North of 48 Part 3 and 4


Paul Jay says while the Russian invasion of Ukraine is illegal, brutal, and unnecessary for Russian national security, it takes place within the context of U.S. aims to suppress the growth of potential regional powers like Iran and Russia. Russia was not incorporated into Western Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union because it could have challenged U.S. dominance in the region.

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Walter Kiriaki

Do you think there’s a connection between these countries, between Russia, Iran, and Palestine? 

Paul Jay

Well, it goes back to this thing I was saying before. The United States, to be a global hegemon, has to be the hegemon in every region. That means with the overthrow of [Mohammad] Mosaddegh in 1953, who was a democratic, somewhat progressive leader of Iran, who was overthrown because he wanted to nationalize the oil industry, and the British didn’t want it, and neither did the Americans. It is clearly well-documented. Well, MI6 actually led it, but it was supported by the CIA.

Walter Kiriaki

Okay.

Paul Jay

But they created the situation. Some countries are just suited for some power because they’re big. Iran is a big country, Canada is small. Canada is not going to be a regional anything, but it can be of some use, as I say, as a junior partner to the Americans. But Iran is big and has the population and resources with oil, gas, and other things. Before all these sanctions it had a relatively advanced industrial sector. It has the wherewithal to be a power in the region.

Well, if you can’t incorporate Iran into the American system, then you have to suppress its growth. Iran has its own nationalist interests, which are essentially capitalist. They have a theocracy, but they have a capitalist oligarchy, and many of the leading religious figures are themselves multi-millionaires, maybe billionaires.

Walter Kiriaki

I get the impression that the theocracy in Iran isn’t well-liked by a majority of the people in Iran. Just based on the women-

Paul Jay

I don’t know if it’s a majority.

Walter Kiriaki

Okay.

Paul Jay

I think there is widespread disenchantment, certainly amongst women and certainly amongst urban women. Apparently, in the recent opposition movements, there was a lot more support in rural Iran. In the past, rural Iran had been more supportive of the government, the theocrats. I have no idea what legitimate polling there is.

One thing is for certain: I’ve been told by every Iranian I know that the more antagonistic the Americans are to Iran, the more sanctions there are, the more support the Iranian government gets because people consider it humiliating and indignity. The way Iran gets talked about and treated in the West strengthens the theocracy. The American leaders and planners know it, so maybe they don’t mind having this Iranian threat out there. It serves a lot of purposes. It serves a lot of purposes for Israel to have an Iranian threat. It justifies having, essentially now, an authoritarian government and a completely militarized economy. An antagonistic Iran is very useful. The same thing goes for Russia.

Why, after the fall of the Soviet Union, wasn’t Russia incorporated into Western Europe?

Walter Kiriaki

Yes. Yes, I agree.

Paul Jay

They wanted to be.

Walter Kiriaki

Putin wanted to join NATO at one time.

Paul Jay

There were talks about it. [Boris] Yeltsin certainly wanted to. They wanted to normalize. There was even talk about some membership of the E.U. Why didn’t that happen? The answer, I think, is clear. For the same issues with Iran, Russia is a big country. It has a big population. It has nuclear weapons. It had a relatively advanced industry. It has the potential for real regional power. Do you want that in Western Europe? What about we, by we, meaning from an American point of view; damned if I’ll take responsibility for America. [Laughter]. I’m used to saying it that way.

Imagine if Russia was incorporated as part of the E.U. or even in NATO. Forget NATO for now. Imagine if there had been a Russian-German alliance. Imagine that economy. The E.U. is already almost the same size as the American economy if you put it all together. The population certainly is the same size. But imagine you add Russia to that. What do they need the U.S. for? The whole rationale for NATO, with being a U.S.-dominated NATO, is the Russian threat. Otherwise, what’s the point? If you incorporate Russia into Europe in a normal, legitimate, capitalist way, what the hell do they need the U.S. for?

It was really in the American interest not to allow things to get normalized with Russia. By restricting natural development, a natural capitalist development of Russia, they sowed the seeds for what has become a totally toxic, religious, nationalist ideology that is very dangerous.

