Operation Al-Aqsa Flood: The Defeat of the Vanquisher

We are pleased to bring you this excerpt from Colonel Jacques Baud’s latest book, which deals with the genocide in Gaza currently being carried out by Israel. The book is entitled, Operation Al-Aqsa Flood: The Defeat of the Vanquisher. We will update this page as soon as this book becomes available. in the meantime, here is the excerpt.

Doctrinal Apparatus Ill-Suited to an Asymmetrical Conflict

The BETHLEHEM Doctrine

This doctrine was developed by Daniel Bethlehem, legal advisor to Ben-jamin Netanyahu and then to British Prime Minister Tony Blair. It postulates that states are entitled to preventive self-defense against an “imminent” attack. The difficulty here is to determine the “imminent” nature of an attack, which implies that the terrorist action is close in time and that there is a body of evidence to confirm it.

In February 2013, NBC News released a Department of Justice “White Pa-per” defining “imminent:”

the imminent threat of a violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have proof that a specific attack against American persons or interests will take place in the immediate future.

While the principle appears legitimate, it’s the interpretation of the word “imminent” that poses a problem. In intelligence circles, the “imminence” of an attack is defined in terms of its proximity in time and the likelihood of it taking place. But, according to Daniel Bethlehem, this is no longer the case here:

It must be right that states should be able to act in self-defense in cir-cumstances where there is evidence of imminent attacks by terrorist groups, even if there is no specific evidence of where such an attack will take place or of the precise nature of the attack.

In this way, a terrorist attack can be considered “imminent,” even if the de-tails and timing are unknown. This makes it possible, for example, to launch an air strike simply on the basis of suspicions of an imminent attack.

In November 2008, while a ceasefire was in force, an Israeli commando raid killed six people in Gaza. The explanation given by the Israeli army illustrates the BETHLEHEM doctrine:

This was a targeted operation to prevent an immediate threat […] There was no intention to break the ceasefire, rather the aim of the op-eration was to eliminate an immediate and dangerous threat posed by the Hamas terrorist organization.

This doctrine is similar to the one enunciated in 2001 by Dick Cheney, then Vice President of the United States, also known as the “Cheney doctrine” or the “1% doctrine:”

If there’s a 1% probability that Pakistani scientists are helping terrorists to develop or build weapons of mass destruction, we have to treat that as a certainty, in terms of response.

It’s the strategic/operational version of the Wild West “hip shot.” It’s symp-tomatic of the way we understand the law and the way we wage war: without values and without honor.

The problem with the BETHLEHEM doctrine is that it has been systematically used by Israel to justify ceasefire violations. This is true of extra-judicial kill-ings, which are not considered ceasefire violations. A study of Palestinian rocket attacks shows that they are always carried out in response to an Israeli attack, which does not generally appear in our media. From this stems our perception that Palestinian organizations—Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Ha-mas in particular—wantonly attack Israel with their rockets, and therefore engage in terrorist practices.

In its February 2018 report, the Human Rights Council (HRC) reports that during the Gaza border protests (Return Marches), the Israeli army shot dead 183 civilians, including 154 who were unarmed and 35 children. In February 2019, he reports that the Israeli army “intentionally” shot children, medical personnel (wearing badges and shot in the back!), journalists and disabled people. The Palestinian children shot by Israeli snipers with fragmentation bullets while simply standing in front of the border in Gaza in 2018, or the handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinian youth shot in the back in April 2019, are war crimes.

Israel’s supporters claim self-defence, but this is fallacious, as the videos published by the United Nations show. Firstly, because the victims were in a 150 m security strip inside Gaza, separated from Israel by a fence and a wide berm, from which Israeli snipers fire. Secondly, because those killed were “armed” only with stones, and thirdly, because some of those hit (notably children) were shot in the back.

So much for the world’s most moral army, which the United Nations has asked to stop shooting children.

The DAHIYA Doctrine

The Israeli army deliberately ignores the principles of international humani-tarian law and applies the “Dahiya doctrine,” drawn up by General Gadi Ei-senkot, now Chief of the General Staff. It advocates the use of “disproportion-ate force” to create maximum damage and destruction, and considers that there are “no civilian villages, these are military bases… This is not a re-commendation. It’s a plan.”

It’s a doctrine that presents itself as a deterrent, but contrary to Wikipedia’s assertion, it’s a tactic that can only work in a symmetrical context, i.e. when the action has a linear effect on weakening the adversary. In an asym-metrical context, where the determination of combatants depends on the brutality of their adversary, such destruction only serves to stimulate the will to resist and the determination to use a terrorist approach. This is the essence of jihad.

In fact, the very existence of this doctrine shows that the Israelis have failed to understand their adversaries and their operating logic. This explains why Israel is the only country in the world not to have mastered terrorism in three-quarters of a century.

In October 2023, the same logic will be applied. The British newspaper The Telegraph quoted Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, spokesman for the Israeli army, as saying that for the strikes “the emphasis is on damage, not precision,” the aim being to reduce Gaza to a “tent city” by the end of the campaign.


The HANNIBAL Directive

Our media never mention the “HANNIBAL directive,” which came into force in 1986 in the Israeli army, designed to prevent Israeli prisoners from being used as bargaining chips by the Palestinians. It stipulated that those holding the prisoner were to be destroyed by any means necessary (including at the cost of the prisoner’s own life and that of civilians in the area). Applied during Operation PROTECTIVE EDGE, it was behind the total destruction of a Rafah neighborhood on August 1st, 2014, an event known in Palestine as Black Friday.

This directive seems to be still in use, naturally without much publicity. It ex-plains why the Israelis are not impressed by the hostages taken by Hamas:

The European diplomats were also struck by the lack of interest shown by the Israeli government in prioritizing the lives of the hostages held in Gaza.

Very soon after the start of the Hamas operation, Israel announced the deaths of 1,400 Israeli civilians. This number became a leitmotif for refusing any dialogue with Hamas and other Palestinian groups. But this number was revised downwards after 200 charred bodies were recognized as those of Ha-mas fighters. Then, on December 2, 2023, it was lowered again to 1,000 in a tweet from the Israeli government.

An Israeli air force colonel would later confirm that on October 7, a “free fire” was ordered from the air force, described as a “mass HANNIBAL.”

The HANNIBAL directive is applied not only in cases of hostage-taking, but also when soldiers are at risk of capture. For example, on January 24, 2024, near Khan Younès, a tank was damaged by rocket fire, and the Israeli military was unable to approach it to retrieve the three wounded crewmen. The gen-eral staff therefore preferred to bomb the tank and its occupants rather than risk them falling into the hands of Hamas.

In any case, we can see that the Israeli army applies the precautionary prin-ciple neither to the Palestinians nor to its own men. One could say with a cer-tain cynicism that, at least here, Palestinians and Israelis are treated equally.

In mid-December 2023, the discovery of three bodies in a tunnel in Gaza sparked controversy. They were three men held by Hamas, whom the Israeli army spokesman had declared killed by the Palestinian organization. They have no apparent injuries and appear to have been killed by poisoning. Were they killed by the deliberate use of a combat toxicant or accidentally by toxic fumes from explosions (such as carbon monoxide)? We don’t know, but the mother of one of them, Ron Sherman, believes he was deliberately sacrificed by the army. In any case, this illustrates the Israeli army’s failure to respect the precautionary principle.

Extrajudicial Executions

Extra-judicial executions are an important element in Israel’s policy of de-terrence against Palestinian movements. They consist of eliminating militants outside the judicial process, using killers or “one-off” strikes such as air attacks. Legally questionable, they are often strategically ineffective. Three countries use them regularly: the United States, Israel and France. Presented as a preventive measure, they are generally carried out in a punitive manner, like Sicilian vendettas, without any real assessment of their strategic conse-quences. In practice, they fuel a growing process of violence and are a source of legitimacy for terrorism. In fact, they often reflect a lack of real coun-ter-terrorist strategy.

The archetype of this mode of action is Operation ANGER OF GOD (Mivtza Za’am Ha’el), also known as Operation BAYONET, carried out by the Mossad to punish the perpetrators of the attack on the Israeli Olympic team in Munich in 1972 (Operation BERIM & IKRIT). Within a year, almost the entire Palestinian commando was eliminated: Wae Zwaiter (Rome, October 16, 1972), Mahmoud Hamchari (Paris, January 9, 1973), Abd El-Hir (Nicosia, January 24, 1973), Basil Al-Kubaissi (Paris, April 6, 1973), Ziad Muchassi (Athens, April 12, 1973), Mohammed Boudia (Paris, June 28, 1973), Kamal Nasser, Mahmoud Najjer and Kamal Adouan (Beirut, April 9, 1973). Its leader, Ali Hassan Sala-meh, was killed in Beirut on January 22, 1979, followed by his sec-ond-in-command, Khalil al-Wazir (alias Abou Djihad), on April 16, 1988 in Tunis. In the end, only one member of the group, Jamal al-Gasheï, seems to have escaped the wrath of GOD, while an innocent man was mistakenly killed in Lillehammer (Norway).

These actions are punitive operations. What our countries and Israel con-sider part of the game is called terrorism when others do it. By accepting it from Israel, we create a permissive environment that could well legitimize the elimination of some of our political leaders. Which could happen.

