Putin’s Crimean Anschluss

March 16, 2014 at 11:22 pm (Europe, Germany, history, imperialism, Jim D, Russia, war)

Above: Crimean referendum. Below: Austria 1938:


NB: the big, central circle was for “yes” votes

I was not the only, or the first, observer to notice the remarkable similarities between the strategy, tactics and justifications use by Putin in his his invasion of the Crimea and those used by Hitler in the Sudetenland in October 1938 – Hillary Clinton noted it as well. The comparison annoyed some of Putin’s sub-Stalinist apologists (including some who, against all the evidence, protest that they’re not that at all), and produced some sneering references to “Godwin’s Law” in the more worldly-wise sections of the bourgeois media.

What the wiseacres seemed not to notice was that nobody claims that Putin nurtures Hitlerian plans for world domination: just that his methods in Crimea bear a remarkable similarity to Hitler’s land-grabs in defence of “German-speaking peoples” and to restore historic borders before WW2. To point that out has nothing to do with “Godwin’s Law” and everything to do with having a grasp of history and an ability to draw appropriate analogies.

Today’s farcical referendum conjures up another highly apposite analogy: the Anschluss incorporation of Austria into Greater Germany, confirmed by a plebiscite in April 1938.

The description that follows is excerpted from the account given in Karl Dietrich Bracher’s The German Dictatorship (Penguin University Books, 1973):

The incorporation of Austria had not only remained the first and most popular objective of National Socialist expansionism … but …  [was also] its most promising starting point. The Greater German-nationalist demands for self-determination lent effective support to the strategy. Versailles was a thing of the past; an effective defence by the West for this relic of a broken system was hardly likely…

The pseudo-legal seizure of power in Germany served as a model for the planned peaceful conquest … the German Army was working on plans for the invasion of Austria … On 11 March followed the ultimatum from Berlin;  Seyss-Inquart [pro-Nazi Austrian Chancellor] after unmistakably clear telephone instructions from Goring in Berlin, opened the borders to the German troops on 12 March 1938, while the Austrian National Socialists took control of  the regional governments …

So the coup worked … Amid enormous jubilation of a partly National Socialist, partly mislead population, Hitler moved into ‘his’ Linz and then on to Vienna, where church bells rang out and swastika banners were hoisted on church spires. And on 13 March he proclaimed the ‘reunification of the Ostmark [East March]‘ with the Reich. In tried and true fashion, there followed a Greater German plebiscite on 10 April 1938, which yielded the routine 99 per cent ‘yes’ votes.


  1. Putin’s Crimean Anschluss | OzHouse said,

    […] Mar 17 2014 by admin […]

  2. jimmy glesga said,

    Putin was just ensuring that NATO and the WEST did not allow their puppets some fascist in Kiev to get rid of the Black Sea Fleet.

  3. Mike Killingworth said,

    I agree with you for once, Jimmy. It would have been smarter, however, only to have conducted the referendum after the UN (or even the EU) had been offered the opportunity to do so, and declined it. The result would have been little different – the Crimeans were “planted” there in much the same way as Ulster Protestants were.

  4. Southpawpunch (@Southpawpunch) said,

    There is nothing, in principle, wrong with peoples of two different areas wishing to join together. The only reason that Anschluss then was to be opposed would have been to try and keep Austrians out of the hands of the Nazis (although the regime there then was little better); no democrat today would object if Germany and Austria wished to reunite. Likewise any move by Sudetenland Germans to join the Weimar republic, subject to minority rights, should have been supported. Germany’s borders, like all European countries (near enough) are nothing other than the mark of previous power rather than the reasonable choice of its people .

    And I thought your photo showed all the difference between the two votes in the design of the ballot paper.

    There are a host of other issues, such as the position of minorities both before and after any joining, but if the majority want to join Russia, and the position of minorities is not made worse by that (it’s complex, but I’m thinking that minority is now a pro-Ukraine population of Crimea which is certainly smaller and no worse off than the previous minority of pro-Russia population of Crimea.) than how an it not be supported. Few doubt, despite the rush referendum that population of Crimea, by a large majority want to be in Ukraine, not Russia.

    One of few things this site gets right is noting the curious rise of neo-Stalinism. The odd idea of those that thought Russia, Serbia were once ‘socialist’, and so they, and those that had once been associated with the USSR, such as Syria, should automatically be supported – tied in with that is a general softness to any ruling regime that may oppose the USA e.g. Cuba, Venezuela. SocialistUnity is full of such reactionary stuff.