Now, I don’t want to compare in any direct way Putin to [Adolf] Hitler because he’s done nothing like that. If anyone you want to compare it to something that comes close to German crimes, you’re going to have to point to the U.S. before you could ever point it to Putin. But that said, it is a toxic, nationalist, and aggressive state. What they’ve done in Ukraine is illegal. Even though the U.S. helped create this situation, what I was going to say is they also helped to create Hitler. They thought Hitler was going to just attack the Soviet Union, and FDR did nothing until the very end to stop American corporations from sending vehicles and other kinds of industrial output to Hitler. In fact, I’ve heard it said by historians that Hitler could never have invaded, even in the beginning, without American vehicles.

Henry Ford was a big supporter of Hitler. This is fairly well known. He used to send Hitler money every year on his birthday and was given a big award by the Nazis. In fact, Hitler said he learned about how to message anti-Semitism from the newsletter, the newspaper that Ford used to put out in Detroit.

Walter Kiriaki

Yeah. Actually, I think also it was the eugenics, [Charles] Lindbergh and stuff. He was impressed with that.

Paul Jay

All of these things have to be looked at. It’s not just the U.S. as the evil bad guy. It’s a global system within which every country strives. All of these big capitalist countries strive for the interests of their own elites. It’s a class question, but some are in a better position than others. Now, the elites in Western Europe have been groomed. The ones that were willing to survive under the U.S. umbrella have been groomed to power as part of the U.S. system.

Walter Kiriaki

Right.

Paul Jay

By keeping Russia out of it, a nuclear power, it means the Western European countries are dependent on an American nuclear umbrella. The whole thing is completely insane because as if this nuclear umbrella is going to save you. It is nuts. If something starts, say goodbye to Europe in no time.

So what does it mean we need to do? We need to educate people and talk about this as a class question. Take Ukraine, for example. I think the people of Ukraine—and when I say people, I mean the whole of the people, including the elites and workers and ordinary people—have a right to resist an illegal invasion. But should they? And should they the way it’s happening?

What I mean by that is, when it became clear, and it became clear very early on, that the Russians were going to be able, at the very least, to control Donbas and Crimea, at the least that; why keep fighting on the Ukrainian side? Why were tens and hundreds of thousands of lives lost so that the Ukrainian elites could regain control of Donbas and maybe Crimea? Although that was unlikely? Why are all of these workers dying so that this utterly corrupt Ukrainian oligarchy can regain control? Why do that?

Now, I understand the nationalist urge, and they do, in terms of legality, have a right to resist that Russian invasion. But why hundreds of thousands of lives to fight to some stalemate, which everyone was predicting early on? Why not acknowledge it? What should have been done before there was ever an invasion? Why not take NATO off the table?

Walter Kiriaki

Why not put it on the table? Why not have NATO troops in Ukraine to deter Russia at the time?

Paul Jay

Then you’re asking for a fucking world war. No.

Walter Kiriaki

I think we have a world war as it is.

Paul Jay

No, we don’t.

Walter Kiriaki

I understand what you’re saying.

Paul Jay

One of the main justifications for the invasion was that Ukraine was going to wind up in NATO. The truth of it was they weren’t.

Walter Kiriaki

Yeah, that’s true.

Paul Jay

Turkey and France were against it. In all likelihood they were not going to get a consensus. There were a lot of voices in Ukraine saying to the Ukrainian state, to [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy, just say Ukraine won’t join NATO. Get it off the table. Take away the excuse. It could have without changing anything because Ukraine wasn’t getting into NATO anyway. It was a BS excuse that Putin used.

Walter Kiriaki

That I agree with.

Paul Jay

They could have just taken away that excuse, and it would have diffused whatever popular support there was in Russia for the invasion. How do you justify it to the Russian people if you can say Ukraine won’t be part of NATO?

Walter Kiriaki

Do you think the Russian people have a say in their government?

Paul Jay

Do we?

Walter Kiriaki

I mean, Putin-

Paul Jay

Do we?

Walter Kiriaki

No. Does the Russian people? Because Putin won by 80%, right? So, doesn’t that show that Russia wants the war to continue?

Paul Jay

No.

Walter Kiriaki

I know it doesn’t.

Paul Jay

No. The people have-

Walter Kiriaki

You see what I mean?

