CB 320

24 June 2023
West World
These very war hawks, strangely enough, may turn out to be the West’s best friends. With or without consent, they are corrupting from within the idea of Russian greatness. According to rumours, this is how the Soviet Union collapsed.
by Yuliia Presniakova & Sanyo Fylyppov
Image credit: The Circus Bazaar Company AS & Pty Ltd
Yuliia Presniakova & Sanyo Fylyppov
Sanyo Fylyppov and Yuliia Presniakova are the two halves of the musical duo, Eat Nobody, and they are also producers and authors for CNN and various Ukrainian media outlets.

The Kremlin has been burning for an anti-western global project for decades. Before coming to the current and relatively strong concept of a multipolar world order, the Russian state actively experimented with different ideas and brands. The revival of the Russian Empire, BRICS (Brazil–Russia–India–China–South Africa), USSR 2.0, the Russian World, the Union with Belarus, and the Eurasian Economic Union: these ideas have been implemented with varying success by the Kremlin’s technologists.

Some of these projects, despite their volatile representations, were mundane, like the concepts of second-rate products on Kickstarter, which offer a virtual model but no industrial design. In some cases, it became ridiculous: contradictory ideas were implemented in parallel. Paradoxical innovations, such as the revival of the position of the Tsar and the glorification of Stalin, could literally take place at the same time. But the fact is that the political–technological laboratories of the Kremlin were constantly working to create something grandiose that would transcend the official borders of Russia and contrast against liberal expansionism.

Ukraine, with its shifting of poverty, claims to democracy, orientation to the West and its two Maidans, certainly didn’t fit into any of these ideas. Of course, the Kremlin could not allow the Ukrainian solo project to succeed. In none of its geopolitical ideas has the Kremlin considered Ukraine as a partner. In the Kremlin’s plans, Ukraine has always been somewhere on the sidelines: a transit country for moving gas to Europe and nothing more. Even Belarus now plays a more important role.

Ukraine’s entry into the global liberal project was nothing more than a matter of time and opportunity. The Russian attacks have only accelerated this integration. In Ukraine, the judicial system has not been fully built, corruption has not been defeated, and the roots of the Orthodox Church are still strong. But the flags of the US and Europe are already flying on the country’s facade, welcoming investors and international banking capital. The country is now receiving all the West’s support as an advance on participation in future development. Such a sudden change has inevitably led to a cargo cult-like phenomena among many Ukrainians.

After the collapse of the USSR, the first reforms in Ukraine were carried out by members of the Communist Party. Next, the clans of local oligarchs seized the reform initiative. Neither were able to provide the long-awaited breakthrough needed in both ideology and economics. The inevitable competition between these puppet political groups could well have ended in anarchy and the collapse of the state if Ukraine had not surrendered to the mercy of the global liberal project. This happened after the second Maidan, at which point people with foreign citizenship began to occupy government posts, and concessions for the development of Ukrainian oil and gas fields were openly transferred to global corporations.

The fact that the West now controls Ukraine is well known among its citizens and is freely discussed in taxis and BAZAARS across the country. This is why Ukraine is looking to the West for its salvation. Having become a Western colony, Ukraine has a strong right to expect such protection. Look at Ukrainian leaders. They do not only ask for help, but confidently demand the support of ‘Western partners’, asking for arms and loans on an unprecedented scale. At the same time, Russia, as if in punishment, annexed Ukrainian territories during the first wave of aggression, which logically proceeded the current and altogether more bloody wave of aggression.

The courage of the Ukrainians who bravely resist Putin’s army is admirable. But without the help of the West, this resistance would not have been possible. It means that Ukraine is now dependent on the future geopolitical ambitions of the West and is obliged to be subservient in order to receive weapons and new loans. It is necessary to understand what the West wants if we are to understand the many possible futures that await Ukraine.

Fundamentally, the West wants to rid the world of Putin’s ability to project power. It is no wonder that Putin has already been convicted by the International Criminal Court. The more crimes the Kremlin commits on the territory of Ukraine, the more likely that western commentators will declare Putin to be the ‘Adolf Hitler’ of modern times. Until February 2022, Putin was just a schemer and a bluffing swindler. Now, after all the war crimes in Ukraine, he is practically the devil incarnate; Satan in the flesh. But the West has systematically lured Putin into this trap. And with the publication of his arrest warrant, the first part of the game has been played. However, the end of the war in Ukraine and the restoration of justice may take decades.

Now, the coalition that supports Ukraine comprises almost 90 states. Among them, only the ‘collective West’ is involved in the supply of weapons: the United States and the leading countries of Europe. However, no matter how many weapons arrive in Ukraine, common sense and the concept of nuclear parity suggest that this war is unlikely to have a ‘Hollywood ending’. As was remarked on Twitter, ‘The Hague Tribunal is good, but for the generation that grew up on 80s action movies, it is important that Putin falls off the cliff at the end.’

