Answering Criticism of our Ukraine Coverage with Paul Jay (pt 2/3)

Paul comments on the events of 2014, the role of Zelenskyy, the deception of humanitarian intervention, and dying and killing for a nationalism that serves the oligarchs. Paul Jay is interviewed by Colin Bruce Anthes on theAnalysis.news.


Colin Bruce Anthes

Welcome back to theAnalysis.news. I’m Colin Bruce Anthes, and this is part two of my conversation with Paul Jay on the Russia-Ukraine war. Welcome back to our conversation with Paul Jay about the Russia-Ukraine crisis within the context of global capital and imperialism.

Something I wanted to talk to you about that you were mentioning in part one was [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy not necessarily being the angel figure that he has been presented as in a lot of the mainstream media. I wanted here to try and parse out the difference between being pro-war against Russia and being pro-Ukraine. My understanding is that a part of the reason Zelenskyy was elected in the first place was he had promised a peaceful negotiation with Russia and then was seen thereafter to be capitulating on some of those promises in order to appease some of the more right-wing and even far right-wing forces in Ukraine. Can you comment on where you see Zelenskyy’s position in all of this? What has his behavior been? What is a pro-Ukrainian citizen position at this moment?

Paul Jay

Well, again, let me say I’m no expert on Ukrainian politics. I’ve talked to Ukrainian guests, and I’ve talked to Russian guests. I’ve been to Ukraine once, but it was years ago. In fact, part of my family comes from Ukraine. My great-grandparents emigrated from a little town outside of Kyiv, but that doesn’t mean I know anything particular.

Again, as someone who interviews people, I’ll tell you my understanding of it. First of all, the fact that this Jewish guy gets elected in Ukraine that has such a history of antisemitism says something positive about the Ukrainian people. I don’t think that should be diminished. I think, as I understand it, in the last elections, the Nazis who did run some candidates, not a single one, got elected. My understanding is they do play an outsized role in Ukrainian politics or at least did in alliance with the far-right sections of the Ukrainian oligarchy, including a TV channel that has outright racist, anti-Russian propaganda on it.

It’s my understanding that before the Russian Revolution, the far-right of Ukraine was actually quite pro-czar, and the far-right liked the Russian Orthodox Church and felt itself, to a large extent, connected to Russian nationalism but hated the Bolshevik Revolution. The Ukrainian Right went from being quite sympathetic to Russia under the Czar to then being very anti-Soviet, thus anti-Russian.

At any rate, the underlying issue, again, as I understand it, is that the area of Donbass and this section of the Eastern Ukraine industrial base was very dependent on cheap energy from Russia. I’m talking modern times here. So you have a split in the Ukrainian oligarchy. A section of the oligarchy wanted to be closer, and this is more represented in Western Ukraine, wanted to be closer to the E.U., wanted to be open to the West European markets, and sell cheap labor into the E.U. more easily. Whereas the East needed this cheap Russian energy, and you get this division.

As explained to me by Ukrainians, that’s an important factor in the split in the Ukrainian oligarchy. You’ve had this split, which is one section wants to exploit and plunder the Ukrainian people in alliance with the West, and one section wants to plunder and exploit the Ukrainian people and resources in alliance with Russia. Let’s never forget that this is all about a corrupt oligarchy that, in many ways, as we talked about in the previous segment, emerges out of the chaos of the ’90s and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Again, an oligarchy nurtured, supported, and given well wishes, money, arms, whatever, by the West and the United States, but also Western Europe gets very involved.

I have to also say, in the West’s support for the former Soviet republics, there’s also competition. I made a film in Albania in ’91, and I interviewed a guy who used to be the secretary⁠— not first secretary, a secretary to the Central Committee. He used to actually work directly with Ramiz Alia, who took over after Enver Hoxha. As things are starting to come apart in Albania because they lost their economic deal with East Germany, they used to have barter deals, and then it became cash, but they didn’t have any.

There’s a meeting between Ramiz Alia and the U.S. Ambassador. I think it is probably the Ambassador from Rome or an undersecretary. I’m not sure because I don’t think, at that point, there were diplomatic relations. At any rate, there’s a conversation with the American who says, we will help you. We will recognize the results of your elections. We’ll give you some economic support for transitioning to a more reformed open economy but on one condition⁠— only us and not the Germans. There was a big competition for who was going to carve up the spoils of what was left in the wreckage of the Soviet Union.

So none of this is straightforward. The only thing straightforward is that every capitalist class of every country does everything it can to enrich itself. That’s the only thing straightforward here. Then it gets more complicated.

So this very corrupt Ukrainian oligarchy, in 2014, the Russian section of the oligarchy had the presidency. The people grew to hate him because he represented this corrupt oligarchy. People had this dream that getting closer to the E.U. would bring heaven. It’s the same thing people used to believe when these places were socialist countries.

When I made this Albanian film, this would have been in 1990 or something; I interviewed a group of high school students, about 15-20 of them. The film is on my website, by the way. It’s called Albanian Journey: End of an Era in the documentary section. Anyway, I asked this group of about 10-15 students, and I said, what’s your vision of the West? One kid says, well, as far as we know it, we know it’s not paradise, but we don’t know what it lacks from paradise.

For decades, they believed the West was freedom, liberty, and richness. In fact, when the Albanians had this first open election, the guy who was running for president for the Democracy Party, the pro-American guy whose name escapes me right now. He was actually campaigning on television, saying, I’ve just been to Washington, and I’ve been given a blank check. He literally says this, if you vote for me against the communists, we will have whatever we want. I can fill in the number on the check. Well, people believed that. It’s easy to understand that in more recent times, a lot of people in the Western part of Ukraine, and not only the West, but there was certainly support for joining the E.U. In the East, too. Amongst the population, it wasn’t so straightforward. Lots of Russian-speaking people wanted to join the E.U. It’s not surprising, after decades and decades of dreaming about the West. Not only that, but if you were living in Ukraine, would you like to be in the E.U., imagining, of course, you’re going to be a Norway or Germany or something like that? They don’t want to look at Greece, where the European banks destroyed Greece. Or do you want to be in Russia under a Putin autocracy? I understand why lots of people want to be in the E.U. Whatever it is, whether they’re right or they’re wrong, it’s their decision.

