Russia Started War, Capitalists on All Sides Fuel the Fire - Boris Kagarlitsky pt 2

Kagarlitsky responds to criticism he underestimates NATO provocations. He also analyzes the changing politics of Ukraine and growing anti-war feelings in Russia.


Paul Jay

Hi. Welcome to theAnalysis.news. I’m Paul Jay. Be back in just a few seconds with Boris Kagarlitsky. We’re going to talk more about Russia and the invasion of Ukraine. Please don’t forget to subscribe if you’re on YouTube. Hit the donate button and come on over to the website. By the way, for people watching on YouTube, the website is by far a better place to watch because there is some material there that doesn’t appear on YouTube. For example, text articles and other things. Be back in just a few seconds.

The last time I interviewed Boris Kagarlitsky, there were a lot of responses that Boris wasn’t emphasizing enough or denouncing enough the role of NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] in what many people describe as a provocation of Russia into invading Ukraine. They talk about the NATOization of Ukraine in terms of the extent to which Ukraine was armed by the U.S. and Europe prior to the invasion. They say even though it’s not a formal member of NATO and can’t trigger Article 5 and the armed defense of Ukraine by NATO, it comes right up to the edge of that, and that was a provocation that eventually, after many attempts to negotiate this by [Vladimir] Putin’s government, Putin was essentially forced or provoked into this invasion. That’s certainly what Russia says itself. Putin has said this, and his foreign ministers and others have said it. There are people on the Left, especially in the global South; you can hear this argument made. So I wanted to start the interview by giving Boris a chance to respond to that.

So once again, Boris Kagarlitsky. He’s a well-known commentator on Russian politics and society. Boris was a Deputy to the Moscow City Soviet between 1990 and 1993, during which time he was a member of the Executive of the Socialist Party of Russia. He’s co-founder of the Party of Labor and Advisor to the chairperson of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia. Previously, he was a student of art criticism and was imprisoned for two years for anti-Soviet activities. Boris’s books include Empire of the Periphery: Russia and the World System and also Russia under Yeltsin and Putin: Neo-Liberal Autocracy and New Realism, New Barbarism: The Crisis of Capitalism.

In 2021, Kagarlitsky was sentenced to ten days in jail for sharing content on social media, promoting unpermitted protests by the Communist Party against the results of then Russia’s recent parliamentary elections. Boris has the distinction of having been put in jail by just about every government for the last few decades. He’s currently a professor at Moscow High School for Social Economic Sciences and Editor of Rabkor, a daily Russian journal and YouTube channel of left-wing debate. He joins us from Moscow. Thanks very much for joining us again, Boris.

Boris Kagarlitsky

Great seeing you, Paul.

Paul Jay

So there are many comments on our website, YouTube and such that thought you were underestimating the role of NATO and the Americans in provoking this. I would say there are two different categories of this: provoking the invasion because of the arming of Ukraine, the talk of certainly including Ukraine in the E.U., and talk about including it in NATO. Although I think what should have been obvious to everybody was that there was no way they were going to get consensus amongst NATO countries to include Ukraine in NATO. At the same time, there was a lot of arming of Ukraine prior to the invasion.

So how do you assess— before I ask the question, I just advise everyone to go back and watch part one if you haven’t because Boris did address this question to a large extent, essentially saying that the invasion was driven by domestic politics and increasing unpopularity of both the Putin government and the Russian oligarchy. But that said, Boris, how do you assess the role of NATO and the West in the Ukrainian war?

Boris Kagarlitsky

Well, first of all, I think there is major confusion here because if I’m saying that NATO didn’t play a major role in launching and provoking this particular conflict, it doesn’t mean I’m saying anything positive about NATO because these are two different things. NATO plays, definitely, a very negative role in Europe and in the world in the sense that it is a factor in global militarization. In that sense, we definitely have to oppose NATO. The problem is not here. The problem is elsewhere. The problem is to analyze particular facts which led to this particular conflict.

Here the picture is very different because, yes, NATO expansion could have been seen as a major challenge to Russian security. By the way, before the war, for a very long period of time, once I was interviewed by foreign journalists. I kept saying that there were Russian security concerns which should have been taken seriously. However, the irony is that the Russian government didn’t take these concerns seriously. This is the most interesting point here because they didn’t really react strongly except by making some formal statements about the expansion of NATO into the Baltic republics, for example, which is something technically much more serious than the negotiations about Ukraine. In the Baltic republics, among other things, not only were they involved in the NATO alliance, but they were also not following the rules of the European Union that they joined. For example, the Russian minority in Latvia and Estonia never managed to get proper rights, which should have been guaranteed, according to the documents of the European Union. The European Union didn’t do much about it. Neither did Russia, by the way. Russia never tried to do anything serious at the European level to press, to push these countries to—

 Paul Jay

Boris, what could they have done that they didn’t do?

