Victory Day

James Meek

View full image

The strangest thing about the Victory Day parade in Moscow this year was the absence of victory. Normally it’s there, the victory over Nazi Germany, a safely won triumph, unchangeably in the past, veterans and the glorious dead honoured, the country rebuilt, and in his speech today Vladimir Putin went through the motions of commemorating it. But this year, for the first time since the original Victory, Russian troops are openly fighting a war against the descendants of their Ukrainian former comrades-in-arms, on land whose evocative toponymy casts doubt on Russia’s traditional representation of May 1945.

After the speech, after the military parade, Putin, as usual, went to lay a flower on each of a row of granite blocks outside the Kremlin walls commemorating the ‘hero cities’ judged to have shown special valour in the struggle against the Nazis. He laid the first flower on the monument to heroic Leningrad, his home town. He laid the second flower, without any noticeable hesitation, on the monument to heroic Kiev.

For the three decades after 1991, it didn’t make much difference to the original Victory that Russia accepted, however grudgingly, Kyiv’s being the capital of another country. But now that Putin has invaded the other country, now Putin seeks to beat Kyiv, to capture Kyiv – in Russian nationalists’ fantastical construction, to liberate Kyiv – Putin isn’t just setting himself the task of achieving victory. He makes the original Victory contingent on victory over Kyiv, and if he doesn’t achieve it, that foundational moment, in the top-heavy ideological framework of Putin’s Russia, is no longer Victory with a capital V. It’s just one victory in a mundane cycle of historical wins and losses.

Putin only mentioned Kyiv itself once in his speech, in the context of a false allegation that Ukraine, which voluntarily gave up its ex-Soviet nuclear weapons in the 1990s, was looking to acquire new ones. That, in turn, was part of a brief, tired version of his familiar and thinly evidenced justification for attacking Ukraine, that Ukraine had been about to attack Russia.

There was a lot of speculation before Victory Day that Putin would take the moment to bind 1945 and 2022 together in a great knot of weapon-sacralising martyrology by injecting victory directly into the present war. Either he would simply declare it, stating that the limited and vague aims of Russia’s ‘special military operation’ had been achieved – including Crimea, Russia now controls about a fifth of Ukraine, and, as well as killing tens of thousands of people, it has destroyed or damaged much of the country’s infrastructure – or he would try to promise victory in the near future, rallying the nation by allowing the ‘operation’ to be officially called a war, mobilising the country’s military reserves and putting the economy on a war footing.

Putin did neither. He offered neither victory in the present, nor the firm prospect of victory in the near future, apart from a limp ‘To victory!’ at the end. He described a world of Nazis stretching from Kharkiv to Alaska – a world in which the Ukrainian republic is run by Nazis, who are supported by American vassals such as France, Britain and Canada, who are also, by implication, Nazis, all controlled by America, likewise tainted with the Nazi stain. Not only is there no victory now or promised to come, Russia’s ur-Victory over the Nazis turns out not to have been a victory after all.

At the same time, without calling it a war, Putin made it brutally clear that it was one, and that Russian troops were dying in it in large numbers. ‘I wish the quickest recovery to [our] wounded soldiers and officers,’ he said. ‘And I thank the doctors, paramedics, nurses and staff of military hospitals for their selfless work … You’re fighting for every life, often under fire, in the field, not sparing yourselves.’ The parade ended with a bizarre disconnect, as the TV announcer and the live reporter from Red Square wore the cheery smiles suitable for a holiday celebrating something glorious that happened long ago, while the commander-in-chief’s still fresh words left a residue of doubt that it had ever happened, or ever would.