Since 1988, Israel has been using specially trained units to operate clandes-tinely in the occupied territories. Known as “mista’aravim” or YAMAS, these are ad hoc formations that operate clandestinely (in Arab clothing—hence their name) in the occupied territories for reconnaissance missions, comman-do actions or extra-judicial executions. Mista’aravim actions are mainly car-ried out in the West Bank by Sayeret Duvdevan (Unit 217).

The best-known of these was Mossad’s attempt to poison Khaled Mashal, political leader of Hamas in Jordan, in 1997. It ended in failure: the two Israeli agents carrying Canadian passports were arrested; then Israel had to provide an antidote and release Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in exchange for the release of his agents. The result was Israel’s loss of credibility with the international com-munity and the mistrust of Jordan—with which Israel has a peace treaty.

Mista’aravim are the equivalent of the Groupe Antiterroriste de Libération (GAL) units used in Spain in the 1980s, which are considered a form of state terrorism. However, the advantage of this type of action is that it can elimi-nate an individual without razing an entire neighborhood or destroying entire families. But it requires agents who are all the more competent and coura-geous because the Palestinians have strengthened their counter-espionage and internal security capabilities. This is why this type of operation has be-come almost impossible to carry out in Gaza, but is still common practice in the West Bank. In Gaza, Israel prefers to carry out its actions “at a distance,” using more sophisticated means such as drones or guided missiles, which have a devastating effect on the civilian population.

With some 2,300 known assassinations, Israel rivals the United States as the country that regularly assassinates opponents and terrorists. When carried out on foreign soil, an “elimination” is a complex operation, relying on a net-work of local informers (“sayanim”), most often recruited from the Jewish diaspora. But this has a perverse effect: it turns the previously well-integrated Jewish community into an object of distrust, perceived as a “5th column” in many countries of the Near and Middle East.

But extra-judicial executions not only carry a significant political risk if un-successful, they tend to legitimize illegal violence and terrorism, as evidenced by the Arabian Peninsula Jihad Base’s (APJB) Inspire magazine:

[The assassination of leaders of the civil and military unbelievers] is one of the most important arts of terrorism and one of the most advanta-geous and deterrent types of operation. These methods are also used by the enemies of Allah. The CIA has authorization from the US gov-ernment to assassinate presidents, if it is in the national interest of the United States, and they have used it more than once. In the CIA, there’s a special department for that! So I don’t know why we’re prevented from doing it?
This is a case of Islamist asymmetry: the “cure” is worse than the “disease.” The assassination of leaders has no dissuasive effect. It makes the dead a martyr and an example to follow. It hardly ever leads to the end of terrorist action, but keeps the flame of resistance alive and takes on more varied forms.

With highly decentralized structures, the elimination of cadres does not necessarily weaken the terrorist group, but it does force its hierarchy to renew itself more rapidly and apply new methods and policies of action. This is what happened with Hamas.

But on August 21, 2003, Israeli forces eliminated Ismaïl Abou Shanab. At the time, he was considered a Hamas moderate, and his assassination triggered widespread condemnation and an unprecedented mobilization of the Pales-tinian population. Attacks resumed in step with the eliminations carried out by Israel.

In September 2023, on the LCI channel, where journalist Darius Rochebin praises the assassinations carried out by the Ukrainian secret services, Gen-eral Christophe Gomart explains that France also carries them out. He is a perfect illustration of the Western way of thinking. Like the Israelis, he thinks it’s useful to shoot a leader “because in fact it’s the leaders who decide, and it takes longer to train a leader than it does to train an ordinary soldier,” so:

We destabilize, we disorganize, and the idea in war is to disorganize the adversary in order to weaken him and make it possible to win, and therefore to overthrow him… that’s what we did in the Sahel against the terrorist leaders: we sought to disorganize the terrorist or jihadist Not only does this illustrate a tactical approach to the fight against terror-ism, but it is not valid for highly decentralized insurgent structures, made up of small, quasi-autonomous groups. This partly explains the operational and strategic failure of French action in the Sahel.

This somewhat childish vision of war may work in a conventional conflict, but not in an unconventional context, and certainly not in a jihadist one. It flies in the face of what a British SAS officer told me during my counter-terrorism training in Britain during the war in Northern Ireland in the mid-1980s. The British had extremely detailed files and information on the various command-ers of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), down to knowing their every move. When I asked why they didn’t eliminate them, the officer replied:

Because we know them. We know their psychology, their families, their networks, their way of fighting, and we can better anticipate their ac-tions, even pre-empt them. If we kill them, others will come along, per-haps more effective, more aggressive, and we’ll know nothing about them.

Of course, such an answer is only possible when you have studied your op-ponent thoroughly and know him in great detail. The fact is that today, we know very little about our opponents. Even public figures like Vladimir Putin are so poorly known that he is diagnosed with illnesses he doesn’t have. It’s the same in Palestine.

Experience shows that extra-judicial executions have no operational effect. On the contrary, they encourage the spirit of vengeance and tend to mobilize the spirit of resistance. This phenomenon is all the stronger when civilians are killed in the process. They inspire contempt rather than admiration, as they represent a success not achieved in face-to-face combat. Moreover, as in the case of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, the Israeli military are not fighting a “brave” battle. This is why these executions become a substitute for real suc-cess against terrorism. They therefore appear more as proof of weakness and incapacity than as a demonstration of effectiveness.

According to some (unconfirmed) reports, SHABAK has set up a clandestine unit, code-named INDIGO, whose mission is to hunt down the perpetrators of the crimes of October 7, 2023. But with evidence mounting that the vast majority of these crimes were the result of errors of conduct, the question of the extent to which this group will punish the real perpetrators of the massacres remains open.


Operation Al-Aqsa Flood

Strategic Objectives

Over and above the historical objectives of Palestinian resistance, which are aimed at creating a Palestinian state or returning to the land taken from them, the objectives of Operation AL-AQSA DELUGE essentially concern the situation in Gaza.

The operation’s central strategic objective is to end the blockade of the Gaza Strip and restore normal living conditions for the population. This includes the end of permanent surveillance by Israeli forces, restrictions on trade in goods, and measures that prevent economic and social development. This objective follows on from the “Marches of Return,” which were led by civil society, but were met with sniper fire.

Achieving this goal involved enabling objectives, the most important of which was to bring the Palestinian question back onto the international stage. In November 2012, the United Nations General Assembly granted Palestine the status of “non-member observer state of the United Nations.” Since then, however, no progress has been made in dealing with the Palestinian question, and the situation has even deteriorated with the arrival of Israel’s ul-tra-nationalists in power.

The second intermediate objective was to interrupt the normalization pro-cess between Israel and certain Arab countries. Not because of normalization itself, but because it sidelined the Palestinian question. The Palestinians had always wanted these issues to be linked, so that there would be leverage to force Israel to implement UN decisions.

The third intermediate objective was to rally the Muslim community around the issue of the future of the Esplanade of the Mosques (or Temple Mount), which is closely linked to the Palestinian question. As Ihsan Ataya, a mem-ber of the political bureau of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PID) and head of the PID’s Arab and International Relations Department states:

The aim of Operation AL-AQSA RELIEF was stated from the outset: to prevent the Al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem) from being attacked, Muslim religious rites from being insulted or defamed, our women from being assaulted, efforts to Judaize the Al-Aqsa Mosque and normalize its occupation by Israel from being implemented, or the mosque from being divided in time and space.

It has to be said that, while the blockade of Gaza has not been lifted, these three intermediate strategic objectives have been at least partially achieved. To what extent they will lead to a lasting and just solution to the Palestinian question is an open question, but Hamas has clearly underlined the responsi-bility of the international community to enforce the decisions it has taken.

Operational Objectives

First Objective: The Gaza Division

The first objective was to destroy the elements of the Gaza Division and the surveillance installations encircling the Gaza Strip. On October 12, Abu Obeida, spokesman for the Al-Qassam Phalanges, explains:

Operation AL-AQSA DELUGE was aimed at destroying the Gaza Division, which was attacked at 15 points, followed by 10 more. We attacked the Zikim site and several other settlements outside the Gaza Division headquarters.

This objective may seem outdated to us, since it was clear from the outset that the Palestinian operation could not maintain its momentum for very long, and that the fighting would necessarily continue in the Gaza Strip itself. Con-sequently, the destruction of infrastructure could only be temporary, but highly symbolic.

To understand this, you have to put yourself in the Palestinians’ software. Victory is not achieved by destroying the adversary, but by maintaining the determination to resist. In other words, whatever the Israelis do, however much destruction and death they cause, the Palestinians have already emerged victorious from this operation. Faced with a numerically and materi-ally stronger adversary, victory in the Western sense of the term is not possi-ble. On the other hand, overcoming fear and feelings of powerlessness is al-ready a victory. This is the very essence of the notion of jihad.

Consequently, all the humiliations the Israelis can inflict on their prisoners or the civilian population can only make the Palestinians feel better, and lower the military’s thirst for vengeance. In fact, this is what is happening around the world: the Israelis are obliged to use their censorship to hide the crimes com-mitted by their soldiers, and the idea of “the most moral army in the world” is now totally discredited.

Second Objective: Take Prisoners

The second objective was to seize prisoners in order to exchange them for those held by Israel. Very quickly, testimonies in the Israeli press showed that the aim of the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PID) fighters was not to carry out a “pogrom,” but to seize soldiers in order to exchange them for Pal-estinians held by Israel. The aim was to gain leverage to resume the negotia-tions interrupted by the Israeli government in November 2021. Since then, it has been known that Hamas would carry out such an operation. The depu-ty chief of staff of the Al-Qassam Phalanges, Marwan Issa, had declared that “the prisoners’ file will be the surprise of the enemy’s next surprises.”