    These ideas are completely wrong but you don’t oppose them by just adopting the contrary position – the Russian regime is automatically wrong. Here they are correct.

  5. Southpawpunch (@Southpawpunch) said,

    correction – para 3:

    then how can it not be supported. Few doubt, despite the rush referendum that population of Crimea, by a large majority want to be in Russia.

  6. R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    There is is anything more bizarre about the ‘left’s’ devotion to the notion of inviolate borders as established in international law by the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia it is their selective abandonment of this fixation when it is an ‘anti-western’ dictator who is ignoring the borders.

    The only reason a Ukraine with stable and recognised borders has existed since 1991 is because the USSR established those borders and then liquidated itself.

    The fact is that most Crimeans are Russians and want to be part of Russia just as most Austrians were Germans and wanted Anschluss and most Sudeten Germans wanted to be part of Germany and not Czechoslovakia.

    Had the bourgeoisie been able to establish real transnational institutions then perhaps all these states in 1918-19 and 1991 might have had borders defined by proper plebiscites.

    • Jim Denham said,

      Just to be clear: there can be no objection in principle to Crimea seceding from Ukraine and, indeed, joining Russia if (as seems to be the case) that’s what the majority of its people want. But this referendum was clearly a travesty (with no option for voting for the status quo) and – more to the point – was held under Russian occupation and is clearly part of Putin’s imperialist designs on other “Russian speaking” regions of Ukraine and, indeed, other Eastern European nations.

      The comparison with Kosova, so beloved of Putin’s sub-Stalinist apologists, is not valid: the US and the west had to be dragged very belatedly and reluctantly into the Serbian conflict, and the secession of Kosova was not part of the wider imperialist designs of the US / west. The clearest and most obvious difference is, of course, that the US military intervention was not part of a plan to annexe the territory for itself.

      All that said, the best immediate solution to the present situation in Ukraine may well be some form of federalism.

      • Mike Killingworth said,

        Jim, suppose there was a referendum held under conditions of which you approve. Do you think there’s a cat in hell’s chance of its voting for Ukraine over Russia? If not, why do you want “federalism”? Do you mean you want the Soviet Union to be reborn?

      • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

        My comment was obviously a bit garbled as I hit send before editing.

        And it is hard not to play avocatus diaboli here.

        Anyway if we are going to dig out historical analogies another one might be Ireland in 1918-20.

        In December 1918 a clear majority of the Irish electorate voted for a republican revolutionary nationalist party and a large minority for a unionist one unwilling to even concede a partial devolution of powers to Dublin.

        And this followed on from decades – in fact nearly a century if you take it back to Daniel O’Connell and 1829 – of the Irish people (or those elements of it that were enfranchised) voting again and again and again for constitutionalist nationalism.

        Legally and constitutionally however all those votes for nationalism had no force whatsoever as only the Westminster Parliament was sovereign and was dominated by unionists.

        And yet morally Sinn Fein had every right to wage a revolutionary war to liberate themselves from the British Empire.

        Crimea has similarly voted again and again in what appear to be mostly free and fair elections for parties demanding autonomy from Kiev and has like the Irish in 1918 now gone one step further and demanded independence (which even if it does lead to union with Russia will not be recognised internationally for who knows how many decades).

        That the Crimeans are being manipulated by agents of an evil dictatorship does not invalidate the clear choice of a majority that they would rather be ruled by a Putin than by the more pro-Western Tymoshenko clique of Ukraine’s divided kleptocratic oligarchy which did seize power from a democratically elected president from the rival pro-Russian clique by an act of insurrection (however justified).

        Similarly had Sinn Fein been committed to uniting their new state with a foreign despotism (and had Germany won WW1 and been able to force the break-up of Britain one can in fact visualise the Irish being persuaded to install some Austrian archduke or Bavarian prince as a puppet king in Dublin just as during WW1 rival factions of Polish nationalists were willing to accept either a Habsburg or Romanov king if that was the only way to bring a Polish state into existence again) and been able to carry a popular majority for the new order that would been their choice.

        And the West did nothing about the Anschluss because they believed that even had the referendum been fairly conducted by the Nazis the majority of Austrians would have voted for union with Germany – just as they would probably have done in 1919 if they had been given the choice rather than forced by the Treaties of St Germain and Versailles to become a literally bankrupt rump republic in which only a minority of the Austro-Hungarian empire’s German speakers were included.

        Perhaps for socialists sat safely in an armchair far away the safest position might actually be safest to refuse to take sides at all as in the end this is a fight between two – or three if you count Yanukovich’s clique as separate from Putin’s – unbelievably vicious and corrupt kleptocratic gangs over who gets to plunder what is left of the Ukraine’s resources.