At any rate, Zelenskyy, as far as I can make out, does represent a somewhat more democratic⁠— he is elected through a legitimate⁠— as any of these elections are legitimate; it’s legitimate. It’s certainly no less legitimate than the election that elects Putin. Are the American elections legitimate? I mean, it’s ridiculous when you can see that kind of money in play and gerrymandering. As much as any of these kinds of elections are legitimate, the Ukrainian one seemed to be, but I should back up one step.

So the Russian guy in 2014 is hated. There’s a popular uprising against him; that is the way I understand how this proceeds. There’s a right-wing coup within the uprising backed by the U.S. Embassy. The Ukrainians I talked to, progressive left-wing Ukrainians, say that the role of the U.S. Embassy is highly exaggerated by the outside Left. I don’t know if they’re right or wrong, but they say, of course, the Americans gave some confidence to the Ukrainian Right that the Americans would recognize them as legitimate. I don’t know that it goes more than that.

There’s this famous phone call where the American Ambassador is trying to choose who the next leader would be. It sounds legitimate, but the Ukrainians tell me this was a popular uprising, and it was hijacked by the far-right. Whatever it was, it was not the beginning of an American war against Russia. What the hell does that have to do with Russia? This is a Ukrainian event. This is a Ukrainian right-wing coup. This is a Ukrainian domestic issue. How is this a war against Russia because a pro-Russian Ukrainian leader is chased away? Hated and chased away.

Colin Bruce Anthes

In my role as an occasional challenger here, two things that should be said is that first off, we have the quote of talking about who the next leader should be. Second off, a lot of pro-Russians, I think, 39 of them in total, were burned alive by far-right forces in Odessa at that time.

Paul Jay

Yeah.

Colin Bruce Anthes

Which was seen as and stirred up a lot of defensive sentiment from the pro-Russian side. And third off, that also accelerated the push again for NATO expansion, which we talked about in part one quite extensively. But that did up the ante in terms of Russia feeling the need for defense.

Paul Jay

I think it was a union hall where those people were burnt. It seems the Ukrainian Nazis were responsible for that. It’s still a domestic Ukrainian event. Whether they’re Russian or not⁠— if it’s true what the Chinese are doing to the Uyghurs, do Saudi Arabia, should they⁠— they don’t have the military might, but if they did, or Turkey, for example, should Turkey invade China and save the Muslims? Do they have a right to do that? No. It’s a Chinese thing.

We’re living in a capitalist world, and horrible stuff happens. We have some norms in international law. It came out of the Nuremberg trials. It came out of the construction of the UN. If we as progressive people don’t stand up for these norms, who the hell will? So yes, it was a horrible thing that happened. I think it was in Odessa. Can you believe Mikheil Saakashvili, the most corrupt leader of Georgia, then gets hired to be Governor of Odessa? He’s got to be a CIA asset.

I remember a great thing Lewis Lapham said. I used to be the executive producer of this debate show on CBC in Canada. It was in the lead-up to the Iraq war, we had a debate show and Lapham was on. His magazine was Harper’s. We had an Iraqi who was in favor of a U.S. invasion⁠— the invasion had not yet taken place. The Iraqi was going on about all the crimes of Saddam Hussein, of which there were many. Saddam Hussein is the very definition of a vicious brutal dictator. At the political level, you can say other things because they actually had a coherent health care system. They had a coherent educational system. If you opened your mouth against Saddam Hussein, you could be tortured.

Lapham says to him; you know what, I know he’s a vicious, brutal dictator. But you know what else? That’s not my problem. You Iraqis want to get rid of that guy, get rid of him. You want to organize and overthrow him, do so. As an American, I’m against aggressive wars. I’m against the Americans trying to be the policeman of the world. I’m for international law. As long as Iraq is not an imminent threat to the United States, the United States has no right to go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein, and it makes absolutely no difference how terrible he is. I think that’s correct. The alternative is this bullshit of humanitarian intervention, which is always a cover and excuse for aggression.

So to get back to Zelenskyy, 2014 and the right-wing coup against this pro-Russian government is not an excuse. Now, between 2014 and 2016, there was a very vicious attack on Donbass. Donetsk and Luhansk have an almost; if I understand it correctly, I’ll keep saying that because I’m going based on what I hear from people I talk to. You have a kind of progressive-led independence struggle where the workers of Donetsk and Luhansk rise up against being ruled by this right-wing coup in Kyiv and declare independence. Its early stages have quite a progressive character, as I understand it. A lot of Russians, including the Russian Left, have a lot of sympathy for this declaration of independence against this right-wing government in Kyiv. The right-wing government in Kyiv promotes a virulent, toxic, anti-Russian Ukrainian nationalism. There are even attempts to illegalize Russian as a language, which is insanity given the majority of the Ukrainian Army speaks Russian. The whole thing was so crazy.

Between 2014 and 2016, there was a lot of real vicious fighting when the Ukrainian government attacked Donetsk and Luhansk. There are a lot of civilians killed. I think, in that period, as many as 3,000 civilians were killed in the Donbass region. Although, more Ukrainian soldiers were killed, interestingly enough. I think about 4,000 Ukrainian soldiers were killed. By 2018 and in the period⁠— this is according to the OSCE observers⁠— between 2018 and the end of 2021, there are very few deaths. I think the number of civilians killed is just over about 310 over that whole period of 2018 to 2021.