Clearly, the aim was not to kill civilians, but rather to obtain a bargaining chip for the release of some 5,300 prisoners held by Israel. Eyewitness ac-counts in the Israeli press suggest that the original idea was to take only mili-tary prisoners (who are “more valuable” than civilians for an exchange). These same accounts show that the Palestinians were surprised to find so few mili-tary personnel on site, which can be explained by the fact that part of the gar-risons had been redeployed to the West Bank a few weeks earlier. Yasmin Porat’s testimony, mentioned above, shows that Hamas fighters stayed with civilians in their homes, waiting for the security forces to intervene. The testi-monies indicate that the Palestinian fighters left with civilian prisoners only after the Israeli military had intervened, firing indiscriminately into the houses with their tanks. It therefore appears that the capture of civilians was more the result of a combination of circumstances than a decision taken in advance.

The death of civilians was therefore not an objective, and the fact that the freed hostages declared that they had been treated with respect, and even in a friendly manner, tends to confirm that this was not a “pogrom” against the Israeli population.

The prisoner exchanges of November 2023 illustrate Hamas’s strategy, at the heart of which were military prisoners, not civilians. That’s why the Pales-tinians released the women and children first, and kept the military (especially the top brass) for later. We’ll come back to this later.

Tactical Objectives

The Hamas attack targeted 25 military objectives located in the “Gaza en-velope.” The three main tactical objectives of the operation were:

  • the Zikim naval base in the north of the Gaza Strip, which was attacked by Hamas marine commandos, who resisted Israeli counter-attacks for several days;
  • the Erez checkpoint, in the north of the Gaza Strip, which manages part of the fence’s surveillance facilities; the Gaza Division command post at the Re’im site, where the heaviest fighting will take place on October 7; and the Urim intelligence center some 17 km from the Gaza Strip, in order to damage Israeli surveillance installations.
  • A document discovered near Kibbutz Mefalsim, 2 km from the Gaza Strip, containing data on the number of soldiers and security forces, shows that the operation was meticulously prepared and directed against military installations.

About Alexei Navalny

Reports of Alexei Navalny’s death in a Russian prison on February 16, 2024 quickly spread around the world, accompanied by unanimous condemnation of the Russian government, accused of suppressing an opponent. But in reality, no one knows what happened or the cause of his death. As with all current crises, our governments judge not by the facts, but by a narrative.

Was Navalny Vladimir Putin’s Main Challenger?

First of all, we need to understand who Alexei Navalny was. Our media present him as the “head,” or “leader” of the opposition in Russia. Yet, as the French newspaper Libération acknowledged, he was simply the most visible opposition figure in the West. He was part of the so-called “off-system” alternative opposition, made up of small groups often located at the extreme left and right of the political spectrum, too small to be able to form parties.

Navalny began his business career in the 2000s. In a common practice during the Yeltsin period, he would buy state-owned enterprises, liquidate the unprofitable parts and privatize the profits of the more profitable elements. This illegal practice is at the root of Vladimir Putin’s fight against certain oligarchs, who ended up taking refuge in Great Britain or Israel. Navalny was given a five-year suspended prison sentence in a first case (Kirovles).

But the most high-profile case was that involving the Yves Rocher cosmetics group. This is a relatively complex case, beyond the scope of this article, which is best described in the Yves Rocher press release and on the Russian version of Wikipedia. In a nutshell, it is a case of personal enrichment through abuse of an official position by Oleg Navalny, Alexei’s brother. In 2008, Oleg was a manager at the Russian Post Office’s automated sorting center in Podolsk. To streamline the delivery of Yves Rocher products to the sorting center, he encouraged the French company to use the services of a private logistics company, Glavpodpiska (GPA). But as GPA was owned by the Navalny family, there was a clear conflict of interest, leading to an investigation for unlawful enrichment and abuse of an official position. In addition to this corruption-like affair, there were accusations of overbilling. In this case, Oleg Navalny was the main defendant, while Alexeï Navalny was “only” an accomplice. This is why Oleg was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, and Alexeï to three and a half years suspended. It is this suspended sentence which, on appeal after appeal, was postponed—prohibiting him from leaving Russian territory—before being applied in 2021.

On February 4, 2019, French-speaking Swiss radio claimed that “Russian authorities, who were already investigating the Navalny brothers, allegedly pressured Yves Rocher in 2012 to file a complaint against them.” This was a lie. In fact, Navalny was not convicted for the damage caused to Yves Rocher, but for the abuse of an official position. Just the day before, Yves Rocher declared in a press release:

Yves Rocher Vostok never filed a complaint against the Navalny brothers, nor did it make any legal claim against them at any time.

Oleg and Alexei Navalny took this ruling to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), arguing that it was politically motivated. However, contrary to the claims of the Western media, and the Yale Jackson School of Global Affairs, the ECHR did not invalidate this judgment, as it did not judge the substance of the case, but its form. On October 17, 2017, the ECHR delivered its verdict, partially upholding the two brothers on certain points of law and concluding that the Russian justice system should pay them compensation. On the other hand, it rejected the allegation that their conviction was politically motivated (paragraph 89).

In 2018, Alexei was not allowed to run in the presidential election. Our media claim that the reasons are political, but this is not true. The reason is that—as in other Western countries—you cannot run for president if you have been convicted. Furthermore, as we have seen, his conviction was not political in nature.

Politically, Alexei Navalny’s background was more that of an activist than a politician. In the early 2000s, he was an advisor to Nikita Belykh, Governor of Kirov. At that time, he was a complete unknown whose activism had no national or international visibility to justify harassment by the Russian government. In 2005, he co-founded the Democratic Alternative (DA) movement. This is an alternative opposition movement funded by the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED). In June 2007, he co-founded the unsuccessful nationalist group Narod (“People”), which merged in June 2008 with two other Russian nationalist far-right movements: the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (MAII) and Great Russia, to form a new coalition: the Russian National Movement.

In 2010, on the recommendation of Garry Kasparov, Navalny was invited to the United States to take part in the Yale World Fellows Program. This is a fifteen-week, non-degree-granting training program offered by Yale University to foreigners, identified as potential relays of American policy in their respective countries.

Back in Russia, Navalny campaigned for the rights of small shareholders in large corporations and denounced abuses in corporate practices. His Anti-Corruption Fund (FBK) attracted sympathy, but also a great deal of distrust and antipathy. His accusations were often spurious, as in 2016 against Artyom Chaika, son of Russia’s Prosecutor General; in 2017, against Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, or in 2018, against businessman Mikhaïl Prokhorov.

As for his ideas, the picture is hardly any brighter. In 2007, he was expelled from the center-right Yabloko party for his regular participation in the ultra-nationalist “Russian March” and his racist “nationalist activities.” At the time, in a now-famous video for the liberalization of handguns, he mimed shooting Chechen migrants in Russia. In October 2013, he supported and stirred up, the Biryulyovo riots, castigating the “hordes of legal and illegal immigrants.” In 2017, the American media outlet Salon claimed that “if he were American, liberals would hate Navalny far more than they hate Trump or Steve Bannon.” In 2017, the American media outlet Jacobin, even referred to him as “Russia’s Trump.” In fact, as Princeton University’s American Foreign Policy Magazine noted in December 2018, he emerged through far-right groups, and his ideas were more akin to what is described as “populist” in the West. The Grayzone did a remarkable interview with two activists on the “anti-Putin” left, which shows how much our mainstream media have distorted our image of Navalny.

On Radio-Télévision Suisse (RTS)’s “Géopolitis” program on Navalny, broadcast on February 21, 2021, a presenter asserted that “nothing remains of Navalny’s ultra-nationalist beginnings and anti-migrant declarations.” This is not true: in April 2017 in The Guardian, then in October 2020 in the German magazine Der Spiegel, Navalny confirmed that he had not changed his opinion.

In order to attract the votes of the extremes on the right and left—which are not sufficiently numerous separately to field candidates in elections—Navalny applied the concept of smart voting, inspired by American strategic or tactical voting. Whereas in France, the “useful vote” consists in giving one’s vote to the candidate who is closest to one’s opinions, Navalny’s “smart voting” principle was to give one’s vote to anyone except a member of United Russia (Vladimir Putin’s party). “Smart voting” is not based on preference, but on detestation. Very symbolic!

The advantage of this process is that it enables the votes of extremists to be pooled. This explains Navalny’s “success” in the Moscow municipal elections of 2013, when “he” won 27 percent of the vote. But it was a deceptive success: it did not express a preference for Navalny, but a rejection of the then incumbent mayor of Moscow, Sobyanin.

This election showed that Navalny’s supporters are a very disparate and unholy mixture of left-wing and right-wing extremists, where internal rivalries are very strong. But it also showed that his supporters were not rallying around a project for Russia, but around a determination against “power.” This is yet another example of the Western approach, which does not seek to promote an improvement for Russia, but, on the contrary, its weakening. It is also symptomatic that none of our media report on Navalny’s political project. For a good and simple reason—it does not exist.