Paul Jay

The people have less to say than Canadians, but Canadians have next to nothing to say either. But that said, yeah, of course, the elections are phony as hell in Russia. There’s a veneer of elections here, and they’re not completely phony, but it’s mostly veneer. The elections in Russia are totally a crock. The nationalist religious narrative is very powerful in Russia. Why does it have power? It goes back to what I said. They didn’t allow a normal, natural development of Russia within Europe.

Walter Kiriaki

Yes, I agree with you. They didn’t get the controls in place or anything as a democracy.

Paul Jay

It’s like how the Versailles Treaty led to the rise of fascism in Germany. After World War I, you have such a horrible, onerous treaty on Germany that humiliated everybody.

Walter Kiriaki

Right.

Paul Jay

It created a fertile soil for extreme nationalism.

Walter Kiriaki

I’d also say the response from the world is like when Russia came into Crimea, and there was no response. It’s like when Hitler went into the Rhineland. When was it? Either ’33 or ’36? It was ’33, I think. He thought the French and everybody would gang up. He only had 20,000 soldiers there, yet the world did nothing.

Paul Jay

Yeah, but I don’t think it’s the same.

Walter Kiriaki

No?

Paul Jay

No, I think there’s very good evidence. First of all, the fact that Crimea was even in Ukraine was a weird anomaly of [Nikita] Khrushchev giving Crimea back to Ukraine during the Soviet Union.

Walter Kiriaki

I actually think Crimea was on the table and that Zelenskyy would have let it go, personally. Just from what I’ve been reading, that was my supposition.

Paul Jay

I’m saying at the time, in 2014, when Russia invaded Crimea, it was a unique situation. Not only was Crimea weirdly in Ukraine because Stalin, I think it was actually Khrushchev, that gave-

Walter Kiriaki

Yeah, Khrushchev did.

Paul Jay

After the referendum, which I’m sure was not done in very open conditions, three Western polling firms went to Crimea after the referendum, and they came up with polling results that were the same as the referendum. The majority of people in Crimea wanted to be in Russia. That is the real secret of how this thing should have been solved and maybe still can. There should have been legitimate referendums. Do you want to be in Ukraine? Do you want to be independent? Do you want to be in Russia? The Ukrainian government, pre-invasion, should have organized those things. But as I say, the Ukrainian oligarch was completely corrupt. There was nothing democratic about them.

Walter Kiriaki

But there’s a thing to be said for the Russians taking the Tartars and Ukrainians out of Crimea prior to the vote.

Paul Jay

Well, I don’t know about prior, but over decades, they had done so.

Walter Kiriaki

Yeah, well, millions.

Paul Jay

The Tartars were not for it, but the majority of people in Crimea were. Listen, none of this is going to be pretty, nice, or really democratic.

Walter Kiriaki

You got that right.

Paul Jay

I don’t think Crimea was a place for the “West,” who doesn’t give a shit about democracy except to pay lip service when it serves them. That wasn’t a place to start a war with Russia.

Walter Kiriaki

Okay, good.

Paul Jay

Ukraine had a lot of opportunities to solve the Donbas problem without–

Walter Kiriaki

This was a problem created by Russia, though, sending their little green men into Luhansk and into Donetsk.

Paul Jay

Yeah, but why did that happen? It happened because, in 2014, this right-wing government came to power in Kyiv and started treating the Russian-speaking people in Donbas like shit. Then what happens is you actually have a very progressive force coming out of the unions. In other words, workers start to take power in Donbas, not the elites.

Boris Kargarlitsky, who’s now sitting in jail for five years for opposing the war in Russia, actually started comparing it to the Paris Commune, where the workers took over Paris.

Walter Kiriaki

I’ve never heard it this way before, Paul.

Paul Jay

But in the beginning, the Independence movement in Donbas wasn’t even an Independence movement. In the beginning, in 2014, for two or three years, the demand was for a federated state, something like Quebec is within Canada. Its economy has control of its own language laws. The Ukrainian oligarchy turned it down. They didn’t like the far-right policies that came to power in 2014, which included being very anti-union; it was a very corrupt oligarchy. In the beginning, the resistance from Donbas was quite legitimate, I think.

Over the years, the Ukrainian government, between 2014 and 2018, tried to take back Donbas militarily. The people of Donbas didn’t want it and fought. That’s when Putin started taking advantage of this, and the Ukraine men started going in.

Walter Kiriaki

You had Igor Girkin go in there and take over government buildings. Are we sure the people didn’t want it? How are we basing it?

