We are very pleased to brin gthis excerpt from Colonel Jacques Baud’s latest book on the Ukrainian conflict. It is entitled, Ukraine: Between War and Peace, and you may purchase it either orAmazonor atBarnes & Noble.
Understanding the Conflict
The way in which a crisis is understood determines the way in which it is resolved. This statement, which I often repeat, seems simple. Yet we are unable to do so. This was already the case with George W. Bush’s “war on terror”, which all Western countries rushed to follow in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, where we supported the aggressor (even though we knew he was lying).
All these wars have been lost, our soldiers, the civilian victims of war (including those of terrorist attacks) have died for only one reason: we did not want to understand these conflicts, their nature, and their actors before we got involved.
You can’t win a war by convincing yourself that you’ve won.
Learning the lessons of a conflict should not only allow us to revisit our doctrines of engagement and the orientation of our armament policies, but also – and this is essential – to avoid the emergence of new conflicts. To think that a conflict is the product of a single cause (“Putin is crazy!”) is childish. Conflicts are always the result of a cluster of causes, whose relative importance varies over time.
The identification of these causes and their interactions is the task of the intelligence services and of those who are supposed to enlighten our decision-makers. However, in France more than elsewhere, the thinking on the conflict, whether it comes from “pro-Russians” or “pro-Ukrainians”, is not based on facts, but on convictions. The problem is not limited to military conflicts, but to all crises. We remember the statement of Olivier Véran, Minister of Health, on February 18, 2020, whose intonations strangely recalled General Gamelin in 1939.
I don’t need to check that France is ready. France is ready! And it is ready because we have an extremely solid healthcare system. In France, military “experts” such as Generals Dominique Trinquand, Michel Yakovleff, and colonels such as Pierre Servent or Michel Goya are in this tradition. They base their judgment on their perception (even their prejudices) and not on facts. This pleases our media, but it leads to defeat.
This phenomenon is exemplified by the French Senate’s information report, published in February 2023. It is built on prejudices, unfounded accusations, and rumors, while elements essential to the understanding of the conflict have been dismissed. Each event is described as if it had fallen from the sky, without reason. The result is a fatalistic reading of the problems, which is necessarily emotional, which is understood only through “punch lines” and which makes in-depth solutions impossible.
We can already predict that it will satisfy those who speak on television, but will perpetuate the mistakes that have been made over the last thirty years and that have systematically led to disasters. The problem is that this report has the ambition to guide the reflection for the future of the French armed forces.
That being said, the Swiss Annual Security Report, published in September 2022, suffers from exactly the same shortcomings. In the western French-speaking world, our reading of the Ukrainian conflict suffers from a cruel lack of honest, scientific and academic reflection. In Europe, more than in the United States, problems are judged without being analyzed in order to condemn and not to find solutions. This is true both for those who adhere to the official narrative and for those who reject it. Everyone seems to see it as a reflection of their own concerns, without really asking whether it corresponds to the reality on the ground.
We adapt the facts to our conclusions instead of adapting the conclusions to the facts. This is the way political problems in all fields seem to be treated.
The United States
The conflict in Ukraine is often presented as a conflict between Russia and NATO. This is partly true, but it would be more accurate to say that it is a conflict between the United States and Russia. NATO being, conceptually, only the armed arm of the American strategy in Europe (and perhaps in Asia too, as we shall see).
The understanding of the Ukrainian conflict inevitably starts from the study of the global American strategy, which the Americans call “Grand Strategy”. It is imbued with a complex combination of philosophical, societal, political and military elements that have been the subject of numerous books. We will not go into detail here and focus on some of the salient aspects.
There is a messianic dimension to American culture that stems from its religious past, which assumes that the United States is the bearer of a moral and economic truth that justifies its presence in the world. Both paternalistic and missionary, the United States believed it had a role to play in the development of the world. This sentiment emerged at the end of World War II with the accession of the United States to nuclear power, and it became even more pronounced after the fall of communism in 1989 and the Gulf War in 1991.
In his book The Grand Chessboard, Zbigniew Brzeziński gives us a glimpse of the American perception of the world. But, as relevant and interesting as it is, this reading must be qualified. In 1997, when he wrote his book, Brzeziński was no longer “in business.” His vision is essentially that of the 1980s. For example, he does not perceive the emerging structural weakening of the United States, nor the growing role of China in a globalized system. It also fails to take into account the emerging economic powers (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa or BRICS) and their potential to challenge Western leadership.
That being said, he correctly observes that the relationship between Ukraine and Russia is of a special nature. He shows how US policy can use Ukraine as a lever to affect Russia and that the goal is less to develop Ukraine than to prevent Russia’s re-emergence as a superpower. The real element that allows us to understand the “Grand Strategy” of the United States in the post-Cold War era is the “Wolfowitz doctrine.”
The Trap of Thucydides
As long as the United States had the material, economic and military capacities to ensure its role as leader of the Western world, the Wolfowitz doctrine was consistent with a kind of natural order of things. But this did not last. The fall of the Berlin Wall heralded a new era. Whereas the Cold War had been driven by the notion of “division”, the idea of globalization was to emerge from that of “integration”, as Thomas Friedman explained: The symbol of the Cold War system was a wall, which divided us all. The symbol of the globalization system is the World Wide Web, which unites us all.
In synergy with technological evolution, globalization is the system of movement and ubiquity, whereas the Cold War was essentially a static system, symbolized by the notion of “blocs.”
The end of the cold war is the most important event of the end of the 20th century, but it is only one element of a convergence of factors at that time. Technological evolution, the fall in the cost of communications, economic integration mechanisms, free trade agreements, industrial relocation and the resulting (imperfect) social harmonization, give rise to the notion of a “global village” with growing interdependencies.\
Particularly in the United States, globalization is not simply seen as an economic phenomenon, but above all as a mental attitude, a philosophy. Its ambition is to reshape the world into a network of actors who are both partners and competitors, whose relationships are determined by their comparative advantage.
To understand what happened on June 24-25, 2023, we need to go back to the Battle of Bakhmut. In October 2022, the Russians realized that the West was trying to prolong the war by continuously supplying arms to Ukraine.
It should be remembered that the initial objectives of Russia’s Special Military Operation (SMO) in Ukraine were to neutralize the military (“demilitarization”) and paramilitary (“denazification”) threat to the population of the Donbass. The aim was not to seize territory, but to combat a threat. This is important for understanding the Battle of Bakhmut.
On March 28, 2022, during the encirclement of Mariupol and the neo-Nazi AZOV militia, the Russian military command announced that the objective of “denazification” had been achieved. Then, at the beginning of June 2022, after its equipment had been destroyed, the Ukrainian army was forced to ask the West for help: the “demilitarization” objective had been achieved for the first time. From then on, Ukraine depended on the West to pursue the war.
At this stage, the Europeans are convinced by their own propaganda that Kiev is on a winning streak. They’ve invested so much in this conflict that there’s no turning back. On September 14, 2022, in her State of the European Union address, Ursula von der Leyen declared that “this is a time for determination, not appeasement.” However, the Russians have already achieved their objectives over the last three months.
Believing that the West cannot lose face in this exercise, and that they will continue to support Ukraine all the more as their own economic situation deteriorates, the Russians are changing strategy. They decided to systematically destroy Ukraine’s potential.
In other words, since the summer of 2022, Russian forces have been eliminating the human and material military potential entering the theater of operations. With the Ukrainians seeking to regain territory taken by the Russians, the latter don’t really need to advance, but can simply wait for the adversary, to destroy it. This is exactly what General Surovikin, the newly appointed Commander of the Joint Task Force in the area of the special military operation in Ukraine, said on October 18, 2022:
We have a different strategy… We do not aim at high rates of advance, we take care of every soldier and methodically “grind up” the advancing enemy.
While our “military experts” try to measure military success in kilometers on the ground, the Russians measure it in the number of opponents destroyed.
To implement this strategy, Surovikin chose the town of Bakhmut. The town was not important to the Russians, but it was at the heart of the Ukrainian defensive system, and Volodymyr Zelensky attached particular importance to it.
Urban combat is extremely demanding and dangerous. It is personnel-intensive, and requires experienced, tough and battle-hardened fighters. On the other hand, it does not require sophisticated equipment or heavy weapons.
Wagner is a private military and security company (PMSC), mainly active in Africa. Countries such as Mali and the Central African Republic have preferred this firm to the French army in the fight against rebel movements. Not that the French military were bad, but their strategy wasn’t exactly clear-cut, left little room for the decisions of African governments, and aroused the hostility of local populations. With “Wagner,” these countries are advised but can conduct their own strategy. The success of the Wagner men in Africa is of course roundly criticized in the French media, which accuse them of all kinds of crimes. So much so that in October 2021, on the French-language TV5 Monde channel, Sylvie Baïpo-Temon, Foreign Minister of the Central African Republic, responded to her French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian. She denounced his “unacceptable” and “misleading” remarks and refuted all his accusations “which do not represent what is happening in the Central African Republic.”
A UN employee I know (from a Baltic country), who was in contact with Wagner in the Central African Republic, told me that they were of a very high standard, far from what is portrayed in our media, and that they were appreciated by the population. In fact, not only has the Central African Parliament thanked “Wagner,” but the government has also erected a monument to them.
In Ukraine, PMSCs developed in the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, with volunteer fighters coming to help the Donbass autonomists as early as 2014. Wagner is just one of them, but the most important. Since the beginning of the SMO, Evgueny Prigozhin had been seeking to commit his men alongside the Russian army.
At the end of October 2022, General Surovikin signed a six-month contract for Wagner to destroy the enemy in Bakhmut. The aim was not to seize the city, but to destroy the enemy there, in line with Surovikin’s strategy and the initial objective of “demilitarization” set out by Vladimir Putin on February 24, 2022. This was Operation MEAT GRINDER.
Indeed, The New York Times seems to have very well understood the Russian strategy, since in its November 27, 2022 issue, referring to the Battle of Bakhmut that was beginning, it spelled things out very clearly:
Although Russia’s hopes of expanding its territory have diminished, it can still turn the city into a resource-intensive black hole for Kiev, by withdrawing troops from other priorities, including, potentially, for future offensives.
In fact, only the European media and politicians seem to have understood nothing of what was at stake.
Tensions between Wagner and the Ministry of Defense
Wagner is not a military unit and is not integrated into the Russian command structure. Wagner has no artillery but is allocated rounds to fulfill its mission. On February 17, 2023, Prigozhin accused the Moscow command of wanting Wagner’s demise by not allocating it enough artillery ammunition. The British Ministry of Defense intelligence report saw tensions within the Russian leadership over the difficulty of taking Bakhmut before the SMO anniversary date of February 24. The Western media repeated this unsubstantiated analysis.
British intelligence completely missed the point, and the reality was a little more nuanced. Firstly, according to Ukrainian sources, Russian forces had reduced their consumption of artillery projectiles to 20,000 rounds per day. Difficult to verify, but this could be explained by preparations—on both sides of the front line—for the major Ukrainian counter-offensive in the spring. At this stage, the Russian army was aiming at spreading its capabilities, which were concentrated in the Donbass region, all along the front line.
In response to these allegations, the Russian Ministry of Defense stated that it had allocated 1660 rockets for multiple rocket launchers and 10171 artillery shells to Wagner for two days (February 18 to 20). That’s over 800 rockets and 5,000 shells per day. In other words, Wagner would have had more artillery ammunition per day in the Bakhmut sector alone than the entire Ukrainian army had in the whole theater of operations!
Prigozhin’s accusations therefore appeared to be unfounded—there was no indication whatsoever that the Russian Ministry of Defense intended to harm Wagner.
At the end of April 2023, the six-month contract expired and the objective of destroying the enemy at Bakhmut was achieved. The Russian army therefore ceased its artillery and logistical support for Wagner’s troops, who were to be withdrawn and replaced by regular Russian troops.
The problem was that to destroy the Ukrainian forces, Wagner’s “musicians” had to take the town house-by-house. So, at the end of April, although Wagner had fulfilled its contract, a small part of the city remained under Ukrainian control. It was then that Prigozhin asked to be allowed to finish the job, reduce the last pockets of resistance, and take control of the whole city.
This explains the psychodrama of early May 2023, when Prigozhin demanded that he be given the means to continue taking Bakhmut. His very virulent and aggressive tone against Shoigu and Gerasimov made the Western media fantasize about internal division in the Russian camp and a possible “coup” against the Moscow “regime.”
Russia doesn’t need controversies to feed Western propaganda. In order to calm the situation, and above all to close the “Bakhmut” file once and for all, the Russian Ministry of Defense agreed to extend Wagner’s contract. The contract ended the day after the city was taken, on May 21, 2023, and Wagner’s troops were withdrawn from the theater of operations.
The “March of Justice”
At the same time, the Russian command was preparing for the Ukrainian counter-offensive that had been heralded since July 2022 but systematically postponed due to the attrition of Ukrainian forces. In reality, this was the same offensive as the one that was planned on the basis of Volodymyr Zelensky’s decree of March 24, 2021, which started to be implemented in February 2022 and which sparked off the Russian SMO.
To counter this counter-offensive, the Russians needed fully integrated forces. This is why, on June 10, 2023, the Ministry of Defense decided to dismantle all private or semi-autonomous formations in order to integrate them into the Russian command & control structure, as explained by the Russian media Gazeta:
Parallel armies are to be dismantled and the strictest vertical chain of command restored to the state military organization
Members of these PMCs were to be integrated into the armed forces by July 1, 2023.
It was to protest against this decision to dismantle the Wagner force that Prigozhin wanted to meet Sergei Shoigu, Minister of Defense, and Valeri Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff, “head-to-head” in Rostov-na-Donu. Since he couldn’t meet them in Rostov, Prigozhin decided, in a spectacular move, to go to Moscow to meet them. In fact, all things considered, this action was nothing more than that of employees angry at the general management’s decision to close down their company. It could be summed up as a protest against HR! As Prigozhin himself put it in a voice message:
The aim of the march was not to let PMC Wagner be dissolved and to hold the military leadership accountable for the mistakes made during the war.
Clearly, then, there was no clandestine CIA action, nor any determination to overthrow Russian government. It was thanks to the mediation of Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus, that Prigozhin realized that his action had international resonance, with consequences he had certainly not been able to foresee and decided to halt his movement.
The reason why the Western media immediately rushed into a narrative asserting “regime weakness” and “regime change” was because of Westerners’ hope in the Ukrainian counter-offensive. Indeed, since the beginning of 2023, we know that the Ukrainian counter-offensive would be disastrous for Ukraine, and that it would fail to achieve significant operational objectives. This gave rise to the crazy idea that maintaining uncertainty about its launch would create a kind of panic within the Russian forces, which would be echoed by the population and lead to the collapse of the “regime.”
That’s why, as soon as the first news of Wagner’s move on Rostov appeared, Ukrainian social networks started to describe a chaotic situation, with defections within the Russian army, which could jeopardize Moscow’s power. The Western media shamelessly relayed what soon appeared to be disinformation. All this turned out to be false, but clearly the West was acting as if its destabilization strategy was working.
Obviously, with an armed PMC, such protest actions could quickly develop into something dramatic; however, Western analyses have been totally out of proportion. Contrary to the assertions of media known for promoting conspiracy theories on Russia, such as France 5 or LCI in France or RTS in Switzerland, at no time was this an action against Vladimir Putin or the government. The terms “putsch” or “coup” and “abortive uprising against Moscow” are totally inappropriate.
However, there is no doubt that this event was detrimental to Russia. Not by its very nature, but because it has given the West’s propaganda and disinformation the upper hand. More significantly, it has certainly instilled the feeling in Ukraine and its allies that the promised counter-offensive could have an impact on the domestic situation in Russia, and that the goal of regime change is within reach if we keep going in the same direction.
An unexpected consequence is the change in Yevgeny Prigozhin’s image in our media. Previously regarded as one of Vladimir Putin’s pillars of power, he now appears as an opponent and is viewed favourably by our media. For example, the United States decided not to impose new sanctions on the Wagner group, “for fear of siding with Putin!” Prigozhin was even seen as Putin’s challenger in the 2024 presidential election!
This shows how thin is Western understanding of Russia and the crisis in and around Ukraine. In fact, despite the prestige of Wagner’s “musicians” among the Russian population, there was no widespread support for Prigozhin’s action. The mutiny even highlighted his inability to see the bigger picture and the consequences of his action. He came across as an impulsive individual, focused on his business and incapable of strategic thinking.
On the contrary, and in contrast to what the analyses of our “experts” suggest, Vladimir Putin seems to have emerged strengthened. Clearly, Putin did everything he could to prevent the mutineers from reaching Moscow, where any clashes could have fed into Western propaganda. Playing with Lukashenko’s mediation, Putin reacted with a mixture of firmness (adoption of anti-terrorist measures, trenches on access roads to Moscow, placing territorial units on alert) and magnanimity (offering a way out via Belarus) to calm things down. It should be noted that, despite his tough talk about “treason,” and contrary to the claims of Western propagandists, the indictment of the mutineers does not refer to article 275 of the penal code (treason), but to article 279 (armed rebellion), which is less serious, as explained by John Helmer in an excellent podcast.
That said, Vladimir Putin’s statement on June 27 that Russian forces had “prevented a civil war” seems to have unnecessarily over-dramatized the situation. He probably wanted to give importance to the role of the armed forces in this crisis, but at the same time, he also suggested a greater fragility than the events had shown.
As to the idea that the intelligence services had foreseen this mutiny, it is most probably false. In fact, Westerners are watching Russia’s domestic situation for the slightest hint of regime change, which is the ultimate goal of our support for Ukraine. This is why, as early as May, with the first Prigozhin videos, Western services raised the possibility of a coup in Moscow. But, in terms of intelligence methodology, these are not “predictions,” but simply working hypotheses and scenarios.
For an intelligence service, predicting an event implies having indicators and concrete indications on which to draw conclusions. However, neither the Ukrainians, nor the Americans, nor the French had the slightest indication, but only the hope that such a mutiny might take place. As a member of Ukrainian military intelligence told the French channel France 24.
In reality, everyone was surprised, and no international actor has been able to exploit in Ukraine or elsewhere what could have been the beginning of a power crisis in Russia.
This also shows that Western understanding of the conflict is based exclusively on hypotheses, which are themselves often based on Ukrainian wishful thinking, but very rarely on facts. This is why we are pushing Ukraine towards defeat.
It is very likely that there was no Western involvement in Yevgeny Prigogin’s decision. The USA made every effort to demonstrate its distance from the Prigozhin mutiny. Westerners, on the other hand, saw it as the realization of their “dream” and clearly stirred up the situation in the hope that it would lead to internal conflict. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky tweeted that he might spend his vacation in Crimea. Besides a childish behavior, it shows that he has understood absolutely nothing about the dynamics of events in Russia.
In the end, this situation was nothing more than that of a company director trying to save his business and doing so impulsively and thoughtlessly, with potentially dramatic consequences for combatants on both sides in Ukraine. This crisis demonstrates the inability of Westerners to think and act according to facts, rather than expectations. The Ukrainian people are beginning to understand this.
We are happy to have this opportunity to speak with Colonel Jacques Baud about Alexei Navalny, a man touted in the West as a “hero.” Colonel Baud sets the record straight.
The Postil (TP): Now that an Oscar has gone to the documentary Navalny, and given your own excellent book (The Navalny Case: Conspiracy to Serve Foreign Policy), which rigorously undermines everything that this documentary presents as the “truth,” please help us understand, and get beyond, this “mystique” of Alexei Navalny. What is it about Alexei Navalny that appeals to the West?