In 2019, on the occasion of the Moscow Duma elections, 20,000-50,000 demonstrators calling for “free elections” attracted the attention of the Western media. Headlines such as “27 candidates have been excluded” (Le Figaro) or “Authorities exclude opposition candidates” (Le Monde) suggestws that the validation of candidacies was discretionary. The BBC claimed that the candidates were “ignored” and “treated as if they were insignificant.” Not true. In fact, as in France for the presidential election, candidates must have a certain number of signatures in order to take part. In France, candidates must have the signatures of 500 elected representatives.

In Russia, a non-party candidate needs the signatures of 5,000 ordinary citizens, which does not seem too much in a city of 12 million inhabitants. Naturally, these signatures are checked by an electoral commission to prevent fraud, and despite a 10 percent tolerance, some candidates fail to reach the required number. This is what happened to these small groups, whose tendencies ranged from the extreme right to the extreme left, who have no popular base, and some of whom did not even try to collect the signatures.

This is the same phenomenon that affected Alexei Navalny’s Progress Party in 2015—it simply did not have enough supporters to have branches in at least 85 entities of the Russian Federation. It was therefore struck off the electoral rolls, not by arbitrary decision, but because it did not meet the criteria defined by law.

In reality, Navalny’s popularity was very low. A poll carried out between August 20 and August 26, 2020 (just after his “poisoning”) by the Levada Center (funded by the USA and considered in Russia as a “foreign agent,” so not really ” regime-friendly”) showed the difference in popularity between Vladimir Putin and Alexei Navalny (Table 1).

Table 1: Voting intentions in November 2020 (among voters who intended to vote). August 2020 figures come from a poll conducted in the week of August 20-26, 2020, after the Navalny “poisoning attempt.” [Source: Levada Center]

Alongside these institutional problems, the reason why the non-systemic opposition—i.e., that which is not structured into parties with sufficient popular representation to be elected—is sidelined is that it is funded from abroad. In part by oligarchs guilty of illegal enrichment who have fled the country to Britain or Israel, and by foreign powers, notably the United States and Great Britain. By financing political parties in Russia, our countries are, quite logically, turning them into “foreign agents.”

The US uses the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to fund “non-systemic” opposition in Russia. According to the New York Times, the NED was created in the early 1980s to alleviate the workload of the CIA. In 2021, it supported no fewer than 109 political and influence activities in Russia, for a total of $14 million. As for the UK, it participates in this effort by funding anti-Russia media in the countries surrounding Russia. According to investigative journalist Matt Kennard, the UK spent around €96 million between 2017 and 2021 on “counter-information” in 20 countries.

In response to a situation that has only worsened since the early 2000s, Russia passed a law in 2012 similar to the one in force in the USA since 1938, allowing the banning of foreign-funded political organizations.
In November 2017, following the United States’ decision to classify the Russian media outlet RT as a “foreign agent,” Russia tightened its policy and passed a law allowing foreign journalists and media outlets to be classified as “foreign agents.” In 2018, this law was extended to individuals and NGOs funded by foreign countries.

To what extent the Russian opposition is free to express itself is certainly debatable, but the fact that we are funding it makes it ipso facto illegitimate and illegal. No country accepts foreign funding of its opposition. What is more, if the opposition were as strong and vibrant as they say it is in Russia, it would not need our financial support.

In fact, Western countries fund the Russian opposition not to improve the situation for Russians, but to put pressure on the government.

The Poisoning

On Thursday August 20, 2020, on his flight from Tomsk to Moscow, Alexei Navalny was suddenly in severe pain. The flight was diverted to Omsk so that he could be rushed to hospital.

Although no analysis was ever carried out and no one knows the exact nature of Navalny’s illness, his spokeswoman claimed that he was deliberately poisoned. The rumors circulating on social networks about alcohol consumption combined with medication were immediately described as “defamatory” and dismissed as “slanderous” by our media, which readily prefered, without any supporting evidence, a more romanticized narrative—Novitchok poisoning on Putin’s orders.

Assuming that the poisoning was deliberate (and therefore criminal), how it occurred remains a mystery, and explanations have varied. In the first version, his entourage claims that he was poisoned while drinking tea at Tomsk airport. The problem was that the tea had been brought to him by Ilya Pakhomov, one of his colleagues. Later, another video shows a waitress placing cups on the table.

Navalny’s entourage then presented a second version: poisoning with water bottles at the hotel, which Navalny’s team (remaining in Tomsk) recovered on August 20. The British media outlet The Sun published the video of the operation, which took place before the arrival of the police, thus altering the presumed crime scene. Navalny’s entourage claimed to have taken the bottles to Germany for analysis. But scans of the Navalny team’s luggage at the boarding gate, published by the private Russian media REN TV [30 percent of is owned by the RTL Group], confirmed that there were no bottles (which would have been confiscated anyway), while surveillance cameras show one of Navalny’s relatives buying water from a vending machine after the luggage check. In September 2020, one of Navalny’s associates himself confessed that the bottle of water was not the cause of the poisoning. In any case, according to the BBC, Navalny had ingested nothing but his tea at the airport that morning.

Navalny’s entourage then came up with a third story: the poisoning of Navalny’s underpants, “revealed” on December 21, 2020, with the video of a telephone conversation with what is presented to us as an “FSB [Federal Security Service] agent,” named Konstantin Kudryavtsev. It was widely circulated on Western media. Conspiracy theorists claimed that, after this conversation, “there can be no doubt.” But there is absolutely no proof that a) this is the person in question, b) that he really is an FSB agent, and c) that he was actually involved in the poisoning attempt.

The video was shot with the help of Bellingcat, a British government-funded outfit. The problem is that its methodology for identifying Kudryavtsev is technically questionable. In fact, instead of starting with the crime and working backwards to its perpetrator (as a Sherlock Holmes would do), Bellingcat looks for the individuals who best fit the hypothetical course of the crime. It builds a profile of culprits based on an assumed scenario, and then looks for the individuals who are most likely to match it. This is the principle of artificial intelligence. In this way, we arrive at the result through a succession of approximations—we have the probability of the probability of the probability of the probability that what we find is true. To put it simply: facts are selected on the basis of conclusions—whereas facts should lead to conclusions. This is a method that police forces try to avoid, as it leads to miscarriages of justice.

Such a methodology could be used if all the details of the crime were known in advance. The problem is that, in this particular case, numerous facts show that Bellingcat knew neither the functioning nor the structure of the Russian security services, nor even how the crime was committed and under what circumstances. The probability that Bellingcat arrived at the right result is therefore extremely low. What is more, the American channel CNN—which investigated the case on site—admitted that it has “not been able” to confirm Navalny’s accusations.

Furthermore, assuming that Navalny’s contact was indeed a member of a team of “poisoners,” would he speak freely with a stranger, on an unencrypted phone, and give details of an operation that would presumably be highly classified? Assuming that this “agent” had been involved in Navalny’s surveillance for four years, would he not have recognized his voice on the phone? With so many contradictions and errors about the way the services work, we have every right to believe that Navalny’s contact person was not the one we have been led to believe.

Russian opposition media outlet Meduza asked four lawyers whether Navalny’s video constituted proof that the FSB tried to poison him. All agreed that, even if it were legally possible to present the video at a trial, its content was highly open to manipulation and insufficient to prove anything.

As to Bellingcat—regularly referred to by far-right conspiracists, Conspiracy Watch and many Western media outlets—an internal UK Integrity Initiative document from June 2018 on countering Russian disinformation judged it as follows:

Other concerns were that the CPDA and ISD had analytical shortcomings, and that Bellingcat was somewhat discredited, both by spreading disinformation itself, and by being willing to produce reports for anyone willing to pay.

This telephone conversation was therefore not credible in its form. But neither was its substance. Assuming that it was Novitchok poisoning, and even that the poison was of Russian origin, there was nothing at that stage—not even Navalny’s conversation—to link the Russian authorities to this attempt. Moreover, as we shall see, the various reports on this poisoning, published by the Charité hospital, the OPCW, Germany, Sweden or France, were based on biomedical samples (blood and urine samples), and none confirmed the mode of poisoning, nor refered to bottles or underwear. This was confirmed by the German government in its answers to parliamentarians.

I was trained in the Swiss Nuclear Biological and Chemical (NBC) Defense School, based in Spiez, which is a center of excellence for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). So, the alleged assassination attempts on Sergei Skripal in Britain (2018) and then Alexei Navalny (2020) caught my interest. In both cases, Russia allegedly used a poison “a single gram of which could kill a thousand people in seconds.” However, not only none of the “victims” died, but their symptoms were totally different from each other’s, and moreover, these symptoms did not correspond to those of nerve agents.

In fact, the symptoms of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulya (and the testimony of a British National Health Service (NHS) emergency doctor in Salisbury) suggest that they were probably victims of food poisoning by a toxin related to saxitoxins, as were other customers of the same restaurant a few months later. As for Navalny, the military laboratories never published the results of their analyses.

Assuming that Novitchok had been put on Navalny’s underwear, he would have died when he picked it up and would not even have had time to put it on! In reality, the facts are poorly known. Our governments and the mainstream media exploit this ignorance to create a narrative that justifies their policies towards Russia. In this respect, our governments are behaving in a way that meets the definition of conspiracy theorists. The stories reported to us without nuance in the media are artificial constructs, which must “play” with the facts to appear credible.

Let’s remember a few facts. First of all, Novitchok was not listed in the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) until 2018, simply because the USSR (then Russia) never adopted it: it was merely a research product.