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Fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian is a bad plan. Putin’s job is to spread out the war in its current form for decades, literally until he dies of old age. Putin no longer cares how many victims there will be in this story: tens or hundreds of thousands. The main task of the Russian dictatorship is to keep its new tsar. In fact, Putin has already mocked the idea of free elections to his heart’s content. The latest amendments to the Russian constitution, which allow Putin to ‘zero out’ his presidential terms and stay in power until 2036, were more of a caricature. Then, under the pretext of quarantine restrictions, the election commission simply drew the results that the Kremlin needed. There is no doubt that similar results will be drawn during the next elections. Today, Putin’s power apparatus is well protected from any external attack. For Putin and company, the ‘nuclear shield’ is their personal armour. The only chance to win the war is to break the Russian defence from within. This seems to be the plan of the West.

Western media’s depictions of Putin are not enough to overthrow the government in Russia. To undermine the autocracy from within, a revolutionary situation must develop from the inside. That is why sanctions will never be enough. The collapse of the USSR was greatly facilitated by the Iron Curtain. Soviet citizens began to seriously doubt the ideas of communism when they were paying two monthly salaries for a pair of secondhand jeans. But Russia has been actively preparing for the current sanctions for the past decade. Moreover, the Kremlin now officially supports the illegal import of goods and even encourages the piracy of movies, music and software. Thus it is not yet possible to create the kind of hunger for goods in Russia that existed in the USSR.

That the war has the potential to directly affect Russians within their own homes is what will help the Russians doubt the wisdom of its ruling party. Given this, it is no wonder that Ukraine announces counterattacks with such loudness. Neither is it a surprise that the West, which at first didn’t agree to the delivery of its aircraft and tanks, is now opening the overton window and discussing the export of long-range weapons to Ukraine. Until recently, the West did not advise that Ukraine attack Russian territory, but now the Russian border regions are appearing more often in combat reports. It is not for nothing that there are fears of this mobilisation in Russia itself. The risk to Putin is that Russians understand that the war can potentially cost them their lives.

The success of this plan may also depend on Ukraine not only keeping its existing territories, but also liberating the occupied lands. This would be to the shame of Putin, which perhaps the Russian people will not be able to understand. If you can’t defeat old problems, let’s create new ones. As such, a pyramid is now built within the Kremlin. After the failure that was ‘capturing Kyiv in three days’, it is necessary to explain why the war is still going on. The explanation appeared literally immediately after the failure of the Russian blitzkrieg. In the Kremlin’s view, Ukraine is just a proxy for the West, and official propaganda quickly shifted the focus from ‘fighting the Ukrainian Nazis’ to fighting the West. ‘If we hadn’t attacked, the West and NATO would have been the first to attack Russia from the territory of Ukraine.’ the heads of Russian TV shows repeat as a means to justify the invasion. But Russia’s 2024 presidential election is approaching and, as planned by the Kremlin, Putin should show record results there. But it’s somehow uncool to come to the elections without the bravado of an unconquered and constantly counterattacking Ukraine.

There is much talk in Russia about a new multipolar world order. The Kremlin declares through its media that it’s not only fighting for Russian’s interests in Ukraine but also fighting for the concept of this new world. So, in pointing weapons towards Ukraine, Russians are pointing to the hegemony of the dollar, to the ‘colour revolutions’ inspired by the capitalists, pointing to the politics of tolerance, to globalisation and to corporations. In this sense, the departure of major brands from Russia is potentially a gift for the regime if seen within the lens of Kremlin propaganda.

It was once said ‘it is OK that Russians do not have sausages in their stores because in the West, black people are lynched’. This message helped prolong the existence of the Soviet Union for several decades. In an adapted form, the slogan now reads, ‘Without parmesan and champagne, but without [George] Soros and in a heterosexual family’ (the level of sex education in Russia is still extremely low).

Thus, the narrative of the Russian world, which began with the theft of Crimea and Donbass, turned into the idea of creating an anti-Western centre of influence. Needless to say, this idea has the potential to reach billions of people in China, India, Brazil, Syria, Turkey and North Korea. With the threat of such ideological ambitions potentially translating into geopolitical expansion, the West simply can’t afford to lose in Ukraine. Therefore, Ukraine has no right to withdraw from this war. The script must be fulfilled. ‘A football match takes place in any weather,’ as Soviet sports commentators used to say.

Meanwhile, people are dying in Ukraine; civilians are suffering. Even the West now realises that defeating Russia in the classical sense – that is, raising the Ukrainian flag over the Kremlin, which is the dream of any Ukrainian patriot – is not yet possible in any realistic scenario. Is Ukraine now fighting without a chance to realise ‘the victory’? Zelenskyy has stated the goal: to liberate all the occupied territories, including Crimea. Ukraine will not agree to any lesser result. (In response to this, Russia again threatened to use nuclear weapons.)