Boris Kagarlitsky

For example, they should have negotiated that with the European Union. They should have discussed these issues at the European level, at the level of the European Parliamentary Assembly, for example, of which Russia was a member; put that as a major issue for the public international debate and so on. It was never done at that level. Actually, it’s very interesting they never used the huge amount of money which they kind of spent on supporting politicians like Marine le Pen and other far-right politicians, for example, to support Russian cultural activities in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, for example.

I had my own experience when I tried to put forward with a few colleagues a project of sending Russian books to Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, and a lot of libraries were quite ready to accept these books. Books on political science, books translated from English and German or French into Russian to support Russian cultural activities and Russian cultural life in these countries. It was rejected by Russian government institutions because they said that they were not interested. In private, they said there was no way we could steal money out of this project. So the project is not efficient from the point of view of those corrupted officials who considered every project from the point of view of how much money could have been stolen from this project.

So there was total indifference to the Russian cultural life in these countries. Like sometimes, you can send some kind of group of Cossack dancers to Latvia to show that there was some cultural presence. Once there was any kind of cultural issue which was seriously important for these communities, Russia completely, Russian officials completely rejected it.

Paul Jay

But they did issue some pretty strong statements in the months leading up before the invasion about the eastward expansion of NATO, where they made demands that Ukraine shouldn’t be part of NATO. They also wanted some demilitarization of even some of the other countries that were already in NATO.

Boris Kagarlitsky

But actually, these statements by Putin and his people were themselves more like provocations, but rather more like an attempt to prepare excuses for their activities which they already planned. You see, speaking about Ukraine, again, we have to see two different things. One thing is that what kind of state do we have in Ukraine currently? The Ukrainian State is not the kind of democracy as it is presented in the West. It’s a State which represses, for example, its leftist groups. A State that continues repressing leftists like, for example, [inaudible 00:10:49], a good friend of mine, is now under arrest in Kyiv. There are plenty of reasons for us to be very critical about the Ukrainian State. It doesn’t change the fact that it was Putin’s Russian Army which attacked Ukraine and not the other way round. Full stop.

Paul Jay

Okay, let me just say— let me ask. Shouldn’t the Ukrainian government have simply outright declared neutrality before the invasion? Especially given the fact they were never going to get into NATO anyway? Why not just say so? And even if it was just an excuse, at least take that excuse away.

Boris Kagarlitsky

Actually, there was a lot of debate inside of Ukraine about this. There were voices which were saying exactly this inside Ukraine’s political sphere and even inside the current Ukrainian government. If you follow what was discussed and what was debated within the Ukrainian political class, this is exactly the issue. Why was the pro-NATO, current pro-NATO tendency dominant? For a very simple reason. Russia kept threatening the Ukrainian State with an invasion publicly. Almost every day. You just turn on Russian television. For years they were speaking and discussing the future invasion into Ukraine.

Imagine you are in a country with a neighbor who is discussing publicly future aggression against you. Of course, it’s quite natural that the ones who speak up for the military build-up are much more popular than those who are speaking in favor of demilitarization and disarmament. So, it’s pretty natural. One, in the West or in the global South, people simply do not know what is on Russian television and in Russian state-controlled newspapers, for example. Ukrainian public, Ukrainian politicians and Ukrainian citizens all know Russian, half of whom are Russian speakers; they all knew that, and they read it and heard that every day.

By the way, I remember there was this moment when Ukraine banned Russian television channels from being broadcasted in Ukraine, and after that, there was an opinion poll in Ukraine, which showed that the opinion of Russia started getting better after Russian television channels were banned in Ukraine because these channels were extremely jingoistic. Again, speaking to people in the global South, I should say they probably see that as a struggle against American imperialism or something like that, which has nothing to do with the reality. If you hear Russian government propaganda, first of all, it’s totally racist. Totally racist. It’s like saying that Ukrainians are kind of inferior to Russians. Ukrainians are just people who are genetically inferior because these are Russians but spoiled Russians. Russians were spoiled genetically because of the presence of Tatar, western or some other genes in their blood and so on. So that’s what you get on television. That’s what you get daily: the Ukrainian culture doesn’t have the right to exist. The very existence of Ukrainian languages and culture is an existential threat to the existence of Russia.