Secondly, it was at Russia’s request that several variants of Novitchok were added to the CWC list in 2018. Why? Because the laboratory that had developed it had been dismantled by the US, and the Americans had supplied samples to several NATO countries. The Americans themselves synthesized it for research purposes back in 1998. This is why the British laboratory at Porton Down refused to confirm to Theresa May that the toxin analyzed in the Skripal affair was of Russian origin.

In short, scientific evidence tends to contradict the claims of politicians and other propagandists. So we cannot say for sure, even if the report from German doctors at Berlin’s La Charité hospital indicates that Navalny’s poisoning seemed to have been caused by a wrong combination of drugs.

The Results of the Analyses

There is little available data to assess the reliability of the Western accusations made in 2018 and 2020. The analyses carried out by German, French and Swedish military laboratories in September 2020 remain classified and have neither been published nor communicated to Russia, despite its requests. On the other hand, we do have the medical reports of the doctors who treated Navalny in Omsk and Berlin, the declassified version of the OPCW report and—to a certain extent—the German government’s answers of November 19, 2020 and February 15, 2021, to questions from Bundestag lawmakers.

Analyses by military laboratories tended to assert the presence of Novitchok, but their content is unverifiable. Observations by civilian doctors tended to contradict their conclusions, while government responses seemed much less categorical than the media, and invoked military secrecy when facts appeared to contradict their statements.

On August 24, the Charité hospital issued a press release stating that clinical analyses “indicate intoxication with a substance from the cholinesterase inhibitor group.” However, the Omsk doctors did not detect any. So, conspiracy? Not necessarily. As the opposition media outlet Meduza explained, the German doctors were looking for evidence of poisoning, whereas the Russian doctors were looking for the cause of Navalny’s illness. As they were not looking for the same thing, they obtained different results, but they were not inconsistent.

In Sweden, lawyer Mats Nilsson requested publication of the results of Navalny’s blood analysis by the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI). FOI only published a text in which the name of the substance had been redacted, stating that “the presence of XXXX has been confirmed in the patient’s blood.” A blackout which suggests that something other than Novitchok, which Westerners had expected, was found. What is more, elements of his medical file published by doctors at Berlin’s Charité Hospital in the medical journal The Lancet, tended to show that he was probably the victim of a toxic combination of drugs.

The name of the substance was hidden and obviously covered by military secrecy. So we do not know anything about it, but we can imagine that if it had been Novitchok (which Western countries expected), there would have been no reason to hide it. On January 14, 2021, the Swedish government refused to declassify this result so as not to “harm relations between Sweden and a foreign power,” without specifying whether this was Germany or the United States. So we do not know. But we do know that Sweden is a country whose honor is a fiction subordinated to political interest—in the Julian Assange affair, the Swedish government had already literally “fabricated” rape accusations, according to Nils Melzer, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.

As it turns out, the “traces of toxin” which the German government found in Navalny’s blood (but which the doctors at Berlin’s La Charité hospital did not find) were not on the CAC list. Apparently, this toxin was so dangerous that the German government even refused to put it on the CAC list! So, the Germans found an unnamed toxic substance so dangerous that they have decided not to ban it.

Only our journalists can understand such deranged logic.

The German doctors’ report, published on December 22, 2020, in the medical journal The Lancet, clearly stated that they were unable to identify the presence of Novitchok when Navalny arrived, but only of “cholinesterase inhibitors.” They stated that the identification of Novitchok required further analysis by the IPTB.

But the analyses carried out by the Charité hospital on Navalny’s arrival spoke for themselves. They are the subject of an appendix to The Lancet article. An appendix that no mainstream media has published, reported or analyzed, because the German doctors’ findings call into question the military version of events.

The presence of cholinesterase inhibitors could therefore simply be explained by the drugs ingested by Navalny himself, likely in combination with alcohol. This would explain why his symptoms were totally different from those of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in 2018, who were claimed to have been victims of the same poison.

Furthermore, the German doctors’ report reveals that when the French, Swedish and OPCW took their samples–a fortnight after Navalny’s arrival in Germany—his cholinesterase levels were close to normal. At this stage, these laboratories were only able to detect “cholinesterase inhibitors,” but not the substances found at the Charité a few days earlier, such as lithium or drugs, which would have favored their appearance. In the absence of published results, we do not know exactly what the military found, but it is 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 posted online his telephone conversation with an “FSB agent.”

Navalny’s Death

The official version given by the Russian authorities is that Alexei Navalny died from a form of cerebral embolism. Whether this is true or not, we do not know, and only an autopsy can tell us. In the absence of medical data, it is impossible to determine the cause of his death, let alone whether it was of criminal origin. However, it is now clear that Alexei Navalny’s death is of no interest to the Russian government.

In Ukraine, Russia controls the military situation and is making gains along the entire front line. Ukrainian institutions are in crisis, and the threat of a cut in Western aid is contributing to mounting political tensions. Ukraine and the West expected a rapid collapse of Russia thanks to sanctions, and convinced themselves that Ukraine could only win. Two years after the start of the Russian operation, the opposite is true: the Russian economy is growing, while those of the West are tending towards recession. We were told that the Russian army had no more tanks, no more artillery, no more missiles, no more fighters, that it was isolated from the world, that it had to find its micro-processes in washing machines; and today we are told that it is ready to invade Europe.

Faced with the failure of its strategy in Ukraine, the West is moving deeper into the war of narratives. As Josep Borrell, head of the European Union’s foreign policy department, puts it: “It is clear that the wind is blowing against the West, it is blowing against us. And we have to win the battle of narratives.”

But here too, Russia appears to be the winner. Tucker Carlson’s interview with Vladimir Putin went round the world, showing a Kremlin leader more stable, coherent, rational, and intelligent than his White House counterpart.

Furthermore, the approaching presidential elections in Russia made the timing of Navalny’s elimination unlikely. In fact, Alexei Navalny was transferred from his prison on the outskirts of Moscow to Penitentiary Colony No. 3 (IK-3). According to the opposition media Novaya Gazeta, when Navalny was transferred to IK-3, the Russian government gave instructions that he should be protected and not die before the elections. Did the Russian authorities have any information about possible threats against Navalny? We do not know.

What we also know from the German and Ukrainian media is that Russia was negotiating with the US government to exchange Navalny for Vadim Krasikov, a former Russian spy.

The problem here, as in all matters concerning Russia or Belarus, is that our leaders are reacting on the basis of their hatred of noth these countries, not on the basis of the facts. Already during the alleged “hijacking” of flight FR4978 to Minsk in May 2021, European leaders had tweeted that President Lukashenko was responsible, even before the plane had landed in Minsk, and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya had tweeted that activist Roman Protasevich had been arrested, demanding his immediate release and calling for sanctions against Belarus, even before he had stepped off the plane.

With the Nord Stream affair in September 2022, on the French television channel LCI, French general Michel Yakovleff claimed that Russia had sabotaged its own gas pipelines, before anyone knew what had actually happened.

The same thing happened with Navalny’s death: within minutes after his death was announced, all European leaders immediately accused Vladimir Putin of having had him assassinated. This shows that our leaders have no robust decision-making processes. They decide according to the mood of the moment, not according to decision-making processes documented by the work of the intelligence services. Here, too, our intelligence services show their weakness and their inability to integrate into decision-making processes. In Switzerland, the state of intelligence analysis is catastrophic, and this is reflected in the decisions of a political class which, like its European counterparts, is incapable of thinking things through. We have reached a point where, as a Belgian minister said in the 1990s: “things are too complex to be answered with the brain, so we answer with our guts.”

By the way, what do Ukrainian intelligence services think? On February 25, Kirillo Budanov, head of Ukrainian military intelligence (GUR), told journalists, “I may disappoint you, but he really had a blood clot come off.”

Jacques Baud is a widely respected geopolitical expert whose publications include many articles and books. His lastest works are The Russian Art of War He has researched Alexei Navalny in The Navalny Case.

The Russian Art of War: How the West Led Ukraine to Defeat

We are very happy to bring you this excerpt (along with the Table of Contents) from Colonel Jacques Baud’s latest book, The Russian Art of War: How the West Led Ukraine to Defeat (L’art de la guerre russe: Comment l’occident conduire l’ukraine a la echec). This is a detailed study of the two-year old conflict in which the West has brutally used the Ukrainians to pursue an old pipedream: the conquest of Russia.

Please support the work of Colonel Baud and purchase a copy at Amazon, or at Barnes & Noble. And please ask all your family and friends to get a copy of this important and timely book as well.

Russian Military Thought

Throughout the Cold War period, the Soviet Union saw itself as the spearhead of a historical struggle that would lead to a confrontation between the “capitalist” system and “progressive forces.” This perception of a permanent and inescapable war led the Soviets to study war in a quasi-scientific way, and to structure this thinking into an architecture of military thought that has no equal in the Western world.

The problem with the vast majority of our so-called military experts is their inability to understand the Russian approach to war. It is the result of an approach we have already seen in waves of terrorist attacks—the adversary is so stupidly demonized that we refrain from understanding his way of thinking. As a result, we are unable to develop strategies, articulate our forces, or even equip them for the realities of war. The corollary of this approach is that our frustrations are translated by unscrupulous media into a narrative that feeds hatred and increases our vulnerability. We are thus unable to find rational, effective solutions to the problem.