Jacques Baud (JB): Like other characters picked by the West (like Juan Guaido in Venezuela or Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in Belarus), he gives the image of a new, good looking, younger, more dynamic leadership. He is very present on social networks, where he has the vast majority of his audience. He therefore speaks to a young audience (mainly 15-30 years old) which is very influential and sensitive to Western propaganda on social networks. Like his Venezuelan and Belarusian counterparts, he has no real experience of politics.
A more demanding audience sees this as a disadvantage, but for a younger audience, they have not been “compromised” in the political system. In Russia, he is relatively unknown outside the big cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg. Generally speaking, the Russian public is more demanding than the Western public and more traditional in its preferences. This is why it appeals to a public that is not very politically active. In the West, we have a totally wrong perception of its importance on the domestic political scene. As with Juan Guaido, the West overestimates the popular support for this marginal opposition.
For the United States, the advantage of selecting challengers who are unknown to the general public is that it is easier to create myths. We have today in the West, especially in the 15-30 age group, individuals who have very little general culture, no real-life experience, not the slightest bit of knowledge about foreign cultures and who see the world through Instagram. Especially in the United States, when you see how any influencer can trigger collective hysteria, you see that it is not difficult to create heroes artificially.
The Western media present him as the “leader” of the opposition in Russia. However, even the fact checkers of the very Atlanticist French newspaper Libération, recognized that he is simply the most visible opponent. He is part of the so-called “off-system” opposition, composed of small groups often located at the extremes of the political spectrum that are too small to form parties.
In 2010, on recommendation of Garry Kasparov, Navalny was invited to the United States to attend the Yale World Fellows Program. This is a 15-week non-degree training program at Yale University, offered to foreign nationals, identified by US neocons as “future leaders” in their respective countries. It is his only credential and his only real “accomplishment.” In Russia, Navalny advocates for the rights of small shareholders in large companies. He created an Anti-Corruption Fund (FBK), which won him sympathy in the West, but also a lot of mistrust in Russia. For his accusations against Russian personalities seem to be more driven by politics than by facts. In 2014, he was convicted of libel against Duma deputy Alexei Lisovenko. In 2016, the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Swiss Confederation dropped a complaint improperly filed by Alexei Navalny against Artyom Chaika, son of Yuri Chaika the Prosecutor General of Russia. (In 2020, Yuri Chaika, Prosecutor General of Russia was removed from office by Vladimir Putin, for suspicions of corruption, without apparent ties to his son’s case). In 2017, the Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, filed a complaint against Navalny for defamation and won. In 2018, Navalny lost a defamation suit against businessman Mikhail Prokhorov.
TP: How well-connected is Navalny to Western power-brokers?
JB: Navalny and his organization are largely supported financially by former Russian tycoons, such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Besides this, the Navalny affair is part of a US-led influence scheme that combines resources from NATO’s Center of Excellence on Strategic Communication, the UK Integrity Initiative (II), the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and others, such as Conspiracy Watch in France.
The II was created in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian crisis, and in November 2018, the British government confirmed that it was funding it. It is run under the aegis of the British Foreign Office (FCO), responsible for the Secret Intelligence Service (MI-6) and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in charge of cyberwarfare, associated with this initiative. It is funded by the British Ministry of Defense and Army, the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense and NATO, and aims to combat Russian disinformation in Europe. The II uses the BBC and Reuters to promote an “official” narrative, while the II is built around private intelligence and IT marketing networks, agencies such as Bellingcat, and relies on national “clusters” made up of correspondents in each participating country. The NED was created in 1983 in order to take over some of the CIA’s tasks, so that the latter could concentrate on more ” robust ” activities. It is an NGO (or, more accurately, a “quasi-NGO”) funded mainly by the US government and Congress. Shortly after its creation, The New York Times described it as follows:
On its website, the NED does not specify who receives its funding, but a 2006 US embassy cable from Moscow indicates that it funds Navalny’s Democratic Alternative movement. An analysis of the projects financed by the agency suggests that Navalny and his associates receive about $1.8 million per year.
Furthermore, on October 9th, 2020, John Brennan, former director of the CIA, tweeted:
Imagine the prospects for world peace, prosperity and security if Joe Biden were President of the United States and Alexei Navalny were President of Russia. We’re almost halfway there …
In short: “We are working on it!”
Without going into all the details here, Navalny as a politician is of no interest to anyone, neither in the West nor in Russia. I don’t even think that the United States seriously believes that he could be an alternative to Vladimir Putin. In reality, he’s just a small cog in a larger project to subvert Russia. Let me remind you that the objective of the United States is the disintegration (officially: decolonization) of Russia. The Navalny affair is symptomatic of a great country (the United States) that has become incapable of rising higher than its main competitors and has been reduced to seeking to destroy those who seek to surpass it. In fact, Navalny is the symbol of the United States’ weakness.
TP: He has a long history of criminality, is a convicted felon, and is serving time. What political faction, if any, does Navalny represent in the Russian political scene?
JB: Politically, his image is not very bright. In 2007, he was expelled from the center-right party “Yabloko” because of his regular participation in the ultra-nationalist “Russian March” and his “nationalist activities” with racist tendencies. He is an activist for ultra-nationalist causes. At that time, he shot a video where he mimes shooting Chechen migrants in Russia is eloquent. In October 2013, he supported and encouraged the race riots in Biryulyovo, castigating the “hordes of legal and illegal immigrants.” In 2017, the progressive American media outlet Salon, claims that “if he were American, liberals would hate Navalny far more than they hate Trump or Steve Bannon.” In 2017, the left-wing American media outlet Jacobin, even referred to him as the “Russian Trump.” In fact, as the American Foreign Policy Magazine of the American University of Princeton noted in December 2018, he emerged thanks to far-right groups, and his ideas make him more akin to what is called “populist” in the West. I suggest you watch this excellent interview with two Russian left-wing activists by Aaron Maté of The Grayzone, which illustrates the gap between reality and what our media is saying about Navalny.
Approval rate of Vladimir Putin
Of course, our media suggest that there was “a first Navalny” and that he has since changed. Thus, in February 2021, in a TV program devoted to Navalny, a Swiss journalist claimed that “from his ultra-nationalist beginnings and his anti-migrant declarations, there is almost nothing left in Navalny.” This is pure disinformation. In April 2017, Navalny told the British newspaper The Guardian that he had not changed his mind. In October 2020, a journalist from the German magazine Der Spiegelasked him, “A party had expelled you because of your participation in a Russian nationalist march in Moscow. Have your views now changed?” Navalny replied: “I have the same views as when I entered politics.”
In order to better demonize Vladimir Putin, the West claims that he is a nostalgic of the USSR and maintains a confusion between today’s Russia and the USSR of the Cold War. This confusion makes it possible to hide the fact that the main opposition to Vladimir Putin (even if moderate) is the Communist Party. Moreover, I remind you here that the USSR included Ukraine and that the Soviet leaders who committed the most crimes (such as Josef Stalin, Leon Trotsky, Moisei Uritsky, Genrikh Yagoda or Lavrentiy Beria), were neither of Russian nor Orthodox culture.
Attempts are being made to portray Navalny as the victim of the Russian “regime” because of his beliefs and his political influence. The French media RFI suggests that he has been banned from running in the 2018 presidential election for political reasons. This is incorrect. In fact, the reasons are legal, exactly as practiced in other countries: Navalny was then serving a probation sentence in connection with the Yves Rocher affair. Navalny began his career as an entrepreneur in the 2000s. Following a common practice in Boris Yeltsin’s Russia between 1990 and 2000, he bought up companies in order to privatize their profits (an illegal practice that led to Vladimir Putin’s fight against certain oligarchs, who ended up taking refuge in Great Britain or Israel). In the first case (Kirovles), Navalny received a 5-year suspended prison sentence.
But the most “controversial” case is the one involving the French cosmetics house Yves Rocher. It’s a relatively complex affair, with a tangle of companies and accounts, some of them offshore. The best description of the case can be found in the Yves Rocher press release and on Wikipedia (in Russian!) In short, it’s a case of embezzlement through abuse of an official position, pitting the Russian state against Oleg Navalny. In 2008, Oleg Navalny, Alexei’s brother, was a manager at the Russian Post Office’s automated sorting center in Podolsk. To facilitate the delivery of Yves Rocher products to the sorting center, he pressed the French company to use the services of a private logistics company: Glavpodpiska (GPA), which belongs to the Navalny family. There is clearly a conflict of interest and a situation of corruption, which has led to an official investigation. It is important to note here that Oleg Navalny is the main defendant, while Alexei Navalny is “only” an accomplice. This is why Oleg has been sentenced to 3 and a half years’ imprisonment and Navalny to 3 and a half years’ suspended sentence.
Oleg and Alexei Navalny appealed this decision to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), arguing that the sentence was politically motivated. Contrary to what some Western media claim, the ECHR did not invalidate this judgment, as it did not judge the substance of the case, but its form. On 17 October 2017, the ECHR issued its verdict, partially upholding the two brothers on certain points of law and concluding that the Russian justice system should pay them compensation. However, it rejected the allegation that their conviction was politically motivated (paragraph 89).
In fact, after Navalny was charged in the case against the French firm “Yves Rocher,” he was placed under probation, under the terms of which he had to report twice a month to the Russian corrections authority, until the end of his probationary period (December 30, 2020).
Navalny’s failure to comply with this obligation led to his arrest in early 2021. He had already broken this rule 6 times in 2020 (twice in January, once in February, March, July and August), but the Russian authorities had then shown leniency. As the Swiss TV correspondent in Moscow observes, Navalny “has never been sentenced to prison, unlike many other opponents.” So, despite his many offences, and contrary to what is claimed in the West, Navalny has benefited from unusual leniency. So much so, in fact, that some (conspiracy theorists) in Russia believe he is being used by the Kremlin to weaken the main opposition parties.
In order to claim that the revocation of his suspension is politically motivated, some say that Navalny was physically unable to fulfill his obligations. France 24 declared that he was unable to do so “because he was simply hospitalized in Germany.” France 5 explained that “he was in a coma,” and Swiss television (RTS) that “he was convalescing in Germany after his poisoning.” These are simply lies.
In fact, his obligation to report was suspended by the Russian authorities for the duration of his hospitalization at the Charité in Berlin. The Charité hospital doctors’ report, published on December 22, 2020, confirmed that he had been discharged from hospital on September 23, 2020 and that his symptoms had disappeared on October 12, 2020.
On December 28, the Russian prison authorities sent Navalny a warning (copied to his lawyer and press officer) to report for duty, but he ignored it.
In fact, since September, Navalny has been involved in the final editing phase of his film on Putin’s Palace. That’s why he won’t be returning to Russia until the end of January 2021. The Russian penitentiary authorities could hardly have disregarded this new offence of almost 3 months and revoked his suspended sentence. Navalny no doubt hoped to benefit once again from the authorities’ leniency; but with the broadcasting of his film, and his calls for sanctions against Russia, this was probably naive on his part… Because under these circumstances, even if the Russian authorities had wanted to show – once again – leniency towards him, this would have been incomprehensible to Russian public opinion.
TP: The documentary presents him as a serious threat to Putin. Is there something that these documentary filmmakers know which leads them to this conclusion?
JB: No, Aleksey Navalny is neither the main, nor the most important, nor the most dangerous opponent in Russia, he’s simply the most visible. He has only marginal significance in Russian politics.
Navalny has adopted the concept of “smart voting” or “tactical voting” in order to attract votes from the extremes of both the right and the left – which are not sufficiently numerous separately to field candidates in the elections. The principle of Navalny’s “smart voting” is to give your ballot to anyone but a member of the United Russia Party (Vladimir Putin’s party). It therefore works on a logic that is not based on preference, but on hatred… The opposition associated with him is far from democratic and unified. It gathers disparate factions of the non-parliamentary opposition ranging from the extreme right to the former Stalinist communist party.
It comprises individuals who are opposed to the system, but who have neither a common vision nor a program for the future of the country. It is also a young opposition, which is informed by social networks and is relatively unstable. It is therefore essentially an opposition that seeks to overthrow Vladimir Putin without being able to provide an alternative. This explains why this heterogeneous opposition has only a very minor support in Russia. Navalny’s electoral strategy shows that he has no plans for Russia, and that the aim here is not to seek the best for Russia, but to destabilize the current government. This is why the West supports Navalny.
In fact, the Western narrative tends to suggest that the Russian population’s choice is limited to Vladimir Putin and Aleksey Navalny. This situation is very similar to what was observed in France during the presidential elections of 2017 and 2022: Emmanuel Macron was facing Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the extreme right. Then the choice of the voters was very simple: they picked the one they hated the least. In the case of Russia, the problem is even simpler, because Vladimir Putin’s popularity is considerably higher than Macron’s, while Navalny is almost unknown.
Thus, the only effect of promoting Navalny is to diminish the importance of the systemic opposition, the only one able to counter Putin. So I think Vladimir Putin should thank the Western propaganda media for weakening his opposition!
Navalny’s popularity in Russia peaked in 2020-2021, after his alleged poisoning and the movie on Putin’s alleged palace. But looking at the number of protesters across Russia at this point, one has to admit that the support to Navalny is marginal.
Navalny approbation rate
Number of protesters across Russia on January 23, 2021
TP: Then, there is the well-known incident of Navalny’s “poisoning.” Could you shed some light on this?
JB: On August 20, 2020, during his flight from Tomsk to Moscow, Alexei Navalny is taken by violent stomach pains. The flight is diverted to Omsk so that he can be hospitalized urgently. At this stage, no analysis or indication allows to determine the exact nature of Navalny’s ailment, but his spokeswoman claims that he was deliberately poisoned. Rumors on social networks about a bad combination of alcohol and drugs are quickly dismissed as “defamatory” by our media. They readily prefer – without any evidence – a more fanciful version: a poisoning with “Novitchok” ordered by Putin.
As soon as Mr. Navalny arrived at the hospital in Omsk, Russian doctors diagnosed a metabolic disorder. About ten minutes after his arrival at the hospital, they administered atropine, in order to avoid complications in case of intubation, as explained by the Russian opposition media Meduza. The problem is that since atropine is a product also used as an antidote for nerve agent poisoning, some conspiracy theorists have deduced that the doctors “knew” that he had been poisoned with Novichok, an extremely dangerous nerve agent that was allegedly used against ex-agent Sergei Skripal, in 2018.
But if this had been the case, the medical staff in Omsk would have received him with proper protective equipment! On Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Dr Aleksandr Sabayev explained that the doctors quickly realized that it was a metabolic problem and administered atropine at a much lower dose than that used in cases of poisoning.
In fact, we know what Russian doctors found in Navalny’s blood and urine, thanks to a photo of a document published by the Russian opposition website Meduza. Since no signs of nerve agent were found, our media simply did not report it!
On December 12, The Times of London, followed by the New York Post and DW, claimed that the Kremlin had attempted a second poisoning of Navalny in the Omsk hospital before he left for Germany, accusing Russian doctors of “complicity.” These media are simply liars and invent a conspiracy theory. In fact, the report of the German Charité Hospital, published in The Lancet on December 22, reveals that Navalny had a German doctor by his side in Omsk, 31 hours after the onset of his symptoms – that is, as early as Friday, August 21 – and that by the time he was transported to Germany “his condition had improved slightly.” Thus, according to the German doctors, their Russian colleagues not only stabilized Navalny, but their treatment was effective. So Navalny’s relatives and our media lied (once again).
There is little evidence to assess the relevance of the Western accusations of 2018 and 2020. The analyses carried out by the German, French and Swedish military laboratories in September 2020 remain classified and have not been published nor shared with Russia, despite its requests. As it stands, therefore, we have only the scientific results published by the doctors who treated Navalny in Omsk and Berlin, the declassified version of the OPCW report and – to a certain extent – the government’s answers of 19 November 2020 and 15 February 2021 to questions from German parliamentarians.
The analyses of the military laboratories suggest in vague terms the presence of Novitchok (but their content is unverifiable). The observations of civilian doctors tend to contradict their conclusions, while the government’s answers seem much less categorical than the media and hide behind military secrecy when the facts seem to contradict the declarations. On August 24, the Charité hospital declared in a press release that the clinical analyses “indicate intoxication by a substance of the cholinesterase inhibitor group.” However, the doctors in Omsk had not detected any. So: conspiracy? No, not necessarily. As the opposition media Meduza says, the German doctors were looking for evidence of poisoning, while the Russian doctors were looking for the cause of Navalny’s illness. Since they were not looking for the same thing, their results were different, but not inconsistent.
In October 2020, the Swedes released the results of their analyses, noting that “The presence of [REDACTED] has been confirmed in the patient’s blood.” The name of the substance is blacked out, so we don’t know what it is. But we can assume that if it were Novichok (as Western countries expected), there would be no reason to conceal it. On January 14, 2021, the Swedish government refused explicitly to declassify this result in order “not to harm relations between Sweden and a foreign power,” without specifying whether it was Germany or the United States. So, we don’t know what’s going on, but we do know that Sweden is a country where honor is a fiction subject to political interest: already in the Julian Assange affair, the Swedish government had literally “fabricated” the rape accusations against him, according to Nils Melzer, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.
On December 22, 2020, the analyses of Navalny’s fluids published by the Lancet as an appendix to the Charité doctors’ report is one of the few documents available containing scientific data. They allow us to draw a number of conclusions. For example, the presence of cholinesterase inhibitors could simply be explained by the antidepressants Navalny took himself, most likely in combination with alcohol. This would explain why his symptoms are totally different from those of Sergei and Yulya Skripal in 2018, who are claimed to have been victims of the same poison. It should be noted that neither the Skripals’ nor Navalny’s symptoms are consistent with neurotoxic poisoning.
Furthermore, the German doctors’ documents reveal that when the French, Swedish and OPCW took their samples – 15 days after Navalny’s arrival in Germany – his cholinesterase levels were close to normal.
At this stage, these French, Swedish and OPCW laboratories were only able to detect “cholinesterase inhibitors,” but not the substances found at La Charité, such as lithium or drugs, which were thought to have caused them to appear. In the absence of published results, we don’t know exactly what they found, but it’s likely that having no other explanation for the presence of these inhibitors, they were led to conclude that it was Novitchok.
By keeping their results secret, these laboratories had probably not anticipated that the German doctors would publish the results of their analyses. Thanks to the latter, the hypothesis that Navalny was the victim of accidental poisoning appears more likely than deliberate poisoning. Navalny must obviously have known this, just as he must have known that these results were going to be published; and it was probably to disqualify their conclusions that, the day before the Lancet article was published, Navalny staged his telephone conversation with an “FSB agent.”
TP: Is Navalny yet another “anti-Putin” tool of the West? Or is the documentary simply capitalizing on the emotionalism surrounding the war in Ukraine?
NB: In fact, since the early 1990s, the central tenet of American strategy has been to maintain its supremacy on the international stage. This is the Wolfowitz Doctrine. Until the early 2000s, the United States had the advantage of having as an adversary a Russia rebuilding after the fall of communism, and a China that did not yet have the economic importance it has today.
The Bush administration’s withdrawal from disarmament agreements in 2002 created mistrust in Russia. This explains why President Putin is seeking to assert his country’s position and its right to security. This led to Vladimir Putin’s speech in Munich in 2007, which the United States took as a declaration of war.
This situation has led the United States to adopt a destabilization strategy that includes support for non-systemic opposition.