For its 9 May message, Ukraine released a video of Volodymyr Zelensky speaking to camera as he walked alone down Kreshchatyk, the main thoroughfare of central Kyiv, deserted and strewn with tank-traps, piano music in the background. Kreshchatyk is where in peacetime Ukraine holds its parades; the street, badly damaged during the Second World War, was rebuilt with the help of forced labour by German prisoners. Zelensky’s motif was the distillation of a continuing attempt to identify Putinism, rather than elements in Ukraine, as the inheritor of the spirit of Hitler. In contrast to Putin, Zelensky insisted over and over again on the certainty of Ukrainian victory in this war, even as he insisted on Ukraine’s right to celebrate its role in the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazism as proudly as Russia. Eight million Ukrainians died during the Second World War. ‘On the Day of Victory over Nazism, we are fighting for a new victory,’ he said. ‘The road to it is difficult, but we have no doubt we will win.’

It would be wise not to overplay the contrast between the two speeches – the uncertainty of Putin’s, the bravado of Zelensky’s. And yet the absence of victory on Putin’s Victory Day and the abundance of it in Zelensky’s language reflect the fact that the initiative in the war, with all the excruciating implications for both sides, has for the time being passed from Moscow to Kyiv. Each side is within sight of a disappointing outcome that both could, nonetheless, claim as victory of a sort; neither side has yet won all that it thinks it is still capable of winning. Initiative, in this case, may simply mean defining what kind of a partial victory is victory enough.

Now that Putin’s original plan has failed – to replace the government in Kyiv with a puppet regime and create a string of autonomous, Russia-controlled regions in a weak federal state – he seems to be out to conquer as much of Ukraine as he can, either to annex directly into an expanded Russia, along the lines of Crimea, or to sponsor as loyal but nominally independent mini-states.

The maximalist project would have involved taking over all of southern and eastern Ukraine, including Kharkiv, Odesa and the great cities of the Dnipro river: Kyiv, Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia. This project has, at least for now, been thwarted by the effectiveness and bravery of Ukrainian resistance, by Nato – mainly American – military intelligence, and by a flow of weapons, fuel, ammunition and money from the West. Russia has been pushed back from or abandoned the ground it took and held with such brutality around Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mykolaiv. It is trying to make good its intention to take over the whole of Donbas – Luhansk and Donetsk regions – but its offensive there has stalled. It still hasn’t ended resistance in Mariupol. Its troops have not yet even approached the best-fortified Ukrainian-held cities in the Donbas, Kramatorsk and Slovyansk.

After two and a half months, it hasn’t pushed Ukrainian troops back from within artillery range of Donetsk itself. Village by village, Russian forces are being pushed back from around Kharkiv. The cities of Zaporhizhzhia, Mykolaiv and Odesa seem out of reach for the Russian military, a half-broken behemoth hobbled not so much by the vast number of tanks and armoured troop carriers it has lost as the fact that it started the war with so few soldiers. According to the military analyst Michael Kofman, some Russian armoured troop carriers were going into battle (before a shot had been fired) with only three infantrymen, instead of the usual eight, in each vehicle.

Russian and Ukrainian forces now face each other along a front line some five hundred miles long, from the hills, rivers and forests of the Ukrainian north-east to the steppe lands of the south-west. It would be very difficult, both politically and from the point of view of another war in the future, for Ukraine to accept a truce until they have pushed the Russians back to the border north of Kharkiv and at least as far as the Siverskyi Donets river east of it. Similarly, it is hard to imagine Ukraine tolerating a pause in the fighting until the Russians withdraw from, or are driven out of, the city of Kherson and the other towns it holds on the west bank of the Dnipro.

For Putin – under pressure at home from public figures more nationalist even than him – to declare victory for Russia would be hard without taking control of all Donbas, a very distant goal as matters stand.

Still, supposing all these things were to happen – Kyiv recapturing the city of Kherson, securing Kharkiv and beating a fighting retreat from Donbas – what then? Russia would still have taken over a huge area of Ukraine, including not only Donbas and Crimea but the southern parts of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions. Millions of Ukrainians loyal to Kyiv would be abandoned to Moscow. Tens of thousands of hectares of prime farming land, thousands of factories, Ukraine’s biggest nuclear power plant, most of its coast and the mouth of the Dnipro would be under Russian control. It would be far from Zelensky’s stated terms for the beginning of the end – to put off for fifteen years the question of Crimea’s status, and for Russia to withdraw to those parts of Donbas it controlled before the invasion. That’s without considering Russia’s naval blockade of Ukrainian ports, or reparations.