The way Russians understand conflict is holistic. In other words, they see the processes that develop and lead to the situation at any given moment. This explains why Vladimir Putin’s speeches invariably include a return to history. In the West, we tend to focus on X moment and try to see how it might evolve. We want an immediate response to the situation we see today. The idea that “from the understanding of how the crisis arose comes the way to resolve it” is totally foreign to the West. In September 2023, an English-speaking journalist even pulled out the “duck test” for me: “if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.” In other words, all the West needs to assess a situation is an image that fits their prejudices. Reality is much more subtle than the duck model….

The reason the Russians are better than the West in Ukraine is that they see the conflict as a process; whereas we see it as a series of separate actions. The Russians see events as a film. We see them as photographs. They see the forest, while we focus on the trees. That is why we place the start of the conflict on February 24, 2022, or the start of the Palestinian conflict on October 7, 2023. We ignore the contexts that bother us and wage conflicts we do not understand. That is why we lose our wars…


In Russia, unsurprisingly, the principles of the military art of the Soviet forces inspired those currently in use:

  • readiness to carry out assigned missions;
  • concentration of efforts on solving a specific mission;
  • surprise (unconventionality) of military action vis-à-vis the enemy;
  • finality determines a set of tasks and the level of resolution of each one;
  • totality of available means determines the way to resolve the mission and achieve the objective (correlation of forces);
  • coherence of leadership (unity of command);
  • economy of forces, resources, time and space;
  • support and restoration of combat capability;
  • freedom of maneuver.

It should be noted that these principles apply not only to the implementation of military action as such. They are also applicable as a system of thought to other non-operational activities.

An honest analysis of the conflict in Ukraine would have identified these various principles and drawn useful conclusions for Ukraine. But none of the self-proclaimed experts on TV were intellectually able to do so.

Thus, Westerners are systematically surprised by the Russians in the fields of technology (e.g., hypersonic weapons), doctrine (e.g., operative art) and economics (e.g., resilience to sanctions). In a way, the Russians are taking advantage of our prejudices to exploit the principle of surprise. We can see this in the Ukrainian conflict, where the Western narrative led Ukraine to totally underestimate Russian capabilities, which was a major factor in its defeat. That is why Russia did not really try to counter this narrative and let it play out—the belief that we are superior makes us vulnerable….

Correlation of Forces

Russian military thought is traditionally linked to a holistic approach to warfare, which involves the integration of a large number of factors in the development of a strategy. This approach is materialized by the concept of “correlation of forces” (Соотношение сил).

Often translated as “balance of forces” or “ratio of forces,” this concept is only understood by Westerners as a quantitative quantity, limited to the military domain. In Soviet thinking, however, the correlation of forces reflected a more holistic reading of war:

There are several criteria for assessing the correlation of strengths. In the economic sphere, the factors usually compared are gross national product per capita, labor productivity, the dynamics of economic growth, the level of industrial production, particularly in high-tech sectors, the technical infrastructure of the production tool, the resources and degree of qualification of the workforce, the number of specialists and the level of development of theoretical and applied sciences.

In the military field, the factors compared are the quantity and quality of armaments, the firepower of the armed forces, the fighting and moral qualities of the soldiers, the level of staff training, the organization of the troops and their combat experience, the character of the military doctrine and the methods of strategic, operative and tactical thinking.

In the political sphere, the factors that come into consideration are the breadth of the social base of state authority, its organization, the constitutional procedure for relations between the government and legislative bodies, the ability to take operational decisions, and the degree and character of popular support for domestic and foreign policy.

Finally, when assessing the strength of the international movement, the factors taken into consideration are its quantitative composition, its influence with the masses, its position in the political life of each country, the principles and norms of relations between its components and the degree of their cohesion.

In other words, the assessment of the situation is not limited to the balance of forces on the battlefield, but takes into account all the elements that have an impact on the evolution of the conflict. Thus, for their Special Military Operation, the Russian authorities had planned to support the war effort through the economy, without moving to a “war economy” regimen. Thus, unlike in Ukraine, there was no interruption in the tax and welfare mechanisms.

This is why the sanctions applied to Russia in 2014 had a double positive effect. The first was the realization that they were not only a short-term problem, but above all a medium- and long-term opportunity. They encouraged Russia to produce goods it had previously preferred to buy abroad. The second was the signal that the West would increasingly use economic weapons as a means of pressure in the future. It therefore became imperative, for reasons of national independence and sovereignty, to prepare for more far-reaching sanctions affecting the country’s economy.

In reality, it has long been known that sanctions do not work. Logically enough, they have had the opposite effect, acting as protectionist measures for Russia, which has thus been able to consolidate its economy, as had been the case after the 2014 sanctions. A sanctions strategy might have paid off if the Russian economy had effectively been the equivalent of the Italian or Spanish economy, i.e., with a high level of debt; and if the entire planet had acted in unison to isolate Russia.

The inclusion of the correlation of forces in the decision-making process is a fundamental difference from Western decision-making processes, which are linked more to a policy of communication than to a rational approach to problems.

This explains, for example, Russia’s limited objectives in the Ukraine, where it does not seek to occupy the entire territory, as the correlation of forces in the western part of the country would be unfavorable.

At every level of leadership, the correlation of forces is part of situation assessment. At the operational level, it is defined as follows:

The result of comparing the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of the forces and resources (sub-units, units, weapons, military equipment, etc.) of one’s own troops (forces) and those of the enemy. It is calculated on an operational and tactical scale throughout the area of operations, in the main and other directions, in order to determine the degree of objective superiority of one of the opposing camps. Force correlation assessment is used to make an informed decision about an operation (battle), and to establish and maintain the necessary superiority over the enemy for as long as possible, when decisions are redefined (modified) during military (combat) operations.

This simple definition is the reason why the Russians committed themselves with forces inferior to those of Ukraine in February 2022, or why they withdrew from Kiev, Kharkov and Kherson in March, September and October 2022.


Structure of the Doctrine

The Russians have always attached particular importance to doctrine. Better than the West, they have understood that “a common way of seeing, thinking and acting”—as Marshal Foch put it—gives coherence, while allowing for infinite variations in the conception of operations. Military doctrine is a kind of “common core” that serves as a reference for designing operations.

Russian military doctrine divides military art into three main components: strategy (strategiya), operative art (operativnoe iskoustvo) and tactics (taktika). Each of these components has its own characteristics, very similar to those found in Western doctrines. Using the terminology of French doctrine on the use of forces:

  • The strategic level is that of conception. The aim of strategic action is to lead the adversary to negotiation or defeat.
  • The operative level is that of cooperation and coordination of inter-force actions, with a view to achieving a given military objective.
  • The tactical level, finally, is that of maneuver execution at weapon level as an integral part of the operational maneuver.

These three components correspond to levels of leadership, which translate into leadership structures and the space in which military operations are conducted. For simplicity’s sake, let us say that the strategic level ensures the management of the theater of war (Театр Войны) (TV); a geographically vast entity, with its own command and control structures, within which there are one or more strategic directions. The theater of war comprises a set of theaters of military operations (Театр Военных Действий) (TVD), which represent a strategic direction and are the domain of operative action. These various theaters have no predetermined structure and are defined according to the situation. For example, although we commonly speak of the “war in Afghanistan” (1979-1989) or the “war in Syria” (2015-), these countries are considered in Russian terminology as TVDs and not TVs.

The same applies to Ukraine, which Russia sees as a theater of military operations (TVD) and not a theater of war (TV), which explains why the action in Ukraine is designated as a “Special Military Operation” (Специальная Военая Операция—Spetsialaya). A Special Military Operation” (Специальная Военная Операция – Spetsial’naya Voyennaya Operatsiya—SVO, or SMO in English abbreviation) and not a “war.”

The use of the word “war” would imply a different structure of conduct than that envisaged by the Russians in Ukraine, and would have other structural implications in Russia itself. Moreover—and this is a central point—as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg himself acknowledges, “the war began in 2014” and should have been ended by the Minsk Agreements. The SMO is therefore a “military operation” and not a new “war,” as many Western “experts” claim.


The Special Military Operation in Ukraine

The Correlation of Forces

Consider all the factors that directly or indirectly influence the conflict. Conversely, as we have seen in Ukraine and elsewhere, Westerners have a much more political reading of the war, and end up mixing the two. This is why communication plays such an essential role in the conduct of war: the perception of the conflict plays an almost more important role than its reality. This is why, in Iraq, the Americans literally invented episodes that glorified their troops.

Russia’s analysis of the situation in February 2022 was undoubtedly considerably more pertinent than that of the West. They knew that a Ukrainian offensive against the Donbass was underway and that it could endanger the government. In 2014-2015, after the massacres in Odessa and Mariupol, the Russian population was very much in favor of intervention. Vladimir Putin’s stubborn clinging to the Minsk Agreements was poorly understood in Russia.

The factors that contributed to Russia’s decision to intervene were twofold: the expected support of Ukraine’s ethnically Russian population (which we will call “Russian-speaking” for convenience) and an economy robust enough to withstand sanctions.

The Russian-speaking population had risen up en masse against the new authorities following the coup d’état of February 2014, whose first decision had been to strip the Russian language of its official status. Kiev tried to backtrack, but in April 2019, the 2014 decision was definitively confirmed.

Since the adoption of the Law on Indigenous Peoples on July 1, 2021, Russian speakers (ethnic Russians) are no longer considered normal Ukrainian citizens and no longer enjoy the same rights as ethnic Ukrainians. They can therefore be expected to offer no resistance to the Russian coalition in the eastern part of the country….

