Russian Chauvinism and an American Global Monroe Doctrine - Vijay Prashad pt 2

The Ukrainian people are paying the price for a struggle over spheres of big power influence. Vijay Prashad joins Paul Jay on

Paul Jay

Hi, I’m Paul Jay with This is a continuation of part two of my discussion with Vijay Prashad. I’ll be back in just a few seconds.

So in part one, we deconstructed the geopolitics, agenda and interest of NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] and the Western countries and the role they’ve played in Ukraine. In this segment, we’re going to talk more about why Russia invaded and what’s driving [Vladimir] Putin and Russian policy. So once again, I’m joined by Vijay Prashad. He’s a historian, a journalist, and a commentator. He’s the executive director of Tricontinental Institute for Social Research, and he’s the editor in chief of LeftWord Books. Thanks for joining me again, Vijay.

Vijay Prashad

Thanks a lot.

Paul Jay

So as I said at the end of part one, if the objective of Russia was quote-unquote “legitimate security concerns,” end quote, which I don’t really think was, but at any rate, let’s say it was, they have completely done the opposite. The invasion has unified NATO in a way it probably never was before. At the time of the Iraq War, France and Germany would not jump on the American page. France, in a very outspoken way. Germany was going ahead with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline for natural gas from Russia in spite of vigorous American objections. Germany was standing up to that, in terms of Nord Stream 2, at least. Well, now it’s the opposite.

I don’t get what the hell the calculation was by Putin here. So let me say, first of all, and then it’s over to you. What Russia did under Putin’s leadership, and I don’t like to always personify it as Putin, although since some of these events have unfolded, I think it’s more Putin than I thought it was. Especially the dressing down of the head of Russian Foreign Intelligence and the way that happened makes me think maybe this is more Putin than just a class of bureaucrats. At any rate, what motivates this here? If it isn’t really NATO expansion, which I agree with you, you made the point in part one that Putin had no trouble with NATO expansion up until 07/08. Even if Ukraine is a NATO country, there’s no more likelihood they’re going to invade Russia than they would use any of the current NATO States that border Russia to invade Russia. NATO’s primary role is to dominate Europe. Invading Russia can’t be part of the agenda. Also, even mid-range missiles, correct me if I’m wrong, well, okay, they can put mid-range missiles already on the borders of Russia if they want to. Even if they did, it doesn’t take out Russian submarines. So Russia always has a deterrent that can wipe out the United States anyways. These short-range missiles don’t really change the balance of power. If it’s really about Donbas, then why don’t you just protect Donbas? So explain to me what’s going on here.

Vijay Prashad

Well, it’s interesting. If you talk to people in Russian foreign policy circles, they will inform you that the security question is not just a minor issue. If you put the pieces together, yes, the withdrawal by the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, was a catastrophic decision. It’s was an important piece of the architecture of nuclear defense, as it were. Secondly, when the United States withdrew from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, INF Treaty in 2018, that was also unfortunate because by withdrawing from both the Anti-Ballistic Missile and the INF Treaty, nuclear deterrence was gone. The architecture that prevented the acceleration of the arms race and so on.

Now, you said submarines; that’s interesting. Now look at this, if Ukraine, under Petro Poroshenko, had denied Russia the right to use the naval base in Sevastopol, and if the government in Damascus had fallen and the Muslim brotherhood came and told the Russians to pack up their ships in Tartus, there would be no submarine base for Russia during the long winter months. So suddenly, Russia would have this mid-range nuclear missile threat and no submarines to base anywhere.

Paul Jay

Well, hold on for a second. They can’t get out of the Black Sea without Turkey, and Turkey is in NATO. Turkey can shut that off at any moment, which, in fact, they just did. Turkey has banned warships from getting out. So clearly, Russia has submarines that are already out. And don’t they have a northern base that they used to?

Vijay Prashad

Now, because of climate change, it’s getting easier to have basing year-round, even in the Pacific. The Tartus base is really significant. Again, one could say, look, the Mediterranean could be closed down because, after all, the British still control Gibraltar, and they could put ships into the edge of the Mediterranean and shut it down. I mean, there are all kinds of vulnerabilities. We’re not talking about, in a way, the facts on the ground. We’re also talking about perceptions. I think that in the manner of perceptions, there was a kind of fear that a build-up was taking place and the Russians were falling behind.