Paul Jay

It’s never homogenous. But my understanding is the majority of Donbas did not want the rule of the Ukrainian oligarchs, but they didn’t want to be part of Russia either.

Walter Kiriaki

That’s right.

Paul Jay

First, they wanted to be federated within Ukraine. Then, when it started to die down in 2018, this was part of the lies of Putin and some of Putin’s supporters. The actual war almost virtually ended in 2018. One of the supposed excuses for the Russian invasion was they thought there was going to be genocide against Donbas coming from the Ukrainian government. It’s just bullshit. There’s no evidence of it.

From 2018, right up until just before the invasion, the fighting had completely died down. If I remember my numbers correctly, based on the OSCE, the organization for security in Europe, they had security monitors on the partition line and they were monitoring the fighting. You can find these reports online. The number of people that were killed between 2018 and the end of 2021, total non-army deaths, like civilian deaths, was 320. More people were killed in car accidents. The military deaths were not much either. They were shelling back and forth, and not much was happening. There was no imminent genocide; it was total BS.

We have to look at this from a class point of view. The Ukrainian oligarchy is not the good guys. The Russian oligarchy is certainly not the good guys. Both oligarchies didn’t give a shit about what happened to their own people and to their own workers. Putin couldn’t give a damn that hundreds of thousands of Russian workers were slaughtered in Ukraine. The same thing is going on now.

What is the point of continuing this war from a Ukrainian point of view? Why not get a ceasefire and freeze the lines where they are? There’s nothing stopping a continuation of a resistance against the Russian occupation. If that’s what the people want, you can have general strikes. You could even, I suppose, have a certain level of military resistance, but a popular resistance would probably be more effective, meaning strikes. In fact, I think that would have been more effective on day one when Russian tanks were coming in. Instead of immediately going to armed resistance, what about a couple of hundred thousand people sitting on the highway in front of the tanks? How would that have looked like to the Russian people who would have seen this?

In the very beginning, most Russians I talked to said, “Oh, we’ll never invade. Ukrainians are our brothers,” and all of this. That would have been reinforced. I’m not a total pacifist, but there’s no point in that arm resistance if it is going to turn into a shit show.

Walter Kiriaki

Well, it turned into a shit show, is what it did. I appreciate what you’re saying about the Ukrainian oligarchs being corrupt. Crimea and Donbas, they just changed oligarchs. Now they have the Russian oligarchs in there.

Paul Jay

Yeah, now they do. So let them fight it. What there should be, and it’s maybe too late for this, there should be a UN-supervised referendum in Donbas and in Crimea where they say, “What do you want to do?” That would be a democratic solution.

Walter Kiriaki

Well, that’s where I wanted to take the conversation was the lack of power that the UN has now in this world compared to when [Lester B.] Pearson and them were doing it. It should have been a ceasefire. But for as good as the UN has done with the Palestine-Israel conflict, I mean, would it have mattered?

Paul Jay

Early on, if NATO had clearly said, Ukraine is not joining NATO. In exchange for that, they had said, now there should be referendums and let people decide, maybe there was a shot.

Walter Kiriaki

Yeah, something like that. Actually, if I remember right, Zelenskyy was in a panic trying to tell the Russians that, too, wasn’t he? From what I read. As far as that goes, though, I don’t believe that Ukraine was going to go to NATO, so Russia had to invade. I really don’t.

Paul Jay

I don’t either, but it was a good excuse to invade.

Walter Kiriaki

They had a whole bunch of excuses. Yeah, we got to get rid of the Nazis there—the Jewish President who’s a Nazi.

Paul Jay

I know. I mean, it’s all stupid. The only one I think that really resonated with the Russian people is the NATO thing. If you want to denazify, denazify Russia first.

Walter Kiriaki

Isn’t that true. Do you think Zelenskyy has done a good job in trying to get the corruption under control as the government?

Paul Jay

I don’t know. I have no idea. I really don’t know. I suspect not, but I don’t know.