Ukraine, then, is doomed not just to go on the offensive against Russian occupation, but to make a series of agonising decisions about how much destruction and bloodshed it is prepared to bear, and inflict, to win back its land; decisions that its Western sponsors will have a say in. In his Victory Day speech Putin made clear that he already considered Donbas to be a part of Russia. In their actions in southern Ukraine since day one of the invasion (the early loss of Kherson was the biggest Ukrainian military disaster of the war so far) Russia has made clear it intends to stay as master of cities like Kherson, Melitopol and Berdyansk. Schools have been ordered to abandon Ukrainian textbooks and curricula. The Ukrainian hryvna is being replaced with the Russian rouble. Harvests have been diverted to Russia. Russian internet service providers, mobile phone companies and dialling prefixes are replacing Ukrainian ones. Objectors are being imprisoned.

The war will not end, and though there is a hope of it stopping, that stop seems far away. Zelensky’s talk of victory on Victory Day stems from confidence in an army that has achieved remarkable acts of defence against a staggeringly incompetent offensive. How will it fare when the roles are reversed? Putin’s entire case for war was based on the idea of defending Russia against attack from Ukraine. And although there was little victorious in his Victory Day speech, he did talk about defence. Ukraine didn’t attack Russia, but now Putin is stealing Ukraine (and Ukrainians) and declaring it Russia; by this logic, if Ukraine fights to get the lost land back, it is invading Russia after all. In the medium term, Putin’s hope of victory may lie not so much in the original act of theft as in the successful defence of stolen land declared, with righteous fury, to have belonged to him all along.


  • 11 May 2022 at 1:58pm
    Lexa Hypatia says:
    With every further day of this unnecessary war, Putin is making it more certain that Russia and its allies will have along their Western border - wherever that de facto border might eventually be - a chain of states that are strongly aligned, militarily and economically, with the West, and that fear or hate everything Putin stands for. Perhaps that is after all his intention. The one thing fanatics cannot stand is moderation.

    • 11 May 2022 at 8:26pm
      Greencoat says: @ Lexa Hypatia
      It’s good to know that at least one of ex-President Trump’s recommendations is being enacted.

    • 12 May 2022 at 8:36am
      Andy White says: @ Lexa Hypatia
      It seems plausible that Putin sees the Cold War military stand-off as having served Russia’s interests better than the West’s post-Cold War security offer. Or lack of offer.

    • 12 May 2022 at 1:51pm
      RobotBoy says: @ Greencoat
      The same ex-president Trump who often crawled into Putin's lap and called him 'daddy'?

    • 12 May 2022 at 10:17pm
      beast says: @ RobotBoy
      When did that happen?

  • 11 May 2022 at 6:00pm
    beast says:
    Did Zelensky miss Bono's acoustic set the other day? What a shame for him. Still, he's got $40 billion on the way.

  • 11 May 2022 at 7:20pm
    t h wengraf says:
    I had thought that the LRB would be able to resist the tide of 'Hate Putin, capture Ukraine for NATO' sweeping the 'Washington- controlled international community', but increasingly I see that this is mistaken. My estimate of the political-intellectual autonomy of the LRB continues - to my surprise and great regret - to decline.

    • 12 May 2022 at 1:11pm
      Lexa Hypatia says: @ t h wengraf
      A good place to start your critique would be to point out the factual inaccuracies in the article, for those of us less well-informed than yourself. So please, would you cite some of them for us? Thank you.

    • 12 May 2022 at 2:34pm
      Rory Allen says: @ t h wengraf
      Who are these people in the 'Washington controlled international community'? And why put your own phrase into scare quotes, as though you don't quite believe in it yourself?