Now, again, whether any of this is real or not, is less important to the perception game. In the foreign policy literature in Russia, and I include people discussing things at the Valdai [Discussion] Club and at the St. Petersburg [International Economic ] Forum, these became issues of discussion. Questions of a serious nuclear threat against Russia. Now, again, Paul, whether it’s real or not, this is the stuff that is being discussed by experts on the Russian side. So that’s what they’re talking about. They’re not actually talking about, necessarily, Ukraine being the base for missiles. After all, France and Germany opposed Ukraine’s entry into NATO. It didn’t look like Ukraine would ever enter into NATO. That may have been a red herring, as it were. So the security question is something that Moscow took seriously.

Secondly, it’s true that when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. One interesting phenomenon was that the collapse took place relatively peacefully. If you compare the collapse of the U.S.S.R., where the various republics, from Ukraine to Kazakhstan, they essentially left without any bloodshed. There was minor conflict. In fact, the most terrible violence took place in Moscow when Mr. [Boris] Yeltsin later sent tanks to go and bomb the Russian Parliament. That was really the epicenter of the violence. It didn’t take place in Uzbekistan, and so on. It was a pretty bloodless breakup. Yugoslavia was different. Remember, Yugoslavia started in Croatia when half a million Crimean-Serbs were expelled from Croatia. Then NATO plays a slightly uglier game by participating in various mutual forms of terrible, violent ethnic cleansing that took place in Yugoslavia. In the various Soviet republics, as they broke up and became various independent countries, there wasn’t that kind of violence. In fact, in Eastern Europe, Czechoslovakia breaks up into the Czech Republic and Slovakia almost entirely peacefully. This is something to bear reflection on.

Now what happens is that in many of these Soviet republics, because of the dominance of the Russian population, there are considerable populations of Russian in each. Russian speakers and Russian people who claim Russian ethnicity in many of them. In fact, in Kazakhstan, 20% of the population claims Russian ancestry. This is an issue being raised recently in the Duma, unfortunately. As Russian chauvinism also increases inside Russia, the question arises, what happens to our populations? In 2008, this question of Russians in the republics, now countries outside Russia directly, comes up when a war breaks out in Ossetia. In Georgia in August of 2008, that was an early indication of the growth of Russian chauvinism and the concern for Russians who live in these other countries. In Ukraine, Ukraine has a fascinating history, Paul. Just take the last names of the principles in this conflict. Sorry, the first name. They have the same first name: Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy. They write it differently and say it differently, but both refer to St. Vladimir or Volodymyr.

Now, they share a lot, but also have a great and different history. I mean, Russia today, the heart of its elites and its culture, was born out of the Duchy of Moscovy in ancient times. Ukraine was part of the great Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth when the capital was in Warsaw before that crackdown. They share a lot of cultural stuff, but there are also, of course, differences. These are enormously plurinational parts of the world. Ukraine has an enormous number of minorities. By the way, it’s not unusual. People may not know that Tanzania has 130 languages. Most places in the world are incredibly complicated culturally. They don’t all descend into internal strife and civil war, but in this case, there are minority populations: Moldovans, Hungarians, Roma-peoples, Russian speakers and so on.

What’s very interesting is after the change of government in 2004, driven by the United States, when Mr. Petro Poroshenko came to power, he drives for whatever reasons, perhaps he believed it, but he drives this opportunistically driven and ultranationalist kind of agenda from Kyiv, which included the banning by the way, of leftwing parties. No Liberals had any problem with this banning. This was happening before the Russian invasion, after which they banned 11 leftwing parties. Mr.Zelenskyy did the banning. Even before, Poroshenko banned leftwing parties. They made Ukrainian the principal language and the only language of the state. They broke ties with the Moscow Patriarch, the Orthodox Church, and they drove a kind of Ukrainian nationalist politics which had, on the fringe, sections of the hard-right. This is interesting because Ukraine has, of course, a hard-right history and fascistic history. All of that was revived and brought into the mix, and that’s where the pressure started to build up very quickly, within months in 2014, into the conflict in Donetsk and Luhansk on the border with Rostov-on-Don in Russia, where there were attacks on Russian speaking populations. This developed into the conflict that resulted in the Minsk II Agreement, which was done in the capital of Belarus.