The American strategy against Russia is very comprehensive and includes a wide spectrum of means. It is described in detail in a set of two documents drawn up by the RAND Corporation, the Pentagon’s main think tank: Extending Russia: Competing from Advantageous Ground and Overextending and Unbalancing Russia. The war in Ukraine is the most visible since February 2022, but there are also the tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Transnistrian region, the destabilization of Syria, etc. The support for Navalny is part of this overall strategy.
The paradox is that Russia got involved in Ukraine to protect the people of Donbass, which is a very popular cause in Russia. The same goes for Crimea, which was an autonomous entity just before Ukraine became independent in December 1991. Moreover, Vladimir Putin’s popularity, already very high, has been further boosted by the terrorist attacks carried out in Russia by Ukraine and supported by all Western countries.
So, Navalny is part of a comprehensive effort to discredit and ultimately to isolate Russia on the international stage. However, the impact of this campaign on the internal situation in Russia is debatable. The patriotic sense of the Russian population is very high and even Navalny’s partisans tend to support the government. For instance, I noticed that non-systemic opposition websites very often show different views from those of the West. Although there is still a domestic opposition to the Special Military Operation, we can see that it remains very stable and marginal.
TP: Thank you so very much for your time. Any last words?
JB: It’s ironic to see European politicians taking up the cause of Navalny, an extreme right-wing nationalist, who approves of the annexation of Crimea (and declared in the pro-western Moscow Times that he wouldn’t give it back if he came to power ), who has never expressed a concrete project for Russia, who has sought to enrich himself through embezzlement, and who represents none of the values that Europe claims to defend!…
The high-praise and awards given to Navalny, the 2022 documentary about Alexei Navalny, is yet another example of Western media fabricating a “hero” to serve the “villain Putin” narrative. But Jacques Baud sets the record straight, in his book, The Navalny Case: Conspiracy to Serve Foreign Policy. In other words, this “hero” is yet another “weapon” in the on-going efforts to bring about regime change in Russia.
We are deeply thankful to the publisher, Max Milo, and to Colonel Baud, to allow us to bring you an excerpt from this excellent book. We are certain that you will want to get a copy and tell all your family and friends about it. The book entirely and deftly derails the “heroism” of Alexei Navalny—by way of truth.
First of all, it is necessary to understand what “conspiracy” (or “conspiracism”) is. In the past, conspiracists were those who planned plots. Today, the term designates those who see plots everywhere, planned and implemented secretly by leaders and their secret services, with an obscure goal; their reading being seen as exclusive. Conspiracy is most often the result of an incomplete vision of events, either because the information does not exist, or because it is deliberately hidden (or classified), or because it is not sought. These “holes” in the information allow our prejudices to take hold and open the door to conspiracy. Countries described as “authoritarian” stimulate our imagination. We readily attribute to them plots hatched by their secret services—under the occult guidance of their leaders—to eliminate individuals they do not like. For example, it is still suggested that the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006 was the work of the Kremlin, although the perpetrators were members of the Chechen mafia. The alleged “sponsors” have not been found, but the Russian government continues to be accused simply because the journalist was critical of it. Two years later, France 24 claimed that Karinna Moskalenko, a lawyer for the journalist and the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, had been poisoned with mercury, suggesting an attempt at intimidation. But a few days later, French investigators found that the mercury came from a thermometer accidentally broken in her car, before she bought it. So, nothing…
More recently, Western accusations have focused on North Korea, where opponents are constantly being eliminated… and then resurrected! In August 2013, the French and English-speaking media echoed the propaganda of the South Korean far right and announced that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un had allegedly had his girlfriend Hyon Song-wol shot… But she reappeared in May 2014 on television! In June 2019, the British newspaper The Mirror noted that reports of her disappearance had been “greatly exaggerated.” Indeed!
In May 2015, our media announced that Kim Jong-un had his aunt Kim Kyong-hui poisoned because she opposed the construction of an “acquaparc!” However, in January 2020, she reappeared in public alongside Kim Jong-un, and the BBC even mentioned that she had a new role within the regime. General Hyon Yongchol, head of the Armed Forces, is said to have been eliminated with an anti-aircraft gun as part of “serial executions.” But the “disappeared” general reappeared the next day and we learned that he had simply been sacked!
In February 2016, the Western media announced the elimination of General Ri Yong-gil, Chief of Staff of the People’s Army. He reappeared a few months later, at the congress of the Communist Party… with a promotion! On May 31, 2019, the Western media—such as the New York Times, Reuters and others—announced that Kim Jong-un “had collaborators executed” to “take revenge.” Among them was Kim Hyok-chol, who had been one of the negotiators at the summit with President Trump; yet, on the same day, he was seen in public, attending a performance by his wife.
Same scenario with China, which has become the target of the United States with the rebound of its economy after the Covid crisis: the “mysterious” disappearance of Jack Ma, founder and director of the online retailer Alibaba, triggered the fantasies of conspiracy theorists, who evoked a “purge,” while the day before Fox Business claimed that he had not disappeared. He reappeared in the media in January 2021.
In short, we don’t know anything about all this and so we invent. For each of these “disappearances,” our media and other “experts” have elaborated explanations and thus given a logic to events that have simply never taken place. This is exactly the definition of conspiracy: by believing to see conspiracies everywhere (especially where there are none), we connect facts (sometimes real) to give them an appearance of coherence. This is the mechanism used to create alternative explanations for the 9/11 attacks, the Roswell incident in 1949, or the presence of aliens in “Area 51” in Nevada. Journalists and researchers do not help to bring rationality and measure back into the debate: Pascal Boniface, director of the Institute for International and Strategic Relations (IRIS), knows better than the CIA director what provoked the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan; Renaud Girard, a journalist for Le Figaro, has “proof” that Russian agents were behind the Vrbětice explosion in 2014, while the president of the Czech Republic, Miloš Zeman, claims to have none; Conspiracy Watch freelancer Antoine Hasday knows better than President Barak Obama why he did not intervene after the Ghouta chemical incident in August 2013 and “knows” that Navalny was poisoned by Russian agents, while the German government has never claimed this, as we shall see.
It is understandable that the media would seek to maintain an audience by emphasizing sensationalism over accuracy. The real problem is when researchers and our governments start to adapt reality to their prejudices. For beyond the media phenomenon and journalistic ethics, this form of “conspiracy” seems to have become a foundation of our foreign policies, which increasingly boil down to the application of sanctions with disastrous effects.
The fact-checkers themselves are not impartial. Their role seems to be limited to highlighting and supporting “good conspiracies” (such as those that attribute conspiracies to the Russian, Chinese, Iranian governments, etc.) and to castigating “bad conspiracies” (that cast doubt on the previous ones). But this can be explained: some are simply in the service of foreign governments, as we shall see!
Paradoxically, in order to remain objective in this matter, we will base our analyses only on information provided by official services, Western media (including those financed by and serving Western governments), media linked to the Russian opposition and those considered as “foreign agents” by the Russian authorities. We will not consider official Russian or Russian state-funded media.
Who is Alexei Navalny?
The Western media present him as the “leader” of the opposition. However, as an article in the “Checknews” section of the newspaper Libération acknowledges, he is simply the most visible opposition figure. He is part of the so-called “off-system” opposition, made up of small groups often at the extremes of the political spectrum and too small to form parties. Navalny began his career as a businessman in the 2000s. In accordance with a common practice in Boris Yeltsin’s Russia of the 1990s and 2000s, he bought companies in order to privatize their profits (an illegal practice that led to Vladimir Putin’s fight against certain oligarchs, who ended up taking refuge in Great Britain or Israel). In a first case (Kirovles), Navalny was sentenced to five years in prison, suspended.
But the most high-profile case is the one involving the cosmetics company Yves Rocher. This is a relatively complex case, with a tangle of companies and accounts, some of them offshore, which is beyond the scope of this book. The best description of this case can be found in the Yves Rocher press release and on Wikipedia (in Russian!). In short, it is a case of personal enrichment by abuse of an official position, pitting the Russian state against Oleg Navalny, Alexei’s brother. In 2008, Oleg was a manager at the automated sorting center of the Russian Post Office in Podolsk. In order to facilitate the delivery of Yves Rocher products to the sorting center, he pushed the French company to use the services of a private logistics company, Glavpodpiska (GPA). Problem: GPA belongs to the Navalny family. There was therefore a clear conflict of interest between the position of Oleg Navalny and GPA, which gave rise to an investigation for illegal enrichment and abuse of an official position. In addition to this case, which is similar to corruption, there were accusations of overbilling. It is important to note that Oleg Navalny was the main accused, while Alexei Navalny was “only” an accomplice. That is why Oleg was sentenced to three and a half years in prison and Alexei to three and a half years suspended. It was this suspended sentence which, on appeal, was postponed—prohibiting him from leaving Russian territory—before being applied in 2021. We will come back to this. In 2019, Le Monde suggested that the Russian authorities pressured the Yves Rocher company to file a complaint. The daily quoted economist Sergei Guriev, close to Navalny:
I don’t know exactly what leverage the investigators used, but it was important to them that a foreign company was involved. It made the case look solid.
On February 4, the “Matinale” of the French-speaking Swiss radio station stated that “the Russian authorities, who were already investigating the Navalny brothers, put pressure on Yves Rocher in 2012 to file a complaint against them.” A case that—according to the journalist—illustrates “how difficult it is to be a truly free economic actor in Russia.” These are lies: on February 3, the company Yves Rocher, tired of these false accusations, issued a statement, where it declared:
Yves Rocher Vostok has never filed a complaint against the Navalny brothers, nor has it made any legal claim against them at any time.
Oleg and Alexei Navalny took this judgment to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), arguing that it was politically motivated. Contrary to what some Western media outlets claim, the ECHR did not invalidate this judgment, as it did not judge the substance of the case, but its form (such as, for example, the issue of boycotting Israeli products). On October 17, 2017, the ECHR issued its verdict, partially finding in favor of the two brothers on certain legal points and concluding that the Russian judiciary should pay them compensation. On the other hand, it rejected the allegation that their conviction was politically motivated (paragraph 89).
In 2018, Navalny was not allowed to run for president. RFI suggests that the reasons were political. This is doubly untrue: on the one hand, his suspended sentence prevented him from running for office, as is the practice in other countries; on the other hand, his conviction was not politically motivated as we have seen.
Thus, and not surprisingly, our commentators, editorialists and other “experts” are making up stories.
We are so very pleased to bring our a readers a sample from Jacques Baud’s book on the conflict in the Ukraine, which has just been translated into English. It is called Operation Z (which is the code-name of the Special Military Operation launched by Russia on February 24, 2022). We have been waiting eagerly for this translation to come out, so we can get the truth about this conflict.
Please support Jacques Baud’s great work and purchase a copy of his book, and also please spread the word about this translation.
Without further ado, here is an excerpt from Operation Z.
The Ukrainian Question
EU defenders claim that Russian foreign policy is guided by the fact that “Putin hates the European Union” and “supranational constructs,” and that he aims to “humiliate the European Union,” as it is his “public enemy number one.”
This myth stems from a simplification of the sequence of events that led to the Maidan crisis in 2013-2014. Vladimir Putin was accused of refusing to allow Ukraine to sign an agreement with the European Union.
However, Russia and its leaders have always been aware of their economic weaknesses. As a result, they have never tried to compete with Europe or the United States. Since the Tsarist era, Russia has never managed to develop an industrial base equivalent to that of Europe or Asia; and it knows it. In the post-Cold War era, Russia has seen itself as complementary to Europe, not its equal.
This is why the barrage of sanctions it has suffered since February 2022 only partially affects it—Europe is dependent on Russia for its raw materials, while Asia supplies Europe its consumer products.
Secondly, it is important to remember that the Ukrainian population was not unanimously in favor of an agreement with the European Union. In November 2013, a poll conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) showed that it was then split 50/50 between an agreement with the European Union and a customs union with Russia.
Like President Yanukovych, many believe that the Ukrainian economy is structurally adapted to the Russian market. With an industrial base that complements that of the former USSR countries, it is not ready to face the very competitive European market. A too rapid rupture of commercial links with Russia would weaken its own economy. This would be confirmed by what happened next.
For its part, Russia was not opposed to an agreement between Ukraine and the European Union, but sought to maintain its economic relations with its main historical partner. This is why it proposed a tripartite working group, the aim of which was to reconcile Ukraine’s desire to join the European Union while preserving its ties with Russia. According to Mykola Azarov, the Ukrainian Prime Minister, studies showed that this proposal did not conflict with the European proposal and that it was therefore possible to have a solution that satisfied Ukrainian interests.
However, José Manuel Barroso, then President of the European Commission, refused and asked Ukraine to choose. The Ukrainian government therefore asked the European Union to delay the signing of the agreement in order to better study the implications of the agreement with the European Union on its relations with Russia and to better prepare its economy for this situation. It stated:
There is no alternative to reforms in Ukraine and no alternative to European integration…. We are going down this road and not changing direction.
The then Ukrainian Prime Minister confirmed this:
I can say with full knowledge that the process of negotiating the Association Agreement is continuing and that the work of bringing our country closer to European standards is not stopping for a single day.
This suspension was clearly only temporary, but it was presented by the Western press and the Ukrainian opposition as a refusal to move closer to Europe under Russian pressure. Ukrainian public opinion, which had been promised visas or salary increases, was quickly polarized and its discontent instrumentalized—this was the beginning of the Maidan events.
It was therefore the European Union which created the tensions between Ukraine and Russia, as Arnaud Dubien notes in Le Monde:
Ukraine is a very fragmented country with multiple identities and cannot make a clear-cut choice, either in favor of the West or Russia. One of Brussels’ mistakes was to ask it to do so and to turn its back on Russia, a suicidal option for the country.
The Europeans deliberately pushed Ukraine towards suicide. In the Washington Post, Henry Kissinger, National Security Advisor under Ronald Reagan, noted that the European Union “helped turn a negotiation into a crisis.” Ironically, the new government that emerged from Euromaidan was forced to take the same time for reflection that Yanukovych had hoped for, and was only able to sign the agreement with the European Union in 2017.
As researcher Frederico Santopinto of the Group for Research and Information on Peace and Security (GRIP) in Brussels put it, Russia was not opposed to an agreement with the EU, but not at the expense of its relationship with Ukraine. It was the EU that refused the coexistence of two agreements: European diplomacy saw Ukraine as a border between East and West, while Russia saw it as a bridge. As in 2022, European diplomacy has failed to take into account three factors that are of key concern to Ukraine:
Eastern European countries have—whether they like it or not—cultural, economic and historical links with Russia. This is particularly true of the former USSR republics (such as the Baltic States, Belarus and Ukraine), which have large Russian-speaking minorities and whose industries were largely complementary to Russia’s.
The EU has not succeeded in integrating the Eastern countries into a common European spirit. These countries have been brutally plunged into a European culture of tolerance and cooperation, slowly forged since the Second World War. However, not only do these countries of the “new Europe” not have a democratic tradition, but they do not have the same values as the western part of the EU. In the Baltic States and Ukraine, hatred of the Soviets has turned into hatred of the Russians, which is conveniently exploited by the US. Unlike the rest of Europe, they still see the Third Reich as a liberator. The use of torture, social issues (abortion, LGBT, etc.), their unconditional alignment with American foreign policy, do not show a deep attachment to European values.
The EU struggles to bring together the individual interests of its members into a coherent approach and a genuine common foreign policy. As a result, Germany, France and sometimes Italy often have to represent Europe’s voice informally. The Ukrainian crisis and the economic crisis resulting from its decisions show that Europe comes together more around a common hatred than around common interests.
Euromaidan and the Militarization the Conflict
The Maidan revolution was a series of sequences, with different actors. Today, those who are driven by hatred of Russia are trying to merge these different sequences into a single “democratic momentum”—a way to validate the crimes committed by Ukraine and its neo-Nazis.
At first, the population of Kiev, disappointed by the government’s decision to postpone the signing of the treaty, gathered in the streets. There was no mention of revolution or change of power, but a simple expression of discontent. Contrary to what the West claims, Ukraine was deeply divided on the question of rapprochement with Europe. A poll conducted in November 2013 by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) showed that it was split exactly 50/50 between an agreement with the European Union and a customs union with Russia. In the south and east of the country, industry is strongly linked to Russia. People feared that an agreement that excluded Russia would kill their jobs. This is what did happen.
At this stage, it did not appear that Ukrainians were generally hostile to Russia. But the situation was quickly co-opted by the US, which was working behind the scenes to exploit the popular momentum and instrumentalize it to tighten the noose on Russia.
In 2014, I was at NATO and I observed the Ukrainian crisis from the inside, so to speak. From the outset, it was clear that the situation was being fueled by the West. Videos show that the coup plotters were supported by armed men speaking English with an American accent. The German magazine Der Spiegel mentioned the presence of mercenaries from the firm Academi (formerly Blackwater, of sinister memory in Iraq and Afghanistan). The German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) apparently informed the German government. I informed my diplomatic contacts at the OSCE—but this was soon forgotten.
A telephone conversation between Victoria Nuland, then Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia, and Geoffrey Pyatt, the US ambassador to Kiev, revealed by the BBC, shows that the Americans themselves selected the members of the future Ukrainian government, in defiance of the Ukrainians and Europeans. This conversation, which became famous thanks to Nuland’s famous “F*** the EU!” testifies to the fact that the European Union was only a doormat in this affair.
In order to present this revolution as democratic, the real “hand of the West” was cleverly concealed by the imaginary hand of Russia. By claiming that the rebellions in Donbass and Crimea were the result of Russian intervention, it was hidden that a large part of the population did not approve of the overthrow of the government, which was both illegal and illegitimate. For the same reason, the ultra-nationalism of the coup plotters was systematically downplayed, as was the legitimacy of the claims of the Russian speakers who were accused of being agents of Moscow.
The beginning of the Euromaidan events was popular and good-natured. But just after an agreement was reached with the demonstrators to hold elections at the end of 2014 and have a democratic transition, the players changed. Ultra-nationalists and other neo-Nazis supported by the West took over. The signed agreement was not respected and violence broke out. Far from being the expression of a democratic revolution, it was the work of radical groups from the west of Ukraine (Galicia), who were not representative of all Ukrainians. They were the ones who overthrew President Yanukovych.
So Euromaidan was popular but not democratic. In May 2022, during a conference in Switzerland, a far-right journalist called out to me: “What is popular is democratic!” In fact, he was stating the principle of populism which is at the origin of the fascism that inspired the Ukrainian neo-Nazis, as we will see later. Indeed, a former participant in the Maidan events warned that “this revolution reflects the rise of fascism.”
As L’Obs reminds us, the 2014 Maidan revolution was nothing more than a coup d’état, led by the United States with the support of the European Union. In December 2014, George Friedman, president of the US geopolitical intelligence platform STRATFOR, said in an interview with the Russian magazine Kommersant:
Russia defines the event that took place at the beginning of this year [in February 2014] as a coup organized by the US. And in truth, it was the most blatant [coup] in history.
Unlike European observers, the Atlantic Council, which is very supportive of NATO, was quick to note that the Maidan revolution was hijacked by certain oligarchs and ultra-nationalists. It notes that the reforms promised by Ukraine were not been carried out and that the Western media adhered solely to a “black-and-white” narrative, without any critical insight.
Thus, what Raphaël Glucksmann called a “democratic revolution” was nothing more than a coup de force, carried out without any legal basis, against a government whose election had been qualified by the OSCE as “transparent and honest” and one which “offered an impressive demonstration of democracy.” Subsequently, the democratically elected President Yanukovych was convicted of “high treason” for having defended the constitutional order.