        And where is the working class in this?

        AFAICT not a single democratic socialist – not even the most pusillanimous social-democrat – has a seat in a parliament utterly dominated by agents of the rival oligarchs wrapping themselves in various national and regional flags.

        And if there is any real independent socialist party (as opposed to the Putinist ‘communists’) with significant support outside of parliament I can see no evidence for it.

        It is also difficult to see even anything recognisable as a true national bourgeoisie in any real way opposed to the kleptocratic state-capitalism that succeeded whatever we call the Soviet system.

        It may therefore boil down in the end to whether a Ukraine integrated into the EU might have a better chance for eventually developing the genuinely socialist (or even bourgeois liberal….) class politics that seems completely lacking there now.

        But given the demographics you can only visualise a Ukraine stable enough to join the EU precisely if it can be stripped of its mostly poor Russian speaking provinces in the Crimea and the lower Don valley who have so far managed to drag it back into the Russian orbit every time the more pro-Western faction of the oligarchy has won power.

      • Mike Killingworth said,

        It would be nice to think that making the analogy with Britain and Ireland would clarify things. Alas, it’s one to which too many of those on the (British) left resolutely insist on preferring emotionalism to clear thinking. My present wife hails from South Belfast. That ought to tell you nothing whatsoever about my political views.

        As to the Crimea, the right result has been obtained by dubious methods. All land boundaries are dubious – there aren’t any at all in Utopia – but we have to recognise that race trumps class a means of division between humans. And no, I don’t like it, either…

      • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

        Gary Brecher has written an interesting ‘everything you know about Crimea is wrong’ piece:

        Crimea, a peninsula almost detached from the wide grasslands of Ukraine proper, has been a very distinct—and distinctly Russian—region for more than a century.

        Unlike many Eastern Ukrainians, who speak Russian and consider themselves culturally but not politically Russian, Crimeans identify strongly as Russians, politically and culturally. They were very unhappy when Yeltsin let Crimea go to Ukraine after the breakup of the USSR. Nobody’s mentioning it, but the fact is that there was already a referendum in Crimea on staying with Ukraine or rejoining Russia.

        On January 20, 1991, Crimeans voted to restore their ties with Russia by almost the same percentage (93.2%) we saw in today’s election—where, according to the BBC, 93% of Crimean voters once again voted Russian.

        That’s a remarkably consistent vote, considering what a lot of chaos and poverty have encompassed the region since 1991. Back then, of course, no one in the West took the results seriously, because everyone knew the USSR was evil and anyone defecting from it was good. But it might be worth remembering that election now–because with Russian economic and military power backing them, the Crimeans’ vote might actually count.

        It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Crimea voted to return to Russia. Even the demographics made that an easy one to predict. According to Ukraine’s own 2001 Census, 58.3% of Crimeans consider themselves Russian, with only 24.3% identifying as Ukranian.

        On Sunday, the Crimeans voted to join Russia in huge numbers—80% turnout, 95% for joining Russia according to reports. That result tracked with the BBC exit polls, which took into account the fact that most of the peninsula’s ethnic Tartars—about 14% of the population—boycotted the vote. That means a lot of ethnic Ukrainians (and maybe even a few ethnic Tartars) voted with the Russian bloc, and it’s not likely they did so because they’re rabid Russian nationalists. More likely, it reflects the fact that Ukraine is a very poor country, while Russia seems to be doing pretty well, for a “gas station masquerading as a country.” Ukraine is sort of the opposite: A country without the money to buy a tank of gas. The history of Ukraine in the 20th century is so horrific, such a non-stop nightmare, that it’s impossible to blame anyone who wants out.

        When I meet Canadians whose last names end in ‘-enko,” I always think they should get down on their knees every night and say a prayer: “Thank you, God, for giving me great-grandparents smart enough to get out of Ukraine.” It’s useless assigning blame; the point is that it makes sense to vote for a country that can, at least in theory, protect you and give you a pittance, instead of one that has seen nothing but mass murder, artificial famine, pogrom and counter-pogrom, and endless ethnic hatred for as long as anyone can remember. The worst of it, for many quietly embittered Ukrainian intellectuals, is that no one even remembers the huge artificial famine Stalin used to annihilate the Ukrainian peasantry.

        Nobody but the poor Armenians has had to live so long with a genocide that never makes the media.