Yes, Zelensky⁠— something happens⁠— the tax on Donbass is reduced, at least from the 2014-2016 period. Yes, he’s elected to try to resolve these issues with Donbass peacefully and try to normalize relations with Russia in a more peaceful way. Yes, he doesn’t live up to that. As I understand it, because of the pressure of the far-right in the Ukrainian oligarchy and amongst the far-right fascist organizations, he compromises, conciliates, capitulates, and does not stand up to these forces the way he promised he would in the elections. He represents a section of the oligarchy. This is not a guy that emerged from⁠— because he was a comedian, and all this, he’s supposed to be a people’s hero. He may have emerged, but he emerged to become a member of the oligarchy. He wound up running a big media company. He was hiding money. I think that came out in the Panama Papers. So Zelenskyy never fulfilled, but it is interesting that that was the aspiration of the majority of the Ukrainian people. They voted for a guy who was supposed to diminish the antagonism, both with Donbass and with Russia.

Still, even as we get into 2022, there is no evidence either of⁠— and I’m quoting from Putin and [Sergey] Lavrov here, who claimed there was an imminent genocide that was going to take place against Donbass. I have not seen a shred of evidence. If there is, I can say I’ll change my mind. I don’t have a dog in that particular race. I have looked at the OSCE numbers. I’ve looked at all the reporting. I see no evidence that Ukraine was, in February, was about to invade Donbass.

Let’s put it in context. There were 150,000 Russian troops surrounding the Ukrainian-Russian border, and we’re to believe Ukraine is about to invade Donbass and give the Russians every excuse they ever could have wanted to invade? I mean, it really boggles the imagination. Sure, crazy stuff happens, so maybe. As I said, I’ll use this phrase again. I see no evidence of it other than claims by Putin, Lavrov, and others. Even Zelensky, a few days before, was saying he didn’t believe the Russians would invade. Well, if Ukraine were poised to attack Donbass, you would think he would have figured there was going to be a Russian response.

The short of all this is, yeah, Zelenskyy never lived up to his promises. On the other hand, again, I’ll say no imminent threat to Russia.

Colin Bruce Anthes

Well, I’d like to move into a little bit of the pragmatics of how we proceed from here. How do people who are looking to be pro-Ukrainian in this⁠— Ukrainian citizen, not Ukrainian nationalist, Ukrainian citizen, how they should proceed? How people should proceed if they find themselves in this situation? One of the things you said in the previous interview with me, and it’s the first time I had heard someone present, maybe we should roll over position. You said if the United States invaded Canada, you would not support fighting and getting lots of people killed in order to resist that takeover. You would start voting in the elections, start influencing the political system, and try and get independence through a referendum, but you wouldn’t insist on lots of people being killed, which you saw as a pro-oligarch position.

Paul Jay

Let me just put another mark on that. If the Canadians elected a progressive government that had a serious climate change strategy, for example, started to phase out the Athabasca tar sands. If a Koch brother backed the United States, and the Koch brothers rely on the heavy crude from the Athabasca to feed their refineries in Texas, and I’m not sure the other one is in Idaho or somewhere. If we were talking about that situation it’d be a different situation. Fighting to defend a progressive Canadian government⁠— and the only thing I could imagine why the Americans would ever do this is over oil.

Imagine a Trump government with Koch, a Christian nationalist, far-right money, and Koch, apparently, himself is a Christian nationalist as far as I can make out. In general, his brother was a non-interventionist, but the other Koch died, and this guy is more aligned with the far-right than the other guy was. If they made a grab for invading the tar sands or trying to overthrow the Canadian government⁠— I mean, it’s pretty far-fetched, but if, that would be a different thing. It would partly depend on whether the Canadian government actually brought the Canadian Army to bear. Anyway, it’s a far-fetched scenario. I’m saying that I’m not a pacifist. There are certainly times I can understand where you have to fight and you have to wage an armed fight. I think I said in that previous interview if I was in France when the Germans invaded, yeah, I probably would have been a partisan. Blowing crap up assuming it was effective.

If I was a Ukrainian right now, and I say this in a somewhat guarded way because I’m not a Ukrainian and the nationalist feeling people have in Ukraine, I understand, but I wouldn’t fight to defend a Ukraine of the oligarchs. I wouldn’t fight so that the Donbass region— an actual invasion of Kyiv and overthrowing the government, I don’t know, but to defend Donbass or Crimea, absolutely not. There are enough people in Donbass that if they don’t want the Russians, then let them get organized to throw the Russians out, and let them demand a referendum. It doesn’t have to be done through this kind of fighting and destruction of city after city. It’s very possible that a majority of people of Donbass actually don’t want to be part of Russia. They want to be independent.

Who knows how Ukraine emerges from this? [Boris] Kagarlitsky made an interesting point. Now that the working class is so armed, you may have a different Ukrainian government emerge. This will be one of the biggest questions coming out of all this. Will the Ukrainians turn Ukraine back over to the oligarchs when this whole thing is over or are they going to demand a Ukraine without oligarchs? This is not a situation⁠— it is so chaotic. I mean, this is partly why you had the Bolshevik revolution in 1917. The Army was in tatters, and the economy was in tatters. In these kinds of chaotic situations with an armed working class, will a leadership emerge? I don’t know, we’ll see. It’s within the realm of possibility.

If I was a Ukrainian in that situation, yeah, I’d fight for that, but would I fight so that the Western Ukrainian oligarchs can regain control over Donbass? No. Why should anyone die for that? Do I think Donbass, Luhansk, and Donetsk, do they have a right to self-determination? Absolutely. Do they have to stay in Ukraine? No. This is the number two thing Ukraine should have done. They should have, one, declared no NATO before the invasion, and two, they should have announced a legitimate, internationally observed referendum in Donbass and asked the people what they wanted.

Now, of course, to do that, you’d actually have to have some democratic spirit. The Western Ukrainian oligarchs don’t have any real democratic spirit, so they just wanted to⁠— the other thing I think I said in the other interview, this kind of sovereignty, oh, we have to defend our sovereignty. Why? Well, if you’re part of the elites, it’s because you own stuff, and you have to defend your private property and your ownership because if you don’t defend your sovereignty, you’re not going to own that stuff anymore. If you’re a worker, you don’t own that stuff to begin with.