Since March 24, 2021, Ukrainian forces have been stepping up their presence around the Donbass and have increased the pressure against the autonomists with their fire.

Zelensky’s decree of March 24, 2021 for the reconquest of Crimea and the Donbass was the real trigger for the SMO. From that moment on, the Russians understood that if there was military action against them, they would have to intervene. But they also knew that the cause of the Ukrainian operation was NATO membership, as Oleksei Arestovitch had explained. That is why, in mid-December 2021, they were submitting proposals to the USA and NATO on extending the Alliance: their aim was then to remove Ukraine’s motive for an offensive in the Donbass.

The reason for the Russian Special Military Operation (SMO) is indeed the protection of the populations of Donbass; but this protection was necessary because of Kiev’s desire to go through a confrontation to enter NATO. The extension of NATO is therefore only the indirect cause of the conflict in Ukraine. The latter could have spared itself this ordeal by implementing the Minsk Agreements—but what we wanted was a defeat for Russia.

In 2008, Russia intervened in Georgia to protect the Russian minority then being bombed by its government, as confirmed by the Swiss ambassador, Heidi Tagliavini, who was responsible for investigating this event. In 2014, many voices were raised in Russia to demand intervention when the new regime in Kiev had engaged its army against the civilian population of the five autonomist oblasts (Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov, Lugansk and Donetsk) and applied a fierce repression. In 2022, it could be expected that the population of Russia would not understand the government’s inaction, after no efforts were made from the Ukrainian and Western sides to enforce the Minsk Agreements. They knew that they did not have the means to launch an economic retaliation. But they also knew that an economic war against Russia would inevitably backfire on Western countries.

An important element of Russian military and political thinking is its legalistic dimension. The way our media present events, systematically omitting facts that could explain, justify, legitimize or even legalize Russia’s actions. We tend to think that Russia is acting outside any legal framework. For example, our media present the Russian intervention in Syria as having been decided unilaterally by Moscow; whereas it was carried out at the request of the Syrian government, after the West had allowed the Islamic State to move closer to Damascus, as confessed by John Kerry, then Secretary of State. Nevertheless, there is never any mention of the occupation of eastern Syria by American troops, who were never even invited there!

We could multiply the examples, to which our journalists will counter with the war crimes committed by Russian forces. This may well be true, but the simple fact that these accusations are not based on any impartial and neutral investigation (as required by humanitarian doctrine), nor on any international one, since Russia is systematically refused participation, casts a shadow over the honesty of these accusations. For example, the sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines was immediately attributed to Russia, which was accused of violating international law.

In fact, unlike the West, which advocates a “rules-based international order,” the Russians insist on a “law-based international order.” Unlike the West, they will apply the law to the letter. No more, no less.

The legal framework for Russia’s intervention in Ukraine has been meticulously planned. As this subject has already been covered in one of my previous books, I will not go into details here…


The Objectives and Strategy of Russia

On February 23, 2023, Swiss military “expert” Alexandre Vautravers commented on Russia’s objectives in Ukraine:

The aim of the Special Military Operation was to decapitate Ukrainian political and military governance in the space of five, ten, maybe even two weeks. The Russians then changed their plan and their objectives with a number of other failures; so they change their objectives and their strategic orientations almost every week or every month.

The problem is that our “experts” themselves define Russia’s objectives according to what they imagine, only to be able to say that it has not achieved them. So. Let us get back to the facts.

On February 24, 2022, Russia launched its “Special Military Operation” (SMO) in Ukraine “at short notice.” In his televised address, Vladimir Putin explained that its strategic objective was to protect the population of Donbass. This objective can be broken down into two parts:

  • “demilitarize” the Ukrainian armed forces regrouped in the Donbass in preparation for the offensive against the DPR and LPR; and
  • “denazify” (i.e. “neutralize”) the ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi paramilitary militias in the Mariupol area.

The formulation chosen by Vladimir Putin has been very poorly analyzed in the West. It is inspired by the 1945 Potsdam Declaration, which envisaged the development of defeated Germany according to four principles: demilitarization, denazification, democratization and decentralization.

The Russians understand war from a Clausewitzian perspective: war is the pursuit of politics by other means. This then means that they seek to transform operational successes into strategic successes, and military successes into political objectives. So, while the demilitarization evoked by Putin is clearly linked to the military threat to the populations of the Donbass in application of the decree of March 24, 2021, signed by Zelensky.

But this objective conceals a second: the neutralization of Ukraine as a future NATO member. This is what Zelensky understood when he proposed a resolution to the conflict in March 2022. At first, his proposal was supported by Western countries, probably because at this stage they believed that Russia had failed in its bid to take over Ukraine in three days, and that it would not be able to sustain its war effort because of the massive sanctions imposed on it. But at the NATO meeting of March 24, 2022, the Allies decided not to support Zelensky’s proposition.

Nevertheless, on March 27, Zelensky publicly defended his proposal and on March 28, as a gesture of support for this effort, Vladimir Putin eased the pressure on the capital and withdrew his troops from the area. Zelensky’s proposal served as the basis for the Istanbul Communiqué of March 29, 2022, a ceasefire agreement as a prelude to a peace agreement. It was this document that Vladimir Putin presented in June 2023, when an African delegation visited Moscow. It was Boris Johnson’s intervention that prompted Zelensky to withdraw his proposal, exchanging peace and the lives of his men for support “for as long as it takes.”

This version of events—which I have already presented in my previous works—was finally confirmed in early November 2023 by David Arakhamia, then chief negotiator for Ukraine196. He explained that Russia had never intended to seize Kiev.

In essence, Russia agreed to withdraw to the borders of February 23, 2022, in exchange for a ceiling on Ukrainian forces and a commitment not to become a NATO member, along with security guarantees from a number of countries….

Two conclusions can be drawn:

  • Russia’s objective was not to conquer territory. If the West had not intervened to push Zelensky to withdraw his offer, Ukraine would probably still have its army.
  • While the Russians intervened to ensure the security and protection of the population of the Donbass, their SMO enabled them to achieve a broader objective, which involves Russia’s security.

This means that, although this objective is not formulated, the demilitarization of Ukraine could open the door to its neutralization. This is not surprising since, conversely, in an interview with the Ukrainian channel Apostrof’ on March 18, 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky’s advisor Oleksei Arestovitch cynically explains that, because Ukraine wants to join NATO, it will have to create the conditions for Russia to attack Ukraine and be definitively defeated.

The problem is that Ukrainian and Western analysis is fueled by their own narratives. The conviction that Russia will lose has meant that no alternative contingency has been prepared. In September 2023, the West, beginning to see the collapse of this narrative and its implementation, tried to move towards a “freeze” in the conflict, without taking into account the opinion of the Russians, who dominate on the ground.

Yet Russia would have been satisfied with a situation such as that proposed by Zelensky in March 2022. What the West wants in September 2023 is merely a pause until an even more violent conflict breaks out, after Ukrainian forces have been rearmed and reconstituted.


Ukrainian Strategy

The strategic objective of Volodymyr Zelensky and his team is to join NATO, as a prelude to a brighter future within the EU. It complements that of the Americans (and therefore of the Europeans). The problem is that tensions with Russia, particularly over Crimea, are causing NATO members to put off Ukraine’s participation. In March 2022, Zelensky revealed on CNN that this is exactly what the Americans told him.

Before coming to power in April 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky’s discourse was divided between two antagonistic policies: the reconciliation with Russia promised during his presidential campaign and his goal of joining NATO. He knows that these two policies are mutually exclusive, as Russia does not want to see NATO and its nuclear weapons installed in Ukraine and wanted neutrality or non-alignment.

What is more, he knows that his ultra-nationalist allies will refuse to negotiate with Russia. This was confirmed by Praviy Sektor leader Dmitro Yarosh, who openly threatened him with death in the Ukrainian media a month after his election. Zelensky therefore knew from the start of the election campaign that he would not be able to fulfill his promise of reconciliation, and that there was only one solution left: confrontation with Russia.

But this confrontation could not be waged by Ukraine alone against Russia, and it would need the material support of the West. The strategy devised by Zelensky and his team was revealed before his election in March 2019 by Oleksei Arestovitch, his personal advisor, on the Ukrainian media Apostrof’. Arestovitch explained that it would take an attack by Russia to provoke an international mobilization that would enable Ukraine to defeat Russia once and for all, with the help of Western countries and NATO. With astonishing precision, he described the course of the Russian attack as it would unfold three years later, between February and March 2022. Not only did he explain that this conflict was unavoidable if Ukraine is to join NATO, but he also placed this confrontation in 2021-2022! He outlined the main areas of Western aid:

In this conflict, we will be very actively supported by the West. Weapons. Equipment. Assistance. New sanctions against Russia. Most likely, the introduction of a NATO contingent. A no-fly zone, and so on. In other words, we won’t lose it.

As we can see, this strategy has much in common with the one described by the RAND Corporation at the same time. So much so, in fact, that it is hard not to see it as a strategy strongly inspired by the United States. In his interview, Arestovitch singled out four elements that would become the pillars of the Ukrainian strategy against Russia, and to which Zelensky returned regularly:

  • International aid and arms supplies,
  • International sanctions,
  • NATO intervention,
  • Creation of a no-fly zone.