Now in these eight years, yes, 14,000 people died. Of them, perhaps 4-5,000 civilians and the rest were combatants. Nonetheless, 14,000 people died. Fifty thousand plus people were injured in this conflict. The ceasefire never really settled well. If you look at the monitoring group, most of the breaks of the ceasefire agreement were from the Ukrainian paramilitary type forces, but also from the Russian speaking militias. It was never a very comfortable ceasefire. There were problems there; no question about it. That was one set of issues there.

Meanwhile, Russia had taken Crimea. There was a referendum. The majority of the Russian population voted to join Russia. Crimea is the naval base, but Crimea doesn’t have a land border with the rest of Russia. There’s just a bridge across the Black Sea. Well, Mr. Poroshenko’s government began to cut the water supplies to Crimea. So the Russian government had to send tankers of water across the bridge to take water to Crimea. Now, this is very interesting that one of the aspects of this war, in my opinion, and that’s why Mariupol’ seems to be such a big fight. It looks like the Russians are interested in building a land bridge from Crimea to Donetsk and connecting Crimea to the Russian territory. In fact, after Russian forces left Crimea and moved towards Mariupol’, one of the first things they did was open the water lines into Crimea connected to Ukrainian territory that had been cut off.

So it’s not just the security question and the existential threat to Russia. Although, that seems to be, from their perspective, something they have been talking about. It’s also the question of minority populations, Russian populations in neighboring countries, an issue put off from 1991, as it were. They are settling accounts with it now. This didn’t have to be so. If Ukraine had, in a sense, become a model plurinational country, then there would be no marginalization of these populations, but it happened not to go in that direction.

The second thing is, yes, there was this idea, the great Russian idea. In Putin’s United Russia party, there are people who’ve been talking about entering Kazakhstan, and it’s madness, really. The third reason was building the land bridge to Crimea. There are a lot of things that focus the attention of the Russians on Ukraine. Frankly, Paul, I don’t think this conflict was inevitable. I think there were so many opportunities over the last several years to dial back the tension, so many opportunities, and I’m afraid the United Nations sat on its hands. I think the European Union had a lot of high-pollutant rhetoric but again demonstrates it has no independent foreign policy. The United States accelerated this crisis, and the Russians didn’t do anything to minimize anything. They also accelerated the crisis. So this was a train wreck, but it did not need to happen. In fact, I wrote an article in April 2021 laying out the areas of agreement and saying that if there is no discussion on these things, war is inevitable. That was April 2021.

Paul Jay

It really seems like both the U.S. and Russia wanted this war. The Russians seem to have completely underestimated how this would unfold. In talking to some of the Left activists from Ukraine, they can only speculate as well, but they think that Putin just thought this would be another Crimea, that it would be a cakewalk, and there would actually be a certain amount of popular support. I think Zelenskyy was down to 24% in the polls. His government was seen as ineffective. I think it’s important, if you agree with me, that in terms of understanding the geopolitical tactical objectives of Russia, whether it’s a land bridge to Crimea or even legitimate security concerns, nothing justifies the invasion. There was not an imminent threat of an attack on Russia. They violated the UN [United Nations] Charter.

Two, they’ve achieved nothing. As I said earlier, in terms of legitimate security concerns, they have completely achieved the opposite of that. The whole practical public opinion in most of the world is inflamed against Russia. Certainly, in the West, Russia-phobia is now beyond measurement. It’s like during the war against Japan or Germany, the extent of— it’s practically racist in a way, the way Russians are being dealt with. Imagine firing the soprano of the Metropolitan Opera because she won’t sign a document denouncing Putin. I mean, this is out and out McCarthyism.

All that said, the Russians did this. Whatever the Americans induced them or provoked them, whatever, the devil didn’t make me do this. They decided to do that. When I asked the Ukrainian activists why they think Russia did this, the answer is because, in the final analysis, they do have big power ambitions. They really do think Ukraine should be within the Russian sphere of influence, and international law didn’t matter much. One of them said that once they saw how America invaded Iraq with complete impunity, Russians thought, well, then why can’t we do the same thing?

Vijay Prashad

Well, the first thing is actually I don’t agree with you about world opinion. I think it’s much more mixed.

Paul Jay

Well, I think I said in the West.

Vijay Prashad

In the West, I agree with you.