Far from being democratic, the coup d’état that concluded the events of Maidan was not unanimous among the Ukrainian people, either in its content or in its form. The nationalists were taking over the regional governments in the north of the country, while in the south the loyalists sought to maintain constitutional order.
The Rise of Right-Wing Extremism in Ukraine
Since 2014, in order to legitimize their support for the new regime in Kiev and the fight against Russia, the West has been at pains to minimize the importance of the far right in Ukraine. They cover up the crimes committed since 2014 against the population of Donbass in order to challenge Vladimir Putin’s objective of “denazification.”
The mention of “neo-Nazis” in the Ukrainian regime is systematically dismissed as Russian propaganda by media, journalists and politicians who promote neo-Nazi and Russophobic ideas. As the American media outlet The Hill notes, this is not simply Russian propaganda.
It is important to understand the terms used. Indeed, the term “ultra-nationalist,” often used to describe Ukrainian extremists, is only partially relevant. It refers to Ukrainians in the west of the country who seek to create a “pure” Ukraine, i.e., free of all non-Ukrainian minorities.
The foreign volunteers were probably not “nationalists” or “ultra-nationalists.” Their motives were obviously very diverse, but there was the constant of a fight for a white Europe. The Europe envisaged here has nothing to do with the EU, which most Ukrainian paramilitaries reject. It is a “racially pure” Europe, united by a natiocratic ideal.
The term “Nazi” refers to National Socialism (Nazism), a doctrine that takes us back to the 1930s in Germany. Without going into detail, it combines nationalism and socialism into a “compact” ideology, postulating that the main obstacle to the application of both is the presence of Jews in German society. It is a coherent doctrinal system.
What is described as ‘neo-Nazism’ is not a compact, constructed doctrine. It is more of a social phenomenon than a political doctrine. It is a heterogeneous collection of ideologies that combine hatred of everything and everyone in a kind of theatrical representation of violence, associating Nazi symbolism. There are individuals who see in the hatred of the other a glorification of their conception of the nation.
It is paradoxical that essentially nationalist movements have such international collaboration. The answer lies in the approach itself. The foreign fighters who engage with the Ukrainian far-right movements are not fighting for Ukraine but for the “Idea of Nation.” In other words, they are fighting for the principle of power given to the nation. This is why, alongside Nazi symbols, one finds white supremacist symbols, such as the Celtic cross.
The term “neo-Nazi” is therefore somewhat misleading. Despite appearances, “neo-Nazis” are not the descendants of “Nazis.” Rather, they are the second cousins of consanguineous marriages, who share the same brutality. The link of kinship appears clearly through the “Idea of Nation,” described in four principles by Andriy Biletsky, founder of the AZOV movement:
The nation has an ethnic basis, defined by blood.
The interest of the nation is superior to that of the individual.
Society is structured around an ethnic hierarchy and power is held by members of the ethnic elite.
The members of this nation constitute an elite group of full citizens, while the others are “second class citizens.”
In fact, the Idea of Nation is a common theme in many extreme right-wing movements. It is symbolized by an ‘N’ crossed by a capital “I,” which is nothing but the inverted representation of the Wolfsangel rune found in Nazi symbolism.
The recapture of the Kharkov region at the beginning of September appears to be a success for Ukrainian forces. Our media exulted and relayed Ukrainian propaganda to give us a picture that is not entirely accurate. A closer look at the operations might have prompted Ukraine to be more cautious.
From a military point of view, this operation is a tactical victory for the Ukrainians and an operational/strategic victory for the Russian coalition.
On the Ukrainian side, Kiev was under pressure to achieve some success on the battlefield. Volodymyr Zelensky was afraid of a fatigue from the West and that its support would stop. This is why the Americans and the British pressed him to carry out offensives in the Kherson sector. These offensives, undertaken in a disorganised manner, with disproportionate casualties and without success, created tensions between Zelensky and his military staff.
For several weeks now, Western experts have been questioning the presence of the Russians in the Kharkov area, as they clearly had no intention to fight in the city. In reality, their presence in this area was only aimed at affixing the Ukrainian troops so that they would not go to the Donbass, which is the real operational objective of the Russians.
In August, indications suggested that the Russians had planned to leave the area well before the start of the Ukrainian offensive. They therefore withdrew in good order, together with some civilians who could have been the subject of retaliation. As evidence of this, the huge ammunition depot at Balaklaya was empty when the Ukrainians found it, demonstrating that the Russians had evacuated all sensitive personnel and equipment in good order several days earlier. The Russians had even left areas that Ukraine had not attacked. Only a few Russian National Guard and Donbass militia troops remained as the Ukrainians entered the area.
At this point, the Ukrainians were busy launching multiple attacks in the Kherson region, which had resulted in repeated setbacks and huge losses for their army since August. When US intelligence detected the Russians’ departure from the Kharkov region, they saw an opportunity for the Ukrainians to achieve an operational success and passed on the information. Ukraine thus abruptly decided to attack the Kharkov area that was already virtually empty of Russian troops.
Apparently, the Russians anticipated the organisation of referenda in Lugansk, Donetsk, Zaporozhe and Kherson oblasts. They realised that the territory of Kharkov was not directly relevant to their objectives, and that they were in the same situation as with Snake Island in June: the energy to defend this territory was greater than its strategic importance.
By withdrawing from Kharkov, the Russian coalition was able to consolidate its defence line behind the Oskoll River and strengthen its presence in the north of the Donbass. It was thus able to make a significant advance in the Bakhmut area, a key point in the Slavyansk-Kramatorsk sector, which is the real operational objective of the Russian coalition.
As there were no longer any troops in Kharkov to “pin down” the Ukrainian army, the Russians had to attack the electrical infrastructure to prevent Ukrainian reinforcements by train to the Donbass.
As a result, today, all Russian coalition forces are located within what may become the new borders of Russia after the referenda in the four southern Ukrainian oblasts.
For the Ukrainians, it is a Pyrrhic victory. They advanced into Kharkov without encountering any resistance and there was hardly any fighting. Instead, the area became a huge “killing zone” (“зона поражения”), where Russian artillery would destroy an estimated number of 4,000-5,000 Ukrainians (about 2 brigades), while the Russian coalition suffered only marginal losses as there was no fighting. These losses come on top of those from the Kherson offensives. According to Sergei Shoigu, Russian Defence Minister, the Ukrainians lost about 7,000 men in the first three weeks of September. Although these figures cannot be verified, their order of magnitude matches the estimates of some Western experts. In other words, it seems that the Ukrainians have lost about 25% of the 10 brigades that were created and equipped in recent months with Western help. This is a far cry from the million-man army mentioned by the Ukrainian leaders.
From a political point of view, it is a strategic victory for the Ukrainians, and a tactical loss for the Russians. It is the first time that the Ukrainians have taken back so much territory since 2014, and the Russians seem to be losing. The Ukrainians were able to use this opportunity to communicate about their final victory, undoubtedly triggering exaggerated hopes and making them even less willing to engage in negotiation.
This is why Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, declared that the moment “is not one for appeasement.” This Pyrrhic victory is therefore a poisoned gift for Ukraine. It has led the West to overestimate the capabilities of the Ukrainian forces and to push them to engage in further offensives, instead of negotiating.
The words “victory” and “defeat” need to be carefully used. Vladimir Putin’s stated objectives of “demilitarisation” and “denazification” are not about gaining territory, but about destroying the threat to the Donbass. In other words, the Ukrainians are fighting for territory, while the Russians seek to destroy capabilities. In a way, by holding on to territory, the Ukrainians are making the Russians’ job easier. You can always regain territory—you cannot regain human lives.
In the belief that they are weakening Russia, our media are promoting the gradual disappearance of Ukrainian society. It seems like a paradox, but this is consistent with the way our leaders view Ukraine. They did not react to the massacres of Russian-speaking Ukrainian civilians in the Donbass between 2014 and 2022, nor do they mention Ukraine’s losses today. In fact, for our media and authorities, Ukrainians are a kind of “Untermenschen” whose life is only meant to satisfy the goals of our politicians.
Between 23 and 27 September, there were four referendums in progress, and the local populations have to answer different questions depending on their region. In the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, which are officially independent, the question is whether the population wants to join Russia. In the oblasts of Kherson and Zaporozhe, which are still officially part of Ukraine, the question is whether the population wants to remain within Ukraine, whether they want to be independent, or whether they want to be part of Russia.
However, there are still some unknowns at this stage, such as what will be the borders of the entities that will be attached to Russia. Will they be the borders of the areas occupied by the Russian coalition today or the borders of the Ukrainian regions? If it is the second solution, then we could still have Russian offensives to seize the rest of the regions (oblasts).
It is hard to estimate the outcome of these referenda, although one can assume the Russian-speaking Ukrainians will most probably want to leave Ukraine. Polls, whose reliability cannot be assessed, suggest that 80-90% are in favour of joining Russia. This seems realistic due to several factors.
Firstly, since 2014, linguistic minorities in Ukraine have been subject to restrictions that have made them 2nd class citizens. As a result, the Ukrainian policy has caused Russian-speaking citizens to no longer feel Ukrainian. This was even emphasised by the Law on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in July 2021, which is somewhat equivalent to the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, which give different rights to citizens depending on their ethnic origin. This is why Vladimir Putin wrote an article on 12 July 2021 calling on Ukraine to consider Russian speakers as part of the Ukrainian nation and not to discriminate against them as proposed by the new law.
Of course, no Western country protested against this law, which is a continuation of the abolition of the law on official languages in February 2014, which was the reason for the secession of Crimea and Donbass.
Secondly, in their fight against the secession of Donbass, the Ukrainians never tried to win the “hearts and minds” of the insurgents. On the contrary, they have done everything to drive them further away by bombing them, by mining their roads, by cutting off drinking water, by stopping the payment of pensions and salaries, or by stopping all banking services. This is the exact opposite of an effective counter-insurgency strategy.
Finally, the artillery and missile strikes against the population of Donetsk and other cities in the Zaporozhe and Kherson region in order to intimidate the population and prevent them from going to the polls is further alienating the local population from Kiev. Today, the Russian-speaking population is afraid of Ukrainian reprisals if the referenda are not accepted.
So, we have a situation where the Western countries announce that they will not recognise these referenda, but on the other hand they have done absolutely nothing to encourage Ukraine to have a more inclusive policy with their minorities. Ultimately, what these referenda could reveal is that there has never really been an inclusive Ukrainian nation.
Moreover, these referenda will freeze a situation and make Russia’s conquests irreversible. Interestingly, if the West had let Zelensky continue with the proposal he made to Russia at the end of March 2022, Ukraine would more or less retained its pre-February 2022 configuration. As a reminder, Zelensky had made a first request for negotiation on 25 February, which the Russians had accepted, but which the European Union refused by providing a first package of €450 million in arms. In March, Zelensky made another offer that Russia welcomed and was ready to discuss, but the European Union once again came to prevent this with a second package of €500 million for arms.
As explained by Ukraïnskaya Pravda, Boris Johnson called Zelensky on 2 April and asked him to withdraw his proposal, otherwise the West would stop its support. Then, on 9 April, during his visit to Kiev, “BoJo” repeated the same thing to the Ukrainian president. Ukraine was therefore ready to negotiate with Russia, but the West does not want negotiations, as “BoJo” made clear again on his last visit to Ukraine in August.
It is certainly the prospect that there will be no negotiations that have prompted Russia to engage in referenda. It should be remembered that until now, Vladimir Putin had always rejected the idea of integrating the territories of southern Ukraine into Russia.
It should also be remembered that if the West were so committed to Ukraine and its territorial integrity, France and Germany would certainly have fulfilled their obligations under the Minsk Agreements before February 2022. Moreover, they would have let Zelensky proceed with his proposed agreement with Russia in March 2022. The problem is that the West is not looking for Ukraine’s interest, but to weaken Russia.
Regarding Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilisation, it should be recalled that Russia has intervened in Ukraine with considerably fewer troops than the West considers necessary to conduct an offensive campaign. There are two reasons for this. First, the Russians rely on their mastery of the “operative art” and play with their operational modules on the theatre of operations like a chess player. This is what allows them to be effective with reduced manpower. In other words, they know how to conduct operations efficiently.
The second reason that our media deliberately ignore is that the vast majority of the combat actions in Ukraine is carried out by the Donbass militias. Instead of saying “the Russians,” they should (if they were honest) say “the Russian coalition” or “the Russian-speaking coalition.” In other words, the number of Russian troops in Ukraine is relatively small. Moreover, the Russian practice is to keep troops only for a limited period in the area of operations. This means that they tend to rotate troops more frequently than the West.
In addition to these general considerations, there are the possible consequences of the referenda in southern Ukraine, which are likely to extend the Russian border by almost 1000 kilometres. This will require additional capabilities to build a more robust defence system, to construct facilities for troops, etc. In that sense, this partial mobilisation is a good idea. In this sense, this partial mobilisation is a logical consequence of what we have seen above.
Much has been made in the West about those who have sought to leave Russia to avoid mobilisation. They certainly exist, like the thousands of Ukrainians who sought to escape conscription and can be seen in the streets of Brussels driving powerful and expensive German sports cars! Much less publicity has been given to the long queues of young people outside military recruitment offices and the popular demonstrations in favour of the decision to mobilise!
As to the nuclear threats, in his speech on 21 September , Vladimir Putin mentioned the risk of nuclear escalation. Naturally, the conspiratorial media (i.e., those that construct narratives from unrelated information) immediately spoke of “nuclear threats.”
In reality, this is not true. If we read the wording of Putin’s speech, we can see that he did not threaten to use nuclear weapons. In fact, he has never done so since the beginning of this conflict in 2014. However, he has warned the West against the use of such weapons. I will remind you that on 24 August, Liz Truss declared that it was acceptable to strike Russia with nuclear weapons, and that she was ready to do so, even if it would lead to a “global annihilation!” This is not the first time that the current British Prime Minister has made such a statement, which had already prompted warnings from the Kremlin in February. Moreover, I would like to remind you that in April of this year, Joe Biden decided to depart from the US “no-first use” policy and thus reserves the right to use nuclear weapons first.
So clearly, Vladimir Putin does not trust Western behaviour that is totally irrational and irresponsible, and which is ready to sacrifice its own citizens in order to achieve objectives guided by dogmatism and ideology. This is what is happening in the field of energy and sanctions at the moment, and this is what Liz Truss is ready to do with nuclear weapons. Putin is certainly worried about the reactions of our leaders who are in increasingly uncomfortable situations because of the catastrophic economic and social situation they have created by their incompetence. This pressure on our leaders could lead them to escalate the conflict just to avoid losing face.
In his speech, Vladimir Putin does not threaten to use nuclear weapons, but other types of weapons. He is of course thinking of hypersonic weapons, which do not need to be nuclear to be effective and which can thwart Western defences. Moreover, contrary to what our media say, the use of tactical nuclear weapons is no longer in the Russian employment doctrine for many years. Moreover, unlike the United States, Russia has a no-first-use policy.
In other words, it is the Westerners and their erratic behaviour that are the real factors of insecurity.
I am not sure that our politicians have a clear and objective view of the situation. Ignazio Cassis’ recent tweets show that his level of information is low. First of all, when he mentions Switzerland’s role and neutrality in offering its good offices, he is a bit out of touch with geography. In Russia’s mind, Switzerland has abandoned its neutrality status and if it wants to play a constructive role in this conflict, it will have to demonstrate its neutrality. We are a long, long way from that.
Secondly, when Cassis expressed his concern about the use of nuclear weapons to Lavrov, he clearly did not understand Vladimir Putin’s message. The problem with today’s Western leaders is that none of them currently has the intellectual capacity to deal with the challenges that they themselves have created through their own foolishness. Cassis would probably have been better advised to express his concerns to Truss and Biden!
The Russians—and Vladimir Putin in particular—have always been very clear in their statements and have consistently and methodically done what they said they would do. No more, no less. One can of course disagree with what he says, but it is a major and probably even criminal mistake not to listen to what he says. For if we had listened, we could have prevented the situation becoming what it is.
It is also interesting to compare the current general situation with what was described in the RAND Corporation reports published in 2019 as the blueprint for trying to destabilise Russia.
As we can see, what we are witnessing is the result of a carefully planned scenario. It is very likely that the Russians were able to anticipate what the West was planning against them. Russia was thus able to prepare itself politically and diplomatically for the crisis that was to be created. It is this capacity for strategic anticipation that shows that Russia is more stable, more effective and more efficient than the West. This is why I think that if this conflict is going to escalate, it will be more because of Western incompetence than because of a Russian calculation.
We are pleased to bring you this fresh interview with Jacques Baud, in which we cover what is now happening in the geopolitical struggle that is the Ukraine-Russia war. As always, Mr. Baud brings deep insight and clear analysis to the conversation.
The Postil (TP): You have just published your latest book on the war in Ukraine—Operation Z, published by Max Milo. Please tell us a little about it—what led you to write this book and what do you wish to convey to readers?
Jacques Baud (JB): The aim of this book is to show how the misinformation propagated by our media has contributed to push Ukraine in the wrong direction. I wrote it under the motto “from the way we understand crises derives the way we solve them.”
By hiding many aspects of this conflict, the Western media has presented us with a caricatural and artificial image of the situation, which has resulted in the polarization of minds. This has led to a widespread mindset that makes any attempt to negotiate virtually impossible.
The one-sided and biased representation provided by mainstream media is not intended to help us solve the problem, but to promote hatred of Russia. Thus, the exclusion of disabled athletes, cats, even Russian trees from competitions, the dismissal of conductors, the de-platforming of Russian artists, such as Dostoyevsky, or even the renaming of paintings aims at excluding the Russian population from society! In France, bank accounts of individuals with Russian-sounding names were even blocked. Social networks Facebook and Twitter have systematically blocked the disclosure of Ukrainian crimes under the pretext of “hate speech” but allow the call for violence against Russians.
None of these actions had any effect on the conflict, except to stimulate hatred and violence against the Russians in our countries. This manipulation is so bad that we would rather see Ukrainians die than to seek a diplomatic solution. As Republican Senator Lindsey Graham recently said, it is a matter of letting the Ukrainians fight to the last man.
It is commonly assumed that journalists work according to standards of quality and ethics to inform us in the most honest way possible. These standards are set by the Munich Charter of 1971. While writing my book I found out that no French-speaking mainstream media in Europe respects this charter as far as Russia and China are concerned. In fact, they shamelessly support an immoral policy towards Ukraine, described by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, president of Mexico, as “We provide the weapons, you provide the corpses!”
To highlight this misinformation, I wanted to show that information allowing to provide a realistic picture of the situation was available as early as February, but that our media did not relay it to the public. My goal was to show this contradiction.
In order to avoid becoming a propagandist myself in favor of one side or the other, I have relied exclusively on Western, Ukrainian (from Kiev) and Russian opposition sources. I have not taken any information from the Russian media.
TP: It is commonly said in the West that this war has “proven” that the Russian army is feeble and that its equipment is useless. Are these assertions true?
JB: No. After more than six months of war, it can be said that the Russian army is effective and efficient, and that the quality of its command & control far exceeds what we see in the West. But our perception is influenced by a reporting that is focused on the Ukrainian side, and by distortions of reality.
Firstly, there is the reality on the ground. It should be remembered that what the media call “Russians” is in fact a Russian-speaking coalition, composed of professional Russian fighters and soldiers of the popular militias of Donbass. The operations in the Donbass are mainly carried out by these militias, who fight on “their” terrain, in towns and villages they know and where they have friends and family. They are therefore advancing cautiously for themselves, but also to avoid civilian casualties. Thus, despite the claims of western propaganda, the coalition enjoys a very good popular support in the areas it occupies.