      Personally I think any 'international community' is a figment of the imagination. We have as always nation states making more or less good decisions based on self-interest. As for being controlled by Washington, I don't like to be unkind but Biden is hardly in control of his bladder let alone the rest of the world.

    • 14 May 2022 at 8:07am
      OldScrounger says: @ Rory Allen
      Well, when you do intend to be unkind, please let us know.

    • 15 May 2022 at 2:55pm
      Rory Allen says: @ OldScrounger
      It will be clear enough when and if it happens.

  • 11 May 2022 at 7:31pm
    Joe Breen says:
    Fine piece. Measured and informed.

  • 11 May 2022 at 9:28pm
    Brian Bailleul says:
    There's weird hysteria sweeping across the west over this war. That Putin and his mafia state are bad news is beyond debate. What's astonishing is the extent to which we've normalised disturbing authoritarianism in the name of defending Ukraine. It all started with efforts to fight covid disinformation, and gvts and tech giants got together to crack down on public disinformation. From there on the same gvts and tech giants seem to have given themselves to right to tell us what's true and what's false in general. Now we are happy to see massive internet censorship of opinions that do not agree with the narrative from western capitals. The notorious Cambridge Analytica psyops techniques that gave us Brexit and Trump, are now being openly directed on western populations by the tech giants & their gvts, Washington has created a counter-disinformation apparatus and even gone on to create the Disinformation Governance Board - a ministry of truth in all but name. And we're still sleepwalking into a bleak era. We seem to have reached a point where we are only one step away from being told that the Nazis saved us from the Red Army - such has been the media coverage of Victory Day this year.

    • 12 May 2022 at 4:55pm
      Rory Allen says: @ Brian Bailleul
      "Washington has created a counter-disinformation apparatus ... and a ... Disinformation Governance Board"
      Very well, then Moscow must create a counter-counter-disinformation apparatus. And a Disinformation Governance Board disinformation governance board. I am sure the Russian bureaucracy is capable of all this and more. Orwell is turning in his grave, though whether from pain or laughter is difficult to tell.

  • 11 May 2022 at 9:40pm
    sterilepromontory says:
    Are Ukrainian pipelines still transferring Russian gas to the West, for a reported fee of $2 billion a year? Or has the gas transmission and the payment stopped? Does anyone know? The author of this piece does a good of job of describing the many layers of uncertainty within the larger uncertainty. Certainty feels decades away.

  • 11 May 2022 at 9:42pm
    sterilepromontory says:
    @wengraf. Please provide a counter-narrative if you can.

  • 11 May 2022 at 9:45pm
    david newman says:
    This is an an extremely biased and anti-Russian article. It is disappointing in the extreme to see it published in LRB.
    We expect more from the LRB than to mirror and parrot the tabloids description of events.
    Eg. Why is it "Putin" and not President Putin . This is mass media manipulation terminology.
    It totally ignores all of the facts of the geopolitics behind the war in Ukraine which started in 2014, not 2022.
    1) Washington instigated a coup in 2014 in Ukraine to replace the democratically elected government in Kyiv with a puppet regime.
    2) The west agreed in 1991 that Ukraine would not to apply to join NATO as a precondition of giving up its nuclear arsenal.
    3) The west then went on to renege on this agreement and expand NATO into 16 ex -Warsaw Pact countries.
    4) Russia made repeated warnings that it would not tolerate this expansion of NATO.
    The best suggestion I have for Mr Meek is to reread Orwell again - since he claims to have won some kind of award for this - and desist from further crude media "doublespeak"

    • 12 May 2022 at 2:57pm
      Reader says: @ david newman
      "Eg. Why is it "Putin" and not President Putin . This is mass media manipulation terminology." But by the same logic, the article is anti-Zelensky, since it refers to "Zelensky" and not "President Zelensky". But perhaps you were too angry to read past the reference to 'Putin'?