        And while the Ukrainian peasantry was being wiped out, the New York Times’s correspondent, Walter Duranty, was feasting with Stalin’s nervous cronies and denying that there was any famine at all. Those who survived the Holodomor (“Death by Hunger”) were just in time for the German invasion, the Soviet counterattack, and the pogroms accompanying every back-and-forth as the two most powerful, merciless armies in modern history pushed each other back and forth over those grassy plains.

        So, yeah: I don’t blame any Ukrainian for hating Russia, or the West, or the whole damn world; they’ve got a right, if anyone does. But you can’t blame the Crimeans, either, for wanting to opt out of a terrible history.


        Do however strongly disagree about the non-stop horror show – after all nobody has actually invaded Ukraine, or systematically starved its population or launched any serious (by East European standards) pogroms or purges since the death of Stalin 61 years ago – and even the breakup of the USSR was achieved without any serious bloodshed.

      • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

        Also recommend Mark Galeotti’s ruminations on the Ukrainian oligarchs and organised crime e.g. : http://inmoscowsshadows.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/poor-dmytro-firtash/

        We really seem to be dealing with rival gangsters than real class forces in the former USSR…

      • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    • Babs said,

      R F McCarthy

      I do like your history lessons, they are very interesting. I also appreciate the way you don’t seem to be ‘tainted’ by propaganda from any side and and just report on the facts. Most of what I come across on the left tends to be either Stalinist (always the fault of the west, enemy of my enemy is my friend, ignore authoritarian and illiberal traits of certain regimes) or of the Liberal Interventionist variety (we are right and can do no wrong, any mistakes are unintentional, support democracy and human rights when it suits us).

      • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,


        My main problem with what remains of the ‘left’ is its almost complete lack of any historical sense – which is all the more depressing given how many of us can actually remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam etc.

        Do I report on the facts?

        If only….I just read widely and quote other people who at least seem to know what they are talking about.

        And I’d actually be happier if we had a real living Left with actual experts on places like Russia who’d tell me what to think – which was pretty much the case back in the sixties and seventies when every Trotskyist group of any size had people who wrote actual books and articles on ‘the class nature of the USSR’.

        But now the Left is dead we all have to play amateur Kremlinologist (and amateur pretty much everything else) ourselves and get our data and our analysis from all sorts of weird and dubious sources.

        So it is hard to be definitive and to take sides.

  7. Babs said,

    Russia Examines Its Options for Responding to Ukraine
    Geopolitical Weekly
    TUESDAY, MARCH 18, 2014 – 03:00 Print Text Size
    By George Friedman

    The fall of the Ukrainian government and its replacement with one that appears to be oriented toward the West represents a major defeat for the Russian Federation. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia accepted the reality that the former Eastern European satellite states would be absorbed into the Western economic and political systems. Moscow claims to have been assured that former Soviet republics would be left as a neutral buffer zone and not absorbed. Washington and others have disputed that this was promised. In any case, it was rendered meaningless when the Baltic states were admitted to NATO and the European Union. The result was that NATO, which had been almost 1,000 miles from St. Petersburg, was now less than approximately 100 miles away.

    This left Belarus and Ukraine as buffers. Ukraine is about 300 miles from Moscow at its closest point. Were Belarus and Ukraine both admitted to NATO, the city of Smolensk, which had been deep inside the Soviet Union, would have become a border town. Russia has historically protected itself with its depth. It moved its borders as far west as possible, and that depth deterred adventurers — or, as it did with Hitler and Napoleon, destroyed them. The loss of Ukraine as a buffer to the West leaves Russia without that depth and hostage to the intentions and capabilities of Europe and the United States.

    There are those in the West who dismiss Russia’s fears as archaic. No one wishes to invade Russia, and no one can invade Russia. Such views appear sophisticated but are in fact simplistic. Intent means relatively little in terms of assessing threats. They can change very fast. So too can capabilities. The American performance in World War I and the German performance in the 1930s show how quickly threats and capabilities shift. In 1932, Germany was a shambles economically and militarily. By 1938, it was the dominant economic and military power on the European Peninsula. In 1941, it was at the gates of Moscow. In 1916, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson ran a sincere anti-war campaign in a country with hardly any army. In 1917, he deployed more than a million American soldiers to Europe.

    Russia’s viewpoint is appropriately pessimistic. If Russia loses Belarus or Ukraine, it loses its strategic depth, which accounts for much of its ability to defend the Russian heartland. If the intention of the West is not hostile, then why is it so eager to see the regime in Ukraine transformed? It may be a profound love of liberal democracy, but from Moscow’s perspective, Russia must assume more sinister motives.