Paul Jay

 I think the world opinion is much more divided. It’s not so clear.

Vijay Prashad

Yeah, I’ve been following the situation in South Africa, where Cyril Ramaphosa, the President, all the way down to activists at the ANC [African National Congress] and the EFF [Economic Freedom Fighters] and so on, Julius Malema, they’ve all come out on a plank which looks like they say, well, Russia has the right to do something like this. I mean, it’s interesting to follow what they say.

In India, for instance, the Right, sections of the Right, Mr. [Narendra Damodardas] Modi, and then downwards seems to think that what Russia is doing is legitimate; that’s interesting. They are refusing to condemn the Russian invasion, and that is something to bear reflection on.

Paul Jay

I think it’s important to point out that the Modi government is not a government that cares too much about human rights and international law.

Vijay Prashad

That may be so, and nor do most governments in the world. Nonetheless—

Paul Jay

—true enough.

Vijay Prashad

The Modi Government was a very close ally of the United States, as part of the quad with Japan and Australia and the squeeze against China. You can’t explain this by saying 60% of Indian arms imports are from Russia; that’s not a sufficient explanation. It’s more than that. In fact, they are looking at the world, and they are saying, well, if the United States comes and pokes you, you get to retaliate.

So that comes to your point about this sphere of influence idea. It’s interesting because the sphere of influence concept has many origins. One of them, of course, goes back to the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, a very early articulation of the sphere of influence. The United States claimed the entire American hemisphere as a sphere of influence.

Paul Jay

And still does more or less.

Vijay Prashad

Well, I actually think they now have a global Monroe Doctrine. It’s different. It’s not exactly just the hemisphere. I think the Russians do consider parts of Eastern Europe as their sphere of influence. I think that’s patently obvious. They’ve made it clear. You can say, well, that’s unfair or whatever, but this is the nature of things. I’m not justifying it. I just think this is how people see the world. In India, ruling circles and foreign policy circles, they have an understanding of the sphere of influence. The problem for India is that the conflict with Pakistan prevents India as the major power in South Asia from having a sphere of influence. India dominates some countries that it has in the region, but it’s not able to dominate Nepal, for instance, which now is in a slightly different situation. There’s a kind of political turmoil in Nepal.

At any rate, the point I’d like to say to people is I understand that if you’re Ukrainian, you don’t want to be in anybody’s sphere of influence. You would like to have your country be an independent country. The way we live in, the world we live in, this has become a reality. Big powers do play this game and have played this game for a long time. One of the things people like us, you and I, and others believe in is we believe in the UN charter, and we believe in the sanctity of international law. We hope that the sphere of influence concept wains. The UN Charter, essentially, is a charter that does not validate the sphere of influence. Although, by having five countries be permanent members of the Security Council: Russia, France, China, Britain, the United States, I mean, by having five countries be permanent members of the Security Council, there is a way in which it, in a sense, establishes the major powers and then affords them the right to talk about their sphere of influence. What do you think France is doing in the Sahel region of Africa, Jay? I mean, Paul. What do you think they’re doing there? They consider the Sahel region in West Africa to be the sphere of influence. 

Paul Jay

Now, don’t suggest in any way that I’m defending any of the West’s claim to sphere of influence, but we do need to say that whether it’s effective us saying it or not, international law matters. The outright violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and the thousands of civilians being killed is outrageous, illegal and should be denounced.

Vijay Prashad

Yes, but why do we have to keep saying that?

Paul Jay

Well, we have to keep saying it. The reason we have to keep saying it is because on the Left there are so many, I don’t know how significant the opinion is, but it makes a lot of noise. In terms of society, maybe it’s not that significant. On the Left, there are a lot of people justifying this Russian invasion one way or the other.

Vijay Prashad

I don’t justify the Russian invasion, but on the other hand, Paul, I find it offensive that we have to keep saying this. When the United States— and by the way, I know the history of the term, whataboutism. So people can accuse me of whataboutism as much as they want, but what they’re accusing me of is they’re accusing me of thinking. When the U.S. invaded Iraq or when the Saudis bombed Yemen, commentators on MSNBC or CNN are not constantly saying we condemn the invasion of Iraq. They just don’t bother. We are under pressure constantly because any critic of U.S. imperialism is accused of being a stooge for somebody. You’re a stooge for Putin. You’re a stooge for [Bashar al-] Assad. You’re a stooge for [Muammar] Gaddafi. You’re a stooge for this, that and the other. In a way, this is something— we need to push back against this form of information attack. I’ve already said that I’m against this war. I’ve already said I’m not a stooge for Putin. I think he’s doing something grievous here. It’s very interesting that we also feel, in a way, either morally, there’s a moral necessity that we keep saying these things or we feel boxed in, or there’s an insecurity that creeps in that I don’t want to be attacked as a stooge for Putin. This is part of the delegitimization of the criticism or even of thinking.