Then, just looking at a map, you can see that the Donbass is a region with a lot of built-up and inhabited areas, which means an advantage for the defender and a reduced speed of progress for the attacker in all circumstances.
Secondly, there is the way our media portray the evolution of the conflict. Ukraine is a huge country and small-scale maps hardly show the differences from one day to another. Moreover, each side has its own perception of the progress of the enemy. If we take the example of the situation on March 25, 2022, we can see that the map of the French daily newspaper Ouest-France (a) shows almost no advance of Russia, as does the Swiss RTS site (b). The map of the Russian website RIAFAN (c) may be propaganda, but if we compare it with the map of the French Military Intelligence Directorate (DRM) (d), we see that the Russian media is probably closer to the truth. All these maps were published on the same day, but the French newspaper and the Swiss state media did not choose to use the DRM map and preferred to use a Ukrainian map. This illustrates that our media work like propaganda outlets.
Thirdly, our “experts” have themselves determined the objectives of the Russian offensive. By claiming that Russia wanted to take over Ukraine and its resources, to take over Kiev in two days, etc., our experts have literally invented and attributed to the Russians objectives that Putin never mentioned. In May 2022, Claude Wild, the Swiss ambassador in Kiev, declared on RTS that the Russians had “lost the battle for Kiev.” But in reality, there was never a “battle for Kiev.” It is obviously easy to claim that the Russians did not reach their objectives—if they never tried to reach them!
Fourthly, the West and Ukraine have created a misleading picture of their adversary. In France, Switzerland and Belgium, none of the military experts on television have any knowledge of military operations and how the Russians conduct theirs. Their “expertise” comes from the rumours from the war in Afghanistan or Syria, which are often merely Western propaganda. These experts have literally falsified the presentation of Russian operations.
Thus, the objectives announced as early as February 24 by Russia were the “demilitarization” and “denazification” of the threat to the populations of Donbass. These objectives are related to the neutralization of capabilities, not the seizure of land or resources. To put it bluntly, in theory, to achieve their goals the Russians do not need to advance—it would be enough if Ukrainians themselves would come and get killed.
In other words, our politicians and media have pushed Ukraine to defend the terrain like in France during the First World War. They pushed Ukrainian troops to defend every square meter of ground in “last stand” situations. Ironically, the West has only made the Russians’ job easier.
In fact, as with the war on terror, Westerners see the enemy as they would like him to be, not as he is. As Sun Tzu said 2,500 years ago, this is the best recipe for losing a war.
One example is the so-called “hybrid war” that Russia is allegedly waging against the West. In June 2014, as the West tried to explain Russia’s (imaginary) intervention in the Donbass conflict, Russia expert Mark Galeotti “revealed” the existence of a doctrine that would illustrate the Russian concept of hybrid warfare. Known as the “Gerasimov Doctrine,” it has never really been defined by the West as to what it consists of and how it could ensure military success. But it is used to explain how Russia wages war in Donbass without sending troops there and why Ukraine consistently loses its battles against the rebels. In 2018, realizing that he was wrong, Galeotti apologized—courageously and intelligently—in an article titled, “I’m Sorry for Creating the Gerasimov Doctrine” published in Foreign Policy magazine.
Despite this, and without knowing what it meant, our media and politicians continued to pretend that Russia was waging a hybrid war against Ukraine and the West. In other words, we imagined a type of war that does not exist and we prepared Ukraine for it. This is also what explains the challenge for Ukraine to have a coherent strategy to counter Russian operations.
The West does not want to see the situation as it really is. The Russian-speaking coalition has launched its offensive with an overall strength inferior to that of the Ukrainians in a ratio of 1-2:1. To be successful when you are outnumbered, you must create local and temporary superiorities by quickly moving your forces on the battlefield.
This is what the Russians call “operational art” (operativnoe iskoustvo). This notion is poorly understood in the West. The term “operational” used in NATO has two translations in Russian: “operative” (which refers to a command level) and “operational” (which defines a condition). It is the art of maneuvering military formations, much like a chess game, in order to defeat a superior opponent.
For example, the operation around Kiev was not intended to “deceive” the Ukrainians (and the West) about their intentions, but to force the Ukrainian army to keep large forces around the capital and thus “pin them down.” In technical terms, this is what is called a “shaping operation.” Contrary to the analysis of some “experts,” it was not a “deception operation,” which would have been conceived very differently and would have involved much larger forces. The aim was to prevent a reinforcement of the main body of the Ukrainian forces in the Donbass.
The main lesson of this war at this stage confirms what we know since the Second World War: the Russians master the operational art.
TP: Questions about Russia’s military raises the obvious question—how good is Ukraine’s military today? And more importantly, why do we not hear so much about the Ukrainian army?
JB: The Ukrainian servicemen are certainly brave soldiers who perform their duty conscientiously and courageously. But my personal experience shows that in almost every crisis, the problem is at the head. The inability to understand the opponent and his logic and to have a clear picture of the actual situation is the main reason for failures.
Since the beginning of the Russian offensive, we can distinguish two ways of conducting the war. On the Ukrainian side, the war is waged in the political and informational spaces, while on the Russian side the war is waged in the physical and operational space. The two sides are not fighting in the same spaces. This is a situation that I described in 2003 in my book, La guerre asymétrique ou la défaite du vainqueur (Asymmetric War, or the Defeat of the Winner). The trouble is that at the end of the day, the reality of the terrain prevails.
On the Russian side, decisions are made by the military, while on the Ukrainian side, Zelensky is omnipresent and the central element in the conduct of the war. He makes operational decisions, apparently often against the military’s advice. This explains the rising tensions between Zelensky and the military. According to Ukrainian media, Zelensky could dismiss General Valery Zoluzhny by appointing him Minister of Defence.
The Ukrainian army has been extensively trained by American, British and Canadian officers since 2014. The trouble is that for over 20 years, Westerners have been fighting armed groups and scattered adversaries and engaged entire armies against individuals. They fight wars at the tactical level and somehow have lost the ability to fight at the strategic and operative levels. This explains partly why Ukraine is waging its war at this level.
But there is a more conceptual dimension. Zelensky and the West see war as a numerical and technological balance of forces. This is why, since 2014, the Ukrainians have never tried to seduce the rebels and they now think that the solution will come from the weapons supplied by the West. The West provided Ukraine with a few dozen M777 guns and HIMARS and MLRS missile launchers, while Ukraine had several thousand equivalent artillery pieces in February. The Russian concept of “correlation of forces,” takes into account many more factors and is more holistic than the Western approach. That is why the Russians are winning.
To comply with ill-considered policies, our media have constructed a virtual reality that gives Russia the bad role. For those who observe the course of the crisis carefully, we could almost say they presented Russia as a “mirror image” of the situation in Ukraine. Thus, when the talk about Ukrainian losses began, Western communication turned to Russian losses (with figures given by Ukraine).
The so-called “counter-offensives” proclaimed by Ukraine and the West in Kharkov and Kherson in April-May were merely “counter-attacks.” The difference between the two is that counter-offensive is an operational notion, while counter-attack is a tactical notion, which is much more limited in scope. These counterattacks were possible because the density of Russian troops in these sectors was then 1 Battle Group (BTG) per 20 km of front. By comparison, in the Donbass sector, which was the primary focus, the Russian coalition had 1-3 BTG per km. As for the great August offensive on Kherson, which was supposed to take over the south of the country, it seems to have been nothing but a myth to maintain Western support.
Today, we see that the claimed Ukrainian successes were in fact failures. The human and material losses that were attributed to Russia were in fact more in line with those of Ukraine. In mid-June, David Arakhamia, Zelensky’s chief negotiator and close adviser, spoke of 200 to 500 deaths per day, and he mentioned casualties (dead, wounded, captured, deserters) of 1,000 men per day. If we add to this the renewed demands for arms by Zelensky, we can see that the idea of a victory for Ukraine appears quite an illusion.
Because Russia’s economy was thought to be comparable to Italy’s, it was assumed that it would be equally vulnerable. Thus, the West—and the Ukrainians—thought that economic sanctions and political isolation of Russia would quickly cause its collapse, without passing through a military defeat. Indeed, this is what we understand from the interview of Oleksei Arestovich, Zelensky’s advisor and spokesman, in March 2019. This also explains why Zelensky did not sound the alarm in early 2022, as he says in his interview with the Washington Post. I think he knew that Russia would respond to the offensive Ukraine was preparing in the Donbass (which is why the bulk of his troops were in that area) and thought that sanctions would quickly lead to Russia’s collapse and defeat. This is what Bruno Le Maire, the French Minister of the Economy, had “predicted.” Clearly, the Westerners have made decisions without knowing their opponent.
As Arestovich said, the idea was that the defeat of Russia would be Ukraine’s entry ticket to NATO. So, the Ukrainians were pushed to prepare an offensive in the Donbass in order to make Russia react, and thus obtain an easy defeat through devastating sanctions. This is cynical and shows how much the West—led by the Americans—has misused Ukraine for its own objectives.
The result is that the Ukrainians did not seek Ukraine’s victory, but Russia’s defeat. This is very different and explains the Western narrative from the first days of the Russian offensive, which prophesied this defeat.
But the reality is that the sanctions did not work as expected, and Ukraine found itself dragged into combats that it had provoked, but for which it was not prepared to fight for so long.
This is why, from the outset, the Western narrative presented a mismatch between media reported and the reality on the ground. This had a perverse effect: it encouraged Ukraine to repeat its mistakes and prevented it from improving its conduct of operations. Under the pretext of fighting Vladimir Putin, we pushed Ukraine to sacrifice thousands of human lives unnecessarily.
From the beginning, it was obvious that the Ukrainians were consistently repeating their mistakes (and even the same mistakes as in 2014-2015), and soldiers were dying on the battlefield. For his part, Volodymyr Zelensky called for more and more sanctions, including the most absurd ones, because he was led to believe that they were decisive.
I am not the only one to have noticed these mistakes, and Western countries could certainly have stopped this disaster. But their leaders, excited by the (fanciful) reports of Russian losses and thinking they were paving the way for regime change, added sanctions to sanctions, turning down any possibility of negotiation. As the French Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire said, the objective was to provoke the collapse of the Russian economy and make the Russian people suffer. This is a form of state terrorism: the idea is to make the population suffer in order to push it into revolting against its leaders (here, Putin). I am not making this up. This mechanism is detailed by Richard Nephew, head of sanctions at the State Department under Obama and currently Coordinator on Global Anti-Corruption, in his book entitled, The Art of Sanctions. Ironically, this is exactly the same logic that the Islamic State invoked to explain its attacks in France in 2015-2016. France probably does not encourage terrorism—but it does practice it.
The mainstream media do not present the war as it is, but as they would like it to be. This is pure wishful thinking. The apparent public support for the Ukrainian authorities, despite huge losses (some mention 70,000-80,000 fatalities), is achieved by banning the opposition, a ruthless hunt for officials who disagree with the government line, and “mirror” propaganda that attributes to the Russians the same failures as the Ukrainians. All this with the conscious support of the West.
TP: What should we make of the explosion at the Saki airbase in the Crimea?
JB: I do not know the details of the current security situation in Crimea. . We know that before February there were cells of volunteer fighters of Praviy Sektor (a neo-Nazi militia) in Crimea, ready to carry out terrorist-type attacks. Have these cells been neutralized? I don’t know; but one can assume so, since there is apparently very little sabotage activity in Crimea. Having said that, let us not forget that Ukrainians and Russians have lived together for many decades and there are certainly pro-Kiev individuals in the areas taken by the Russians. It is therefore realistic to think that there could be sleeper cells in these areas.
More likely it is a campaign conducted by the Ukrainian security service (SBU) in the territories occupied by the Russian-speaking coalition. This is a terrorist campaign targeting pro-Russian Ukrainian personalities and officials. It follows major changes in the leadership of the SBU, in Kiev, and in the regions, including Lvov, Ternopol since July. It is probably in the context of this same campaign that Darya Dugina was assassinated on August 21. The objective of this new campaign could be to convey the illusion that there is an ongoing resistance in the areas taken by the Russians and thus revive Western aid, which is starting to fatigue.
These sabotage activities do not really have an operational impact and seem more related to a psychological operation. It may be that these are actions like the one on Snake Island at the beginning of May, intended to demonstrate to the international public that Ukraine is acting.
What the incidents in Crimea indirectly show is that the popular resistance claimed by the West in February does not exist. It is most likely the action of Ukrainian and Western (probably British) clandestine operatives. Beyond the tactical actions, this shows the inability of the Ukrainians to activate a significant resistance movement in the areas seized by the Russian-speaking coalition.
TP: Zelensky has famously said, “Crimea is Ukrainian and we will never give it up.” Is this rhetoric, or is there a plan to attack Crimea? Are there Ukrainian operatives inside Crimea?
JB: First of all, Zelensky changes his opinion very often. In March 2022, he made a proposal to Russia, stating that he was ready to discuss a recognition of Russian sovereignty over the peninsula. It was upon the intervention of the European Union and Boris Johnson on 2 April and on 9 April that he withdrew his proposal, despite Russia’s favorable interest.
It is necessary to recall some historical facts. The cession of Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 was never formally validated by the parliaments of the USSR, Russia and Ukraine during the communist era. Moreover, the Crimean people agreed to be subject to the authority of Moscow and no longer of Kiev as early as January 1991. In other words, Crimea was independent from Kiev even before Ukraine became independent from Moscow in December 1991.
In July, Aleksei Reznikov, the Ukrainian Minister of Defense, spoke loudly of a major counter-offensive on Kherson involving one million men to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity. In reality, Ukraine has not managed to gather the troops, armor and air cover needed for this far-fetched offensive. Sabotage actions in Crimea may be a substitute for this “counter-offensive.” They seem to be more of a communication exercise than a real military action. These actions seem to be aimed rather at reassuring Western countries which are questioning the relevance of their unconditional support to Ukraine.
TP: Would you tell us about the situation around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility?
JB: In Energodar, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP), has been the target of several attacks by artillery, which Ukrainians and Russians attribute to the opposing side.
What we know is that the Russian coalition forces have occupied the ZNPP site since the beginning of March. The objective at that time was to secure the ZNPP quickly, in order to prevent it from being caught up in the fighting and thus avoid a nuclear incident. The Ukrainian personnel who were in charge of it have remained on site and continue to work under the supervision of the Ukrainian company Energoatom and the Ukrainian nuclear safety agency (SNRIU). There is therefore no fighting around the plant.
It is hard to see why the Russians would shell a nuclear plant that is under their control. This allegation is even more peculiar since the Ukrainians themselves state that there are Russian troops in the premises of the site. According to a French “expert,” the Russians would attack the power plant they control to cut off the electricity flowing to Ukraine. Not only would there be simpler ways to cut off the electricity to Ukraine (a switch, perhaps?), but Russia has not stopped the electricity supply to the Ukrainians since March. Moreover, I remind you that Russia has not stopped the flow of natural gas to Ukraine and has continued to pay Ukraine the transit fees for gas to Europe. It is Zelensky who decided to shut down the Soyuz pipeline in May.
Moreover, it should be remembered that the Russians are in an area where the population is generally favorable to them and it is hard to understand why they would take the risk of a nuclear contamination of the region.
In reality, the Ukrainians have more credible motives than the Russians that may explain such attacks against the ZNPP. , which are not mutually exclusive: an alternative to the big counter-offensive on Kherson, which they are not able to implement, and to prevent the planned referendums in the region. Further, Zelensky’s calls for demilitarizing the area of the power plant and even returning it to Ukraine would be a political and operational success for him. One might even imagine that they seek to deliberately provoke a nuclear incident in order to create a “no man’s land” and thus render the area unusable for the Russians.
By bombing the plant, Ukraine could also be trying to pressure the West to intervene in the conflict, under the pretext that Russia is seeking to disconnect the plant from the Ukrainian power grid before the fall. This suicidal behavior—as stated by UN Secretary General António Guterres—would be in line with the war waged by Ukraine since 2014.
There is strong evidence that the attacks on Energodar are Ukrainian. The fragments of projectiles fired at the site from the other side of the Dnieper are of Western origin. It seems that they come from British BRIMSTONE missiles, which are precision missiles, whose use is monitored by the British. Apparently, the West is aware of the Ukrainian attacks on the ZNPP. This might explain why Ukraine is not very supportive of an international commission of inquiry and why Western countries are putting unrealistic conditions for sending investigators from the IAEA, an agency that has not shown much integrity so far.
TP: It is reported that Zelensky is freeing criminals to fight in this war? Does this mean that Ukraine’s army is not as strong as commonly assumed?
JB: Zelensky faces the same problem as the authorities that emerged from Euromaidan in 2014. At that time, the military did not want to fight because they did not want to confront their Russian-speaking compatriots. According to a report by the British Home Office, reservists overwhelmingly refuse to attend recruitment sessions . In October-November 2017, 70% of conscripts do not show up for recall . Suicide has become a problem. According to the chief Ukrainian military prosecutor Anatoly Matios, after four years of war in the Donbass, 615 servicemen had committed suicide. Desertions have increased and reached up to 30% of the forces in certain operational areas, often in favor of the rebels.
For this reason, it became necessary to integrate more motivated, highly politicized, ultra-nationalistic and fanatical fighters into the armed forces to fight in the Donbass. Many of them are neo-Nazis. It is to eliminate these fanatical fighters that Vladimir Putin has mentioned the objective of “denazification.”
Today, the problem is slightly different. The Russians have attacked Ukraine and the Ukrainian soldiers are not a priori opposed to fighting them. But they realize that the orders they receive are not consistent with the situation on the battlefield. They understood that the decisions affecting them are not linked to military factors, but to political considerations. Ukrainian units are mutinying en masse and are increasingly refusing to fight. They say they feel abandoned by their commanders and that they are given missions without the necessary resources to execute them.
That’s why it becomes necessary to send men who are ready for anything. Because they are condemned, they can be kept under pressure. This is the same principle as Marshal Konstantin Rokossovki, who was sentenced to death by Stalin, but was released from prison in 1941 to fight against the Germans. His death sentence was lifted only after Stalin’s death in 1956.
In order to overshadow the use of criminals in the armed forces, the Russians are accused of doing the same thing. The Ukrainians and the Westerners consistently use “mirror” propaganda. As in all recent conflicts, Western influence has not led to a moralization of the conflict.
TP: Everyone speaks of how corrupt Putin is? But what about Zelensky? Is he the “heroic saint” that we are all told to admire?
JB: In October 2021, the Pandora Papers showed that Ukraine and Zelensky were the most corrupt in Europe and practiced tax evasion on a large scale. Interestingly, these documents were apparently published with the help of an American intelligence agency, and Vladimir Putin is not mentioned. More precisely, the documents mention individuals ” associated ” with him, who are said to have links with undisclosed assets, which could belong to a woman, who is believed to have had a child with him.
Yet, when our media are reporting on these documents, they routinely put a picture of Vladimir Putin, but not of Volodymyr Zelensky.
I am not in a position to assess how corrupt Zelensky is. But there is no doubt that the Ukrainian society and its governance are. I contributed modestly to a NATO “Building Integrity” program in Ukraine and discovered that none of the contributing countries had any illusions about its effectiveness, and all saw the program as a kind of “window dressing” to justify Western support.