    Quite apart from the question of invasion, which is obviously a distant one, Russia is concerned about the consequences of Ukraine’s joining the West and the potential for contagion in parts of Russia itself. During the 1990s, there were several secessionist movements in Russia. The Chechens became violent, and the rest of their secession story is well known. But there also was talk of secession in Karelia, in Russia’s northwest, and in the Pacific Maritime region.

    What was conceivable under Boris Yeltsin was made inconceivable under Vladimir Putin. The strategy Putin adopted was to increase Russia’s strength moderately but systematically, to make that modest increase appear disproportionately large. Russia could not afford to remain on the defensive; the forces around it were too powerful. Putin had to magnify Russia’s strength, and he did. Using energy exports, the weakness of Europe and the United States’ distraction in the Middle East, he created a sense of growing Russian power. Putin ended talk of secession in the Russian Federation. He worked to create regimes in Belarus and Ukraine that retained a great deal of domestic autonomy but operated within a foreign policy framework acceptable to Russia. Moscow went further, projecting its power into the Middle East and, in the Syrian civil war, appearing to force the United States to back out of its strategy.

    It is not clear what happened in Kiev. There were of course many organizations funded by American and European money that were committed to a reform government. It is irrelevant whether, as the Russians charge, these organizations planned and fomented the uprising against former President Viktor Yanukovich’s regime or whether that uprising was part of a more powerful indigenous movement that drew these groups along. The fact was that Yanukovich refused to sign an agreement moving Ukraine closer to the European Union, the demonstrations took place, there was violence, and an openly pro-Western Ukrainian government was put in place.

    The Russians cannot simply allow this to stand. Not only does it create a new geopolitical reality, but in the longer term it also gives the appearance inside Russia that Putin is weaker than he seems and opens the door to instability and even fragmentation. Therefore, the Russians must respond. The issue is how.

    Russia’s Potential Responses

    The first step was simply making official what has been a reality. Crimea is within the Russian sphere of influence, and the military force Moscow has based in Crimea under treaties could assert control whenever it wished. That Sevastopol is a critical Russian naval base for operations in the Black and Mediterranean seas was not the key. A treaty protected that. But intervention in Crimea was a low-risk, low-cost action that would halt the appearance that Russia was hemorrhaging power. It made Russia appear as a bully in the West and a victor at home. That was precisely the image it wanted to project to compensate for its defeat.

    Several options are now available to Russia.

    First, it can do nothing. The government in Kiev is highly fractious, and given the pro-Russian factions’ hostility toward moving closer to the West, the probability of paralysis is high. In due course, Russian influence, money and covert activities can recreate the prior neutrality in Ukraine in the form of a stalemate. This was the game Russia played after the 2004 Orange Revolution. The problem with this strategy is that it requires patience at a time when the Russian government must demonstrate its power to its citizens and the world. Moreover, if Crimea does leave Ukraine, it will weaken the pro-Russian bloc in Kiev and remove a large number of ethnic Tartars from Ukraine’s political morass. It could be enough of a loss to allow the pro-Russian bloc to lose what electoral power it previously had (Yanukovich beat Yulia Timoshenko by fewer than a million votes in 2010). Thus, by supporting Crimea’s independence — and raising the specter of an aggressive Russia that could bind the other anti-Russian factions together — Putin could be helping to ensure that a pro-Western Ukraine persists.

    Second, it can invade mainland Ukraine. There are three problems with this. First, Ukraine is a large area to seize and pacify. Russia does not need an insurgency on its border, and it cannot guarantee that it wouldn’t get one, especially since a significant portion of the population in western Ukraine is pro-West. Second, in order for an invasion of Ukraine to be geopolitically significant, all of Ukraine west of the Dnieper River must be taken. Otherwise, the frontier with Russia remains open, and there would be no anchor to the Russian position. However, this would bring Russian forces to the bank opposite Kiev and create a direct border with NATO and EU members. Finally, if the Russians wish to pursue the first option, pulling eastern Ukrainian voters out of the Ukrainian electoral process would increase the likelihood of an effective anti-Russian government.

    Third, it can act along its periphery. In 2008, Russia announced its power with authority by invading Georgia. This changed calculations in Kiev and other capitals in the region by reminding them of two realities. First, Russian power is near. Second, the Europeans have no power, and the Americans are far away. There are three major points where the Russians could apply pressure: the Caucasus countries, Moldova and the Baltics. By using large Russian minority populations within NATO countries, the Russians might be able to create unrest there, driving home the limits of NATO’s power.

