. In fact, in the middle of the election campaign, to demonstrate his capacity for dialogue, he called Putin the head of an “authoritarian kleptocracy”. In a note published shortly after the 2014 coup, Henry Kissinger, a war criminal but, unlike Biden, a profound expert on international realities, wrote that “Putin is a serious strategist who is consistent with the premises of Russian history”, although he has been systematically underestimated in the West. He concludes that “the demonisation of Vladimir Putin is not a policy of the West, but a cover to cover up the absence of a policy”. In the same article, which is highly recommended for the increasingly confused postmodern left in both Latin America and Europe, Nixon’s former Secretary of State provides a necessary reflection to understand the exceptional nature of the Ukrainian crisis. For Russians, “Ukraine can never be a foreign country. The history of Russia begins in the so-called Kievan Rus”. That is why even such bitter dissidents of the Soviet system as Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Josep Brodsky “insisted on pointing out that Ukraine is an integral part of Russian history and therefore of Russia”. None of the West’s leaders seems to have the slightest idea of this historical legacy, which is crucial to why Putin has drawn NATO’s “red line” precisely in Ukraine.
    These references, which seem to encourage a certain repression or denial of the present horror, are indispensable to understanding the conflict and possibly resolving it. That is why it is worth reading what an American internationalist, John Mearsheimer, wrote in 2014 when Washington, together with Nazi gangs, staged the coup that overthrew the legitimate government of Viktor Yanukovych. In this article, this professor from the University of Chicago stated that the Ukraine crisis and Putin’s recapture of Crimea was “the West’s fault” because it had mismanaged relations with Moscow. He added that any US president would have reacted with force if a power like Russia had staged a coup in a neighbouring country, for example Mexico, deposed a Washington-friendly government and installed a deeply anti-American regime in its place (“Why the Ukraine crisis is the West’s fault”, in Foreign Affairs, Vol. 93, No. 5, September-October 2014).
    In short, outward appearances do not always reveal the essence of things, and what appears at first glance to be one thing – an invasion – may be something completely different from another perspective and when background information is taken into account. •

Source: of 28 February 2022

(Translation Current Concerns)

*Atilio A. Borón is an Argentian sociologist, political scientist, a professor and writer. He holds a doctorate in political science from Harvard University.

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