After all, I think what you and I have done over these last two episodes is we’re trying to think about the conflict. You know, your opinion or my opinion of the conflict isn’t driving world history. We don’t have legions of people following us. So if I say this is a terrible war, they will all say, well, he said it’s a terrible war. No, it’s not like that. We are trying to think about something that’s quite difficult to understand because there are so many strands.

Paul Jay

Then let me go back to where we kind of started in episode one because I think this is the part of the conversation that doesn’t get discussed very much. Yes, this is not a good guy, bad guy wrestling match, and you’re supposed to root for one side or the other. If you try to say something critical about NATO, then you’re a stooge for Putin or vice versa. This is part of the crisis of global capitalism. This is the global hegemon. The United States is faced with two existential questions, and they really are existential, but in different ways. 

First of all, they have no idea what to do with the climate crisis. The elites know the science. They know that in 10, 15, 20 years, maybe less, millions and millions of people living in the South have to head North. They have zero plans for dealing with mitigating the climate crisis or what they are going to do when millions and millions of people head North. That’s one. That’s an existential threat to humanity, but in terms of the American elites, they know it’s coming. The only way out is central planning, nationalize and phase out the fossil fuel companies. You have to have a big dose of, at the very least, a Left social democracy if you’re actually going to have policy that’s effective in time. 

Number two, an existential threat to the American elites. This is part of this crisis of how parasitical and decaying global capitalism has become and this process of financialization, which has made so much of the economy smoke and mirrors. It’s always on the edge of volatility and even collapse. With the rise of China, they have no idea how to maintain America as the global hegemon and deal with the rise of China when you’re so dependent on the Chinese market. They are so betwixt and between, you cannot give up a billion and a half people as probably the most lucrative market in the world— and India may become that sooner or later; you can’t antagonize to such an extent. On the other hand, built into the DNA of the American elites is that they have to be number one. The military-industrial complex and fossil fuel complex obviously have their interest in that.

Let’s go back to the bigger picture here because hardly anybody wants to talk about it. It’s all a morality play. Terrible Russia. Terrible U.S.. The threats to humanity are far beyond that kind of discourse.

Vijay Prashad

No, look, we are basically perilously— and I’m not an alarmist. This, I think, is in the realm of reality. In the middle of this war, the UN climate change body, the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], released a report which António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, called a red alert. He said an alarm has been put out for humanity. I did not see that on the front page of the newspapers and being talked about by the commentariat and saying let’s stop this war and let’s have an international discussion immediately. Forget COP 26; that was a disaster. Let’s have a real debate. Let’s shut things down. Let’s find a way to advance and minimize the destruction of the planet. The report, by the way, I only read the executive summary. I can’t somehow make my way through the full report.

Paul Jay

Let me say I interviewed Peter Carter, who’s a doctor, but for the last 20 years has just focused on climate. He actually is an official reviewer of the IPCC, and he read the whole thing. If I understand it correctly, the summary, all the countries, 67 countries or so have to actually sign off on the summary. The rest of it, the technical report, doesn’t need everyone’s approval. He says the language of the— exaggerated, I shouldn’t say exaggerated. As threatening as the summary is, he says the rest is much more apocalyptic.

Vijay Prashad

Well, okay, so the summary was bad enough for me, and it’s just not being taken seriously. I was at COP 26, and I have to say these are not serious people. They are not taking seriously what everybody is telling them: we are in a period, a tipping point of some kind, or maybe we have passed it. Again, the debate should be about that. What’s the U-turn like? How do we affect the U-turn? Is it possible to save some species and so on? Who’s going to build Noah’s Ark? That’s the debate, but it’s not there.