Now, again, if this was publicly owned and somebody was invading to take our public property away from us, yeah, I’d fight for that. Am I going to fight for which section of the oligarchs can control the resources and riches of Donbass? No. Now, I’m saying this⁠— now I know, at least, the section of the Left Ukrainians I’ve talked to, they’re not going to like what I just said. The nationalist fervor in Ukraine is very high, and people have lost their relatives, their sons, their daughters, their fathers, and so on. So many thousands of people have died. They say we’re not going to let them to have died for nothing. What if the truth is that they actually died for nothing? What if that’s the truth? I wouldn’t go all the way that way. If I’d been in Ukraine when this whole thing started, I would have said, don’t fight the Russians with small arms. Let us have hundreds of thousands of us block the highways and sit in front of those tanks and let the world see what we really want. Let’s have a general strike. Any place the Russians take over, everyone goes and strikes.

There were other ways to fight this and make it clear that the Russians claiming that the Ukrainian people want this was bullshit. People could have gone in the streets with signs that said, no to NATO, no to Russia, and Russians get out of our country in their hundreds of thousands. I don’t think tens of thousands of people should die for nothing. The kind of nationalism I’m hearing from the Ukrainian Left, they’re going to say, easy for you to say, sitting in the comfort of Toronto. They’re right. It is easy for me to say. So take it with a grain of salt, or if you’re a Ukrainian nationalist, call me full of shit, it’s okay. I think some of us have to say these things.

Yeah, I do not believe in workers, ordinary people fighting for a nationalism that simply serves the interests of the oligarchs, and that’s what the big fight was during the First World War. Are you going to fight to defend your own elites? To put it the way the Left put it, and Communists put it at that time, they said don’t fight for your own bourgeoisie. Yeah, well, let’s not. It doesn’t mean you don’t fight, but you don’t do it for that.

Colin Bruce Anthes

Well, I think, even though you are speaking from an outside perspective, I think it is important to bring these things up because it is possible that we could see those kinds of resistance down the road, and that does change the kind of things that outsiders are supporting. So it’s worth bringing up, and it’s worth mentioning. I do want to bring up a couple of challenges, though. Two that came from your own previous interviews. One with Boris Kagarlitsky. He said that he felt that Ukraine was winning the war. He felt that Russia was going to buckle, and he didn’t think it was necessarily that far off, in which case encouraging people to not resist in that way could be a big mistake. The other was from Yuliya Yurchenko, who is a Ukrainian activist, and her perspective was if they feel they are getting away with it, they will come back for more. The only way that she could see an end to the war and continuous plunder would be to push Russia out. That was the way she put it. How do you answer those challenges?

Paul Jay

Well, if I was a progressive Russian, I might say the same thing Kagarlitsky said because I’m a Russian. How does a Russian tell Ukrainians to compromise and give in to Putin? Maybe a Left progressive Russian can’t say anything but that, maybe not, I don’t know. I said to Yulia, what I just said to you. I don’t think it’s worth fighting for. It’s not worth dying for. There are other ways to struggle. If you believe, you left-wing Ukrainians, if you believe that the majority of the people of Donbass don’t want to be part of Russia, if you believe, as she said she did, that the people of Donbass do have a right to self-determination, then make a deal. Let the Russians have, quote-unquote, so far all they’ve done is recognize it. Yeah, sure, they probably want to annex it, but if the people of Donbass don’t want that, then help them as a Ukrainian progressive, Left, whatever, help them to get organized against the Russian occupation, if you want to call it that. You don’t need to ally with the Russian oligarchy and Army to keep this, and the U.S, that certainly a section of the U.S. elite want this to go on forever, this war. You don’t have to be part of that.

Why don’t you help the people and say we, the Ukrainian Left, are in solidarity with the right of self-determination for Donbass. The way to get there is to have a compromise, make a deal to stop the killings, stop the war, and then we will support your struggle to assert either your independence from Russia or your independence from both Ukraine and Russia or whatever the hell you want. In other words, we will support a legitimate referendum but let the killing and destruction stop. To me, that’s a progressive position for Ukrainians to take. I also think it’s naive to think, okay, let’s say quote-unquote, Kagarlitsky is right, and the Ukrainians are going to win this. Two possibilities. Number one, Putin is going to blow up a small tactical nuclear weapon to make a point. I don’t know how legitimate a fear that is. It’s certainly being talked about a lot. The more likely scenario is assuming the Russians really are losing this, and I have no idea if they are. I mean, to me, I hear as many people say they’re losing it as people saying they’re winning it.

I have zero knowledge of what the truth of it is. Honestly, in some ways, it doesn’t matter to me one way or the other because I still think there needs to be a deal negotiated as quickly as possible, and then the people should continue their struggle from within that deal. Let’s assume Russia is about to lose, and they don’t blow up a nuclear bomb. Does anyone really believe they’re not going to come back again? They’re going to accept this? They’re not going to regroup and rearm and claim that this is all a horrible conspiracy of the West, and we Russians, we pull back just to stop the killing and death and then wait till they’re ready to do it again? I mean, it’s ridiculous. I mean, there is a point where real politics needs to kick in here, and Russia is too significant a power, military and economic, in spite of all the sanctions. Look at the ruble. It’s not doing so bad. As long as this is a fossil fuel world, you’re not going to weaken Russia the way you thought you were.