    • 13 May 2022 at 10:52am
      Rory Allen says: @ david newman
      I have two comments on this. You state: "Washington instigated a coup in 2014 in Ukraine to replace the democratically elected government in Kyiv with a puppet regime." I leave aside whether this is an accurate description of the Maidan revolution of 2013-February 2014, but would remind you of another event that took place in 2014, the annexation of Crimea by Russia, following the incursion by Russian troops on 27 February 2014. Failing to mention this makes your own criticism also somewhat biased.

      Secondly, and this is a real LRB point, there is an error in "The best suggestion I have for Mr Meek is to reread Orwell again..." You can reread Orwell, or you can read Orwell again, but you cannot reread Orwell again. Unless I suppose you are reading Orwell for the third time. I just put that in to comfort you for being disappointed by the LRB's reporting. We licensed pedants can maintain the age old tradition of nit-picking as well as our predecessors, I like to think.

    • 13 May 2022 at 11:06am
      Lexa Hypatia says: @ david newman
      Your point two is important and insufficiently discussed, in my opinion: "The west agreed in 1991 that Ukraine would not to apply to join NATO as a precondition of giving up its nuclear arsenal." This agreement is not enshrined in any written document that I can discover; these assurances were oral if they were given. Gorbachev is reported to have said in 2014: ""The topic of 'NATO expansion' was never discussed; it was not raised in those years. I am saying this with a full sense of responsibility. Not a single Eastern European country brought up the issue, not even after the Warsaw Pact had ceased to exist in 1991" (Kommersant).

      On the other hand, Russia agreed in a written document, the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, to respect Ukraine's national borders in return for giving up its nuclear arsenal.

      These two points appear to more than meet your objections to Meek's piece, but I would welcome your response to them. It may be that there is written proof of guarantees around NATO expansion, and if so, they should be more widely known.

    • 13 May 2022 at 12:50pm
      Reader says: @ Lexa Hypatia
      Lexa, do you really expect a logical response to your objections? Where do you come from, Mars? People like Mr David Newman get off on outrage and emotion. Have you not understood that yet?

    • 13 May 2022 at 1:56pm
      Delaide says: @ Reader
      As I read it Lexa has both effectively countered a point of view that has obtained some currency and pinned her correspondent. Sometimes a considered response is better than bombast. You should try it.

    • 14 May 2022 at 8:28pm
      t h wengraf says: @ Reader
      What a wonderful display by "Reader" of somebody "getting off" on the emotions he's ( or she's, but it feels less likely) berating! Thanks, "Reader".

    • 15 May 2022 at 2:31pm
      Reader says: @ t h wengraf
      Nice deflection, Tom. Now answer Lexa's questions.

    • 16 May 2022 at 10:46am
      Rory Allen says: @ t h wengraf
      Good reply, Mr Wengraf! That should put Reader in his place.

      BTW, I'd also like to see your reply to Ms Hypatia's points if you could kindly oblige.

    • 16 May 2022 at 4:30pm
      t h wengraf says: @ Lexa Hypatia
      As far as I know, nobody has ever claimed there was a written agreement, so I don't think one is likely to be found. Written undertakings are liable to be simply repudiated when they become inconvenient; unwritten ones are even more vulnerable.
      What interesting is the alleged statement by Gorbachov that you quote from somewhere. I'd love to know where it comes from....

    • 17 May 2022 at 4:10pm
      Rory Allen says: @ t h wengraf
      Well, there was no written agreement on not expanding NATO to the East. It is good that we have now agreed on that fact. But there was a written agreement of 1994, the 'Budapest Memorandum', summarised in a Wikipedia entry as follows: "The memorandum prohibited the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States from threatening or using military force or economic coercion against Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, except in self-defence or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations."

      So it seems that the Russian Federation was in violation of this agreement when they invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022. Actually, it had already violated the agreement when it occupied Crimea in 2014, and parts of Eastern Ukraine subsequently.