    Fourth, it can offer incentives in Eastern and Central Europe. Eastern and Central European countries, from Poland to Bulgaria, are increasingly aware that they may have to hedge their bets on Europe and the West. The European economic crisis now affects politico-military relations. The sheer fragmentation of European nations makes a coherent response beyond proclamations impossible. Massive cuts in military spending remove most military options. The Central Europeans feel economically and strategically uneasy, particularly as the European crisis is making the European Union’s largest political powers focus on the problems of the eurozone, of which most of these countries are not members. The Russians have been conducting what we call commercial imperialism, particularly south of Poland, entering into business dealings that have increased their influence and solved some economic problems. The Russians have sufficient financial reserves to neutralize Central European countries.

    Last, it can bring pressure to bear on the United States by creating problems in critical areas. An obvious place is Iran. In recent weeks, the Russians have offered to build two new, non-military reactors for the Iranians. Quietly providing technological support for military nuclear programs could cause the Iranians to end negotiations with the United States and would certainly be detected by U.S. intelligence. The United States has invested a great deal of effort and political capital in its relations with the Iranians. The Russians are in a position to damage them, especially as the Iranians are looking for leverage in their talks with Washington. In more extreme and unlikely examples, the Russians might offer help to Venezuela’s weakening regime. There are places that Russia can hurt the United States, and it is now in a position where it will take risks — as with Iran’s nuclear program — that it would not have taken before.

    The European and American strategy to control the Russians has been to threaten sanctions. The problem is that Russia is the world’s eighth-largest economy, and its finances are entangled with the West’s, as is its economy. For any sanctions the West would impose, the Russians have a counter. There are many Western firms that have made large investments in Russia and have large Russian bank accounts and massive amounts of equipment in the country. The Russians can also cut off natural gas and oil shipments. This would of course hurt Russia financially, but the impact on Europe — and global oil markets — would be more sudden and difficult to manage. Some have argued that U.S. energy or European shale could solve the problem. The Russian advantage is that any such solution is years away, and Europe would not have years to wait for the cavalry to arrive. Some symbolic sanctions coupled with symbolic counter-sanctions are possible, but bringing the Russian economy to its knees without massive collateral damage would be hard.

    The most likely strategy Russia will follow is a combination of all of the above: pressure on mainland Ukraine with some limited incursions; working to create unrest in the Baltics, where large Russian-speaking minorities live, and in the Caucasus and Moldova; and pursuing a strategy to prevent Eastern Europe from coalescing into a single entity. Simultaneously, Russia is likely to intervene in areas that are sensitive to the United States while allowing the Ukrainian government to be undermined by its natural divisions.

    Considering the West’s Countermoves

    In all of these things there are two questions. The first is what German foreign policy is going to be. Berlin supported the uprising in Ukraine and has on occasion opposed the Russian response, but it is not in a position to do anything more concrete. So far, it has tried to straddle the divides, particularly between Russia and the European Union, wanting to be at one with all. The West has now posed a problem to the Russians that Moscow must respond to visibly. If Germany effectively ignores Russia, Berlin will face two problems. The first will be that the Eastern Europeans, particularly the Poles, will lose massive confidence in Germany as a NATO ally, particularly if there are problems in the Baltics. Second, it will have to face the extraordinary foreign policy divide in Europe. Those countries close to the buffers are extremely uneasy. Those farther away — Spain, for instance — are far calmer. Europe is not united, and Germany needs a united Europe. The shape of Europe will be determined in part by Germany’s response.

    The second question is that of the United States. I have spoken of the strategy of balance of power. A balance of power strategy calls for calibration of involvement, not disengagement. Having chosen to support the creation of an anti-Russian regime in Ukraine, the United States now faces consequences and decisions. The issue is not deployments of major forces, but providing the Central Europeans from Poland to Romania with the technology and materiel to discourage Russia from dangerous adventures — and to convince their publics that they are not alone.

    The paradox is this: As the sphere of Western influence has moved to the east along Russia’s southern frontier, the actual line of demarcation has moved westward. Whatever happens within the buffer states, this line is critical for U.S. strategy because it maintains the European balance of power. We might call this soft containment.

    It is far-fetched to think that the Russians would move beyond commercial activity in this region. It is equally far-fetched that EU or NATO expansion into Ukraine would threaten Russian national security. Yet history is filled with far-fetched occurrences that in retrospect are obvious. The Russians have less room to maneuver but everything at stake. They might therefore take risks that others, not feeling the pressure the Russians feel, would avoid. Again, it is a question of planning for the worst and hoping for the best.