One, it’s ridiculous, I think, to think that they’re really going to win. Certainly, they’re not going to kick the Russians out of Crimea, and I can’t believe they’re going to kick them out of Donbass. Let’s say I’m wrong, it will still be, so what, because they’ll come back. The only, to me, democratic position to take is to stop the killing and insist on a legitimate referendum. If the Russians, and they probably won’t accept a legitimate referendum unless they’re absolutely sure they’re going to win it, and I don’t know that they would after all this. Then the people of Luhansk, Donetsk, and Donbass, they should fight, and organize. Fight against the occupation if that’s what they want. The same thing for Crimea. I hear the Ukrainians saying we’re even going to liberate Crimea. Number one, every poll that’s been taken in Crimea, in fact, says the majority of people actually do want to be part of Russia and if they don’t, then let them organize. They can have a general strike in Crimea, demanding they want to go back to Ukraine. People can fight. They’re not infants.

Colin Bruce Anthes

The answer may be exactly the same, but I was going to then raise a challenge from the other side, which is that⁠— especially the American public, but the Western public more generally, has perhaps been misled as to how easy a militaristic resolution can be found here. That there is a presentation that the entire world is against Russia on this one, and that’s not even close to the case. There is a sense that Russia is very weak militaristically, which it may be in some ways. I saw Colonel Doug Macgregor say that the West was spinning the fact that Russia wasn’t taking more land for a period of time as a remarkable spin, given that they had taken the land they had wanted to, or they had encroached as far as they wanted to. This is being spun as them being weak when they were in a very good position, he felt, and that Putin has consistently had about 70% support from the Russian people. I actually saw a poll that said in May, Russian support⁠— this is from the Levada Center, which is a pretty reliable outlet⁠— that it had actually increased to a very high, well over 70% rating among the Russian people. He’s got a lot of strength behind him. We have perhaps been misled to believe that militaristic resistance can resolve this in a short period of time when we’re looking at a forever war.

Paul Jay

I don’t know. As I said, there are as many people saying the Russians are winning as losing. If I have to say what the consensus opinion is, it’s sort of a stalemate. The one guy I thought was interesting was this Russian Colonel, a General Colonel, a very high-level, retired military officer that was on one of the major Russian television shows about a month ago. He says the invasion was a debacle and that the Russian troops were not trained, the machinery and the whole invasion plan was chaos, and that the numbers of Ukrainian troops of at least 100,000 were and are getting fairly well trained. He said that the Russian weapons simply could not stand up to the modern weaponry that was being funneled into Ukraine. He said openly on the show, and it was very unusual because it’s virtually illegal to even call it a war. I’m not sure if he called it a war or not, but that kind of critique was certainly out of character, which the people I talked to say means that he must represent sections of the Russian military.

Kagarlitsky is saying that the Russian military and much of the apparatchik and others want this war to end. They all think both militarily on the ground and in terms of sanctions, it’s been a real disaster for Russia. Putin and his people are keeping this thing going. I have no idea what’s true or not true. Maybe there’s truth to all the different sides. I don’t know. All I know is tens of thousands of people continue to die, and that’s the center of the thing.

I am absolutely aghast at sections of the Left who defend the Russian invasion as defending legitimate security concerns. As if the tens of thousands of people⁠— and not just Ukrainians, but the Russian soldiers⁠— the tens of thousands of working people that are getting killed in this are all lost in some BS about⁠— what is it called? Multipolarity, a multipolar world. A bunch of geopolitical hokum. I’m telling you, and I won’t name any names, but I’m telling some of these people in this position that this is the position of a sociopath. America, Russia, these people are led by sociopaths. They don’t give a damn how many people are killed. Left-wingers aren’t supposed to be sociopaths. To talk about this war and simply dismiss the slaughter that’s going on, you’re into such abstract dogmatism. Maybe we should talk about this in another segment; to justify all this because a multipolar world is better, that’s insanity.

Colin Bruce Anthes

Well, why don’t we go onto another section then? We’ll end this one here for now. We’ll come to that next, as well as what should we all be supporting and how should we support it. How do we articulate the right goals and the right paths forward? So we’ll come back with Paul Jay in a third section.


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18 Comments

  1. Really impressive comments by all here ; Arguments by Dean G, Cheryl, BP seem to me to be the most convincing and Paul gives me the impression of someone who has never heard the analysis of Scott Ritter ex WMD inspector in Iraq who quotes Ukrainian gov spokesperson on the Minsk 2 agreement, the paraphrasing is -the signing of this was a stalling tactic, so Ukrainian military forces could continue to be trained by NATO in Germany in the use and deployment of advanced weaponry and systems for an eventual push east and on retaking Crimea which I see Zelensky still states are his objectives. Paul, I love you, however how long would it have taken for the Azov Brigade and other far right Bandera fanatics to instigate attacks on both Russian invaders and peaceful road blockers as they have done in the Maidan protests .result,carnage. I feel you underestimate the hatred the Russian people, not just Putin have for these Nazis ,for that’s what they are and they have always existed on the fringes in Ukraine.These people are dangerous and I can’t see the Russians stopping till they annihilate them.

  2. I agree with your analysis and find it somewhat refreshing to see someone say, who knows what’s going on? I read an article by Jacques Baud where he asserts that Ukraine is receiving weapons with manuals that are in foreign languages. That sound bad, but how do I evaluate that? Is it true? How should I know? Epistemic humility, the underrated virtue.

    I feel like if you’re receiving intense criticism, and I’ve seen a couple mad comments (not in this section), it’s partly as a reaction to hyper-intensity from the other side, which they feel compelled to match. I’m not so sure that’s the best path.

  3. Very interesting comment section! Great to disagree and debate in a proud democratic tradition that the legendary Author and editor Lewis Lapham celebrates in his wonderful work. Thank you Paul! Interviewing Lapham would be a fantastic RAI.

  4. Paul:

    Why do you censor many of my posts and refuse to publish them? I have finished the video and caught your judgement at the end that someone like myself, who feels Russia was justified in a military response, is a sociopath. How can you say this given the track record of US wars, coups, training and funding of death squads in many countries of South America, Africa and Southeast Asia: some estimates are as high as 30 million people killed by the US since WWII. Does not this sociopathic Superpower need to be stopped? Does the US not sponsor state terrorism in Latin America and Africa targeting union leaders, teachers, priests and peace activists? US intelligence and covert ops tries to win at any cost. Is not the neo-liberal ideology one of pure sociopaths, caring nothing about nature or human welfare?