It’s also very new colonial. In a sense, it’s like an attempt to pull back a former colony into the empire. Again, I should say it’s very much propaganda. It’s very much propaganda. I’m not saying that’s a major motivation for the Russian government because, as I told you before, the major motivations for the Russian government are domestic. The major motives are domestic. But just imagine you’re a Ukrainian, and you turn on the television, the internet or the newspaper and what you get there is a real wave of aggression, a wave of racist aggression against not only your government or your State, but also your country, your culture, and your language. And that explains that within this context, the anti-Russian groups within the Ukrainian elite, which are quite reactionary, by the way, have the upper hand. It also creates the atmosphere within these groups, these reactionary groups, it’s getting extremely easy to accuse anyone on the Left or anybody who represents even the liberal Left or the central Left of being Russian agents or spies, and that creates this atmosphere of hysteria, anger and the atmosphere of fear. This atmosphere was very much created by Russian propaganda itself. This is something which has to be understood in the West.

Paul Jay

So if one of the objectives of the Russian invasion was supposedly de-Nazification of Ukraine, it sounds like you’re saying, if anything, it might have strengthened the Nazification of Ukraine?

Boris Kagarlitsky

Sure it did. Though interestingly enough, now the situation in Ukraine is much more complicated. If you are going back into Ukraine politics, it is becoming much more democratic and pluralistic now, these days, during the war than it used to be before the war. Why? For a very simple reason. Who is fighting? Who has the weapons? By the way, we’re speaking about the militarization of Ukraine and about weapons being sent to Ukraine. This is a huge exaggeration because there were a lot of weapons sent by— these were mainly weapons which could be used for guerrilla warfare like the Javelin system and sometimes Stinger systems. The kind of weapons which used to be sent by Americans to Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion into Afghanistan. The West was not planning that Ukraine and Ireland were going to survive the war. They were not expecting Ukraine to survive as a country. They were expecting that Ukraine would be occupied, and then, of course, like in Afghanistan, they would be supplying some kind of guerrilla forces and also creating problems for the Russian troops. That was the Western troops’ strategy, which didn’t happen because the Ukrainian Army was mainly fighting with its own hardware.

Paul Jay

There’s a very interesting statistic that supports what you’re saying. Prior to 2014-2015, Ukraine was in the top ten; I think it was the eighth or ninth-largest arms exporter in the world. After that, it dropped out of the top ten arms exporters in the world not because it was producing less arms but because the arms were staying in Ukraine and building up the military capacity of the Ukrainian Army.

Boris Kagarlitsky

Exactly. That’s the point. The Ukrainian Army happened to become quite a considerable fighting force because it was re-arming itself massively. So it was not the West that was arming Ukraine, but Ukraine that was re-arming itself massively. It was Ukrainian hardware, including, interestingly enough, some high-tech hardware which happens to be superior to what is produced in Russia, much cheaper, and much more effective. It was a big surprise both for Russian generals and for Western military experts that Ukraine happened to become capable of fighting back quite successfully. Then there was a long period of discussion between the Ukrainian government, NATO and Western powers about getting proper military hardware which is arriving in Ukraine just now. So after four months of fighting, heavy fighting, after the bombing of Kyiv, Kharkiv and after the massacre in Bucha, two months after the massacre in Bucha, Ukraine didn’t get much of the hardware it was asking for. It’s not that the West was arming Ukraine massively. On the contrary, the West was quite cynical about probably using Ukraine for its own purposes but not very much about helping Ukraine. These are different things. Helping Ukraine and using Ukraine are two very different things.

Coming back to the issue, I insist I want to continue. There is a very important issue that’s happening now with the Ukrainian political class and Ukrainian politics in general. By the end of February, it was very clear that the nationalist, the ethnic nationalist, the right-wing, [inaudible 00:21:29] within the political spectrum definitely had the upper hand. The [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy government was making one concession to them after another concession. So the Zelenskyy government was not a nationalist government but was retreating, systematically retreating on major issues. Now the situation started getting more complex. I’m not saying that it’s getting much better. I’m saying it’s getting much more complex, much more contradictory, in a sense, that there is now a growing force. A force which is more and more vocal is supporting the idea of reinventing the Ukrainian State and reinventing the Ukrainian State on a non-nationalist basis. Why?

First of all, why? Second, who are these people? Why, it’s very clear. The Army which is fighting against Russians is mostly Russian speaking. The generals, the soldiers, the officers, the heroes of Ukraine, the ones who are presented as the faces of the Ukrainian resistance, most of these people are not only Russian speakers, but many of them are ethnic Russians who are proud to be Russians and who say that they are Russians. They’re Ukrainian-Russians. They keep saying they are Ukrainian-Russians, and that changes the situation because there are not so many heroes who can represent Ukrainian nationalists, with the exception of the Azov Regiment in Mariupol’ which was really a nationalist regiment.