It is unlikely that the billions paid by the West to Ukraine will reach the Ukrainian people. A recent CBS News report stated that only 30-40% of the weapons supplied by the West make it to the battlefield. The rest enriches mafias and other corrupt people. Apparently, some high-tech Western weapons have been sold to the Russians, such as the French CAESAR system and presumably the American HIMARS. The CBS News report was censored to avoid undermining Western aid, but the fact remains that the US refused to supply MQ-1C drones to Ukraine for this reason.
Ukraine is a rich country, yet today it is the only country in the former USSR with a lower GDP than it had at the collapse of the Soviet Union. The problem is therefore not Zelensky himself, but the whole system, which is deeply corrupted, and which the West maintains for the sole purpose of fighting Russia.
Zelensky was elected in April 2019 on the program of reaching an agreement with Russia. But nobody let him carry out his program. The Germans and the French deliberately prevented him from implementing the Minsk agreements. The transcript of the telephone conversation of 20 February 2022 between Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin shows that France deliberately kept Ukraine away from the solution. Moreover, in Ukraine, far right and neo-Nazi political forces have publicly threatened him with death. Dmitry Yarosh, commander of the Ukrainian Volunteer Army, declared in May 2019 that Zelensky would be hanged if he carried out his program. In other words, Zelensky is trapped between his idea of reaching an agreement with Russia and the demands of the West. Moreover, the West realizes that its strategy of war through sanctions has failed. As the economic and social problems increase, the West will find it harder to back down without losing face. A way out for Britain, the US, the EU, or France would be to remove Zelensky. That is why, with the deteriorating situation in Ukraine, I think Zelensky starts to realize that his life is threatened.
At the end of the day, Zelensky is a poor guy, because his best enemies are those on whom he depends: the Western world.
TP: There are many videos (gruesome ones) on social media of Ukrainian soldiers engaging in serious war crimes? Why is there a “blind spot” in the West for such atrocities?
JB: First of all, we must be clear: in every war, every belligerent commit war crimes. Military personnel who deliberately commit such crimes dishonor their uniform and must be punished.
The problem arises when war crimes are part of a plan or result from orders given by the higher command. This was the case when the Netherlands let its military allow the Srebrenica massacre in 1995; the torture in Afghanistan by Canadian and British troops, not to mention the countless violations of international humanitarian law by the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo and elsewhere with the complicity of Poland, Lithuania or Estonia. If these are Western values, then Ukraine is in the right school.
In Ukraine, political crime has become commonplace, with the complicity of the West. Thus, those who are in favor of a negotiation are eliminated. This is the case of Denis Kireyev, one of the Ukrainian negotiators, assassinated on March 5 by the Ukrainian security service (SBU) because he was considered too favorable to Russia and as a traitor. The same thing happened to Dmitry Demyanenko, an officer of the SBU, who was assassinated on March 10, also because he was too favorable to an agreement with Russia. Remember that this is a country that considers that receiving or giving Russian humanitarian aid is “collaborationism.”
On 16 March 2022, a journalist on TV channel Ukraine 24 referred to the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann and called for the massacre of Russian-speaking children. On 21 March, the military doctor Gennadiy Druzenko declared on the same channel that he had ordered his doctors to castrate Russian prisoners of war. On social networks, these statements quickly became propaganda for the Russians and the two Ukrainians apologized for having said so, but not for the substance. Ukrainian crimes were beginning to be revealed on social networks, and on 27 March Zelensky feared that this would jeopardize Western support. This was followed—rather opportunely—by the Bucha massacre on 3 April, the circumstances of which remain unclear.
Britain, which then had the chairmanship of the UN Security Council, refused three times the Russian request to set up an international commission of enquiry into the crimes of Bucha. Ukrainian socialist MP Ilya Kiva revealed on Telegram that the Bucha tragedy was planned by the British MI6 special services and implemented by the SBU.
The fundamental problem is that the Ukrainians have replaced the “operational art” with brutality. Since 2014, in order to fight the autonomists, the Ukrainian government has never tried to apply strategies based on “hearts & minds,” which the British used in the 1950s-1960s in South-East Asia, which were much less brutal but much more effective and long-lasting. Kiev preferred to conduct an Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) in the Donbass and to use the same strategies as the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fighting terrorists authorizes all kinds of brutality. It is the lack of a holistic approach to the conflict that led to the failure of the West in Afghanistan, Iraq and Mali.
Counter-Insurgency Operation (COIN) requires a more sophisticated and holistic approach. But NATO is incapable of developing such strategies as I have seen first-hand in Afghanistan. The war in Donbass has been brutal for 8 years and has resulted in the death of 10,000 Ukrainian citizens plus 4,000 Ukrainian military personnel. By comparison, in 30 years, the conflict in Northern Ireland resulted in 3,700 deaths. To justify this brutality, the Ukrainians had to invent the myth of a Russian intervention in Donbass.
The problem is that the philosophy of the new Maidan leaders was to have a racially pure Ukraine. In other words, the unity of the Ukrainian people was not to be achieved through the integration of communities, but through the exclusion of communities of “inferior races.” An idea that would no doubt have pleased the grandfathers of Ursula von der Leyen and Chrystia Freeland! This explains why Ukrainians have little empathy for the country’s Russian, Magyar and Romanian-speaking minorities. This in turn explains why Hungary and Romania do not want their territories to be used for the supply of arms to Ukraine.
This is why shooting at their own citizens to intimidate them is not a problem for the Ukrainians. This explains the spraying of thousands of PFM-1 (“butterfly”) anti-personnel mines, which look like toys, on the Russian-speaking city of Donetsk in July 2022. This type of mine is used by a defender, not an attacker in its main area of operation. Moreover, in this area, the Donbass militias are fighting “at home,” with populations they know personally.
I think that war crimes have been committed on both sides, but that their media coverage has been very different. Our media have reported extensively about crimes (true or false) attributed to Russia. On the other hand, they have been extremely silent about Ukrainian crimes. We do not know the whole truth about the Bucha massacre, but the available evidence supports the hypothesis that Ukraine staged the event to cover up its own crimes. By keeping these crimes quiet, our media have been complicit with them and have created a sense of impunity that has encouraged the Ukrainians to commit further crimes.
TP: Latvia wants the West (America) to designate Russia a “terrorist state.” What do you make of this? Does this mean that the war is actually over, and Russia has won?
JB: The Estonian and Latvian demands are in response to Zelensky’s call to designate Russia as a terrorist state. Interestingly, they come at the same time a Ukrainian terrorist campaign is being unleashed in Crimea, the occupied zone of Ukraine and the rest of Russian territory. It is also interesting that Estonia was apparently complicit in the attack on Darya Dugina in August 2022.
It seems that Ukrainians communicate in a mirror image of the crimes they commit or the problems they have, in order to hide them. For example, in late May 2022, as the Azovstal surrender in Mariupol showed neo-Nazi fighters, they began to allege that there are neo-Nazis in the Russian army. In August 2022, when Kiev was carrying out actions of a terrorist nature against the Energodar power plant in Crimea and on Russian territory, Zelensky called for Russia to be considered a terrorist state.
In fact, Zelensky continues to believe that he can only solve his problem by defeating Russia and that this defeat depends on sanctions against Russia. Declaring Russia a terrorist state would lead to further isolation. That is why he is making this appeal. This shows that the label “terrorist” is more political than operational, and that those who make such proposals do not have a very clear vision of the problem. The problem is that it has implications for international relations. This is why the US State Department is concerned that Zelensky’s request will be implemented by Congress.
TP: One of the sadder outcomes of this Ukraine-Russia conflict is how the West has shown the worst of itself. Where do you think we will go from here? More of the same, or will there be changes that will have to be made in regards to NATO, neutral countries which are no longer neutral, and the way the West seeks to “govern” the world?
JB: This crisis reveals several things. First, that NATO and the European Union are only instruments of US foreign policy. These institutions no longer act in the interests of their members, but in the interests of the US. The sanctions adopted under American pressure are backfiring on Europe, which is the big loser in this whole crisis: it suffers its own sanctions and has to deal with the tensions resulting from its own decisions.
The decisions taken by Western governments reveal a generation of leaders who are young and inexperienced (such as Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin); ignorant, yet thinking they are smart (such as French President Emmanuel Macron); doctrinaire (such as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen); and fanatical (such as the leaders of the Baltic States). They all share some of the same weaknesses, not least of which is their inability to manage a complex crisis.
When the head is unable to understand the complexity of a crisis, we respond with guts and dogmatism. This is what we see happening in Europe. The Eastern European countries, especially the Baltic States and Poland, have shown themselves to be loyal servants of American policy. They have also shown immature, confrontational, and short-sighted governance. These are countries that have never integrated Western values, that continue to celebrate the forces of the Third Reich and discriminate against their own Russian-speaking population.
I am not even mentioning the European Union, which has been vehemently opposed to any diplomatic solution and has only added fuel to the fire.
The more you are involved in a conflict, the more you are involved in its outcome. If you win, all is well. But if the conflict is a failure, you will bear the burden. This is what has happened to the United States in recent conflicts and what is happening in Ukraine. The defeat of Ukraine is becoming the defeat of the West.
Another big loser in this conflict is clearly Switzerland. Its neutral status has suddenly lost all credibility. Early August, Switzerland and Ukraine concluded an agreement that would allow the Swiss embassy in Moscow to offer protection to Ukrainian citizens in Russia. However, in order to enter into force, it has to be recognized by Russia. Quite logically, Russia refused and declared that “Switzerland had unfortunately lost its status as a neutral state and could not act as an intermediary or representative.”
This is a very serious development because neutrality is not simply a unilateral declaration. It must be accepted and recognized by all to be effective. Yet Switzerland not only aligned itself with the Western countries but was even more extreme than them. It can be said that in a few weeks, Switzerland has ruined a policy that has been recognized for almost 170 years. This is a problem for Switzerland, but it may also be a problem for other countries. A neutral state can offer a way out of a crisis. Today, Western countries are looking for a way out that would allow them to get closer to Russia in the perspective of an energy crisis without losing face. Turkey has taken on this role, but it is limited, as it is part of NATO.
The West has created an Iron Curtain 2.0 that will affect international relations for years to come. The West’s lack of strategic vision is astonishing. While NATO is aligning itself with US foreign policy and reorienting itself towards China, Western strategy has only strengthened the Moscow-Beijing axis.
TP: What do you think this war ultimately means for Europe, the US and China?
JB: In order to answer this question, we first must answer another question: “Why is this conflict more condemnable and sanctionable than previous conflicts started by the West?”
After the disasters of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Mali, the rest of the world expected the West to help resolve this crisis with common sense. The West responded in exactly the opposite way to these expectations. Not only has no one been able to explain why this conflict was more reprehensible than previous ones, but the difference in treatment between Russia and the United States has shown that more importance is attached to the aggressor than to the victims. Efforts to bring about the collapse of Russia contrast with the total impunity of countries that have lied to the UN Security Council, practiced torture, caused the deaths of over a million people and created 37 million refugees.
This difference in treatment went unnoticed in the West. But the “rest of the world” has understood that we have moved from a “law-based international order” to a “rules-based international order” determined by the West.
On a more material level, the confiscation of Venezuelan gold by the British in 2020, of Afghanistan’s sovereign funds in 2021, and then of Russia’s sovereign funds in 2022 by the US, has raised the mistrust of the West’s allies. This shows that the non-Western world is no longer protected by law and depends on the goodwill of the West.
This conflict is probably the starting point for a new world order. The world is not going to change all at once, but the conflict has raised the attention of the rest of the world. For when we say that the “international community” condemns Russia, we are in fact talking about 18% of the world’s population.
Some actors traditionally close to the West are gradually moving away from it. On 15 July 2022, Joe Biden visited Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) with two objectives: to prevent Saudi Arabia from moving closer to Russia and China, and to ask him to increase its oil production. But four days earlier, MbS made an official request to become a member of the BRICS, and a week later, on 21 July, MbS called Vladimir Putin to confirm that he would stand by the OPEC+ decision. In other words: no oil production increase. It was a slap in the face of the West and of its most powerful representative.
Saudi Arabia has now decided to accept Chinese currency as payment for its oil. This is a major event, which tends to indicate a loss of confidence in the dollar. The consequences are potentially huge. The petrodollar was established by the US in the 1970s to finance its deficit. By forcing other countries to buy dollars, it allows the US to print dollars without being caught in an inflationary loop. Thanks to the petrodollar, the US economy—which is essentially a consumer economy—is supported by the economies of other countries around the world. The demise of the petrodollar could have disastrous consequences for the US economy, as former Republican Senator Ron Paul puts it.
In addition, the sanctions have brought China and Russia, both targeted by the West, closer together. This has accelerated the formation of a Eurasian bloc and strengthened the position of both countries in the world. India, which the US has scorned as a “second-class” partner of the “Quad,” has moved closer to Russia and China, despite disputes with the latter.
Today, China is the main provider of infrastructure in the Third World. In particular, its way of interacting with African countries is more in line with the expectations of these countries. Collaboration with former colonial powers such as France and American imperialist paternalism are no longer welcome. For example, the Central African Republic and Mali have asked France to leave their countries and have turned to Russia.
At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, the US proudly announced a $150 million contribution to “strengthen its position in the broader geopolitical competition with China.” But in November 2021, President Xi Jinping offered $1.5 billion to the same countries to fight the pandemic and promote economic recovery. By using its money to wage war, the US has no money left to forge and consolidate alliances.
The West’s loss of influence stems from the fact that it continues to treat the “rest of the world” like “little children” and neglects the usefulness of good diplomacy.
The war in Ukraine is not the trigger for these phenomena, which started a few years ago, but it is most certainly an eye-opener and accelerator.
TP: The western media has been pushing that Putin may be seriously ill. If Putin suddenly dies, would this make any difference at all to the war?
This is wishful thinking and, on the higher end of the spectrum, it echoes the calls for terrorism and the physical elimination of Vladimir Putin.
The West has personalized Russian politics through Putin, because he is the one who promoted the reconstruction of Russia after the Yeltsin years. Americans like to be champions when there are no competitors and see others as enemies. This is the case with Germany, Europe, Russia and China.
But our “experts” know little about Russian politics. For in reality, Vladimir Putin is more of a “dove” in the Russian political landscape. Given the climate that we have created with Russia, it would not be impossible that his disappearance would lead to the emergence of more aggressive forces. We should not forget that countries like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland or Georgia have never developed European democratic values. They still have discriminatory policies towards their ethnic Russians that are far from European values, and they behave like immature agents provocateurs. I think that if Putin were to disappear for some reason, the conflicts with these countries would take on a new dimension.
TP: How unified is Russia presently? Has the war created a more serious opposition than what previously existed within Russia?
JB: No, on the contrary. The American and European leaders have a poor understanding of their enemy: the Russian people are very patriotic and cohesive. Western obsession to ” punish ” the Russian people has only brought them closer to their leaders. In fact, by seeking to divide Russian society in an effort to overthrow the government, Western sanctions—including the dumbest ones—have confirmed what the Kremlin has been saying for years: that the West has a profound hatred of Russians. What was once said to be a lie is now confirmed in Russian opinion. The consequence is that the people’s trust in the government has grown stronger.
The approval ratings given by the Levada Centre (considered by the Russian authorities as a “foreign agent”) show that public opinion has tightened around Vladimir Putin and the Russian government. In January 2022, Vladimir Putin’s approval rating was 69% and the government’s was 53%. Today, Putin’s approval rating has been stable at around 83% since March, and the government’s is at 71%. In January, 29% did not approve of Vladimir Putin’s decisions, in July it was only 15%.
According to the Levada Centre, even the Russian operation in Ukraine enjoys a majority of favorable opinions. In March, 81% of Russians were in favor of the operation; this figure dropped to 74%, probably due to the impact of sanctions at the end of March, and then it went back up. In July 2022, the operation had 76% popular support.
The problem is that our journalists have neither culture nor journalistic discipline and they replace them with their own beliefs. It is a form of conspiracy that aims to create a false reality based on what one believes and not on the facts. For example, few know (or want to know) that Aleksey Navalny said he would not return Crimea to Ukraine. The West’s actions have completely wiped out the opposition, not because of “Putin’s repression,” but because in Russia, resistance to foreign interference and the West’s deep contempt for Russians is a bipartisan cause. Exactly like the hatred of Russians in the West. This is why personalities like Aleksey Navalny, who never had a very high popularity, have completely disappeared from the popular media landscape.
Moreover, even if the sanctions have had a negative impact on the Russian economy, the way the government has handled things since 2014 shows a great mastery of economic mechanisms and a great realism in assessing the situation. There is a rise in prices in Russia, but it is much lower than in Europe, and while Western economies are raising their key interest rates, Russia is lowering its own.
The Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova has been exemplified as an expression of the opposition in Russia. Her case is interesting because, as usual, we do not say everything.
On 14 March 2022, she provoked international applause by interrupting the Russian First Channel news program with a poster calling for ending the war in Ukraine. She was arrested and fined $280.
As a result, in June 2022, she left Germany to live in Odessa, her hometown. But instead of being grateful, the Ukrainians put her on the Mirotvorets blacklist where she is accused of treason, “participation in the Kremlin’s special information and propaganda operations” and “complicity with the invaders.”
The Mirotvorets website is a “hit list” for politicians, journalists or personalities who do not share the opinion of the Ukrainian government. Several of the people on the list have been murdered. In October 2019, the UN requested the closure of the site, but this was refused by the Rada. It should be noted that none of our mainstream media has condemned this practice, which is very far from the values they claim to defend. In other words, our media support these practices that used to be attributed to South American regimes.
Ovsyannikova then returned to Russia, where she demonstrated against the war, calling Putin a “killer,” and was arrested by the police and placed under house arrest for three months. At this point, our media protested.
It is worth noting that Russian journalist Darya Dugina, the victim of a bomb attack in Moscow on 21 August 2022, was on the Mirotvorets list and her file was marked “liquidated.” Of course, no Western media mentioned that she was targeted by the Mirotvorets website, which is considered to be linked to the SBU, as this would tend to support Russia’s accusations.
German journalist Alina Lipp, whose revelations about Ukrainian and Western crimes in the Donbass are disturbing, has been placed on the website Mirotvorets. Moreover, Alina Lipp was sentenced in absentia to three years in prison by a German court for claiming that Russian troops had “liberated” areas in Ukraine and thus “glorified criminal activities.” As can be seen, the German authorities are functioning like the neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine. Today’s politicians are a credit to their grandparents!
One can conclude that even if there are some people who oppose the war, Russian public opinion is overwhelmingly behind its government. Western sanctions have only strengthened the credibility of the Russian president.
Ultimately, my point is not to take the same approach as our media and replace the hatred of Russia with that of Ukraine. On the contrary, it is to show that the world is not either black or white and that Western countries have taken the situation too far. Those who are compassionate about Ukraine should have pushed our governments to implement the agreed political solutions in 2014 and 2015. They haven’t done anything and are now pushing Ukraine to fight. But we are no longer in 2021. Today, we have to accept the consequences of our non-decisions and help Ukraine to recover. But this must not be done at the expense of its Russian-speaking population, as we have done until now, but with the Russian-speaking people, in an inclusive manner. If I look at the media in France, Switzerland and Belgium, we are still very far from the goal.
TP: Thank you so very much, Mr. Baud, for this most enlightening discussion.
The cultural and historical elements that determine the relations between Russia and Ukraine are important. The two countries have a long, rich, diverse, and eventful history together.