    If you view freelance journalists that are reporting from Donbas, as well as military analysts that are critical of US govt policy and US media, the Russian army has taken great care to avoid civilian and its own military casualties in the Donbas. Russia has often preserved civilian infrastructure like power stations, rail roads and telecommunications. This is not the US tactic of Shock and Awe used to obliterate all civilian infrastructure in Iraq.

    The Ukraine war would have been over before it started if the US had allowed Zelensky to do what he was voted for, and make peace with Russia and find a way to honor the spirit of the Minsk accords. The presence of a virulent Nazi movement that has threatened to murder Zelensky if he makes peace with the Russians negates this possibility. Consider how recently the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been targeted by Ukraine. This is perhaps the only way left for Ukraine to win: to cause a nuclear meltdown like that of Chernobyl that poisons much of Ukraine and possibly Russia and Europe depending how the wind blows. Western experts are downplaying the possibility of another Chernobyl, but who do you think western media will blame for such an incident?

    It is the US that would start nuclear war over Ukraine or Taiwan rather than gracefully give up its hegemony, in a fashion closer to that of the faded British Empire.

    1. 1. We do not reserve the right to ignore international law because the United States ignores international law. To argue otherwise is a moral failure and crime. Abandon your principles and you’ve already lost.

      2. Some fights are well justified. Given potential consequences, these good fights are few. When it’s a fight between nuclear powers, it’s especially infantile to not speak out against aggressions on either side.

      3. What in the world makes you assume “sociopathic Superpower” will be “stopped” by more sociopathic behaviour?

      1. Hi Steve,

        I’d like to respond to each of your assertions:

        1. The Russian attack/police action as violation of international law and a moral failure: Russia has stated its justifications for entering Ukraine, to protect Russian sovereignty threatened by NATO, prevent genocide against ethnic Russians in Donbas (Russia was requested to intervene by breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk), break up and arrest Ukrainian Nazis that have murdered and terrorized ethnic Russians (the memory of German Nazi atrocities runs deep in Russia). As Paul stated in earlier videos, there is dispute by Europe (OSCE observations) as to whether invasion of Donbas by Ukraine was imminent or heavy shelling of Donbas occurred prior to Feb 24, 2022. You could argue that it was a moral failure and crime for Russia -not- to have intervened earlier (after 2014), when Nazi persecution of Donbas began. If there is a moral failure and crime, it falls to the United States govt and deep state (as I would define it: the US military, State Dept (CIA) and Finance Sector (Wall Street), sometimes acting in concert and sometimes competing with each other).

        2. As I outlined in my earlier comment, the US is a rogue state that has murdered upwards of 30 million people since WWII. It is dangerous to confront a bully, but hardly infantile to do so given that the US often acts through proxies, such as Ukraine. The US is unwilling to give up its Military Industrial Complex and attempts to destabilize and create failed states (Iraq? Libya? Syria? Afghanistan?) to elevate its own power and ability to exploit smaller nations. The fact that the US has nuclear weapons cannot deter China or Russia from standing up to US aggression, directly or via proxies: from my observations Russia tried many times to resolve NATO advances and US interference via diplomacy prior to Feb 24th, and China is trying diplomacy and a show of strength to dissuade the US from turning Taiwan into a proxy.

        3. Protecting national sovereignty (standing up to a bully) and preventing nazi-style genocide is hardly sociopathic: being passive in the face of US aggression might be (or cynical at best).

        The Russian sanctions and efforts to give military aid to Ukraine have only backfired, and shown how NATO cannot handle a peer competitor. The economic sanctions and tariffs against Russia (and China) are forcing the creation of an alternate Eurasian economic union, and the gradual abandonment of the US Dollar as the world’s reserve currency. The US needs a peace movement to counter its deep state, and turn its resources to helping its own people, rather than cannibalizing them and the people of other nations, via neo-liberal (predatory) economics.

        1. There is a clear principle in international law. No such military intervention is allowed without imminent threat. There was no imminent threat to Russia from Ukraine. It’s tens of thousands of Ukrainians and Russians who are dying for a completely unnecessary war. Of course the US helped provoke it, of course the US is a criminal regime, but they didn’t force Putin to launch this war. Putin is not a puppet. There is no evidence that Donbas was under imminent threat either. If you have it, please provide it.

          It’s workers who are killing workers and in the end one set of oligarchs or the other will win. You completely misjudge the reactionary character of the Russian state. It it not part of some progressive anti-imperialist alliance. The US – Russian rivalry is inter imperialist, albeit the US is much larger and has far more blood on its hands. That was also true of England in the lead up to World War Two. That didn’t make Germany less an enemy of the peoples he attacked.

          1. Paul:

            I respect your arguements, and understand that Russia did not have do its special military action, however immoral and unlawful the US behaves.
            However, how many dead citizens of the Donbas region, the result of Ukrainian far-right (Nazi) militias and abetted by the Ukrainian govt, would it take for you to see a police action as justified? Of course, Zelensky backed by the US State Dept, escalates the war with Russia and continues it despite overtures from Russia. It’s fair to look at the Ukraine war, deplore the events that led to it, deplore the use of Ukraine citizens as cannon fodder in a US attempt to weaken Russia, but still argue that an intervention was justified.

            Remember, Russia was requested to intervene by Donetsk and Luhansk, and the critics are western legal experts, hardly impartial to Russian actions in Ukraine. Does Europe, US or Ukraine recognize the independence of these areas, or admit to the Nazi movement, US training and support of this movement, and the reports by freelance journalists (eg Anne Laure Bonnel) of murder of Russian sympathizers and shelling of Donbas civilians?

