Right between the eyes: Putin to the West at the St Petersburg Economic forum

Gilbert Doctorow

I have taken my time preparing a commentary on Putin’s speech to the Plenary Session of the St Petersburg Economic Forum last Friday, and I am well satisfied that this was the right decision.

Others have written about the content and delivery of the speech. Still others have written about the Forum itself in its twenty-fifth anniversary, with a particular emphasis placed on the absence of foreign government leaders and of high level contingents of Western businessmen.

What I intend to do here is to go beyond these narrow constraints and to put the event in the broader context of several other important international developments that have occurred in the past few days, many of which are interrelated. They have barely received the attention they deserve in global media and I intend to make amends here.


How the war will end…

Gilbert Doctorow

It has been my rule not to join the vast majority of my fellow political commentators at the scrimmage line in sterile debates of the one subject of the day, week, month that has attracted their full attention. Their debates are sterile because they ignore all but a few parameters of reality in Russia, in Ukraine. For them, ignorance is bliss. They do not stir from their armchairs nor do they switch channels to get information from the other side of the barricades, meaning from Russia.

I will violate this overriding rule and just this once join the debate over how Russia’s ‘special military operation’ will end.

Nearly all of my peers in Western media and academia give you read-outs based on their shared certainty over Russia’s military and political ambition from the start of the ‘operation,’ how Russia failed by underestimating Ukrainian resilience and professionalism, how Putin must now save face by capturing and holding some part of Ukraine. The subject of disagreement is whether at the end of the campaign the borders will revert to the status quo before 24 February in exchange for Ukrainian neutrality or whether the Russians will have to entirely give up claims on Donbas and possibly even on Crimea.

As for commentators in the European Union, there is exaggerated outrage over alleged Russian aggression, over any possible revision of European borders as enshrined in the Helsinki Act of 1975 and subsequent recommitments by all parties to territorial inviolability of the signatory States. There is the stench of hypocrisy from this crowd as they overlook what they wrought in the deconstruction of Yugoslavia and, in particular, the hiving off of Kosovo from the state of Serbia.


America’s ideological blinkers and the Ukraine war

Gilbert Doctorow

Ideological blinkers prevent a correct U.S. assessment of the Russian successes in the Ukraine war, of the likely outcomes and of what to do now

Yesterday’s edition of the premier Sunday news wrap-up on Russian state television, Vesti nedeli, hosted by Dmitry Kiselyov, marked a turning point in what the Russians are saying officially about their achievements on the ground in Ukraine. It set me to thinking over why Washington is getting it all wrong and how America’s ideological blinkers may lead to very unfortunate consequences on a global level.

Up until now, Russian news has been very quiet about the country’s military achievements in Ukraine. The daily briefings of Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov have only given summary figures on the planes, tanks and other armored vehicles, command centers in Ukraine that were destroyed by high precision Russian missiles plus the names of towns that were taken, without elaborating on their strategic or other value. Otherwise, Russian television programming has been showing only the damage inflicted daily by Ukrainian forces on the city of Donetsk and its suburbs from artillery and Tochka U missile strikes. There is a steady toll of destroyed homes, hospitals, schools and loss of civilian lives. The sense of this programming is clear: explaining again and again to the Russian audience why we are there. Yesterday’s News of the Week devoted more than 45 minutes to Russian military operations on the ground. The message has changed to what we are doing there.


This is how the world ends

Gilbert Doctorow

Will the ongoing military conflict in Ukraine lead to a World War that quickly escalates to an end of the world scenario in nuclear exchanges? That remains unlikely, but we are clearly well on our way. It is long past debate whether the conflict is merely between two neighboring countries at the eastern fringe of the European Union. It is a full-blown proxy war between the United States of America and the Russian Federation, and it is about ending or perpetuating American global hegemony.

The latest approval in Washington of $800 million in further urgent military assistance to Ukraine, including the Pentagon’s most advanced attack drones and powerful Soviet era S300 ground to air missile systems makes it perfectly clear that U.S. is sabotaging the ongoing peace talks between Moscow and Kiev for the sake of prolonging a war that can only result on the Ukrainian side in the utter shattering of civil as well as military infrastructure, mass emigration and ubiquitous, calamitous poverty for those remaining; and on the Russian side in wholesale and painful reorganization of the economy away from the West as well as civil discord amid deep disagreements over the war and crackdown on dissent.

The centuries-long debates and hair-pulling in Russia between “Westernizers” and “Slavophiles” is breaking out into the open yet again, as we saw in Vladimir Putin’s remarks yesterday during a speech otherwise devoted to increasing social benefits at home. I will direct attention to that speech in a moment.


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