    For the United States, creating a regional balance of power is critical. Ideally, the Germans would join the project, but Germany is closer to Russia, and the plan involves risks Berlin will likely want to avoid. There is a grouping in the region called the Visegrad battle group. It is within the framework of NATO and consists of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. It is now more a concept than a military. However, with U.S. commitment and the inclusion of Romania, it could become a low-cost (to the United States) balance to a Russia suddenly feeling insecure and therefore unpredictable. This, and countering Russian commercial imperialism with a U.S. alternative at a time when Europe is hardly in a position to sustain the economies in these countries, would be logical.

    This has been the U.S. strategy since 1939: maximum military and economic aid with minimal military involvement. The Cold War ended far better than the wars the Americans became directly involved in. The Cold War in Europe never turned hot. Logic has it that at some point the United States will adopt this strategy. But of course, in the meantime, we wait for Russia’s next move, or should none come, a very different Russia.

    • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

      Stratfor is while well-informed (as it should given its claimed links to US and Israeli intelligence agencies) a dubious source ideologically with a clear neocon agenda.

      As with Gary Brecher who I’ve been quoting this doesn’t mean everything they say is wrong – the stratfor piece actually looks a pretty sound analysis of Russia’s options – but these are ultimately all our class enemies writing for our class enemies.

      What is missing is a distinctively socialist or even genuinely democratic perspective.

      • Babs said,

        I agree with what you say about Stratfor who are also known as the ‘Shadow CIA’ though I wouldn’t go so far as saying they have a neocon agenda. Neocons just want US world domination using US military power while Stratfor at least claim to be impartial (clearly they are not). This particular article I think lays out historic Russian fears of the West quite well without patronising Russians (unlike most mainstream Western publications I come across).

        I like to read things from a ‘birds eye’ point of view from time to time which is what Stratfor provide being a specialist on geopolitics but you know, fog of war and all that so they are prone to errors but it seems like they’ve got Russia right.

        http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/ukraine-and-little-cold-war <<< From 2009.

        Sadly the left doesn't have it's own version of Stratfor, a lot of the analysis from the left is either naive or short sighted and relies mostly on propaganda from the mass media (and RT News counts as mass media these days) to get it's information.

      • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

        A good example of this was during the last Gulf War when nascent left-wing blogs (and IIRC the usual suspects at the Guardian) uncritically reproduced drivel from Russian intelligence sources depicting the Iraqis fighting real battles rather than running away.

        But there can be no left-wing experts on foreign policy as long as we are divided terminally and toxically over so many fundamental issues.

        In fact I am increasingly dubious about taking positions at all on Israel, Syria etc – we can do nothing anyway and all these arguments are a distraction from the class war against the Tories right here and right now.

  8. richardarmbach said,

    All this criticism of Russia is just racist anti- Slavism. Not sure what type. New Anti-Slavism, alibi Anti-Slavism, Anti Slav tropes, causal Anti-Slavism, borderline Anti-Slavism, one of those. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the way Russia behaves.

    • Howard Fuller said,

      Absolute nonsense.

      • Jim Denham said,

        The man Armbach is an obsessive anti-Semite: he’s trying to make a “clever” point. just ignore him.

    • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

      Ukrainians are not Slavs then?


      • richardarmbach said,

        “Ukrainians are not Slavs then? ” Self hating ashamed Slavs at best.

    • richardarmbach said,

      “The man Armbach is an obsessive anti-Semite:”

      That is a very serious charge Jim.Hopefully you have some evidence to back it up ?

      • Jim Denham said,

        Yup: your posts to this blog (not all of which we published and some of which we deleted).

      • richardarmbach said,

        I will take that as a no

      • Jim Denham said,

        You can take it any way you like, Mr Armbach: your record speaks for itself. I repeat: you are an anti-Semite.

      • Mike Killingworth said,

        Ah, yes. Name-calling. Why can’t you trust the rest of us to make up our own minds about who is and who is not an anti-Semite, Jim? How come you know more about it than we do?

      • richardarmbach said,

        Because he reads David Hirsh’s stuff.

      • richardarmbach said,

        And shares the view that he can, with impunity, disenfranchise the billions of speakers of the natural language, and with breathtaking narcissism, stipulate to the rest of us what an expression means.