      The only defence that I can see for Russia's action is that it was acting in self-defence. But that was not the reason given by President Putin. He referred to de-Nazifying Ukraine, and to the historical fact that Ukraine was part of Russia and the Ukrainians, effectively, were Russians. This is in flat contradiction to other claims from the Russian side that Ukrainians were oppressing Russians. If there are no Ukrainians, this is clearly impossible.

  • 12 May 2022 at 8:00am
    Antipodean says:
    "But this year, for the first time since the original Victory, Russian troops are openly fighting a war against the descendants of their Ukrainian former comrades-in-arms, on land whose evocative toponymy casts doubt on Russia’s traditional representation of May 1945."

    Ukraine is probably the third to have that "honour", Chechens or Tajiks can claim precedence.

  • 12 May 2022 at 9:44am
    Tim Lenehan says:
    One eyed critics rarely see the whole picture.
    On one side of the balance sheet we have Putin's aims-to revive the Russian empire ,to protect Russia from Western aggression , alleged border-pressures and to punish former vassal states for not paying due homage to Russia -by not willingly and gratefully accepting Russian hegemony.These are all 'pride' based objectives .
    On the other side of Putin's ledger the lives of Ukrainians are valued but cheaply (as are the lives of Russian troops ) .The Russian economy is in tatters (resulting in a major reduction in domestic living standards and of those in the West and beyond ).The war ,and threat of the war broadening and/or escalating into nuclear weapon use ,is a major impediment to getting on with the critical job of limiting climate change.These are tangible costs that easily out way the ambitions of a pride driven autocrat.
    Let's hope this will be a case of where pride come through before the fall.
    Tim Lenehan -Australia

    • 18 May 2022 at 4:42pm
      Lexa Hypatia says: @ Tim Lenehan
      Is the Russian economy really 'in tatters'? I am no expert on Russia but I suspect that it can continue to fight this war for one or two years, by the old Russian expedient of belt-tightening for the civilians and focusing on military production. After two years, if the war goes on that long, Russia will be in a bad way. One option would be to turn East, to China, the one nation that might be willing and able to invest significantly in the Russian economy. So President Putin will have achieved the aim - of returning the Russians to subordination to the Eastern hordes, from which they emerged in the eighteenth century.

  • 12 May 2022 at 10:46am
    Tim Lenehan says:
    Tim Lenehan ,just noticed two typos in my previous comment.
    .Outweigh not Out way
    .(last sentence ) pride cometh before the fall.
    Thank you

  • 12 May 2022 at 11:03am
    t h wengraf says:
    Re the reasonable request by 'StedrilePromontory' for a counter-narrative to that promoted by Washington and its 'commentariat', see for example the comments below by Brian Bailleul and David Newman, the work of John Mearsheimer, and the overt project by the US taskforce for an American 21st century around 2001, I think, demanding that the Us should aim at worldwide "full spectrum dominance" and naming the first five (small) countries to be subordinated. So far, they're doing quite well and are acquiring "full spectrum dominance" of the Western media and of Russia's western borderlands. The Guardian and the New Statesman have been there whole-heartedly for ages - see their campaign against press freedom or even civl rights for Julian Assange). Even the LRB seems after a hesitant start to be falling under their control....I'm reminded of prepared and mobilidsed US-UK war hysteria in 1914 - then against the then upcoming economic rival, Germany, over 'plucky and unoffensive' little Belgium....actually secretly mobilised and part of "the Allies" for half-a-decade or more. Not unlike the current Ukraine, now I think of it.....

    • 16 May 2022 at 10:44am
      Rory Allen says: @ t h wengraf
      I am genuinely interested in the 'US taskforce for an American 21st century', but have failed to find it on Google, which normally will turn up something like that. All I can find is something from 2015 called 'Taskforce on 21st century policing', set up by Obama which is presumably not what you are referring to.

      Can we have a better guide to where to find this, please? If it exists at all, and if it is anything like you indicate, this is clearly an important document and should be more widely known.