On the nuclear question, I mean, I’ve emphasized the nuclear question because I think it’s pretty important here. The United States, between 2002 and 2018, have walked away from all the hard-fought nuclear agreements. At the same time, a majority of the world’s countries passed the United Nations treaty to abolish nuclear weapons. That treaty is very important. ICAN [International Civil Society Action Network], which drafted the treaty and campaigned for it, won them the Nobel Peace Prize. So while the countries of the world are saying let’s get rid of nuclear weapons, the United States is walking away from the nuclear treaties that are very important.

By the way, it’s not that the Russians walked away and then the U.S. left it. It’s the U.S. that walked away, and then the Russians left it. So again, on nuclear annihilation, there is not much discussion. On the fact of poverty, previous to the Russian war, the numbers coming from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN showed 2.7 billion people struggling with hunger. As food prices are going to rise by 10% and more as a consequence of this war, because 25% of the world’s wheat is grown in Ukraine and Russia, we’re going to have a massive social crisis around the world. In 2010, there was a drought in Ukraine and in Russia, and food prices went up. In many ways, the Arab Spring of 2011 was a consequence of the food price inflation occasioned by the droughts in Ukraine and Russia. I don’t know, Paul, what kind of protest movements are going to take place around the world as food and energy prices go up because of this war.

There’s a difference when the United States destroyed Iraq. There’s a difference because to compensate for Iraqi oil, the Saudis could always immediately pump more oil out of the ground. So if you take Ukrainian and Russian wheat offline, no country can pump wheat out of the ground. You have to grow this damn thing. It takes time to get fields going and so on. One-quarter of the wheat crop is going to disappear. In countries like South Africa, reliant on imports from Ukraine, this is catastrophic. Where’s the conversation about this? No conversation on climate. No conversation on nuclear. No conversation on the existential crisis of hunger and, in a sense, energy. Real questions and no conversations. We are not living in a time of serious discussion about serious issues; that really makes me feel terrible.

At the meeting with Biden and the Europeans, the whole thing was about posturing, regarding Russia. There was no serious conversation about how to have a negotiation, ceasefire and negotiation. They were just posturing. I actually feel like we are at a very dangerous point in the world. I know people like you and I often say this is a really dangerous period in world history, but this is a really dangerous period.

Paul Jay

Yeah, this really is a dangerous period. I think, to get back to the conversation about NATO and to somewhat the underlying issues in terms of Russia, China is a more complicated question, but certainly for Russia and for NATO, the West and particularly NATO and the West, the hatred of socialism. They would rather the world go to hell than actually have a serious look at whether some form of socialism is necessary. They’d rather the climate crisis end human civilization as we know it, especially in the United States, than even a kind of somewhat centrally planned social democracy. Now, they’re not against central planning because, obviously, the Pentagon is a form of central planning. So if it’s for war and the arms industry, they’re all for that much central planning. This underlying hatred of socialism was certainly perhaps the prime mission of NATO. NATO was to make sure socialism never came to power in Europe. People watching this know, I guess, the history of how popular both the communist parties and socialist parties were after World War II and the extent to which NATO intervened and the Americans intervened to prevent legitimate election victories by the Left and still do.

We’re at such an existential moment. I’m not as emotional as my Romanian friend I talked about at the beginning, about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, just because with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the wars in Yemen; there are horrible things going on in the world, but nothing is as horrible as what’s coming in terms of climate and accidental nuclear war, if not deliberate. As you say, there’s no serious conversation going on, including most of the Left.

Vijay Prashad

I 100% agree with you. Here’s a good place to end. I just went and saw the new Dune movie, which I liked very much. I’m a fan of science fiction movies, generally, and science fiction novels and so on. Octavia [E.] Butler is a great writer and must be read. Many years ago, an important Marxist critic said that people in the West, in particular, have an easier time imagining the end of the world than imagining a socialist world. They have an easier time. If you look at films, there are many more apocalyptic films. Why can’t we imagine a better world than imagine the end of the world? Perhaps that’s a question for people to try to think about. Why can’t we talk about a better world than the end of the world? That requires not the elites to drive the conversation, but it requires us, ordinary people, to have the confidence that a better world is possible and not that the end of the world is inevitable. The end of the world is not nigh. The end of the world is not necessary. We can actually build something better, but we need to develop in ourselves, us ordinary people, the confidence to build something better. That’s tough.