It should be noted that these four pillars are understood by Zelensky as promises whose fulfillment is essential to the success of this strategy. In February 2023, Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of Ukraine’s Defense and National Security Council, declared in The Kyiv Independent that Ukraine’s objective was the disintegration of Russia. The mobilization of Western countries to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons then seems to give substance to this objective, which is consistent with what Oleksiy Arestovich had declared in March 2019.

A few months later, however, it became clear that the equipment supplied to Ukraine was not sufficient to ensure the success of its counter-offensive, and Zelensky asked for additional, better-adapted equipment. At this point, there was a certain amount of Western irritation at these repeated demands. Former British Defense Minister Ben Wallace declared that Westerners “are not Amazon.” In fact, the West does not respect its commitments.

Contrary to what our media and pseudo-military experts tell us, since February 2022, it has been clear that Ukraine cannot defeat Russia on its own. As Obama put it, “Russia [there] will always be able to maintain its escalation dominance.” In other words, Ukraine will only be able to achieve its goals with the involvement of NATO countries. This means that its fate will depend on the goodwill of Western countries. So, we need to maintain a narrative that encourages the West to keep up this effort. This narrative will then become what we call, in strategic terms, its “center of gravity.”

As the months went by, the course of operations showed that the prospect of a Ukrainian victory was becoming increasingly remote, as Russia, far from being weakened, was growing stronger, militarily and economically. Even General Christopher Cavoli, Supreme American Commander Europe (SACEUR), told a US congressional committee that “Russia’s air, naval, space, digital and strategic capabilities have not suffered significant degradation during this war.”

The West, expecting a short conflict, is no longer able to maintain the effort promised to Ukraine. The NATO summit in Vilnius (July 11-12, 2023) ended in partial success for Ukraine. Its membership is postponed indefinitely. Its situation is even worse than it was at the beginning of 2022, since there is no more justification for its entry into NATO than there was before the SMO.

Ukraine then turned its attention to a more concrete objective: regaining sovereignty over its entire 1991 territory.

Thus, the Ukrainian notion of “victory” rapidly evolved. The idea of a “collapse of Russia” quickly faded, as did that of its dismemberment. There was talk of “regime change,” which Zelensky made his objective by forbidding any negotiations as long as Vladimir Putin was in power. Then came the reconquest of lost territories, thanks to the counter-offensive of 2023. But here, too, hopes quickly faded. The plan was simply to cut the Russian forces in two, with a thrust towards the Sea of Azov. But by September 2023, this objective had been reduced to the liberation of three cities.

In the absence of concrete successes, narrative remains the only element Ukraine can rely on to maintain Western attention and willingness to support it. For, as Ben Wallace, ex-Defence Minister, put it in The Telegraph on October 1, 2023: “The most precious commodity is hope.” True enough. But Western appraisal of the situation must be based on realistic analyses of the adversary. However, since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, Western analyses have been based on prejudice.


The Notion of Victory

Russia operates within a framework of Clausewitzian thinking, in which operational successes are exploited for strategic ends. Operational strategy (“operative art”) therefore plays an essential role in the definition of what is considered a victory.

As we saw during the battle of Bakhmut, the Russians adapted perfectly to the strategy imposed on Ukraine by the West, which prioritizes the defense of every square meter. The Ukrainians thus played into the hands of the attrition strategy officially announced by Russia. Conversely, in Kharkov and Kherson, the Russians preferred to cede territory in exchange for the lives of their men. In the context of a war of attrition, sacrificing potential in exchange for territory, as Ukraine is doing, is the worst strategy of all.

This is why General Zaluzhny, commander of the Ukrainian forces, tried to oppose Zelensky and proposed withdrawing his forces from Bakhmut. But in Ukraine, it is the Western narrative that guides military decisions. Zelensky preferred to follow the path laid out for him by our media, in order to retain the support of Western opinion. In November 2023, General Zaluzhny had to openly admit that this decision was a mistake, because prolonging the war will only favor Russia.

The Ukrainian conflict was inherently asymmetrical. The West wanted to turn it into a symmetrical conflict, proclaiming that Ukraine’s capabilities could be enough to topple Russia. But this was clearly wishful thinking from the outset, and its sole purpose was to justify non-compliance with the Minsk Agreements. Russian strategists have turned it into an asymmetrical conflict.

Ukraine’s problem in this conflict is that it has no rational relationship with the notion of victory. By comparison, the Palestinians, who are aware of their quantitative inferiority, have switched to a way of thinking that gives the simple act of resisting a sense of victory. This is the asymmetrical nature of the conflict that Israel has never managed to understand in 75 years, and which it is reduced to overcoming through tactical superiority rather than strategic finesse. In Ukraine, it is the same phenomenon. By clinging to a notion of victory linked to the recovery of territory, Ukraine has locked itself into a logic that can only lead to defeat.

On November 20, 2023, Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, painted a gloomy picture of Ukrainian prospects for 2024. His speech showed that Ukraine had neither a plan to emerge from the conflict, nor an approach that would associate a sense of victory with that emergence: he was reduced to linking Ukraine’s victory to that of the West. In the West, however, the end of the conflict in Ukraine is increasingly perceived as a military, political, human and economic debacle.

In an asymmetrical situation, each protagonist is free to define his or her own criteria for victory, and to choose from a range of criteria under his or her control. This is why Egypt (1973), Hezbollah (2006), the Islamic State (2017), the Palestinian resistance since 1948 and Hamas in 2023 are victorious, despite massive losses. This seems counter-intuitive to a Western mind, but it is what explains why Westerners are unable to really “win” their wars.

In Ukraine, the political leadership has locked itself into a narrative that precludes a way out of the crisis without losing face. The asymmetrical situation now working to Ukraine’s disadvantage stems from a narrative that has been confused with reality, and has led to a response that is ill-suited to the nature of the Russian operation.

Featured: Defend Sevastopol, by Vassily Nesterenko; painted in 2005.

Ukraine: Between War and Peace

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 or Amazon or at Barnes & 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.

The Wagner Mutiny

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.

Russian Objectives

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.

Western Disinformation

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.

The Consequences

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.

Jacques Baud is a widely respected geopolitical expert whose publications include many articles and books, including Operaztion Z, and L’Affaire Navalny. His latest book is Ukraine: Between War and Peace.

Alexei Navalny: The Real Story

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

Figure 1 – Vladimir Putin’s popularity rating has remained relatively stable since February 2022. An inflection was observed after the withdrawal of Russian-speaking forces from the Kharkov region in September. Generally speaking, the Russian population supports his government’s actions.

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 Spiegel asked 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

Figure 2 – Navalny’s approval rate 2013-2023. His alleged poisoning and the issue of the movie on “Putin’s Palace” helped to make Navalny better known to the Russian public. Today, Navalny remains politically insignificant. (Data: Levada Center)

Number of protesters across Russia on January 23, 2021

Figure 3 – Number of protesters in the demonstrations in favor of Navalny, after his arrest in January 2021, as his popularity was at the highest. These figures were compiled by the independent Russian media ZNAK. If compared to the millions of protesters in France in 2018-2019 and in early 2023 (not to mention the number of casualties!), demonstrations in Russia are anecdotal. (Source: znak.ru)

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!…

Navalny: “Hero” of the West

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.

You may purchase this book on Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, or Blackwells.

Western Conspiracy Theory

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.

Operation Z: The Hidden Truth about the War in Ukraine

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.

Kharkov and Mobilization

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.

Partial Mobilization

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!

Nuclear Threats

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.

Figure 1—From the RAND Corporation’s 2019 paper on how to destabilise Russia. This document shows that the US was aiming for a campaign of subversion against Russia, in which Ukraine was only an unfortunate instrument.

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.

Jacques Baud is a widely respected geopolitical expert whose publications include many articles and books, including Poutine: Maître du jeu? Gouverner avec les fake news, and L’Affaire Navalny. His most recent book is on the war in Uktraine, entitled, Operation Z.

Our Latest Interview with Jacques Baud

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.

Figure 1 – Comparison of the maps presented in our media on 25 March 2022. It is this way of presenting the Russian offensive that has led to the assertion that the Russian army is weak. It also shows that the information provided by the Russian media seems closer to reality than that given by Ukraine.

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.

Figure 2 – Although he is not mentioned in the Pandora Papers, Vladimir Putin is consistently associated with them. Whereas Volodymyr Zelensky is never mentioned in our media, even though he is widely implicated.

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.

Figure 3 – Countries and organizations that applied sanctions to Russia. Although Switzerland is a neutral country, it stands on the first place. According to own sources, this was done under pressure and blackmail from the United States. Nevertheless, this is a severe blow to the very principle of neutrality that will have consequences in other future conflicts.

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?

JB: It seems that Vladimir Putin is a unique medical case in the world: he has stomach cancer, leukemia, an unknown but incurable and terminal phase disease, and is reportedly already dead. Yet in July 2022, at the Aspen Security Forum, CIA Director William Burns said that Putin was “too healthy” and that there was “no information to suggest that he is in poor health.” This shows how those who claim to be journalists work!

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.

Figure 4 – Not all Russians support the special operation in Ukraine, but three quarters of the population do. Ukrainian war crimes, Western sanctions and the good management of the economy by the Russian authorities explain this support. [Source]

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.

In May, the German newspaper Die Welt offered her a job in Germany, but in Berlin, pro-Ukrainian activists demonstrated to get the newspaper to end its collaboration with her. The media outlet Politico even suggested that she might be an agent of the Kremlin!

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.

Figure 5 – Darya Dugina marked as “Liquidated.”

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.