  9. Rilke said,

    Unelected pro-western ‘ministers’ pass laws marginalising Russian language speakers. This is not declared ‘unconstitutional’ for some obscure reason. Unelected so-called ‘president’ who has accepted confessed racial nationalists into his cabinet claims Crimean referendum is ‘undemocratic’. Ex-heavy weight boxer backed by money and advisors from Berlin ‘demands’ a role in parliament but forgets to demand any voting on his inclusion, he also declares voting in Crimea ‘undemocratic’. An unelected security minister who has been filmed wielding a club and a flak jacket flanked by masked ‘helpers’ with machine pistols storming a goverment building claims that coming to power on the back of ‘rilfes’ or the point of ‘bayonets’ is ‘undemocratic’. British foreing minister, Hague who a few months ago was agitating for a war in Syria and previous to that an attack on Iran, says that interfering in other nation’s affairs is ‘wrong’.
    Say at last, what power art thou, that wills forever evil but does forever good?

  10. Jim Denham said,

    Just for starters in your litany of falsehoods , Rilke: “Unelected pro-western ‘ministers’ pass laws marginalising Russian language speakers. This is not declared ‘unconstitutional’ for some obscure reason..”

    The facts: The Ukrainian parliament did, indeed, pass this ill-advised and divisive measure, but the new president vetoed it, and it has not since been re-raised. Russian language rights remain as they were under Yanukovych.

    Just one of the many things you’ve got wrong, Rilke. Maybe you’ve been depending upon the ‘Morning Star’ for your information.

  11. Rilke said,

    How can he be the ‘new president’ with powers of ‘veto’ if he was not elected? My contention is that the word ‘president’ (along with others in this debate such as ‘undemocratic’) are misapplications in the sense that what is essentially a proposition is masquerading as a descriptive statement. The same can be said of course of the Russian claim to ‘democratic reincorporation’. This is not merely a contest of euphemisms but the index of most political language in general. I find it amusing that many here, including you, seem to think that they can comment upon that political language (often sliding into the simple moral exhibitionism that is its consort) by using the same resouces you purport to condemn. The terms you use for your assertions in this context are essentially meaningless from the point of view of the philosophy of language. If one can use words in this way, as you seem to deem fitting, then the ‘facts’ are neither here nor there. You do not state by the way, whether you adhere to an empirical or logical and propositional concept of ‘fact’ but that is of a piece. This being the case, the rhetorical patterns of my playful ‘statements’ are just as valid as yours and perhaps more so in that I seem self-aware as to thier reliance on figures that do not correspond to the ‘real’ conditions of the ‘case’. This comes from Goethe and Wittgenstein not the ‘Morning Star’. The clue was in the quotation, pity you missed it!

    • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

      Goethe and Wittgenstein at least knew how to write in paragraphs (Wittgenstein in particular did those lovely little short numbered ones and Goethe was also a master of aphorism).

      And as you seem to be denying that we can meaningfully discuss politics at all (or rather that while you can nobody else is allowed to) wouldn’t it be more sensible to just take Ludwig’s own advice: ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent’?

  12. Babs said,

    While everyone in Europe focuses on a mostly bloodless coup in Crimea, China backs North Korea on human rights! (Like it backed Sudan in Dafur).

    Iraq meanwhile is legalising pedophilia and rape- http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Iraq_bill_sparks_fury_over_child_marriage_claims_999.html

  13. Rilke said,

    The aphorism and the epigram stand in opposition to the paragraph in the same way the semi-colon stands in dialectical opposition to the standard full stop or the post-colon list. Adorno says so and he is never wrong!
    The ‘remain silent’ passage is of course from the Tractatus and the one quotation from Wittgenstein that the culture industry has managed to package for the bright boys. The Philosophical Investigations overthrows the Tractatus.
    I am interested in the figural nature of political rhetoric and how this works below the level of overt political and adopted positions to configure our politics in ways we are not always fully conscious of. This is hardly denying meaningful political discourse but surely more directed to grasping the figurality of political discourse.
    By the way, I am silent. These are compositions not speech acts.
    It is hilarious you have to admit!

    • Lamia said,

      “By the way, I am silent. These are compositions not speech acts.
      It is hilarious you have to admit!”

      It’s not that funny. Even ‘silent’, you talk rubbish.

      But you are indeed silent, for all your rambling about Wittgenstein, on one point: the fact that your claim of laws being passed marginalising Russian language speakers has rightly been called out as false. No such law, let alone lawS, were passed. It was vetoed.

  14. Ukraine: Peddling Absurd Fairy Tales | Red Party said,

    […] 2. In this manner, the Shiraz Socialist blog – which has very close links to the AWL – notes the “remarkable similarities” between the strategy, tactics and justifications used by Putin in his takeover of the Crimea and those used by Hitler in the Sudetenland in 1938 (https://shirazsocialist.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/putins-crimean-anschluss). […]

  15. Watching the Untrusted Implode | Bitethehand - the real Untrusted? said,

    […] And a comment from Shiraz Socialist: […]

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