Paul Jay

These are people who are either self-described or described as Nazis and are very far-right, at least were at the—

Boris Kagarlitsky

They’re not Nazis, but they were definitely far-right. They were definitely far-right. They were as far-right as most of the Trumpest’s. They were very much like Trump supporters.

Paul Jay

Do you mean a kind of Christian nationalist?

Boris Kagarlitsky

Sure. They were like Trump supporters or Marine le Pen supporters, definitely. That was definitely a battalion and then a regiment organized by the far-right. The problem with them is that most of these people do not speak Ukrainian. In that sense, even when you see the face of a Ukrainian ethnic nationalist, these people appear on the video and either they speak very poor Ukrainian or they speak Russian. In that sense, the actual face of the Ukrainian resistance, even when it is presented by the right-wing, by the far-right, it’s is associated with the Russian-speaking population of Lis. So in that sense, one thing is that Russian speakers are now armed with the— they are organized and armed. Then we have the so-called Territorial Defense, [foreign language 00:24:36], Territorial Defense Forces. It’s a kind of public organization of [inaudible 00:24:45], a popular militia organized to fight back against the invasion.

Where are these people? They’re all in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine. So these forces, armed forces, new armed forces, we have hundreds of thousands of people who either got weapons or got access to weapons. Who are these people? These are Russian speakers.

So let’s change the balance of forces because if you take the situation before February 24, then everybody who was armed and organized was people on the far-right, and either these volunteer battalions which were far-right and which were, of course, also very much promoting this Ukrainian nationalist agenda. There were groups from the west of Ukraine who were parachuted to the east to suppress pro-Russian movements and tendencies and terrorized local populations very often. There are people not necessarily from the west but sometimes from the west, sometimes from the east, who joined ethnic nationalists and terrorized local populations. Now there is no way you can do it because the local population is armed itself. So in that sense, it changed the balance of forces within Ukraine’s society massively. So it’s a very different society these days.

Now coming to the actual voices. Who are these people speaking in favor of a more balanced or integrative Ukraine and State? Actually, it’s very interesting because there are two tendencies developing simultaneously. On the one hand, you can see some attempts to cancel Russian culture, and to pull down statues and monuments. There are attempts to introduce new textbooks representing Russians as existential enemies, much like how Russian textbooks represent Ukraine. So there are similar textbooks introduced in Ukraine also. So you can see this continuing offensive of the far-right, which didn’t stop; it continued. It continues, and it’s getting the new levels. At the very same time, there are people in Kyiv close to the Zelenskyy administration and close to the military who are speaking out publicly against that. Who are these people?

First of all, let’s see who’s the most vocal person.

Paul Jay

Before you get to that, I’m just confused on something here. If much of the far-right speaks Russian, then who’s enforcing the laws to suppress Russian culture?

Boris Kagarlitsky

That’s the biggest irony. Many of these people who do not speak Ukrainian at the same time support the idea of suppressing the Russian language for ideological reasons, and that’s what Ukraine is about. Ukraine is a very special place where you can find people who denounce Russian culture and promote Ukrainian culture who do not speak proper Ukrainian. They speak terrible Ukrainian, or they don’t speak the Ukrainian language at all. Then you can see some people who speak perfect Ukrainian, who are very much within the Ukrainian culture, who are coming from Lviv, from the west, from the Ukrainian speaking west and who will tell you, well, I have no problem with the Russian language. I’m okay with Russian culture. That’s fine with me. So the language issue is very much an ideological issue. It’s not necessarily the actual issue about the language you speak, but it’s a language which you consider to be appropriate to express specific political messages. That’s very much the contradiction because, again, Zelenskyy didn’t speak the Ukrainian language before he became the president. He had to learn the Ukrainian language. The problem here is that in Ukraine, it is considered to be normal. Once you get elected to the top position in the bureaucracy, you have to learn the language, not the other way around. You don’t have to know the language to get elected, but once you are elected, you have to know the language.

Paul Jay

Okay. It’s very confusing. Alright, you were about to say the voices who are speaking out for a kind of different, a new kind of Ukrainian State.

Boris Kagarlitsky

Okay. So let’s look at these voices. So let’s speak about these voices. So the most prominent voice is Oleksiy Arestovych, who is the Adviser to Zelenskyy on military issues but is considered to be their ally in person between the military and the civilian government. It’s interesting because he is a military officer but also a kind of public intellectual, which is a very rare case. I am really very much impressed by that because it’s not very often that you get a professional military who is a public intellectual at the same time. He’s really quite competent. He speaks about literature. He speaks about history but sometimes makes mistakes, though, on history. He’s a Russian speaker, and he appears on the internet, on television daily, sometimes three or four times a day with the current news, with the analysis and so on. He’s now considered to be the second most popular and most trusted figure in Ukraine. Most kind of influential figure in Ukraine. By the way, do you know who the first one is? The first one is the dog called Patron.