            I would draw your attention to Putin’s own recent speech about the globalist project here: https://scheerpost.com/2022/08/17/video-putin-heavily-criticizes-the-us-and-the-wests-foreign-policy-practices/ . By globalist, he refers to a neo-liberal order centered in the US and European oligarchies that treats the rest of the world as a colony and commodity (including the globalists own citizens). So, from that perspective, Russia and Chinas’ actions are very much anti-imperialist.

          2. I’ve dealt with this argument in my recent interviews, a third is coming. I’ll just say again. No imminent threat, no justification for killing of tens of thousands, including thousands of Russian speaking Ukrainians

          3. Paul:

            I’ve given what you’ve said some thought, and if you are argueing that Russia could have worked through the United Nations, asked for a peacekeeping force to protect the Donbas while pushing for a referendum on independence there, I can accept that the lives lost to this war were unnecessary. I still think Russia was justified to intervene, but can accept if you were to say there were other options. The result would have been Europe still trading with Russia, food security and heat for the winter. I can also accept that Russia has gained territory and resources from the invasion, proven the capabilities of its own Military Industrial Complex like an advertisement to the world), and Putin has gained popularity in Russia at expense of Ukrainian and Russian lives. Would the US have allowed the success of peacekeeping efforts via the UN, or Ukraine allow a fair referendum in Donbas? I’m not convinced, but Russia did not at least try, and chose the military intervention instead.

            Russia claims increased attacks on Donbas leading to Feb 24th, confirmed by OSCE, and an imminent threat to Donetsk and Luhansk from Ukrainian forces built up along the Donbas. Ukraine refutes charges of aggression against the Donbas and both sides say any buildup was for training or defense only: it comes down to who you want to believe, but like many wars it seems like the US (via Ukraine proxy) and Russia each helped create a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ll wait to hear the rest of your videos before adding anything further.

          4. Please provide a link that shows an increase in attacks reported by OSCE. Putin and Lavrov claim an imminent genocide. I find no evidence of that. OSCE says total civilian deaths in territory controlled by forces that declared independence between 2018 – 2021 was 310.

          5. Here is an example of a news article before Feb 24th noting the increased attacks on Donbas:
            https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/osce-reports-surge-number-explosions-east-ukraine-2022-02-19/

            The OSCE website has public records of most days leading up to Feb 24th. Here is a partial list of that data:
            (see https://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/reports)
            Not all ceasefire violations are explosions, but each report details # explosions.

            Report Date: Donetsk CV: Luhansk CV (CV=Ceasefire Violations)
            Feb 23 528 : 1182
            Feb 22 703 : 1224
            Feb 19 591 : 975
            Feb 18 222 : 648
            Feb 17 189 : 402

            Feb 10 27 : 224
            Feb 03 292 : 114

            Russia has used the increased shelling to infer an offensive by Ukraine against Donbas, and justification for intervention.

          6. I’ve seen these reports. As I understand it, shelling and violations were going in both directions. One civilian death. The feb dates took place at a time Russia had 150,000 troops at the ready. None of this proves an imminent attack on Donbas, never mind on Russia. It’s hard to believe Ukraine would attack inviting a Russian invasion. I’ve written the OSCE twice asking if there was evidence of of Ukraine preparing such an attack. At any rate, if there really was such a concern, Russia could have moved to defend Donetsk and Luhansk, which would not mean a full scale invasion and attempt to bring down the Ukrainian govt.

  5. Paul:

    The struggle in Ukraine is absolutely part of a proxy war between the declining hegemony of the US, and the rising powers of Eurasia, between the ideology of neo-liberalism and the predatory behavior of the West’s finance sector, and the constructive partnerships offered by Russia and China (such as China’s BRI). The US was hoping to weaken Russia via Ukraine’s army and sanctions, but these have backfired. Putin outlined the situation perfectly in a recent speech, quoted in an article on Scheerpost: https://scheerpost.com/2022/08/17/video-putin-heavily-criticizes-the-us-and-the-wests-foreign-policy-practices

    Are the people of Ukraine free to heal their democracy without interference by US NGOs, the CIA, and the terror of the Nazi movement? Look at how the US and its neo-liberal adherents in Europe, has led to Europe’s own govts committing economic suicide: Germany may end up de-industrialized and a tourist destination like Greece (which the finance sector in Germany was happy to apply austerity to starting around 2010).

  6. Thanks for the discussion.

    I’m unsure of what criticisms have prompted this latest video series, but I’ve watched almost all of the Ukraine related interviews and commentary on The Analysis since the war began, and for my part I haven’t heard anything from Paul that really raised my hackles.

    As Paul incessantly says he is not an expert on the matter (personally I don’t expect anyone to be one) and in this discussion – as in others – it seems to me he expresses a basic humanitarianism about this war, which is very needed and which anyone should be able to appreciate. Certainly any detractors, if they are out there I guess, would have to say there’s definitely a genuine attempt to understand here, and a genuine desire for a resolution. That’s more than we have come to expect from too many others. If there are errors in judgment, this is part of the process.

    Thanks Paul and Colin. All the buttons.

  7. I have watched and listened to Paul Jay with a lot of respect in the past. However, his whitewashing western Ukrainian brutality against the eastern Ukrainians resulting 14000.00 deaths since the 2014 coup, backed by USA’s state department led by Victoria Nuland. There are photos of Nuland handing our sandwiches around the time the Nazis began shooting Ukrainians as they held a peaceful protest. Mr. Jay skips over the horrid violence endured by residents living in Donbas and identify with Russia.
    Also, he fails to mention the Minsk Accord. Zelensky campaigned as a peace candidate, but appeared to be “just acting!” His close ties to Ihor Kolomoisky is concerning. So, too, is the imprisonment of Russian friendly Ukrainians. Viktor Medvechuk being one that Zelensky had the Azov Battalion break into his home, imprison him, then took over the broadcast owned by Medvechuk. The last photo of Vikto Medvechuk he appeared to have been tortured by Ukrainians.