This would be essential if the crisis we are experiencing today were rooted in history. However, it is a product of the present. The war we see today does not come from our great-grandparents, our grandparents or even our parents. It comes from us. We created this crisis. We created every piece and every mechanism. We have only exploited existing dynamics and exploited Ukraine to satisfy an old dream: to try to bring down Russia. Chrystia Freeland’s, Antony Blinken’s, Victoria Nuland’s and Olaf Scholz’s grandfathers had that dream; we realized it.
The way we understand crises determines the way we solve them. Cheating with the facts leads to disaster. This is what is happening in Ukraine. In this case the number of issues is so enormous that we will not be able to discuss them here. Let me just focus on some of them.
Did James Baker make Promises to Limit Eastward Expansion of NATO to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990?
In 2021, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that “there was never a promise that NATO would not expand eastward after the fall of the Berlin Wall.” This claim remains widespread among self-proclaimed experts on Russia, who explain that there were no promises because there was no treaty or written agreement. This argument is a bit simplistic and false.
It is true that there are no treaties or decisions of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) that embody such promises. But this does not mean that they have not been formulated, nor that they were formulated out of casualness!
Today we have the feeling that having “lost the Cold War,” the USSR had no say in the European security developments. This is not true. As a winner of the Second World War, the USSR had a de jure a veto right over German reunification. In other words, Western countries had to obtain its agreement, in exchange for which Gorbachev demanded a commitment to the non-expansion of NATO. It should not be forgotten that in 1990 the USSR still existed, and there was no yet question to dismantle it, as the referendum of March 1991 would show. The Soviet Union was therefore not in a weak position and could prevent the reunification.
This was confirmed by Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the German Foreign Minister, in Tutzing (Bavaria) on 31 January 1990, as reported in a cable from the U.S. embassy in Bonn:
Genscher warned, however, that any attempt to expand [NATO’s] military reach into the territory of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) would block German reunification.
German reunification had two major consequences for the USSR: the withdrawal of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (GSFG), the most powerful and modern contingent outside its territory, and the disappearance of a significant part of its protective “glacis.” In other words, any move would be at the expense of its security. This is why Genscher stated:
…The changes in Eastern Europe and the process of German unification should not “undermine Soviet security interests.” Therefore, NATO should exclude an “expansion of its territory to the East, i.e. to get closer to the Soviet borders.”
At this stage, the Warsaw Pact was still in force and the NATO doctrine was unchanged. Therefore Mikhail Gorbachev expressed very soon his legitimate concerns for USSR national security. This is what prompted James Baker, the American Secretary of State, to immediately begin discussions with him. On 9 February 1990, in order to appease Gorbachev’s concerns, Baker declared:
Not only for the Soviet Union but also for other European countries, it is important to have guarantees that if the United States maintains its presence in Germany within the framework of NATO, not one inch of NATO’s current military jurisdiction will spread eastward.
Promises were thus made simply because the West had no alternative, to obtain the USSR’s approval; and without promises Germany would not have been reunified. Gorbachev accepted German reunification only because he had received assurances from President George H.W. Bush and James Baker, Chancellor Helmut Kohl and his Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, her successor John Major and their Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd, President François Mitterrand, but also from CIA Director Robert Gates and Manfred Wörner, then Secretary General of NATO.
The fact that we are prepared not to deploy a NATO army beyond German territory gives the Soviet Union a solid guarantee of security.
In February 2022, in the German magazine Der Spiegel, Joshua Shifrinson, an American political analyst, revealed a declassified SECRET document of March 6, 1991, written after a meeting of the political directors of the foreign ministries of the United States, Great Britain, France and Germany. It reports the words of the German representative, Jürgen Chrobog:
We made it clear in the 2+4 negotiations that we would not extend NATO beyond the Elbe. Therefore, we cannot offer NATO membership to Poland and the others.
The representatives of the other countries also accepted the idea of not offering NATO membership to the other Eastern European countries. So, written record or not, there was a “deal,” simply because a “deal” was inevitable. Now, in international law, a “promise” is a valid unilateral act that must be respected (“promissio est servanda“). Those who deny this today are simply individuals who do not know the value of a given word.
Did Vladimir Putin disregard the Budapest Memorandum (1994)
In February 2022, at the Munich Security Forum, Volodymyr Zelensky referred to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and threatened to become a nuclear power again. However, it is unlikely that Ukraine will become a nuclear power again, nor will the nuclear powers allow it to do so. Zelensky and Putin know this. In Fact, Zelensky is not using this memorandum to get nuclear weapons, but to get Crimea back, since the Ukrainians see Russia’s annexation of Crimea as a violation of this treaty. Basically, Zelensky is trying to hold Western countries hostage. To understand that we must go back to events and facts that are opportunistically “forgotten” by our historians.
On 20 January 1991, before the independence of Ukraine, the Crimeans were invited to choose by referendum between two options: to remain with Kiev or to return to the pre-1954 situation and be administered by Moscow. The question asked on the ballot was:
Are you in favor of the restoration of the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Crimea as a subject of the Soviet Union and a member of the Union Treaty?
This was the first referendum on autonomy in the USSR, and 93.6% of Crimeans agreed to be attached to Moscow. The Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Crimea (ASSR Crimea), abolished in 1945, was thus re-established on 12 February 1991 by the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR. On 17 March, Moscow organized a referendum for the maintenance of the Soviet Union, which would be accepted by Ukraine, thus indirectly validating the decision of the Crimeans. At this stage, Crimea was under the control of Moscow and not Kiev, while Ukraine was not yet independent. As Ukraine organized its own referendum for independence, the participation of the Crimeans remained weak, because they did not feel concerned anymore.
Ukraine became independent six months after Crimea, and after the latter had proclaimed its sovereignty on September 4. On February 26, 1992, the Crimean parliament proclaimed the “Republic of Crimea” with the agreement of the Ukrainian government, which granted it the status of a self-governing republic. On 5 May 1992, Crimea declared its independence and adopted a Constitution. The city of Sevastopol, managed directly by Moscow in the communist system, had a similar situation, having been integrated by Ukraine in 1991, outside of all legality. The following years were marked by a tug of war between Simferopol and Kiev, which wanted to keep Crimea under its control.
In 1994, by signing the Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine surrendered the nuclear weapons of the former USSR that remained on its territory, in exchange for “its security, independence and territorial integrity.” At this stage, Crimea considered that it was—de jure—no longer part of Ukraine and therefore not concerned by this treaty. On its side, the government in Kiev felt strengthened by the memorandum. This is why, on 17 March 1995, it forcibly abolished the Crimean Constitution. It sent its special forces to overthrow Yuri Mechkov, President of Crimea, and de facto annexed the Republic of Crimea, thus triggering popular demonstrations for the attachment of Crimea to Russia. An event hardly reported by the Western media.
Crimea was then governed in an authoritarian manner by presidential decrees from Kiev. This situation led the Crimean Parliament to formulate a new constitution in October 1995, which re-established the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. This new constitution was ratified by the Crimean Parliament on 21 October 1998 and confirmed by the Ukrainian Parliament on 23 December 1998. These events and the concerns of the Russian-speaking minority led to a Treaty of Friendship between Ukraine and Russia on 31 May 1997. In the treaty, Ukraine included the principle of the inviolability of borders, in exchange—and this is very important—for a guarantee of “the protection of the ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious originality of the national minorities on their territory.”
On 23 February 2014, not only did the new authorities in Kiev emerge from a coup d’état that had definitely no constitutional basis and were not elected; but, by abrogating the 2012 Kivalov-Kolesnichenko law on official languages, they no longer respected this guarantee of the 1997 treaty. The Crimeans therefore took to the streets to demand the “return” to Russia that they had obtained 30 years earlier.
On March 4, during his press conference on the situation in Ukraine a journalist asked Vladimir Putin, “How do you see the future of Crimea? Do you consider the possibility that it joins Russia?” he replied:
No, we do not consider it. In general, I believe that only the residents of a given country who are free to decide and safe can and should determine their future. If this right has been granted to the Albanians in Kosovo, if this has been made possible in many parts of the world, then no one is excluding the right of nations to self-determination, which, as far as I know, is laid down in several UN documents. However, we will in no way provoke such a decision and will not feed such feelings.
On March 6, the Crimean Parliament decided to hold a popular referendum to choose between remaining in Ukraine or requesting the attachment to Moscow. It was after this vote that the Crimean authorities asked Moscow for an attachment to Russia.
With this referendum, Crimea had only recovered the status it had legally acquired just before the independence of Ukraine. This explains why it renewed its request to be attached to Moscow, as in January 1991. Moreover, the status of force agreement (SOFA) between Ukraine and Russia for the stationing of troops in Crimea and Sevastopol had been renewed in 2010 and to run until 2042. Russia therefore had no specific reason to claim this territory. The population of Crimea, which legitimately felt betrayed by the government of Kiev, seized the opportunity to assert its rights.
On 19 February 2022, Anka Feldhusen, the German ambassador in Kiev, threw a spanner in the works by declaring on the television channel Ukraine 24 that the Budapest Memorandum was not legally binding. Incidentally, this is also the American position, as shown by the statement on the website of the American embassy in Minsk.
The whole Western narrative about the “annexation” of Crimea is based on a rewriting of history and the obscuring of the 1991 referendum, which did exist and was perfectly valid. The 1994 Budapest Memorandum remains extensively quoted since February 2022, but the Western narrative simply ignores the 1997 Friendship Treaty which is the reason for the discontent of the Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens.
Is the Ukrainian Government Legitimate?
The Russians still see the regime change that occurred in 2014 as illegitimate, as it was not done through constitutional process and without any support from a large part of the Ukrainian population.
The Maidan revolution can be broken down into several sequences, with different actors. Today, those who are driven by hatred of Russia are trying to merge these different sequences into one single “democratic impulse”: A way to validate the crimes committed by Ukraine and its neo-Nazis zealots.
At first, the population of Kiev, disappointed by the government’s decision to postpone the signing of the treaty with the EU, gathered in the streets. Regime change was not in the air. This was a simple expression of discontent.
Contrary to what the West claims, Ukraine was then deeply divided on the issue of rapprochement with Europe. A survey conducted in November 2013 by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) shows that it was split almost exactly “50/50” between those who favored an agreement with the European Union and those favoring a customs union with Russia. In the south and east of Ukraine, industry was strongly linked to Russia, and workers feared that an agreement excluding Russia would kill their jobs. That is what would eventually happen. In fact, at this stage, the aim was already to try to isolate Russia.
In the Washington Post, Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon’s National Security Advisor, noted that the European Union “helped turn a negotiation into a crisis.”
What happened later involved ultranationalist and neo-Nazis groups coming from the Western part of the country. Violence erupted and the government withdrew, after signing an agreement with the rioters for new elections. But this was quickly forgotten.
It was nothing less than a coup d’état, led by the United States with the support of the European Union, and carried out without any legal basis, against a government whose election had been qualified by the OSCE as “transparent and honest” and having “offered an impressive demonstration of democracy.” In December 2014, George Friedman, president of the American geopolitical intelligence platform STRATFOR, said in an interview:
Russia defines the event that took place at the beginning of this year [in February 2014] as a coup organized by the US. And as a matter of fact, it was the most blatant [coup] in history.
Unlike European observers, the Atlantic Council, despite being strongly in favor of NATO, was quick to note that the Maidan revolution had been hijacked by certain oligarchs and ultra-nationalists. It noted that the reforms promised by Ukraine had not been carried out and that the Western media stuck to an acritical “black and white” narrative. A telephone conversation between Victoria Nuland, then Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia, and Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Kiev, revealed by the BBC, shows that the Americans themselves selected the members of the future Ukrainian government, in defiance of the Ukrainians and the Europeans. This conversation, which became famous thanks to Nuland’s famous “F*** the EU!”
The coup d’état was not unanimously supported by the Ukrainian people, either in substance or in form. It was the work of a minority of ultra-nationalists from western Ukraine (Galicia), who did not represent the whole Ukrainian people. Their first legislative act, on 23 February 2014, was to abrogate the 2012 Kivalov-Kolesnichenko law, which established the Russian language as an official language along with Ukrainian. This is what prompted the Russian-speaking population to start massive protests in the southern part of the country, against authorities they had not elected.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine began as a popular movement. […] The protests were organized by local citizens claiming to represent the Russian-speaking majority in the region. They were concerned both about the political and economic consequences of the new government in Kiev and about that government’s later abandoned measures to prevent the official use of the Russian language throughout the country [“Rebels without a Cause: Russia’s Proxies in Eastern Ukraine,” International Crisis Group, Europe Report N° 254, 16 juillet 2019, p. 2].
Western efforts to legitimate this far-right coup in Kiev led to hide the opposition in the southern part of the country. In order to present this revolution as democratic, the real “hand of the West” was cleverly masked by the imaginary “hand of Russia.” This is how the myth of a Russian military intervention was created. Allegations about a Russian military presence were definitely false, an event the chief of the Ukrainian Security service (SBU) confessed in 2015 that there were no Russian units in Donbass.
To make things worse, Ukraine didn’t gain legitimacy through the way it handled the rebellion. In 2014-2015, poorly advised by NATO military, Ukraine waged a war that could only lead to its defeat: it considered the populations of Donbass and Crimea as enemy foreign forces and made no attempt to win the “hearts and minds” of the autonomists. Instead, its strategy has been to punish the people even further. Bank services were stopped, economic relations with the autonomous regions were simply cut, and Crimea didn’t receive drinking water anymore.
This is why there are so many civilian victims in the Donbass, and why the Russian population still stands in majority behind its government today. The 14,000 victims of the conflict tend to be attributed to the “Russian invaders” and the so-called “separatists.” However, according to the United Nations—more than 80% of civilian casualties are the result of Ukrainian shelling. As we can see, the Ukrainian government is massacring its own people with the help, funding and advice of the military of NATO, the countries of the European Union, which defends its values.
In May 2014, the violent repression of protests prompted the population of some areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine to hold referendums for Self-Determination in the Donetsk People’s Republic (approved by 89%) and in the Lugansk People’s Republic (approved by 96%). Although Western media keeps calling them referendums of “independence,” they are referendums of “self-determination” or “autonomy” (самостоятельность). Until February 2022, our media consistently talked about “separatists” and “separatist republics.” In reality, as stated in the Minsk Agreement, these self-proclaimed republics didn’t seek “independence,” but an “autonomy” within Ukraine, with the ability to use their own language and their own customs.
Is NATO a Defensive Alliance?
NATO’s rationale is to bring European Allies under the US nuclear umbrella. It was designed as a defensive alliance, although recently declassified US documents show that the Soviets had apparently no intention to attack the West.
For the Russians, the question about whether NATO is offensive or defensive is beside the point. To understand Putin’s point of view, we have to consider two things that are usually overlooked by Western commentators: the enlargement of NATO towards the East, and the incremental abandonment of the international security’s normative framework by the US.
In fact, as long as the US didn’t deploy missiles in the vicinity of its borders, Russia didn’t bother so much about NATO extension. Russia itself considered to apply for membership. But problems stated to appear in 2001, as George W. Bush decided to unilaterally withdraw from the ABM Treaty and to deploy anti-ballistic missiles (ABM) in Eastern Europe. The ABM Treaty was intended to limit the use of defensive missiles, with the rationale of maintaining the deterrent effect of a mutual destruction by allowing the protection of decision-making bodies by a ballistic shield (in order to preserve a negotiating capacity). Thus, it limited the deployment of anti-ballistic missiles to certain specific zones (notably around Washington DC and Moscow) and prohibited it outside national territories.
Since then, the United States has progressively withdrawn from all the arms control agreements established during the Cold War: the ABM Treaty (2002), the Open Skies Treaty (2018) and the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (2019).
In 2019, Donald Trump justified his withdrawal from the INF Treaty by alleged violations by the Russian side. But, as the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) notes, the Americans never provided proof of these violations. In fact, the US was simply trying to get out of the agreement in order to install their AEGIS missile systems in Poland and Romania. According to the US administration, these systems are officially intended to intercept Iranian ballistic missiles. But there are two problems that clearly cast doubt on the good faith of the Americans:
The first one is that there is no indication that the Iranians are developing such missiles, as Michael Ellemann of Lockheed-Martin stated before a committee of the American Senate.
The second one is that these systems use Mk41 launchers, which can be used to launch either anti-ballistic missiles or nuclear missiles. The Radzikowo site, in Poland, is 800 km from the Russian border and 1,300 km from Moscow.
The Bush and Trump administrations said that the systems deployed in Europe were purely defensive. However, even if theoretically true, it is technically and strategically false. For the doubt, which allowed them to be installed, is the same doubt that the Russians could legitimately have in the event of a conflict. This presence in the immediate vicinity of Russia’s national territory can indeed lead to a nuclear conflict. For in the event of a conflict, it would not be possible to know precisely the nature of the missiles loaded in the systems—should the Russians therefore wait for explosions before reacting? In fact, we know the answer: having no early-warning time, the Russians would have practically no time to determine the nature of a fired missile and would thus be forced to respond pre-emptively with a nuclear strike.
Not only does Vladimir Putin see this as a risk to Russia’s security, but he also notes that the United States is increasingly disregarding international law in order to pursue a unilateral policy. This is why Vladimir Putin says that European countries could be dragged into a nuclear conflict without wanting to. This was the substance of his speech in Munich in 2007, and he came with the same argument early 2022, as Emmanuel Macron went to Moscow in February.
Finland and Sweden in NATO—A Good Idea?
The future will tell if Sweden’s and Finland’s decision to apply for NATO membership was a wise idea. They probably overstated the value of the nuclear protection offered by NATO. As a matter of fact, it is very unlikely that the US will sacrifice its national soil by striking Russian soil for the sake of Sweden or Finland. It is more likely that if the US engages nuclear weapons, it will be primarily on European soil and only as a last resort on Russian territory, in order to preserve its own territory from nuclear counter-strike.
Further, these two countries, which met the criteria of neutrality that Russia would want for its direct neighbors, deliberately put themselves in Russia’s nuclear crosshairs. For Russia, the main threat comes from the Central European theater of war. In other words, in the event of a hypothetical conflict in Europe, Russian forces would be engaged primarily in Central Europe, and could use their theater nuclear armies to “flank” their operations by striking the Nordic countries, with virtually no risk of a U.S. nuclear response.
Was it Impossible to Leave the Warsaw Pact?
The Warsaw Pact was created just after Germany joined NATO, for exactly the same reasons we have described above. Its largest military engagement was the invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 (with the participation of all Pact nations, except Albania and Romania). This event resulted in Albania withdrawing from the Pact less than a month later, and Romania ceasing to participate actively in the military command of the Warsaw Pact after 1969. Therefore, asserting that no one was free to leave the treaty is not correct.
In this latest discussion, Jacques Baud explains the current situation in regards to the Ukraine conflict, while keeping an eye on the larger geopolitical maneuvering that is now taking place. Colonel Baud speaks with Thomas Kaiser of Zeitgeschehen im Fokus, the Swiss journal, through whose kind courtesy, we are able to bring you this interview.
Thomas Kaiser (TK): You have worked for NATO and know the mechanisms of this organization very well. What does “Nato enlargement” mean in the current situation?
Jacques Baud (JB): In fact, despite the emphatic statements, the situation has not really changed. First of all, it must be understood that the announcement of the candidacies of Sweden and Finland is essentially political. The Madrid Summit merely accepted the candidacies of these two countries. I recall that according to Article 10 of the Washington Treaty, it is NATO that invites new members, not the new members that decide to join the Alliance. NATO needed a “small success.” The forces it has funded and trained for eight years in Ukraine are failing against Russia. The problem is not the determination of the Ukrainian soldiers, who are certainly brave, but the inability of the military staffs to fight a war in a European tactical-operational environment. As a result, the Ukrainian military failure is therefore essentially also the failure of NATO. Added to this are the Western sanctions which tend to backfire on our economies. Thus creating a situation that has already impacted the governments of Bulgaria, Estonia, the UK, France, the Netherlands… and it is probably not over.