Paul Jay

Alright, well, next time we interview, let’s focus on that. Alright, thanks for joining me, Vijay. And thank you for joining us on

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Vijay Prashad is an Indian Marxist historian and commentator. He is an executive-director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, the Chief Editor of LeftWord Books, and a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.” theme music

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

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  1. I changed my mind after attending the first part. I had to do the second. The part I thought most compelling was the ending, the shared realization that the elites are ready to sacrifice all of humankind to their hatred for an effective, centralized state that has social well being as its principal goal. What more is there to be said?

  2. I leave an article by Jacques Baud, former colonel of the General Staff, ex-member of the Swiss strategic intelligence, specialist on Eastern countries. He was trained in the American and British intelligence services. He has served as Policy Chief for United Nations Peace Operations and as UN expert on rule of law and security institutions.

    The Military Situation In The Ukraine

  3. Hi Paul:

    First, thank-you for your interview with Vijay and for giving more history and context to the Ukraine war.

    I want to be a devil’s advocate in some cases and offer some greater context to your discussion:

    *Paul, you’ve interviewed Ukrainian citizens from the east, that want Russia stopped, but have you also interviewed a Ukrainian from the Donbas? I visited Eastern Europe many years ago, and that showed me how universal is the wish for an affluent, consumer lifestyle exemplified by Hollywood, and how tribal we are, in taking sides over something like the Bosnian War, between Serbs, Croats and Muslims. Someone from the Donbas may have a very different take on Eastern Ukraine and Kiev.

    * More than anything today, the Mccarthyism that is absorbing the media will prevent a peaceful resolution to Ukraine, and make solving something like climate change almost impossible. Imagine what it would be like, if had the financial resources CNN or the BBC has. Since Wikileaks, the espionage agencies like the CIA have worked overtime to co-opt not just the message, but the medium. Without a media that can help people see reality from different angles and try to achieve knowledge and wisdom, how can we avoid a dystopian future? In the past I thought dystopia would mean either Brave New World or 1984, but it’s possible to have elements of both, the carrot and the stick.

    *I got the sense, not just from Vijay, but reading articles from Gleen Greenwald, for example, that they believe in the rule of law, the potential decency of the courts, when gov’ts and the wealthy constantly tear these rules to shreds. Vijay talked about asking the US gov’t officials why they don’t help make peace in Ukraine, when you’ve talked many times about how the business of the US gov’t is war and espionage, and to create failed states. I remember an interview between Chris Hedges and Dan Kovalik , saying that the British Empire wanted colonies it could manage, but the US creates failed states that feed the military industrial complex, and is not interested in the burden of managing a colonial empire.

    * As a species we are facing an evolutionary test with nuclear weapons (and other technologies) and the destruction to the environment, which climate change is a part. Either a critical mass will gather to help us change our ways, or the deities Mother Nature and Consequence will put us in our place. The manufacture of consent, as Noam Chomsky has taught, will help protect elites and their privileges, but for how long? Even the economic elites need a society and Earth that are healthy, unless they want a future of constantly fighting fires, both literal and figurative.

  4. Sometimes wars are meant for everyone to miss the point.
    And future historians have to pick up the pieces only to illustrate a satirical picture
    Of Krylov fables. Something I know nothing about.

  5. I would like to suggest an exception to the argument that Russia may be contravening the UN Charter. Just read a couple of article that offer a different view on the legality. The twin breakaway republics are recognized by Russia as independent countries with an “Article 5’ like clause, which the Russia government honoured. Plus, Russia helped implement a negotiated peace agreement with the Minsk 2 Accord in 2015 to bring peace to a civil war. SEVEN YEARS later it was still left dangling in the wind; Russia tried continuously to get it implemented. 14,000 dead later, Ukraine amassed 60,000 troops on the border with an immanent threat of an onslaught. And was increasing the shelling of these two separate republics. Enough is enough. Russia acted.

    There is so little agency credited to the people of the two eastern oblasts in Ukraine. People act as if this whole situation started 24 Feb 2022 with Russia’s special operation.

    Ukraine seems to be composed of an incompatible mixture of cultures, because one element wants to eradicate the others – an untermenschen factor. The Nazi element must be factored into this mess not because Ukraine is overwhelmingly fascist (on the contrary), but because the Nazi factor has seized power through thuggish means. In other words, the voice of the Ukrainian people is NOT being heard. If you do express a difference of opinion, you are threatened, arrested, beat up or killed. Just look at the uninvestgated murders across Ukraine, much less the incident in Odessa or the Maidan killings.