Walter Kiriaki

Because in order to join E.U., and he’s hell-bent on joining the E.U. and pushing his country towards that, it can’t be probably joined till the resolution of this war. If we were to freeze the lines where they are right now and maybe have a plebiscite or a UN-neutral zone, I don’t know if it can be accomplished. But without the reinforcements of the American weapons going into Ukraine, the Ukrainians might have to drift towards this idea of just freezing the conflict. Now, if the conflict is frozen, do you expect it’ll be frozen? Do you expect Russia will climb in and have war? Do you think that’s the–

Paul Jay

I think they got what they wanted. What is the point of trying to occupy Western Ukraine? It would never end. It would be war for Russia forever. Whether they dream about such things, what would be the point?

Walter Kiriaki

Look at what Russia has accomplished. They’ve got Poland fully armed to the teeth and the Baltic nations. They’ve got Sweden in NATO and Finland. He’s really ruined his sphere of influence by doing what he’s doing. Now, he’s not a young man, but it seems that everybody waits for the dictator to die, and then things will be better. I’m thinking of Chile and all that. Once the dictator, once [Augusto] Pinochet goes away, it’ll be okay. I don’t think that rationale ever works.

Paul Jay

It depends. I don’t think you can generalize. Well, sometimes it might, and other times it won’t. Right now, the problem in Russia is it is more likely you might get someone more to the right, more militaristic than even Putin. That’s a very good possibility. It depends on what happens in a year or two. The economy has become very militarized.

Walter Kiriaki

Right.

Paul Jay

It’s created a lot of stimulus. There’s economic growth. They’re throwing money around like crazy. They’re paying off families whose kids die in the war.

Walter Kiriaki

Well, he bankrolled this by keeping gold and stuff in stock and having a Russian rainy-day fund.

Paul Jay

Yes.

Walter Kiriaki

They had plans.

Paul Jay

But is it sustainable?

Walter Kiriaki

No.

Paul Jay

One year or two years from now?

Walter Kiriaki

No. With the Ukrainians bombing the refineries and the oil production and stuff. I think it was the last guest we had; close to 20% of capacity is reduced now. That’s money in Russia’s pocket that they used to finance the war. Now, once that goes away-

Paul Jay

I wouldn’t bet on that at all unless there is some drastic change.

Walter Kiriaki

No?

Paul Jay

Right now, in the relatively short term… I mean, what do I know? I’m reading stuff like everybody else. As far as I can tell from what I’m reading, the Russian economy has been far more resilient. The sanctions aren’t bothering it as long as India and China keep buying, and others are buying Russian stuff, fuel, and all the rest.

Walter Kiriaki

Western companies are also selling to Russia still.

Paul Jay

Yeah. Generally speaking, as I understand it, economies that are very dependent on militarization, eventually that blows up. It’s a Keynesianism that can’t be sustained. Two, it’s all fueled by the selling of fossil fuels. They’re not just a gas station. They have fertilizers, industrial products, and arms they sell. There are other parts to the economy. But all parts of the economy are fueled by fuel, R&D, and development. It’s very profound, as I’ve been told by Russians, the effect of the fossil fuel.

What happens when one of a few things goes? One is the price goes significantly. What happens if countries do get serious about phasing out fossil fuel because of climate? What happens if the Russian economy gets so one-sided because of the militarization? If you start to have a deep economic crisis in Russia, that might change the scenario of who comes to power. But the way things are now, I don’t see whoever’s coming to power is going to be a pro-western, supposed liberal Democrat. Not that there ever really was one there. [Alexei] Navalny wasn’t that anyway. He was just pro-Western.

Walter Kiriaki

That’s true. Yeah, he was a nationalist.

Paul Jay

If the West wants to mitigate what could be coming, which is an even more dangerous situation in Russia, it should make a deal in Ukraine, normalize things as much as possible, and not feed this toxic, nationalist, religious fervor in Russia. But of course, it serves the military-industrial complex and others for Russia to be like that, so they don’t want to do it.

Walter Kiriaki

Well, if that’s the case, how come the bill that’s stuck in Congress isn’t put through?

Paul Jay

Well, it’s a small rump in the Republican Party that’s blocking this. It’s part of the Trumpian outlook, which is the main enemy is China. They don’t think the United States should be fighting on two fronts. They want the United States to focus on China. Making a deal with Russia, mitigating the war in Ukraine, putting the resources more into the… it’s not like they want less military spending. There’s a very odd one, maybe Rand Paul, but the majority of them aren’t advocating less military spending. They just want it all focused on China.



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