Paul Jay

The dog is more popular than Zelenskyy?

Boris Kagarlitsky

By far. By far.

Paul Jay

Whose dog is that?

Boris Kagarlitsky

The dog Patron is a dog which is involved in de-mining activities with the Ukrainian Army. The dog often appears on the internet almost daily with news about the de-mining of the areas which were affected by military activities. In the name of the dog, they report, for example, how dangerous a particular stretch of mines or shells is and what you should do when you discover a shell, a mine or some other explosive device anywhere. The dog also appears on social media daily, and the dog is now considered to be the most popular character on social media by far. So when they compared the dog Patron with Zelenskyy and Arestovych, suddenly they discovered that the dog is by far more popular than any other politician. By the way, I think it’s very telling. What do you think about politicians?

Paul Jay

Well, I’m sure there are many dogs that would beat most of the American leaders in popularity polls, too. But anyway, go ahead. So who is this guy then? What does he stand for?

Boris Kagarlitsky

Oleksiy Arestovych, as I told you before, Oleksiy Arestovych is the licensed person between the military and the civil administration. He’s also the major, the most popular commentator, human commentator. Putting aside the dog Patron, he is the most popular human commentator on Ukrainian social media, television and the internet. He speaks Russian all the time. His Ukrainian is okay. He can speak Ukrainian when he makes public statements as an official, he makes these public statements in Ukrainian, but all other statements are made in Russian. He keeps attacking Ukrainization almost every day by saying what we need to achieve. We need to achieve equality between languages and communities, and unless we accept the Russian language as part of Ukraine, we are not going to win this conflict.

Paul Jay

Alright, so this guy is pushing back against Ukrainianization, and he’s a very popular politician and military leader.

Boris Kagarlitsky

Now, many people are saying that he is going to be the next president. His popularity is really skyrocketing. Not only this, not only that, he is speaking about how the small Ukrainian culture should embrace the big Russian culture. So that Russia is not physically bigger. It has a bigger history and a bigger culture, but Ukraine should not reject this culture; it should embrace, appropriate and integrate it into—

Paul Jay

Within a sovereign Ukraine.

Boris Kagarlitsky

Yes. Within a sovereign Ukraine. Ukrainian identity. That’s the message. Second, interestingly enough, he’s very critical of NATO. To some extent, though, blaming NATO for not supporting Ukraine properly, of course, but also very critical of the West.

Paul Jay

So approaching it the way he is helping to unify the Russian and Ukrainian-speaking peoples in a war against the Russian invasion.

Boris Kagarlitsky

Yes, by the way, but it’s also very typical. Every time he speaks about Russia, he says, I am not speaking about Russia; I’m speaking about Putin, the Putin regime. So we are not fighting against Russia; we are fighting against Putin’s regime. It’s also a very interesting statement he keeps repeating time and again. Just recently, it was a very scandalous thing because Dmitry Bykov, who is a very well-known Russian writer, very well known Russian writer who emigrated from Russia. He recently visited Kyiv, and they had a show together with Arestovych. They appeared together on, I think, YouTube. And then suddenly, they discussed Russian literature. And then suddenly, Arestovych said the Soviet Union was the best thing which has ever happened in Ukrainian history. It was God’s blessing that we were part of the Soviet Union. That was a big scandal because the Ukrainian State tends to say that we have nothing to do with the Soviet Union. We were always oppressed. We were always victims of Stalinism, Communism and so on. Then this guy suddenly said, look, the Soviet Union was the best episode of our history.

Paul Jay

And why does he say that?

Boris Kagarlitsky

Well, because he’s undermining the nationalist discourse. He’s not a leftist. He’s not a leftist. He is systematically and consciously undermining the nationalist discourse.

Paul Jay

The far-right nationalist. So let me just put a pin on this. Zelenskyy has been backing up, compromising, capitulating to the right nationalist, where this guy is standing up to them.

Boris Kagarlitsky

Exactly. And by the way, he’s Bella-Russian ethnically.

Paul Jay

Let me go back to this point of Zelenskyy compromising and capitulating to the far-right. One of the justifications for the Russian invasion was that when Zelenskyy was elected, in the beginning, part of his promise in the election was a peaceful resolution of the Donbass problem, which people thought would have been a negotiation and some level of autonomy for Donbass. There was the  Minsk Agreement, one and two. One of the justifications for this invasion that comes from Putin is that, one, Ukraine never implemented the Minsk Agreements, which would have given more autonomy to Donbass. Two, that the strengthening of the Ukrainian military forces and the increased militarization of Ukraine— and as we talked about, a lot of that was actually domestic Ukrainian production. Still, that beefing up was actually meant as a preparation for a Ukrainian invasion of the independent republics, autonomous republics in Donbass, and thus became one of the justifications for the invasion. So is there some truth to all of that?