    • 16 May 2022 at 4:43pm
      t h wengraf says: @ Rory Allen
      I'm away from home and so cant search my files till October!
      But you can find some relevant material in an article at rhe following URL:

      I include three relevant chunks
      To understand the origins of the New Cold War and the onset of the current Russian entry into the Ukrainian civil war, it is necessary to go back to decisions associated with the creation of the New World Order made in Washington when the previous Cold War ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Within months, Paul Wolfowitz, then under secretary of defense for policy in the George H. W. Bush administration, issued a Defense Planning Guidance stating: “Our policy [after the fall of the Soviet Union] must now refocus on precluding the emergence of any potential future global competitor.” Wolfowitz emphasized that “Russia will remain the strongest military power in Eurasia.” Extraordinary efforts were therefore necessary to weaken Russia’s geopolitical position permanently and irrevocably, before it would be in a position to recover, bringing into the Western strategic orbit all of those states now surrounding it that had formerly either been parts of the Soviet Union or had fallen within its sphere of influence (“Excerpts from Pentagon’s Plan: ‘Preventing the Re-Emergence of a New Rival’,” New York Times, March 8, 1992).

      in 1997, Brzezinski published his book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, in which he declared that the United States was in a position “for the first time ever [for] a non-Eurasian power” of becoming “the key arbiter of Eurasian power relations,” while also constituting “the world’s paramount power.” In this way, the United States would become the “first” and the “last” global empire (Brzezinski, Grand Chessboard [Basic Books, 1997], xiii, 209; Diana Johnstone, Fool’s Crusade [Monthly Review Press, 2002]; “NATO Expansion: What Gorbachev Heard,” National Security Archive, George Washington University; “President W. J. Clinton to the People of Detroit,” United States Information Agency, October 22, 1996).

      his meant seeking to diminish Russia to the point that it could no longer claim great power status. The key “geopolitical pivot” on which this turned, Brzezinski insisted, was Ukraine. Minus Ukraine, Russia was irrevocably weakened, while a Ukraine that was incorporated as part of NATO would be a dagger at Moscow’s heart. Yet, any attempt to turn Ukraine against Russia, he warned, would be seen as a major security threat, a red line, by Russia itself. This then required the “enlargement of NATO,” extending it all the way to Ukraine, shifting strategic weapons to the east, with the object of eventually gaining control of Ukraine itself. The enactment of this grand strategy would likewise make Europe, notably Germany, more dependent on the United States, undercutting the independence of the European Union (Brzezinski, Grand Chessboard, 41, 87–92, 113, 121–22, 200).

      I'll go on looking for the more precise reference....

  • 12 May 2022 at 1:12pm
    Graucho says:
    Would the assorted Putin apologists and or Washington haters who have posted here please wake up and smell the coffee. How many lumps of polonium do they want in it ? One or two ?

    • 13 May 2022 at 9:50am
      t h wengraf says: @ Graucho
      Why coffee? What about British tea? And there are far more "assorted and supported Putin super-haters and Washington super-apologists". And they have the full backing of the powers-that-be, including the media powers and US military force more than 10 times those of its rivals....who needs polonium when you can drop nuclear bombs on two big cities (You know, Nagasaki and the other one) and nobody even mentions the words 'war crminal'....

    • 13 May 2022 at 10:42am
      Graucho says: @ t h wengraf
      Whataboutism is an old, tired and irrelevant line of argument used to justify the unjustifiable by those without a leg to stand on. At least here you are entitled to express your opinion on this war without facing the prospect of a 15 year prison sentence.

    • 16 May 2022 at 7:46pm
      t h wengraf says: @ Graucho
      To accuse somebody of "whataboutism" is to show that you don't want to hear the evidence or argument in case it troubles your 'double standards'.
      I agree though about the much lesser risk of a 15 year proson sentence, though I hear that maybe the new "Police Bill" being rushed through Parliament may reduce our civil and relative liberties...