Of course, Putin doesn’t want to repeat the fate of Hussein or Gaddafi. But what to do with Ukraine, what will be better for her: a terrible defeat, or lasting horrors without end? Is the West prepared to accept the prospect that the war in its present form will drag on for years? The Vietnam War lasted twenty years. The invasion of Iraq began twenty years ago and lasted for eight, although the War on Terror continues as an ongoing campaign. The Nazi attack on the USSR, often mentioned in Russia, lasted ‘only’ four years. The war between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals is generally stated to have lasted 100,000 years!

The plot of this story unfolds in such a way that a Black Swan is bound to appear. The beauty of this concept is that the Black Swan is, by its very definition, unpredictable. Of course, in the political system being constructed in Russia today, the death of Putin should not cause its collapse. The even more militant Ramzan Kadyrov or the defence minister Sergei Shoigu are ready to replace Putin. And how many clones of Putin do the Russians have in stock? It must be the Black Swan that will completely change the paradigm, turn everything upside down.

Their increasingly regular occurrence refutes the general notion that a Black Swan is a rare event; Bitcoin, the coronavirus, and the progress of AI are just the most prominent examples. It is logical to assume that the emergence of a new Black Swan is only a matter of time. However, the essence of the Black Swan is that its arrival cannot be predicted, accelerated or delayed. You can only believe that it will happen. Ukrainians are waiting for a rather specific Black Swan: one that will completely change the situation in Russia while at the same time avoid doing further harm to Ukraine. Such is the inherent unpredictability of war and the tendency for conflict to escalate, however, that the more likely outcome is that any unexpected events will result in prolongation of the conflict for an indefinite period, literally speaking, for decades.

So far, Western aid to Ukraine has only fuelled Russian people’s responsiveness to the propaganda of the Kremlin, inspiring Russian dreams of ‘hitting NATO with all guns blazing.’ The current school of Russian propaganda is the successor to Soviet propaganda and has a long history of creating an alternative reality. This great Russian monster will not react to a frontal attack; it is too colossal and too ancient. A force of such vast redundancy is best left to fight with itself.

Russia needs new soldiers? Great, let’s announce a total mobilisation. Putin signals to deal with some troublesome journalists? Okay, let’s put famous journalists in jail by the hundreds. Russia is under sanctions and corporations do not want to sell chips and semiconductors to Russia? Let’s start telling people that Russian car brands are better than Tesla and Mercedes. Putin wants to look positive on the screens? Praise him 24/7. Hawks they may seem, yet their task is to push everything to absurd limits. ‘The worse, the better’ is their motto.

A vivid example of how the desperate execution of Putin’s orders can undermine the entire structure of the Kremlin’s power vertical is the behaviour of the head of the Wagner private military company, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who claims to be the modern-day Marshal Georgy Zhukov of Russia. Zhukov was a historic figure, not only for his victories over the Nazis but also for his lack of mercy towards his own fighters. Prigozhin proclaims the same, and sits upon the loss of contract soldiers in vast amounts in the effort to achieve what some would deem dubious goals; the most recent case in point involved the loss of at least 20,000 Wagner mercenaries in a single attack on Bakhmut.

At first glance, Prigozhin is an ultra-patriot and a war hawk. In fact, he is sending tens of thousands of Russian fighters right under the HIMARs and Abrams. Yet Prigozhin shows no hesitation in scolding the Russian defence ministry, screeching about the lack of ammunition. In a filmed interview, he said that the military campaign is more suggestive of a meat grinder than of a carefully planned special operation. Saying such things demoralises Russian recruits, although for now, Prigozhin is the only Russian action figure who is criticising government powers.

Recall the irony of the Western movie The Death of Stalin (2017), where the singularly brutal Zhukov provides the soldiers for the execution of Lavrentiy Beria (head of the secret police), then cremates the body of this once all-powerful Kremlin torturer. Prigozhin may not be the one to pull off a palace coup, but as far as press quotes are concerned, he has outstripped any official sources in Russia in terms of influence and political standing. On the other hand, one can recall the example of Igor Strelkov, who was the main media face of separatism in eastern Ukraine during the first wave of the 2014 Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea, but whose star faded very quickly after the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Donbass.

Perhaps we’ll see how the system in Russia will begin to devour itself. Indeed, very soon Moscow will defeat the last agents of the West on its territory, at which stage this huge and hawk-driven apparatus designed to find and destroy dissent will not be able to slow its inertia and will begin to harvest ‘enemies of the nation’ from within the current elite. This is precisely what happened under Stalin, who was consequently declared an enemy of the people after his death.

These very war hawks, strangely enough, may turn out to be the West’s best friends. With or without consent, they are corrupting from within the idea of Russian greatness. According to rumours, this is how the Soviet Union collapsed.


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