Boris Kagarlitsky

There is. There is. At least in one sense, the Zelenskyy government was not up to its promises. It was definitely not carrying out what was expected. Not necessarily promised, though, expected. Certain things were never articulated, but voting for Zelenskyy, people expected certain things to happen, and they didn’t happen. As I told you before, Zelenskyy was systematically capitulating to the far-right. He was elected by the people who wanted him to stand up against the far-right, and he did exactly the opposite. He was retreating and capitulating. In that sense, Zelenskyy does share the responsibility for what is happening, but it’s not equal responsibility. Of course, you should not confuse the one who is responsible for not doing the right thing with somebody who’s responsible for doing the wrong thing. This is a big difference. Whatever you say about the strengthening of the Ukrainian military force, it was by far weaker than the Russian force.

Okay, let’s put it differently. Even if we imagine that Ukraine was planning to invade Donetsk and Luhansk, which is not true, but even if we were accepting that kind of claim, it doesn’t justify the invasion of the Russian Army into Ukraine because what you could do, you could simply send more Russian troops to protect Luhansk and Donetsk from a possible invasion, full stop.

Actually, Russia has the capacity to protect these territories, and it doesn’t mean that the only way to protect these territories is to occupy from other territories. So it’s very much the push factor and justification, which is very typical for every aggression. In the last 100 years, it’s very typical that most aggressors explain their behavior by saying, well, okay, if we didn’t do that, the other side would have done this. But that’s not how things are done in the real world. In the real world, if we want somebody to abstain from, say, invading a neighboring country, you should be helping the neighboring country, not attacking the other country. 

Of course, that’s another reason why, for example, voting for the recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk in the Russian parliament itself didn’t necessarily lead to a major war. There was still a chance to avoid a major war. One option was to send some troops there just to prevent a Ukrainian attack if it were a real danger, which it wasn’t. Actually, there was not much fighting going on along the Luhansk and Donetsk de facto frontier. The number of civilian casualties under the Zelenskyy government was diminished. That’s true. Even though there was no real attempt to get some peace settlement or some understanding, mutual understanding with the people in Donetsk and Luhansk, nevertheless, the actual fighting was decreasing systematically.

Paul Jay

Yeah, the OSCE reports confirmed that it was diminishing greatly from 2018 on.

Boris Kagarlitsky

Exactly. So the point is that, of course, again, Zelenskyy didn’t use the opportunity he initially got when he was elected. Especially in 2019, there was no reason for the Ukrainian public to be so afraid of the Russian invasion because it was five years after their original crisis in Luhansk and Donetsk. The situation was relatively calm by then. So what could have been done by Zelenskyy was some kind of move towards reconciliation, some kind of cultural gestures, some kind of people’s diplomacy, some kind of attempts to start, not necessarily formal negotiations, but at least informal contacts with the other side showing that their concerns were taken seriously.

Paul Jay

Now, the United States, in the weeks leading up to the invasion, even months, certainly could have— and there are even commentators on some of the talk shows, some of the foreign policy pundits even coming from the Right, who said that there is no way Ukraine is ever going to really be part of NATO. The Biden administration certainly could have said something like that. They could have said, look, everyone knows we’re never getting consensus on Ukraine getting into NATO, and the Americans could have taken that off the table. But they didn’t, which is one of the arguments that even though it wasn’t, perhaps, as you’re saying, the factor why the Russians invaded, the Americans must have been somewhat pleased with it all in the final analysis. They could have done something to mitigate the excuses for invasion. Quite the opposite, they seem to help provoke it.

Boris Kagarlitsky

It is quite possible, though, I think, that the invasion should have happened anyhow because of domestic reasons. As I told you before, there were lots of reasons to start some minor war which happened to become a major war. They didn’t expect the war to be so serious, to be so massive, so long and so on. They definitely wanted some kind of short operation. When Putin spoke about a special military operation, I think we have to take it honestly and seriously. I think he was quite honest in the sense that he wanted a short military operation by destroying the Ukrainian Army and Ukrainian State within days or hours, which didn’t happen. So that was a major miscalculation and a major mistake. Nevertheless, I don’t think that they planned for a major war. They were not ready for a major long-term war.