    • 17 May 2022 at 12:59am
      Graucho says: @ t h wengraf
      'To accuse somebody of "whataboutism" ' in your case means that I read your post and observed that the best justification you could come up with for Putin's brutal invasion was the use of atomic weapons to end WW2. I also note that you couldn't resist whatabouting with reference to the Police Bill.

    • 17 May 2022 at 1:18am
      Graucho says: @ t h wengraf
      BTW. If you want to complain about the west having double standards you are on more solid ground citing the second gulf war. This was the illegal invasion of a country posing no threat to the us based on a tissue of lies which we and the U.S. colluded in. The end result being appalling carnage and destruction which is still ongoing. The salient points however are that Bush's sins do not make Putin a saint and that Vladimir is a threat to the west. He is responsible for the deaths of 2 of my fellow citizens and came precious close to killing 4 more.

  • 12 May 2022 at 10:21pm
    beast says:
    Perhaps the LRB can do a feature on the Seig Heil-ing 'Azov wives' who asked the Pope to free their brave Nazi husbands in that steel works.

  • 13 May 2022 at 12:08am
    Andy White says:
    After all the fratricidal killing in Ukraine has finally stopped it looks like we’re going to end up with a new Iron Curtain, further East - similar in many ways to where the USSR’s border with its Western neighbours was prior to WW2. We’ll then see billions upon billions wasted on more nukes and military hardware, and war paranoia continuing to run rampant on both sides of the divide indefinitely. Great. Please forgive my lack of enthusiasm for anyone’s ‘victory’ in Ukraine.

    • 13 May 2022 at 10:02am
      t h wengraf says: @ Andy White
      But a lot lies in the "further East". Until 1939, there were buffer states between Russia and, say, Germany, and other "Western neighbours". After the proxy war in the Ukraine is concluded -- not "fratricidal killing" but "great power proxies" for NATO and Russia - and assuming a planetary fratricide has not been unleashed that would make WW1 seem (to anybody left around) like peanuts, then the imperial invasion of Russia to ensure the defeat of its 'revolutionary regime' (was it 5 armies that didn't succeed?) followed by Hitler's attempt to 'acquire Russia' for a German empire, now followed by NATO's attempt to acquire Russia and its western borderlands for the 'American world-empire', there seems enough material there for Lenin to rewrite his text on 'the epoch of imperialism as constant imperial wars' with a lot more added material.
      Like Andy White, I lack enthusiasm for anyone's 'victory' in the Ukraine.....since either victory or the planetary equi valent of 'ongoing trench warfare' (increasingly with the 'planet' as where we're stuck by our leaders in the mud and the earth of Earth) will both aggravate - and wonderfully distract us from -- the ecological catastrophe burning its way across the planet to the West's relatively bad-tempered temperate zone!

    • 16 May 2022 at 10:58am
      Rory Allen says: @ t h wengraf
      I am glad to see someone reminding us of the long term threat to humanity, far worse than any Russian invasion. As you rightly say, events in Ukraine 'will both aggravate - and wonderfully distract us from -- the ecological catastrophe burning its way across the planet to the West's relatively bad-tempered temperate zone!'

      Wise words indeed. And the effects may be happening already, as I read to my dismay recently. According to one report: 'because these fires release huge quantities of carbon dioxide into the Arctic atmosphere, they are a major cause of climate change concern. Scientists have repeatedly said they need putting out as soon as possible.

      But this year several of the fires are said to have been left burning because many of the military units which are responsible for tackling them have been dispatched to help with the Ukraine invasion.'

    • 17 May 2022 at 1:29pm
      Graucho says: @ t h wengraf
      "now followed by NATO's attempt to acquire Russia and its western borderlands for the 'American world-empire'"
      Come off it. The nations on Russia's western borders were banging on NATO's door to join. The dreadful sacrifices being made by the Ukrainians in order not to be ruled by the despotic kleptocratic Kremlin clique would inform anyone with 2 grey cells to rub together what life in the Russian empire is really like. There's only one imperialist in this game and his name is Putin.

Read more