    You cannot play down the threat NATO is to Russia. NATO’s purpose is to protect Europe from the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union does not exist and the US promised not to move one inch eastward. The minutes to that meeting where promise not to expand NATO are in George Washington University.

    Who can blame the Russians as they’ve been betrayed by the USA repeatedly. Starting from when the Soviet Union broke apart and western capitalists entered Russia as the privatization of Russian property (belonging to the Russian people) were sold off at bargain prices. We helped create oligarchs.
    Why did the US not help Russia as we did with other countries who were our adversaries. We would apply the Marshal Plan. Why did the US not do so for Russia? Instead the US applied the Bush Doctrine which was re-written by Dick Cheney. Essentially the Bush Doctrine’s intent is to keep Russia from ever-again able to gain power.
    Why did France and Germany not honor their commitment as they, too, were responsible to see that Russia and Ukraine honored the peace agreement. Who were Europeans listening. The Germans had a good thing going with the Nord Stream 2. Did the US not like Russia and Germany in business? Now, the Europeans are paying more for liquid gas from the USA.
    I have read that President Putin was pressured by his countryman to intervene to protect ethnic Russians living in the Donbas region. He was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. This war was provoked. Not to overlook President Biden’s involvement in Ukraine while he was Vice President. So, too, were John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Amy Klobuchar and many more—all who seem to have an agenda; regime change in Russia? or resources in Ukraine that American businesses want. The Americans sure seem to like the war business as many are getting richer as they sell weapons. Not only sell, but train how to use those weapons. I find the Cheney’s re-entry into the world stage troubling. They are friend with Nuland, Kagans, Steele, all the neocons. The Democrats love of Liz Cheney shows how much Americans can think for themselves…not much.

    This war could have been prevented had the Biden administration pushed for peace. I believe Russia attempted to negotiate a peaceful agreement but Boris Johnson was sent to talk Zelensky to keep the war going.
    The majority of Americans hate Putin, they do not know why, they just do. Could it be from the US propaganda that passes as news? From what I’ve read by Stephen Cohen, John Mearsheimer, and Richard Sakwa this is not Russia’s fault. Russia has a right to feel secure, how can a country be at peace with NATO missiles pointing at them. I believe Vladimir Putin is standing up to the bullies, the US and the UK. It appears his countryman are thankful. This war is dragging on not because of Putin, it is due to the US and its Ukrainian puppet, Voldymyr Zelensky.

    Finally, Zelensky’s sudden admission being Jewish is trite. He is not a practicing Jew. There is a difference.

  8. 2:00 – Does it really say something positive about the Ukrainian people that they elected
    Zelensky, a Jew? Did it say something positive about the American people that they
    elected Obama, a black guy with a foreign/Muslim sounding name? I wonder, but
    what does “something” even mean?

    I don’t know what it might say about the whole country or population, but it might be a
    positive thing for some “progressive” elements in Ukraine, but then again with Obama
    in the US the very election and administration of Obama kicked in a reactionary element
    that has led us, perhaps irrevocably, down the path to division and destruction. So, to me
    even bringing that up as a point is irrelevant and disingenuous.

    Also, looking at the “oligarchical” interference in US politics, especially since the coup of
    George W. Bush nothing that has happened in America since has seemed to be natural or
    democratic, it is all manipulated, and now we have massive censorship and media manipulation,
    especially in terms of this war in Ukraine.

    A technology has been developed by the US, I suspect by the CIA groups that have been
    about meddling and overthrowing governments all over the world, that is probably being
    used now around the world, but also in the US itself. In the US it has turned the public to
    hating the Democrats, Clinton, Obama and Biden, and characterized Democrats in the most
    negative ways, while Republicans are never allowed to be demonized like that, even when
    they do all the demonic things they do.

    So, how easy would it be to turn the Ukrainian people against Yanukovych, the Russian-
    leaning President who was overthrown. Not just overthrown but some elements of violent
    Right-wing groups attacked a car thought to be carrying Yanukovych on his war to exile.
    After that a series of Right-wing Presidents who gave in to the Nationalists and passed
    anti-Russian laws and tolerated attacks on the Donbas. This would be kind of like Texas
    taking control of the US government and urging Americans to attack California and New
    York.

    Yanukovych was not a bad guy, as politicians go. His big mistake was supposedly to
    not sign an agreement with the EU, that he claimed was not a good agreement and also
    was damaging to Russia in that it incurred costs that Russia would have to pay for
    Ukraine’s decision. I am not sure about the specifics of that, but the point is the EU
    has never helped Ukraine developed, and in subsequent years Ukraines economy
    declined, and large parts of their heavy industry were shuttered leading to unemployment
    and millions of Ukrainian workers moving to the EU ( possible a brain drain? )

    To me this has the appearance of a strong globalist agenda, controlled by the US,
    and with the concerted goal of preventing Russia from developing economically. That
    is war on many levels by the US against Russia.

    So, in these ways the Right, the CIA, the Ukrainian Nationalists, the Ukrainian oligarchs
    have been manipulating Ukrainians in a way that is not on their radar or their ability to
    understand … like how the Right wing has been manipulating Americans. Is that a
    democracy? Is America a democracy any more? Do Ukrainians, or Americans for that
    matter really know what their countries are doing, and do they have any say in it? If
    we don’t know and cannot find out, what kind of poliitcal order do we have.

    All of these questions seem to me to be implicit in what is going on in the US and
    with respect to Ukraine, but there is no talk or discussion allowed about this, just as
    there are no representative of the Left in the US media – at all.

    Paul Jay ought to understand this since he has interviewed many people who have
    been victims of this censorship, and yet he delicately skirts these issues in a way that
    draws me to wondering if he is not doing this to survive as a media outlet. That would
    be understandable, but if that is happening, shouldn’t that be a topic of discussion
    that overrides these irrelevancies about Ukraine?

    What justifies the cooperation of the Left media with the US global oligarchy other
    than it may be the only path the Left has to even survive partially?

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