Let’s get back to the original issue. What I’m saying is that now the situation has changed. Now the situation has changed in that within the Ukrainian military, there is a growing tendency toward reshaping and rearranging the Ukrainian State. So in that sense, the military in Ukraine became heroes, and they became popular, and they are now going to play a major political role. That’s why it’s very interesting that the figure of Arestovych is emerging.

Paul Jay

Let me get back to this because I think it’s an important point, at least certainly for Western audiences. The United States could have done more—

Boris Kagarlitsky

Definitely.

Paul Jay

—to prevent this, and quite the contrary, they actually seem to egg it on, and now we can see why, perhaps because they must be smiling ear to ear, except— and I want to do this more in the next interview we do because the economic sanctions are affecting the West, I think far more than the West ever expected. But that said, the Americans certainly hoped and thought this would weaken and perhaps become the overthrow of Putin, and they didn’t care how many Ukrainians died in the course of all this.

Boris Kagarlitsky

Well, first of all, we have to understand there are no good guys in this story. There are no good guys among American politicians, at least among the top American politicians, and there are no good guys among Russian or Ukrainian top politicians.

Paul Jay

Yeah, this is a fight amongst oligarchs.

Boris Kagarlitsky

Yes, within capitalists, within the bourgeoisie, among the oligarchs, and so on. So that’s how it is. That’s the kind of world we are in. We don’t have a positive hero. Even when I’m speaking about Arestovych with a lot of admiration because he’s making statements which really are game-changing, we should know that Arestovych is also part of this elite and very much part of this milieu which is running Ukraine these days. It’s very interesting that he is moving towards this kind of agenda, the integrationist agenda.

Paul Jay

But do you not think the Americans saw the opportunity for what people describe as another Afghanistan, sucking the Soviets into Afghanistan, we’re going to suck the Russians into Ukraine?

Boris Kagarlitsky

That was probably. I don’t know much about what was happening in Washington. I’m sure that was at least part of the issue; at least that wasn’t an option, which they consider to be quite okay.

Paul Jay

And let me say, when I say that Putin has the choice not to be sucked in, it’s not like he’s ignorant of what the plans on the other side are.

Boris Kagarlitsky

They didn’t care. I think they didn’t care. Nobody cared that much about Ukraine. That’s the problem. Nobody cared about Ukrainians. Putin’s team was pretty sure that they were going to defeat Ukraine very fast, and they didn’t care about a possible guerrilla war in Ukraine because they probably thought of establishing some kind of puppet government there and then retreating so that the Ukrainians would fight each other after the war.

By the way, it’s very much part of the Ukrainian tradition itself. If you look at Ukrainian history, you see there was not so much fighting against Russians. There was a lot of fighting among the Ukrainians with, say, Russians backing one side against another and so on. So that was very much part of their understanding of Russia’s leaders’ understanding of the situation, which was totally erroneous. It was a miscalculation. Now we have a different situation in Ukraine. We have a different situation in Russia. Russia’s society is now acknowledging the society, not the government. The society is acknowledging that the war is not going to be won. That’s the essential thing, especially in the last days. If you’re following Russian social media, what you discover is the growing awareness of the fact that the war is not going to end up positively or victoriously.

So now we have the recent opinion poll with an increasing number of people saying that they are in favor of stopping the war immediately without any conditions. So this is a very important and major shift, and it’s very interesting. It’s taking place right now when we are talking. To make things even more interesting, I think it’s important to point to the fact that most Russians before recently didn’t care about the war. So it’s not that they supported the war and then started opposing the war. No, they didn’t care about the war, and they often didn’t even know about the war because a special military operation is not a war. It’s something which is happening somewhere far away, and we have nothing to do with it. Now, on the one hand, Russian society is gaining awareness of the very fact of the war, and at the same time, the anti-war sentiment is increasing while the anti-war movement is decreasing. It’s another interesting thing because the anti-war movement just is exhausted. People who were struggling against the war, and many of them are oppressed, many of them are exhausted physically and morally. At the same time, the opposition to the war among society is increasing. This is a very interesting contradiction.

Paul Jay

Okay, so I want to end this now and do another one with you very soon, where we explore this further. There’s an interesting thing happening in the West now. If you watch the news here, most of the news is about how resilient the Russian economy has been, how Russia can sustain this war for a long time, and how Western Europe is actually suffering and what the recession is being caused by. A lot of the news here seems to be preparing public opinion for a negotiated settlement in Ukraine. So in the next segment with you, let’s explore both the economic side of this issue and what are the prospects for some kind of peaceful resolution here. Because at least my view is I couldn’t care less what territory ends up in which oligarch’s hands. I think people need to stop dying here. Anyway, thanks very much, and let’s do this again.

Boris Kagarlitsky

Absolutely.

Paul Jay

Okay. Thank you for joining us on theAnalysis.news.