    This is only looking through the small end of the telescope. It was obvious at the big end, Ukraine had become an American colony from 2014, with their $5 billion dollar investment. It was obvious with the CIA visits to Ukraine in 2014 that a civil war could be turned into a Russia-Ukraine issue with the “Russian invasion” of the Donbass that year. Call your Ukrainian citizens who do not agree with the coup regime – terrorists and you can kill them at will, which has been going on for the past eight years. If you sew dissension, you may reap a whirlwind. Not accepting what is, is (cultural and linguistic diversity); rather trying to impose your requirements on everyone, harshly.

    Besides, there is something much deeper at play. This totally over-the-top anti-Russian response in the West seems to indicate there is a deeper level to this that’s surfacing, with the Russians playing the “Mongol hordes” at the gates of the “civilized” world. Much like the European Union was NEVER going accept a Turkey in its midst. Peter the Great’s experiment on Europeanizing Russia seem to have ended in 2022 on February 24th. Russia is going East and all that that entails for the new Fairer World Order.

    Let me say how much I have appreciated your work (and Shamany Peress too – please forgive the misspeling) over these last years to bring sensibility to the discussions.

    And one other thought: has anyone really considered that a lot of stuff is just the adjustments and shuffling that occurs because of the Soviet Union dismantlement. While it was peaceful, that left some unresolved conflicts surfacing. But in the scheme of things considering the vast size of the Union, its cultural complexity, and it essentially being the first real experiment at new way to include “the people” in the governance of their lives (irrespective of whether it was successful or not which obviously it was not), we are fortunate to have so few disturbances, especially since one country in particular has been actively stirring the pot ceaselessly.

    Many Thanks… And yes, all of this is a grossly unfortunate distraction from Climate Change which will toast us all. I’m sure military activity of any kind must be one of the highest emitters of greenhouse gasses.

  6. I usually read Mr Prashad wherever I can find his articles, but to blame Russian “chauvanism” alongside the US’s is more than I can tolerate. Pardon me, but this time I skipped your analysis!

      1. Presidents Assad and Putin may have been responsible for the needless killing of many people and held responsible for the killing of many others wrongly, BUT there is no leader of any country or tribe in the entire world, now or in the past, responsible for more wanton killings and misery than the Presidents of the United States of America from 1789 to 2022 and most especially from 1945 to 2022 – from Harry S. Truman to Joe Biden.

        1. Don’t feed the trolls. If this site is dead set on going the way TRNN, and is going to let obvious trolls shitpost and debase these pages, let em’ have it. Let’s interact as people who already have a baseline understand to expand the cutting edge of our understanding in a nuanced and truth seeking process. Rolling in the mud with pigs is futile, you get covered in mud and the pig enjoys it.

    1. Your arithmetic may be excellent, but your understanding of geopolitics rates a D and of the history of Russia’s invasions from the west gives you an F.

      1. It reminds me of comments I see on American social media which compare this conflict to the US invasion of Iraq, and the claim which seems to be popular among Americans is that the Russian actions in Ukraine are vastly more brutal than US actions in Iraq. Don’t ask questions like “which time in Iraq” or “before of after the US put Saddam in power, backed and armed him for a decade?” Because the people who believe these things won’t know what you’re talking about. It makes the head spin when you’re confronted with the reality that huge numbers of Americans actually believe such nonsense, but then again you look at polling data which indicates 40% of US adults think the planet earth is a few thousand years old and it all starts come into perspective focus.

        The US didn’t target civilians in Iraq, like Russia is so blatantly doing in Ukraine. Yeah. People in the US speak like this with a straight face. They have zero connection to reality, and truthfully and everyone knows this is true, the large majority of them couldn’t point to either Ukraine nor Iraq on a map. They’re absolutely confident in their opinions however, and you’re an anti-American apologist for dictators if you can actually find Ukraine on a map. That’s the state of dialog in the US 2022, and it seems to be slowly infecting not just the wider anglosphere but all of western Europe, which has traditionally been less prone to the kind of one after another episodes of mass hysteria which US history has been so prone to repeating over and over and over and over.

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