TK: How long will it be before the two states are definitely accepted into NATO?
JB: We will have to wait for the next NATO summit in 2023. Then the allies will decide whether to accept – or not – the actual membership of Sweden and Finland. But I expect that it will be done according to plan.
TK: What is the role of Turkey, which wanted to prevent membership?
JB: First of all, Turkey is not trying to “prevent” the membership of Sweden and Finland, but to preserve its own national interests. Secondly, it should be remembered that the admission of new member countries can only be done with the unanimity of the allies. In other words, every vote counts. Turkey is a staunch ally of the Alliance, which is not afraid to assert its national interests. I have worked a lot with the Turks during my time at NATO. One can agree or disagree with their policies, but one must recognize that they are probably the most consistent and honest members of the Alliance in asserting their interests.
TK: Can you give a specific example?
JB: Yes, when the United States wanted to launch its war in Iraq, Turkey opposed it because it felt that it would have an impact on the situation of the Kurds and thus on its own national security. But the Americans did not listen. Today, Turkey is arguing for its national security. Sweden and Finland have always been very supportive of the Kurds and have taken in many refugees, including members of the PKK, the Kurdish Workers’ Party, which is considered as a terrorist movement in many countries. In fact, even the European Union considers the PKK a terrorist organization . For Turkey, it is a matter of national security. It was therefore quite predictable that Turkey would ask for its own security interests in exchange for its voice. What is true for the Nordic countries is also true for Turkey.
TK: Why did Turkey withdraw its veto for the time being?
JB: First of all, it was to be expected that Turkey would not use its de facto veto right. The stakes are too high for NATO. It was clear that Turkey would be pressured to accept the candidacy of the two countries. Turkey is already subject to sanctions by the United States for having “dared” to buy Russian anti-aircraft missiles. It should be noted that the United States automatically applies sanctions to all countries that buy Russian military equipment. This is the CAATSA Act . This is why Turkey was taken out of the F-35 fighter program and no longer receives spare parts for its F-16 fighters. So, it was easy to trade the lifting of sanctions for its approval. But this also shows that Western unity is achieved through the threat of sanctions!
TK: In the Western media, the future membership of the two states to NATO is being celebrated as a great increase in security and military clout. Is this assessment correct?
JB: No, it will not be a radical change. First of all, you have to know that in the early 1960s, Sweden wanted to have nuclear weapons. The United States, on the other hand, wanted to keep its monopoly over these weapons. In order to convince Sweden to give up, the United States offered to provide its nuclear umbrella protection in case of aggression. In other words, since the 1960s, Sweden had the same nuclear protection as NATO members, without the same obligations in case of conflict. So Sweden has not significantly improved its security.
TK: And what advantage does NATO have?
JB: For NATO, Sweden’s membership provides the advantage of having full control over the Baltic Sea passages to the Atlantic Ocean. But this is a very relative gain. For it is Denmark that really occupies a key position, and the military collaboration between Denmark and Sweden, especially for maritime control, works well. It should be remembered that Sweden claimed for years that it was the target of clandestine Russian submarine warfare. As a result, there was intense cooperation in anti-submarine warfare around the Baltic Sea, in order to identify secret Russian weapons. But they never found anything: in fact, it was herring flatulence, which produced the same sound signal as submarines!…
TK: Even if this does little for either side, it does have an outward effect.
JB: The membership of Sweden and Finland is certainly a political signal. NATO obviously sees it as a success. But the reality is more nuanced. For the two Nordic countries, I don’t think it is an improvement of their situation. They have the same advantages as before, but with additional constraints. But here too we have to be careful. It is unlikely that the United States would use its nuclear weapons on Russian territory just to protect Helsinki or Stockholm: this would create a direct threat from Russia against Washington or New York. Instead, they would more likely use theater weapons against attacking forces on Swedish or Finnish territory. In other words, by joining NATO, these two countries have increased the risk of being caught in a nuclear conflict.
TK: Don’t the two countries also have to make concessions?
JB: On the diplomatic front, Sweden and Finland have to expect a loss of the credibility they enjoyed thanks to their neutral or non-aligned status, especially in the non-European world.
In terms of their foreign and humanitarian policy, the price demanded by Turkey is very high, since it means no less than giving up their policy towards the Kurds. We do not know if they will fulfill their commitment to Turkey, but it is likely that they will have to do so, as this is an issue that Turkey perceives as existential.
TK: We are reading less and less about Ukraine’s “military successes” in the mainstream media. Did these ever exist or was the whole thing pure propaganda?
JB: Our media are slowly beginning to portray a more nuanced reality than they have done since February. The irony of this is that by never questioning the Ukrainian government’s narrative and by simply relaying its propaganda, our media have contributed significantly to the overconfidence that led to its defeat. As I have said from the beginning, our media bears a tremendous responsibility for the course of the war and the Ukrainian defeat.
TK: What do you mean?
JB: Our media never tried to help Ukraine, but to fight Russia. Don’t forget that a Norwegian researcher revealed that a journalist described as a “Swiss-French conspiracy theorist” working with some mainstream media that “blacklisted” me in Switzerland, inspired Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Breivik, who is celebrated as a hero by most right-wing militant groups in Ukraine.
TK: Why is the war dragging on for so long, and why is Ukraine making no attempt to reach a negotiated settlement with Russia?
JB: The West and the Ukrainian far-right extremists are literally preventing Zelensky from reaching an agreement with Russia. This is what Boris Johnson went to tell Zelensky in Kiev on April 9: “If you negotiate with Russia we will stop delivering arms to you!”
TK: Can we tell from the Russians’ actions what the ultimate goal of this operation is supposed to be?
JB: No, we do not know. But it is important to understand that Russia’s objectives are not quantitative, but qualitative in nature. In other words, it is not about gaining territory, but about destroying the threat against the Russian-speaking populations of Donbass and Crimea. Being a bit cynical, one could say that the Russians do not need to advance to achieve their goals, but only need to let the Ukrainian military come to them. According to Ukrainian officials, Ukraine is losing 1,000 men a day (killed, wounded, prisoners or deserters). The British have started a training program for new soldiers and promise to train 10’000 men in 120 days. In other words, they will train in 120 days what Ukraine loses in ten days. We are not helping Ukraine: we are pushing it towards disaster.
TK: Der Spiegel writes, “Putin’s soldiers are committing the most serious war crimes.” Do you know more details about this, or does this belong in the realm of propaganda?
JB: I don’t know, because making accusations is not enough, you have to prove them. As Ignazio Cassis, the Swiss Minister of Foreign Affairs, said: “These are not war crimes until a Court of Law rules so.” In the absence of multi-party, international and impartial investigations, these accusations are unsubstantiated. Having said that, it is very likely that Russian military personnel committed war crimes. It happens in all wars and is almost inevitable. Only the Western armies do not seem to commit such crimes. For two reasons: because they do not prosecute their own soldiers and because slaughtering an Arab family is not considered a crime. You can see for yourself that Julian Assange has served more time in prison than the perpetrators of the war crimes he exposed! This tells you everything about the so-called “values” we defend!
TK: When you read the Western media, you inevitably get the feeling that only the Russians are committing war crimes.
JB: The problem is that our media NEVER mention Ukrainian war crimes. As a matter of fact, we mention Russian war crimes, while in Eastern Ukraine the Russians are often welcomed as liberators. But that too, we do not want to say: the German journalist Alina Lipp, who is on the ground in the Donbass, has been condemned by the German justice for having dared to say it! Claiming that Ukraine is a democratic country that does not commit war crimes is just a way to legitimize our blind support for the war against Russia.
TK: On July 4th-5th, in Lugano was the so-called reconstruction conference. President Cassis wanted to use it to put himself in the limelight. The media response seems to have been rather limited. What is the point of such a conference?
JB: I think the idea of such a conference is good. The problem is that it is totally premature. How to seriously mobilize donors to fund Ukraine’s reconstruction means nothing until we have a clear picture of the final state of affairs. Will Western countries fund the reconstruction of Mariupol? Russia has already started to rebuild the cities damaged by the war. In Mariupol, schools have reopened since May and the Russians have already started to rebuild the destroyed residential buildings. Russia has restored banking services as well as telephone services. This is certainly in the realm of propaganda, but for the inhabitants it is a concrete result.
TK: How is such a conference compatible with Switzerland’s neutrality?
JB: As a matter of principle, I think that by organizing such a conference, Switzerland plays its role. The problem here is that in this particular case, this conference is essentially partisan and its real purpose is propaganda.
TK: Are there countries that are currently trying to find a negotiated solution to the Ukraine conflict, or is only the logic of weapons speaking?
JB: This is probably what all Ukrainians are asking themselves. But do not forget that in May 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky was threatened with death by his own neo-Nazi partners if he concluded peace with Russia. By the way, our media and our leaders also say that we should not negotiate with Vladimir Putin. So…
TK: Mr. Baud, thank you very much for the interview.
Featured: “Let us beat Swords into Ploughshares,” bronze, by Evgeniy Vuchetich; dated 1959.
In this recent interview, Jacques Baud speaks with Thomas Kaiser about what is now happening in Ukraine, and the enthusiastic warmongering that still persists in the West. He is in conversation with Thomas Kaiser of Zeitgeschehen im Fokus, whose kindness has made this English version of this interview possible.
Thomas Kaiser (TK): In the past couple of weeks , the narrative in the mainstream media has slightly changed. We hear less and less directly about the war, nothing more about the high losses of the Russians and the military successes of the Ukrainians. What has changed?
Jacques Baud (JB): In reality, nothing has changed. It is a change in perception. It has been known for several weeks that the situation of Ukraine and its armed forces is catastrophic. The human and material losses of the country are very high. Initially, Ukraine and our media downplayed these losses in order to develop a narrative around a Russian defeat and a Ukrainian victory. Today, the reality on the battlefield forces Ukraine to acknowledge these losses. At the same time, Zelensky understood that these losses could be used as an argument to pressure the West for further aid.
TK: On the other hand, what is always an issue is the demanded arms deliveries. Who is supposed to operate the weapons when most of the army is encircled in the Donbas?
JB: First of all, it is important to realize that Western arms deliveries pose several problems. First, even U.S. intelligence agencies do not know if and where the delivered weapons will end up. The head of Interpol warns that some of these weapons could end up in the hands of criminal organizations. Already, Javelin anti-tank missiles are being offered on the Darknet for $30,000. Apparently, these weapons are resold as soon as they arrive in Kiev. Second, weapons are often distributed on a first-come, first-served basis and do not always reach those who need them most in the field. Finally, they often end up in the hands of the Russian coalition.
TK: How can we tell?
JB: Currently, the Donetsk Republic militias are equipped with Javelin missiles, which come from the Ukrainian stocks captured from the Russian army. Remember that Ukrainian helicopters that had come to exfiltrate fighters from Azovstal were shot down with US-supplied Stinger missiles. Furthermore, the weapons supplied by the West make up only a fraction of those destroyed by the Russians. For example, Britain and Germany are each sending three M270 multiple rocket launchers to Ukraine, but at the beginning of the war Ukraine had several hundred equivalent systems. In other words, these weapons will not change anything, but only prolong the conflict and delay the time for negotiations, as Davyd Arakhamia, chief negotiator, and close adviser to Zelensky, explained.
TK: This is actually unbelievable. There was always talk about high Russian losses. Can they be verified, and what are the losses on the Ukrainian side?
JB: In reality, the number of soldiers killed is not known, neither by the Russians nor by the Ukrainians. The numbers mentioned in the Western media are those spread by Ukrainian propaganda. However, in early June, President Zelensky unveiled the death rate of Ukrainian military and spoke of 60 to 100 soldiers killed per day. A week later, Mykhailo Podoliak, Zelensky’s adviser, stated that the Ukrainian armed forces were losing 100 to 200 men a day. Today, Arakhamia speaks of 200 to 500 fatalities per day and a total of 1000 casualties (dead, wounded, captured, deserters) per day. It is unclear whether these figures are correct.
TK: Are there any comments on the basis of which one can get a realistic picture of the numbers?
JB: Experts close to the intelligence community believe that these figures are far below reality. On the other hand, the Ukrainian figures are even higher than the estimates of the Russian military. Some say that Ukrainian forces have 60,000 dead and 50,000 missing. However, these numbers are not verifiable at this time.
TK: Why are the Ukrainians only now reporting such high casualty figures?
JB: It is very likely that the Ukrainians are reporting high numbers in order to press the West to increase its arms deliveries. However, this does not explain everything. The fundamental issue is the way the Ukrainian leadership conducts its operations. Instead of having a dynamic approach to the battlefield and taking advantage by moving troops, Ukraine—and Zelensky in particular—is ordering its troops to “stand and fight.” This is not unlike the situation in France during the First World War. This is the main difference between Ukraine and Russia: in Ukraine, operations are managed by the political leadership, while in Russia, operations are managed by the General Staff. This explains the failing Ukraine’s approach. Even the US military seem to have identified this problem.
TK: In what way?
JB: According to Arakhamia, the attempts to gain ground against the Russian army serve only to ensure a better starting position for negotiations with the Russians later. This is purely political warfare, with no regard for the lives of soldiers. This approach is supported by Western countries and our diplomacy. This is very concerning.
TK: At the beginning of the war, the will of the Ukrainians to resist was emphasized. Does this not exist anymore?
JB: I think the Ukrainian soldiers are doing their job with bravery. They fight from reinforced positions and trenches that they dug back in 2014 surrounding the Donbas. Unfortunately, once confronted to artillery and a mobile enemy, their chances of success are slim . It seems that the Ukrainian general staff wanted to withdraw these men to more favorable fighting positions, but the country’s political leadership refused. In this context, our media and politicians have played a perverse role by perpetuating the illusion of a Ukrainian victory and the promise of large-scale arms deliveries.
TK: In doing so, they led the public, including Ukrainians, by the nose.
JB: Yes. Today it is clear that the Ukrainians and the West lied to each other just to get Russia in trouble. Ukrainians are now constrained to send their ill-equipped and ill-prepared territorial units from the west of the country to the Donbas. This creates discontent, and there have been numerous demonstrations against Zelensky in the west of the country and in Kiev. Because of this, Kiev has had to enact new laws to silence those who disagree with the government. Our diplomacy has clearly actively contributed to the deaths of thousands of Ukrainian military personnel. However, it seems today that it is the Western military that is trying to bring sanity to the way we approach this conflict today.
TK: But are there no resistance movements in the Russian-occupied territories?
JB: Interestingly, there are no movements of popular resistance to the Russian presence. The Western narrative of a heroic popular resistance against Russia is essentially based on the declarations of nationalists in the western part of the country. In fact, the areas occupied by the Russian coalition in the east and south of the country are inhabited by Russian speakers. Ukrainians have never really considered this population as Ukrainian, as evidenced by the Law on Indigenous Peoples of Ukraine, adopted in early July 2021. After having been bombed regularly since 2014 by their own army, such as Donetsk, the Russian-speaking population in the south of the country is not completely opposed to the Russian presence. They even tend see the Russians as liberators.
TK: Based on this, can we already foresee what Russia intends to do further in Ukraine?
JB: The Russians are being very discreet about their intentions as they adjust their goals to the Ukrainians’ willingness to negotiate. As long as the Ukrainians refuse to negotiate, the Russians will continue to advance and gain territory. In March, they were ready to negotiate on the basis of Zelensky’s proposals. However, under pressure from Boris Johnson, Zelensky withdrew his offer. So, the Russians continued to make progress.
TK: What does that mean now?
JB: They will not put back on the negotiating table what the Ukrainians could have salvaged in March. At this stage, it is likely that the Russians will push further towards Odessa to establish a link with Transnistria. It is not unlikely that a “re-creation” of Novorossiya will occur in southern Ukraine. The most important consequence of the Russian actions is that Ukraine will lose its access to the sea.
TK: What has been reported in our media lately is that Russia is responsible for the rising wheat prices and a consequent famine. Do you have any information on this?
JB: The charges against Russia are part of Western narrative to isolate Russia from the rest of the world and for the West to absolve itself of its own mistakes. First of all, the global rise in grain prices is not directly due to the war, but came as a result of measures taken to deal with the CoViD-19, and to the conditions created by Western sanctions by deliberately trying to dramatize the situation. The same phenomenon can be observed in oil prices.
The current rise in grain prices is the result of several factors. First, payment restrictions that lead buyers to fear U.S. sanctions against them. Second, shipments have become too expensive because the oil market has shrunk due to Western sanctions. Third, Western sanctions prevent fertilizers from entering the market; these products are not sanctioned, but there have been restrictions on means of payment that cause buyers to fear them.
TK: However, there is an accusation that Ukraine cannot supply grain because of the Russians. Is that really the case?
JB: No, it is not true, for two main reasons. The first is that our media, of course, do not report that the Black Sea ports were mined by Ukraine because it feared an attack from the Black Sea. As a result of storms, many of these mines have broken loose and are moving freely. They became a danger to maritime navigation. The Turkish Navy had to defuse several of them that had reached the Bosporus.
The second reason is that Russia does not block Ukrainian ports. On the contrary, it allows ship convoys to supply Ukrainian ports; it even guarantees maritime corridors whose coordinates are broadcast at regular intervals over international maritime radio frequencies. The problem is that these corridors are not used because of the Ukrainian mines. Incidentally, Davyd Arakhamia has made it clear that Ukraine has no intention of removing its mines from the Black Sea. It has become a bit fashionable to blame Putin for Western decisions that are not thoroughly thought out and not embedded in a coherent strategy.
TK: Has this actually created a shortage in the market? Or is this an artificial process to drive prices up?
JB: I am not a specialist of grain trade. But for one thing, Ukraine failed to sell its 2021 grain crop before the Russian offensive, and for another, Russia seems to be expecting an exceptional crop in 2022. Consequently, it does not look like there is a grain shortage. The problem is that the grain cannot reach the market. This is mainly due to the Western sanctions against Russia and Belarus. Of course, this situation has aroused the interest of speculators, but I am not in a position to assess this aspect.
TK: Poland has repeatedly shown itself to be quite concerned that a Russian attack on its territory will take place soon. How realistic is this scenario?
JB: Poland has repeatedly poured oil on the fire in this conflict. It dreams of realizing its old Intermarium project, which Marshal Pilsudski had wanted in the 1930s and which would unite the countries between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. This is reminiscent from the nostalgy of the 17th century Kingdom of Poland. Poland dreams of an open conflict with Russia because it believes—like Ukraine—that with the help of NATO, it could deliver the final blow to defeat Russia once and for all, in order to make this old dream come true. This shows, by the way, that Poland’s interest in Europe is only superficial.
TK: Why don’t the European countries notice what a dirty game is being played here?
JB: The goal of the Western countries (which of course includes Switzerland) is to destabilize the Russian government in one way or another. For these countries, the end justifies the means. Therefore, we have no compunction about attacking the Russian population (including in our countries) and sacrificing the Ukrainian population. As Andrés Manuel López Obrador, President of Mexico, said about NATO’s policy toward Ukraine, “We supply the weapons, you supply the corpses! This is immoral.”
TK: Mr. Baud, thank you very much for this interview.
Featured: “Dawn,” by Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson; painted in 1914.