Select one or choose any amount to donate whatever you like
$

Never miss another story

Subscribe to theAnalysis.news - Newsletter
Name(Required)

“Boris Yulyevich Kagarlitsky is a Russian Marxist theoretician and sociologist who has been a political dissident in the Soviet Union and in post-Soviet Russia. He is coordinator of the Transnational Institute Global Crisis project and Director of the Institute of Globalization and Social Movements in Moscow.”

theAnalysis.news theme music

written by Slim Williams for Paul Jay’s documentary film “Never-Endum-Referendum“.  

Similar Posts

4 Comments

  1. “[inaudible 00:10:49], a good friend of mine ” that’s political scientist Dmitry Dzhangirov.

  2. A superb interview along with the previous one. I haven’t had the chance to absorb all that Kagarlitsky says but I’ll comment now and perhaps later when I’ve better digested what his views. He points out the contemptuous attitude that many Russians casually hold to non-Russians as well as the arrogance of the Russian, Ukrainian and NATO leaderships. The self-centred narcissism of elite groups driving others to war with a casual indifference cannot be emphasised enough. One good thing has happened, however, and that many in the NATO countries have become more alert to the danger of this organisation.

    I think it is important for the Russians to be frightened by the geographical expansion of NATO. It is the expansion of an integrated, unified military command right up to the borders. But as Kagarlitsky points out they could have responded a lot earlier.

  3. I am sorry to write that Mr Kargalitisky’s arguments are a labyrinth of parenthetical insertions, opinions on what would have demonstrated a serious concern by the Russian government that were not undertaken, omissions that to him prove his case that Russia’s military action was driven by domestic politics. The fact is that Russia was being threatened all along its European border by NATO’s military fortifications, the only missing pieces, Belarus (friendly) and Ukraine (hostile). It would have been irresponsible for the Russian President to allow Ukraine to remain a part of this architecture. Whatever costs the Russians are now paying to protect itself would have been multiplied greatly if Ukraine had been allowed to become even a de facto member of NATO. The war in Ukraine is a proxy war. It is a USA-Russo war begun by the USA in 2014 with the Maiden Coup or in 1999 with the Drang nach Osten of NATO, take your pick. February 2022 ended the “phony” war.

    The Russian dissident’s argument that domestic politics drove Pres Putin to military action should be weighed against the argument that many Russians oppose Russia’s sending its young people into harm’s way and spending resources on war.

  4. This is what Kargarlitsky wrote in 2014!!! :
    The debate about the role of NATO in Ukraine is starting too late: Western leaders already made a fatal decision to back the new Kiev government no matter what it is doing and no matter what the real situation is on the ground. That means that they will bear responsibility for the inevitable failures and disasters that will follow.
    We can debate whether what happened in Kiev in February 2014 was an uprising or a coup d’etat, but one thing is clear: Ousted President Viktor Yanukovich was elected legally and democratically in a competitive election. He was corrupt, no doubt about it, but there are plenty of corrupt leaders in the West.
    Western logic toward Ukraine is based on the inertia of the Cold War, fueled by an economic crisis. NATO involvement will mean more conflict.
    Of course, Western press blames Russia for what is happening in Ukraine — it is easier to do that than to analyze a complex situation or to recognize Western leaders’ own errors. And blaming President Vladimir Putin is also easy because it is true that Russia is in no way a model of democracy. The country has a well known record of electoral fraud and plenty of political prisoners. A year ago, Ukraine represented a merging democratic model for the post-Soviet region. But now, since the November 2013 coup, the country has it’s share of political prisoners, death squads and electoral fraud. As for the scale of corruption, the current Kiev government seems worse seems worse than the Yanukovich administration.

    For two months, the Ukrainian army bombed Donetsk and Luhansk without even offering them any humanitarian corridor or letting aide workers and journalists in. While the international community is rightly unhappy with Israel’s operations in Gaza, much worse is happening in eastern Ukraine with little protest.
    The West is wrong to see President Putin and his entourage as the enemies. These people in power in Moscow are as liberal and pro-Western as they can be given the current mood in Russia. Their only goal is to be friends of the West, and to send their children and their money to London and Zurich. They even supply the Ukrainian army with spare parts for tanks and helicopters that are being used to fight against pro-Russian Donetsk forces and Russian volunteers. If there is to be a change of government and a free election in Russia, a leadership will emerge that will be far more hostile to the West and less liberal than Putin.
    Of course, there is a logic to what NATO is doing. It is based on the inertia of the Cold War, fueled by an economic crisis. This means that instead of transforming economic and social structures, European leadership is throwing more resources into a system that doesn’t work. And this means expansion and conflict.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *